As of Thursday, the Patriots conducted their final Top-30 visit, with Kentucky quarterback/culinary war criminal Will Levis (puts mayo in coffee and eats rotten banana peels, I wish I was joking). Now it's time for the team to begin the process of finalizing their draft board ahead of next week's draft. Obviously, some positions are deeper than others, as is the case every year, but up and down this class I think there are more than enough guys who fit the Patriots' bill when it comes to prospects. Without further adieu, here's my second team mock.
- Mock executed via NFLDraftFantatics
- Maximum of three (realistic) trades (three trades here)
- Prospect interest (ingenious or not) is factored into consideration. However, meetings are not a make or break.
- Attempt to differentiate picks from Mock 1.0
- Draft Pick values based on the 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).
- Twitter thread on three of these picks are linked to their names.
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
Seahawks Receive: Picks 14 and 76 (386) Patriots Receive: Picks 20, 52, and 123 (400)
Do I think it’s an outright guarantee that Belichick trades down right away two years in a row? My answer, for now, would be no, but I certainly don’t rule it out. There’s going to be some value out there on day two and now the Patriots are just on the edge of having three top-50 selections. Speaking of edge, that was what I expected the Seahawks to do at 14, but they go with Christian Gonzalez who fell right into their lap, even though Myles Murphy was right there for the taking.
Pick 20 (via Seattle Seahawks) Zay Flowers, WR (Boston College) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Met at Combine. Top-30 Visit. Was on Shrine Bowl Team (did not play) Measurables Comparison: DWayne Eskridge (86.5%) and Jaylen Waddle (84.8%)
There has been a ton of talk about Jaxon Smith-Njigba being the only consensus round-one caliber wide receiver in this class, and to this point, he was the only receiver taking (No. 12 by the Texans). I would personally say there are either two or three-round-one receivers, and Flowers is a part of that group regardless (my personal WR1). Small in stature, yes but it’s about the size of the fight in the dog, and believes me, Flowers has a ton of fight in him.
Flowers has the ability to be a threat to a defense at every level, has some great route-running ability, and is a menace after the catch. I can understand his size being an issue for people, but this entire class outside of a few guys (Quentin Johnston, Jonathan Mingo, and Cedric Tilman most notably) isn’t exactly all that tall to begin with. And although Flowers is a primary boundary receiver, he should have no issues being moved into the slot if need be. BC also used in motion a ton which is another wrinkle that the Patriots could continue to do with him as he transitions to the NFL. Should be a no-brainer pick in the first assuming he’s still on the board.
Falcons Receive: Picks 46 and 123 (150) Patriots Receive: Pick 44 (135)
Simple and to the point, there’s a guy on the board that I have a feeling would be taken at 45th overall by the Packers, and I wouldn’t be willing to change it all things considered. Not a super pressing need but does fill a niche that I believe the Patriots do need, however.
The Patriots did make a notable move for a tight end with Mike Gesicki to pair with Hunter Henry, but there’s an asterisk next to tight end for Gesicki. You should be expecting him to be used exclusively as a receiver (has just 266 snaps on the line these last two seasons to 358 snaps out wide and 681 snaps in the slot). Hunter Henry meanwhile is entering the final year of his current deal, and while he’s solid enough as a blocker, that’s not his strong suit and quite frankly that’s not why he’s here. Both guys could be gone next year and that’s exactly why I would go out of my way to bring in Washington, and specifically trade up to do so.
You can see based on the measurable comparison that there aren’t many guys like the 6’7 265-pound behemoth out of Georgia. Simply a freak in every sense of the word, and he’s an absolute force as a player which shouldn’t come as a surprise. He’d be the best blocking tight end on the roster on day one and be the best natural fit for an in-line tight end role as well. Not exactly a route-running technician is Washington, but he’s a more than capable pass-catching option. He just had the unique problem of having Brock Bowers, next year's top tight-end prospect, ahead of him on the depth chart. If not for that, he would be the consensus top tight end this year by a wide margin. He’s not Gronk (no one is), but Washington is going to be a horrifying problem if he can be used to his full potential.
