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Pat Lane’s 7-round mock draft 5.0: Patriots bet on high-upside players at positions of need

The Patriots go after some flawed, but talented, players in this mock draft.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship-Texas Christian at Georgia Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the second week of April, and everyone who cares about football just can’t wait until the NFL Draft. The offseason lull, after all, has not been pretty and dominated by some tiresome narratives about the New England Patriots.

So, let’s take a break from all the noise and have some fun draft discussions instead. And what better way to start those than with another mock draft? Enjoy!

Pat Lane’s seven-round mock draft Version 1.0 | Version 2.0 | Version 3.0 | Version 4.0

Round 1

1-14: OT Broderick Jones (Georgia): The Patriots have a strong need at tackle, as both their projected starters this season — Trent Brown and Riley Reiff — are not under contract beyond 2023. There are also serious concerns about whether or not Reiff can be a competent starter at right tackle.

Drafting Broderick Jones in Round 1 takes care of those concerns. He should be able to step in and start right away, but also has massive upside: he has only started for two seasons at Georgia. Given his potential, and the ability he already showcased, Jones would be a slam-dunk pick at No. 14 overall

Round 2

TRADE: 2-46 to Philadelphia Eagles for 2-62, 3-94, and a 2024 4th-round pick: The Patriots move from the middle to the end of the second round, but pick up an extra third this year and a fourth in 2024 to do it. In a draft this deep, getting an extra top-100 pick is a good idea.

2-62: CB Darius Rush (South Carolina): Rush hasn’t gotten the love that his teammate Cam Smith has received in the pre-draft process, but I think he has a chance to be a special player. He has great size, at 6-foot-2 and over 33-inch arms, and he ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine.

The Patriots have a need at outside corner, and Rush fits that build. Getting a guy with his combination of size and speed would be a great thing for their defense, and help make the unit even better.

Round 3

3-76: TE Tucker Kraft (South Dakota State): The Patriots have both Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki on the roster, so tight end may not seem like a huge need. However, I do believe it is. First, neither of those guys are great blockers, so they could use an upgrade there. Second, both Henry and Gesicki’s contracts run out after this season. Long story short, the Patriots need to address the position, or they run risk of ending up with a situation similar to 2019, which was an absolute disaster (one that forced them to reach on two flawed tight ends in the 2020 draft, and then give big money to Henry and Jonnu Smith in 2021).

Kraft is a do-it-all type of player. He has the ability to line up in-line, but can also be split out in the slot, or even move wide if necessary. He is a solid blocker, and has good functional athleticism as well. Given his skills, he can come in and help in 2023 and then possibly take over as the No. 1 tight end in 2024 and beyond.

3-94: WR Andrei Iosivas (Princeton): Third-round wide receivers almost never pan out in New England, but I think this one can be different. Andrei Iosivas has the traits to be a factor in this league, and you’d be getting him here because he played at Princeton and not at a bigger school.

Iosivas went to the Senior Bowl and showed that he can play against good competition as well, and we know that the Patriots love their Senior Bowl guys. He has the ability to play outside, but isn’t afraid to go across the middle as well. With his size (6’3”, 205 lbs), he can be a big target, but also has the athleticism necessary to create some actual separation.

TRADE: 4-107 and 6-192 to San Francisco 49ers for 3-101: The Patriots have three fourth-round picks and four sixth-round picks at this point in the simulation. They package two of them to move up a few spots and get the guy they want here.

3-101: DT Gervon Dexter Sr. (Florida): Oh no, another defensive tackle from Florida with questionable tape. The hope is that this will not be a repeat of Dominique Easley, but, if I’m being honest, I can’t promise it either.

The traits that Dexter possesses are elite. His size and athleticism simply are not something that you see from a defensive tackle, and he has some tape where he looks simply unblockable. Unfortunately, he also has some very bad plays and is consistently slow off the ball. It’s definitely a gamble, but with a bunch of mid-round picks, the Patriots should be gambling on guys like Dexter.

