The 2018 NFL draft is still more than two months away but mock draft season is already in full swing. The newest trend is including trades and SB Nation's draft guru Dan Kadar did just that in his mock draft released yesterday. But while five moves were made in the first round, the New England Patriots decided to stay in slot number 31 and add to a defense that will likely lose starting cornerback Malcolm Butler in free agency:
31. New England Patriots: Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
If Malcolm Butler is on his way out, the Patriots will have some options at cornerback even if a team moves ahead of them to target the position. Hughes is at his best when he can press at the line and use his size to make a play on the ball.
If drafted by the Patriots, Mike Hughes would serve as the eventual replacement for Butler and add talent, athleticism and playmaking ability to the perimeter of the Patriots' secondary. Hughes was not only named to the first All-Conference team at cornerback in 2017 – his first year at Central Florida after stints at North Carolina (2015) and Garden City Community College (2016) – but also to the AAC's second team as a returnman.
The 5’11 defender, who has experience playing one-on-one in man-coverage schemes and registered four interceptions last season, 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. He does not come without his fair share of questions, though: Hughes was dismissed from North Carolina after facing misdemeanor assault charges following an altercation at a fraternity.
SB Nation is not the only outlet to recently publish a draft including trades. CBS Sports' Chris Trapasso also released his latest mock draft yesterday – and he too has the Patriots staying put in slot number 31. However, as opposed to Kadar, Trapasso has New England adding to its offense:
31. New England Patriots: Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
Kirk is the type of make-you-miss, downfield threat the Patriots seem to love at the wideout spot and would fill in for Danny Amendola immediately if he leaves in free agency. Even if Amendola is re-signed, Kirk would bring youth to New England’s pass-catcher group.
Christian Kirk is an intriguing wide receiver. The 21-year old displayed explosiveness, great hands and solid route running abilities throughout his three years at Texas A&M and finished his college career with 229 catches for 2,796 yards and 26 touchdowns – all while serving as his team's primary punt returner as well. The 5'11, 200 lbs wideout therefore looks like a perfect fit for an offense that turned players like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola into stars.
However, it appears unlikely that the Patriots will invest a first round draft pick at wide receiver as the team did just that with the Brandin Cooks trade last season. Considering that New England needs defensive help, adding another highly drafted offensive skill position player appears to be unlikely. The only scenario in which this could happen were if the team did not trust the health of Edelman or Malcolm Mitchell moving forward – and there are no indications of that.