New England Patriots

Dec 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris (22) celebrates a touchdown with wide receiver Slade Bolden (18) and wide receiver John Metchie III (8) during the first quarter against the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As of Wednesday morning, seven of the Patriots pre-draft meetings have been made public – all with wide receivers. With the two new names added to the list on Wednesday, three of those seven have been with receivers from Alabama.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the Patriots plan to meet with projected first-round pick Jameson Williams at the Combine this week. A day later, two other top pass catchers from college football’s sixth-ranked offense have said themselves they met with the Patriots – John Metchie and Slade Bolden.

Unlike Williams, who transferred to Alabama from Ohio State last year, both Metchie and Bolden played with current Patriots quarterback Mac Jones in Tuscaloosa. Speaking with the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Metchie described his relationship with Jones as “really close” and said he thinks he and Jones playing together in the NFL “would be special.” Metchie said his meeting with the Patriots went “really well.”

Bolden shared a number of Patriots connections beyond his relationship with Jones – who was his roommate in 2020. He told reporters that he and Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who was the Patriots’ play-caller from 2009-2011, used to talk with him about how Wes Welker was used in New England’s offense. Welker isn’t the only former Patriots slot receiver Bolden has had an eye on, as he said he’s watched and modeled his game after Julian Edelman.

So Metchie and Bolden are both prototypical Patriots on paper – but how would they fit into the Patriots’ offense schematically? Here’s a quick scouting report on each of them…

Expect to hear both names plenty in relation to the Patriots as the pre-draft process rolls on. In fact, we had Metchie in our first Patriots mock draft, which you can find below.

Patriots Mock Draft 1.0: Getting the offseason started

  • With Super Bowl LVI in the books, it’s officially the NFL offseason. What better way to start than with our first Patriots seven-round mock draft?

    While the Patriots don’t have quite as many glaring needs as they did this time last year, there still are a number of different directions they can go both in the draft and free agency. Because free agency – both internal and external – comes first chronologically, there are some assumptions made here about the kind of moves they’ll make.

    In addition, the full official draft order has yet to be released. There are still compensation picks and conditional picks to be formally awarded. For the purpose of this mock draft, we used PFF’s projected compensation pick formula. That all being said, it’s a great time of year to start looking at the landscape draft board big picture, which we’ll do here. Let’s get started…

    Round 1, Pick 21: TRADE

    Jan 2, 2022; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick watches from the sideline as they take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Patriots get:

    –37th overall pick (2nd round)

    –68th overall pick (3rd round)

    –2023 4th-round pick

    Texans get:

    –21st overall pick (1st round)

    Before you roll your eyes too hard, just know that given the layout of this draft class and the Patriots’ positioning, this is a great spot to move down. The true upper-echelon of this class is about 15-16 players. For an excess of talent, the sweet spot this year is the second and third rounds. By making this deal, the Patriots add a top-100 pick doubling their chances in that range.

    The structure of this trade is similar to one the Patriots made back in 2020, moving down from the 23rd overall pick to acquire picks 37 (Kyle Dugger) and 71 (traded again, eventually turned into Josh Uche and Dalton Keene) from the Los Angeles Chargers. By the Bill Belichick trade chart, the Patriots would be giving up 261 points worth of picks and receiving 253. It’s a smaller deficit than the 2020 trade, which saw them give up 245 for 230.

  • Round 2, Pick 37: OT Bernhard Raimann, Central Michigan

    Feb 1, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; National offensive lineman Bernhard Raimann of Central Michigan (76) works with a coach during National practice for the 2022 Senior Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

    Left tackle has never really been a question for the Patriots under Belichick. Since 2001, they’ve had just three players man the position, pending injuries. Matt Light had the keys from 2001-2011, then Nate Solder was drafted in 2011 but took over in 2012 and stayed in the role until 2017. In 2018 the team took Isaiah Wynn in the first round, and outside of a preseason injury is rookie year, the job has been his since.

    With Wynn entering the final year of his deal and Trent Brown a pending free agent, could Belichick look to pass the torch once again? If so, Raimann is the kind of player that fits the mold. He’s got the size at 6-foot-7, 305 pounds, which he pairs with surprising athleticism. Like Solder, he’s a converted tight end, so he should be able to fill out his frame more once in an NFL weight program. He’s also a Senior Bowl participant, as were Light, Solder, and Wynn.

    All of that being said, Raimann is still raw both physically and technically. After all, he’s only played tackle for two years. However with Wynn still under contract for one more year, the Patriots would have time to work with him. Given their success developing offensive linemen in recent years, that would have to be considered an encouraging setup. There’s also evidence Raimann is a quick learner – in his first full year playing tackle in 2021, he missed just one snap in 12 games and allowed only three quarterback hits and one sack.

  • Round 2, Pick 54: LB Quay Walker, Georgia

    Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy is sacked by Georgia linebacker Quay Walker during the second half of U-M’s 34-11 loss in the Orange Bowl on Friday, Dec. 31, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Florida.

