AFC East Roundup: What to know about New England Patriots heading into NFL Draft

We had a chance to talk with Patrick Morgan of MusketFire about the New England Patriots offseason and what to expect heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

There hasn’t been a team that has gone through more changes in the AFC East than the New England Patriots. The franchise that has owned the division for two decades looks as if they may not be as dominant entering 2020. This is a good time to catch up on all things Patriots and what might be in store for the team.

1. How do you think the New England Patriots address the departure of Tom Brady? Is it Jarrett Stidham‘s time or do you still see them adding a starting QB?

I heard reports that the Patriots were planning on drafting a quarterback this month whether Tom Brady stayed or left — and I think it’s the same thing now even with Jarrett Stidham tabbed as the presumptive starter. My guess is that Bill Belichick nabs someone he thinks is being overlooked by other teams, then opens up the QB1 competition between that rookie, Stidham, and the veteran Brian Hoyer. Ultimately though, I think Stidham is the Patriots’ starter come Week 1.

2. What do you think was the best move the Patriots made this offseason? Outside of Tom Brady, who was the one player you wish they could have brought back?

This has definitely been a more difficult offseason for the Patriots and their fanbase than it has been a productive or a happy one, to be sure. As hard as it is saying goodbye to talented linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins, I think the Patriots were wise to let both players walk for big money elsewhere. New England has young, up-and-coming talent on their roster at LB anyway (Ja’Whaun Bentley comes to mind) that should be able to replicate some of the lost production at a much more affordable rate. I do wish the team had found a way to keep Duron Harmon though — he’s such an underrated player at his position (safety) and he’s come up huge for the Pats in several clutch moments throughout his career.

3. What are the expectations from Patriots fans heading into the 2020 season? Are they still viewing this team as the team to beat in the AFC East?

With all due respect to the Buffalo Bills and their fanbase, the New England Patriots are still the favorites in the AFC East until proven otherwise. Everyone is jumping off the Pats bandwagon now that Brady is gone, and it seems just a bit premature to me. Belichick is still there, sure, but so is the bulk of a team that beat the Bills twice last season (albeit in closely-contested games). While Buffalo undoubtedly has more talent on paper and has a brighter future right now than New England does, the Patriots deserve the benefit of the doubt after having won the last 11 division titles in a row.

4. What are the biggest needs for the New England Patriots heading into the NFL Draft?

The Patriots have several pressing needs — and to be honest, quarterback might not be as great of one as everyone thinks it’s going to be. Let’s wait and see a bit what Stidham has to offer with this opportunity. Again, I think Belichick takes a QB in this draft, but I’d be surprised if he trades up in the first round or even selects someone at No. 23 (barring something crazy like one of the top three QB prospects falling to the Pats there). New England has greater immediate needs at wide receiver, tight end, center, and defensive end.

Next: AFC East Roundup: Catching up with Dolphins

5. Who is one prospect that has jumped out that looks to be a perfect fit for the New England Patriots?

I like A.J. Epenesa from Iowa. Belichick has a good relationship with Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz, and Epenesa seems like the perfect kind of blue-collar, nose-down, pass-rushing workaholic that the Patriots love to have on their defense.

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