The needs are aplenty, and so too are the number of early-round picks owned by the Patriots, who possess five of the top 95 selections in this week’s NFL Draft.
Overall, New England has eight slots and should be able to grab several “plug-and-play” contributors with its bounty.
If the Patriots stand pat with their picks — and that rarely happens, as the franchise has pulled off at least one draft-day trade in nine straight years — this will be the 12th time they’ve had at least two first-round selections.
Without taking trade scenarios into account (predicting picks is hard enough), here are our best guesses at which players will go from big man on campus to the guy carrying teammates’ pads come the dog days of training camp.
■ No. 23 overall: Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame.
This 6-foot-8-inch, 312-pounder is a building block, literally and figuratively. He’s a wide-body blind-side protector with a ton of experience — a three-year starter — who could fill the very large hole created by Nate Solder’s departure.
McGlinchey pops out of his stance like a jack-in-the-box and jolts his defender with quick hands and powerful arms. He has light feet, a natural backpedal, and smooth mirror moves. He has the quickness to neutralize speed rushers and the hand work to stifle bull rushers.
Alternative selection: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA.
■ No. 31 overall: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State.
This tackling machine checks a lot of Patriot boxes: He’s smart, instinctive, and versatile. He was a weak-side monster for the Broncos, but his top-notch read-and-react skills and range would allow him to fit most anywhere.
The 6-4, 256-pounder (and growing) can slice through gaps and be disruptive in the backfield. He could be plopped into multiple spots in New England’s scheme and learn from two other versatile backers in Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy.
Alternative selection: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama.
■ No. 43 overall: Isaiah Oliver, CB, Colorado.
He’s a tall defender (6 feet, 201 pounds) with the power to challenge and jam receivers at the line and prevent them from getting into their routes. He also can play off the line, as he has the closing speed to make up ground.
New England’s depth at the position would allow Oliver a redshirt year on defense but he likely would contribute right away on the coverage units.
Alternative selection: Carlton Davis, CB, Auburn.
■ No. 63 overall: D.J. Chark, WR, LSU.
They sure do churn out quality receivers down in Baton Rouge, and this 6-foot, 199-pounder is the latest. Chark has good size, wiry strength, and can jump out of the building.
He’s a fearless guy across the middle and has some nice open-field elusiveness. He can hit home runs on the go route and as a punt returner. Chark also is a relentless downfield blocker, which is a prerequisite for a job at One Patriot Place.
Alternate selection: Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, Notre Dame.
■ No. 95 overall: Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond.
The Senior Bowl MVP is a precision passer with a quick trigger. He can tear apart a defense with accurate darts in the short-to-medium game but won’t consistently stretch a defense with his arm.
The 6-4, 222-pounder threw for more than 3,000 yards in three straight seasons despite different coordinators and offenses. He’s a very cool customer in the pocket and can extend plays with his feet.
Alternate selection: Luke Falk, QB, Washington State.
■ No. 198 overall: Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame.
At first glance, this 6-5, 253-pounder looks pretty one-dimensional as an in-line blocker, but this dude has the tools to be an effective chain mover. The Irish scheme limited him at times.
He has the muscle to block, sure, but he has the size and speed to gain separation, as he showed during the Senior Bowl. With a little seasoning, he could blossom into a nice weapon.
Alternative selection: David Wells, TE, San Diego State.
■ No. 210 overall: P.J. Hall, DT, Sam Houston State.
Men this size (6-1, 310 pounds) are not supposed to be as explosive as this big hombre. Hall has ridiculous quickness, speed, and agility. Few get into a backfield more efficiently and effectively. The four-year starter piled up 86.5 tackles for losses and an astounding 14 blocked kicks.
He didn’t face the highest level of competition, but it’s a safe bet he’ll elevate his play on Sundays. If he gets the call from New England, Joe Judge and Brian Flores will be very happy coaches.
Alternate selection: Folorunso Fatukasi, DT, Connecticut.
■ No. 219 overall: Phillip Lindsay, RB, Colorado.
A little-engine-that-could type, he was incredibly productive as a three-year starter for the Buffaloes. The 5-7, 185-pounder has superb explosiveness and superior hands. Phillips piled up a school-record 5,760 all-purpose yards and is third on the rushing list with 3,707.
He was a bell cow in college but he wouldn’t have to be in New England, where he could develop into a dual threat (110 career receptions) who could keep defenses guessing.
Alternative selection: Ito Smith, RB, Southern Miss.
Jim McBride can be reached at email@example.com.