Three weeks from tonight, the New England Patriots will most likely be making their first selection of this year's draft at 14th overall barring any sort of trade/s. Although Bill Belichick did a solid job in the opening wave of free agency of adding to and retaining what's objectively a solid roster, it's not close to a perfect roster yet either. Hard to get a feel for what the tackle situation is going to look like going into OTAs and Mini Camp, there's still no true No. 1 wideout for the time being, and the cornerback room is still relatively small in stature. Here, I try to fill those holes and then some in the first of most likely three Patriots Mock Drafts leading into the big weekend at the end of this month.
- Mac Jones is the Patriots' quarterback
- Maximum of three (realistic) trades (two trades executed here. Values used via Rich Hill Model)
- Prospect interest (ingenious or not) is factored into consideration with each pick
- Mock Draft executed via NFLDraftFanatics.com
Patriots Top Needs No. 1: Boundary Cornerback with Size/Length Combo No. 2: Playmaking Wide Receiver with the ability to separate consistently No. 3: Left Tackle No. 4: EDGE Depth No. 5: Linebacker Speed/Depth
Honorable Mention: No. 3 QB
(Measurables = Combine Drill Results)
Pick 14) Joey Porter Jr, CB, Penn State Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Met at Combine Measurables Comparison: Sauce Gardner and Martin Emerson
Looking at this cornerback class, I don’t think Porter Jr is the No. 1 option available from the jump, but he’s exactly what the Patriots need in terms of size and ability. The son of former Steelers player/current Steelers defensive assistant has freakish arm length, wingspan, and hand size for a cornerback, all ranking at least in the 95th percentile among cornerbacks.
As of now, my two concerns when it comes to Porter Jr first, he’s very grabby, and it shows up a lot. Most of the time he was or could have been called for holding/DPI/illegal contact/etc, it felt avoidable on his end. And the thing is too that Porter Jr is great at hand-checking and using his leverage to attack receivers. Secondly is the lack of ball production Porter Jr had in College, with just one interception and forced fumble in over 30 games in Happy Valley. Since every other defensive back on the Patriots has magnets in their gloves, however, that can be filed under the minor issue section for the time being.
One thing I feel is worth mentioning is that Penn State ran a ton of zone looks, which doesn’t run to Porter Jr’s strengths as a cornerback. He’s a guy who should be five yards off the LOS at most and in a primary-man coverage system. So yeah he’s a great fit for the Patriots in that regard. One more thing that I think only helps Porter Jr, he’s been tasked with covering Tight Ends on occasion, something that could certainly translate to his pro game given if given the right opportunity or situation.
Broncos Receive: Picks 46 and 135, and a 2024 2nd-round pick (204) Patriots Receive: Jerry Jeudy (Average Trade Value return for six of last seven WRs* traded on rookie deals is 226)
*-Brandin Cooks x2, AJ Brown (his trade value return was much higher than anyone else here at 322), Amari Cooper, Hollywood Brown, and Chase Claypool (not included here is Kadarius Toney)
Sean Payton made it sound like neither Jerry Jeudy nor Cortland Sutton were available, and I categorically do not believe him. The Broncos are currently without second-round draft picks for the next two seasons and lack a first-rounder this year. This leaves them with zero picks in the top 50, and just two in the top 100 (picks 67 and 68). Also worth noting is that the Broncos would be nearly 30 million over the cap in 2024 with Jeudy playing on the fifth-year option. Even if he doesn’t get moved, Denver has some maneuvering to do. It has been floated out there that the Patriots offered the Broncos a flat second and fourth for Jeudy, which on its own isn’t enough based on past receiver trades of this nature. That extra two should hopefully get the Broncos interested.
Now for the big question, is Jerry Jeudy a No. 1 Wide Receiver? Yes. He’s as good a route runner as anyone wideout in football and can be lined up anywhere you need him to. That might be more important than anything given the versatility they have already with how they want to line up guys. But Juedy is coming off a career-best season despite the Broncos being an absolute dumpster fire from start to finish. He also, much like DeAndre Hopkins in Houston, has been able to make things work with subpar quarterback play. Before this year, Jeudy had worked with Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel, Kendall Hilton, Brett Rypien, and Teddy Bridgewater. Obviously, this doesn’t make him Nuk Hopkins off-rip, but he’s gotten better every year, nevertheless. So when I say Jeudy is an elite route runner, what does that look like? Here’s example No. 1.
