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#PostPulpit Mailbag: Will the Patriots focus on the trenches in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Related: 2022 Patriots pre-draft tracker: Interviews, workouts, meetings, analysis, and more

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We are officially three weeks until the 2022 NFL Draft kicks off. Let’s kick off this #PostPulpit mailbag immediately and talk about it.

@d31672575 What do you think about the strategy of focusing on OL and DL?

While it may not be sexy, it would be no surprise if the Patriots take care of the trenches in the early parts of the 2022 NFL Draft. They have good reason too as well. Offensively, both starting guards from last season are elsewhere, while Isaiah Wynn is entering the final season of his rookie contract. Trent Brown’s ability to stay on the field is always a concern as well. Defensively, adding more beef along the defensive line would significantly help their run defense, especially if the plan is to get lighter at linebacker.

Now, if they do focus on the trenches early, they likely will remain smart about it. Meaning, do not use a first-round selection on an offensive guard, but a more premiere position like offensive tackle or an elite talent like Jordan Davis.

@MATTSMALLSS What are you thought on us picking up Jordan Davis I think him and bar more could be explosive for us

Talk about upgrading the trenches in a smart way. Anyone who has followed along this offseason knows that Jordan Davis is one of, if not, my favorite options at No. 21 overall. He has elite size and strength and insane athleticism to match.

Taking Davis would create a ripple down effect across the entire defense. His ability to one- or two-gap and dominant the run game - while still getting after the quarterback - would make everyone’s life easier on defense. Plus, dropping him right next to Christian Barmore would create one of the most dangerous duos in the entire league. It’d be a slam dunk pick.

@sohereswhatino No one seems to be talking about fixing our defensive line issues in the first round, but if we traded down to 29 or 30 or even 35, would you be open to taking Travis Jones, and then after that getting a CB or LB?

As we mentioned, the defensive line certainly needs some improvements. I don't think New England got the season they were looking for out of Davon Godchaux last year. Moving him away from the nose tackle spot could help, which opens up the need for a true nose tackle on the roster.

UConn’s Travis Jones is a true nose tackle that does a lot of the dirty work in the run game. Jones is quite good at what he does, but that is really all he does. If the Patriots are looking to just to add a true block-eating nose tackle, perhaps taking a big body like Kentucky’s Marquan McCall, UCLA’s Otto Ogbonnia, or Idaho’s Noah Eliss late on day three would provide better value.

@David11tn Could you see them drafting Wan’Dale Robinson and having him be a receiving back/slot if he can add a little weight?

One of the most exciting and underrated parts of the DeVante Parker trade is the Patriots now have the ability to cast their net over the entire wide receiver prospect pool. They are not just limited to bigger bodied “X” receivers, as that is the role Parker projects in.

So, enter a gadget guy like Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson. Robinson is a converted running back now playing receiver who has big play ability written all over him. Kentucky got him the ball anyway possible (jet sweeps, screens, etc.), but he also showcased his ability down the field as well. He’s certainly a gadget type player the Patriots could be interested in, but as a wide receiver.

@Shaun42092478 What CB can you see the Patroits drafting if you think they will draft that position? Personally I feel we do better with UDFAs.

Anything and everything seems like a possibility at cornerback for the Patriots this season. It would not surprise me to see them commit to the “position-less football” mentality and make a shift towards more zone defense with their abundance of safeties and versatile secondary pieces. They could also use their first-round pick on a press man corner and go right back to a more traditional Bill Belichick defense.

Starting with the latter, Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. and Florida’s Kaiir Elam feel like the best fits if the team is looking man-to-man corner with their first selection. As for some prospects outside of the first round, Nebraska’s Cam Taylor-Britt, Alabama’s Josh Jobe, Sam Houston State’s Zyon McCollum, Arizona State’s Jack Jones are man-to-man fits. If Belichick wants to build the first All-Division-II team, Fayetteville State’s Josh Williams is another interesting prospect.

As for the former, Michigan’s Dax Hill would be the ultimate sign the team is transitioning to that “position-less” approach. Hill is an excellent athlete with tons of versatility across the secondary. Besides Hill, athletes players like Baylor’s Jalen Pitre or Washington’s Kyler Gordon would provide Belichick with even more defensive chess pieces.

@NickDecoteau4 Is Bill really going to pass on Roger McCreary because he has short arms?

Staying on corners, Auburn’s Roger McCreary’s draft stock will be one of the most interesting to watch. McCreary sounds like a prototypical Patriot - an elite athlete who thrives in man coverage, physical in the run game, can play inside and out (while also having experience at safety), and has strong ball skills.

The knock on McCreary is his arm size, which measured at just 29 14 inches at the NFL Scouting Combine - two inches shorter than the average. It’s a big enough deal to knock him out of the first round, as he may just be limited to a slot role in the NFL. He has the makings to be an extremely successful corner at the next level, but the limitations could be concerning - especially for a team that employs lots of press defense.

