Potential Patriots draft picks for fans to watch as college football season begins
September 3rd, 2022
L-R: Alabama S Jordan Battle, Michigan RB Blake Corum (Getty Images)
Look, I get that almost nobody in New England really cares about college football. The fact you clicked past this headline is frankly an upset, but I applauded those of you choosing to be open minded and welcome more football into your sports diet. So let’s try and get some people hooked.
Part of the lack of interest seems to be that people haven’t had a logical entry point into the sport for those in the region. It’s now been 15 years since Boston College was truly competitive, and while they might be this year it could be too little too late to catch the interest of an entire generation of football fans. People who didn’t go to school with a big time program (or have a family member that did) may feel lost.
If you’ve always wanted to get into college football, but just can’t figure out where to start, Matt Dolloff and I recorded a podcast this week that may be able to help…
As mentioned in the show, one avenue into catching the college football bug is watching it through an ‘NFL prospects’ lens. If that approach works for you, here are some players to keep an eye on this season (at projected positions of need) that will likely be talked about as Patriots draft targets next spring. Instead of waiting to learn about them then, here’s your opening into getting on the bandwagon now.
RB Blake Corum, Michigan
ANN ARBOR, MICHIGAN – SEPTEMBER 11: Blake Corum #2 of the Michigan Wolverines plays against the Washington Huskies at Michigan Stadium on September 11, 2021 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Damien Harris and J.J. Taylor are both in a contract years, and the second year of Ty Montgomery’s contract has an out that would only cost the Patriots $150,000. That means that even after drafting two backs last year, the Patriots could be looking to add at the position again next offseason.
Corum checks a number of boxes for the Patriots as a projected mid-round pick. He’s been used by the Wolverines in a variety of ways including carrying the ball between the tackles, catching the ball out of the backfield, and returning kicks. He has the Michigan connection as well.
WR Josh Downs, UNC
Sep 18, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Josh Downs (11) catches a touchdown in the end zone as Virginia Cavaliers free safety Joey Blount (29) defends in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Last year the Patriots placed a big draft investment in the outside wide receiver position, taking Tyquan Thornton 50th overall. With Jakobi Meyers in a contract year, it would make sense for them to invest in a slot receiver if they revisit the position relatively early in the draft next year.
If they do, Downs would be a great fit. He’s a crafty route runner and high IQ player who is more quick than fast. Last season he caught 101 passes for 1,335 yards in 13 games, so he’s not unfamiliar with the kind of workload that comes with being a slot receiver in the Patriots’ offense.
OT Dawand Jones, Ohio State
Ohio State Buckeyes offensive lineman Dawand Jones (79) blocks Purdue Boilermakers defensive end George Karlaftis (5) during the 4th quarter of their NCAA game at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio on November 13, 2021. (Kyle Robertson/Columbus Dispatch/USA TODAY Network)
Assuming the switch of sides stays, right tackle projects as the more immediate need for the Patriots with Isaiah Wynn in a contract year. While the Patriots could and likely will also look at left tackles to be the long-term replacement for Trent Brown, we’ll focus on the right side here.
Jones’ size stands out -he measures in at 6-foot-8, 360 pounds – and he plays to every bit of his frame. That’s traditionally been a preference for the Patriots along the offensive line, but will it still be if they continue to run zone concepts? The good news is even if they do, Jones has some experience with those schemes from his time with the Buckeyes. While he’s mostly been a right tackle, he’s seen some time at left tackle as well.
LB Henry To’oto’o, Alabama
Sep 18, 2021; Gainesville, Florida, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Henry To’oTo’o (10) against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Last season, To’oto’o transferred from Tennessee to Alabama and instantly quickly won the middle linebacker job. He picked up the defense so quick, he was the team’s defensive signal caller during the season. Nick Saban loves this kid, so no doubt he’d get a glowing review for Bill Belichick. If the Patriots are still looking for a fast, athletic middle linebacker a year from now To’oto’o is a complete and total fit.
CB Kris Abrams-Draine, Missouri
Oct 30, 2021; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores running back Patrick Smith (42) is tackled by Missouri Tigers defensive back Kris Abrams-Draine (14) during the second half at Vanderbilt Stadium. Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
As we’ve highlighted in the past, the Patriots have a history of targeting prospects with a position change in their backgrounds. That brings us to Abrams-Draine, who was recruited to the Tigers as a four-star wide receiver prospect. He made the move to cornerback last year and instantly looked like a fit on defense. He played both on the boundary and in the slot, which would make him a fit for the Patriots’ new ‘positionless’ secondary. Growth is still key for Abrams-Draine as he begins his second season on the defensive side of the ball, but if he continues improving his draft stock will shoot up.
S Jordan Battle, Alabama
STARKVILLE, MISSISSIPPI – OCTOBER 16: Defensive back Jordan Battle #9 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates after intercepting the ball in the forth quarter of their game against the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Davis Wade Stadium on October 16, 2021 in Starkville, Mississippi. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
Safety is one of the deepest positions for the Patriots in 2022, but with Devin McCourty’s status year-to-year and Kyle Dugger in a contract year in 2023, that could change relatively quickly. If they want to stay a year ahead of things, they could target a safety in what projects to be a very strong class at the position. Alabama has a number of standout safeties this year, but Battle stands out as the best and most well-rounded with experience playing both deep and in the box.
K Jake Moody, Michigan
Dec 4, 2021; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan Wolverines kicker Jake Moody (13) against the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Big Ten Conference championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
That’s right, it’s only September and I’m already projecting kicker draft picks for the Patriots. Sicko stuff.
As good as he’s been during his time in New England, Nick Folk is 37-years-old and is year-to-year at this point. If he decides to move on, the Patriots could end up needing to add a kicker next offseason. Moody is the reigning Lou Groza Award winner, given to the best kicker in college football. He hit 23 of his 25 attempts in 2021, and was perfect on 56 extra point attempts. Perhaps more importantly for the Patriots though is the fact Moody grew up in Michigan and has spent the last four years in Ann Arbor. Given their preference for kickers with experience in inclement weather, he checks a key box.
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 @RealAlexBarthor via email at abarth@985TheSportsHub.com.