Each week leading up to the draft, I’ll be using Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to pick for the New England Patriots with different rules each week.
For this installment, I kept things simple and went with the most interesting players available at each assigned pick slot based on team need, position value, and scheme fit. No trades in this round.
Did I put the Patriots in a position to kick off a new dynasty? Doom the franchise for eternity (or at least the next couple of seasons)? Scroll and see!
R1-14: WR Zay Flowers, Boston College (PFF Big Board: #24, C-)
Flowers is just the type of 3-level big play threat the Patriots’ offense needs to keep up with the league’s high-powered offenses. The receiver also has experience with New England’s coaching staff and playbook from the Senior Bowl, where he slid right into Julian Edelman’s old roles.
Zay Flowers suffering from inconsistent accuracy at BC gave him plenty of chances to show off his ball skills
He can go up and win at the catch point, come back to underthrown passes, and make spinning adjustments outside his frame before instantly hitting YAC mode pic.twitter.com/pVfrfiMVGD
— Taylor Kyles (@tkyles39) April 1, 2023
Flowers will likely be available closer to the high-10s-to-low-20s due to size concerns, but I think his potential value in New England’s system would warrant a slight reach at 14th overall.
R2-46: CB Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State (PFF Big Board: #36, A)
Forbes may not meet some teams’ weight requirements for an outside/#1 corner, but he’s an aggressive corner with the length, instincts, ball skills, and return ability to thrive on the boundary. His physicality and potential to score with the ball in his hands make him a presence to be felt on the field. He’s also a fiery competitor against runs and seems to embrace dirty work. He was also one of the Patriots’ earliest top-30 pre-draft visits, an indicator that the team has a legitimate interest.
Emmanuel Forbes. Watch film. pic.twitter.com/AMYS2wTI4G
— steelers_convo (@steelers_convo) January 13, 2023
Forbes’ playmaking ability and resume against SEC receivers would make him a steal at 46th overall. In reality, the Patriots likely have to move up to grab him.
R3-76: OT Tyler Steen, Alabama (PFF Big Board: #131, D-)
Steen is an athletic left tackle prospect who thrives in pass protection and shows finish in the run game. His experience under new Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien also makes him an easy projection to New England’s system.
Seeing nothing on here about @AlabamaFTBL OL Tyler Steen but there’s plenty love in NFL circles.
Steen proved at @seniorbowl he could play OG, which makes him 4-position starter at next level.
Consensus among NFL scouts is Round 2. Very little buzz for likely Top-50 player. pic.twitter.com/KOHEG1Wvyg
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 23, 2023
Steen improved significantly from 2021 to 2022, and his strong Senior Bowl performance only increased his stock. He could be someone NFL teams value higher than outsiders, but I’ll admit this was a reach on my end in a top-heavy tackle class.
R4-107: HB Kendre Miller, TCU (PFF Big Board: #96, B+)
Miller suffered an MCL injury in TCU’s playoff win against Michigan last season, but he showed flashes of Rhamondre Stevenson when rotting the rock. Both backs have the vision and patience to maximize openings, complimented by exceptional cutting ability and contact balance to make defenders miss. Miller also reportedly met with the Patriots when Belichick and company visited TCU’s pro day last week.
Miller rushed for 17 TD for the Horned Frogs last season.pic.twitter.com/wO6Q0CtaPR
— Mike Kadlick (@mikekadlick) March 30, 2023
New England loves their Day 3 backs, and Miller seems like a perfect fit to slide into their RB2/3 role, depending on how quickly he and James Robinson recover from their respective knee injuries.
R4-117: WR Jonathan Mingo, Mississippi (PFF Big Board: #177, D)
Another one of the Patriots’ early top-30 visits, Mingo is an interesting prospect with the size and ball skills to make big plays outside, but the quickness and YAC ability to be a high-upside big slot option. He could serve as a backup to DeVante Parker at X while receiving manufactured touches and snaps inside to test his versatility.
One hot name emerging right now in league coaching circles is @OleMissFB Jonathan Mingo.
