It's time for the New England Patriots to move in a new direction. They are 2-8 to start the 2023 NFL season and well and truly out of any sort of feasible playoff contention. After putting up a meager six points against the Indianapolis Colts, the questions surrounding Bill Belichick, Mac Jones, and the entire Patriots organization are about to reach a boiling point. For the first time in decades, there are real concerns about the Hooded One's future in Foxboro, whereas Jones' future seems to be a topic of the past.
What put the Patriots in this hole in the first place? Part of it was Tom Brady's departure to Tampa Bay, but the Pats had to be preparing for the inevitability of the GOAT either hanging up the spikes or taking his business somewhere warmer. That is to say, the real issue is they prepared poorly for his exit. More specifically, they drafted poorly.
See, as brilliant of a head coach as Bill Belichick is, Bill Belichick the GM is his worst enemy. The Patriots haven't been the same at making the right personnel decisions, minus a few big hits in specific niches, since Belichick's falling out with Scott Pioli.
Regardless of who is making the picks in Foxboro next year, let's take an early look at how the draft could shake out, using the mock simulator provided by Pro Football Network without the benefit of trades.
Under Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots have mostly tried to skimp out on the wide receiver position on draft day, going for a darts-at-the-board volume approach instead of focusing on high-end quality. There's a way to do that, but the profiles the Patriots have often targeted are very specific, boom-or-bust, and lack enough agility to make an impact at the next level. If you want to bring in a truly game-changing wideout, NFL teams are starting to realize you have to burn a top-15 pick to get someone who can compete at something approaching an MVP or franchise-changing level.
The Patriots need to spend their first-round pick on a quarterback or a wide receiver. If they feel like they can wait for their guy at QB later, then there is nothing wrong with taking a lower-risk flier on an elite receiver prospect before feeling out the draft and either trading up into the late first or using their early second-round pick on the right signal-caller.
It's hard to go wrong with Keon Coleman in the first round of the draft. The Florida State standout is one of the very best receiver prospects in this draft. He checks off a lot of key boxes as a receiver. Coleman has great hands, he's strong at the catch point, he has the agility to win the intermediate routes, and he is a prototypical athlete as an outside receiver, in the sense that he can win at all levels. Coleman is a real threat with the ball in his hands, and you can see why some fans are giving him Dez Bryant comparisons. That's the kind of profile of receiver the Patriots have been dying to have basically since Randy Moss called Gillette Stadium his home.