Love them or hate them, there is no escaping mock drafts leading up to the actual NFL player selection meeting. Dozens if not hundreds get published each year, trying to find an answer to the question: what will team X do in the draft? Sometimes, those answers are pretty easy — everybody knew, for example, that the Indianapolis Colts would select Andrew Luck first overall back in 2012. Most of the time, however, they are not.
The farther down the draft board you get the tougher the choices will be, though. The farthest team down the line, at least in a traditional first-round format, are the New England Patriots courtesy of their victory in Super Bowl 53. Despite their win on the game’s biggest stage, the Patriots have plenty of needs to address this offseason: from the defensive line to wide receiver to tight end to maybe, possibly quarterback.
It is therefore no surprise that mock drafters all over the world wide web have a tough time nailing down the choice for the reigning world champions. How do we know? Because SB Nation’s Adam Stites compiled the work of 50 mock drafters in a database that says the following about the players handed the Patriots:
As can be seen, the two most popular mock draft choices this far into the process are Iowa’s talented tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson — the top two players at their position this year. Both are expected to come off the board in the first round but given their performances at last week’s scouting combine, it would not be a surprise if the Patriots had to move up in order to get one of them onto their team.
And while New England is well set at the top of their tight end depth chart at the moment with Rob Gronkowski still on the team, adding a long-term option to develop alongside the future Hall of Famer should be high up on the club’s list of priorities either this or next offseason. Fant and Hockenson would certainly qualify as such: players with high upside, who could potentially take over for Gronkowski one day.
The third player on the list — Louisiana Tech’s Jaylon Ferguson — was immensely productive in college and has the size to be a successful defensive edge at the next level. Adding him or another player at the position with the 32nd selection would further bolster New England’s defense and could help the team replace Trey Flowers in case he leaves via unrestricted free agency next week.
Speaking of free agency: it is really the key to the mock draft database as it stands right now. With players not yet having moved, projections are produced more off perceived needs than real ones. If the Patriots re-sign Flowers, for example, would they really need another defensive edge in the first round? The 64% “other” reflect this, and once free agency has slowed down a bit should decrease.
Likewise, we and all the mock drafters out there should get a clearer picture of what New England could do with the last pick of the first round. Until then, SB Nation’s mock draft database really only shows that nobody has a clue what the Patriots will do in the draft at this point in time.