New England Patriots

Jabrill Peppers #21 of the New York Giants warms up before a game against the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium on October 24, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The Patriots continue to search for defensive versatility and speed on the free-agent market. They’re hosting another potential addition on Monday.

According to Field Yates, the Patriots met with free-agent safety Jabrill Peppers on Monday. The 26-year-old looks to find a new team after an ACL injury ended his 2021 season in Week 7.

Peppers is a versatile defender with speed from the safety position. He played two seasons with the Browns after Cleveland selected him in the first round in 2017. Peppers played the last three seasons with the New York Giants, two of which under former head coach Joe Judge, who is now an offensive assistant with the Patriots.

Peppers burst onto the national scene in college as a standout athlete, making plays on offense, defense, and special teams throughout his career at Michigan. During his last full season in 2020 with he Giants, Peppers tallied 91 tackles with a fumble recovery, 11 passes defended, and an interception.

The Patriots most recently brought back cornerback Malcolm Butler for a second stint in New England. It appears they may not be done adding to their secondary.

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Bill Belichick fields questions on Malcolm Butler, free agency and more

  • It’s been a while since reporters have had direct access to Belichick, and there’s plenty to ask the Patriots head coach about since the start of the 2022 off-season. Belichick was his typical concise self, but took the time at the NFL league meeting to field questions about the whole range of Patriots topics. Here are the most notable things Belichick addressed, in so many words.

    On the return of Malcolm Butler…

    Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots reacts with Eric Rowe #25 after intercepting Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams during the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    Malcolm Butler #21 of the New England Patriots reacts with Eric Rowe #25 after intercepting Jared Goff #16 of the Los Angeles Rams during the first half at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    On re-signing Butler: “He indicated a desire to play this year, and we worked through the process with Malcolm like we do with every player. Obviously we know him, but he came up [for a visit] and, so, we signed him. Look forward to having him back.”

    On Super Bowl LII: “That’s all old news.”

    On his relationship with Butler now: “Good, great, glad to have him back.”

  • On free agency…

    Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Buffalo Bills during the first half in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Buffalo Bills during the first half in the AFC Wild Card playoff game at Highmark Stadium on January 15, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)

    On the lack of spending this year: “Spent a lot of money last year. Those guys are all young, they’re under contract.”

    On the future outlook for the roster: “I think some of the players that we have on the roster, hopefully, will take a step up. But we’ll see. We’ll have other players, there will be new players here. See what happens with them.”

  • On the offensive coaching staff…

    Head Coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants leaves the field after being defeated by the Washington Football Team 22-7 at MetLife Stadium on January 09, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    Head Coach Joe Judge of the New York Giants leaves the field after being defeated by the Washington Football Team 22-7 at MetLife Stadium on January 09, 2022 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

    On Joe Judge and Matt Patricia coaching the offense: “Great to have Joe Judge back, and Matt [Patricia], of course. They’re two really good coaches, along with some of the other coaches we have offensively, [tight ends coach] Nick Caley, [wide receivers/kick returners coach] Troy [Brown], and so forth, guys that were here last year. We’re working through it. [We’ll] do the best we can here.”

    On replacing Josh McDaniels: “I think Matt and Joe are pretty good coaches. Josh is a great coach, but we’ve gone through that in multiple years.”

    On the assistants’ specific roles: “Everybody will have a defined role, like they always do. Again, the off-season’s the off-season. Once we get to getting on the field, coaching the players, game-planning and things like that, that’ll all work itself out.”

    On who’s calling the offensive plays: “We won’t be calling any for a while. I don’t know any games that are on.”

    On giving official titles: “I’m not big on titles. We have jobs to do. We’ll do the jobs.”

  • On Matt Patricia’s role…

    Senior football advisor Matt Patricia of the New England Patriots stands on the field before their game against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    Senior football advisor Matt Patricia of the New England Patriots stands on the field before their game against the Dallas Cowboys at Gillette Stadium on October 17, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    “Broad role, very broad. He does a lot of things, helps me a lot of ways. … He does a lot of things, he has a lot of experience, he’s done things when he was here and of course he had experience in Detroit, then last year, things like the COVID rules and that type of thing. Matt’s had a lot of different roles for us. Like I said, he’s been a big help to me and the organization.”

  • On new Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh…

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gestures to quarterback Mac Jones (not pictured) against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 6, 2021; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick gestures to quarterback Mac Jones (not pictured) against the Buffalo Bills during the second half at Highmark Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

    “Matt’s done a tremendous job for us. Very smart, very detailed. Obviously has a great football background with his dad, his family, growing up in football. Scouted multiple areas for us. He’s had multiple responsibilities, from area scouts on the west coast, to the southeast. Regional scout, national scout, and really put the draft together last year as the director of college scouting.

    “With Dave [Ziegler] leaving, I feel like he’s the best person to step into the personnel job, and he’s done a great job. He’s as good as anybody we’ve had in that position.”

