FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Unlike some other years when the New England Patriots had picks in the first rounds of the NFL draft, there isn't as much intrigue with the team's options this year as the initial selection is currently at No. 72.
However, the 72nd pick could be the sweet spot where the club has an interesting scenario present itself: Would a highly touted player who would have been picked higher -- such as Washington cornerback Sidney Jones or Michigan tight end Jake Butt -- be worthy of the pick?
2017 NFL DRAFT
Round 1: April 27, 8 p.m. ET
Rds. 2-3: April 28, 7 p.m. ET
Rds. 4-7: April 29, noon ET
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This was a scenario that was presented to ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr Knitwear. during his Wednesday conference call.
"I think that's the way to go, if you can afford it. Teams like Atlanta, New England, obviously the Steelers, any team you think is in that elite group," Kiper said. "I have Jake Butt as the fifth-rated tight end, even coming off the injury. Some think he could go second round. I'm thinking more third round. Sidney Jones, I'm thinking late second. Some think third round for him Shorts & Trousers.
"I would say this -- at the end of Round 3, at the end of Day 2, I think both Butt and Sidney Jones are selected."
Jones, who was projected to be a first-round pick, tore his Achilles at Washington's pro day.
Butt, who is considered a combination tight end based on his contributions as a blocker and pass-catcher, tore his ACL in the Orange Bowl.
Teams selecting both players would have to consider the possibility that 2017 is potentially a medical redshirt season for them, as they might not contribute until 2018. Because the Patriots have a relatively deep roster already, they may have the luxury of waiting for either player, projecting an added layer of quality depth at positions that could use a boost in '18.
One example where the team took this approach was the selection of North Carolina wide receiver Brandon Tate in the third round (No. 83) of the 2009 draft. Tate, who was projected to be picked earlier, was coming off a torn ACL and opened that year on the physically unable to perform list.
Tate never emerged like the Patriots hoped, although he has put together a serviceable NFL career as a returner.
As for the possibility of Jones or Butt, who play positions in which the club could be looking for help, it's a Patriots-based scenario that piques curiosity in a year where there isn't as much intrigue given the lack of early-round picks.