The Patriots opportunities in the 2018 NFL Draft expanded significantly last week with the trade for the LA Rams first round pick. Now with two picks on day one, New England has a whole host of options. This will be the first in a series of positional looks at the Patriots options in the first and second round of the Draft. *While I will write a piece on potential Draft-day trades that the Patriots could conduct, these pieces will be written under the assumption that the Patriots keep and use all of their picks*.
Offensive tackle, particularly left tackle, is an immediate need for New England. Their 2010 first-round pick Nate Solder signed with the New York Giants during the offseason, leaving a glaring talent gap at arguably the most important position on the offensive line. The Patriots certainly have options. They may move Marcus Cannon to left tackle, especially considering that he is now by far the best tackle on the team. They may also just have a competition for the starting left tackle role between LaAdrian Waddle, Matt Tobin, Cole Croston, and Anthony Garcia. However, much more likely is that the Patriots use one of their two first-round picks to find their future solution at the position.
Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey is the clear-cut best left tackle in the NFL Draft this year. He has good strength and footwork, as well as NFL-level technique. Personally, I think he may struggle because of how close he allows defenders into his body, which may cause issues against speed rushers like Khalil Mack and Von Miller. However, he is still the most polished player at the tackle position.
Unfortunately for New England, McGlinchey is likely to be selected much higher than their first selection at 23. It is possible that they try to trade up to select McGlinchey, but I find that unlikely. The team will probably want to use as many of their picks as they can to build up a good young core.
The Patriots are much more likely to be looking at Texas’ Connor Williams or UCLA’s Kolton Miller. The 6’5, 320 lb. Williams is a powerful force at the tackle position. What he lacks in athleticism he makes up for in strength and footwork. He deals with outside rushers well and has a nasty edge that the Patriots offensive line could use. However, his size may be of significant concern, as he may not have the length to compete with NFL-sized rushers. He also needs to be quicker moving laterally in run blocking, as he struggled at times to reach defenders in time to stop them from cutting into the backfield.
Miller has fantastic size at 6’9, 310 lbs, with 34″ arm length. He is also one of the most athletic offensive linemen in the NFL Draft. He struggles with technique at times and doesn’t have the footwork to stop the premier speed rushers in the NFL. His strength may also be of concern, although that is something that could be changed with an NFL diet and workout regimen.
Williams seems to be the most NFL-ready prospect, but his size is a legitimate issue. Miller will not be able to step in and have the same success that Nate Solder did in his rookie season, but his athleticism and size provide a great developmental base that indicates a much higher ceiling than Williams. Should both still be on the board at 23, I would expect the Patriots to go with Miller and work him in a rotation with LaAdrian Waddle as he develops.
There are many more tackle prospects that the Patriots could select in the second or third round as well. However, this is a high-priority position and New England will not want to wait until the second round to fill this need. This is a draft that will likely see five quarterbacks taken in the first 20 picks or so, which means that other positions like tackle will still be stocked with talent by the time the Patriots are set to make their first selection. It is extremely likely that one of these two players receives a call from Bill Belichick on the first day of the NFL Draft.
Until next time – B$