Although this is college gameplay, this is fantastic stuff. Hard sells the in route, sticks his foot in the ground and flips his hips back to the boundary, and completely blows up the soft bracket coverage. Just look at the space he opens up. And don’t worry, this kind of stuff shows up in his NFL body of work too, as such.
Simply preposterous footwork at the line of scrimmage going up against Kristian Fulton, and that’s not even the impressive part here. Jeudy somehow is able to cut it back upfield in moderate traffic, turning what should have been a 7.5-8-yard gain into a gain of over 20 yards. This was also Jeudy’s first-ever game in the league, by the way, no big deal. How about one more for the road?
So Jeudy has Rams cornerback Troy Hill in what we like to call 'Hell' here. Gets him to bite as hard as physically possible on the head movement, then cuts it back to the boundary with all the separation in the world to make a big catch. There’s a similar play he made against the Panthers but this one is here for a reason. Look at the score, look at the time left, and look at Jeudy’s reaction after the play. This is a guy with a high compete level who just wants to win. Give me that kind of wide receiver any day of the week.
Most importantly, Jeudy has a past rapport with Mac Jones, who was his roommate at Alabama before he was drafted by Denver. The two played together in a few games in the 2019 season after Tua Tagovaiola went down with his hip injury. Most notably Jeudy put up 204 yards and a touchdown in that year’s Citrus Bowl against Michigan with McCorkle under center. Bama -8 was never in doubt that day, but I digress. Also to put the value of what the Patriots are giving up here, 204 value points is close to the value of the 29th pick in the first round. They should put that call in expeditiously, and hopefully get an extension worked out in short order.
Pick 76 (via Carolina Panthers) Tyler Steen, OT, Alabama Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: N/A Measurables Comparison: Garrett Gilkey and Penei Sewell
I honestly don’t know if either tackle spot is locked up going into this next season, and wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Belichick try to find a tackle early this month. Steen is someone the Patriots have an inside track on given Bill O’Brien was with him in his lone season at Alabama (spent three years at Vanderbilt), making him a likely target in any event. The 6’6 321 lb behemoth out of Miami is a mountain of a man but doesn’t exactly have the ideal arm size/wingspan for your prototypical NFL tackle, ranking in just the 9th percentile. That didn’t stop Nick Saban and BOB from placing him as Bryce Young’s blindside blocker in 2022 however.
What jumps out right away when you watch Steen is that despite his natural limitations, he has immense power in his hands and the lack of leverage doesn’t hurt him too much. He has a good get off the line of scrimmage and can reset his hands without getting beat. All things considered, Steen is already a quality pass protector, but I can’t say the same about his ability in run blocking in the short sample size I’ve recently seen. Now when it all comes together in that area, Steen is fine, it’s just that there’s no consistency, but this is why you hire a guy like Adrian Klemm to polish that up. Assuming the run-blocking issues can be remedied, this has all the makings of yet another quality offensive line find for the Patriots outside of the first round. I also think he can play either tackle spot, but the fact he could play guard is another plus.
Pick 107 (via Los Angeles Rams) Mike Morris, EDGE, Michigan Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: N/A Measurables Comparison: William Gholston and Rulon Davis
The Michigan to Foxborough pipeline has been solid in recent years, and the Patriots tap back into it to further strengthen what was an above-average pass rush a season ago. More importantly, Michigan has been simply churning out pass rushers by the baker's dozen these last several years, and Morris is another name to that list. Funny enough, he has had a similar trajectory to Josh Uche, where he didn’t have the production in his first two seasons, but exploded in year three. Morris racked up 11 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in 2022, the latter good for second in the Big 10.
