The New England Patriots have been rather quiet this offseason while the rest of the AFC has made nothing but fireworks. Time will tell whether or not this is the right strategy for any of the teams in the AFC.
The draft continues to be the cheapest and most effective way to build a roster, something the Patriots got back to last April. Bill Belichick will need to strike gold again if he wishes to compete this season. Here are the names that can fill in the gaps from Free Agency.
Round 1, Pick No. 21: WR Jameson Williams, Alabama
Jameson Williams is too rare to pass up on. Even if Williams does not start right away, he’s worthy of a serious investment, the Alabama wideout turned 21 just a few days ago and is primed to become a star in the NFL. Williams’ tape is flat-out unfair; he plays like a stallion in the open field, using elite quickness and breakaway speed to outrun every player on the field.
He has never posted a season with less than 17 yards per reception. ACL injuries are nowhere near as bad compared to years before, Williams is even worth trading up into the top-15 to get for Mac Jones.
Round 2, Pick No. 54: LB Quay Walker, Georgia
New England can’t go wrong drafting someone on this Georgia defense. Quay Walker would give the Patriots a fitting combination of size and speed at the next level. Walker’s 6-foot-4, 241 lbs range, running at 4.5 speed puts him in an elite range at the linebacker position.
Round 3, Pick No. 85: G Dylan Parham, Memphis
Parham has flown under the radar despite strong showings at the senior bowl and Memphis’ pro day. Parham is exceptionally versatile thanks to his agility and football IQ, proving to be stout when facing top competition. New England needs interior help on the line, but it is best if it gets addressed beyond the first day of the draft.
Round 4, Pick No. 127: CB Tariq Woolen, Texas-San Antonio
Woolen ran the second-fastest at the combine, clocking in at 4.26 seconds. At 6’4″, that creates an incredibly distinct combination of height, length, and speed. A player Bill Belichick can coach up as he has proven to do well with small school corners.
Round 5, Pick No. 170: WR Velus Jones Jr., Tennessee
If Velus Jones Jr. wasn’t turning 25 in two months, his stock would be much higher. A product of poor quarterback play held Jones’ production back during his time at Tennessee, but this kid can flat out play football. Running a 4.3 forty, Jones displays tremendous balance which helps him attack after the catch.
Jones is very talented in the special teams game with lots of experience returning kicks. Kyle Dugger was 24 when New England drafted him and perhaps Jones is not a deal-breaker for New England.
Round 6, Pick No. 200: CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State
Like Tariq Woolen, Zyon McCollum is a late-round project with elite speed. McCollum clocked in at 4.33 this past month while recording an unbelievable 6.48 three-cone time. That time puts McCollum in the top-10 fastest three-cone time ever. McCollum’s leadership as a captain and football knowledge makes him a perfect Belichick late-round pick.
Round 6, Pick No. 210: RB Pierre Strong Jr., South Dakota State
Pierre Strong Jr. is one of the most underrated running back prospects in the draft. Three of his four years at South Dakota State featured 1,000-yard seasons with at least 14 catches out of the backfield. Strong has recorded ten touchdown runs of 50+ yards in his career and plays with an incredible wiggle.
His tape is electrifying, running as an opposing defense’s worst nightmare. While running back is one of New England’s strongest groups, Damien Harris is entering a contract year with James White coming off of season-ending hip surgery. Long-term insurance is needed.