  • On Tom Brady un-retiring…

    Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

    Jan 23, 2022; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady (12) reacts during the first half against the Los Angeles Rams in a NFC Divisional playoff football game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

    “You’ll have to talk to Tom about all that. But Tom’s played a long time, nothing he does surprises me.”

  • On the Shaq Mason trade…

    Shaq Mason of the New England Patriots gets ready for a play in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

    Shaq Mason of the New England Patriots gets ready for a play in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on October 31, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images)

    “Felt like that was in the best interest [of] the team.”

  • On whether they tried to keep JC Jackson…

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson (27) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots defensive back J.C. Jackson (27) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    “Sure, we talked to all our players, we talked to all our free-agent players, we re-signed quite a few and some we didn’t re-sign.”

  • On the Brian Flores lawsuit…

    Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins takes the field during introductions prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

    Head coach Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins takes the field during introductions prior to the game against the New England Patriots at Hard Rock Stadium on January 09, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

    “I can’t comment on it.”

  • On potential changes to overtime rules…

    Oct 17, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) makes the catch and runs the ball for the game winning touchdown against the New England Patriots in overtime at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 17, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; Dallas Cowboys wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (88) makes the catch and runs the ball for the game winning touchdown against the New England Patriots in overtime at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

    “There was a little bit of discussion [Sunday]. I’m sure there will be more discussion, see what everybody has to say. … I mean, there’s a lot of different arguments for various proposals, gonna sort them out here.”

  • On re-signing Trent Brown…

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 19, 2021; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA; New England Patriots offensive tackle Trent Brown (77) against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

    “Good to have Trent Brown back, yeah, glad we were able to work it out. Glad we were able to work it out with all the players we re-signed. … He played well when he played [in 2021], he missed half the year, so hopefully we’ll be able to get more play time from him this year. But, he’s a quality player.”

  • On Josh McDaniels leaving for the Raiders and taking others with him…

    Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots stands on the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Josh McDaniels of the New England Patriots stands on the field prior to the game against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on November 18, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    “Yeah, no. I mean, Josh is a great coach. I’m sure that he feels like it’s a great opportunity, that’s why he took it. Other than against us, I hope he does well. I’m sure he will do well. He’s an outstanding coach and some of the people that are with him, they’re very good, too. But it all worked out well.

    “It was an opportunity we couldn’t provide. He’ll be hard to replace, but like I said, I feel like we have really good coaches on our staff and that’s what we’ll do.”


Patriots Mock Draft 2.0: Post-free agency edition

  • As the dust settles from the first wave of NFL free agency, it feels like it’s time to update our Patriots seven-round mock draft. We published our first Patriots mock the day after the Super Bowl, and it’s safe to say a lot has changed since then.

    When talking about the Patriots’ approach to the draft, the phrase ‘best player available’ comes up often. When the roster is pretty much set, the team can sit back and see which talented players end up in an unexpected fall.

    That may not be the case this year, with numerous holes still in the starting lineup. In his weekly Sunday column, ESPN’s Mike Reiss highlighted the reality that “this year feels different” and that “Bill Belichick and his staff still have a lot of work to do” on the roster which could “potentially telegraph[s] their intentions in the draft.”

    Last season, the Patriots added a trio of immediate impact players in Mac Jones, Rhamondre Stevenson, and Christian Barmore. It seems reasonable to think that the mostly-unchanged front office – which held onto the top two executives on the draft side of things in Matt Groh and Eliot Wolf – believes they can repeat that feat at other positions in 2022.

    Keeping all of that in mind, here’s a stab at what the Patriots’ draft board could look like in a few weeks…

  • Round 1, Pick 21: Trade

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 26: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – DECEMBER 26: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on from the sidelines during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on December 26, 2021 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Malhotra/Getty Images)

    Patriots get:

    –31st overall pick (1st round)
    –63rd overall pick (2nd round)
    –226th overall pick (7th round)

    Bengals get:

    –21st overall pick (21st overall)

    That’s right, we’re starting with another trade down. The top tier of this class is about 17 or 18 players deep, with not much separation between the next 50. With none of the blue-chippers left on the board, the Patriots take advantage of the linemen-needy Bengals and move down to add an extra top-100 pick while still remaining in the first round.

    The Patriots win this trade on the Bill Belichick trade chart, which is typically the case for teams moving down. Belichick & Co. give up 261 points worth of picks, and take in 275.

  • Round 1, Pick 31: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida

    Florida Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam (5) in coverage against Florida Atlantic Owls wide receiver Je'Quan Burton (82) during a game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla. Sept. 4, 2021.

    Florida Gators cornerback Kaiir Elam (5) in coverage against Florida Atlantic Owls wide receiver Je’Quan Burton (82) during a game against the Florida Atlantic Owls at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville Fla. Sept. 4, 2021. (Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via Imagn Content Services)

    The Patriots came out of free agency thin at boundary corner, both in terms of starting-caliber talent and depth. By picking Elam, they add a player who should at least be able to take on a rotational role on the outside initially, with the upside of developing into a potential 90-percent usage rate player within a year or two.

