23. PATRIOTS (12-5)
LAST SEASON: After 8-0 start, Patriots lost three of final five games to end regular season, followed by home wild-card playoff loss to Tennessee. It was first time in four seasons Patriots didn’t reach Super Bowl after at least making it to AFC championship in each of previous eight years. Injuries on offensive line contributed, as did lack of playmakers for Tom Brady to throw to following retirement of Rob Gronkowski.
FREE AGENCY: Brady ending his tenure in New England to sign with Tampa Bay has been Patriots’ biggest offseason development by far. But departures of LBs Kyle Van Noy (Dolphins), Jamie Collins (Lions) and Elandon Roberts (Lions), S Duron Harmon (trade to Lions) and DT Danny Shelton (Lions) were also big on defense. New England also has major hole to fill on special teams following release of longtime kicker Stephen Gostkowski. But Patriots did manage to keep some veteran leadership with S Devin McCourty and special teams captain Matt Slater both re-signing.
THEY NEED: QB, TE, WR, LB, OL, DL
THEY DON’T NEED: RB, CB, S
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: Utah State QB Jordan Love, Baylor WR Denzel Mims, LSU LB Patrick Queen, Iowa DE A.J. Epenesa, Houston OT Josh Jones.
OUTLOOK: Patriots have 12 total picks, including five in first four rounds. It gives them ability to make trades or to mine for late-round prospects. For now, second-year player Jarrett Stidham is at top of QB depth chart, though coach Bill Belichick calls this year’s QB class “an interesting group."
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