Pick 52 (via Seattle Seahawks) Jack Campbell, LB (Iowa) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: N/A Measurables Comparison: Tyus Bowser (82.5%) and Malik Harrison (81.6%)
Was holding out some hope that Mississippi State cornerback Emmanuel Forbes would still be on the board here, but no dice. Instead of trading down again, figured I go with the guy who in my mind was the best guy available in Campbell. I don’t think Ja’Whaun Bentley’s spot at the top of the linebacker depth chart is in literally any amount of jeopardy, but I would like to see them get another body behind him at some point next week. In Mock 1.0 that happened to be Dee Winters, but Campbell doesn’t have his size concerns and fits exactly what Belichick wants in a field general. Coming into the league winning the Butkus and William V. Campbell (Academic Heisman) should help his cause as well.
Campbell isn’t exactly lacking in speed and agility despite standing at 6’5 and 250 lbs. He moves very well both laterally against the run and pass, and I’ve come away impressed with his ability as a zone defender in the short/intermediate area (four picks and six PBUs since the 2021 season). With that said Campbell is not without some flaws. He needs to be better at working/filtering through blocks in general, and that showed up quite a lot. Decisiveness in the open field is another issue that came up, but only a handful of times from the film I’ve watched. Either way, I think there’s enough to like about Campbell to justify taking him here. High IQ, leadership, sideline-to-sideline range, and can do a little bit of everything.
Pick 107 (via Los Angeles Rams) Mehki Garner, CB (LSU) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (on Falcons Staff’s team) Measurables Comparison: Brandon Facyson (81.5%) and Pat Surtain (81.4%)
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say the Patriots hit the jackpot last year taking corners outside of the top two rounds, and I think they have another solid prospect here at 107 with Garner. He immediately fixes the team’s size deficiencies at the position (6’2, 212 lbs, with gigantic hands and long arms), and plays as physically as you’d expect both in the pass game and against the run. Big fan of how Garner works the sideline at the catch point, as the handful of times I saw him get targeted down the seam, he almost always bodied his man out of bounds to break things up. He’s also very good with his hands just in general, and while that didn’t lead to a ton of ball production in college, it wasn’t for the lack of effort.
Areas, where I think Garner needs to get better, are firstly biting on double moves. He got beat badly in LSU’s opener in the Superdome against Florida State for a TD on a flea flicker, and Garner doesn’t have the makeup speed to efficiently close that gap for the NFL I don’t think. Garner also didn’t test well in agility drills (three-cone and short shuttle) but on film, he looks good moving laterally as a cornerback. Have seen some suggesting Garner may be better off playing safety, but I think the Patriots could make it work with him as a hybrid defensive back with no problem if they so chose. He can also be a special teams contributor right out of the gate as well.
Pick 117) Ronnie Hickman, SAF (Ohio State) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Pro Day. Former Lacrosse player so Belichick 100% knows every detail of his life to this point. Measurables Comparison: Marcus Maye (96.6%) and Vonn Bell (91.8%) (Hickman has zero drills on record so this is strictly height/weight/etc)
When I found out that Hickman was a former High School All-American Lacrosse player I simply said, “He’s a Patriot I’m afraid.” This wouldn’t even be up for discussion if he went to Navy or Rutgers, but instead, Hickman would hypothetically be the Patriots' first selection out of Ohio State since Nate Ebner. Where I think Hickman excels is as a defender working in zone coverage. Ryan Day and his staff had him line up on a variety of spots and Hickman looked solid mainly working against tight ends, and occasionally some slot guys. He had one notable bad DPI in the endzone against Michigan this last year that effectively ended that game, but outside of that, nothing I’ve seen jumps out as alarming in terms of fundamentals as a pass defender.
As a run defender/tackler, however, I do have some concerns about Hickman, most of which, however, I think are fixable. While I believe he can wrap up well, there’s a multitude of areas where he needs to get better. Namely being surer of what he’s seeing, taking better angles against running backs, and knowing when the wrap-up vs going to lay the lumber. This most likely means he will have to find a niche role wherever he ends up, and for the Patriots, that would be as a rotational sub-package guy. Did I mention he played Lacrosse yet by the way?
