With the 2018 NFL draft a mere two months away, mock draft season is fully upon us. When it comes to guessing the first round this year, there are few safe bets from top to bottom. One thing that does seem etched in stone, though, is the New England Patriots going after a defensive player following a Super Bowl performance that saw the team give up 41 points.
E$PN's Mel Kiper also sees it that way and gives the Patriots a defensive back in his latest mock draft:
31. New England Patriots: Donte Jackson, CB, LSU
Jackson is another prospect I expect to rise at the combine. He might be the fastest player in this class. He has elite speed and physical talent, and he could help out as a returner. Jackson is only 5-11, 180, but he’s a similar build to 2017 first-round pick Adoree’ Jackson. We know the Patriots love to trade down, so this is a spot to watch for a team trying to get Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson. The Patriots also need a pass-rusher, and Boston College’s Harold Landry or Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter could be in consideration.
Donte Jackson is arguably the fastest player entering this year's draft considering that he also is a member of LSU's track team. His straight-line speed is a big reason for his success as a cornerback as well: His team had him play opposing wide receivers on an island well aware that his straight-line speed allowed the 5'11 defender to stay on his assignments' hips throughout the play.
Jackson's strengths – he is coming off a season in which he registered an interception and 10 pass deflections – are not limited to the passing game as he is among the most well-rounded defensive backs in this draft class. The 22-year old also is strong against the run and has been used as an occasional blitzer from the second level.
While his frame could be a problem against taller receivers or as a second-level run blocker, he has not shown any limitations in this regard during his college career. Therefore, it would not be a surprise to see him on New England's draft radar: After all, the team loves defenders from the SEC and Jackson would fit in well on a team that will have to replace starting cornerback Malcolm Butler this offseason.
Kiper also held a conference call yesterday and also spoke about a player potentially on New England's draft radar, Washington State quarterback Luke Falk. The ESPN analyst compared Falk's release to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's and said that his Senior Bowl performance substantially raised his stock to a level that Falk could become a second round pick in April.