4 post-Combine thoughts on the Patriots’ 2022 NFL Draft outlook

The Patriots might be better served not drafting a first-round receiver, plus a few positions and players New England should look at that might fly under the radar.

Patriots NFL Combine Jordan Davis
If Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis falls far enough, the Patriots might have to consider him with their first pick in the draft. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
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Any Patriots fan worried about the team only holding the No. 21 pick in the first round of this year’s draft can rest a bit easier after watching the NFL Combine this weekend. What transpired over the previous four days might have just been the most insane combine workout we’ve ever seen.

In fact, the event produced the fastest average 40-yard dash time (4.71 seconds) of all time and the most players to break the 4.4 barrier ever (31).

But lest you think it was just about 40 times, you also had 340-pound defensive linemen broad-jumping more than 10 feet and measuring in with the wingspans of pterosaurs. So there’s that.


The bottom line: the Patriots will have a shot at a very talented option at No. 21 should they choose to remain there. That said, it’s not necessarily clear at this point that they need to or that New England will draft the position everyone expects/wants them to with their first pick (wherever that is).

Here are a few thoughts as we wrap up the 2022 NFL Combine.

Put a pin in a first-round receiver — for now.

Let’s not take this as an indictment on the wide receiver class. In fact, this may be a tribute to how deep it is.

But it’s probably less likely than ever now that the Patriots take a receiver in the first round.

Sure, Ohio State’s Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave crushed their combine workouts, with both running sub-4.4 40s and looking smooth in position drills. Treylon Burks, arguably the second-best receiver in the draft, might fall a bit after not running an amazing 40 time. Mega-explosive Jameson Williams, who’s recovering from an ACL injury, might be there if the Patriots want to pair an Alabama receiver with Mac Jones.

However, you could argue the defensive players the Patriots could end up getting at No. 21 are simply better than what they’d get there at receiver. Also, there are so many good options at receiver that it’s simply not necessary to take one in the first round. For example, possibly getting Alabama’s John Metchie (whom Jones had great chemistry with in college) in the second round at some point is a better value than taking Olave or Williams in the first.


Plus, New England just overhauled its receiver room last season and will probably have Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, and Hunter Henry in place for next year. There’s even buzz the team could explore a trade for a veteran receiver (like Carolina’s Robby Anderson) while possibly moving on from Nelson Agholor.

Assuming the Patriots bring in at least one veteran, whether via free agency or trade, there’s little incentive for them to spend a first-round pick at receiver given the other holes on the roster.

Kaiir Elam might be the best early fit for the Patriots at cornerback.

Speaking of roster holes, cornerback might be the most glaring problem the Patriots have to address this season.

Even if J.C Jackson stays, the team shouldn’t simply be comfortable going into a season with Jalen Mills as its second outside corner. But with consensus growing that Jackson won’t receive the franchise tag and is likely to leave in free agency, the team must draft at least one potential starter at cornerback (in addition to maybe signing a solid veteran like Carlton Davis).

The Patriots clearly still want to play a lot of man coverage even after showing last season they can switch things up from time to time. With that in mind, there might not be a better fit for this team on Days 1 and 2 than Florida’s Kaiir Elam.


He’s got all the size (6-foot-2, 191 pounds), length (nearly 31-inch arms) needed to succeed on the boundary as a press-cover corner. Add his blazing 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine to that, and you have a majorly intriguing prospect that could develop into a good NFL starter soon. What’s more: you can look at his performance against guys like Alabama’s Williams and Metchie as signs he can stick with elite talent on the outside.

As an interviewer, Elam also stood out both at the podium and in discussions with other teams. Of the cloud of cornerbacks the Patriots could take at that spot, the former Gator might be the best for what New England wants to do defensively.

Unless, somehow Derek Stingley ended up falling far enough in the draft after a lackluster workout…

Don’t sleep on other defensive positions early.

Cornerback is, of course, the most premium of the positions the Patriots can attack at their draft position. But again, sometimes it’s about taking the best player available at your spot instead of simply picking a player at a position of need (though no one completely ignores position).

With that in mind, here are two players New England would have to give some very strong thought to if they fell to No. 21: Devin Lloyd and Jordan Davis.

Lloyd, of course, has been mocked to the Patriots a couple of times and plays linebacker, a position the team does need to upgrade. But the idea of him falling to No. 21 felt a lot more dubious until his 40 time (4.66) came in slower than perhaps was expected.


Still, his short-area quickness and strength still project well as an off-ball linebacker, and that’s not even getting to what he can do as a pass-rusher. In some ways, one can see him being a mini-Dont’a Hightower that defense can move around on the defense. He’s just a good football player, and the Patriots love those.

Davis, meanwhile, might secretly be a mutant bird of prey, with ungodly testing numbers (4.78 40, 10-foot-3-inch broad jump) for a guy who stands over 6-foot-6 and weighs 341 pounds. People keep talking about him being “limited” to the first two downs, but there’s no reason to think a guy with his skills can’t dominate on passing downs, too.

He and Christian Barmore next to each other could honestly make the Patriots a truly horrifying defensive front. If Davis is gone and, say, New England traded down, his fellow Bulldog teammate Travon Walker is on a similar level of insanity as a defensive line/end prospect.

The Patriots will end with more picks than they started with.

All this talk about trading down might seem ridiculous given the potential to still grab an excellent prospect at No. 21 overall or at other points on Day 2 and 3 of the draft.

But the Patriots’ draft situation isn’t exactly sterling this season with the team owning just six draft picks overall. Furthermore, New England wouldn’t get a compensatory pick for J.C. Jackson until the 2023 draft if they did let him walk this year.

With several spots on both sides of the ball needing youth and explosiveness, grabbing more bites of the apple might be preferred if they don’t have a prospect at No. 21 they absolutely love.


For example, the Patriots could conceivably select a receiver like Olave, Burks or Williams (if you trust his medicals enough) or a cornerback like Elam, Trent McDuffie of Washington or Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr at No. 21. But one could argue you could get a player with similar potential (or perhaps a player from that group) a few picks later in the first round while picking up another possible Day 1 contributor in the second or third round.

Don’t forget, also, that New England does still need to add depth on the offensive line with a lot of future uncertainty at both tackle and guard spots.

The team will undoubtedly add a piece or two in free agency, whether that means bringing in a new receiver (or two) or re-signing Trent Brown and/or Ted Karras. But make no mistake: there’s a lot riding on this draft as far as what this team can do to maximize this early window with Mac Jones. Scooping up some extra picks along the way could be the best way to do that.


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