    Part of what would make Elam a fit in New England is a relatively smaller learning curve. A starter since midway through his freshman year at Florida, Elam has experience playing press-man coverage and has the size (6-foot-1, 191 pounds) and length to carry that style of play to the NFL. He’d also bring some much needed speed to the Patriots’ defense – he ran a 4.39 40 at the combine, the eighth-fastest among cornerbacks.

  • Round 2, Pick 54: WR Christian Watson, North Dakota State

    Delaware linebacker Matt Palmer moves in as North Dakota State's Christian Watson pulls in a pass in the third quarter of Delaware's 47-22 loss at Delaware Stadium Saturday.

    Delaware linebacker Matt Palmer moves in as North Dakota State’s Christian Watson pulls in a pass in the third quarter of Delaware’s 47-22 loss at Delaware Stadium Saturday. ( William Bretzger, Delaware News Journal, Delaware News Journal via Imagn Content Services)

    Speaking of speed, the Patriots add some of the offensive side of the ball by taking Watson in the second round. This may be on the lower end of Watson’s range, but with so many good receiver in the draft someone has to fall, and it’s usually the more developmental players.

    That being said, there is a lot to like about Watson. He ran a 4.36 40 at 6-foot-4, 208 pounds. In terms of measurables, it’s harder to find a more ideal outside receiver in this draft. His route running will need to be refined at the next level, but he’ll be a deep ball and scheme touch threat from day one. The Patriots met with Watson at the Senior Bowl.

    Throughout the offseason, multiple reports have hinted at the fact the Patriots would like to upgrade their ‘X’ receiver spot. From Calvin Ridley to Robby Anderson to Marquez Valdes-Scantling, there seems to be a desire to get more production out of the role currently held by Nelson Agholor. Last time the Patriots used a premium pick on a potential ‘X’ receiver, they looked for a more bully-ball pass catcher in N’Keal Harry. This time around, they could take a more finesse approach.

    While Watson might not give the team that upgrade on Day 1, he’d still be able to contribute offensively while rounding out his game behind the scenes. If he didn’t assume the starting job by the end of the 2022 season, he should be ready for a high-volume role starting in 2023 (Agholor’s contract expires after the 2022 season).

  • Round 2, Pick 63: S Kerby Joseph, Illinois

    Oct 9, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) intercepts the ball over teammate Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) and intended Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Kendric Pryor (3) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2021; Champaign, Illinois, USA; Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Kerby Joseph (25) intercepts the ball over teammate Illinois Fighting Illini defensive back Devon Witherspoon (31) and intended Wisconsin Badgers wide receiver Kendric Pryor (3) in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

    Free safety isn’t as much of an immediate need as some of the others on the roster, but it will be soon. Devin McCourty is back for his 13th NFL season, but the Patriots don’t have another true free safety behind him on the roster. Adding depth in the short term and a potential replacement for a crucial role on the defense in the long-term would be a classic Belichick move.

    Enter Joseph, who stands out among an otherwise weak free safety class after a productive 2021. The Illini safety was second in the Big Ten with five interceptions in 12 games. His athleticism allows him to cover large amounts of ground quickly, a trait that will only become more useful as he sees more football and his instincts improve. Another key part of his game the Patriots will like? He’s a strong tackler, which is a must as the last line of defense in a single-high scheme.

    Unlike Watson, who the Patriots are getting after a bit of a fall, this is around the top of Joseph’s range. Historically though that hasn’t been a problem for the Patriots if they like a player, especially in the secondary.

  • Round 3, Pick 85: G Dylan Parham, Memphis

    Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham (OL36) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 4, 2022; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Memphis offensive lineman Dylan Parham (OL36) goes through drills during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    There’s one truly pressing need the Patriots have yet to address in this mock, and that’s guard. Both of last year’s starters – Shaq Mason and Ted Karras – are now playing elsewhere. Michael Onwenu projects to take one of those spots, but the other is wide open. With their last pick in the top 100, the Patriots look to land a potential replacement in Parham.

    Parham was a four-year starter for the Tigers, and should come in ready to at least compete for a starting job on Day 1. His strength is as a run blocker, but he can hold his own in pass pro as well. There are some concerns about his size (6-foot-3, 311 pounds) but he’s coming from such a technically-sound floor that with the right coaching it should end up being a non-issue.

  • Round 4, Pick 127: CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State

    May 16, 2021; Frisco, Texas, USA; Sam Houston State Bearkats defensive back Zyon McCollum (22) and his teammates celebrate winning the game against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at the Division I FCS Championship football game at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    May 16, 2021; Frisco, Texas, USA; Sam Houston State Bearkats defensive back Zyon McCollum (22) and his teammates celebrate winning the game against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits at the Division I FCS Championship football game at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

    As mentioned above, the Patriots don’t just need outside cornerback help at the top of the depth chart. The overall depth at the position in thin, and doubling down in the draft could be a way to help with that.