WR coaches have Mingo graded higher than many being mocked in Round 1.
220-pound men aren’t supposed to have these feet.?
Disrespectful RZ rep here from @seniorbowl 1-on-1’s:
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 31, 2023
Mingo’s stock seems to be rising, as he’s one of the bigger receivers in a class filled with undersized speedsters. PFF views Mingo as a player who will slip into mid-day 3, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a receiver-needy team grab him earlier.
R4-135: OG Chandler Zavala, North Carolina State (PFF Big Board: #142, D+)
Apparently, PFF has yet to board the Zavala hype train. After lighting up his Pro Day with numbers that would’ve been top-5 among guards at the combine, people have started taking a closer look at the player who wasn’t invited to Indy. Since then, Zavala’s tape has started making its way to the interwebs.
Watching Chandler Zavala from NC State. Surprised he wasn’t a combine invite because his taped showed he deserved it. Dude can pass protect. Will be a good pro. pic.twitter.com/R1vQcxtrle
— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) March 28, 2023
The 4th round may admittedly be high, even if Zavala’s stock does continue to rise. But the Patriots could use more depth inside with David Andrews and top backup James Ferentz in their 30s, as well as Mike Onwenu’s contract expiring at the end of the season. The Patriots have experience with the sixth-year senior from his time at the Shrine Bowl, and his effectiveness in pass protection could make him a top backup with starting upside down the road.
R6-184: K Jake Moody, Michigan (PFF Big Board: #294, F)
The Patriots typically take their specialists in the 5th round, but without trades, I had to pray a viable option would be available later in the draft. Luckily, PFF’s algorithm kept Moody around until the 6th, and I was more than happy to pounce. Following an impressive career at Michigan, Moody won Shrine Bowl MVP under the tutelage of New England’s coaching staff, going 4-4 on field goal attempts with a pair of 51-yarders.
✅ Career long
✅ School record
✅ Longest FG in #CFBPlayoff history
Jake Moody with the 59-yard BOOT ? pic.twitter.com/UmOBT2hPnr
— ESPN (@espn) December 31, 2022
The Patriots will likely keep Nick Folk around for another season, but Moody would give them a reliable successor or potential replacement with a strong preseason.
R6-187: ED Viliami Fehoko, San Jose State (PFF Big Board: #115, A+)
Fehoko is the type of tweener the Patriots can maximize, especially with their current depth on the defensive line. Though he lacks the top-end athleticism to consistently challenge offensive tackles outside, Fehoko is versatile, has strong, violent hands, and packs some nasty counters He’s also an instinctive defender who made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage in his college career.
#SJSU DL Viliami Fehoko plays with so much power behind his hands and lower body, combined w/ short area explosiveness to push pockets and close around the corner.
— Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson) March 26, 2023
Fehoko could fill in as a rotational pass rusher while he improves his anchor against the run, but would be a tremendous value on day 3. I mean, just look at that grade!
R6-192: P Ethan Evans, Wingate (PFF Big Board: #265, F)
Little-known special teams prospect from a little-known football program? Sounds like a dream fit for New England.
Not only was Evans a punter and kickoff specialist, but he also has experience kicking field goals.
Perfect pick. No notes.
R6-210: CB Cameron Brown, Ohio State (PFF Big Board: #206, C+)
Brown fits would give the Patriots another corner with length who can succeed in press man or off coverage. Though he doesn’t have Emmanuel Forbes’ ball skills, Brown offers more size and plays with the physicality New England lacks outside. He was also a four-star recruit out of high school who played both cornerback and wide receiver in high school.
4th and 5, eight seconds left, it is Cameron Brown who plays the hero for Ohio State.
Brown breaks up the throw from Joe Burrow to Ja’Marr Chase, and seals Ohio State’s spot in the national title game. pic.twitter.com/PYzbg9L2uS
— Wyatt in I’m Sad Mode (@hooplawyatt) March 28, 2020
Brown dealt with knee injuries throughout his college career, leading to multiple missed games last season. Still, he’s got the length, versatility, and high pedigree the Patriots would happily take a flier on late in the draft.