Morris isn’t the most explosive pass rusher you’ll ever see, shown by his RAS score and on tape. On the other hand, being a 6’5 275 lb EDGE has its advantages and it’s easy to see why Morris had the season he just did. He’s a hard guy to stop once he gets going, and with the motor he has Morris should h Morris isn’t going to win many finesse showcases, but his power rush and edge-setting ability would be an intriguing Yin to Uche’s Yang, assuming the Patriots don’t view the latter as a true three-down EDGE still. He also has a blocked punt against Wisconsin, so I’d imagine Belichick has that All-22 clip saved on his office computer somewhere.
Chiefs Receive: Picks 117 and 185 (31) Patriots Receive: Picks 134, 167, and 250 (26)
The Patriots and Chiefs pick back up where they left off after making multiple mid-draft trades a year ago. This breaks up what would have been a nearly 50-pick gap between New England’s next two selections, while Kansas City in this scenario jumps up 17 spots to reinforce the defensive trenches with Keondre Coburn out of Texas. Speaking of the Longhorns.
Pick 134 (via Kansas City Chiefs) Roschon Johnson, RB, Texas Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: N/A Measurables Comparison: Tank Bigsby and Tyler Allgeier
Since the Patriots are just so enthralled with the idea of taking their fourth running back in the last three drafts, I think I found the best option in what is a reasonable spot. Said it yesterday on Twitter, but Johsnon can play, the only reason he wasn’t starting at Texas is that the literal best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley was the only guy ahead of him on the depth chart.
As cliché as it sounds, Johnson absolutely fights for every blade of grass. He has great balance and agility, and despite a 40 time in the high 4.50s, is tough to stop once he gets into his highest gear. Ball security isn’t much of an issue (one fumble against Kansas State on a chase-down swat) and not to mention the fact that Johnson can be a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield. He had some drops and incompletions, but of those, I’d only put one or two of those on him. And before I forget, Johnson has experience taking snaps in the wildcat. Would much rather have him here than Bijan Robinson at 14.
Pick 167 (via Kansas City Chiefs) Dee Winters, LB, TCU Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Senior Bowl (played under Patriots assistant DeMarcus Covington) Measurables Comparison: Shaquem Griffin and Monty Rice
Of the few dozen players I've gotten the chance to really dive into this draft cycle, the best individual game from a prospect that I've watched was Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright putting Will Anderson on a milk carton. A very close second would be Winters putting TCU on his back in the Fiesta Bowl against Michigan. Dont’a Hightower in the Super Bowl levels of all over the place. Winters is simply “It’s not about the size of the dog in the fight” in human form. His only size measurable breaking over the 10th percentile is his arms which are 31 5/8ths inches long. But he is just simply a playmaker.
The Patriots typically don’t go with linebackers this small, but at this stage of the draft, a guy who can affect the game like Winters can should be a no-brainer. Over his final 27 games at TCU, he racked up three interceptions, four pass breakups, 8.5 sacks, 19.5 tackles for loss, and 153 tackles. Last year I assumed they passed on Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean, whom I also loved pre-draft, for his lack of size. Winters is just about the same size and is a proven playmaker, and you can never have enough of those on an NFL roster.
Pick 188 (via Carolina Panthers) Trey Dean, SAF, Florida Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (Played on Patriots’ Staff team), Additional contact with before and at the NFL Combine Measurables Comparison: Myron Terry and Chris Young
Dean spoke glowingly about his Shrine Bowl stint with the Patriots at the combine last month, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Patriots go out of their way to nab him near the end of the top 200 picks. Wrote leading into the Shrine Bowl that Dean was very impressive as Florida’s tight end eraser against Georgia’s Brock Bowers and Darnell Washington, and that was probably the best game I saw of his. His versatility also makes him a natural Patriots draft target. Before converting to safety, Dean was recruited to the Gators as a cornerback.
Pick 193) Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (Played on Patriots’ Staff team) Measurables Comparison: Max Duggan and Malik Williams
Another Shrine Bowl player that just feels like he’s going to end up in Foxborough is DTR. Not only did he play for the Patriots team that weekend, but he’s also a Chip Kelly guy which only furthers that feeling. But DTR was a big part in what was another solid season for UCLA, which was ranked as a top 10 program for three separate weeks in the middle of the year. His numbers were also rock solid, completing nearly 70 percent of his passes for over 3100 yards and a TD-INT split of 27-10.
