Gaffney's 2023 Patriots Mock Draft 3.0
NFL Draft week is here, and things kicked off with a bang via the New York Jets officially acquiring known conspiracy enjoyer Aaron Rodgers. And that will surely not be the end of big moves being made all throughout the league either. So how about one more Patriots team mock draft for the road with that in mind?
- Maximum of three (realistic) trades (one trade here).
- Prospect interest (ingenious or not) is factored into consideration. However, meetings are not a make or break.
- Attempt to differentiate picks from Mocks 1.0 and 2.0.
- Draft Pick values based on Rich Hill model for trades.
- Measurable comps will now feature more notable players as long as they are within a certain threshold (80% similarity or higher if applicable).
Patriots Top Needs No. 1: Boundary Cornerback with Size/Length Combo No. 2: Playmaking Wide Receiver with the ability to separate consistently No. 3: Youth at Tackle No. 4: EDGE/Pass Rush Depth No. 5: Linebacker Speed/Depth
Titans Receive: Picks 14, 107, 188, and a 2024 fourth-round pick (373) Patriots Receive: Pick 11 and a 2024 fifth-round pick (366)
Spoiler, but this move is to get Jaxon Smith-Njigba. He’s currently the favorite at most books to be the first receiver taken this week, and there was a report some time ago that the Ohio State product was the only first-round graded receiver for some teams. With that said, I don’t think JSN is going to be available at 14, and the Patriots do appear to be interested based on his combine meeting. If he’s their guy, they should do whatever they feel is necessary to go get him.
Pick 11 (via Tennessee Titans) Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR (Ohio State) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Combine Meeting Measurables Comparison: Jeremy Kerley (82.7%) and Julien Edelman (80.9%)
Before the combine, I had heavily cooled off on JSN, who was my top receiver about midway through the college season. A combination of an injury that cost him the bulk of the 2022 Ohio State season, and then passing up the 40 at the combine are the main factors for that. What JSN also did at the combine was completely smoke agility testing, going in the 96th percentile in the three-cone drill, and 97th in the short shuttle. Something that I’ve been told for years about the Patriots is that they care far more about those two drills than the 40, and even then, JSN’s 4.48 (est) 40 time at his pro day is far from horrible.
What is apparent with JSN from the second you start watching him is that he has borderline mastered the art of route running. He’s excellent at getting in and out of breaks and simply has a knack for finding soft spots in a defense. He won’t exactly test you downfield like Zay Flowers can, but Smith-Njigba is also very good after catching just like Flowers. Ideally, he fits right into the void left by Jakobi Meyers and the Patriots' offense doesn’t skip a beat, and arguably gets even better production out of the slot. Would like to note that JSN was going up against a heavily banged-up Utah secondary in this Rose Bowl clip below, but this is simply a preposterous catch no matter how you slice it.
Pick 46) Matthew Bergeron, OT (Syracuse) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: N/A Measurables Comparison: Christian Darrisaw (96.4%) and James Carpenter (92.7%)
Athletes with the last name Bergeron who are native to Quebec have been pretty good to Boston over the last 20 years (The Bruins are a wagon I’m afraid), so how about another? As you can see here, Bergeron measured out very similar to Vikings' standout tackle Christian Darrisaw. Not exactly a specimen when talking about offensive tackles, Bergeron still showed off some impressive work on tape. He moves very well laterally and downfield for a guy his size, and his ability to get off the line is also apparent. Bergeron could probably handle inside pass rush moves a bit better, but he’s a brick wall otherwise and always tries to find a way to be active in pass pro.
He had poor Derrick Hall in the Steiner Recliner there. I will also say this, while he’s good with his hands, Bergeron tends to be a bit grabby, and while that didn’t translate to any penalties that I saw, don’t think that’ll fly in the NFL. If he fixes that and the ability to handle inside pass rush moves a bit better, then the Patriots have a potential star on their hands. I could see him playing either tackle spot with no problem as well. He spent two seasons on each end of the line at Syracuse and took some snaps at left guard at the Senior Bowl as well.
Pick 76) Darius Rush, CB (South Carolina) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: N/A Measurables Comparison: Sauce Gardner (87.6%) and Darius Slay (82.1%)
Rush’s journey to this point has been quite interesting. Despite being recruited to South Carolina as a wide receiver, he made the switch to cornerback early in his college career, before becoming a full-time starter for the Gamecocks these last two years. Given his background, it is no surprise that Rush is good around the ball. These last two seasons he racked up 15 pass breakups and three interceptions, along with a sack and forced fumble as well. Now he still has a way to go, despite looking impressive at times against SEC competition, but he should have zero problem finding playing time as a rookie. Rush spent plenty of time at SC as a gunner. Overall, I think you can live with the athletic profile and upside of Rush, even though he lacks some raw explosiveness (Vertical and Broad Jump is where Gardner heavily differentiates from Rush). Use him as a matchup guy as you need him to be in spots as a rookie and work from there.
Pick 117) Tyler Scott, WR (Cincinnati) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Combine Meeting Measurables Comparison: Josh Downs (99%) and Marvin Mims (88.4%)
As far as other possible day-three receiver options go for the Patriots, I think Scott is a very intriguing option. He’s a Welterweight 5’9 and 170 lbs, which 100% will not work in the NFL, but he has some good speed, overall athleticism, and route running ability to make up for that. Also came away satisfied with his ability to work after the catch in the opportunities. The biggest concern with Scott however is drops. It wasn’t as bad on film as I had heard others say, but it’s an issue. Saw at least four against Indiana and Miami of Ohio from this last season.
