Patriots don't have major need at safety, but could look to future

Devin McCourty (right) came up with a big play to help seal a win over the Dolphins. David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- What might the New England Patriots be looking for at the safety position in the 2018 NFL draft?

Need rating: Seventh

Current personnel: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards, Nate Ebner, Brandon King, David Jones, Damarius Travis

What's missing? A high-upside developmental prospect to feed the pipeline. David Jones and Damarius Travis spent last year on the practice squad, and their potential progress could help the Patriots in this area.

2018 draft class primer: This year doesn’t match the deep class from 2017, but it is viewed as strong at the top.

Six who fit for the Patriots: Jessie Bates (Wake Forest), Dane Cruikshank (Arizona), Ronnie Harrison (Alabama), Tarvarius Moore (Southern Mississippi), Justin Reid (Stanford), Tracy Walker (Louisiana-Lafayette).

Key stat: The Patriots play their “big nickel” three-safety package as much as any team in the NFL, as McCourty played 97.1 percent of the defensive snaps in 2017, with Chung at 87.5 percent and Harmon at 65.4 percent.

My take: With McCourty and Chung both 30 years old, the Patriots have a mix of talent and experience leading the way at the position, which also means they could be looking towards the future to add a developmental prospect to the fold. At his pre-draft press conference, Bill Belichick noted how there are plenty of examples over the years of players making a notable jump from year one to year two, and it will be interesting to see if Jones (undrafted free agent from Richmond) or Travis (undrafted free agent from Minnesota) can be in that conversation after developing behind the scenes last year. The team made an investment in both players by keeping them on the practice squad all year.