Imagining the Patriots’ draft board: 50 players who would fit in Foxborough

Each team’s draft board is just about set at this point.

South Carolina's Javon Kinlaw lines up for a play as the South squad runs drills during practice for the Senior Bowl. AP Photo/Butch Dill


With NFL teams crossing their T’s and dotting their I’s as they finalize their preparations for the NFL Draft on Thursday night, each team’s draft board is just about set at this point.

The Patriots have some additional ammo now after trading retired tight end Rob Gronkowski and a seventh-round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fourth-round pick in return. With the middle rounds of this year’s draft expected to be well-stocked with some talented players still, grabbing another pick in the middle of the draft is helpful, especially for a retired player in Gronkowski who was never going to contribute to your team in 2020. Classic Belichick, right?


Related Links

The following list is not a ranking of the best players in the draft, but rather a ranking of the players that would make the most sense in a Patriots uniform, based on skills, scheme fit, and measurables.

1. Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

Kinlaw is the second-best defensive tackle in this year’s draft, behind Auburn’s Derrick Brown, and could slide in the draft if there is a run at other positions like offensive tackle. His size, explosiveness, and quickness in small spaces combine to make him a talented prospect who can be a starter from day one.

2. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Much has been made of the rumored interest in Herbert from the Patriots, but the team would need to hope that Herbert either slides to them at pick No. 23, or that they could convince a team to trade with them and let them move up for Herbert. The Oregon product has a pro-ready arm, prototypical size and mobility, and experience in a pro offense, but needs to clean up his decision-making in order to become a starting quarterback in the NFL.

3. K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU

The consensus second-best EDGE in the draft, Chaisson has freaky bend and athleticism, making him a high-ceiling prospect. While a lack of overall production at LSU is mystifying, Chaisson has every trait you want in an edge defender and is a high-character individual with leadership potential too.

4. Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

A route technician whose diverse route tree would fit in well in New England’s offensive scheme, Jefferson may not last until New England picks at No. 23, but his crafty play and smooth hands at LSU would make him a good fit on any team. He may not have the elite quickness or speed of the elite wide receivers in this year’s draft, but his understanding of the subtleties of the position and his route-running make him ready to compete in the pros right now.

5. Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin

Baun’s versatility in being able to play on or off the line of scrimmage make him an ideal fit to fill multiple roles for New England. He is a relentless player who never gives up on plays, and is surprisingly adept in coverage for being a player who played mostly at the defensive end position at Wisconsin. His athleticism, combined with his high football IQ, make him one of the safer picks early in the draft for any team.

6. Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

Queen and Murray are the top two inside linebackers in this year’s draft, and both are extremely athletic, quick-twitch players who are undersized by current linebacker standards in the NFL, but are in the mold of the new-era linebacker that is popping up increasingly all over the NFL. Queen’s superior mental processing speed and ability to read and react gives him the slight edge over Murray here.

7. Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

While very similar to Queen, Murray can be late in reading plays at times, and can get a bit too overzealous on some plays by running himself out of the play. What Murray has over Queen is better length and closing speed. He is a rocket shot out of a cannon in the open field, and he packs a punch when he hits ball carriers.

8. AJ Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

One of the strongest players in this year’s draft, and a player who has the ability to kick inside and use his explosive first step to surprise interior blockers and get to the quarterback. Epenesa’s ability to set a hard edge in the run game makes him an attractive fit for a Patriots defense that asks its ends to set the edge regularly. His length and heavy hands make him a powerful pass rusher and his solid performance against the run as well make him a complete prospect.

9. Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton

While coming from a weak football school, Trautman has the most enticing package of skills in this year’s tight end class. His explosive speed and short-area quickness helped him put up 101 catches for 1,520 yards and 23 touchdowns in just two seasons at Dayton, and make him an exciting pass-catching tight end prospect in the draft. His ability to line up all over the field, combined with the physical frame to become a successful blocking tight end in the run game, make him a high-ceiling prospect with potential as a pass catcher and a run blocker.

10. Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

Long and flexible, Gross-Matos’s natural athleticism and relentless pursuit of the ball make him an exciting athlete on the edge who can collapse the pocket with ease. His experience rushing from a variety of alignments at Penn State make him a good fit on the New England defense, but maturity concerns could be a red flag for the team.

11. Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

One of the best playmakers in the draft, Aiyuk’s breakaway speed is his best asset, and on a team that could use an infusion of youth and speed, Aiyuk would be a major help for the New England offense. Playing alongside his former Sun Devil teammate, N’Keal Harry, would undoubtedly help Aiyuk’s transition to New England.

