The New England Patriots’ secondary was the best in the NFL in 2019, but changes are inevitably coming: free safety Devin McCourty is not just headed for unrestricted free agency, but also already 32 years old — the same age as outside cornerback Jason McCourty, who is furthermore coming off an injury-shortened season, and strong safety Patrick Chung. The Patriots will therefore have to think about the future of the position.
At least according to one expert, there is a chance that the team does just that early in this year’s draft. NFL Network’s draft expert Daniel Jeremiah released his first mock draft of the season earlier this week, and he has New England invest in a safety out of LSU that is one of the highest upside defenders available this year: junior Grant Delpit, who won the National Championship last week and shortly afterwards declared to enter the draft.
Pick 23: Grant Delpit — S
School: LSU | Year: Junior
The Patriots could look at an offensive lineman here (see: Michigan center Cesar Ruiz), but they need to add some youth and athleticism at the safety position, as well.
Jeremiah hits the nail on the head: while adding to an offensive line that might lose Joe Thuney in free agency and is facing an uncertain future at center due to David Andrews’ medical status is an option with the 23rd overall selection, New England also needs to get younger at the safety spot. Delpit, who will turn just 22 in September, is certainly an intriguing candidate considering the developmental upside he brings to the table.
“Grant Delpit projects as an impact defender at the NFL level,” Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network wrote about the youngster last week. “Tackling issues in the open field will put off some teams, but he’s physically capable of booming hits and his foundation as a player is a pretty rare blend of skills — making him an enticing every down defender that can be a centerpiece to weekly game plans.”
“Delpit has high football intelligence and can handle any number of roles or responsibilities, adding him to a roster will add infinite flexibility to back-end coverage combos,” Crabbs added. Needless to say that the LSU product sounds like a prototypical Patriots defender: he has the smarts and versatility, and has a proven track record while playing in the toughest conference in all of college football.
If Delpit is available at number 23 — Jeremiah thinks he might be, but it is far from a safe bet considering how early in the pre-draft process we currently are — New England would make a sound investment while simultaneously ensuring that the defensive backfield gets a foundational piece for the future.