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Thomas: How Patriots should address post-Brady era

| Thursday, March 26, 2020

The day was going to come eventually. Tom Brady was either going to retire, or he would tire of taking pay cuts and play for market value for another club. The latter happened March 17, as Tom Brady announced he would not return to New England, agreeing to a deal in principle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s a new era in New England, and for many Patriots fans, like myself, it’s really the first time in our lives we aren’t really sure who will be under center, whether the Patriots will win the AFC East or even make the playoffs.

Some fans have already said New England should tank and draft Trevor Lawrence, which, given that they still have Bill Belichick and some very talented players, is completely irrational. And, in all likelihood, a tank wouldn’t work because Belichick will almost always win a game or two more than he should. So what should the Patriots do? I came up with a quick list of do’s and do not’s for New England. Robert Kraft … please read this.

DO NOT: Draft a quarterback in the first round
Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovoila and Justin Herbert are the premier signal-callers available via the draft, and they will all likely go in the first five or six picks, and they could very well be starters next year. After that, it’s unclear who will go after quarterbacks. It’s possible someone like Jordan Love out of Utah State is still available at pick 23, and I’m begging the Patriots not to take him. He has elite arm talent, but he just hasn’t really shown much more than that. He can make great throws, but how much is that worth when he turns the ball over two to three times a game? This draft is critical towards keeping the Patriots in contention and using their highest draft pick in years on a guy like Love is simply not a recipe for success. I would, however, be in favor of the Patriots grabbing a quarterback like Jalen Hurts in the fourth round or so. Hurts isn’t getting the attention he deserves, in my opinion, and he could be a dynamic dual-threat action that pushes the Patriots into the next generation eventually.

DO: Start Jarrett Stidham this year
At some point, the Patriots have to find their quarterback of the future, and it’s very possible he’s already rostered. Stidham drew rave reviews from his teammates for his progress throughout the season, and people forget he was a first-team All-SEC quarterback at Auburn. The Patriots have a quality backup quarterback, and he’s young and ready to prove himself. They’ve signed veteran Brian Hoyer, but they should label Stidham as QB1 and see if he points them to the future.

DO NOT: Trade for Cam Newton or Jameis Winston

These quarterbacks have both been rumored as potential Patriot targets, and I hope that neither of them make their way to New England. Newton is an aging and injury-prone diva who is five years past his best season, and Winston will either play like a Hall of Famer or like a colorblind high schooler. They both bring drama and off-the-field headlines that have no place in New England’s system. 

DO: Draft a running back
The Patriots, if they are relying on a veteran or Stidham, will need a strong running back to help carry that offense. Sony Michel is talented, but he is inconsistent and incapable of carrying the ball much more than 20 times a game, and he’s at his best when he’s getting 12 to 19 carries a game. Make James White your pass-catcher and change-of-pace back, Rex Burkhead your powerful, yard-to-go back and pair up Michel with a young running back out of the draft. They could target a premier running back like Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor in the first round, but there are other options out there. Boston College’s A.J. Dillon is a juicy late-Day 2 or Day 3 option. At 6-feet-0 and 247 pounds, Dillon has been the workhorse for the Eagles, and he is comfortable in Boston, so maybe trade up into the fourth round and snag Dillon, he could be a valuable piece. 

DO: Follow this draft plan
I’m not a master of drafting, but here’s a somewhat solid draft scheme I think I’d be really happy to see unfold.
Round One, Pick 23 — Grant Delpit, Safety, LSU
Trade Round Three, Pick 87 and Round Three Pick 100 to Dallas Cowboys for Round Three, Pick 82. (There is some flexibility here, but the idea is to move up five to six spots in the third round.)
Round Three, Pick 82 — Chase Claypool, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
Round Three, Pick 98 — Jack Driscoll, Offensive Lineman, Auburn
Round Four, Pick 125 — Jalen Hurts, Quarterback, Oklahoma

Package together sixth- and seventh-round picks, and maybe a player, to get into the end of the fourth or early fifth round and draft AJ Dillon.

Late-round targets: Trevon Hill, edge rusher, Miami; Tyler Clark, defensive lineman, Georgia; Ahmad Wagner, wide receiver, Kentucky; Nate Stanley, quarterback, Iowa

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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