The Patriots head into the NFL Draft with needs on both sides of the ball.

As of Wednesday night, they had 12 picks, which ties the New York Giants for the most selections in this year’s draft. Six of the Patriots picks are in the first three rounds, which will be held Thursday and Friday night (the last four rounds are Saturday). The last time the Patriots drafted six players in the first three rounds was 2009.

The Patriots biggest need this weekend remains at tight end, but it won’t be the only focus. They also have needs at wide receiver, defensive end, tackle and defensive tackle. Don’t be surprised if the Patriots sneak in a safety, linebacker or quarterback by the time the draft ends on Saturday.

After Rob Gronkowski retired, the tight end position immediately became the top need.

The two names to watch are T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant – both from Iowa. Hockenson is a talented 6-foot-5 pass-catching, in-line blocking tight end. He’s a rare breed, which is why he’s considered the top tight end available and is expected to go in the first round. The 6-4 Fant won’t be too far behind him. He’s an ultra-athlete who moved to tight end. He’s not an in-line blocker, but he’s a matchup nightmare. Either player would start immediately for the Patriots.

If both players are off the board by the time the Patriots pick, there are other options – Alabama’s Irv Smith Jr., Mississippi’s Dawson Knox and Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger. Fant and Sternberger visited Gillette Stadium this month.

It will be fascinating to see how the receiver position unfolds this weekend. The Patriots have never drafted a receiver in the first round during Coach Bill Belichick’s reign. If that trend is going to end, look at someone like Mississippi’s A.J. Brown, Mississippi’s D.K. Metcalf, Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry or Oklahoma’s Marquise Brown, who is Antonio Brown’s cousin.

The Patriots have also been connected with Ohio State’s Parris Campbell, Stanford’s JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Georgia’s Mecole Hardman, South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel, UMass’s Andy Isabella and Notre Dame’s Miles Boykin. Players who visited Gillette Stadium this month include Brown, Samuel, Harry, Hardman and Boykin.

This year’s draft is considered very strong on the defensive line. Although most of the top defensive ends will be off the board early, the Patriots have done homework on the likes of Boston College’s Zach Allen, Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson and Iowa’s Anthony Nelson.

Defensive tackle, however, could provide the Patriots a chance of an instant starter. Clemson’s Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence are first-round prospects who might be available when the Patriots pick. The Patriots are also connected with Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery, whose potential at 6-6 would make a solid Day 1 pickup and early contributor.

The Patriots have also done their due diligence on the quarterback position. They hosted first-round prospect Daniel Jones of Duke. They might have to trade up to get him, but the fact they were at his Pro Day and hosted him at Gillette is noteworthy. The Patriots also hosted West Virginia quarterback Will Grier, who is considered a Day 2 prospect.

With Tom Brady turning 42 in August, the Patriots will need to prepare for the future at quarterback.

Speaking of Brady, the Patriots need to protect their quarterback. With Trent Brown off to Oakland, there’s some uncertainly at left tackle. Last year’s first-rounder, Isaiah Wynn, is coming off an injury, and the Patriots have been linked to several tackle prospects. Keep an eye on Mississippi’s Greg Little, Kansas State’s Dalton Risner and Washington’s Kaleb McGary. McGary made a predraft visit to Foxborough.

But as always, expected the unexpected with the Patriots. No one predicted they would draft a running back in the first round last year, but Sony Michel became an important offensive piece. With a dozen picks, the Patriots have the ammo to move up and down the draft board.

STEELERS: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2021 season.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Roethlisberger figures to get a significant pay bump over the $12 million he was due (with a $23 million cap hit) in 2019.

CHIEFS: A county prosecutor in Kansas declined to charge Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill with a crime in a domestic incident that involved his fiance and their 3-year-old child.

Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe acknowledged that “we believe a crime has occurred, however, the evidence in this case does not conclusively establish who committed this crime.”

Police were called to the Kansas City-area home of Hill and Crystal Espinal twice last month, and investigators determined their child had been injured. Howe said the child was placed in protective care and that there will be “a continued involvement by state officials.”

“I can’t talk about the child, its placement or what is going on in that matter. What I can say is the child is safe,” Howe said. “We want to hold people accountable that hurt children, but there are other mechanisms for us to protect that child other than filing criminal charges.”

RAVENS: Kicker Justin Tucker agreed to a four-year extension that will keep him under contract through the 2023 season.

Since breaking into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2012, Tucker has made 90.1 percent of his field-goal tries – the highest percentage in NFL history. He made 35 of 39 tries in 2018, missing only from 53 and 65 yards and getting two blocked.

COWBOYS: Dallas picked up the fifth-year option on Ezekiel Elliott’s rookie contract, keeping the star running back with the club at least through 2020.

The two-time NFL rushing champion is set to make $3.9 million this season and $9.1 million in his fifth year unless Elliott and the team agree on a contract before then.

WASHINGTON: Backup offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom has re-signed with the team.

Bergstrom appeared in 13 games at center or guard last season, making eight starts after injuries to other players.

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