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NFL Draft season is finally upon us.
The Draft Combine kicks off Tuesday in Indianapolis and continues through Monday, March 7.
While things are almost certain to change following the upcoming week’s events in Indy, several draft experts are predicting the Patriots to select either a linebacker or a wide receiver in their mock drafts. Here’s who draft experts have the Patriots selecting ahead of this week’s combine.
The top draft analyst for NFL Network has the Patriots going defense with the No. 21 overall pick, selecting Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd.
“Lloyd is long and athletic. He’ll be a tremendous asset in the Patriots’ pass defense,” Jeremiah wrote of his mock selection.
Lloyd’s size certainly fits the prototype of previous linebackers drafted by the Patriots. He stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 235 pounds.
Not only does Lloyd have good size, but he also showed tremendous playmaking ability with the Utes this past season. He recorded 111 total tackles (22 for loss), seven sacks, four interceptions, and a forced fumble en route to winning the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year in 2021. He was also dominant in the COVID-shortened 2020 season, recording 48 total tackles (10 for loss), two sacks, and a forced fumble in five games.
Jeremiah views Lloyd very highly, ranking him as the eighth-overall prospect and second-best prospect in the 2022 draft class.
Jeremiah’s projection of the Patriots picking Lloyd in his latest mock draft is a bit different than what he had them doing in his first mock draft. In that one, he had New England selecting Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis with the No. 21 overall pick.
In his first mock draft of the year, Kiper Jr. has the Patriots selecting a weapon for Mac Jones with their first-round pick.
“The Patriots had a solid 2021 draft, with quarterback Mac Jones and defensive tackle Christian Barmore turning into early starters and Day 3 pick Rhamondre Stevenson showing value in a running back rotation. What stuck out to me as I watched the Patriots, though, was their lack of playmakers in the passing game,” Kiper Jr. wrote. “Their top two receivers were former undrafted free agents (Jakobi Meyers and Kendrick Bourne), and their tight ends didn’t beat defenders after the catch (when they got open). N’Keal Henry hasn’t developed like they had hoped. If they can get a deep threat for Jones here, they should be thrilled.
“Williams, an Ohio State transfer with blazing speed, had a fantastic season for the Crimson Tide, catching 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns. He would likely be in the top-10 range if he didn’t tear his ACL in the national title game, which means he might not be ready for training camp. Still, I don’t think he’s going to fall too far, because he’s a true No. 1 wideout when he’s healthy. This is good value for New England.”
Williams, who transferred to Alabama after Jones left, showed big-play ability this past season. His 19.9 receiving yards per reception was the best in the SEC and seventh-best in the FBS. His 15 receiving touchdowns also led the SEC and put him third in the FBS.
Williams’s ability to make big plays comes from his speed and route-running ability. Williams didn’t run an official 40-yard dash in college and won’t run at the combine due to his injury, so we don’t know exactly how fast he is now. But he did run a 4.4 40-yard dash in high school, and it’s reasonable to think he’s even quicker now.
Williams stands well at 6-foot-2. With his lean frame (189 pounds), height, speed, and route-running ability in mind, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlien compared Williams to Dolphins receiver Will Fuller.
In his second mock draft of the season, McShay has the Patriots going a different route compared to his colleagues. While the Patriots’ secondary had a relatively strong season, McShay made a sound reason as to why the Patriots could select Gordon (or another cornerback) in the first round.
“The Patriots were second in passing yards allowed per game (187.1), tied for second in yards allowed per pass attempt (6.4), and second in interceptions (23). And they were one of three teams to keep opponents under 60% completion percentage. But the back seven could lose several starters to free agency, including cornerback J.C. Jackson, safety Devin McCourty, and linebacker D’onta Hightower,” McShay wrote. “It could also use an influx of speed in that area, of which Gordon has a ton. His versatility and ability to jump routes would also be welcome on one of the league’s top defenses — and he’d make the potential loss of Jackson a little easier to handle.
“Linebacker and safety are two other areas to watch, and I’d watch how the receiver class is playing out as New England nears its pick. Ohio State’s Chris Olave would give quarterback Mac Jones a smooth route runner with great separating speed. Alternatively, Alabama’s Jameson Williams will likely miss some time but could end up the top receiver in the class. Bill Belichick would find ways to get the ball into his hands.”
Gordon had a solid season at Washington this past year, recording two interceptions and seven passes defended to go along with 45 combined tackles (two for loss) and a forced fumble. Perhaps the greatest stat from Gordon’s days at Washington is that he didn’t allow a touchdown in 722 career coverage snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
As McShay alluded to, Gordon’s a high-end athlete. Prior to the 2021 season, The Athletic’s Bruce Feldman highlighted Gordon in his annual Freaks List, which showcases college football players around the country who display “rare physical abilities that wow even those who observe gifted athletes every day.”
“The 6-foot, 200-pound junior, who has a background in dance, kung fu, and ballet, has added five more pounds of bulk this offseason but still retained his unreal flexibility and jumping ability,” Feldman wrote of Gordon. “Gordon has vertical jumped 42.5 and clocked a mercurial pro agility time of 3.87 seconds.”
Kelly also has the Patriots selecting a receiver with the No. 21 overall pick, but he has them selecting one of the two Ohio State wideouts that are expected to go in the first round.