    There’s a lot for the Patriots to line in McCollum’s game. He’s another big corner (6-foot-2, 199 pounds) who played primarily press man in coverage. An absolute ballhawk for the Bearkats, he had 13 interceptions 54 pass breakups in 56 career games. With a 4.33 second 40 at the Combine, he showed he can add some serious speed.

    Like any player coming from the FCS level, McCollum may need some time to adjust. But as a five-year contributor at Sam Houston State, he has a solid base to build on. He also has special teams experience, so he should be able to get on the field right away in the kicking game. His upside though is as a standing-caliber boundary corner.

  • Round 5, Pick 170: Trade

    Sep 11, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriot logos on the podium during the press conference before practice at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 11, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriot logos on the podium during the press conference before practice at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

    Patriots get:

    –2023 5th-round pick
    –2023 7th-round pick

    Panthers get:

    –170th overall pick (5th round)

    With five players drafted already, the Patriots decide to push some draft capital into next year. They pick up a future fifth and add a seventh in the process. This one is an even swap on the trade chart, eight points for eight points.

  • Round 6, Pick 200: OL Cade Mays, Tennessee

    Sep 2, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Cade Mays (68) waits for the snap during the second half against the Bowling Green Falcons at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 2, 2021; Knoxville, Tennessee, USA; Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Cade Mays (68) waits for the snap during the second half against the Bowling Green Falcons at Neyland Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

    You’d be hard pressed to find a more textbook draft fit for the Patriots than Mays. He’s a four-year starter who’s played all five offensive line positions in a college career that included time with two SEC programs (he transferred from Georgia to Tennessee in 2020).

    Mays is a big mauler at 6-foot-5, 325 pounds who projects to be a swing guard in the NFL, but he may be able to play right tackle for the Patriots as well. Having a player with his versatility and experience could be a huge help as the Patriots re-work their offensive line in the coming years.

  • Round 6, Pick 210: DL LaBryan Ray, Alabama

    TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 21: LaBryan Ray #89 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    TUSCALOOSA, AL – OCTOBER 21: LaBryan Ray #89 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts after sacking Jarrett Guarantano #2 of the Tennessee Volunteers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 21, 2017 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

    Ray is a slightly undersized yet very strong and athletic defensive lineman from Alabama – cut from a similar mold as 2021 Patriots’ draft pick Christian Barmore. Injuries kept him from being as productive as Barmore in college, but outside of the top 200 it makes sense to take a chance on a player with Ray’s terrific athletic upside.

    The Patriots are always looking to add stout, versatile players up front defensively. At 6-foot-5, 295 pounds, Ray fits the mold and can play tackle and end. The question is, can he stay on the field consistently enough to develop his game?

  • Round 7, Pick 226: LB Nate Landman, Colorado

    TUCSON, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 05: Linebacker Nate Landman #53 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half of the PAC-12 football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on December 05, 2020 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

    TUCSON, ARIZONA – DECEMBER 05: Linebacker Nate Landman #53 of the Colorado Buffaloes during the first half of the PAC-12 football game against the Arizona Wildcats at Arizona Stadium on December 05, 2020 in Tucson, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

    While the Patriots had some new needs open up during free agency, they did somewhat mitigate their needs at linebacker. Bringing back Ja’Whaun Bentley gives them an established run stopper. Mack Wilson, who turned 24 last month, is comparable as an off-ball linebacker to many of the Day 2 linebackers in this draft. Cameron McGrone, Raewkon McMillan, and Terez Hall – who all missed last season due to injuries – figure to factor in as well.

    Still, that doesn’t mean they’re done adding at the position. Landman would give them another athletic sideline-to-sideline linebacker – the kind of player they missed last season. He’s a little undersized at 6-foot-2, 238 pounds, but makes up for his lack of size with good instincts and a willingness to throw his body around. At the very least, he projects to be a core special teams kind of player from day one, and then could work himself into a rotational defensive role.

  • Remaining needs

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - SEPTEMBER 13: A view of New England Patriots helmets before the game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

    FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS – SEPTEMBER 13: A view of New England Patriots helmets before the game between the Patriots and the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium on September 13, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

    This post begins by explaining this mock is a more needs-focused draft. So, it seems fair to explain the needs that weren’t addressed.

    The biggest is failing to add a true tackle. With Isaiah Wynn entering a contract year and Trent Brown’s injury history, the team could need a starting-caliber tackle soon. Mays could potentially be a right tackle, but he’s likely more of a guard. Given the Patriots’ history developing offensive linemen, they may feel just as comfortable working with a UDFA tackle than using a top-100 pick at the position. Potential UDFA tackles that could fit in New England include UConn’s Ryan Van Demark and Myron Cunningham of Arkansas.

    Another longer-term offensive need that isn’t addressed here is running back – specifically pass-catching running back. James White is returning from a severe hip injury, and his replacement from last year Brandon Bolden is now in Las Vegas. Pass-catching back is an important role in the Patriots’ offense, and one they’ve pretty much always had an established player at – from Kevin Faulk to Danny Woodhead to Shane Vereen to White.

