Now that New England is officially in the post-Tom-Brady era, and the team has seen a fleet of linebackers leave in free agency, the areas of need are clearer. Let’s preface this seven-round mock draft by saying, no one besides Bill Belichick knows what the team is going to do in 2020.
Heck, none of us really knows how much the Coronavirus will impact the beginning of the season. We do know the NFL Draft is set to take place April 23-25, though it will be done in a studio rather than in Las Vegas as originally planned.
With that established, here is an educated guess at what the Patriots will do with their 12 draft picks. There are no trades in this scenario, but that’s always a strong possibility.
First Round – No. 23 – Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
With the departure of Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts and Jamie Collins, you could make the argument linebacker is now the Patriots’ biggest position of need. You could also argue this is the position Belichick evaluates and drafts as well, or better than anyone.
Baun is a high IQ, big-motor player with decent size (6’2″ 238 pounds) and great intangibles. He’s the type of player who will play faster than his 40 time (4.65) and could help anchor a defense. Ultimately, he might make Dont’a Hightower expendable. For now, he could fit alongside him in multiple roles on the second level of the Patriots’ defense.
Third Round – No. 87 – Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
Trautman might fall victim to lower-level competition bias, but his ability to move after the catch and find soft areas in a zone appear to be real. It’s easy to imagine him being a contributor up the seams.
He won’t be handed anything, but if the Pats select him, he’d have a good opportunity to build chemistry with likely starting QB Jarrett Stidham. The question is: will he play fast against NFL athletes?
Third Round – No. 98 – Jake Hanson, C, Oregon
With Ted Karras leaving for the Miami Dolphins, the Patriots are left with David Andrews as the only real option at center. Andrews is a strong player, but he missed all of 2019 with a blood clotting issue.
The Patriots need insurance in the event Andrews misses more time. They also need depth overall. Hanson isn’t one of the elite center prospects, but he’s a capable blocker, leader and four-year starter from a top-notch collegiate program.
Quite honestly, the Pats should be thrilled if LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry slips to them here.
Third Round – No. 100 – Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
Pride has excellent speed (4.40 40-time) and overall athleticism, but there are some questions about other mental areas of his game. Perhaps if coached up properly, there is another level to his game that can be unlocked.
This is a risky prediction because some of the alerts might appear to be a contrast to what the Patriots notoriously look for in prospects. However, the Pats could stand to get younger at corner, and Pride has the physical tools, and this is seemingly a good spot in the draft for him to hear his name called.
Fourth Round – No. 125 – Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
The Patriots might be ready to hand the reins over to Stidham, but they still have to bring in another young QB, just in case. As of now, all the team has at QB is Stidham and journeyman Cody Kessler. Stanley has experience in a pro-style offense, and he has the arm strength to excel in the NFL.
He still seems raw to most talent evaluators and in need of developing. He could get that development and time to mature in New England and could ultimately be in a position to be Stidham’s backup into the future, or even push him for the starting position if things pan out over the next few years.
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Fifth Round – No. 172 – WR – Lynn Bowden, Kentucky – A super versatile, do-it-all slot receiver with athleticism, but who needs to work on route running and other fundamentals. However, he has some game-breaking potential. He’s like a slightly slower Percy Harvin who has even played some QB.
Sixth Round – No. 195 – LB – Davion Taylor, Colorado – On pure athleticism, Taylor is a top-tier prospect. However, he’s a tweener at 6’0″ 228 pounds. However, he might be the kind of player Belichick plays like a hybrid ala Patrick Chung, only Taylor is bigger and stronger with excellent speed (4.49 on the 40).
Sixth Round – No. 204 – OT – Brandon Bowen, Ohio State – Bowen was looking forward to shining at Ohio State’s Pro Day, but he didn’t get a chance to because of the Coronavirus shutdowns. Still, Bowen’s size and experience with a dominant program are attractive. This would be a depth selection with the hopes of it panning out to more down the road.
Sixth Round – No. 212 – TE – Devin Asiasi, UCLA – Asiasi has to work on his conditioning, but he can be a threat after the catch. He can make the Patriots’ squad and given the opportunity could be a contributor.
Sixth Round – No. 213 – S – Brian Cole II, Mississippi State – After running a solid 4.52 40 at the Combine, Cole created an opportunity for himself to stick on a squad.
Seventh Round – No. 230 – OLB/DE – Keisean Lucier-South, UCLA – He’s not big for an edge rusher at 6’4″ 239 pounds, and KLS appears to play a bit stiff. However, his play recognition is strong. The real question is whether he’s an NFL athlete.
Seventh Round – No. 241 – WR – Malcolm Perry, Navy – He was converted from QB to a slot receiver, which sounds similar to Julian Edelman’s story. This late in the draft, teams are just hoping to find someone who can make their team.