The 2023 NFL Draft is only hours away. That means it’s time to get one last mock draft end before the chaos begins! We’re going to do a New England Patriots-centered mock draft, making picks via Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator as if we’re Bill Belichick mixed in with some things I think they should do.
Let’s have at it!
Round 1, No. 14 overall pick: Georgia OT Broderick Jones
Mac Jones (or whoever will be taking snaps at quarterback for the New England Patriots in the future) has his blindside blocker.
Jones provides a stout option for the Patriots at left tackle for the foreseeable future. The Georgia product is a behemoth, standing at 6-foot-5 and weighing 311 pounds, and also has tremendous athleticism for his position, running a 4.97 40-yard dash at the combine.
Not only does Jones have the traits, but he also had the production at Georgia that could indicate he might an elite offensive tackle in the future. He didn’t allow a single sack this past season and only gave up two in his collegiate career, according to Pro Football Focus.
Broderick Jones | OT | UGA
– Elite movement for position
– Weapon in the open field on runs/screens
– Power to dig, kick, drive DL out of gaps
– Great range/depth on kick-slide
– Can easily cut wide rush angles
– Torque in pass pro
– High IQ: helps w/ calls & picking up stunts pic.twitter.com/X1kUFDnxVM
— Matt Lane (@Matty_KCSN) April 24, 2023
One of the bigger concerns surrounding Jones though was his lack of experience in college. He only started for one full season at Georgia, but was obviously great in that lone year.
Jones wasn’t a slam-dunk option with how the draft fell. There were some other enticing options on the board, such as Tennessee’s Darnell Wright. But I would take Jones over Wright due to Wright’s struggles at left tackle prior to the 2022 season, when the Volunteers moved him to right tackle.
There are also a pair of strong corner options on the board in Joey Porter Jr. and Deonte Banks. Both players certainly have the potential to be a No. 1 corner in years to come.
Possibly the toughest player to pass up on was stud Texas running back Bijan Robinson. He might just be the best prospect in this draft class, but the Patriots NEED help at offensive tackle after how this past season went.
Clemson edge Myles Murphy was also on the board and it wouldn’t shock me if the Patriots drafted him this high. They met with him a lot during draft season.
I also gave strong consideration to trading down, but the Los Angeles Chargers (who have the No. 21 overall pick) were the team closest to the Patriots in the draft willing to trade up. By trading down, the Patriots would’ve picked behind two offensive tackle-needy teams in the New York Jets and Pittsburgh Steelers, likely leaving them without one of the four offensive tackle prospects who’ve separated themselves at the top in this class.
Of course, I wouldn’t rule out the Patriots trading out of the 14th overall pick. If there’s a run on offensive tackles that happens before their pick, trading down to the late teens to possibly select a wide receiver while picking up a Day 2 pick would be enticing.
Round 2, No. 46 overall pick: UNC WR Josh Downs
There were so many enticing options on the board.
Iowa tight end Sam LaPorta seems to be the next great tight end to come out of that program. Houston wide receiver Nathaniel Dell is a strong option. Miami corner Tyrique Stevenson and Michigan corner DJ Turner are both strong options to add to the secondary for the Patriots too.
But Downs surprisingly fell in this mock. The UNC product has often been projected to be selected early in the second round at the latest. So, with him being available here, I wasn’t going to take any risk in trading back as I run the draft card over to the league.
Downs has great quickness, running a 1.49 10-yard split, and speed, running a 4.49 40-yard dash. He had the second-best overall score for a wide receiver prospect at this year’s combine, according to Next Gen Stats. He was also productive at UNC, recording over 1,000 receiving yards in the last two seasons and had 94 receptions this past season.
UNC WR Josh Downs
Projected mid-2nd round
90% of snaps from the slot
2 straight 1,000 seasons
Someone will get a HR hitting slot in the mid 2nd.
