Now that the dust has settled on NFL free agency, it’s officially draft season, which means we’re back with another mock draft!
98.5 The Sports Hub’s Alex Barth and I dove into our third PFF Mock Draft of the offseason on Thursday’s edition of the Patriots Beat Podcast on CLNS Media.
We were able to fill New England’s largest roster need early, trade back into the first round for a dominant offensive lineman, and bolster up a special teams unit that needs it.
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.
Here’s a look at the results from Thursday night’s mock:
Round 1, Pick 14: Joey Porter Jr. – CB, Penn State
The need for a long, boundary cornerback has bubbled up to become the Patriots’ primary need after some signings in free agency, and Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr. is the perfect candidate to fill it.
The 6’2″, 193-pound former Nittany Lion 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 and would save defensive backs coach Mike Pellegrino plenty of headaches trying to cover the likes of Stefon Diggs and Garrett Wilson in the AFC East.
TRADE: Round 1, Pick 30: Dawand Jones – T, Ohio State
Trade comp: Patriots receive R1 (30) and R3 (94) from the Eagles. Eagles receive R2 (46), R3 (76), R4 (107) R4 (135)
New England filled out their tackle depth over the first wave of free agency with the signings of Conor McDermott, Calvin Anderson, and Riley Reiff, but they still need another move position. That’s where Dawand Jones comes in.
The former Ohio State Buckeye measured in at 6’8” 374 pounds with a wingspan of over 7 feet (!!) at the NFL Combine in February and would be an immediate bookend to Trent Brown to help protect quarterback Mac Jones.
If he falls to this position at the backend of the first round, New England should pounce at the opportunity to grab Jones and have a fifth-year option in their pocket.
Round 3, Pick 94: Zach Harrison – EDGE, Ohio State
Zach Harrison was one of many NFL Combine winners last month after measuring in at 6’5″ 274 pounds with a 36 1/4″ arm (!!) and a 85 1/2″ wingspan. The man is ginormous.
Harrison finished his senior season in Columbus with 34 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and an interception. With New England potentially losing LB Josh Uche to free agency next offseason, Harrison is a perfect developmental long-term piece to add to the front seven.
Round 4, Pick 117: Bryce Ford-Wheaton – WR, West Virginia
The Patriots special teams were sub-par in 2022, to say the least, so they should look to add to their unit early.
Dual-threat WR Bryce Ford-Wheaton would fill that option in the fourth round.
The former West Virginia Mountaineer ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at February’s NFL Combine and excelled as a gunner on their special teams unit. On offense, he’s both a burner and a “go up and get it” guy who could be a developmental “X” receiver for the Patriots.
TRADE: Round 5, Pick 161: Jaxson Kirkland – T, Washington
Trade comp: Patriots receive R5 (161) and R7 (230). Texans receiver R6 (184) R5 (210)
After trading up for Dawand Jones earlier in this draft, New England trades up again for another offensive lineman.
Jaxson Kirkland from Washington was a projected first-round pick in the 2022 draft before returning to Seattle for his senior season. He’s 6’7″, 310 pounds, and would help New England in their continued effort to add depth along the offensive line.
He played both tackle and guard in 2022 and allowed zero sacks and just five QB hurries.
Round 5, Pick 187: DeMarcco Hellams – S, Alabama
In an offseason where Devin McCourty retired and a a cornerback was re-signed to play safety, New England desperately needs help at the position.
Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams could come in and help fill the role. Hellams is 6’1”, 208 pounds, and is a great communicator in the backend of a defense, just like his potential predecessor. Hellams had four career interceptions for the Crimson Tide and tallied 109 total tackles last season.
The relationship between Bill Belichick and Nick Saban makes this a potential fit as well.
Round 6, Pick 192: Payne Durham – TE, Purdue
New England waits out a stacked class until the sixth round and picks up a tight end in Payne Durham to work with Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki.
Primarily a blocking tight end, Durham is 6’6”, 255 pounds and caught 56 passes for 560 yards and 8 touchdowns for the Boilermakers last season. He was a high school lacrosse player (a Bill Belichick favorite) so he’s relatively new to football. However, he’s proven to be a quick learner and would be a solid developmental piece for O’Brien and the Patriots’ offense.
Round 7, Pick 230: Bryce Baringer – P, Michigan State
Punter time! Though the Patriots signed Corliss Waitman on Sunday, they’ll still likely look to add at the position elsewhere.
Bryce Baringer is arguably the best punter in the class right alongside Oklahoma’s Michael Turk. Coming away with either of them would be a win.
Round 7, Pick 245: Devonnsha Maxwell – DL, UT-Chattanooga
New England dives back into the UT-Chattanooga pool for a second straight season.
Defensive tackle Devonnsha Maxwell was a First-Team All-American and the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year for the Mocs in 2022. He worked with the Patriots at the Shrine Bowl and would add to New England’s tackle rotation behind Christian Barmore and Lawrence Guy.
We’ll be back Tuesday on Patriots Beat to go over the latest news out of New England and a Q+A. Make sure to subscribe to the podcast HERE, and to our YouTube channel, Patriots Press Pass.
Make sure to follow Mike on Twitter @mikekadlick, and follow @PatriotsCLNS for the latest up-to-date Patriots news!
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