Breaking down the Patriots’ trade out of the first round in NFL draft

The New England Patriots traded out of the first round of the NFL draft, shipping the 23rd overall pick to the Los Angeles Chargers in exchange for a second-rounder (37) and third-rounder (71).

A good trade?

Maybe, but there is absolutely no way to decisively say that just yet. They need to crush Day 2 of the draft before anyone can go there.

The trade sets up Friday as the most important team-building day for the Patriots in recent memory. They have five picks in the second and third rounds — 37, 71, 87, 98, 100 — and director of player personnel Nick Caserio said early Friday morning that the volume gives them more flexibility to move around.

Why I liked the trade

More picks, more chances of success. No team has more selections the rest of the way than New England (13). And the Patriots have plenty of needs to address (TE, OL, LB among them).

It’s a reflection of how the Patriots view 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham as a better option for them than Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, who was still on the board (the Packers traded up for Love at 26). Time will tell if the Patriots are correct in their analysis, but as ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi says, draft day is when the smoke clears and the truth is revealed about how teams truly view parts of their roster. This speaks to how the Patriots viewed Stidham’s place among this year’s crop of signal-callers — he was viewed more favorably to them than the fourth QB off the board.

In theory, a 14-pick drop to pick up an early third-round pick is good business. Analytics folks rate the deal favorably. Smart football people often say there are usually about 15 players in any draft who are universally regarded as clear-cut first-rounders, and then the next group of prospects will be a much wider range varying from team to team. So the Patriots just added a chip in the sweet spot of the draft to target specific prospects and needs. It also closed a wide gap that the Patriots had entering the draft between picks 23 and 87.

Why I didn’t like the trade

With highly-rated off-the-line linebacker Kenneth Murray still on the board at 23, I could have envisioned him as a Day 1 starter at one of the Patriots’ top need areas. Scouts say he’s also a program fit in terms of intangibles. Hypothetically, if the Patriots picked Murray, I think we’d be seeing a lot of “A” grades from the draftniks this morning.

The rival Ravens ended up with another off-the-line linebacker who could have helped, LSU’s Patrick Queen, at No. 28. He could be terrorizing the Patriots for years to come.

Michigan’s Cesar Ruiz, who some viewed as the top-rated center in the draft, went at No. 24 to the Saints and could have slotted immediately into the Patriots’ top-7 mix on the game-day roster. That would have been a safe pick for the Patriots, who have to balance multiple considerations on the interior of the line — insurance for center David Andrews as he returns from missing last season due to blood clots in his lungs, and the future of left guard Joe Thuney, who was assigned the franchise tag.

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