The NFL world has officially hit the homestretch of draft season. You’ve heard all about the coverage that we have been doing since January. Weekly podcasts and draft profiles have tried to give you in-depth looks at individual prospects, while Ryan Spagnoli and Keagan Stiefel’s draft spreadsheet has assaulted you guys with information on over 150 different prospects.
In an effort to make all of this info a little more palatable, we have now got something new for you: A New England Patriots-specific big board with 50 players represented across all seven rounds of the draft. Today we start with Rounds 5-7.
For more information about each prospect listed, please make sure to check out this spreadsheet.
1. DT Khyris Tonga, BYU
Why the Patriots? Despite their recent additions to the interior defensive line, the Patriots still have a need for talented run defenders. They signed Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Montravius Adams, and re-signed Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr, and Carl Davis. All of which will be expected to be contributors to the cause of improving on their 26th ranked run defense from 2020.
The rest of the players who play the interior are no sure thing to make the roster; that group consists of undrafted free agents and former practice squad players. Tonga would provide a talented, and cheap option to upgrade that porous run defense from a year ago.
2. LB Garret Wallow, TCU
Why the Patriots? Linebacker depth was a major issue for New England in 2020, and the team made sure to upgrade it through free agency by adding Kyle Van Noy back to the rotation as well as a depth piece in Raekwon McMillan. Despite that, the Patriots need to make more upgrades. They need better athleticism and some young blood to groom alongside these additions and eventually take on a bigger role in the future.
Wallow has the upside to become a prominent member of the off-ball rotation together with versatile guys like Josh Uche and Anfernee Jennings. His background as a safety has also shown that he can be effective in coverage while also being able to play downhill.
3. WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas
Why the Patriots? Upside is the name of the game with late-round receivers. Jaelon Darden has it in spades. He has the chance to completely transform a wide receiver room by bringing in skills that it simply does not have. His speed, ball-carrying ability, and versatility within the offense are all things that the Patriots wide receiver group does not currently have.
Darden would allow offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to get creative without limitations. The experiment of having N’Keal Harry and Gunner Olszewski running end-arounds was an abject failure, so why not try it with someone who’s shown the ability to be successful in that spot.
4. ST Avery Williams, Boise State
Why the Patriots? This one doesn’t make much sense and that is why it makes all the sense in the world. It would be just like Bill Belichick to sign Justin Bethel and Cody Davis to keep alongside Matthew Slater and turn a Division-III cornerback into an All-Pro punt returner, just to turn around and draft a college special teams legend.
Williams returned nine kicks/punts for touchdowns in his collegiate career and mixed in three blocked punts while he was at it, oh, and lest I forget, he led the Mountain West in special teams tackles for three straight seasons. Bill Belichick may trade up to draft him.
5. FB Ben Mason, Michigan
Why the Patriots? You guys yelled at me in the comments last time I suggested the Patriots draft a fullback so I’m doubling down. The Patriots don’t NEED an upgrade at the position, but they do NEED a plan.
Jakob Johnson is on a one-year, restricted free agent deal. This means he can be cut with no ramifications towards the salary cap. Though he has shown great strides in two seasons, there are still mental lapses and physicality questions that come up when you watch him play. Drafting Ben Mason would help you get younger, cheaper, more physical, and more dynamic at the fullback position while obtaining a few years of control. Drafting him is a no-brainer.
6. EDGE Jonathan Cooper, Ohio State
Why the Patriots? Since Bill Belichick’s arrival in New England there has always been a focus on acquiring leaders. The current roster alone boasts names like Devin McCourty, Dont’a Hightower, David Andrews, and Matthew Slater, all of which were drafted and developed into captains.
Jonathan Cooper followed that same path in his time at Ohio State and could soon do so in the NFL. A former four-star recruit, Cooper exploded early on at Ohio State before losing out on his senior season to an ankle injury. If he’s able to realize the potential that he’s always shown, Cooper could be a home run pick.
7. WR Dazz Newsome, North Carolina
Why the Patriots? Julian Edelman needs to be replaced. Edelman was released on Monday and later announced his retirement, and the team will now be looking for a new slot receiver. Though some of the guys on their current roster can play that role as well, the team has always been best served to have a designated slot guy.
Newsome could very well be just that and in the middle of Day 3 would be a bargain. This is one hell of a year to need a wide receiver, and the Patriots will almost certainly be selecting one. Newsome is a great candidate.
8. DT Tommy Togiai, Ohio State
Why the Patriots? Aside from the reasons given early for Tonga, Togiai would provide immediate rotational depth on the interior of the Patriots’ defensive line. The defensive philosophy for the interior defensive line while pass rushing is to collapse the pocket on the quarterback, sacks aren’t necessarily a premium. That fits into Togiai’s skill set on the defensive front. If New England can unlock more of his pass rush potential, his upside goes from the lower half of the interior defensive line rotation to the top half.
9. EDGE Jordan Smith, UAB
Why the Patriots? There is no prospect in this draft that could benefit more from the coaching and culture of the Patriots than Jordan Smith. Smith is a 6-foot-7, 255-pound game wrecker that plays on the edge of the UAB defense. He has 23.5 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks in 20 career games with the Blazers. Smith is an incredibly raw talent who will need some work to thrive at the next level.
He has limitless potential but needs the right coaching to unlock it. He didn’t get that coaching at UAB, whose football program was defunct just four years ago.
10. ATH Sam Ehlinger
Why the Patriots? The guy can’t play quarterback so let’s get that out of the way. This is a project pick. Much like Tim Tebow before him, Sam Ehlinger was a great college QB who just doesn’t have the traits to be a long term option at the next level. He does however have the size (6-foot-3, 225 pounds) and athleticism (36.5 inch vertical) to possibly make a position switch.
At the very least, he could be tested out in a Taysom-Hill-type role, and if it doesn’t work you cut him. No harm, no foul when you’re headed into the draft with 70+ players on your roster.