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Matt St. Jean’s 7-round mock draft: Patriots rebuild two underperforming units from last season

A local wide receiver headlines an offense-heavy draft for the Pats.

Syndication: Argus Leader Erin Woodiel / Argus Leader / USA TODAY NETWORK

The NFL Draft starts tonight, and today feels like Christmas morning.

In the next three days, the New England Patriots will add players who could be building blocks for the next generation. I took a stab at who I think they should draft, heavily investing in the offensive side of the ball to build around quarterback Mac Jones and add pieces that fit the new coaching staff.

Round 1

TRADE: 1-14 to Pittsburgh Steelers for 1-17, 4-120, and 7-241. The Steelers make a small trade up to go get a tackle. In return, the Patriots add a pair of day three picks. Those will come in handy later for making trades.

1-17: WR Zay Flowers (Boston College). Flowers has been connected to the Patriots for a long time. This move just makes sense. The Patriots get their next Deion Branch in a player who will make the short drive down from Chestnut Hill to join the team.

Flowers is explosive both before and after the catch, leading to two first-team All-ACC selections and school records in receptions and receiving touchdowns. His ability to get in and out of breaks quickly makes him an elite separator and a quarterback’s best friend. Flowers should slot into a big role in the middle of the field in Bill O’Brien’s offense on day one.

Round 2

TRADE: 2-46, 4-120, and 6-184 to Carolina Panthers for 2-39. The Panthers enter draft night with only six picks. They trade back and pick up a couple extras, while the Pats move up with their eyes on a Michigan defender.

2-39: CB DJ Turner (Michigan). “I don’t think there’s a team in this league that’s saying, ‘We’ve got enough speed.’ If you can get faster, you’re going to get faster.”

That’s what Matt Groh said just over a week before the draft. With this pick, New England gets quite a bit faster. Turner, a two-year starter in Michigan’s man defense, ran a 4.26-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He is a high-end athlete who can still use some refinement in his technique.

Turner is a fit for the defenses the Belichicks like to play, and his speed and quickness allow him to align both in the slot and on the outside. In true Belichick fashion, the Patriots find a day-one caliber athlete early on day two.

Round 3

3-76: TE Tucker Kraft (South Dakota State). Alabama reportedly tried to grab Kraft when he entered the transfer portal after last season. One year later, Bill O’Brien gets a chance to coach him.

Kraft has all of the athletic traits you would expect in an NFL tight end. The three-year SDSU starter has the strength to shed tacklers after the catch and take on defenders in the running game, and he’s quick enough to get open in the passing game. With some refinement and time to learn behind Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki, he has the potential to emerge as a high-end starter.

TRADE: 4-117 and 4-135 to Philadelphia Eagles for 3-94. The Patriots decide to cash in two of their fourth-round picks to move back up into the third.

3-94: Tyler Steen, OT, Alabama. Steen played with Bill O’Brien last year at Alabama after spending four years at Vanderbilt. He has experience at both tackle spots, starting at left tackle last season and earning second-team All-SEC honors.

Finding offensive tackles on day two is hard, but the team’s familiarity with what Steen can do makes him a relatively safe option. He should slot in as a swing tackle as a rookie with an eye on development into a starting role for 2024.

Round 4

4-107: C Ricky Stromberg (Arkansas). David Andrews isn’t getting any younger for the Patriots, and Ricky Stromberg lets them start planning for the future. The Patriots got their hands on him at the Shrine Bowl and got to see his motor in person. He won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy last year as the best blocker in the SEC, allowing no sacks on the season. He started for three years at center and spent time at both guard spots as a freshman which projects him into the James Ferentz/Ted Karras role as a super backup on the interior.

Stromberg may not see much action as a rookie, but he projects well into the future and gives the team some insurance against injuries.

Round 5

TRADE: 6-187, 7-210 and 7-145 to Los Angeles Rams for 5-167. New England enters the draft with a surplus of picks, especially on Day 3. This allows them to move around and get the players they want.

5-167: K Jake Moody (Michigan). Nick Folk is 38 years old, and the limits on his range as a kicker became apparent last season. Enter Jake Moody, a five-year player from Michigan with a huge leg. He kicked a 59-yarder in the Fiesta Bowl and handled kickoffs for the Wolverines for all five years. Like with Flowers and Stromberg, the Pats had to work with Moody at the Shrine Bowl. That experience makes them comfortable moving up to make this pick.

Round 6

6-192: LB Mohamoud Diabate (Utah). Another Shrine Bowl connection. Evan Lazar wrote about him being well-liked by the coaching staff back in February. Diabate is a fast, explosive, and skinny linebacker who will have a chance to make the back end of the roster by playing on special teams. With how the unit played last season, an injection of youth and athleticism would be refreshing. He should compete with Raekwon McMillan and Mack Wilson immediately.

Round 7

7-241: P Michael Turk (Oklahoma). Are you sensing a theme here? New England’s final three picks all played with the Patriots at the Shrine Bowl and project as core special teamers. Turk is a strong guy, posting the best bench press for a punter at the combine since 2003. His huge leg stands out on film, and his experience as a holder as well makes him a good fit for New England. Turk would be the starting punter this season.

The Patriots come away with eight selections in my mock, picking up some key offensive building blocks and bolstering a special teams unit that struggled last season. Five of the eight selections come from the Shrine Bowl, and one of the other three is someone Bill O’Brien is familiar with. A mix of trading up and trading back allows the Pats to pick where they want without giving up too much capital.


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