12. Josh Jones, OT, Houston

The offensive tackle class is crowded at the top this year, meaning a talented tackle like Jones could fall into the Patriots’ laps if they feel the need to draft an OT early on in the draft. A rangy athlete with adequate length and flexible hips, Jones is the kind of mobile tackle that the Patriots tend to look for at the position, and could be the successor to an aging Marcus Cannon at right tackle.

13. Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama

The most versatile safety prospect in this draft, McKinney is able to play so many positions, so well, that he could become the heir apparent to Devin McCourty at free safety, or Patrick Chung at box safety. His instincts, range, and tackling are all elite, and he would slot in as the Patriots’ future at the safety position with ease. It wouldn’t hurt to learn under McCourty and Chung for a year or two, either.

14. Cesar Ruiz, OG, Michigan State

With experience at the guard and center positions, Ruiz would bring much-needed depth to the New England offensive line at either of those positions. A thick and compact player from head to toe, Ruiz is a mobile blocker who is better in pass protection than run blocking, but has the tools to develop into a starting interior lineman in the NFL.

15. Laviska Shenault, WR, UCF

One of the most talented and versatile receiving prospects in the draft this year, Shenault has seen his stock slip a bit due to injury concerns. If he can answer the questions about his ability to stay on the field, Shenault could end up being one of the best prospects in this year’s draft. He projects as a prototypical X receiver in the NFL, but can get open at all three levels of the field, and his ability in contested catch situations is top-notch.

16. Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU

He shed 25 pounds in between his sophomore and junior seasons after tearing his Achilles tendon, and earned All-Big 12 honors in 2019. Blacklock is an elite pass rusher for his position, and regularly collapses pockets from an interior alignment. His experience playing over multiple gaps could make him a fit as a pass-rushing defensive tackle in New England.

17. Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama

Lewis has been connected to the Patriots already during the pre-draft process, and it’s not hard to see why they would be interested in him, based on his elite athleticism. Lewis had a 37-inch vertical (82nd percentile amongst EDGE defenders) and a 124-inch broad jump (88th percentile) at the NFL Combine, and has impressive explosiveness, to go along with the ability to drop back in coverage at times. While still raw, Lewis has a ton of potential, and reminds some of former Patriot Chandler Jones with his length and athleticism.

18. Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming

A player who has gone from under-the-radar to firmly on the scene for many NFL teams as the draft process has gone on. A three-year captain at Wyoming, Wilson has exceptional read-and-react abilities, and his blend of athleticism and strength make him one of the more complete inside linebacker prospects in this year’s draft.

19. Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

A hulking tight end prospect who is still relatively inexperienced at the position, Kmet’s frame and big hands evoke memories of Gronk, but he lacks the same downfield separation and blocking ability that made Gronk so special. Because of his lack of experience playing football, Kmet has a lot of potential due to his good hands and his size, but his lack of separation ability lowers his ceiling in the NFL.

20. Lucas Niang, OT, TCU

An athletic swing tackle prospect with great feet and solid length, Niang could replace fellow TCU Horned Frog alum Marcus Cannon at right tackle in a year or two if he can clean up his technique in pass protection.

21. Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn

Had just as much production at Auburn as his teammate and projected top-10 pick Derrick Brown did. Davidson played mostly on the edge as a Tiger, but his size and lack of bend or speed makes him a better fit on the interior in the NFL. Davidson is a disruptive player who uses his long arms to shed blocks and make tackles consistently, but will need to develop a better anchor to succeed as a defensive tackle at the next level.

22. Lloyd Cushenberry, OG, LSU

Another option for the Patriots if they wish to have some insurance at the center position in the event that David Andrews can’t fully recover from the blood clots that put him on Injured Reserve. Cushenberry has some technical deficiencies, in part due to a lack of length, but moves well and is a good second-level blocker, a skill that is important for Patriots centers to have.

23. Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State

Bill Belichick has an affinity for drafting linebackers that are in the more traditional mold at the position, and Harrison certainly fits that. Harrison is a great tackler, and one who enjoys laying the wood on his opponents. His ability to sniff out plays before they happen is advanced, and his motor and range would be a welcome addition to a Patriots linebacking corps that simply needs more bodies at the position at this stage. A lack of mobility for Harrison could be concerning however, based on similar shortcomings for Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley.

24. Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois

A prospect that not many have heard about coming from Southern Illinois, but don’t let his small-school background fool you. Chinn exploded at the combine with a 4.45 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical, which isn’t surprising when you see his NFL-ready physique. Chinn has elite ball tracking skills, having caught at least three interceptions in four straight years in college, and moves like a cornerback in man coverage. His range and closing speed are tops at his position, but a lack of general instinct at his position is what separates him from the top safety prospect, McKinney.

