Now that the majority of big-time moves in free agency have come and gone, there’s a much clearer image across the league of what each team needs heading into 2023.
For example, the Bears traded back and will not take a quarterback, the Bengals signed Orlando Brown Jr., effectively eliminating a tackle early on, and the Raiders signed Jimmy Garoppolo, which should take them out of the early run on QBs as well.
As for the Patriots, they hold the 14th pick in next month’s draft and could still go a variety of ways with their board. Here’s one way the draft could land for them come late April:
Round 1, Pick 14: Joey Porter Jr., CB – Penn State
New England went into free agency with three large holes on their roster: offensive tackle, wide receiver, and cornerback, and while they did improve at each, they still need more in the secondary.
Cornerback is their smallest position group with all four current players expected to be in the rotation standing under 6’0″. Joey Porter Jr. fixes that at pick 14.
The 6’2″, 193-pound former Nittany Lion would immediately fill New England’s hole at long, boundary cornerback. Porter Jr. was in coverage for 275 snaps in 2022 and allowed ZERO touchdowns according to Pro Football Focus. He’d be a day-one starter for the Patriots.
TRADE: Round 2, Pick 38: Dawand Jones, T – Ohio State
TRADE COMP: Patriots get pick 38, Rams get pick 46 and a 2024 third-round pick.
While New England filled out their tackle depth over the last several weeks with the signings of Conor McDermott, Calvin Anderson, and Riley Reiff, they still shouldn’t be done at the position. In fact, it may mean they can be even more aggressive there.
Ohio State’s Dawand Jones is a monster. He measured in at 6’8” 374 pounds with a wingspan of over 7 feet (!!) at the Combine. He’s a right tackle, so he’d be a bookend to Trent Brown and make a perfect pocket for Mac Jones. If (Dawand) Jones does fall toward the mid-30s, the Patriots should absolutely pounce. He’s the best right tackle in the class.
TRADE: Round 3, Pick 76 to AZ Cardinals for DeAndre Hopkins
Now that a market has been set for available wide receivers with Brandin Cooks being traded to the Cowboys for a fifth and a sixth-round pick, Arizona’s asking price for DeAndre Hopkins is likely to go down.
A third-round pick should do it now. After all, he is set to turn 31 years old in June and is working his way out of his prime. The plus side here? He’s worked with Bill O’Brien before and would slide right into the Patriots’ much-needed WR1 position.
Round 4, Pick 107 (LAR – Michel): Jammie Robinson, S – Florida State
Devin McCourty has retired from the NFL and New England released CB/S Jalen Mills last week. They desperately need safety help.
That’s where Jammie Robinson comes in. The 5’11” safety from Florida State is an incredibly physical player who has a Ryan Clark-like upside to his game. Robinson had an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl and while he may project out as a box safety, played all over the field in the Seminole defense and would become a versatile chess piece on New England’s defense.
TRADE BACK: AZ Gets Pick 117, NE Gets Pick 168, 2024 Fourth-Round Pick
After a long wait from pick 38 to 107, the Patriots trade back ~50 spots to pick 168 and re-coup a mid-round pick in 2024 that they lost in the trade-up for Dawand Jones.
Round 4, Pick 135 (JC Jackson): Dorian Williams, LB – Tulane
In their continued quest for speed at the linebacker position, Dorian Williams out of Tulane would be a perfect pick for the Patriots at 135.
Check out my full Google Doc of ongoing NFL draft prep HERE as I analyze and scout the 2023 class, and find the right fits for the Patriots.
Williams ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at the Combine in February, is an instinctual player, and could contribute on special teams as well. A Belichick trifecta.
Round 5, Pick 168 (Arizona): Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR – West Virginia
Speaking of special teams, New England could look to add yet another dual-threat player in West Virginia WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton in the fifth round.
The former Mountaineer is 6’3″, 220 pounds, and ran a 4.38 at February’s NFL Combine. You saw the speed on WVU’s special teams unit where he excelled as a gunner, as well as on offside as both a burner and a “go up and get it” guy. He’d add depth to a receiver room with both expiring contracts and question marks.
Round 5, Pick 184 (LV – Stidham): Jonah Tavai, DT – San Diego State
Brothers reunite in Foxboro?
Belichick could take a chance on Jahlani Tavai’s brother, Jonah, out of San Diego State in the fifth round. Tavai had 10.5 sacks last season for the Aztecs and his 6’0″ 290-pound frame would add to the rotation of Christian Barmore, Lawrence Guy, and Carl Davis on the interior defensive line.
TRADE BACK: GB Gets Pick 187, NE Gets Pick 233, 2024 Sixth-Round Pick
New England’s next pick is just three selections later, so they trade back ~50 spots, again, and pick up an extra sixth-round pick in 2024, adding even more ammo for next season’s draft.
Round 6, Pick 192: Will Mallory, TE – Miami
Tight end is a bit of a luxury now for the Patriots with Henry and Gesicki in the room, but they could still take a shot on one in the later rounds.
Will Mallory from Miami caught 42 passes for 538 yards and 3 TD for the Hurricanes last season and was the fastest tight end at the NFL Combine with a 4.54s 40-yard dash.
He’d likely be stashed for 2023, but with both of the Patriots tight ends in contract years, could become a factor in 2024.
Round 6, Pick 210 (Ted Karras): Tyrus Wheat, EDGE – Mississippi State
Tyrus Wheat worked with the Patriots at the Shrine Bowl, and was blown away by Bill Belichick’s coaching:
“He really decided to coach. Like a head coach. Was coaching us and scouting on the field… Just different.”
The 6’2″ 263-pound EDGE rusher had 18 sacks over three years with the Bulldogs and added interceptions in each of his three seasons as well. That type of versatility screams “Patriots”.
Round 6, Pick 233 (Green Bay): Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB – UCLA
After releasing Brian Hoyer last week, New England now only has two quarterbacks rostered in Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe.
In order to add to the room, Dorian Thompson-Robinson from UCLA could be an option for the Patriots in the sixth round. DTR worked with Bill O’Brien and co. at the Shrine Bowl and continued to build a strong pre-draft showing at the Combine.
Once thought of as a UDFA, Thompson-Robinson should absolutely be drafted in April. New England could make it happen.
Round 7 (Atlanta): Alex Forsyth, C – Oregon
Another mock draft, another former Oregon lineman who worked under Adrian Klemm makes their way to New England.
A true center, Forsyth may not pan out as a true depth piece at IOL like James Ferentz, but could add insurance behind David Andrews who turns 31 in July.
Make sure to follow Mike on Twitter @mikekadlick, and follow @PatriotsCLNS for the latest up-to-date Patriots news!
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