    Oct 30, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Trestan Ebner (1) looks for more yards against the Texas Longhorns in the second half of an NCAA football game at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 30, 2021; Waco, Texas, USA; Baylor Bears running back Trestan Ebner (1) looks for more yards against the Texas Longhorns in the second half of an NCAA football game at McLane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Spillman-USA TODAY Sports

    In terms of UDFA’s at running back, Trestan Ebner of Baylor would make a lot of sense for the Patriots. Not only does he come from a pass-heavy system, but he’s a two-time Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a kick returner. With the departure of Gunner Olszewski, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Patriots target a returner or two between the draft and UDFA process this year.

    Speaking of Olszewski, slot receiver is somewhat of a short-term need and may be a big long-term need with Jakobi Meyers now on a de facto one-year deal. Alabama’s Slade Bolden has been mentioned in relation to the Patriots often – not surprising given he’s a slot receiver who plays special teams and was roommates with Mac Jones in college. Samori Toure from Nebraska could also be a fit as a ‘big slot’ at 6-foot-3, 190 pounds.

    On the defensive side of the ball, the one position that could be considered a need that isn’t addressed here is nose tackle. After finishing 25th in the NFL in rushing yards per attempt allowed last season, it would make sense they may try to bulk up up front. Arizona State’s D.J. Davidson, Idaho’s Noah Ellis, and North Texas’ Dion Novil could all be fits here.


Who are the Patriots' most valuable trade targets at wide receiver?

  • It’s unclear how likely any of these trades would even be, but if Belichick wants to bring a talented and cheap receiver, or at least someone with upside or someone who fits what they want to do, these are the best options.

    A.J. Brown

    A.J. Brown #11 of the Tennessee Titans reacts as he leaves the field at the half during a 28-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    A.J. Brown #11 of the Tennessee Titans reacts as he leaves the field at the half during a 28-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium on November 07, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

    If there were ever a make-good on a disappointing Belichick draft pick for Belichick, it’s this guy.

    In an incredible gut-punch to New England, Brown admitted in 2020 that he “cried” when the Patriots passed on him – twice! – to select Harry and Joejuan Williams. He said: “I just knew I was going to the Patriots, because I was a big Patriots fan.”

    The intriguing part: the Titans’ contracts are piling up, most recently with an extension for linebacker Harold Landry . They already have more than $165 million in real cash committed to their 2023 roster, including $27 million for quarterback Ryan Tannehill. So it’ll take some maneuvering and budget-related sacrifices in order to sign Brown to an extension of his own. Brown has produced enough to deserve one of the top contracts at the position.

    But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Titans ultimately decide they can’t afford that, and want to go in a different direction. So it would at least be worth a phone call to Titans GM (and former Patriots exec) Jon Robinson to see if a Brown trade is a possibility.

  • D.K. Metcalf (or Tyler Lockett)

    DK Metcalf #14 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a second quarter touchdown against the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field on September 20, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

    DK Metcalf #14 of the Seattle Seahawks scores a second quarter touchdown against the New England Patriots at CenturyLink Field on September 20, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

    Talk about a kick in the balls. It’s hard to get on the Patriots for passing on Metcalf in the draft, because almost the entire league did. But he made an immediate impact in Seattle, and in three years has 17-game averages of 75 catches, 1,100 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Spending more picks to get him after Harry would hurt.

    Why would the Seahawks trade Metcalf? Because they’re in rebuilding mode after trading Russell Wilson to the Broncos. According to Jack Settleman of Snapback Sports, the Seahawks are “open to listening to offers” for Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, but “nothing is imminent.”

    They don’t have to trade Metcalf, though, since he’s such an excellent value. And it wouldn’t be surprising if the Seahawks instead committed to Metcalf as a piece of the foreseeable future. But a dynamic wideout isn’t of much use to a team in year one of a rebuild with no long-term quarterback in place, and may not be over the next 4-5 years, either. He’s certainly performed well enough to deserve a lucrative long-term deal somewhere, but perhaps that ends up in another uniform.

    It’s a relative pipe dream for the Patriots (or anyone) to land Metcalf right now, especially considering the draft pick compensation it may require in the wake of other recent deals at the position. But he may possess the best mix of talent, production, and price tag in the league.

  • Brandin Cooks

    Brandin Cooks #13 of the Houston Texans reacts after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 19, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    Brandin Cooks #13 of the Houston Texans reacts after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Jacksonville Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field on December 19, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

    It’s only fitting to include Cooks on this list. He’s not cheap, though, but he’s in the final year of the deal he originally signed with the Rams. He’s on the books for $13.7 million cash and a $16.2 million cap hit, so if Belichick brought him back, he could possibly give him a short extension for some cap relief. The familiarity is there, and the Texans are a logical trade partner. Cooks is also coming off a career-best 90 catches and has topped 1,000 yards in six of his eight seasons, so he’s as proven and consistent a producer as there is in the league.

