New England Patriots

The Patriots continue to look at potential additions for their secondary, including the 2022 NFL Draft. And recently, they took a close look at one cornerback in particular.

According to NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry, the Patriots “[had] their eyes on” Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam during the Gators’ Pro Day on Monday. Elam ranks at No. 32 on the “Consensus Big Board” at NFLMockDraftDatabase.com, where he’s the fifth-ranked cornerback overall. He also sits at 32nd in ESPN.com’s 2022 draft rankings.

Elam played 10 games in his junior year at Florida and finished with one interception and five pass breakups. In his sophomore year in 2020, coaches named him to the All-SEC First Team after he led the conference with 11 passes defended.

This would not be the first time Bill Belichick drafted a defensive back out of Florida. In 2019, the Patriots selected Duke Dawson from the Gators with the 56th pick in the second round. Belichick ultimately traded Dawson to the Broncos in 2019, before he ever played a game in New England. One would certainly hope the Patriots get a lot more out of Elam than Dawson, if they end up drafting him.

According to ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Belichick has left the NFL league meeting to return to the Pro Day circuit, along with Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh and Senior Football Advisor Matt Patricia. Belichick is a virtual lock to be in attendance at Alabama’s Pro Day on Wednesday. NFL.com has a full list of upcoming Pro Days.

Matt Dolloff is a writer and podcaster for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Yell at him on Twitter @mattdolloff and follow him on Instagram @mattydsays. You can also email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.


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Patriots draft preview: Wide receivers

  • We’re going on nearly half a decade now of wide receiver being one of if not the most talked about position for the Patriots in the NFL Draft. Some years, the position has been more of a need than others. How does it stack up this year?

    It’s hard to call receiver an ‘immediate’ need for the Patriots, given the way they projected other positions. They have NFL-caliber players across the top of the depth chart in Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, and Jakobi Meyers – the same can’t be said at positions like cornerback or guard.

    At the same time, an upgrade at the position could go a long way towards improving an offense that in its first year together ranked sixth in the NFL in points scored. Teams around the NFL have paired young quarterbacks with truly star receivers, with great success.

    The Patriots can also use this as a chance to plan ahead at the position, with Agholor and Meyers both set to be free agents after the 2022 season. They could bring in potential replacements for a relatively low investment on Day 3, and give those players a year to grow and develop in the system before asking them to take on a more significant role.

    Basically, everything is on the table when it comes to the receiver position in the draft for the Patriots, especially with such a deep class at the position (although it feels like we’ve said that about the last four drafts – at what point to they stop getting deep and start being average?). They could take a receiver in the first round, wait until late in the draft, double dip – any possibility feels realistic. So let’s break this class down by range of the draft, looking at the most logical targets for the Patriots in each.

  • Reaches

    Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) reacts as he scores on a long touchdown pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    Sep 4, 2021; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide wide receiver Jameson Williams (1) reacts as he scores on a long touchdown pass against the Miami Hurricanes during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

    There will likely be multiple receivers off the board by the time the Patriots are scheduled to pick at 21. If they want to grab one of these players, they’ll likely have to move up the board significantly.

    Garrett Wilson of Ohio State is currently the consensus top receiver in this class, and could go in the top 10. His game is well-rounded like most Buckeye receiver, but he projects to play mostly out of the slot in the pros.

    Alabama’s Jameson Williams would have been the top receiver and a probable top-five pick had he not torn his ACL in the National Championship game back in January. Williams is a top-tier route runner with elite speed making him a true threat at all three levels.

    The ‘size’ option in the top 20 is Drake London out of UCLA. London checks in at 6-foot-4, 219 pounds who wins with natural separation rather than technique and speed.

  • Round 1

    Oct 9, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave (2)runs after catch during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

    Oct 9, 2021; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Chris Olave (2)runs after catch during the first half against the Maryland Terrapins at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

    If any of those three player prototypes interest you, but you don’t think the Patriots will or don’t want them to move up, there’s still good news. The next three receivers in the class each mirror those first three. These players should still be on the board around the 20th pick. It may take a minor move up to land one, but it’s not quite jumping into the top 15.

    Chris Olave from Ohio State is another well-rounded receiver, and is one of the best Patriots-specific fits at the position in the draft in a while. He’s a precise, efficient, and versatile route runner than can line up anywhere in the formation. The Patriots could put together some very creative alignments with him, Bourne, and Meyers.

