The 2018 NFL draft is only a little more than two weeks away, which means that teams are in the final process of evaluating potential draft picks and setting up the final board with which to work. It also means that the final rounds of mock drafts is currently produced – and SB Nation's Dan Kadar is one of the most productive mock drafters around. He released his latest one yesterday and has the New England Patriots pick twice.
Let's take a closer look at the selections.
23. New England Patriots (via Los Angeles Rams): Mike Hughes, CB, Central Florida
Part of me wonders if [Ohio State cornerback Denzel] Ward does slide a little if the Patriots will package their two first-round picks to go up and get him. If pick Nos. 23 and 31 is enough to get the Patriots to, say, the No. 9 pick it’s something Bill Belichick should consider. If New England holds off and keeps both first-round picks, Hughes is somewhat similar to Ward. He’s a good athlete who doesn’t mind being physical.
One of the best cornerbacks to enter this year's draft, the Central Florida prospect would add depth to the Patriots on defense and special teams: Hughes was not only named to the AAC's first All-Conference team at cornerback in 2017 – his first year with the Knights after stints at North Carolina (2015) and Garden City Community College (2016) – but also to the conference's second team as a returnman.
As a defender, Hughes would add talent, athleticism and playmaking ability to the perimeter of the Patriots’ secondary. Furthermore, the 5’11 defensive back brings experience playing one-on-one in man-coverage schemes to the table and registered four interceptions in this role last season.
He does not come without red flags, though: Hughes, for example, was dismissed from North Carolina after facing misdemeanor assault charges following an altercation at a fraternity. The question also remains whether or not the team will invest a first-round selection in a cornerback after trading for Jason McCourty earlier this offseason.
With McCourty joining Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe as the top three, and Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones as the depth players, adding another cornerback early in the draft might be redundant. Still, if the Patriots go that way, Hughes might be a long-term option to start at the position opposite Gilmore.
With the Patriots' second pick in round one, Kadar has the Patriots pick offensive tackle Kolton Miller, who visited with the team yesterday:
31. New England Patriots: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
This fit just seems way too natural. The Patriots lost a big, athletic left tackle in Nate Solder and can draft a big, athletic left tackle in Miller. The UCLA product needs some work, but line coach Dante Scarnecchia could get the best out of him.
During his three non-redshirt collegiate seasons, Miller appeared in 30 games and by the 2017 season earned the Bruins’ starting left tackle role. Starting all 13 contests during his final collegiate seasons, he earned second-team All-Pac 12 honors as a standout blocker in both the running and the passing game. A technically sound and athletically impressive player, Miller would be a quality pickup in the late first round.
Miller is an interesting prospect due to his elite blend of size and athletic abilities – a foundation that could be intriguing to the Patriots and offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. While he still needs to work on his upper-body strength and add some bulk to his frame, Miller brings plenty of upside and already solid fundamentals to the table.
Of course, if the Patriots think that second-year man Antonio Garcia, who missed all of last season because of blood clots in his lungs, is able to earn a starting role as the team’s new left tackle, they might not feel the need to invest a first-round pick in an offensive tackle. If they do, however, Miller would would be one of the better options especially considering that the consensus top player at the position – Notre Dame's Mike McGlinchley – is already off the board in Kadar's scenario.