One of the major reasons for the New England Patriots' loss in Super Bowl LII was the team's defense: The unit was unable to get the necessary stops and allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to score 41 points in one of the worst performances of the Bill Belichick-era. Naturally, the defense projects to be the focus of New England's offseason work from free agency to the draft.
It is therefore no surprise that the latest mock draft by SB Nation's Dan Kadar, sees the Patriots invest heavily in their defense: Kadar's first two-round mock of the offseason has New England pick three defenders.
Round 1 (#31): CB Mike Hughes, Central Florida
Round 2 (#41): DE Rasheem Green, USC
Round 2 (#63): LB Fred Warner, Brigham Young
If drafted by the Patriots, Mike Hughes would serve as the replacement for Malcolm Butler, who is likely to leave New England via free agency. The 5'11 defender, who is one of this year's top cornerbacks and has experience playing one-on-one in man-coverage schemes, would join a cornerback group that has Stephon Gilmore as the clear-cut number one option, with Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones as the depth players.
Rasheem Green is not as polished a player as Hughes but brings huge potential to the table. Coming off a season in which he led USC in sacks, the 20-year old projects to be a day two selection – one that would add athleticism to a Patriots defensive edge rotation consisting of Trey Flowers, Deatrich Wise Jr. and Derek Rivers. While he is a raw prospect, Green has all the tools to become a productive player at the next level.
As is the case with current Patriots linebackers Dont'a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy, Fred Warner's versatility is what stands out: The 6'3 defender has experience playing on and off the line of scrimmage, on the interior or the edge. While he would need to add bulk to his frame to find success in the NFL, his athleticism would make him a nice addition to a New England linebacker corps that has lacked just that in 2017.
New England picking Mike Hughes, Rashaam Green and Fred Warner seems to be a realistic scenario. While the latter two are developmental prospects at this point in time, their upside and athleticism is intriguing and both would add considerable speed to the Patriots defense. Hughes, on the other hand, is capable of becoming a day-one starter at the cornerback position opposite Stephon Gilmore.
And while Kadar did not have the team draft a quarterback in the first two rounds, there are still some high-quality passers available in his mock: Washington State's Luke Falk and Richmond's Kyle Lauletta, for example, are not yet off the board and could be on the radar in the third round.