If he hits, they are getting a potentially devastating player on the inside to pair with Christian Barmore, Josh Uche, and Matthew Judon, making the pass-rushing front one of the most disruptive in the NFL. If he busts, then they only spent a late Day 2 pick on him, and they can survive that.

Round 4

4-117: OT Luke Haggard (Indiana): Remember when I said the Patriots had a strong need at tackle? I wasn’t lying, and so they double-dip at the position here with Luke Haggard.

He is a tall prospect at 6-foot-6, who has shown good athletic ability, and could be a starter in the NFL if he is able to get stronger and add to his 297-pound frame. Haggard is not ready to start this year, but he could be the top option opposite Broderick Jones in 2024, which makes this pick a no-brainer for me.

4-135: CB Starling Thomas V (UAB): It’s like an instant replay of the Patriots’ first two picks, because they are again following up an offensive tackle selection with a cornerback.

Starling Thomas is an explosive player at the position, running a 4.3-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. He is a solid tackler, who is super aggressive in the run game. He’s not the best man-cover corner in the draft, but is solid in zone, and might end up being better suited as a Devin McCourty replacement in the long run

The Patriots also got an up-close and personal look at Thomas when he was on their team at the East-West Shrine Bowl. Whether he makes the switch to safety or not, his athletic upside makes him an intriguing selection. New England is on its way to building a secondary full of freak athletes, and Thomas would certainly add to that.

Round 6

6-184 DE Mike Morris (Michigan): Evaluating Morris is a really tough job. On one hand, he had nine sacks this last year and showed a good ability to get off the ball, and easily shed blocks. On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine testing worse than he did at the Combine.

He was slow, didn’t jump high or far, and wasn’t particularly strong for an edge player. His Relative Athletic Score of 4.75 is rough. He is a true tweener, but not in a good way. He’s not really big enough to play inside, but his testing says that he may not be able to play outside. Still, he had good production at a big school and looks better on film than his testing would suggest.

I think taking a chance on a guy like him isn’t a terrible idea, especially when you are doing it at pick 184.

6-187: RB Evan Hull (Northwestern): The Patriots are in need of a back who can catch the football out of the backfield, and Hull fits that to a tee. He had 87 receptions in the past two seasons, and showed some real good burst on film. He backed that film up by running a 4.47 in the 40-yard dash and a 6.9 in the three-cone drill. His pass blocking is a bit of a mess, and his vision isn’t really what you would like, but he is worth a late round flyer.

He certainly has other deficiencies, but his one solid trait — catching the ball out of the backfield — could help the Patriots these next few years.

6-210: S Trey Dean III (Florida): You want to talk about testing ruining your draft stock, then Trey Dean should be the subject.

He ran a 4.75-second 40-yard dash, which is just abhorrent for a player at his position and ranks him in the 2-percentile among defensive backs. That 40 time might scare a lot of teams away, but there are reasons why New England might still be interested in him.

For starters, he was able to post a 6.58 in the the three-cone drill at his Pro Day, which is elite, and also put up 25 reps on the bench. The Patriots also got a chance to work closely with him at the Shrine Bowl, so they saw how his athleticism translates onto the field. He was a physical guy who consistently flashed in that all-star setting, and, with his Combine performance likely dropping him down draft boards, don’t be surprised if Dean ends up a Patriot.

Round 7

7-245: P Ethan Evans (Wingate): The Patriots are in need of a punter and Evans, coincidentally, is one. He also has experience as a kicker, and with kickoffs, which the Patriots desperately need as well. Watching Nick Folk try to kick off was an adventure last season, and allowing three kickoff return touchdowns was a complete disaster.

Evans being able to actually kick the ball into the end zone, or, at least get it high enough to give the coverage guys a chance to get down and defend the kick, should help with that problem. Finishing the draft with a Division II punter would be an extremely Bill Belichick thing to do, and it makes me happy. So, Evans is the pick here.

So, there you have it. Another mock draft in the books. This one sees tons of young talent coming in, along with some real questionable prospects. Sounds like a throwback Patriots draft to me.

If a few of these guys hit, New England could really make some noise this year and beyond. If not, it’s back to the drawing board at some crucial positions. So, what did you think of the draft? Grade it below!


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