In 22 seasons at the helm, you can find examples of Bill Belichick doing just about anything throughout the NFL Draft.
Last offseason, Belichick went about as chalk as you’ll ever see, filling the void at quarterback (Mac Jones) and interior pass-rusher (Christian Barmore) from his pal Nick Saban’s program at Alabama. As rookies, New England’s top two selections didn’t disappoint.
In the year before the Alabama double-dip, the Pats drafted a DII safety from Lenoir-Rhyne University after trading out of the first round, so, again, there’s precedent for everything.
Although predicting what Belichick will do in the NFL Draft is difficult, the Patriots’ track record suggests that positional need factors into decisions.
For example, here were their top picks in the last four drafts:
– 2021: QB Mac Jones (QB of the future)
– 2020: DB Kyle Dugger (Patrick Chung opted out and eventually retired)
– 2019: WR N’Keal Harry (huge need)
– 2018: OT Isaiah Wynn (to replace Nate Solder), RB Sony Michel (to replace Dion Lewis)
If the same holds true this draft season, look for the Patriots to address the following positions early: DB, LB/DL, OL, and perhaps WR.
In our first two mock drafts, Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave (1.0) and Florida’s Kaiir Elam (2.0) were our top choices, which are still great options if they’re available in the first round. However, the goal is to change it up each time to cast as wide a net as possible.
Without further ado, let’s take a stab at another seven-round Patriots mock draft:
TRADE: Pats Trade 21st Pick to Kansas City Chiefs for No. 29, No. 62, and No. 243
With the top three corners, Devin Lloyd, Jordan Davis, Jameson Williams, and Chris Olave off the board, Belichick trades down to add another day two pick. Anything can happen in the draft, so one of those seven players could fall to the Patriots at 21. But if they don’t, it feels like the talent drop-off will likely lead to a trade down. Kansas City moves up to draft one of the remaining first-round wide receivers or corners.
First Round, 29th Overall: DB Daxton Hill, Michigan
Bill Belichick isn’t afraid to think outside the box when it comes to roster construction, and we’ve seen the Patriots drifting towards a more flexible man-match or zone scheme in recent seasons. In 2021, New England played the majority of their coverage snaps in zone coverage on defense. With the departure of J.C. Jackson and the addition of another hybrid safety in Jabrill Peppers, we could see that shift continue this season.
With Bill Belichick continuing to load up on hybrid DBs, Michigan's Daxton Hill is a potential #Patriots round-one target:
– Covers TEs & over the slot with CB-like man coverage skills
– Excellent route recognition & range as a post-safety
– Ball skills to make impact plays pic.twitter.com/qiCr5bycq0
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) March 29, 2022
With that in mind, Hill is a do-it-all prototypical Patriot defensive back. The Michigan product played both corner and free safety for the Wolverines, showing off his skills in man coverage as well as ranging over the top as a single-high help defender. In many ways, Hill reminds me of Devin McCourty coming out of Rutgers. He has the long speed, smooth hip transitions, and ball skills to be a viable NFL corner. But he would also be an elite free safety, and his 4.38-speed and open-tackling ability will help chase ball carriers in the AFC East. Hill has excellent cover talent and instincts. With the Pats shifting to more zone, he can play multiple spots on the backend. I wouldn’t rule out Hill playing outside corner.
TRADE: Patriots trade No. 54, No. 127, and No. 158 to Ravens for No. 45
After trading down in the first round to add two picks, the Pats use their ammo to move up for another top 50 talent in a similar trade as the Christian Barmore deal a year ago. New England needs immediate contributors and speed in the front seven, not extra day three picks.
Second Round, 45th Overall: LB Christian Harris, Alabama
The Patriots are emphasizing speed on defense, trying to adjust their scheme to the offensive evolution going on around them. Buffalo and Miami will be tough to keep up with in the division if New England’s team speed on defense doesn’t improve.
Alabama LB Christian Harris is one of my favorite #Patriots draft targets. Sideline-to-sideline athlete, coverage ability, play strength to take on blocks, & impact blitzer/on the line pass rusher.
Projected late 1st/early-2nd rounder. Fits exactly what the Pats need. pic.twitter.com/D99DUZ18w4
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) February 4, 2022
With that in mind, Belichick dips into the Alabama pipeline for one of the fastest linebackers in the 2022 draft. Although Harris’s 226-pound frame is a departure from the Pats’ typical mold, it’s a necessary departure. His closing speed, coverage ability, and quarterback spying and blitzing traits would make Harris Belichick’s best bet to keep Josh Allen from running around the playground again. The Alabama product’s timed speed (4.44s) is all over his tape, and he’s more physical than his size suggests.
Second Round, 62nd Overall: DL Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
If the Pats want to get smaller and more dynamic at the second level, they need a defensive line to keep their new-age linebackers clean. With that said, the extra premium pick on day two would also be a good spot to take a wide receiver such as Alabama’s John Metchie, using their other three top 100s to address their biggest needs (DB, LB, OL).
A flying cross-chop with a rip finisher and recover your own forced fumble from a 6-4/315-pound DT. Hello, Phidarian Mathis. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/te9k1NkVpV
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) February 11, 2022
After going with back-to-back Crimson Tide prospects in the 2021 draft, Belichick does it again, this time on day two, grabbing Christian Barmore’s former D-Line mate in Mathis. Although he’s not a traditional nose tackle, Mathis has great size for an interior defender (6-4, 310 pounds) and plays with excellent leverage. His flexibility to consistently sink underneath blockers’ pads allows him to use his upper-body power to build a wall at the point of attack. He also has good initial quickness to penetrate gaps and is a nuanced hand-fighter. The Barmore-Mathis duo gives the Pats a pair of playmaking 3-4 DEs who can kick inside as interior pass rushers. They’d be a fun tandem.
