Ladies and gentlemen, it’s draft week. We’ve made it.
The NFL’s annual event, where 253+ college athletes’ lives change forever, begins this Thursday, April 27th and runs all the way through Saturday evening.
The Patriots have 11 picks coming up this weekend, including the 14th overall pick in the first round. How will they use them? Will they use them all?
For one final time (outside of our FINAL live mock draft on Patriots Beat this Tuesday), here’s one look at how the board could fall for them:
Round 1, Pick 21: Brian Branch, S – Alabama
TRADE DETAILS: Patriots get pick 21 and 54, Chargers get pick 14
Because of course the Patriots are going to trade back in the first round. In this situation, New England moves back to pick 21 and allows the Chargers to draft Bijan Robinson, while picking up an additional second-round pick in the process.
They then bring in Alabama’s Brian Branch. Branch is a versatile defensive back who can play both safety and cornerback and would fit right into New England’s amoeba secondary with guys like Jonathan Jones, Marcus Jones, and Jalen Mills. He’s an aggressive, methodical player who rarely gets beat in coverage.
Round 2, Pick 34: Darnell Washington, TE – Georgia
TRADE DETAILS: Patriots get pick 34, Cardinals get pick 46 and pick 107.
I can’t help myself with this one. New England once again selects Darnell Washington in a Mike Kadlick mock draft.
You know the deal on him by now: 6’6″, 265 pounds, elite run blocker, 4.65u 40-yard dash all traits of a first-round pick. So after trading down in round one, they move up in round two to draft the unicorn that is Washington out of Georgia.
Round 2, Pick 54: Josh Downs, WR – North Carolina
New England added JuJu Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki this offseason during free agency, but they still need at least one more weapon for Mac Jones to work with on offense.
Josh Downs fits that mold perfectly. Downs, who the Patriots met with during the pre-draft process, is a 5’9″ 171-pound slot receiver who ran a 4.48 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He’s a route runner, and understands how to read coverage at an elite level.
Downs’ skillset would allow him to be input into Bill O’Brien’s “win from the slot” style of offense immediately, especially with the versatility of Smith-Schuster.
Round 3, Pick 76: Garrett Williams, CB – Syracuse
The Patriots need more at cornerback. Sure, Jalen Mills, Jack Jones, Marcus Jones, and Jon Jones were fine last season – but they still need someone that they can develop into a true #1 coverage guy on the outside.
That’s where Garrett Williams comes in. The 5’10” 192-pound corner from Syracuse is disciplined, a technician with his footwork, and a plus-tackler. He’s maybe not as aggressive as you’d like, but that’s what you have guys like Jack and Marcus Jones for.
Round 4, Pick 97: Wanya Morris, OT – Oklahoma
TRADE DETAILS: Patriots get pick 97 from Washington for picks 117 and 135.
The gap between 76 and 144 was way too big, so the Patriots trade two mid-rounders for 97.
Wanya Morris, a 6’5″ 307-pound right tackle out of Oklahoma, would fill a major hole for New England. A team that seems confident in their current starting line in Brown – Strange – Andrews – Owenu – Reiff, Morris would be an additional depth piece alongside Conor McDermott and Calvin Anderson with an eventual opportunity to start. He put up an RAS of 8.35 with his pre-draft measurables.
Round 5, Pick 144: Jake Moody, K – Michigan
TRADE DETAILS: Patriots get pick 144 from Raiders for pick 192 and 210 7th rounder
When Bill Belichick retires from football, there’s only one thing he’ll want to be remembered for: trading up in the NFL Draft for a kicker.
Michigan’s Jake Moody has kicked in cold weather, never missed an extra point in college, and showed some serious range when working with New England at the Shrine Bowl. There’s no way he won’t be a Patriot.
Round 6, Pick 184 (LV – Stidham): Jake Haener, QB – Fresno State
Using the pick they got from Josh McDaniels and the Raiders for Jarrett Stidham, the Patriots bring in another quarterback to compete with Bailey Zappe behind Mac Jones.
Fresno State’s Jake Haener threw for 9,013 yards and 67 touchdowns over three seasons as a starter for the Bulldogs. He worked to limit turnovers going into his senior year and did so successfully, throwing just three interceptions in 2022. With a good camp, he could justify a third roster spot at quarterback.
Round 6, Pick 187: Warren McClendon, OT – Georgia
Continuing to add to their depth a tackle, New England selects Georgia OT Warren McClendon
New England recently met with McClendon according to Justin Melo of the Draft Network, so the interest is there. The 6’4” 306-pound tackle would be an added depth piece and wouldn’t need to step in right away, but his upside is an eventual starter.
Round 7, Pick 245 (Atlanta): Justin Shorter, WR – Florida
New England takes one last swing at wide receiver in the seventh round with Florida’s Justin Shorter.
Shorter, who worked with the Patriots at the Shrine Bowl, is an above-average route runner for his 6’4″, 229-pound frame. He’d have the opportunity to play some special teams while working and learning behind the Patriots’ current X receiver in DeVante Parker.
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