The New England Patriots have had plenty of star power over the years, but Bill Belichick has rarely wavered from his philosophy of rounding out the roster by adding cheaper players via the NFL Draft.
Belichick and the Patriots have become synonymous with letting high-priced free agents go, drafting another quality player with the compensatory pick they earn, and then repeating the cycle in a few years.
That strategy should give New England a boost once again this offseason, as the Patriots now own the No. 96 overall pick in the draft after losing Tom Brady and the No. 140 pick.
These additions give New England an extra third and fourth-round pick.
New England Patriots draft targets with compensatory picks
New England could add some extra wide receivers or get some defensive reinforcements with those picks.
Per our assessment, these two studs look ideal for what New England needs on both sides of the ball.
3rd Round: Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson
Rodgers has had to do a lot of perception-changing this draft season, as the way he was utilized in Clemson’s offense lead some to hastily draw conclusions and assume that he is merely the beneficiary of a bunch of screens. However, he is a complete pro receiver, and the Patriots seem to think so too.
The Patriots have met with Rodgers virtually several times. If they miss out on a player like Kadarius Toney in the first round, the Patriots can draft a clone of him like Rodgers in the later rounds.
Rodgers topped 1,000 yards last season, which would have been impossible if he didn’t have blazing speed, precise route-running ability, and soft hands over the middle of the field. Belichick values separation above all else, and Rodgers offers plenty of that.
The two question marks around Rodgers relate to his limited route tree and struggles in press-man coverage against corners that he can’t use his speed to shake. Regardless, the Patriots clearly have a need for a slippery receiver like Rodgers, and losing Brady, ironically, could help New England find their next star.
4th Round: Tony Fields, LB, West Virginia
Fields is very small for a linebacker prospect, as the fact he stands at just 6-1 and 220 pounds with very average length might knock him off of some teams’ draft boards. Doing so would be foolish, as his speed and instincts really shine on film.
Belichick’s history at the linebacker position, as evidenced by the fact he’s used high draft picks on the likes of Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins, suggests that he prefers bigger linebackers that can handle themselves between the tackles. Fields would require him to bend a bit, but he is absolutely worth taking a chance on.
Fields flies all around the defensive backfield, can lower his shoulder to generate some forceful contact, has shown enough football IQ to recognize and explode through gaps, and is able to drop back in coverage and cover ground. All four of those traits sound like things Belichick wants in his perfect linebacker.
Fields might slide a tad due to his size, but Belichick can, and should, end his fall here, as he could really blossom under Belichick’s watch. If he adds some weight, he could become a starter by Year 2.