“The Patriots haven’t exactly had a ton of success in drafting first-round receivers, but they still need to upgrade that position badly,” Kelly wrote. “Olave is a polished, highly productive pass catcher who can provide a field-stretching presence and the ability to get separation in high-leverage situations. He’s a game-ready playmaker who’d provide a boost for Mac Jones.”
Olave didn’t have the eye-popping stats that Williams had this past season, but he still had a really good year. He caught 65 passes for 936 yards with 13 touchdowns in 12 games. Unlike Williams though, he produced for several years in college, catching 35 touchdown passes to break David Boston’s record for the most in Ohio State history.
He doesn’t have the big-play potential that Williams has (with 11 of his receptions going for 20-plus yards this past season compared to Williams’s 24), however, he makes up for it in several other areas. Kelly praised Olave’s route-running ability, specifically how he runs a stop route and his also a fan of his hands and arms.
Olave has good speed, too. It appears he ran a 4.38 40-yard dash prior to the 2021 season. With all of that in mind, Kelly wrote that Olave has shades of Stefon Diggs to him.
Another mock draft that has the Patriots picking a wide receiver. Galina’s, though, has them picking someone different.
“The Patriots are bereft of receiver talent, so they select the quick and shifty Dotson,” Galina wrote. “Patriots receivers, outside of Jakobi Meyers, had a tough time separating against man coverage, and the Penn State product should help in that area. Dotson will give New England a deep threat who would pair nicely with some of the underneath and intermediate route runners already on the roster.”
Dotson put up tremendous numbers in his senior season, catching 91 passes for 1,182 yards with 12 touchdowns.
One of the main selling points for Dotson is his quickness. He reportedly ran a 4.33 40-yard dash prior to the 2021 season, which saw him getting named an All-American.
Dotson’s other selling point is his hands.
“I think he has the best hands in the draft,” Jeremiah told reporters on a conference call of Dotson. “He really attacks the football. He’s got an outstanding ability to adjust. He can catch it back hip, above the rim. You name it, he can do it. So he’s a really intriguing player to me.”
One of the few concerns with Dotson though is his size. He only stands at 5-foot-11 and weighs 184 pounds. Zierlien compared Dotson to Bills receiver (and longtime Patriots target) Emmanuel Sanders, classifying him as a “finesse receiver.”
Baumgardner took a different approach to his mock draft, listing one player each team could target on each side of the ball with their first-round pick. On defense, he has the Patriots potentially selecting Dean.
“All gas, no brakes. Don’t care what he tests; his tape is his tape,” Baumgardner wrote. “Dean played the game faster than any linebacker in college football last season, and that should translate just fine to the next level so long as there is a capable defensive front. He also needs to play in a scheme that takes advantage of his skill set.
“Nobody tinkers with elite traits better than Bill Belichick.”
Dean had a tremendous season as part of Georgia’s historic defense. He recorded 72 combined tackles (10.5 for loss), six sacks, and two interceptions en route to earning a first-team All-American nod.
As Baumgardner mentioned, a big reason for his impact was his speed. He ran an unofficial 4.52 40-yard dash in college, which would’ve made him the third-quickest inside linebacker in the 2021 draft.
There is some reason to think that he might not end up in New England, though. Bill Belichick has typically picked up linebackers who are 6-foot-2 and taller. Dean is only 6 feet tall and weighs 225 pounds, which puts him against the mold of a traditional Patriots linebacker.
Zierlien compared Dean to Steelers linebacker Devin Bush.
“Explosive, three-down linebacker with the demeanor and quickness to become a volume tackler while holding down third-down duties at a high level,” Zierlien wrote of Dean.
As for Olave, Baumgardner wrote “He’s ready to play right now. Not the freakiest Ohio State player, but the savviest.”
Most mock drafts at this time of the year only predict the first round. But Brugler did the top two rounds and has the Patriots filling two needs with their first two picks.
“Generally, Bill Belichick prefers bigger-bodied linebackers, but what Dean lacks in size he more than makes up for with play speed and football smarts,” Brugler wrote. “And anyone who watched the Patriots’ playoff loss to the Bills knows they need more of both at linebacker.”
Brugler didn’t provide analysis for the Metchie selection, but it’s easy to think why the Patriots would select him in the second round. The Alabama product had a strong 2021 season, catching 96 passes for 1,142 yards and eight touchdowns.
Metchie also has experience with catching passes from Mac Jones. In Jones’s lone season as a starter, Metchie caught 55 passes for 916 yards with six touchdowns, stepping up after Jaylen Waddle went down with a leg injury in 2020.
Metchie tore his ACL in December, which could hurt his draft stock. As a prospect, Metchie shows upside with his route running ability and experience running NFL-type routes under offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien. His downsides are that he’s relatively small (6-feet, 195 pounds) and speed (he ran a 4.6 40-yard dash in high school, but has presumably gotten quicker since then).
Zierlien projects Metchie to be a slot receiver in the NFL.
“Metchie has decent size but average play speed,” Zierlien wrote. “He’s proficient in more sophisticated routes but lacks explosiveness to separate and will have to prove he can become a more physical wideout to win contested catches at the pro level. He can play multiple receiver spots and has the ability to take what the scheme provides him.”
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