How many Mock Drafts is too many?
Trick question, you can never have enough, especially not when you’re this close to the actual NFL Draft which is now just 10 days away.
They tried to use what head coach Bill Belichick said during his media availability on Thursday to shape how they would go about the draft.
The biggest takeaway from Thursday’s press conference? The idea that the Patriots could move up the board for a falling quarterback prospect and overdraft a player they like.
Belichick was asked if he might be willing to "overdraft" a quarterback he likes, knowing that the player may not be available when his grade and NE's draft position match up. Belichick doesn't rule it out. Says that hypothetical really applies to all positions, though.
— Phil Perry (@PhilAPerry) April 15, 2021
Barth had the draft preset to the Detroit Lions at pick seven, and Ohio State Justin Fields fell all the way there. This was exactly what they had hoped for in this scenario. Both Lazar and Barth believe that the Patriots have Fields as their number two quarterback on the board If he can fall to around pick number seven, they see great value in trading up here.
TRADE ALERT: The Patriots trade picks #15, #122, a 2022 1st round pick, and 2022 2nd round pick to the Detroit Lions for pick #7
Although surprised that the trade went through, they did give up their first two picks in 2022. Barth believes they will be able to use pick 96 this year and get a second back next year.
ROUND 1 – PICK 7
ANALYSIS: If Justin Fields makes it to pick 4 or later will the Patriots pounce? There is strong indication that the interest from the Patriots in Fields is real.
“The guys that have really been at the forefront of the Patriots draft process who are Dave Ziegler, Eliot Wolf, and of course Matt Groh their national scout… have now seen Justin Fields throw in person at a pro day,” said Lazar. “Along with Josh McDaniels. That’s the only quarterback prospect in this draft that you can say all four of those guys have attended a pro day for in person.”
Seeing quarterbacks throw live is a whole different world than on tape, and McDaniels being able to see Fields throw live could change everything. The long-time Patriots offensive coordinator loves athletic quarterbacks, and Fields would be intriguing at this spot.
After briefly mulling the idea of taking Florida tight end Kyle Pitts, they turned in their card for the 2019 Heisman finalist.
THE PICK: Justin Fields – Quarterback, Ohio State
ROUND 2 – PICK 46
Despite trading up with the Lions, the Patriots were able to hang onto their second round pick.
There is a group of solid tackle prospects still available here in Walker Little, Jackson Carman, Liam Eichenberg, and Dillon Radunz. However, Lazar and Barth have hesitancy with all four.
Linebacker Jamin Davis from Kentucky is also still on the board. Davis is someone who Lazar doesn’t know if, “[the Patriots] are going to think he’s a great prospect because of his rawness right now against the run. He’s a guy that’s a prototypical 2021 NFL coverage linebacker. He does struggle at times to get off blocks and to do the little things in the trenches that they’re going to like.” The Patriots let up the seventh most rushing yards in 2020.
After quickly debating some cornerback prospects, specifically Georgia’s Eric Stokes, they decide he is a bit of a reach at 46.
In typical Patriots fashion, they trade back to gain draft capital for 2022.
TRADE ALERT: The Patriots trade pick #46 to the Cleveland Browns for pick #59 and a 2022 3rd round pick
ROUND 2 – PICK 59
They traded back 13 picks, gained a third-round pick in 2022, and cornerback Eric Stokes from Georgia is still available.
According to Barth, “some people are saying [Stokes] is going to push the first round. Some people are starting to push him up there with [Asante Samuel Jr.].”
THE PICK: Eric Stokes – Cornerback, Georgia
With a gap between picks 59 and 96 and solid wide receiver and tackle talent still available, they look to consolidate picks and move up.
Dillon Radunz, who was mentioned earlier, is staring them in the face. However, they decide against moving up for him due to the Patriots history of turning later round offensive line picks into solid players.
“If we really want to make everyone super happy about this mock draft right now, we trade up and draft Amari Rodgers. Justin Fields, Eric Stokes, Amari Rodgers and a developmental tackle. If that’s the actual draft in couple of weeks, then Alex and I are throwing a party.” Lazar said. “I think we try to trade up right here and take Amari Rodgers, then get that tackle in the fourth round.”
