The New England Patriots are entering the 2023 NFL Draft with three big needs: offensive tackle, cornerback and wide receiver. All three of those positions getting addressed rather early would therefore not be a surprise — and exactly what ESPN’s top draft analysts are projecting.
An alternating three-round mock draft by Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, has the Patriots start with a tackle followed by a cornerback and a wideout:
14. New England Patriots
McShay’s pick: Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State
Man, I thought about tight end Dalton Kincaid here. Patriots coach Bill Belichick loves two-TE sets, and Kincaid would be great with Hunter Henry. But quarterback Mac Jones also needs protection after struggles under pressure last season, and Johnson has the size, power and awareness to hold down left tackle. (Johnson also is versatile enough to play elsewhere along the line while Trent Brown is still under contract.)
Johnson is one of the best tackles in this year’s draft, and has the talent to be a Day 1 starter. Historically, however, the Patriots have given their OTs some time to get up to speed before inserting them into the lineup and he might not be the exception to the rule. That said, future starter is in his stars.
46. New England Patriots
McShay’s pick: Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami-FL
The Patriots re-signed Jonathan Jones, and their pass defense was pretty strong last season, but the cornerback room needs depth. Adding speed and physicality outside makes sense on Day 2.
At 6-foot-0, 198 pounds, Stevenson would add good size to the Patriots’ defensive perimeter. He also has press-man experience, which is a plus coming into the New England system.
76. New England Patriots (from CAR)
McShay’s pick: Rashee Rice, WR, SMU
Rice dominates over the middle of the field, and I could see him building a nice connection with quarterback Mac Jones as a reliable target. Even after New England signed JuJu Smith-Schuster, it wouldn’t feel right exiting Day 2 of the draft without giving the Pats a wide receiver.
Rice caught 96 passes for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, but his production is not the only reason why he might be an attractive mid-round target. He also offers good size at 6-foot-1, 204 pounds and is best suited to fill a Z-receiver role that might benefit from adding another developmental option that could come in and contribute in select packages right away.