    Jahan Dotson out of Penn State also moved around the formation quite a bit in college, but in the Patriots’ offense he’d likely primarily play in the slot. He’d offer them a more vertical option at that position, with big-play speed and route-running ability.

    Rounding out the first-round targets is Treylon Burks of Arkansas. Burks is a big (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) possession receiver who wins either on jump balls or by catching the ball around the line of scrimmage and creating yards after the catch.

    If that description sounds familiar, it’s similar to how N’Keal Harry was billed coming out of Arizona State. If the Patriots want a do-over on a player of that prototype, Burks would be the guy.

  • Round 2

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA - JANUARY 01: George Pickens #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs makes a catch for a first quarter touchdown against Bryan Cook #6 of of the Cincinnati Bearcats during Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 01, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham /Getty Images)

    ATLANTA, GEORGIA – JANUARY 01: George Pickens #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs makes a catch for a first quarter touchdown against Bryan Cook #6 of of the Cincinnati Bearcats during Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 01, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham /Getty Images)

    Given the depth of this class and the Patriots’ other needs, this may be the sweet spot for the Patriots to take a receiver. There should still be first-round-caliber talent on the board, both in terms of outside receivers and guys who can play the slot.

    At Georgia’s Pro Day last week, the Patriots got a close look at George Pickens. Pickens offers the combination of size (6-foot-3, 195 pounds) and speed teams look for in a deep threat, and adds strong hands to that equation. He’s expected to fall a bit in the draft after struggling to stay on the field the last two seasons, but the Patriots historically have viewed players like that as value picks.

    Another higher-risk, high-reward potential ‘X’ receiver expected to go in the second round is Christian Watson out of North Dakota State. Watson entered the pre-draft process as a likely mid-Day 3 pick, but has shot up boards with strong showings at both the Senior Bowl and Combine.

    At 6-foot-4, 208 pounds with a 4.36 40 time on the books, his measurables pop off the charts. His technical game is still raw, and he’ll have to adjust to NFL defenders coming from the FCS level. But in the right situation (sitting behind Nelson Agholor for a year?) his ceiling is tremendous.

    In the slot, Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore is the name to know here. Like Watson, he’s flown up draft boards over the last month. One of the most technically-savvy route runners in this class, Moore would be one of the least mold-breaking picks for the Patriots at the position.

    Finally, there’s Alabama’s John Metchie. Metchie likely would have been another first-round pick for the Tide, but he tore his ACL in the SEC Championship Game in December. He’s currently expected to go late in the second or early in the third round, but is probably trending more towards the former given the updates on his rehab process.

    Metchie can play in the slot or on the perimeter, and can burn defenses at all three levels. That was the case in 2020 when he played with Mac Jones and caught 55 passes for 916 yards and six touchdowns as the team’s second receiver next to DeVonta Smith.

  • Round 3

    Nov 6, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (1) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 6, 2021; Lexington, Kentucky, USA; Kentucky Wildcats wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (1) runs the ball during the second quarter against the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

    With so many risers on the board, some players have to fall. A couple of those receivers find themselves here, and could be seen as value picks.

    Had Clemson’s Justyn Ross been able to declare for the draft after his freshman year, he would have been a top-50 pick and a potential first-rounder. He put up 1,000 yards exactly in 2018, an averaged 21.7 yards per catch. Ross capped that season with a masterful performance in the National Championship, catching six passes for 153 yards and a score in the Tigers’ win over Alabama.

    However, Ross’ production has dropped since, and he missed the entire 2020 season after undergoing neck/spinal surgery. Still, at 6-foot-4 with impressive body control he has a lot of what teams look for in an outside receiver. That combined with his freshman year tape should have him still coming off the board in the top 100.

    Wan’Dale Robinson out of Kentucky hasn’t been bad in the pre-draft process, he’s just yet to have that eye-popping moment guys like Watson and Moore have put out there. In a copycat league like the NFL, Robinson – a converted running back – could play a role similar to that of Deebo Samuel in San Francisco. What he lacks in size he makes up for with speed, and could be a gadget chess piece kind of player on a team that excels in scheming up designed touches.

    While those two may be seen as ‘fallers,’ Memphis’ Calvin Austin is a riser in this group. The slot receiver finished top three in every athletic testing drill he participated in at the Combine, including a 4.32 second 40 and a pace-setting 4.07 second three-cone drill. At 5-foot-8, 170 pounds there are concerns about his size, but there’s no question he’s a problem in open space – whether it be as a route runner, running after the catch, or as a returner.