TRADE ALERT: The Patriots trade picks #96 and #139 to the Minnesota Vikings for pick #78
ROUND 3 – PICK 78
Before locking in Rodgers, they take a look at some other wide receiver talent. Dyami Brown from North Carolina and Nico Collins from Michigan are still on the board, but they’re outside receiver prospects. If they want a slot receiver to replace Julian Edelman, Lazar and Barth agree that there’s nobody better at this point than Amari Rodgers.
The Patriots have receivers that can play inside and outside, but they don’t have that big-play weapon. Rodgers is someone that you can give the football in the backfield, on an end-around, and even line up as a pass-catching running back.
“He reminds me so much of Deebo Samuel,” said Lazar. “I think they’re the same player.”
THE PICK: Amari Rodgers – Wide Receiver, Clemson
ROUND 4 – PICK 120
They gear their focus towards tackle and safety prospects here. One safety they have their eye on his Damar Hamlin from Pittsburgh. The feel pick 120 may be a little high for him though – especially in a weak safety class.
Spencer Brown is a tackle from Northern Iowa who is 6 foot 8 inches tall and an amazing athlete. According to Lazar he “destroyed his pro day. He is…one of the best testers in history based off of his pro day numbers at the tackle position. He checks a whole lot of boxes… [Belichick] loves to take these types of guys.”
THE PICK: Spencer Brown – Tackle, Northern Iowa
To consolidate picks once again and move up the draft board, they decide to package picks and trade up once more.
Safety from LSU JaCoby Stevens went to the Atlanta Falcons at pick #148, so they decided it was time to call around and grab a safety they like.
TRADE ALERT: The Patriots trade picks #177 and #197 to the Cincinnati Bengals for pick #149
ROUND 5 – PICK 149
They got in just in time for a run on safeties. The question now is who do they want?
“Do we want the guy who is maybe a lower upside player but more ready, has a higher floor, and brings the special teams element in [Tyree Gillespie]? Or do we want to take a swing here and see if we can get Devin McCourty’s eventual replacement?” said Barth. “I think that’s [Damar] Hamlin’s ceiling.”
Although Hamlin doesn’t project as a special team’s player, he does have the flexibility to play box safety, deep safety, and cornerback. He also has the athletic ability to learn special teams if need it.
The pros outweigh the cons here, and they take Hamlin at 149.
THE PICK: Damar Hamlin – Safety, Pittsburgh
ROUND 6 – PICK 188
Jamin Davis from Kentucky, who was mentioned earlier, is still on the board. They attribute this to be a glitch in the system however, and don’t take him.
There are some solid linebackers here though, and Derrick Barnes from Purdue could bring some much needed athleticism to the Patriots front seven.
THE PICK: Derrick Barnes – Linebacker, Purdue
ROUND 7 – PICK 242
After passing on the versatile player in Tyree Gillespie earlier, they see great value in Grant Stuard here. They picked Stuard in their Mock Draft 2.0 as well, but his ability to impact special teams can’t be passed up. He’s someone who may not make the 53-man roster, but could be stashed on the practice squad and fill an important role down the road.
THE PICK: Grant Stuard – Linebacker, Houston
Yes, we traded up for Justin Fields in tonight’s mock draft. You can watch our explanation for all the picks in the stream below. How did we do? #Patriots https://t.co/oYBHwEzI2u pic.twitter.com/NENYfDPrEz
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 15, 2021
“Best draft, by far”, Lazar believes.
But could it happen? Evan thinks it’s about 65% realistic. They both think Fields probably won’t get to pick seven, but that the rest of the guys are Patriots-type picks.
Patriots Beat will have their normal Q&A podcast next Tuesday, and do several rapid-fire mock drafts on Thursday. Some ideas that Alex has are:
- Only draft from a certain conference
- Flip offense & defense by pick
- Senior Bowl draft
- Non-power five school draft