  • Andy Isabella

    Cornerback Troy Hill #22 of the Los Angeles Rams breaks up a pass to wide receiver Andy Isabella #17 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    Cornerback Troy Hill #22 of the Los Angeles Rams breaks up a pass to wide receiver Andy Isabella #17 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at State Farm Stadium on December 06, 2020 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    And now, we have the depressed assets.

    Isabella reportedly asked the Cardinals for a trade this off-season. So there’s that. He’s also a former UMass alum, and has privately expressed interest in returning to Massachusetts as a Patriot.

    The problem for Isabella’s trade hopes is that the Cardinals would be selling low after drafting him 62nd overall in the 2019 draft. It’s unlikely he’d cost more than a third-round pick after making just 31 catches in 36 games so far in his career. He’s on the books for only $1.1 million, so financially, it’s not exactly necessary to unload him. Plus, they lost Christian Kirk in free agency, so they need to replace his production.

    But Isabella could be a classic “change of scenery” situation in Arizona. The Cardinals still have DeAndre Hopkins, and 2021 rookie Rondale Moore seems to have already passed Isabella on the depth chart. In New England, where there’s no clear No. 1, Isabella would have the potential to become the team’s leading receiver if it clicked for him and Mac Jones.

  • Curtis Samuel

    Curtis Samuel #10 of the Washington Football Team runs with the ball during the first half a New Orleans Saints at FedExField on October 10, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Curtis Samuel #10 of the Washington Football Team runs with the ball during the first half a New Orleans Saints at FedExField on October 10, 2021 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

    Samuel is a bounce-back candidate after groin and hamstring injuries limited him to only five games in 2021. At the same time, the Commanders are ostensibly looking to sign Terry McLaurin to an extension, which could make Samuel expendable.

    Samuel is in the second year of a three-year contract with the Commanders, and all his guaranteed money has already been paid. Washington would save $8.7 million on the cap if they traded him with a post-June 1 designation.

    If the Pats acquired him, Belichick may want to restructure his deal to relieve the $12.6 million cap hit in 2022, and two years averaging about $10.5M for a receiver that dealt with multiple injuries wouldn’t be an ideal move. But Samuel has always seemed like a good fit, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he were made available in D.C.

  • Darius Slayton

    Darius Slayton #86 of the New York Giants fends off a tackle attempt by Avonte Maddox #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 28, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    Darius Slayton #86 of the New York Giants fends off a tackle attempt by Avonte Maddox #29 of the Philadelphia Eagles in the third quarter at MetLife Stadium on November 28, 2021 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

    Slayton’s production dipped in 2021, with the additions of Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney to the receiver depth chart. It’s unclear what direction the Giants want to take at the position under new head coach Brian Daboll, but Slayton, a fifth-round pick in 2019, could now be expendable. Slayton as a player could be reasonably compared to Nelson Agholor, so he’d give Belichick an intriguing option on the outside if Agholor can’t improve upon a disappointing 2021.

  • Sterling Shepard

    Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA;  New England Patriots cornerback Mike Jackson (35) makes a tackles on New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) during the second quarte at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

    Aug 29, 2021; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; New England Patriots cornerback Mike Jackson (35) makes a tackles on New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard (3) during the second quarte at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

    Another Giant, and one that seems like an even better fit for the Patriots. Shepard is primarily a slot receiver, and while the Patriots like Jakobi Meyers there, Shepard would give them a more traditional inside option that they currently lack on the roster. He wouldn’t excite fans like more established acquisitions would, but he’d have the potential to deliver career-best numbers in Belichick’s system. The Patriots would love his consistency, as Shepard caught between 57 and 66 passes in every season from 2016-20 before playing only seven games last season.

  • J.J. Arcega-Whiteside

    JJ Arcega-Whiteside #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs with the ball prior to the preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on August 12, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    J.J. Arcega-Whiteside #19 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs with the ball prior to the preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Lincoln Financial Field on August 12, 2021 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

    Here’s an example of a 2019 draft pick who has only gone backward in the passing game and cratered his potential trade value. The Eagles drafted Arcega-Whiteside in the second round of the 2019 draft, only to take Jalen Reagor in the first round in 2020, then DeVonta Smith 11th overall in 2021. So, like Isabella in Arizona, Philly has seemingly decided quickly to move on from Arcega-Whiteside, who was primarily a special teamer in 2021. He’d represent a total flyer for Belichick, but perhaps there is untapped potential here.


Patriots draft preview: Running backs

  • Running back may not be an immediate need for the Patriots, but it’s not a position to ignore in the draft either. Despite the level of urgency in any given year, the Patriots generally favor adding to their backfield to the draft rather than in free agency.

    Under Bill Belichick, they’ve drafted a running back in 11 of 22 drafts. That trend has ramped up recently, with three players selected from the position in the last four years (Sony Michel in 2018, Damien Harris in 2019, and Rhamondre Stevenson last year). Since 2010, four of the six backs they’ve drafted were selected in the top 100.

