4/22/2018 9:47:34 AM
23. NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (15-4)
LAST SEASON: New England stumbled early, losing twice in first four games. Patriots recovered and won 11 of final 12 behind MVP season of quarterback Tom Brady. He dazzled at age 40, throwing for 4,577 yards, 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He did so despite reported friction between himself, coach Bill Belichick and team owner Robert Kraft following midseason trade of backup Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco. But defensive inconsistency was Patriots" biggest issue throughout season and it caught up with them in Super Bowl loss to Philadelphia. It included mysterious benching of cornerback Malcolm Butler, who wound up leaving at start of free agency.
THEY NEED: OL, LB, CB, DE, QB
THEY DON"T NEED: TE, RB, WR
POSSIBLE FIRST PICK: T Kolton Miller, UCLA; T Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame; LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama; DE-LB Harold Landry, Boston College; CB Mike Hughes, UCF.
OUTLOOK: Roster will look different following free agency departures of Butler (Titans), LT Nate Solder (Giants), WR Danny Amendola (Dolphins), RB Dion Lewis (Titans) and trade of WR Brandin Cooks (Rams). They"ve addressed some holes already: New England traded for WR-KR Cordarrelle Patterson, CB Jason McCourty and DT Danny Shelton, while signing veteran DE Adrian Clayborn and RB Jeremy Hill. TE Rob Gronkowski has subtly hinted at retiring sooner rather than later, which could throw wrinkle into Patriots" long-term approach. But they have plenty to work with thanks to five selections in first 95 picks, including two in first round (23rd and 31st overall).
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