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Ryan Spagnoli’s seven-round mock draft 4.0: Trade-happy Patriots get an impact defender in Round 1

Related: The Scho Show: What would a ‘very Belichickian’ draft look like for the Patriots?

NCAA Football: Tulsa at South Florida Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

For an in-depth look at all 2021 NFL Draft Prospects with rankings, strengths and weaknesses, stats, projections, please click here and also visit our Patriots Draft Guide.

A few weeks removed from the first three installments of my seven-round New England Patriots mock draft, the team is likely finalizing its board as all eyes shift towards improving the roster even more through the draft. Everyone has dreams of the Patriots moving up in the first round to select their future QB1, but we shouldn’t put all those eggs in one basket. There is a ton of value to be found at key spots through all rounds of the draft.

Let’s dive into the third installment of my seven-round Patriots mock draft (please click here for Version 1.0, Version 2.0, and Version 3.0).


1st round, 28th overall (via NO): LB Zaven Collins, Tulsa

Zaven Collins comes off the board here late in Round 1 as the Patriots find their eventual Dont’a Hightower replacement in the middle of their front seven. Collins offers a rare combination of size, speed, and play strength to play that middle linebacker role at the next level. He also has the ability to play off the ball, set the edge and come downhill and play physical in the run game.

A versatile player that has an elite skillset, Collins could hold multiple roles in the Patriots defense and be an impact player the moment he gets in the building.

2nd round, 46th overall: CB Kelvin Joseph, Kentucky

With the uncertainty surrounding both Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson beyond 2021, the Patriots are in the market for a potential elite cornerback in the early rounds of the draft.

Joseph, who plays at just under six feet and 200 lbs, has the size to be a physical, perimeter corner for the Patriots secondary. He is a big time athlete (he ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his pro-day) that displays his elite change of direction and fluid hips when covering, and has the ball skills and awareness at the catch point to play versus bigger wideouts. Joseph is a top-50 player in the class with the athleticism to cover all types of wide receivers.

2nd round, 60th overall (via NO): OT Brady Christensen, BYU

The reason for the lack of pressure Zach Wilson faced at the collegiate level? Brady Christensen, BYU’s first consensus All-American since 2009. The 6-foot-5, 302-pound tackle displays athleticism and elite footwork to project as an NFL starter. Christensen can move with power and is consistent in his hand placement while being solid in the RPO and run game.

With Trent Brown and Isaiah Wynn — pending his fifth year option being picked up — both on one-year deals, the Patriots should be in the market for a tackle in this years draft. Christensen checks all the boxes for what they are looking for.

3rd round, 96th overall: WR Nico Collins, Michigan

The Patriots certainly added more depth and playmaking ability at the wide receiver position through free agency with the acquisitions of Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor. They may not be in the market for a “true No. 1” wide receiver even without Julian Edelman simply because one is not needed due to the targets Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry and James White are expected to get anyway.

However, Collins brings some serious juice to the position in the third round. Everything the Patriots thought N’Keal Harry would be is what Nico Collins is. He is true X-receiver that can dominate outside the numbers and consistently make plays down the field. Collins is a 50/50 specialist that has some DK Metcalf to his game and can sneakily make plays after the catch. He is a mature, physical receiver that could ultimately send N’Keal Harry packing.

3rd round, 102nd overall (via SF): EDGE Carlos Basham, Wake Forest

Even with the addition of Matthew Judon and the expected development of Josh Uche and Chase Winovich, the Patriots may be in the market to continue to bolster their edge through the draft. Basham has ideal size and speed to hold his own versus NFL tackles — his elite bend and power off the edge make him an intriguing prospect. A high-motor player that can set the edge but is also near the top of his class in terms of defending the run, Basham is a smart and instinctual player that can thrive with added development.

4th round, 122nd overall: QB Jamie Newman, Wake Forest/Georgia

Jamie Newman’s week at the Senior Bowl certainly did not go as well as he wanted, but fans need to remember that it was his first time playing in that type of environment in over a year. The former Wake Forest quarterback that was set to transfer to Georgia prior to opting out of the 2020 season is a project at the quarterback position but one that has all the tools and athletic abilities to succeed at the position.

Newman is a Day 3 guy with arm talent and mobility to be able to make plays, but his throwing, especially his accuracy, remains a work in progress. The Patriots took Jarrett Stidham in a similar spot in the 2019 draft and with his future uncertain as well, New England is trying to strike lightning in the bottle with Newman here in the fourth round.

5th round, 170th (via JAX): WR Jaelon Darden, North Texas

Looking for a Julian Edelman replacement on Day 3? Jaelon Darden is the guy for me. He is one of my favorite late-round prospects that has a realistic chance to be a dynamic player at the next level.

The only wide receiver that had a better college football season was Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith, while Darden racked up 74 catches for 1,190 yards and 19 touchdowns in just nine (!) games. He went to North Texas at just 150 pounds and is only now starting to develop into his 175-pound frame. Still, he has elite speed that can stretch the field vertically, allowing him to be a threat underneath and in the intermediate game.

There may not be a shiftier player in the class — Darden is a threat to score from all three levels of the field.


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