    The team splits the position into two roles – early down backs (ex. Antowain Smith, LeGarrette Blount, Sony Michel, Damien Harris) and pass-catching backs (ex. Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, James White). Some players can do both (ex. Rex Burkhead) but they generally seem to like to have two backs for each spot on the roster at any given time.

    While there may not be an immediate need in 2022, the Patriots could look to stay ahead of things at both running back spots. Damien Harris is entering a contract year, and James White just turned 30 and is working his way back from a severe hip injury. The team could need to replace both players in the near future.

    As it relates to the draft this year, we’ll use two qualifiers to sort out the class – role and expected draft range. Will the Pats’ jump early on an impact back? Or wait and try to find value in a deep class?

  • Second-round early-down backs

    Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III avoids a tackle by Michigan’s R.J. Moten during his touchdown run during the fourth quarter on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing. (Nick King/Lansing State Journal/USA Today Network)

    There aren’t any projected first-round running backs in the draft this year, so for all intents and purposes this is the ‘reach’ category. If the Patriots are going to make a splash at running back, these are the guys.

    Three players sit at the top of the running back board with a chance to be the first player selected at the position. The lone primary early-down back among the group is Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker, who’s outstanding 2021 season had him in the conversation for the Heisman trophy.

    Walker was the focal point of the Spartans’ offense after transferring from Wake Forest last season, rushing for 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns. He plays much bigger than his 5-foot-9, 211 pound frame suggests, but at the same time he can run around defenders as well as he can run through them. But the aspect of his game the Patriots’ may like more than anything else? He fumbled just one time in 276 touches last year.

  • Second-round pass-catching backs

    LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – SEPTEMBER 18: Running back Breece Hall #28 of the Iowa State Cyclones runs against the UNLV Rebels during the first half of a game at Allegiant Stadium on September 18, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images)

    The other two backs in contention to be the first off the board are Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller and Iowa State’s Breece Hall. Spiller presents a more NFL-ready, low risk option while Hall’s stock is tied more into upside.

    Spiller was a three-year starter at A&M, and surpassed 1,000 all-purpose yards in each of those seasons. While his production is impressive overall, he was inconsistent as times – as was the entire Texas A&M program during his tenure. He’s a very patient runner with good vision – the kind of back who would work well behind the Patriots’ current offensive line. As a receiver, his route tree isn’t expansive but he can be effective in what he does out of the backfield.

    After a complementary role as a freshman in 2019, Hall exploded onto the scene with back-to-back 1,700-yard, 23-touchdown seasons for the cyclones. He’s a big-play threat both running the ball and as a pass catcher, with NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein comparing him to Matt Forte. The real question will be how teams view his collegiate workload of exactly 800 touches. Will they be impressed he was that involved while never missing a game? Or will it be a red flag that he’s already taken that many hits at 20 years old?

  • Third-round early-down backs

    Nov 20, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs running back Zamir White (3) runs for a touchdown against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers during the first quarter at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    This draft isn’t as deep on early-down backs as it is on pass catching backs, especially in the middle rounds. Our lone player in this category is Zamir White of Georgia, and this really is his ceiling.

    While is as physical runner as you’ll find in this class, and makes his mark carrying the ball between the tackles. He’s also a strong locker room presence – he was a captain for the Bulldogs in 2021 and is described as a “weight-room warrior.”

    However, his contributions at the next level will likely be limited to early downs, and he’s torn both ACLs (his right one in 2017 and left in 2018). Those factors could put a damper on his draft stock.

  • Third-round pass-catching backs

    Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Brian Robinson Jr. (4) runs with the ball as Florida Gators safety Trey Dean III (0) defends during the first quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    This is where this draft gets really interesting at the running back position. There’s a number of talented, high-upside well-rounded receiving backs expected to go in the bottom half of the top-100.

    We’ll start with White’s counterpart in the Georgia backfield, James Cook. The brother of Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, James handled the passing down running back responsibilities for Georgia this year. He caught 27 passes for 284 yards, and his straight-line speed allows him to be a big-play threat out of the backfield. At the same time, Georgia occasionally lined him up outside the formation as a receiver, where he also found success.

    Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams was also heavily used as a receiver in 2021, lining up in the slot in a number of packages. He totaled 42 catches for 359 yards and three scores, while also gaining over 1,000 yards on the ground from the backfield. Initially, it seemed as though he’d be in the mix to be a top-60 pick, but a 4.65 second 40 – the slowest by any back in the class this year – may have dropped him down at least a round. The Patriots met with Williams at the Combine.

    Also expected to go in this range in Brian Robinson of Alabama. He’s the most well-rounded of this group, rushing for 1,343 yards and catching 35 passes in his lone year as the feature back for the Crimson Tide in 2021. In addition to his versatility, Robinson brings size to the position at 6-foot-2, 225 pounds. With special teams experience on his resume as well, he could be a fit for a Rex Burkhead-type role.