Robinson also has some wheels on him as well, as he ran for 645 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 4.65 40-yard dash and his wildly impressive 1.51 10-yard split rank in the 92nd and 97th percentile respectively. DTR is not a big guy by any means are there any amount of plays where he’s just running into contact. I don’t know if that’ll work in the NFL, but I can respect that level of psycho in a quarterback.
The areas where I also like DTR is that he has a good feel for the pocket, and even if he does leave the pocket a tad early, his raw speed will win just about any open-field battle, so you can live with that. Additionally, DTR may not wow you with arm talent like some of the top QBs this year, but the ball comes with some solid zip on it. The process of getting it out could be quicker, but we’ve seen guys evolve their throwing motion before so that isn’t impossible for DTR. Not to mention that he can make it work both in and outside of the pocket.
Areas where DTR can improve is firstly ball management. Against USC in a big spot, he threw a couple of brutal interceptions where he didn’t see a trailing defender which prematurely ended a pair of two-minute drills, and that ended up costing UCLA that game. He can also start to get shaky as a passer when things get out of tempo, which also showed up in that USC game. The bad picks, sailing passes, chucking up a prayer ball after he got out of a sack, etc. There’s enough here, however, to warrant bringing him in as a No. 3 quarterback, especially now that Brian Hoyer is officially Vegas bound.
Pick 210) Jake Moody, K, Michigan Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (Played on Patriots’ Staff team), Official Combine Visit Measurables Comparison: Anthony Ferra (99% match)
Nick Folk has been a rock for his run as a Patriot, but we saw some rough mishaps in 2022 and a potential successor being drafted feels likely. Moody is someone the Patriots have checked in on multiple times now and is a Michigan guy so he checks off two boxes right away. He’s never missed an extra point at Michigan but has only ever hit four field goals from 50 and further on back (3-7 in 2022), with two other misses between 20-49 yards. However, his NFL.com Draft Profile notes that he was a perfect 8-8 in a couple of highly windy games these last two seasons, which I imagine Belichick is a fan of. In the scenario where the Patriots draft him, I have a hard time seeing him being anything other than a strict XP and FG guy. Moody doesn’t have the leg to cut it to work kickoffs I’d say.
Pick 245 (via Buffalo Bills) Adam Korsak, P, Rutgers Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: “We saw everyone at Rutgers” – Bill Belichick circa October 23, 2019 Measurables Comparison: Brad Robbins and Sterling Hofrichter (Jake Bailey coming in third here)
Death, Taxes, Rutgers. The three guarantees in life for the New England Patriots. They have strayed away from those core tenants for too long and go back to sacred ground in New Jersey to find their new punter in Korsak, whom Belichick confidant Greg Schiano called the best punter he’s worked with “in 35 years”. The native Australian enters the league coming off a Ray Guy award-winning effort for the Scarlett Knights and unsurprisingly has a cannon for a leg. Did I mention that he’s kicked for two (2) touchbacks since 2019 yet as well? As far as handling kickoffs go, he didn’t do that this year at Rutgers but I don’t think that would be a tough ask for Korsak given what he can do.
Pick 250 (via Kansas City) Hunter Luepke, FB, North Dakota State Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: N/A Measurables Comparison: Brandon Drumm and Eddie Williams
Odd that the first season in quite some time that the Patriots didn’t employ a fullback, they had their worst offensive season in nearly 30 years is it not? Might just be me. Comparing a guy who hasn’t taken an NFL snap yet to Kyle Juszczyk feels a bit tough, but it’s hard to not find some common ground between him and Luepke. He isn’t just a pure run blocker who may or may not get a carry or two down by the goal line, this is a legitimate offensive piece in the running and pass game as well. I obviously don’t think he’s a go-to piece in the NFL, but he was one of the top contributors for the NDSU offense these last two years, racking up 1162 rushing yards and 17 rushing scores, on top of 361 receiving yards and seven scores. He would probably be a legit option for some Hoss Juke looks too, just some food for thought @BillOBrien.
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