Patriots

New mock draft has Patriots taking BC’s Zion Johnson in first round of 2022 NFL Draft

Johnson might be the best offensive player left on the board for the Patriots at No. 21 if other teams snap up top wide receivers.

Zion Johnson Boston College Patriots
Boston College offensive lineman Zion Johnson. AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
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No one yet knows how the 2022 NFL Draft will shake out, but the Patriots should have their pick of impact talent at the No. 21 overall pick should they choose to remain there.

But while most experts are focused on positions like cornerback, wide receiver, or linebacker for the Patriots in the first round, a new mock draft suggests the team could focus on a different position of need on Day 1 of the draft.

In The Athletic’s “NFL beat writer” mock draft, Patriots writer Matthew Fairburn and Dane Brugler mocked Boston College guard Zion Johnson to the Patriots with the No. 21 pick, citing a run on other key positions before New England’s turn on the clock.

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By this point, as Fairburn notes, receivers like Chris Olave and Treylon Burks and dynamic Georgia defensive tackles Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt have already come off the board, leading the Patriots to grab arguably the best player still available.

“Johnson checks every box the Patriots look for in their offensive linemen,” Fairburn writes. “He’s versatile and smart enough to have handled multiple positions in college. He was a two-time captain for the Eagles. And most importantly, he’s a mauling guard who could start immediately.

“Guard isn’t a flashy pick, but the positional value isn’t a problem at the end of the first round. Not for a player with Johnson’s ability.”

In such a scenario, Johnson would become the first guard taken by Belichick in the first round since Logan Mankins in 2005.

Brugler also notes Johnson is shaping up to be the first interior offensive lineman off the board with several tackles already having been drafted by this point.

“He has all the traits to be a long-time starting guard in the NFL with his play strength, balance and intelligence. I’ve heard rave reviews from teams when they get Johnson on the whiteboard, something that will certainly appeal to Belichick and his staff.”

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As much as Patriots fans might prefer a wide receiver — any wide receiver — or a cornerback here, Johnson’s special athletic traits and solid technique make him a perfectly explainable pick at No. 21, especially given the offense’s hole at the guard position following loss of Ted Karras and the Shaq Mason trade.

It is notable that star Alabama receiver Jameson Williams goes to the Green Bay Packers with the very next pick in this mock draft — ESPN’s Mel Kiper has mocked Williams to the Patriots on several occasions. But Johnson arguably fills a more pressing need for New England, like it or not, than Williams does, especially when accounting for the receiver’s likely unavailability for all of 2022 due to his ACL injury.

There’s always a chance the Patriots trade back to recoup an extra pick or two if possible. But passing up a player like Johnson, who can protect Mac Jones and pave the way for a run game that will likely be counted on heavily again this season, would be a tough call.

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