  • Day 3 early-down backs

    PROVO, UT – OCTOBER 30: Tyler Allgeier #25 of the BYU Cougars breaks a tackle attempt by Joey Blount #29 of the Virginia Cavaliers during their game October 30, 2021 at the LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah. (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

    We’re now getting out of ‘stretch’ range and into more realistic possibilities for the Patriots. Even though they’ve tended to take running backs in the top 100 in recent years, the roster needs right now could deprioritize the position come the draft.

    Tyler Allgeier instantly stands out as a Patriots fit for an early-down role because of his size. The BYU back stands 5-foot-11 and weighed in at 224 pounds at the combine. Yet at that size, he’s very smooth getting in and out of cuts for a player his size, which gives him some big play ability. In 2021, he averaged 7.5 yards per carry on 150 carries. That number dropped a bit in 2021 with a bigger workload, but he was still productive rushing for 1,601 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games, finishing four games with over 190 rushing yards. He had 218 yards against Utah State, 191 against Washington State, 266 against Virginia (with five touchdowns), and 192 against UAB in the Independence Bowl.

    Another player that stands out in this group is Michigan running back Hassan Haskins. As part of a platoon backfield with Blake Corum this fall, Haskins managed a breakout season rushing for 1,327 yards and 20 touchdowns. At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds he’s a bowling-ball back that wears down the defense with hit after hit to open things up in the fourth quarter. He’s also very effective on the goal line.

  • Day 3 pass-catching backs

    Nov 20, 2021; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers running back Tyler Badie (1) runs the ball as Florida Gators safety Rashad Torrence II (22) misses the tackle in overtime at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    Given the depth of pass-catching backs in this draft, there should be some real talent still on the board in Day 3. Could the Patriots look to make a minimal investment with major upside?

    If so, Tyler Badie of Missouri would be an excellent fit earlier on Day 3. Badie did it all for the Tigers last year. He was their feature back, rushing for 1,604 yards at 6.0 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns. At the same time, he had the most receptions of any back in this draft class with 54 for 330 yards. That wasn’t all out of the backfield, he lined up in the slot 61 times. Prior to 2021, Badie was also the team’s kick returner. On top of it all, Badie holds onto the football – he fumbled just twice on 513 career carries, and his 115 career catches without a fumble are the most by a Power Five running back since 2019.

    Later on Day 3, Oregon’s C.J. Verdell could be a fit. Verdell was a 1,000-yard rusher and 300-yard receiver at Oregon as a freshman in 2018, but has struggled with injuries the last two years. At one point viewed as a potential top-150 pick, he could present tremendous value outside of the top 200 if he stays healthy.

  • UDFA early-down backs

    Sep 25, 2021; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights running back Isaih Pacheco (1) rushes in the second half against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Not every early-down back has to be big. For instance Dion Lewis was used sparingly in the passing game in New England, only catching more than five passes just four times in his Patriots career. Yet his elusive running style made him a valuable asset to keep the offense ahead of schedule.

    At 5-foot-10, 216 pounds, Isiah Pacheco from Rutgers is slightly bigger than Lewis (5-foot-8, 195 pounds) but plays the game the same way. He’s a high motor runner – his legs are always moving and he makes defenders earn it if they want to bring him down on first contact. Inconsistent production in a platoon role for the Scarlet Knights limited his exposure (he ran fore more than 700 yards in a season just once, in 2019) but he put himself on the map with a 4.37 second 40 at the Combine, which was tied for the fastest time by a running back this year.

  • UDFA pass-catching backs

    WACO, TX -NOVEMBER 27: Trestan Ebner #1 of the Baylor Bears carries the ball past Colin Schooler #17 of the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the first half at McLane Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Waco, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

    This year’s UDFA pass-catching market should be an active one. The Patriots generally bring in at least one UDFA back to camp, so this is an area to watch.

    Among the group, Baylor’s Trestan Ebner is the best fit for a number of reasons. He’s a converted all-state receiver who has five years of production on his resume. Ebner broke out in 2021, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. One of the faster players in this draft at the position, Ebner’s experience in Baylor’s pass-heavy offense would likely be a benefit if he was asked to pick up the complicated third-down back role in New England.

    On top of that, Ebner is also a two-time Big 12 Special Teams Player of the Year as a kick returner. In 2020, Ebner averaged 32.2 yards per return (second in the nation) on 19 returns with two touchdowns. Those numbers dipped a bit but were still impressive in 2021, as he averaged 22.2 yards per return on 23 returns with another score. Ebner began returning punts in 2021 as well, averaging 8.1 yards on 19 returns.

    Washington State’s Max Borghi projects to be a passing-down-only back at the next level. He has the basics down for that role though as a solid pass catcher who holds onto the football – he even showed development as a blocker in 2021. Like Ebner, his experience in a pass-heavy offense will come in handy if he ends up in New England.

    Leddie Brown out of West Virginia was once viewed as a fringe top-100 pick after back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons for the Mountaineers. However, fumble issues and a 4.64 second 40 now have him projected to go undrafted. Brown is the kind of player who does just about everything well, but doesn’t have a standout trait. Still, the Patriots may see him as a value signing if he makes it to the UDFA market.

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