In the 2020 NFL Draft the New England Patriots hold the 23rd overall pick following a first round exit in the playoffs to the Tennessee Titans. Right now there is a lot of doubt on whether Tom Brady will re-sign with New England, so the Pats could look to find Brady's successor with this selection, but they will almost certainly go offense with this pick regardless of if Brady re-signs or not.
Here are five players that would be a significant improvement to the Patriots offense.
5. OT Andrew Thomas - Georgia
Andrew Thomas is one of the best offensive linemen in this draft, but he could fall to the Pats due to him being outperformed by Mekhi Becton, Jedrick Wills, and Tristan Wirfs at the NFL Combine. Thomas still looked great at the Combine, but he was not better than his counterparts.
There is a chance that LG Joe Thuney will not re-sign with the Patriots this off-season, so New England could swing current LT Isaiah Wynn to the guard position and bring in a more prototypical New England LT in Andrew Thomas.
At 6'2" Wynn is a fairly small LT considering Bill Belichick has employed 6'8" Trent Brown, 6'8" Nate Solder and 6'4" Matt Light at the LT position in his 20-year tenure in New England. Andrew Thomas checks in at 6'5" and 320lbs, which may be a better fit for the New England offense.
Thomas excels in both the run and pass blocking game, so he could play a big part in getting the New England offense back on track.
4. C Cesar Ruiz - Michigan
One big question for the Patriots is the health of C David Andrews. He missed last season with a pulmonary embolism, and he may not be cleared for action in the 2020 season.
In response the Patriots might look to acquire a more permanent C, and Cesar Ruiz would be just that. The absence of David Andrews left a gaping hole in the middle of the Patriots offensive line. Drafting Ruiz would give the Pats a semi-elite C that could turn around the offensive line struggles.
If Andrews does return for the 2020 season, the Patriots could still draft the Michigan Center with the plan of moving him to LG to replace Joe Thuney. Ruiz is a big body who will push around defensive linemen in both the passing and running game.
3. TE Cole Kmet - Notre Dame
Following the retirement of Rob Gronkowski at the end of the 2018-19 season, the Patriots neglected to address the TE position. Gronk was almost unguardable in the passing game, and would essentially become a 6th offensive lineman when New England decided to run the ball.
While it is impossible to fully replace Gronk, the Patriots still need to do a better job at finding and developing a new #1 TE. At 6'4" and 235lbs, Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet is not an exact replica of Gronk, but he will still pose a problem for opposing teams in the passing and running game.
Kmet could improve his run blocking, but he would be a much more complete player than Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo, who the Patriots rolled out at TE last season.
Kmet may be a reach at the 23rd pick, so I would not be surprised if the Patriots trade back in the draft to either the late first round or early second to draft the Notre Dame product.
2. WR Laviska Shenault Jr - Colorado
New England will have a decent receiving corps with Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu Sr and N'Keal Harry returning for the 2020 season, but Shenault would be a welcomed depth option who could receive more playing time depending on injuries.
Laviska Shenault Jr is a freak athlete who would be a great fit for the Patriots offense. Other than Randy Moss and possibly Brandin Cooks, the Patriots have not had a great deep route receiver. They have built their offense on short routes and screen plays.
Shenault could certainly work on his route running, but his explosiveness will allow OC Josh McDaniels to design a multitude of plays for him. The Colorado receiver is scheduled to undergo surgery for a core muscle injury, which will sideline him for 4-6 weeks. This could in turn drop his draft stock, but the New England staff will certainly do their due diligence before committing to Shenault with the 23rd pick.
1. QB Jake Fromm - Georgia
The Patriots biggest need this off-season could be the QB position if Tom Brady leaves in free agency. There are free agents and trade options New England could go after, but finding a long-term replacement for Brady would be the most pressing issue.
Fromm would be a great fit in New England due to his similarity to Brady. The Georgia QB lacks mobility and does not have the strongest arm, but he can get the ball out of his hands quick if needed, and is accurate on short passes.
He is not a guy that you would like to start on Day 1, but he could significantly improve if the Patriots find a suitable veteran QB that Fromm could play behind.
This selection only makes sense if Brady leaves in free agency, which may or may not happen. We will most likely not know his decision until March 18th, so analyzing Super Bowls ads and enhanced audio from an ESPN camera at a Syracuse basketball game like its the Zapruder film will not tell us the full story.
Featured image via the Associated Press