Pick 135) Michael Wilson, WR (Stanford) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Top-30 Visit. Senior Bowl (On Team with Patriots assistant DeMarcus Covington) Measurables Comparison: Pierre Garcon (85.8%) and Braylon Edwards (80.9%)
Surprise! A double dip at receiver in the opening 150 picks. When you watch Wilson, you see just about everything you’d want in a wideout for the Patriots. An excellent release package, is great at the catch point, is slippery after the catch, has the willingness to block, and is simply a high-character guy. You may be wondering based on that description and the measurable comps to a former All-Pro and No. 1 guy for Peyton Manning, what’s the catch? Simply, injury history, and extensive at that.
Wilson went down with an undisclosed injury in ’22 against Notre Dame, playing just six games that season. And before that, he played just eight games total from 2020-2021, suffering a season-ending foot injury in the former. At this stage of the draft, however, this is the exact kind of guy I would take a chance on. New England did the same thing with Malcolm Mitchell in 2016, and although it didn’t work out long-term, he was a massive piece down the stretch in the Falcons Super Bowl. Assuming the Patriots heard good things about his health at Wilson’s Top-30 visit, I imagine he’s going to be on their radar.
Vikings Receive: Picks 185 and 193 (11) Patriots Receive: Pick 159 (10)
The Patriots break up what would have been a 30-plus pick gap between selections, giving the Vikings a pair of early/mid-sixth rounders, helping them out a bit considering they’re entering this draft with just five picks due to their midseason acquisition of TJ Hockenson.
Pick 159 (via Minnesota Vikings) Dante Stills, IDL (West Virginia) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (on Falcons Staff’s team). Combine Meeting. Measurables Comparison: Issac Rochell (82.4%) and Johnathan Babineaux (81.7%)
Maybe not a super big need all things considered, but the Patriots could always use some extra pass-rush help straight up the middle, and Stills is a perfect fit for that job. I don’t think he has the bulk to be an every-down defender, which is why he’s still on the board here, but 24.5 sacks in a college career is very respectable, and Still did it lining up all over the defensive front. He moves very well laterally even though he might not have the best closing speed but has good hands/hand-checking ability to work through blocks to make up for it. All in all, Stills is a perfect fit to be a rotational interior pass rusher in Foxborough. It could be a slight reach here but at this point, if you like a guy go and get him.
Pick 188 (via Carolina Panthers) Jonah Tavai, IDL (San Diego State) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: N/A Measurables Comparison: Data N/A on MockDraftable
If the last name sounds familiar, it should. Jonah’s big brother Jahlani just wrapped up a solid season for the Patriots and in this scenario, we get a little family reunion going. Although Tavai is a better space eater than Stills based on what I’ve seen, he’s far from a bad pass rusher (21 career sacks). Tavai constantly demanded attention up front and frequently saw multiple linemen come his way, not surprising given his production in the Mountain West. Just like Stills as well, Tavai can be a multi-front, multi-spot guy, even lining up on the edge on a few occasions. Don’t think that will be his NFL bag but count me in as a fan just off the limited tape I have seen, even if he’s a bit undersized at 6’0.
Pick 210) Adam Korsak, P (Rutgers) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: “We saw everyone at Rutgers” – Bill Belichick circa October 23, 2019 Measurables Comparison: Sterling Hofrichter (85.7%) and Jake Bailey (81.7%)
Ditto as 1.0. Rutgers? Check. International Player? Check. Played for a Belichick confidant, in this case, Greg Schiano? Check. And Rutgers? Check.
Pick 245 (via Buffalo Bills) Jordan Mims, RB (Fresno State) Patriots’ Pre-Draft Exposure: Shrine Bowl (On Falcons Staff’s Team) Measurables Comparison: Data N/A on MockDraftable
Something that the Patriots were missing big time this season was a true third down back in the vein of James White, Shane Vereen, Kevin Faulk, etc. Someone like Mims would be a solid option for that role. The only major concern I have with the Fresno State product is that he’s a cruiserweight (that’s 205 lbs for non-Boxing/Wrestling fans), which almost certainly will not cut it in the NFL. Outside of that, I think Mims is a more than serviceable guy, who at worst is a camp body for the Patriots this summer. He’s a reliable pass catcher out of the backfield, is willing to get his hands dirty in pass protection if asked upon, and has good juice as a runner, just needs to allow blocks to develop in front of him at the line of scrimmage a bit better.
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