The 2017 NFL season is in full swing as the New England Patriots are in the hunt for their ninth straight division title and playoff berth. But while the defending world champions have set their sights on the upcoming game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, other teams can afford to look beyond next week – on to 2018 and the upcoming draft.
NFL scouts and personnel evaluators are not the only one to look ahead, Mocking the Draft's Dan Kadar does as well. Kadar has recently released his latest mock draft; the Patriots pick last in the first round – a position New England's fans certainly would like to see next May – and target a position that has been one of the lightest on the team this season:
32. New England Patriots: Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
The Patriots have been a patchwork at defensive end this season. Adding an edge defender like Bryant would give the Patriots a 4-3 end who can play the run and pass.
New England's defensive edge certainly has been a revolving door this season due to both long- and short-term injuries as well as failing offseason acquisitions like Kony Ealy and Cassius Marsh. Sunday's loss against the Miami Dolphins was a good example of that as the Patriots failed to produce proper pressure in the passing game while being inconsistent against the run.
Adding a high-upside player like Bryant would certainly bolster the team's defensive edge and add depth to the existing group of Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Derek Rivers. With Rivers coming off an ACL injury and Flowers entering the final year of his rookie contact, the 6'5, 265 lbs Clemson product would add flexibility in both the short and the long term. Seeing New England go that route would not be a surprise.