With a pick in each of the first four rounds, the New England Patriots will need to have their second straight outstanding draft to stick with some of the best teams in the AFC. Fortunately, they enter it with a decent amount of capital to work with and will have the chance to select one or two more core players to build this roster up from the ground.
The process starts with being able to identify the right players, making the moves to be in position to draft those players, then turning it over to the coaching staff to get the most out of those players over the next four years. Who are those players, though?
These are the 10 who I think would be excellent long-term fits for what the Patriots are trying to build.
No. 1: S Daxton Hill, Michigan
Devin McCourty will be 35 this year, so the Patriots should consider looking at a potential long-term replacement he can mentor. Hill has NFL cornerback-level athleticism and the ability to play multiple spots in the defense when asked. The Patriots are trending towards more of a positionless secondary and Hill figures to be a part of that.
At 6-foot-0, 190 pounds with 32-inch arms, a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, 4.06-second 5-10-5 shuttle, and 6.57-second 3-cone time his measurables are very similar to the 13-year veteran. As a rookie, Hill be a core special teamer and the team’s dime defensive back or first man up if there is an injury at either safety spot. Long-term I see him taking McCourty’s role as the umbrella of the secondary due to his range and explosion.
No. 2: LB Devin Lloyd, Utah
Devin Lloyd and the Utah program overcame a lot of adversity in 2021 to produce arguably the program’s best season with a Pac-12 Championship and giving Ohio State a run for their money in their bowl game. Lloyd would give the Patriots size, athleticism, speed, and leadership with similar traits for former Patriot All-Pro Jerod Mayo.
As a rookie he would already compete with Raekwon McMillan and Cameron McGrone, both of whom are recovering from ACL injuries for the second off-the-ball linebacker spot next to Ja’Whaun Bentley. On third downs, he is a terrific blitzer who should easily overwhelm running backs in pass protection and put pressure on the quarterback.
His coverage is somewhat a work in progress, but the athleticism is there to become a cornerstone of the New England defense for years to come. Lloyd’s a player I wouldn’t hesitate to take if he’s there at No. 21.
No. 3: CB Andrew Booth, Jr., Clemson
I was initially torn between Booth and Trent McDuffie here, but Booth has better size and length to play outside so I picked him first. He has limited experience, but he checks all the athletic boxes and is a willing tackler in the run game. He played a lot of shell and off-man coverages at Clemson, although he has the length and size to develop into a press-man corner.
As a rookie, he would be the team’s No. 3 option on the outside behind Jalen Mills and Malcolm Butler, and learning as much as he can from those two before taking a starting role in Year 2. The first round might be a bit too rich to take Booth, but if the Patriots execute a trade out of he should be one of their top targets on Day 2.
No. 4: CB Trent McDuffie, Washington
I have McDuffie lower than Booth Jr. due to him having low odds of slipping into the 20s and his 29 3/4-inch arms.
An instinctive corner who can play every type of coverage in the book, McDuffie could start immediately as a rookie as the team’s No. 2 corner in Patriots’ off-man and zone coverages. I’m skeptical he develops into a No. 1 press-man CB because of his average size and below-average length, but CB2 or a high-producing slot corner is my projected floor.
No. 5: WR John Metchie III, Alabama
No receiver in the draft has more reps with the Patriots’ current starting QB than Metchie, who stepped up to be the No. 2 receiver in Alabama’s undefeated 2020 season. An ACL injury suffered in December will likely push him to the back of the second round, as his availability at the start of the season will be in question.
Metchie projects to be more of a Z-receiver long-term, and a a guy who the Patriots can move around the formation to create match-ups — but one who can take off against single coverage. His rookie year will likely be a redshirt situation where he might not be consistently active on game days, but he could be in the mix for the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver role in 2023 depending on how free agency plays out next spring.
No. 6: LB Boye Mafe, Minnesota
Mafe checks all the boxes for what the Patriots like for standup edge rushers with a 6-foot-4, 260-pound frame, 4.53-second 40, 38-inch vertical jump, and a 10’5-feet broad jump. The explosion is evident when he rushes the passer even though his rush can get undisciplined at times. A quality coaching staff will unlock his ceiling as a potential Pro Bowl-caliber edge, though.
In run defense, Mafe sets a solid edge and has good fundamentals, which should make him playable on early downs. The Patriots could consider targeting him if either Devin Lloyd and Daxton Hill go off the board earlier than expected and they elect to move back four to five picks in the first round.
As a rookie, Mafe likely will be a rotational edge behind Matthew Judon — rotating with Josh Uche and Ronnie Perkins — but he could be starting across from Judon as quickly as Year 2.
No. 7: LB Troy Andersen, Montana State
If the Patriots miss out on Devin Lloyd in the first round, Troy Andersen could be an upside play on Day 2 for a future starter at the inside linebacker position.
A converted tight end and quarterback — which only helps him read the field in front of him — Andersen checks off the size and athleticism boxes to be an eventual starter at the second off-ball linebacker spot next to Ja’Whaun Bentley; he would be a sideline-to-sideline roamer while Bentley plays more of a traditional Mike linebacker role.
Andersen would perform well in a defense that keeps blockers off of him and just flow to the play and make the tackle. His athleticism will make him playable right away on special teams and he should be in the mix to put a death grip on a starting role in Year 2.
No. 8: OT Trevor Penning, Northern Iowa
Penning brings an ungodly combination of size — 6-foot-7, 330 pounds — and athleticism to the tackle position and would be the perfect long-term replacement for Trent Brown. The odds that he makes it to the Patriots first round selection are a coin flip because he strikes me as the type of prospect where one team falls in love with and reaches for.
Depending on how the draft board develops, if New England’s defensive targets are taken early and Penning is on the board they should focus on shoring up pass protection for the longer term. As a rookie, Penning could be the team’s OT3 as well as someone to deploy when the team wants to get extra physical in the run game and use him as a jumbo blocking tight end.
In Year 2, I expect him to develop into a starter at either the left or right tackle spot, depending on the future of current starting duo Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown.
No. 9: OL Dylan Parham, Memphis
Even though the Patriots have a gaping hole at left guard, I don’t expect them to address the position until the third round at the earliest. Which is exactly where Dylan Parham is projected to come off the board.
A Day 1 starting guard in the NFL with good athleticism and technique, Parham makes a lot of sense for the Patriots. They ask their guards to pull a lot, which is one of his strengths due to his ability to get out in front and block on the move. He also has some reps at center from the Senior Bowl, so that could be something to revisit down the road when David Andrews inevitably moves on.
No. 10: WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada
I don’t consider wide receiver a Day 1 need for the Patriots unless a marquee prospect drops to them, but I would like to see them add more to the position on Day 2. Doubs is one of two Senior Bowl options the Patriots have been linked to throughout the pre-draft process — the other being Christian Watson — and would add a more vertical threat to the offense.
Doubs was one of the best in college wideouts last year and has the quickness to also be an effective punt returner to replace Gunner Olszewski, who left in free agency. At a position that features DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Kendrick Bourne, and Nelson Agholor in front of him, punt returns will be the best way to get Doubs a chance to make something happen while he develops as a receiver.
He’s got some decent size, too, standing at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds. Some more experience and good coaching might allow him to become a future WR1 in the New England offense.