Last Friday, the New England Patriots were awarded an NFL-high four compensatory draft picks to bring their total to twelve selections — six of them in the first three rounds. Safe to say that the club has the ammunition to move all over the board and target whichever area it wants to address. One of them could very well be a defensive line that will see Trey Flowers, Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton all headed towards free agency.
And while there is a chance that at least one of them returns to New England, the Patriots might want to infuse young talent nevertheless. SB Nation’s Dan Kadar has the club do just that in his first three-round mock draft: the Patriots pick two defensive linemen with their initial two selections before adding a wide receiver, a tight end, a linebacker, and a developmental quarterback with the next four picks.
The first player Kadar gives the Patriots is Boston College defensive edge Zach Allen:
32. New England Patriots: Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
Offseason needs: Edge defender, tight end, defensive tackle, wide receiver
With Trey Flowers expected to depart for a big-money free agent contract, the Patriots will be happy to see Allen on the board at No. 32. Like Flowers, he can play along the line and is athletic enough to get home when rushing the passer.
At 6’5, 285 lbs, Zach Allen brings impressive size to the table to serve as an edge defender in the mold of Trey Flowers at the next level — one that is coming off a productive senior season at Boston College: the All-ACC First Team selection registered 61 tackles and a career-high 6.5 sacks in 12 games in 2018.
“Zach Allen is a powerhouse defense end who does well to stack up blockers and hold his ground at the line of scrimmage,” The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs said about him. The defender has plenty of positive traits — from his sound hand usage to his versatility and quick first step to a variety of pass rushing moves — but projecting him at the next level is still not that easy given his limited athleticism.
Still, Allen’s upside might make him an intriguing addition to the Patriots’ front seven in case Flowers leaves the club as a free agent. But even if he does not, the local product would still be a solid pickup to add talent to New England’s edge. That being said, if Flowers stays, drafting Allen in the first round would be more of a luxury than a need.
Speaking of needs, the Patriots address some of them with the other players picked in Kadar’s mock:
#56 (via Chicago): Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois
#64: Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
#73 (via Detroit): Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
#97: Te’Von Coney, LB, Notre Dame
#101: Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
While Deebo Samuel and Dawson Knox would add much needed youth and upside to the wide receiver and tight end depth charts, Te’Von Coney can best be described as an interesting selection considering that the Patriots invested in two linebackers during last year’s draft — with Ja’Whaun Bentley looking especially impressive before being placed on injured reserve early during the regular season — and the core of Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, and Elandon Roberts returning.
The biggest names on the list above are Khalen Saunders and Clayton Thorson, though. Saunders projects to be an early-down run stuffer in the mold of the aforementioned Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton, but is not that polished of a defender as of right now. While a lot can change over the next two months, seeing him get drafted in the middle of the second round would be a small surprise.
Thorson, on the other hand, can be considered even more of a reach despite getting drafted in the late third round. “Thorson often makes even the most routine of throws look difficult and despite his notable experience as a starter in the Big 10 he struggles greatly with accuracy, throwing mechanics and velocity. Thorson is a fringe rosterable player who likely has reached his ceiling: a limited and erratic passer,” writes The Draft Network’s Kyle Crabbs about the Northwester quarterback. While the Patriots appear to be in the market for a developmental passer, other players like Boise State’s Brett Rypien might be better options the way Kadar’s board is falling.