The New England Patriots enter the second day of the draft holding the 37th, 71st, 87th, 98th, and 100th selections. With the draft capital they currently have, the Patriots are in good position to draft whoever they want with their top selection, as it would only require a fifth- or sixth-round value to move up as high as the 33rd selection.
Here’s therefore eight players who could be on the table for New England early in Round Two and with the 37th pick of the draft:
Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet
Kmet is considered the best tight end in this year’s class and projects to be the team’s future starter at the Y/in-line role. He’s further ahead as a pass catcher than a blocker, which is where he’ll make more of an impact as a rookie. Kmet also has the ability to line up all over the field to create match-up problems in the passing game, which was something that made Rob Gronkowski unstoppable during his time in New England. Giving quarterback Jarrett Stidham a big target inside or outside the numbers would be a big help for his development.
Penn State EDGE/LB Yetur Gross-Matos
Gross-Matos has the ideal combination of size, length, athletic ability, and production to fit the Patriots scheme as an on-ball linebacker in base alignments and as an edge rusher in sub packages. He’s still raw as a prospect, which could have the Patriots looking elsewhere, but the upside is worth the gamble. As a rookie, he projects to be the team’s third/fourth edge rusher depending on how his first training camp goes while also being a core special teamer. If the Patriots are able to unlock Gross-Matos’ potential, they may walk away with the steal of the draft.
Lenoir-Rhyne S Kyle Dugger
Surely this isn’t a second-round defensive back bust pick, right? Actually, Dugger is projected to fall in this range thanks to dominant play as a senior and turning a lot of heads at the combine. His speed profiles well not only for a core special teams role, but also at the safety position where he’s better suited to play in the box. As such, Dugger would be asked to play as an extra linebacker against the run while also handling man coverage duties against tight ends and running backs. The Patriots aren’t necessarily in great need of a safety after adding Adrian Phillips for that role in free agency, but with the team employing two starters that will be 33 years old this year, they need to have a longer term contingency.
Houston OT Josh Jones
Jones is a case where the value may be better than the need, although the outlook at tackle position in New England is still somewhat uncertain. Jones can benefit from a year behind the scenes and then crack the starting lineup in Year Two at the left tackle position. Long-term, the Patriots would have to consider moving Isaiah Wynn inside to left guard next season to accommodate Jones and Yodny Cajuste potentially being in the lineup at tackle. Another potential idea would be to move Jones to left guard and prepare him to replace Joe Thuney in 2021.
Southern California WR Michael Pittman Jr.
No receiver prospect in this year’s draft screams future Patriot more than Pittman. He has the versatility to play inside and outside, is a willing and devastating run blocker, and will contribute on special teams. His best skillset as a receiver is a contested catch guy who can be a difference maker on third downs to keep drives alive and in the red zone. Pittman likely benefitted from playing next to Tyler Vaughns, who drew tougher coverage assignments, but was USC’s go-to guy in “Gotta Have It” situations. Pittman immediately could contribute as the team’s fourth receiver and on special teams while eventually working his way into a potential WR2 role down the road.
Wisconsin EDGE/LB Zack Baun
Versatility is Baun’s calling card, showcasing the ability to play both an on- and off-the-ball role at the second level. He may be undersized in the sense of a traditional on-ball role, measuring in at 238 pounds at the combine, but his versatility as an edge rusher and potentially a mug 3-technique draws comparisons to former Patriot Kyle Van Noy. Baun will need to bulk up at the NFL level to stay as an on-ball linebacker against the run. Another note is that he failed a drug test at the combine for a diluted sample, which he claims to be the result of trying to add more water weight for his weigh-in, so that’s an issue the Patriots need to have resolved before pulling the trigger.
Alabama S Xavier McKinney
McKinney fell out of the first round partly due to running a pedestrian — for a defensive back, at least — 4.63-second 40-yard dash at the combine. McKinney profiles as a box safety, although he’s capable of playing a deep safety role as well, playing that role in Alabama’s defense the past two seasons, and can also play up against the run and handle the various duties the Patriots ask from their box safeties. The slow 40-time is somewhat of a concern, especially since box safeties appear to be a dime-a-dozen on the second day of the draft with Kyle Dugger and Ashtyn Davis also projected to come off the board in this area.
Baylor WR Denzel Mims
Mims wowed the combine with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, 6.66-second three-cone-drill, and a 10’11” broad jump, to the point where he was getting first-round considerations from the media. He reportedly played the entire 2019 college season on a broken hand, which speaks to a level of toughness and willingness to play hurt. His production in college was outstanding, showcasing an ability to destroy teams deep on vertical routes. The biggest issue for me is how he fits the Patriots’ scheme, which will require him to run more routes than he was asked to do at Baylor. Mims could potentially contribute as a kick returner early on as he fills his frame out more and learns how to run more precise routes.
The second day of the NFL Draft will begin at 7pm Eastern, although we won’t have to wait too long after it starts to see what the Patriots have planned for their Day Two selections. With the number of players set to hit the free agent market next off-season, they’ll need to make quite a few selections to fill those future roster holes.