BOSTON (CBS) -- The NFL Draft gets underway Thursday night in Las Vegas, as 32 of the 262 selections will be made to kick off the three-day spectacle. There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the first round, as no one really knows what the Jacksonville Jaguars will do with the top overall pick.
That has had a trickle-down effect on the rest of the first round, with a lot potential surprises in the first half of the round. Many believe that the sweet spot of talent this year is between the middle of the first round to the end of the second.
The New England Patriots happen to have two picks in that range -- at least for now. The Patriots own nine picks overall in the 2022 draft, including the 21st overall selection in the first round and the 54th pick in the second round. As always, there is a good chance Bill Belichick trades down to gain some more draft capital in that perceived sweet spot in the draft.
The Patriots had a really good draft in 2021, landing Mac Jones, Christian Barmore and Rhamondre Stevenson with three of their first four selections. They have plenty of holes on the roster that could use an injection of youth this year, and they'll have ample opportunities to plug those holes during this year's draft.
Here is everything you need to know about the Patriots heading into the three-day bonanza known as the NFL Draft.
Round 1: Thursday starting at 8pm
Rounds 2-3: Friday starting at 7pm
Rounds 4-7: Saturday starting at noon
Teams will have 10 minutes to make a pick in the first round on Thursday night, which usually leads to a rather long and laborious show to get things started. Friday night begins with teams getting seven minutes to make their picks in Round 2, and five minutes to do so in Round 3.
That five minute clock remains for through the sixth round, and teams get four minutes to make their picks in the seventh and final round.
New England's Picks
Here's a rundown of what the Patriots are working with in 2022:
1st Round — 21st overall (assigned)
2nd Round — 54th overall (assigned)
3rd Round — 85th overall (assigned)
4th Round — 127th overall (assigned)
5th Round — 158th overall (from Dolphins in DeVante Parker trade)
6th Round — 183rd overall (from Texans for 2022 5th round pick)
6th Round — 200th overall (assigned)
6th Round — 210th overall (from L.A. Rams via Sony Michel trade)
7th Round — 245th overall (from Texans for 2022 5th round pick)
There are a ton of holes to fill on the defensive side of the ball, with the most glaring needs at cornerback and linebacker. There is no top corner on the New England roster following the offseason departure of J.C. Jackson, and linebacker seems to always be an area of need. So if the Patriots pick 21st overall, don't be surprised if they draft one of those two positions.
Jalen Mills is currently atop the team's depth chart at corner, with the unretired Malcolm Butler likely lining up on the other side of the field. Jonathan Jones is returning to lock down the slot. After that, there are some huge question marks in terms of corner depth, with Terrance Mitchell, Joejuan Williams, Shaun Wade and Myles Bryant rounding out the group. It's not pretty.
The Patriots could really use a three-down linebacker to muck things up in the middle of the field. Ja'Whaun Bentley will lock down early-down duties, but New England needs someone who can handle third downs and potentially drop back into coverage. There is also a need on the outside edge to take over for Kyle Van Noy opposite of Matthew Judon. There is still upside with Josh Uche and Afernee Jennings, and 2021 third-round pick Ronnie Perkins could help this year after sitting out all of last season. But it's in New England's best interest to keep adding at linebacker.
But the Patriots have plenty of picks on Friday and Saturday, so those needs could be addressed on Day 2. If New England chooses to address an offensive need in Round 1, they should focus on the interior of the offensive line, which lost both Shaq Mason and Ted Karras in the offseason. Don't be surprised if New England drafts multiple offensive linemen to help build a wall around Jones for the foreseeable future. The tackle position is also one New England should potentially address, even if both Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown are back for 2022. Wynn will be a free agent after this season and is not always reliable given his injury history. Brown also carries that injury concern after he played in just nine games last season, one year after he was limited to just five games for the Las Vegas Raiders.
Wide receiver is a wild card need for the Patriots. They could certainly use a top-tier guy to catch passes from Jones, but they may not love the first-round prospects. Trading down to a late first-round pick could land them some extra second-round capital and an opportunity to snag a wideout on Day 2, while still addressing the big areas of need with their first pick.
Potential First-Round Picks
The Patriots have had some pretty good luck with the 21st pick, making a selection in that spot five times since 1970. Those five picks were DE Chandler Jones (2012), RB Laurence Maroney (2006), DL Vince Wilfork (2004), TE Dan Graham (2002) and DB Tim Fox (1976).
As for who New England may select at No. 21 this year, Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth Jr. has been linked to the Patriots in several mock drafts. He would make sense too, as Booth possesses solid coverage and tackling skills and could be a plug-and-play option in the secondary.
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean would also be a great fit if the Patriots go with a linebacker in the first round, coming from the national champs and the top defense in college football last season. He was the 2021 Butkus Award winner as the nation's top linebacker. Utah's Devon Lloyd would likewise be a solid pickup for the New England linebacking corps, fresh off of being named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team AP All-American. However, both could be off the board when the Patriots make their pick, depending on how the first round shakes out.
The Patriots may not have to look far for some help at guard, with Zion Johnson of Boston College a potential solid fit on the offensive line. He could easily replace either Mason or Karras, though he too may be gone before the Patriots get a chance to make a selection. An outside-the-box offensive line option is tackle Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan, an Austrian kid who started playing football at the age of 14 and has bounced all over the field. He was a receiver in high school, played some tight end to start his career at Central Michigan, and then converted to tackle in 2020 and 2021. Seems like a Belichick guy if there ever was one.
And for those hoping that the Patriots go with a receiver in the first round, Alabama's Jameson Williams could fall to New England because of the torn ACL he suffered in the national championship game.
for more features.