On January 4, the Tennessee Titans won a surprise victory over Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots in the wild card round of the NFL playoffs, sending the Patriots to their earliest playoff exit in many years. Many fans and analysts saw the defeat as marking the end of the Patriots long-running dynasty. Whether or not that proves true, most people agree that the Patriots are facing some serious changes this off-season.
The most pressing question involves whether Tom Brady will return to the team. Fans are also looking forward to seeing what the Patriots will do with their treasure-trove of compensatory picks. This article takes a closer look at the Patriots’ future, as well as some of the factors that should make the 2020 draft an especially active one for New England.
Potential offseason changes for the Patriots
As noted above, the biggest question surrounding the Patriots has to do with Tom Brady’s status moving forward. In the past, Brady said that he envisioned playing until he was 45; he’s 42 now and turns 43 in August 2020. Nonetheless, Brady struggled with injuries toward the end of the season, calling his future into question.
In December, reports surfaced that Brady was dealing with lateral epicondylitis, more commonly known as tennis elbow, a condition that may have hampered his play down the stretch. Brady also suffered a foot injury sometime in December. To many, these injuries were signs that Father Time had finally caught up with Brady.
Brady was careful not to commit one way or the other when asked about his future following the Patriots loss to Titans. He did say, however, that retirement was pretty unlikely. Yet if Brady feels frustrated with the Patriots direction, he might choose to go somewhere else as a free agent. Many commentators believe the Los Angeles Chargers would be a great destination for Brady, thanks to their wealth of skilled position players.
Why Bill Belichick and the Patriots will be so active at the draft
Regardless of what happens with Brady, the Patriots are still going to have a busy offseason. According to one recent projection, New England will receive at least four compensatory picks. Two of those picks will likely fall in round three. In fact, analysts expect that New England will be the only team to net two compensatory picks in the third round.
Those third-round picks compensate for the free agency loss of Trey Flowers and Trent Brown. Furthermore, the Patriots should get two additional compensatory picks in the sixth round. Those picks compensate for the loss of Cordarrelle Patterson and Malcom Brown.
A look at the Patriots’ late-round draft success
The Patriots’ long history of excellence means that they perennially pick near or at the bottom of the draft order. Yet that hasn’t stopped New England from netting some hugely important players. In fact, the Patriots drafted many of their greatest players late rounds — including Brady himself, who the Patriots took in the sixth round of the 2000 draft.
Most analysts agree that Brady was one of the greatest all-time draft steals.
Bill Belichick also made a great pick to select Rob Gronkowski in the second round of the 2010 draft. If teams had had any idea of Gronkowski’s potential, there’s no way he would have fallen all the way to the 42nd overall pick. All that despite Gronkowski napping during his pre-draft workout with the Patriots.
Another late sound success story for the Patriots was wide receiver Julian Edelman, who they took in the seventh round of the 2009 draft. Edelman, of course, played a vital role in three Super Bowl victories. He even took home the MVP hardware for his performance in Super Bowl 53.
The Patriots’ ability to find great players late in the draft gives them a huge advantage over their competitors. With a lot on the line this offseason, Bill Belichick will look to be even more proactive about sniffing out potential bargains in the 2020 NFL draft.