With that said, serving as the Bearcats' No. 1 wideout in 2022 with the departure of Alec Pierce, Scott racked up just shy of 900 yards on 54 catches, along with nine touchdowns. Ideally, I would like to see him fill into the Marcus Jones gadget role in the New England offense. He’s not as fast, but he isn’t horribly far off. Plus, that would allow Jones to strictly focus on kick returns and cornerback duties.
Pick 135) Kendre Miller, RB (TCU) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Pro Day Measurables Comparison: Tyler Allgaier (90%) and Jeff Wilson (90%) (Miller’s drill numbers are N/A so this is strictly height/weight/etc)
2022 was the first real season where Miller got a serious workload at TCU, and oh boy did he ever capitalize. 1400 yards on 224 carries and a whopping 17 touchdowns, en route to the Horned Frogs making the National Title game. A late-season injury did force Miller to bow out of positional testing at both his pro day and the combine, but based on what he did this last year alone, I wouldn’t be worried in the slightest. He was one of the hardest guys in all of college football to bring down, simply because he always keeps his legs moving, and has a deep bag of tricks to make guys miss in the open field.
Most of Miller’s damage comes in between the tackles as you can see, but he can kick it outside on occasion and isn't too bad of a pass catcher either. And the final plus Miller brings to the table is that he isn’t going to turn 21 years old until this June. If he’s here the Patriots should absolutely jump all over this. They go into this season with ‘Mondre, James Robinson, and Miller as their three main backs, that would be an incredible situation.
Pick 185) Michael Turk, P (Oklahoma) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (was on Patriots Staff’s team) Measurables Comparison: Michael Turk (When he was at Arizona State and went undrafted, 81.9%) and Johnny Townsend (72.1%)
This is the second time Turk has entered the NFL draft after the NCAA opted to grant him two extra years of eligibility after going undrafted in 2020. Spending those final two years at Oklahoma, Turk racked up a pair of First-Team All-Big-XII honors while averaging just about 44.5 yards per net punt. He also uncorked an 85-yard net punt from his own five-yard line against Texas in 2021 for a touchback but landed at the opposite 15-yard line. The kick was into the wind which certainly helped, but that is special stuff. Would imagine that the Shrine Bowl stint was essentially an audition for Turk.
Pick 193 (via Minnesota Vikings) Dee Winters, LB (TCU) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (on Falcons Staff’s team). Combine Meeting. Measurables Comparison: Issac Rochell (82.4%) and Johnathan Babineaux (81.7%)
If Winters were still on the board with just a handful of picks to go in the top 200 and the Patriots passed up on him, I would be furious. Said mainly all that I can say about the TCU product in Mock 1.0 really, I’m a big fan of his game. Small, yes, but he is a playmaker on that side of the ball.
Pick 210) Robert Beal, EDGE (Georgia) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (On Falcons Staff’s team) Measurables Comparison: Will Anderson (81.7%) and Jermaine Johnson (81.2%)
Going to assume you may be wondering if there’s a catch with Beal based on the two guys he graded similarly too. Firstly, Beal didn’t exactly grade out well in the strength department, with only 14 reps on the bench press which is far from ideal. He also lacks the ideal bend you’re looking for in an edge guy, but Beal has some elite straight-line speed. If he can time up the snap right, and he had some good success doing just that, you are going to have your hands full. Wouldn’t say he has elite agility to recover if needed, but I wouldn’t call that for a lack of effort. Beal seems to play with a good motor just about every snap. At this point in the draft, he’d make a fine-edge rush rotation option.
Pick 245) Marte Mapu, SAF (Sacramento State) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Top-30 Visit Measurables Comparison: Data N/A on MockDraftable
Mapu was one of the more interesting guys that the Patriots brought in on a Top-30 visit. He’s effectively a safety/linebacker mix who made waves at the Senior Bowl and has since made the rounds elsewhere on Top-30 visits, the Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens being another couple of notable teams bringing him in. Despite the fact that he’s still here at the tail end of the draft, Daniel Jerimiah recently ranked Mapu as the 73rd-best player in this draft. It is worth noting that he suffered a pec injury at some point during the pre-draft process, which will likely have him fall a bit. This far of a fall, however, is something I can’t imagine. In fact, the more I saw of him over these last couple of days, I became highly confused as to why he was even still on the board this late. Mapu is an absolute baller in every sense of the world.
Now what does the Sacramento State product bring to the table? Coverage ability, tenacity, physicality, intelligence. Basically, when you hear someone say “A safety playing linebacker” or vice-versa, Mapu is that. He’s also an absolute freak athlete at 6’3, a bit shy of 220 lbs, and has an 80-inch wingspan. Not to mention that he can flat-out fly if he needs to. Just watch him casually go 35 yards downfield down below. Big play given up but guys like Mapu aren’t supposed to do that. Again, there is zero reason he should be on the board this late based on what I have seen, but if he is, he should be a Patriot, no ifs, ands, or buts. Hypothetically if he were to be available in the fourth, I'd take him at 107 without any hesitation if that's where things are heading. I liked what I saw that much.
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