@hudburch Currently what do you think our biggest need is?

To me, it’s wide receiver, cornerback, and offensive tackle. Receiver and cornerback speak for themselves, while adding the next offensive tackle of the future will be addressed some time within the short future. One position that has moved down my list since the offseason began is linebacker. I would still not rule them out adding a guy like Chad Muma or Christian Harris on day two, but they have younger, faster guys already on the roster in Cameron McGrone, Raekwon McMillan, Josh Uche, etc.

@RyanPKelly6 If they do decide to trade down, do you think they are aiming to remain in the first or satisfied with getting the better deal?

@PatsFanBen Who do you think are the likely trade back partners for the Patriots?How likely is it that we draft Slade Bolden in the 7th?

Trading back is definitely in the cards for the Patriots at No. 21 overall, especially if they decide to go defense and Jordan Davis is off the board. The point of a trade down would be to receive as much extra draft compensation as possible, but they should not sacrifice moving too far down the board to do so.

Staying within the top-40 and adding an additional day two and/or three selection may be one of the best ways to accomplish this feat. Using Rich Hill’s trade value chart - which lists the Patriots first round selection to be worth 261 value points - here are some ways to do so:

  • Patriots trade No. 21 overall to Houston for No. 37, 80, and 107 (251 value points)
  • Patriots trade No. 21 overall to Detroit for No. 32 and 66 (260 value points)
  • Patriots trade No. 21 overall to Jacksonville for No. 33, 70, and 180 (257 value points)
  • Patriots trade No. 21 overall to New York Giants for No. 36, 67, and 147 (255 value points)

Besides these four offers, Kansas City could be another team to watch. After dealing wide receiver Tyreek Hill, it would not be a surprise if they plan on moving up to snag a potential replacement. Offering No. 29, 94, and 135 (262 value points) could be a potential package.

@sohereswhatino I think the Pats should definitely trade down. Which players would you absolutely, positively take at 21 if they are still there?

Besides Jordan Davis, passing on Alabama’s Jameson Williams or Ohio State’s Chris Olave would be tough sells on my part (barring any other offensive skill player surprisingly falls). While I doubt both receivers last that long, adding that talent and upside at the position would be a no brainer.

@jakaroriseh Thoughts on Kyle Philips as a day 3 pick?

Phillips does seem like a prototypical Patriot receiver and the team met with him at the East-West Shrine Bowl. While he doesn't have elite speed or size, he does everything well and is a very consistent target in the passing game. He is an extremely clean route runner despite his size (5-foot-11, 189 pounds) as a big slot receiver. At UCLA, he was extremely productive (157 receptions the past three seasons) and proved to be a reliable target at all three levels, but mainly in the intermediate and underneath concepts. He also is a strong run blocker, as well as a dangerous punt returner, averaging over 19 yards per return over his Bruins’ career.

@OFFICIAL_TRUCK Alec Pierce feels like he would be a classical 2nd round pick in that he has first round talent but not first round production. Do you think he will be available at 54 and would the Patriots draft him?

Pierce will likely be day two target selection and is a different type of receiver than Phillips. Pierce is a big (6-foot-3) “X” receiver who has strong vertical speed and excellent ball skills, often wowing with his ability to make a play on a ball in the air. While he likely projects as a “X” receiver, he may also see reps as a bigger slot receiver as well. I think he is more in New England’s wheelhouse at No. 85 rather than 54, however.

@DirtySweetClint Available at the 21st pick: Davis, London and Penning. Who do you select and why?

If you've read this far you know the answer. I’m just going to include this chart again because it still breaks my brain.

@qualitysmoke The #Patriots have multiple OL players who did not start last year, Cadjuste, Herron, Durrant, Sherman etc why can’t they play guard rather than the need to draft one, especially high

The Patriots have had success finding high quality lineman in the later rounds of the draft (Michael Onwenu, Joe Thunk, Shaq Mason, Ted Karras), but it’s unfair to ask them to hit on every single one. As for the players listed, Cajuste was a third-round selection, Herron and Sherman were a pair of sixth rounders, while Durant - who they acquired from Kansas City last year - was a former UDFA. I think they look for new blood at the position in a strong and deep interior offensive line class.

@OFFICIAL_TRUCK Does the Patriots trading for two fifth round pick this year, when they normally hate fifth round picks indicate that they believe this draft is very deep in terms of ‘roster locks’?

I wouldn't say they specifically went out hunting for fifth-round selections, but that’s just the value they received. Either way, this draft does seem very deep in terms of players who can make an immediate impact, perhaps their motivation to acquire more draft capital.

@qualitysmoke Which punter will #patriots draft in the fifth?

Matt Araiza, obviously. Dude has an absolute weapon attached as his left (yes, he's a lefty), leg. It will be interesting to see how early a team decides to take him with his ability to completely switch field position. If you don't know him, I’d recommend watching:

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!