Guessing game about Patriots draft will soon be over

Staff photo by TOM KING Patriots personnel head Nick Caserio will be busy this weekend trying to add several bodies to the team's roster.

The guessing will all be over after this coming weekend.

What promises to be an interesting National Football League Draft, beginning with Thursday night’s first round, should provide New England Patriot fans with a lot of answers.

The Patriots, as of now, have two choices in the first round, picks No. 23 (courtesy of the Rams via the Brandin Cooks trade) and No. 31 (their assigned selection).

On Friday, they have two second round picks, Nos. 43 and 63 overall, and a third round pick, no. 95 overall. That initial second rounder will be of interest as it is the 11th pick in the round, the choice obtained in the controversial trade of quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco.

The Patriots have no fourth or fifth round selections going in, leading way to speculation perhaps that they will make some kind of a deal to get something in the middle rounds. On Saturday, the draft’s final day, they have two sixth round picks (198 and 210 overall) and one seventh rounder (219 overall).

The Patriots look to be much more active in this draft than a year ago, when they chose just four players. “Realistically just about everybody’s in play, other than a handful of guys,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in his recent pre-draft press conference. “So that’s a little bit different than what it’s been.”

The general opinion is that the Patriots will use this draft to stockpile their roster with young bodies that could form a good nucleus for the next few years as they develop. New England has seen its roster get older over the last few years, something the Patriots are said to want to reverse. The Patriots will also be active, as always, in the post-draft rookie free agent process.

“We’ll certainly add a number of names, players to our team in the next two weekends, so in the neighborhood of 20 players – whatever it ends up being,” Belichick said, “and that will be a big chunk of players.”

There’s all sorts of speculation on what the Patriots may or may not do. A reported meeting Tuesday between Belichick and tight end Rob Gronkowski that ended up with Gronkowski declaring he will indeed remain with the Patriots this upcoming season may take away the pressure for the Patriots to draft a tight end.

Offensively, many are speculating that New England focuses on perhaps taking an offensive tackle, with the free agent loss of Nate Solder, or a quarterback to mold for the future as Tom Brady’s heir apparent, thanks to the trade of Garoppolo. The draft is quarterback-heavy at the top, but not considered a good draft for offensive tackles.

Defensively, linebacker may be a positon they focus on.

There’s a lot of rumors about their interest in former Heisman Trophy quarterback Lamar Jackson out of Louisville, but it’s likely the Patriots may have to trade up to get him. If that’s the case, it might cost them picks that many felt they were hoping to use to restock the roster for the future.

“Well, again, the whole draft need thing is – I don’t really understand that,” Belichick said. “You put a card up on the board. That doesn’t mean the guy is a good player.

“I think it’s important to acquire good players wherever they are. If you take a player at a positiong that you might so-called ‘need’ but he’s not good enough to fill that need, then it’s a wasted pick. So I don’t understand the whole need thing. I understand player value, and that’s what we try to go by.”

Here’s a look at five players the Patriots may value at where they are picking at either spot in the first round:

Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame – The highest rated tackle in the draft, and the Patriots possibly might have to trade up to get him. He’s versatile, having started at right tackle for the Irish in 2015 and on the left side the last two seasons.

Tyrell Crosby, OT, Oregon

Crosby has played on both sides, finishing up his college career at left tackle. If they can’t get McGlinchy, this guy could fill the bill.

Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State

Many have felt this guy is on the Patriots’ radar, possibly more for the pick at No. 31 if they keep it. He had two picks and four sacks this past season.

Marcus Davenport, DE, Texas-San Antonio

This would be an interesting pick; the Patriots are always looking for good edge players (whether they keep them or not is another issue). Davenport is 6-6 and could be disruptive but is said to need some development. Could be gone by 23, but who knows.

Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville

Perhaps in their alleged focus on Jackson the Patriots the Patriots noticed this guy, who played in only a half dozen games last year due to a bad knee but might be a good choice at 31. The Patriots almost always draft in the secondary.