    There’s been a lot of talk about the Patriots adding a more athletic, true east-west linebacker this offseason. Luckily for the team, there are a number of player in the draft this year who fit that description. In this mock, they end up with Walker.

    While Walker isn’t built like the typical Patriots linebacker, he’s hardly small. He pairs his athleticism with a 6-foot-4, 240 pound frame that allows him to be a contributor downhill in the running game. At the same time, he can play sideline-to-sideline curtailing mobile quarterbacks or contributing in coverage.

    Playing in the middle of a stacked Georgia defense, Walker still found away to stand out production-wise. In 2021, he recorded 65 tackles, with 5.5 for a loss, along with three pass breakups in 13 games.

  • TRADE

    INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA – DECEMBER 18: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on during the second quarter against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 18, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

    Patriots get:

    –64th overall pick (2nd round)

    –226th overall pick (7th round)

    Broncos get:

    –68th overall pick (3rd round)

    –2023 6th-round pick (from CAR)

    “Three second-round picks in one draft?” It’s actually not as out of character as it seems at first. The Patriots have made made at least three picks in the second round twice under Belichick – including four in 2009.

    On the Belichick trade chart, the Patriots give up 79 points worth of picks and recoup 81 here. That sixth-round pick is the one the team received for Stephon Gilmore back in October.

    Why such a short jump up the draft board though? The Patriots have their eyes set on a certain receiver for their next pick, but there are a couple of teams at the top of the third round who also could take him. To make sure that doesn’t happen, the Patriots make a small but significant move to the final pick of the second round…

  • Round 2, Pick 64: WR John Metchie, Alabama

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA – SEPTEMBER 04: John Metchie III #8 of the Alabama Crimson Tide takes this reception upfield against the Miami Hurricanesduring the first half of the Chick-fil-A Kick-Off Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on September 04, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Metchie’s situation is an interesting one. Just two months ago, he was a legitimate candidate to be the first wide receiver off the board in 2022. However, a torn ACL in the SEC Championship Game has changed all of that. While he still may be able to play in 2022, he certainly won’t be ready for training camp, never mind the start of the season.

    That could make Metchie an attractive target for teams like the Jaguars and Lions – picking 65th and 66th – who can play the long game with a talented player. Yet Metchie’s familiarity with Mac Jones – he caught 55 passes for 916 yards from Jones at Alabama in 2020 – should lessen the learning curve and make the Patriots more inclined to make the pick.

    Plus, the Patriots may not mind drafting a talented player then waiting out his injury situation. The team did exactly that last year when they took Michigan linebacker Cameron McGrone, knowing he wouldn’t play in 2021.

    Once Metchie does get on the field, he projects to be exactly the kind of receiver the Patriots need. He’s explosive both as a route runner and with the ball in his hands, and can line up all over the formation. If his college production and the past success of Alabama wide receivers in the NFL are any indication, he’d be worth the wait.

  • Round 3, Pick 85: WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada

    Nov 13, 2021; Carson, California, USA; Nevada Wolf Pack wide receiver Romeo Doubs (7) catches a pass for a touchdown against the San Diego State Aztecs during the second half at Dignity Health Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

    As mentioned above, Metchie likely won’t be able to play right away. Given the high price of free agents at the position, the Patriots instead double-dip in the draft to get Mac Jones some more immediate help.

    In Doubs – who they met with at the Senior Bowl – the Patriots would get another versatile threat. Slightly bigger than Metchie at 6-foot-2, Doubs is more of a typical ‘X’ receiver. He was a constant producer for the Wolfpack this year, catching 80 passes for 1,109 yards and 11 touchdowns. With those numbers, he was named All-Mountain West First-Team. He also returned 12 punts averaging 14.2 yards per return.

    Doubs’ raw speed and ability to win 50/50 balls make him a downfield threat, but he’s also dangerous with the ball in his hands. He’s best when catching the ball around the line of scrimmage on screens or quick hitters, or way down the field as a deep threat. That skill set makes him an excellent compliment to the strong intermediate pass catchers the Patriots already have in place like Jakobi Meyers and Hunter Henry.

  • Round 4, Pick 123: TRADE

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 31: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA – OCTOBER 31: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on in the third quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

    Patriots get:

    –147th overall pick (5th round)

    –199th overall pick (6th round, from LV)

    –2023 7th-round pick

    Panthers get:

    –123rd overall (4th round)

    With so many players opting out of the COVID season in 2020 and returning to school in 2021, this draft is significantly deeper than usual. As such, the Patriots move back 23 spots to add assets in later rounds. By coincidence, they also pick up the Brady pick. This deal is nearly even on the trade chart, at 21-20.

  • Round 5, Pick 177: P Matt Araiza, San Diego State

    Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs kicker Matt Araiza (2) punts during the fourth quarter against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

    Jake Bailey has been excellent for the Patriots since being drafted in 2019, but there are a couple of things to know about his status heading into this offseason. First, his cap number for 2022 – the final year of his rookie contract – is just over $4 million, per PatsCap. That would be the second-highest cap hit for a punter across the league next season.

