Patriots

Here’s who ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. thinks the Patriots could target in the NFL Draft

If the Patriots don't take a quarterback, Kiper believes they could target a wide receiver

Jaylen Waddle could be a Patriots target, per Mel Kiper Jr. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

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The New England Patriots would likely prefer to draft a quarterback in the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

However, at No. 15, all the best quarterbacks might be already gone. Most mock drafts take Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trey Lance off the board comfortably in the top 10, leaving the likes of Alabama QB Mac Jones for teams picking in the middle of the first round.

The Patriots could reach for Jones, but they also could try to shore up other areas. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., speaking via conference call to reporters, named Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle as one potential target, although Waddle is ranked higher than 15 on most boards.

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Kiper also pointed to cornerback as a potential area of need.

“You could look at Caleb Farley from Virginia Tech, you could look at Patrick Surtain II from Alabama or Jaycee Horn from South Carolina,” Kiper said. “Two of those three will probably be there, guaranteed one of those three will still be there.”

On his latest mock draft, Kiper had the Patriots moving up and taking North Dakota State QB Trey Lance.

“Belichick and the Patriots have been quiet this offseason, but that should change soon,” Kiper wrote. “They have money to spend in free agency, and they need to find a quarterback. It doesn’t appear likely that Cam Newton will return. The veteran QB trade market has dwindled. I could see a Jimmy Garoppolo return to New England, but I’m not sold that he’d be the long-term answer. Lance could be. He started only 17 career games in college — all against FCS competition — but he’s only 20, and he has all the tools to be a great dual-threat quarterback. Remember that the Patriots have a few players returning after opting out of last season, too, so they could contend in the AFC East again.”

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The NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 29.

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