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Ryan Spagnoli’s 7-round mock draft 1.0: Patriots address their biggest needs early

Related: 5 draft prospects who could follow the path from Tuscaloosa to Foxboro

LSU v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The New England Patriots look to continue to add talent and youth to their roster through this offseason, something they did successfully in both 2020 and 2021. Coming off back-to-back successful drafts where they found their quarterback of the future, the Patriots now have the power to build around Mac Jones and fully maximize the next four years of his rookie contract.

With the Senior Bowl past us and the main event still two months away, the Patriots will be quite busy. Both the combine and pro days will help them put their draft board together. A lot will change between now and late April, but with the entire NFL in offseason mode this is the perfect opportunity to take a first swing at a seven-round mock draft.

Happy Draft season, Pats Nation!

Please click here for an in-depth look at all 2022 NFL Draft prospects that Keagan Stiefel and I put together.

Trades

Round 1, Pick 28 (via GB): WR Jahan Dotson, Penn State

It’s no secret the Patriots need to add to their wide receiver position again in 2022. Kendrick Bourne was a pleasant surprise and became a complementary No. 2 option for Mac Jones, but the Patriots still lack that consistent playmaker that can play both fast and at a consistently high level.

Jahan Dotson could be that guy. Dotson is a crafty route-runner that has breakaway speed from all three levels of the field. He’s a natural separator that uses his shiftiness to create space for himself. A versatile receiver that could make a killing out of the slot for the Patriots, Dotson has the ability to add both youth and playmaking ability to a positional group that is still looking for both.

With the quarterback of the future in place with Mac Jones, the Patriots elect to surround him with a young, talented weapon late in the first round.

Round 2, Pick 48 (via IND): LB Christian Harris, Alabama

There are a few “prototypical Patriots” in every draft, and Christian Harris out of Alabama is near the top of the list in 2022. With New England desperate for quicker, and younger linebackers that can play fast and cover, Harris would be a slam dunk pick for at any point in April.

Harris is arguably the best coverage linebacker in the class with his elite closing speed and high football IQ. He fits the mold and size requirement of what the Patriots are typically looking for in their linebackers at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. Harris furthermore is a playmaking machine that will be able to produce from Day 1 on as a rookie due to his ability to play sideline-to-sideline while also possessing ferocious pass-rushing abilities.

Round 3, Pick 85: OT Max Mitchell, Louisiana

With Trent Brown a free agent and Isaiah Wynn entering the fifth and final year of his rookie contract, the Patriots should definitely be in the market to add tackle help through the draft.

Mitchell is 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds, and moves extremely well for a man his size. He’s a flexible tackle that excels both in pass protection and in the run game. Mitchell has been a starter since his sophomore season and was one of the Senior Bowl’s biggest risers.

With Justin Herron and Yodny Cajuste not providing much other than depth, and Michael Onwenu’s future probably at guard rather than tackle, the Patriots should absolutely look to reset the clock at their tackle position. Mitchell would make a lot of sense for them here in the third round.

Round 3, Pick 92 (via GB): CB Derrion Kendrick, Georgia

The future of their cornerback position is another big question for the Patriots heading into the offseason. J.C. Jackson is set to hit unrestricted free agency, and even if he gets the franchise tag adding more bodies is a must.

The depth behind Jackson, especially on the outside is shallow. Jalen Mills, for example, is probably better suited as more of a hybrid defensive back. However, he played out of position for most of the 2021 season due to the lack of depth they had at outside corner.

Derrion Kendrick brings a good mix of athleticism and experience to that position. Kendrick, who was a former wide receiver and started his career at Clemson before finishing up at Georgia this past season. He improved mightily as his college carer went on and flashes his wide receiver skills when mirroring opponents. Kendrick has the length and physicality the Patriots typically look for in their outside corners.

Round 5, Pick 173: EDGE DeAngelo Malone, Western Kentucky

Even with the additions of Matthew Judon and Ronnie Perkins last offseason, the Patriots should still be in the market to add more power to the position this offseason.

DeAngelo Malone is a good vertical athlete that has elite burst and explosion at the line of scrimmage. The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder flashed his physicality during his strong showing down in Mobile earlier this month. A ferocious pass rusher that continuously found ways to get after the quarterback, Malone will likely serve as a package edge rusher early on his career until he can fully mold out his game.

Round 6, Pick 209: RB Zonovan Knight, North Carolina State

The Patriots have arguably the best two-back tandem in the NFL with Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson leading the charge. However, despite the impressive performance Brandon Bolden put forward when James White went down for the year in Week 3, New England still has not found its third down back of the future.

Insert Zonovan Knight. The N.C. State product consistently forced defenders into missing tackles due to his elite vision and contact balance. At 5-foot-11 200 pounds, Knight has the shiftiness and power to be able to contribute at the pro level right away. He also showed elite kick return abilities in college, something the Patriots have been looking to improve on for quote some time now.

Round 7, Pick 219: S Leon O’Neil Jr, Texas A&M

With Kyle Dugger and Adrian Phillips set as the leaders of the Patriots’ safety room for the foreseeable future, Leon O’Neal Jr. gets added here in the seventh round. A Senior Bowler that is a physical, downhill safety who loves to fly around and is capable of making plays, O’Neal would join 2021 sixth-round pick Joshuah Bledsoe as two safeties looking to make an impact on what will be a competitive positional group.

So, there you have it: the first crack at a seven-round Patriots mock draft. The team addresses its biggest needs early and uses the rest of the draft to fill out some needs in all three phases of the game.

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