    The Patriots could extend Bailey to cut that number down, but that move would be a significant historical outlier. This is a trend that predates Belichick – the Patriots have had just one punter play for the team under two consecutive contracts since Rich Camarillo in the mid-80’s, with Ryan Allen signing an extension mid-way through his rookie UDFA deal. If the Patriots move on from Bailey, his dead cap number is under $100K.

    As good as Bailey has been, would the Patriots move on from him a year early with a truly generational punting prospect on the board? They did release a great punter in Allen for Bailey, who was also an upper-tier prospect.

    Araiza – who has said he models his game after Bailey – set a new NCAA record averaging 51.2 yards per punt in 2021, including a record 39 punts of 50-plus yards and 18 of 60-plus, with two kicks traveling over 80 yards (neither was returned, both were downed inside the 15). Oh, and he’s a lefty.

    In addition, Araiza handled field goal duties for the Aztecs all three years on campus, hitting 50-of-68 field goals with a long of 53 yards, and 96-of-97 extra points. Simply put, he is a field position weapon.

  • Round 6, Pick 199: CB Jaylen Watson, Washington State

    Feb 5, 2022; Mobile, AL, USA; National Squad cornerback Jaylen Watson of Washington State (0) breaks up a pass intended for American squad wide receiver Jalen Tolbert of South Alabama (8) in the first half at Hancock Whitney Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

    Assuming J.C. Jackson is retained at least through the franchise tag, cornerback becomes a less pressing need. Plus, the way this cornerback group is structured doesn’t exactly favor the Patriots. The three elite players should be off the board before the 21st pick, and there’s not a huge separation in value between the projected Day 2 and Day 3 groups. That, plus the team’s strong history of developing late-round and UDFA corners, allows them to be patient.

    They end up with Watson, who is absolutely a prototype fit. At 6-foot-2, 207 pounds, Watson likes to play up at the line of scrimmage and bully receivers on their release. He’s got the speed to match the physicality with a reported 4.46 40. While his coverage techniques transitioning off the line have room for improvement, that’s something the team can teach him.

    In 15 games over the last two years, Watson was incredibly productive for the Cougars. Only one wide receiver – projected first-round pick Drake London – had over 45 yards in a game with him in coverage. Yet even if he can’t match that production in the NFL, his rangy athleticism and hard-hitting nature could lead to success as a safety.

    There are some other nuances to Watson’s game the Patriots would likely value. He also played a significant role on special teams in college as a punt returner and gunner. In high school, he played both cornerback and wide receiver – similar to Jackson. The Patriots have valued players with multi-position experience in the past.

  • Round 6, Pick 209: DT Marquan McCall, Kentucky

    Kentucky nose guard Marquan McCall (50) reacts after a stop during a NCAA college football game in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl against Iowa, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022, at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.

    The Patriots were better against the run in 2021 than they were in 2020, but there’s still room to improve. Knowing that, the team grabs McCall in the sixth round.

    At 6-foot-3, 346 pounds (down from 379 last year), McCall is every bit the space-eating run stopper you’d expect. He had 10.5 tackles for a loss in 31 career games for the Wildcats. When he’s not making the play, he can occupy multiple blockers to free defenders at the second level. He was also a team captain last season.

    McCall, who was originally recruited to Kentucky as an offensive guard, doesn’t offer much in terms of pass rush ability and will be an early down player at the pro level. That, along with a mid-season ankle injury, is why he’s still on the board here. But the Patriots have a need he can fill and fill well, so he’s off to New England.

  • Round 7, Pick 226: S JT Woods, Baylor

    NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – JANUARY 01: JT Woods #22 of the Baylor Bears breaks up a pass intended for Urriah Shephard #35 of the Mississippi Rebels during the first quarter in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on January 01, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

    Current reports indicate Devin McCourty plans to return to the NFL in 2022, and it’s hard to imagine him playing anywhere but New England. So while the task of finding the next free safety isn’t exactly urgent, it couldn’t hurt to get started.

    Enter Woods, who’s one of the few free safeties in this draft. Simply put, Woods knows how to find the football. In 23 games over the last two years, ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ recorded eight interceptions and three pass breakups. He also had a pick at the Senior Bowl. At the same time, Woods can come up and make plays near the line of scrimmage, and had 4.5 tackles for a loss last year. He’s expected to run in the 4.3’s at the combine, and that speed shows with how much ground he can cover on a single play.

    Woods needs to play the game smoother, and his aggression can get the better of him at times. Not ideal issues for a safety, but hardly ones that can’t be fixed – especially if he gets to play with and learn from a guy like McCourty. A project player with impact potential, Woods is exactly the kind of player teams look for in the seventh round.

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Alex Barth is a writer and digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Looking for a podcast guest? Let him know on Twitter @RealAlexBarth or via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.