The New England Patriots need to add to their defense in this year’s draft, and the belief is that the cornerback position — which lost Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson in free agency — will be addressed rather early. That is not what is happening in Mel Kiper Jr.’s new two-round mock draft, however.
While the Patriots go defense in each of the first two rounds, ESPN’s draft analyst has them rebuild their front seven rather than add to their secondary.
21. New England Patriots
Devin Lloyd, ILB, Utah
I thought about a wide receiver and cornerback here, but Lloyd just feels like a Bill Belichick-type player. He’s always around the ball, is a great blitzer from the middle of the defense and makes plays. The Patriots allowed 4.5 yards per carry last season, which ranked 25th in the league. This fills a void with an impact player.
Devin Lloyd is arguably the best off-the-ball linebacker available this year, so him staying on the board until pick No. 21 would be a surprise. That said, adding him to New England’s front seven would make sense: the Utah prodcut is an elite athlete and would serve as a long-term replacement for still unsigned free agent Dont’a Hightower.
In the second round, Kiper Jr. has the Patriots add to their defensive line.
54. New England Patriots
Logan Hall, DL, Houston
This is another Patriots-type pick, because Hall is a bit of a tweener. At 6-foot-6 and 283 pounds, he might be best suited for a defensive end spot in a 3-4 scheme, or he could kick inside and play as a 3-technique tackle. Bill Belichick & Co. will be able to use him in different ways. Hall has put on more than 50 pounds since high school, so he’s still growing into his frame.
Even with other potential targets such as cornerback Roger McCreary and guard Cole Strange still on the board, the Patriots pick Logan Hall in this projection. Hall’s projection is a bit uncertain — he could play on the edge or fill a Deatrich Wise Jr.-like role on the inside — but his talent cannot be denied. Teaming him up with Christian Barmore would give New England a lot of disruptive power on the inside of their D-line.