25. Jonah Jackson, OG, Ohio State

A player that has experience at all three interior spots on the offensive line, Jackson is a nasty player with a solid anchor, and is probably the best pass protector at his position right now. However, his average athletic traits and his lack of bend in his lower half bring some cause for concern at the next level.

26. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC

A prototypical outside receiver, Pittman’s ability to make plays in contested situations is outstanding, and he has the sudden quickness to gain separation against defensive backs. While he doesn’t have the speed you want at his position, Pittman is a complete receiver with soft hands and a strong frame.

27. Ashtyn Davis, S, UC-Berkeley

Another player with elite closing speed, Davis is a physical player who has awesome instincts, and is a true free safety who could replace Duron Harmon on the Patriots defense in 2020, and would allow Harmon to become the successor to Devin McCourty as the team’s starting free safety in the future.

28. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama

An enormous player at 6-foot-6 with 34-inch arms and 11-inch hands, Davis projects to be a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL. A poor three-cone time and short shuttle time raise some cause for concern about his athleticism, but his power and run-stopping ability make him a good fit for a Patriots defensive line that struggled stopping the run late last year.

29. Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame

Thought of by some as a wide receiver in the NFL and by others as a tight end, whatever he is, Claypool is an explosive athlete with good jump-ball ability downfield. He also has experience as a blocker in space, lending to his projection as a tight end. Also helping some believe he is best as a tight end in the NFL is his physical style of play and ability to move well in the open field at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds. He could have success as a move tight end in the NFL, similar to Kansas City’s Travis Kelce.

30. Julian Okwara, EDGE, Notre Dame

One of the most athletic EDGE defenders in the draft, Okwara’s combination of length and power would bring some juice to New England’s pass rush. With active hands and ability to turn the corner in a hurry, Okwara has plenty of potential, but issues against the run need to be fixed for him to become a steady contributor.

31. Jacob Eason, QB, Washington

He has impressive arm talent, and experience playing in a pro-style system, but Eason’s struggles against pressure in college raise major red flags about his ability to handle defenses in the NFL. His prototypical size and arm make him a high-ceiling developmental prospect if he can ever figure out his issues in handling pressure.

32. K’Von Wallace, DB, Clemson

Wallace split time between free safety, strong safety, and slot cornerback at Clemson, and excelled at all three positions. He’s a physical and instinctive player with good speed. His versatility and physical tools will help him become a chess piece for the team that drafts him.

33. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota

Winfield Jr., son of ex-NFL cornerback Antoine Winfield Sr., may be undersized at 5’9”, but is one of the most physical players in the draft this year. He’s a disciplined player who has elite ball skills, and has great closing speed with solid tackling fundamentals. With his intelligent and fundamental play, Winfield Jr. would likely be the top safety in the draft if he had better size.

34. Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State

A long and tall cornerback with quick feet that allows him to stick with wide receivers of all sizes and speeds. Dantlzer has good ball skills and can play both man and zone coverage. At 188 pounds, he will need to put on more weight, as issues with play strength do pop up on his tape.

35. Matt Hennessy, OG, Temple

A great athlete with outstanding feet and body control. Hennessy does well in working laterally on reach blocks and is comfortable pulling or moving to the second level. Another developmental prospect who could help shore up the interior of the New England offensive line.

36. James Proche, WR, SMU

A player with elite short-area quickness and a full route tree that should allow him to have a successful career in the NFL from the slot. Proche has great hands and tracks the ball well in the air. His gritty mentality on the field shows up especially in his blocking, an area of his game that is more advanced than most rookie wide receivers. New England expects all of its receivers to be capable blockers, something that should give Proche a leg up on other receiving prospects.

37. Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis

An explosive player who can break free at any moment. While running back is not a need in 2020 for this Patriots team, Gibson is a high upside pick with his ability in space and versatility as both a wide receiver and a running back. With his lack of vision and patience, Gibson may never become a starting-caliber player in the NFL. But his speed and agility, as well as his knack for breaking tackles, make him an intriguing prospect for a team that needs a playmaker on its offense.

38. Anfernee Jennings, OLB, Alabama

Jennings is a player who has drawn comparisons to Kyle Van Noy with his strength and high football IQ, but lacks a clearly-defined position in the NFL. He has good instincts and a nose for the football, but at 6-foot-2, may not stick at the position he saw the most time at in college, as a defensive end.

39. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia

A high-floor, low-ceiling prospect who is a highly intelligent player that limits mistakes, but does not have the arm talent or playmaking ability to become an starting NFL quarterback.

40. Van Jefferson, WR, Florida

A precise route runner who can stop and start on a dime, Jefferson is a dependable pass-catcher who projects as a slot receiver with some ability to stretch the field vertically at times. With a narrow frame, Jefferson won’t break many tackles or win many 50-50 balls, but his speed and separation make him a reliable third receiver at the very least in the NFL.

41. Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue

A tough, high-character linebacker who suffered two major knee surgeries in college, including a torn ACL that ended his senior season in September. Bailey is a fundamental tackler who never gives up on a play, and plays a physical brand of football on every play. Injury concerns and issues with side-to-side movement limit his potential in the NFL, but his physicality and high football IQ would help the New England defense.

42. Terrell Burgess, S, Utah

Burgess is a Day Two candidate for the Patriots who is known for his preparation and versatility, having been converted from the cornerback position at Utah. His reputation is that of a ball hawk, and he has the ability to cover tight ends up the seams in pass coverage. His lack of explosiveness and an average body type will limit the role he can play in the NFL, but his ball skills and coverage ability are a solid foundational point for him to come in with as a developmental prospect.

43. Saahdiq Charles, OT, LSU

Another nimble tackle prospect who plays with natural balance in pass protection, Charles was a three-year starter at LSU, protecting Joe Burrow’s blindside for the past two seasons. Charles doesn’t have good size for the position, having played at 290 pounds in 2019, and also has character concerns, having been suspended in 2019 for six games for a violation of team rules. His athleticism and ability in pass protection shows some promise for becoming a backup swing tackle in the NFL, but maturity issues could cause him to drop in the draft.

44. Jordan Elliot, DT, Missouri

With an NFL-ready frame that is packed with speed and power, Elliott has a ton of potential as a pass-rushing defensive lineman in the NFL. Elliott uses his quickness to explode through gaps, and uses his 302-pound frame to hold his own when doubled. As he learns the game and speeds up his ability to diagnose plays earlier, Elliott can be a scheme-versatile player who can play against the pass and the run.

45. Harrison Bryant, TE, FAU

Bryant is extremely limited in his blocking ability, but moves well for his position and would immediately be New England’s best pass-catching tight end on the roster. The 2019 winner of the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end, Bryant has great hands and can make the occasional defender miss. What will ultimately decide his role in the NFL is how much he can improve as a blocker.

46. Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan

Uche is a tweener EDGE defender who used a productive senior season and an outstanding Senior Bowl to rise up NFL draft boards. He has great athleticism, and his ability to drop back into coverage shows some potential to play off the ball more in the NFL, something that may be best due to his lack of size for being an EDGE defender at the next level. Uche predictably struggles against the run due to his lack of strength, but his elite bend and quickness as a pass rusher could make him a solid addition in New England.

47. Austin Jackson, OT, USC

Jackson is a neat story, missing USC’s offseason program in 2019 so he could donate blood marrow that wound up saving his sister’s life in the summer of 2019. He rebounded after that to start all 13 games for USC in his final season. With good lateral movement and quick feet, Jackson has potential as a pass protector, especially with his 34-inch arms. If he can refine his upper body mechanics, especially his punch timing, he could have potential as a starting offensive tackle.

48. Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina

Edwards is another explosive playmaker at the wide receiver position, but what makes him stand out is the fact that he maintains his explosive speed with a 6-foot-3 frame. Edwards missed the combine due to a broken foot that was suffered while training, but that could be a blessing in disguise for New England, who could see Edwards fall to the third or fourth round. Edwards does have issues with drops, but his physicality and acceleration in the open field make him an exciting prospect with serious upside.

49. Jon Runyan, OG, Michigan

Runyan played both tackle positions at Michigan, and even saw some snaps at guard. His body type and arm length make him better suited to be a guard in the NFL, but his quick feet and ability to get to the second level make him a player similar to Patriots left guard Joe Thuney, who played left tackle at NC State but successfully made the switch inside at the next level.

50. KJ Hill, WR, Ohio State

Hill isn’t blazing fast like some other receivers in this draft, having run a 4.6 40 at the combine, which was 17th percentile among wide receivers. But he has great separation skills and ran a lot of option routes at Ohio State, similar to what Julian Edelman does with the Patriots. With his experience running a heavy dose of underneath routes as a Buckeye, and his ability to use tempo to manipulate space against zone coverage, Hill would make a great candidate to succeed Edelman as the next Patriots slot receiver.


This discussion has ended. Please join elsewhere on