The wait is almost over: the 2018 NFL draft will take place later today. With the first round of the league's college player selection process finally happening tonight, all of the speculations, projections and mock drafts of the last few weeks will become obsolete. Despite that, NFL Network's Mike Mayock still released his first and only mock of the year yesterday – and it is a pretty interesting one from the New England Patriots' perspective.
Let's dive into it.
Pick 23: Kolton Miller – OT, UCLA
A lot of people think this kid reminds them of Nate Solder. Long arms and he’s freaky athletic. Great pick.
An athletically intriguing player at the offensive tackle position, Miller appeared in 30 games over his collegiate career. By the 2017 season, he had earned UCLA's starting left tackle role and started all 13 contests. The 6'8, 310 lbs tackle earned second-team All-Pac 12 honors for his performance protecting Josh Rosen's blindside and for his standout blocking in the running game.
While Miller still needs to work on his upper-body strength and add some bulk to his frame, he brings plenty of upside and sound fundamentals to the table – which makes him exactly the type of player the Patriots could have an eye on to replace Nate Solder. The main questions are whether the team feels as if his skill set is too raw or if it sees Antonio Garcia ready to take over the starting left tackle spot.
Pick 31: James Daniels – OC, Iowa
The best pure center in this draft. In addition to being a pure center, he comes from Iowa and Kirk Ferentz. They trust him, they love him.
Mayock's second pick for the Patriots is an interesting one, to say the least: James Daniels. The Iowa product is one of the best interior line prospects to enter the draft due to his elite blend of size – Daniels stands at 6'3, 305 lbs –, agility and relatively refined technique. It would therefore not be a surprise to see him get drafted in the first round tonight. However, New England picking him would certainly raise some eyebrows.
The team appears to be well-set at the center position, after all: David Andrews, a solid albeit unspectacular starter, is coming off his best year as a pro and still under contract until after the 2020 season. Meanwhile, the team appears to be high on both starting guards Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason. Unless the team feels as if Mason will be lost via free agency and Daniels is a potential replacement – unlikely –, drafting the Iowa product in the first round would make little sense.
Then again, it is the Patriots we are talking about here...