Patriots

Analyzing some potential early draft targets for Patriots and what it would take to land them

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(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

When it comes to the first two days of the draft, here are 10 names for the Patriots to consider -- realistic prospects who could fill some needs and add depth at key positions in 2019. At the same time, if New England wants to take a run at some of them, it’ll take a little maneuvering. That being said, here are our top 10 most intriguing prospects to be had over the first three rounds of the draft and what it would take to land them.

SWINGING FOR THE FENCES
These are upper-echelon prospects who (theoretically) fit when it comes to the Patriots’ needs, but will almost certainly necessitate a trade into the upper reaches of the first round to get them. Could New England part with some of its draft capital to move up? That’s the question with these prospects.

TE T.J. Hockenson: Hockenson is considered the best tight end in a really impressive class. For a New England team looking to replace the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Hockenson might not immediately fit the bill, but he’s the closest thing available at the position this year. Last year, he started 13 games and led the team with 49 catches for 760 yards (good for a 15.5 yards per catch average) and six touchdowns. All this means the Patriots would have to make a near-unprecedented decision to move into the top 10 to get him. Ultimately, the 6-foot-5, 251-pounder represents the wish-upon-a-star desires of many New England football fans who are looking for The Next Gronk. Could he be that guy?

TE Noah Fant: The other Iowa tight end is a hyper-athletic pass-catcher who finished 2018 with 39 catches for 519 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The 6-foot-4, 249-pounder does have that short-area quickness New England treasures (6.81 3-cone time), but isn’t as good a blocker as Hockenson, and has occasionally been plagued by drops. Regardless, the pre-draft buzz around Fant is that he won’t last much past the middle of the first round. If the Patriots want to give their tight end room a boost and don’t necessarily want to yield as much draft capital as they would in a deal to get them Hockenson, Fant would make an awfully intriguing consolation prize.

MOVING STRATEGICALLY
This group features players who could very well be available in the middle of the first round, which means if the Patriots are interested, they’d have to swing a deal and move up from No. 32 to land one of them. In my experience, if you want to make sure a player doesn’t end up with a like-minded team, this is the route New England needs to explore. One possible trade partner here is Oakland — the Raiders have the 24th and 27h pick, Bill Belichick has historically made more deals with Oakland than any other franchise, and he’s tight with Raiders’ GM Mike Mayock.