While it certainly wasn't what many Patriots fans wanted to hear around 10:45 p.m. on Thursday night, trading out of the first round was the best move for the Patriots.
New England entered the draft with a ton of needs, perhaps more than any other year in recent memory, and given the strength of the draft being in Rounds 2 and 3, it makes most sense to stockpile picks in that range and go from there.
"They can take the same player at 37 that they would have taken at 23,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter said on the draft broadcast following announcing the deal.
Director of player personnel Nick Caserio offered a little more on a video conference at the end of the round.
“When you go back and kind of evaluate what happened tonight: 6-7 tackles went, 6-7 corners went, six receivers, four quarterbacks," he said. "... Certain positions may have a little bit more left over here moving forward.”
After the trade, the Patriots will now have five selections Friday, including the fifth pick of the day (No. 37 overall) and four picks from Nos. 71-100. This gives them a tremendous amount of flexibility.
They could make all five picks, or potentially put together a package using some of their third-rounders and later-round selections to move up into the middle or late portions of Round 2.
Basically, if there’s a player or two the Patriots really like, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able to get him.
“We will look at what is left and kind of recalibrate, see if we want to move around a little bit,” Caserio said. “We certainly have the ammunition and flexibility to do so.”
And their greatest needs will still be able to be addressed.
Tight end — No players were taken at this position, so the Patriots can realistically target any of them. Cole Kmet (Notre Dame), Adam Trautman (Dayton), Harrison Bryant (Florida Atlantic) all seem like Round 2 options, and then perhaps Albert Okwuegbunam (Missouri) in Round 3.
Linebacker — While the best fits for New England were selected — Kenneth Murray (No. 23) and Patrick Queen (No. 28) — Zack Baun (Wisconsin) remains available. This may be the one position where the team may not be able to get the same kind of talent in Round 2 as it could have in Round 1, but maybe now the attention shifts towards the middle of the group and the potential is there to find a gem in Round 3 or later.
EDGE — There are still a ton of talented players available, including A.J. Epenesa (Iowa) and Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State). This isn’t as big of a need as some other spots, but if the team really likes either of those two, it would be worth the selection.
Safety — Like tight end, no players at this position were selected in Round 1. If they like either Xavier McKinney (Alabama) or Grant Delpit (LSU), who are the two best of the group, there is a good chance they will be able to make it happen.
And last but not least, quarterback — While they will not be able to get one of the four best QBs, there still are a few intriguing options like Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma), Jake Fromm (Georgia) or Jacob Eason (Washington). Early in Round 2 may not make a ton of sense for any of them, but it is likely they will have the chance to pick at least one of these players later on Friday.
It is worth noting a lot of these players still available were players who were discussed for them at No. 23. As the first round went on, it became clear they could still get one or potentially more by trading back into the early part of Round 2, all while adding another third-rounder to the stockpile. It was a no-brainer.
The NFL Draft is ultimately about adding impact players and while the Patriots did not select a player in Round 1, they put themselves in a better position to achieve this than going into the week.
Now, they just need to take advantage and make the most of the opportunity.