Reading the tea leaves from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Patriots are going to trade at least one of the four picks they have in the first two rounds of the 2018 NFL Draft. After the Pats traded Brandin Cooks to the Rams on Tuesday, Schefter tweeted, “For those trying to predict what the Patriots will do this month with their double 1’s and double 2’s, consider this: New England traded six of its seven picks during last year’s draft.”
The question that remains – of course - is, “Who are the Pats targeting?”
Everyone got a chuckle out of Bill Belichick’s crack at NC State’s Pro Day when he told heralded defensive end Bradley Chubb: “I don’t think you’ll be around when we pick.” But now that the Patriots are armed with so many early picks – there is room for maneuverability.
Chubb is the unquestioned top defensive player in this draft, and as anyone who saw the Patriots play last season – the Super Bowl in particular – the Pats need significant upgrades at nearly every position on D. Not just a tinker.
CBS’ Pete Prisco said this week that Chubb reminds him of Julius Peppers, and Chubb himself said that he’s a mix of Khalil Mack and Von Miller. The Patriots’ pass rush last season was abysmal, as they finally felt the effects of trading away Chandler Jones the season prior.
This truly could be Belichick’s final shot at getting a defensive player with Hall of Fame potential. Belichick enjoyed his most early NFL success being able to coach Lawrence Taylor, but he hasn’t had the privilege of having too many ultra-elite players on the defensive side of the ball in recent years. Belichick the GM has instead opted to put his most expensive players on the offensive side of the ball.
Now, Belichick is as good as anyone in the history of the NFL at adapting to the way the league is trending, and if anything was evident this past postseason – it’s that elite defenses rule. The Eagles, Jaguars and Vikings were all top five in the NFL in yards allowed per game. The Pats just were 29th. And given New England’s moves thus far this offseason (it sure seems as though there’s more of a sense of urgency in recreating the defense over the offense), the bend-but-don’t-break era may finally be over in Foxboro.
As for teams the Patriots could potential trade with to move up in the draft, the Giants (at No. 2) and the Browns (at No. 4) are said to be exploring their options. It's highly unlikely that Chubb would make it past Denver at No. 5, so the Patriots would surely have to give their potential trade partner a boatload.