Rondale Moore type vibes
— Jared Tokarz (@JaredNFLDraft) April 26, 2023
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Patriots traded up though to get Downs or another receiver. They’ve met with Downs and many of the other receivers that have been projected to be selected late in the first round or early in the second round. They’ve also been aggressive in trading up in the second round, moving up in the round in the last five drafts.
Trade! Patriots trade up to No. 48 overall and give up picks No. 76 (third round), No. 107 (fourth round), No. 117 (fourth round) and No. 184 (sixth round).
Round 2, No. 48 overall pick: Michigan CB DJ Turner
What did I tell you about the Patriots being aggressive in the second round?
The Patriots were loaded with mid-round picks in this draft, including three fourth-rounders. Giving up two of them in order to move up from the third round felt like a necessity here considering the cornerback-needy Steelers were next on the clock.
Turner is worth the trade up for the Patriots. Not only is he the fastest corner in this draft, but he also ran the quickest 40-yard dash at this year’s combine at 4.26. We know Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh loves speed. He selected the fastest wide receiver and cornerback prospects in his first draft in his current role last year.
Turner was arguably one of the more underrated players in college over the last couple of years. He allowed just 408 receiving yards on 71 targets last season and 267 yards on 59 targets the year prior, per PFF. He also had three interceptions.
What a play by the @UMichFootball defense pic.twitter.com/qHnQcELa6X
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 24, 2022
Round 4, No. 135 overall pick: Kansas State RB Deuce Vaughn
After the long wait, the Patriots draft a running back in the fourth straight year here.
The departure of Damien Harris means someone is going to have to step up in some way because Rhamondre Stevenson can’t do everything for the second straight year.
Vaughn, who is all of 5-foot-6, has been electric for the Wildcats the last two years. He rushed for nearly 3,000 total yards and 27 touchdowns over that stretch, adding 91 receptions for 846 yards and seven touchdowns.
What Deuce Vaughn might lack in size he makes up for with patience, incredible hands, and a Madden-like jukestick. The son of a scout, Vaughn had 116 career receptions and 43 total TDs in 3 seasons at Kansas State. pic.twitter.com/TYnFQ2PmnR
— Kyle Lindemann (@LuckIsMadeFF) April 20, 2023
Round 6, No. 187 overall pick: UCLA G Jon Gaines II
The Patriots love to select interior offensive linemen late in the draft. Gaines might be the best fit here.
They got somewhat of a look at Gaines at the Shine Bowl as he played for the East team while the Patriots coached the West team. But his 4.45 short shuttle was the best among interior offensive linemen in the offensive draft, and that typically leads to good success in the NFL.
Since 2010, just 28 Offensive Linemen recorded a 4.47 short shuttle or better at the NFL Combine
24 were drafted
Those 24 went on to start 84% of their NFL games. It’s a cheat code.
Let’s ‘Moneyball’ the NFL Combinehttps://t.co/18vOIzmWlV pic.twitter.com/BPmFhPzjhe
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) February 27, 2023
Round 6, No. 192 overall pick: Fresno State QB Jake Haener
I predicted earlier in the offseason that the Patriots would draft a quarterback. I’m going to stick by that, and the Senior Bowl star was one of the best passers in college in 2021. He seems to have the most Bailey Zappe or Brock Purdy potential in this draft.
Fresno State’s Jake Haener, who was dealing with hip pain all night, threw the game-winning TD against No. 13 UCLA with 14 seconds left.
He finished with 455 passing yards, two TDs and the W
(via @MountainWest) pic.twitter.com/r5CgI9ihnZ
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) September 19, 2021
Round 7, No. 210 overall pick: Rutgers P Adam Korsak
The Patriots need a punter and with Greg Schiano back at Rutgers, Belichick goes back to the New Jersey well for the first time in a decade.
PFF didn’t seem to like my draft too much. It gave me an overall B grade as it disliked the trade I made to move back into the second round (giving it a D+ grade). The only picks I made that earned me an A- or better were the Gaines (A-) and Haener (A+) selections.
But I strived out what I wanted the Patriots to do in this draft: Get a highly-touted offensive tackle prospect plus a wide receiver and corner with high upside.
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