Third Round, 85th Overall: OL Jamaree Salyer, Georgia
The Patriots have an immediate need along the offensive line at guard and will also have an eye on future vacancies at tackle. They could go offensive line as early as the first round and will likely take multiple stabs at keeping the cupboard stocked.
When you play left tackle for the Bulldogs, you’re on Bill Belichick’s draft radar. Saylor started 18 games at left tackle for the reigning champs and took snaps at all five spots. He has four-position versatility, NFL-ready playing strength, and is a nuanced pass protector with his independent hand usage and ability to drop anchor. Above, you’ll see the highlight-reel block Saylor made on potential number one pick, Aiden Hutchinson, in the Orange Bowl. As a college tackle built like an NFL guard, Saylor has day-one starter potential at left guard and could play tackle down the road. He also showed out at the Senior Bowl.
Fifth Round, 170th Overall: WR Bo Melton, Rutgers
New England continues to look for speed offensively and potential upgrades at wide receiver. After adding DeVante Parker via trade, they look for a shifty and fast inside receiver in the draft. The Pats could still go receiver in the top 100, but it feels less likely now with Parker, Bourne, Meyers, and Agholor in the mix.
What Rutgers WR Bo Melton's 4.34s 40-yard dash looks like on tape. Used more as a vertical threat than expected. Not very many quick in-breaking routes from the slot. But liked the nuance with the fakes/hesitations to freeze CBs and beat them clean on verticals. #Patriots pic.twitter.com/oXA71J6SYk
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) March 4, 2022
Melton was a two-time team captain at one of Bill Belichick’s favorite college programs and has 4.34-second speed. He’s fast, quick, and sudden in shifting gears and transitioning at the top of his vertical routes. Melton was used as a vertical route-runner with the Scarlet Knights, winning on slot fades and double moves. Although that could continue, we’d also expect him to run crossers and inside option routes. Melton could contribute as a returner and kick coverage specialist along with his speed on offense. The Rutgers product is an upgrade over free-agent departure Gunner Olszewski.
Sixth Round, 200th Overall: NT Marquan McCall, Kentucky
Going back to the defensive line, it was clear that Davon Godchaux wasn’t a natural fit as an odd front nose tackle lining up over the center. If the Pats transition to more four-man fronts, he might fare better as a shade or one-technique. But getting another big body to absorb contact in the middle of the line, especially with smaller linebackers, is a good idea.
No, you're not moving KY DT Marquan McCall off the LOS. As he shows here, he gets leverage when 1v1 and moves the LOS backwards. He also shows some good short-area foot quickness for a 380-pounder. He'll get more pub now with Bohanna/Hoskins in the NFL. #SnapScout22 pic.twitter.com/OufOCO44Gl
— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) August 21, 2021
There aren’t many prospects in this year’s draft who are bigger than the 6-3, 342-pound McCall. McCall was an immovable object as a throwback nose tackle for the Wildcats. He would reset the line of scrimmage with ease when singled and eat multiple blockers to keep others clean when doubled. McCall also has decent initial quickness and a great motor for 340 pounds. At this point of the draft, he would be a steal, but he may last this long because of the positional value. If McCall goes earlier, Idaho’s Noah Elliss is another day-three nose tackle option.
Sixth Round, 210th Overall: RB Hassan Haskins, Michigan
New England has a decision to make next offseason with Damien Harris’s expiring contract and is looking for the next chapter in the receiving back role. In other words, it’s hard to imagine that they won’t take a running back at some point.
I'm a big fan of @UMichFootball RB Hassan Haskins
6'1 220 – Tall/Leggy, Patient + Explosive Combo, Violent/Creative in Open Field
Played LB early then switched back to RB. Only 425 offensive snaps played. With Charbonnet off to UCLA – look out if they feed him the ball in '21 pic.twitter.com/s4gUvmbnBL
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) May 23, 2021
Haskins fits the early-down back mold at a massive 6-foot-2 and 228 pounds. He’s a downhill/power runner who will grind out yards. The Pats will coach him to get downhill in a hurry, and he’ll get the yards that are blocked. Haskins will give New England an insurance policy if they don’t reach a long-term deal with Harris. If they want the next James White, that might need to come a round or two earlier or in undrafted free agency.
Seventh Round, 243rd Overall: OT Vederian Lowe, Illinois
The Patriots will likely double-dip along the offensive line with an eye toward potential contributors at both guard and tackle.
Not easy beating thick-bodied, long-armed ILL LT Vederian Lowe off the edge. Rushers hit a brick wall that latches on & doesn't let go. Not an elite athlete, but has some short-area quickness in run game. Also often used on trap blocks inside, making for unhappy LBs. #SnapScout22 pic.twitter.com/0sZRLKATVf
— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) May 24, 2021
Lowe was a team captain and starting left tackle for former Pats assistant coach Brett Bielema last season. He’s lauded for his leadership and has enough athleticism to go with good length and power. Lowe needs some seasoning, especially with his hand technique, which could cause him to slide as more of a project. The Pats will put him in their system and get a potential day-three starter.