  • Early Day 3

    Nov 27, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Bo Melton (18) gains yards after the catch against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 27, 2021; Piscataway, New Jersey, USA; Rutgers Scarlet Knights wide receiver Bo Melton (18) gains yards after the catch against the Maryland Terrapins during the first half at SHI Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

    Let’s start off Day 3 with more ‘X’ receiver options. The Patriots have had two pre-draft meetings with Nevada’s Romeo Doubs. Doubs was incredibly productive for the Wolfpack, putting together two all-conference seasons in 2020 and 2021. His speed and jump ball ability make him an intriguing developmental player who could likely contribute right away in the red zone and on designed touches.

    If the Patriots want to add raw speed, then they can’t do any better than Tyquan Thornton out of Baylor. Thornton was a projected UDFA until he ran a 4.28 second 40 – the fastest of any receiver at the combine – at 6-foot-2, 181 pounds. Add in his body control, and he had the makings of a sideline threat. He’s not going to offer much going over the middle, at least not immediately, but he can step in and keep a defense honest on the back end.

    The best fit for the Patriots early on Day 3 though is Rutgers slot receiver Bo Melton. Melton is another big riser between his performances at the Senior Bowl and Combine. With a 4.34 second 40 and 6.98 three-cone, he showed he can test defenses both horizontally and vertically. His initial release and short route package would be put to good use in the Patriots’ offense. He also has experience returning and covering kicks.

  • Late Day 3

    Nov 6, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Charleston Rambo (11) makes a catch for a touchdown against the defense of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back Zamari Walton (7) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Nov 6, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes wide receiver Charleston Rambo (11) makes a catch for a touchdown against the defense of Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets defensive back Zamari Walton (7) during the first half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    Historically, this is the range of the draft where the Patriots target wide receivers. Of the 18 receivers drafted in the Bill Belichick era, nine were taken after the 150th pick, and seven after the 200th pick. Of course every year is different, but that’s the historical context. Plus, that’s not to say the only receiver the Patriots take has to come in this range – this could be them drafting a second player at the position after taking one earlier.

    Charleston Rambo spent three years at Oklahoma competing for playing time against multiple future first-round picks. He had his flashes, but didn’t produce consistently until transferring to Miami last season where he caught 79 passes for 1,172 yards and seven touchdowns. Rambo is a strong route runner with big-play ability after the catch, but a 4.57 second 40 at the Combine didn’t help his stock.

    A player in this range who did help himself at the Combine is Michigan State’s Jalen Nailor. Nailor is an outside receiver who wins deep with skilled route running rather than raw speed. The Patriots have brought in a handful of players in the past from that mold, including last year’s draft pick Tre Nixon.

    The name everybody will be watching for with the Patriots as the draft winds down though is Slade Bolden. The Alabama slot receiver is a four-down player who was roommates with Mac Jones at Tuscaloosa in 2020. He was a fringe draft pick before an underwhelming Combine performance, but his versatility will create a market so the Patriots could grab him before he becomes a UDFA.

  • UDFAs

    Dec 18, 2021; Inglewood, CA, USA; Utah State Aggies wide receiver Deven Thompkins (13) scores on a 62-yard touchdown reception against the Oregon State Beavers in the first half of the 2021 LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    Dec 18, 2021; Inglewood, CA, USA; Utah State Aggies wide receiver Deven Thompkins (13) scores on a 62-yard touchdown reception against the Oregon State Beavers in the first half of the 2021 LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots’ best homegrown receiver currently on the roster is a UDFA in Jakobi Meyers. Could the Patriots find success in that market again this year?

    Deven Thompkins was one of the best deep-ball threats in college football in 2021. The third-team All-American caught 102 passes for 1,704 yards and 10 touchdowns, and is one of the fastest players in this class. He was also one of the better kick returners, averaging 23 yards per return. So, why is he a projected UDFA? At 5-foot-8, 155 pounds, there are concerns about how long he’ll last in the NFL.

    As far as UDFA slot receivers go, Washington State’s Calvin Jackson Jr. is a name to know. Jackson had a breakout season in 2021 catching 66 passes for 987 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s a steady route runner and potential special teams contributor.

    But, if special teams are really the focus, then the guy is Britain Covey out of Utah. While Covey was a contributor on offense – he caught 52 passes for 514 yards last season – he made his mark in the return game. In 47 career games for the Utes, he averaged 11.9 yards per punt return and 25.4 yards per kick return with five total touchdowns. Covey would make a lot of sense as a replacement for Gunner Olszewski.


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.


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