The Patriots enter the draft with 12 picks, six of which will be in the first three rounds. This mock draft will cover the first four rounds and mostly consists of my own speculation of how the board will go tonight. The biggest needs I considered were DT, EGDE, OT, WR, TE, and QB for the draft although there aren’t any positions outside of maybe CB where you can say the team is set for the next 3 years with their current personnel.
With the 32nd Pick, the New England Patriots select Clelin Ferrell, EGDE, Clemson
I anticipate that Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence, Jeffery Simmons, and Greedy Williams will all be off the board by the time the Patriots pick at 32. So here the Patriots are choosing between edge rusher Clelin Ferrell, interior DL Jerry Tillery, WR A.J. Brown, and TE Irv Smith Jr. Considering the value of the players available, Ferrell has the highest chance of starting on Day 1 of those picks with Brown being the next highest value of the picks. Given that the Patriots can get a player with 90% the talent in the second round in J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, I decided to go for Ferrell since he profiles pretty well for what the Patriots like in a hand-in-the-dirt defensive end. He sets the edge and is a strong run defender with moderate pass rush upside (8-10 sacks) and has been very consistent each year. Ferrell would be contribute to start right away even though the Patriots have Michael Bennett and Deatrich Wise Jr. penciled in as their top 2 defensive ends in the rotation with John Simon, Derek Rivers, and Keionta Davis getting playing time with the Patriots in 2018. Ferrell also comes with NCAA postseason experience, as he helped Clemson win two national titles in the past three seasons.
With the 56th Pick, the New England Patriots select J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
When looking at potential plug and play guys at the WR position, I expect A.J. Brown, Riley Ridley, and Deebo Samuel to go between picks 32 and 56. As I see it, the Patriots could either vote to optimize the OL depth with a player like Scharping, who I mocked to the Patriots with their next second round pick, go with a plug and play outside WR in Arcega-Whiteside, or add to their defensive front 7. Arcega-Whiteside is a big-bodied with a big catch radius with 33 1/2” arms and a background in basketball, which would allow for Tom Brady and the next QB to hit him on back-shoulder passes away from the defender in the red zone. He’s not an explosive vertical threat, but is a very fluid route runner and knows the nuances of the skill fairly well. Belichick has tapped the Stanford program under David Shaw twice in the last five seasons with the selections of Cameron Fleming, who went on to be a quality swing tackle, and Jordan Richards, who I will not talk about further. Arcega-Whiteside has a pretty moderate ceiling but also a high floor as a WR2 in a high-powered offense.
With the 64th Pick, the New England Patriots select Max Scharping, OT, Northern Illinois
The Patriots have had bad luck at developing tackles with their last two major selections at the positions combining for zero snaps played. Wynn is recovering from a preseason Achilles rupture last season and the team doesn’t have much depth at the position behind Wynn and Cannon on the OL. The Patriots will likely find a way to solve this issue in addition to selecting Scharping, a 4-year starter on the OL. Competition level is a concern since Scharping played in a mid major program, but that’s otherwise the only major flag as a draftable player. Experience at both tackle spots in college makes for an interesting dynamic on the OL and whether or not Scharping ends up at LT or RT depends on if Wynn can recover from his injury and assume the LT spot.
With the 73rd Pick, the New England Patriots select Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
This year’s TE class is very shallow if you’re looking for draftable players before the 4th round. Hockenson is the closest to a complete TE with the other players in the draft class more glorified receivers. After the first round, the only 2 TEs I liked are Irv Smith Jr. and Jace Sternberger as fits. Smith will likely go in the Top 50, leaving the Patriots with just Sternberger as an option on Day 2. Sternberger doesn’t have ideal size or speed measurables and certainly isn’t a great run blocker either, but he is an excellent route runner from the TE position with TE1 production potential down the road after he bulks up over 260. Sternberger isn’t going to likely end up as an inline blocker due to his smaller frame relative to the position, but could develop into a decent blocker on the move and a quality pass receiver.
With the 97th Pick, the New England Patriots select Will Harris, Safety, Boston College
Harris offers great versatility to a New England secondary that has aging starters at the safety position. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung will be 32 when the season starts, so they're closer to the end of their respective careers. Duron Harmon is a quality 3rd safety in the rotation, but his lack of top-end speed caused him to be phased out of the gameplan against KC and played sparingly in the Super Bowl as the Patriots employed the Four Corners defense. Harris can play any role you can ask a safety to do: deep, box, man coverage, robber, or even the slot. His CB level athleticism combined with an ideal build for a safety makes him a great fit for covering TEs and RBs in the slot or wide. Throw in the fact he's also likely to develop into a core special teamer, there's too much value here to pass up.
With the 101st Pick, the New England Patriots select Brett Rypien, QB, Boise State
The backup QB spot is a position that gets neglected by teams, but in certain cases having a quality backup can be a season-saver. Rypien is the son of former Super Bowl winning QB Mark Rypien and has been around the game his whole life. His arm talent is pretty average but does have 4 years starting experience with quality production and sees the field well. The Patriots offense requires the QB to be able to process the defense pre and post snap, although the Patriots do a great job at forcing the defense to tell. Worst case scenario Rypien develops into a quality backup for 4 years behind Tom Brady and best case scenario he is able to be a solid starter down the road.
With the 134th pick, the New England Patriots select Renell Wren, DT, Arizona State
Wren is an interesting player from a fit perspective. He has ideal size and length to be both a 3-4 end and 4-3 interior DL, although he has a tendency to play out of control at times. However the upside as a potential 3-down starter if his feet and hands are coached up is undeniable and worth taking a mid-round gamble on. Early on he can start out as the #4 DT in the rotation while the coaching staff works hard on correcting his technique problems.