Hannable: Next Thursday’s NFL draft can’t come soon enough for Patriots


While the Patriots are fresh off a Super Bowl win over the Rams, the weeks and months after Feb. 3 haven’t exactly been great for New England.

The offseason has featured a mass exodus of coaches, the likely defensive coordinator coming and going before he was even officially announced, Rob Gronkowski retiring, top free agents Trey Flowers and Trent Brown departing, missing out on some of the top receivers on the open market even with showing interest, and oh yeah, owner Robert Kraft being charged with soliciting prostitution when visiting a Florida day spa on back-to-back days, including on the day of the AFC championship game.

There hasn’t been a heck of a lot to get excited about for the Patriots since really the victory parade on Feb. 5. 

But, that has a good chance of changing next Thursday night with the first round of the NFL draft.

The Patriots are scheduled to select No. 32 overall, but they have 12 total selections, including six in the top 101. This means there’s plenty of opportunity to move up if the team feels it’s right. Given the need for impact players at a few positions — tight end, defensive line and wide receiver to name a few — it would not be a surprise at all to see Bill Belichick make a move similar to past ones to grab a player he really likes.

In 2002, the Patriots moved up from No. 32 overall to No. 21 to select tight end Daniel Graham. In 2006, they traded up in the second round to No. 36 overall and got Chad Jackson. In 2010, they also moved up in the second round to No. 42 overall and got Gronkowski. And then in 2012, they shifted up from No. 31 overall to No. 25 overall to select Dont’a Hightower.

With the exception of Jackson, these deals worked out. So, who could potentially be targeted this year?

Tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant certainly come to mind, although it’s likely these two will go very high (potentially top-15) and then a trade up likely wouldn’t happen. Defensive tackles Christian Wilkins and Jeffery Simmons are also possibilities if the team really likes them and doesn't like the next wave at that position.

Imagine the hype if a trade up was made and it landed Hockenson or Fant — it would be incredible following the loss of Gronkowski.

Even if the Patriots do not trade up and select at No. 32 overall, they will get a solid player who has the potential to make an impact beginning this season. This is what the Patriots’ offseason needs — some excitement.

So far the biggest additions have been Michael Bennett and Demaryius Thomas. These would be major moves say five years ago, but these players are both nearing the ends of their careers and aren’t what they once were.

And even if the Patriots trade out of No. 32, it would likely be for multiple second and third-round picks and those players certainly have the potential to make impacts, otherwise the team wouldn’t make such a trade. Weapons for Tom Brady in the passing game would likely be selected with these and that always gets people talking.

Really, no matter what happens next weekend there will be reason to get excited about the team, which is unlike how much of the offseason has gone.

A quarterback hasn’t even been brought up and there’s a chance one could be selected, even potentially early on. Remember how much intrigue the Jimmy Garoppolo selection had? It would be quite similar.

From an excitement standpoint, there really hasn’t been much at all for the Patriots the last several months, but there’s a good chance that changes this time next week.

Get ready.