The 2020 NFL draft is in the books, and it provided sports fans and writers alike a much-needed opportunity to get their minds off the current national health emergency. With the Coronavirus pandemic still going on, however, more distractions may be needed. And what better way to distract yourself than debating potential draft picks almost a year before the NFL’s next college player selection meeting is scheduled to take place?
As has become custom over the last few years, experts are releasing mock simulations for the next year almost immediately after this one’s draft has come to an end. This year is no exception, so let’s take a look at six mocks recently published. While the targeted players say more about perceived roster needs, the positions themselves are based on a combination of current Super Bowl odds. And as can be seen, the New England Patriots are closer to the bottom than the top in all six simulations.
Accordingly, not one of the writers has the Patriots “Tank for Trevor” in order to target projected number one overall draft pick Trevor Lawrence, the highly talented Clemson quarterback. Anything is possible in the NFL, but one thing very much appears to be off the table: the Patriots purposefully trying to tank in Year One after quarterback Tom Brady — something perfectly explained by colleague Matthew Rewinski earlier during the offseason.
With that said, let’s find out who those far-too-early mock draft have as potential targets for the Patriots.
21. New England Patriots — Carlos Basham Jr, DE, Wake Forest: Basham flashed at Wake Forest last season, and if he continues to progress he’ll be a Day 1 prospect.
The Patriots bolstered their defensive front seven this year by drafting Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings on Day Two, and also have Chase Winovich and John Simon returning in 2020. Given that Simon will turn 30 during the season, however, adding a high-upside edge player as a potential replacement further down the line would make sense.
22. New England Patriots — Kyle Pitts, TE Florida: When quarterback Kyle Trask became the starter at Florida, Kyle Pitts instantly became his go-to weapon. Pitts quickly became one of the most productive tight ends in the country.
The Patriots double-dipped at the tight end position this year, and added both Devin Asiasi and Dalton Keene in the third round. It remains to be seen how big of an impact they will have on New England’s offense, but Pitts’ upside as a potential all-around weapon alongside them could be attractive even if one or both Asiasi and Keene carve out instant roles.
25. New England Patriots — *Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue: Although he was banged up last season, NFL teams haven’t forgotten the impact Moore made as a freshman All-American. If he returns to that 2018 form as a junior, he has the explosive athleticism to land in the top-25 picks, even if he doesn’t have the desired size.
New England did not add to its wide receiver group during this year’s draft after already spending a first-round pick on N’Keal Harry last year and trading a second for Mohamed Sanu. With Sanu a free agent in 2021 and fellow wideout Julian Edelman turning 35 next offseason, the Patriots could look to add some more high-upside depth alongside Harry.
26. New England Patriots — Carlos Basham Jr, DE, Wake Forest: In typical Patriots fashion, it isn’t sexy, but it’s impactful. Carlos Basham is the next great edge setter in New England.
The only player to come up twice in this run-down of recent mock drafts, Basham Jr. has the size — 6-foot-5, 275 pounds — to make an impact right away. His 2020 season will of course determine when he will eventually come off the board, but his potential is intriguing as he heads into his redshirt senior season at Wake Forest.
26. New England Patriots — LaBryan Ray, DT, Alabama: The Patriots have taken edge defenders the last two drafts, and could turn their attention to the inside in 2021. Ray barely played last season after getting injured in September, but flashed next to Quinnen Williams in 2018.
The Patriots also bolster their defensive line in this simulation, and it is not hard to see why: both Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler are headed for unrestricted free agency next spring. Also, Beau Allen not yet having shown his value in New England’s system, and the team not adding an interior defender in this year’s draft could furthermore prompt such a move.
27. New England Patriots — OT Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan: How the Patriots rebuild an offense that was tailored around Tom Brady will be fascinating to watch. One early look at the future of the roster indicates that offensive tackle could be a sneaky need if the team moves on from Marcus Cannon or if 2018 first-rounder Isaiah Wynn doesn’t play up to expectations. Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield popped up often in 2019 when coaches were asked about toughest linemen to play against. He’s strong, physical and athletic — qualities that already have him compared to 2020 first-rounder Jedrick Wills after he started every game in his true sophomore season at right tackle.
New England appears to be well-set at the offensive tackle for the time being, with Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon as the starters and Yodny Cajuste and Korey Cunningham filling the depth roles. Cannon is on the wrong side of 30 and will likely have to be replaced sooner rather than later, however, while both Wynn and Cajuste missed time due to injury. Adding Mayfield would give the Patriots a potential starter at both left and right tackle.