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Perry's crowd-sourced NFL Mock Draft: Pats fans choose CB, WR early

/ by Phil Perry
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We've done plenty of NFL mock drafts ourselves. And no, we're not done. But this felt like the perfect time to put the mock controls in your hands, as we've done each of the last few years as the end of April inches closer.

The mechanics here are simple enough. First, we pop open the Pro Football Focus mock draft simulator and keep the default settings switched on. Then, with each Patriots pick -- starting at No. 21 overall and moving through all seven rounds -- we present you four options from which to choose via Twitter poll.

From there, it's all yours.

You can fill out needs as you check them off. You can try to put yourself in Bill Belichick's shoes and spend, spend, spend on special teams. Whatever your decision, it's a democratic process.

The player who gets the votes finds his way into this fake 2022 Patriots draft class. An honor for them, I'm sure.

Let's see what you came up with...

First round, No. 21: Kaiir Elam, CB, Florida

Premium position? Check. Fits the mold the Patriots like along the boundary? Check. SEC production? Check. Addresses a need? Check. 

Elam makes all kinds of sense with the No. 21 overall selection. He may miss a tackle here and there, and he may get a little grabby in coverage (seven penalties last season). But he's physical and can be disruptive to true No. 1 targets at the line of scrimmage. And if he makes a misstep in terms of his technique, he has rare speed (4.39-second 40) to make up for it.

 
2022 NFL Draft Highlights: Kaiir Elam

Elam also seems to fit from a character standpoint as he was chosen by coaches to represent Florida at the SEC leadership council last year as a junior.

There was no real opportunity to trade down in this scenario. The best opportunity to move back was from the Seahawks, but the Patriots wouldn't have made their first pick until No. 40 overall. Felt like too steep a drop, allowing all the best tackles and corners to come off the board before the Patriots turned in their first card.

Second round, No. 54: John Metchie, WR, Alabama

With their second pick, the Patriots had a chance to add speed and size at the linebacker level in Quay Walker. They also could've addressed an under-the-radar need on the edge with a productive pass-rusher from the SEC in Kingsley Enagbare. And there was an athletic tackle available to develop in Abe Lucas. 

But you the people, serving as Patriots GM, instead have added a player who's already become a fan favorite. Which makes sense.

2022 NFL Draft Highlights: John Metchie

Metchie is everything Nick Saban values in a receiver, and he has a lot of the same traits that have helped Patriots wideouts thrive in Foxboro in the past: toughness, route-running polish, versatility, football IQ.

He's coming off a torn ACL, and his traits aren't eye-popping. Those factors may lead to this looking like a reach. But the people have spoken. They want to give Mac Jones a weapon with whom he's already established chemistry.

Third round, No. 85: Darrian Beavers, LB, Cincinnati

Who says they don't make linebackers the way they used to?

The Patriots are more open to playing with lighter bodies at the linebacker level these days, in part because the supply coming from the college ranks is so much different than it was 10 or 15 years ago. But Beavers has an old-school build the Patriots would love.

He played in the 250-pound range for the Bearcats, getting experience both off the line of scrimmage and on the edge. He even saw safety snaps early in his college career.

2022 NFL Draft Highlights: Darrian Beavers

His background is reminiscent of what Jamie Collins did during his time at Southern Miss, and while he may not be the athlete Collins was, he can move. At 243 pounds at his pro day, he ran a 4.69-second 40 to go along with a whopping 39-inch vertical and a 6.93-second three-cone drill.

Beavers also saw work at the Senior Bowl and could be the kind of versatile front-seven piece Belichick wouldn't hesitate to snag on Day 2.

Fourth round, No. 127: Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest

The masses are doing a nice job of ticking off needs as they work their way through the early portion of the draft. And with this pick, they may have addressed the most glaring of them all.

 

Tom played center and tackle for the Demon Deacons, and he could settle in at the next level as a highly athletic and highly intelligent (graduated cum laude with his degree in business and enterprise management) guard. 

Perry's Prototypical Patriots: Offensive tackle | Interior lineman | Wide receiver

At 6-foot-4, 304 pounds and with 33-inch arms, Tom could potentially play tackle as a pro because he has tremendous movement skills. His 40-yard dash (4.94 seconds, 95th percentile), and more importantly his 10-yard split (1.70 seconds, 93rd percentile), were both elite. Same goes for his 33-inch vertical (93rd), 9-foot-10 broad jump (98th), 7.32-second three-cone (95th) and 4.47-second short shuttle (92nd).

His arm length and frame may make it difficult for him to hold up against power, but if Belichick is looking for an athlete to replace the most athletic lineman the team has had in recent seasons in Shaq Mason, he could do much worse than Tom. 

Fifth round, No. 158: Matt Araiza, P, San Diego State

The people love this guy. We included him in our last seven-round mock, and even with a potential starting tackle or a dynamic special-teamer with tantalizing speed at wideout available ... the people stick with the punter.

Here's how we summed up Araiza's fit with the Patriots last week:

"Here are the facts: The Patriots love left-footed punters. The Patriots love to draft special-teamers in the fifth round (Matthew Slater, 2008; Zoltan Mesko, 2010; Joe Cardona, 2015; Jake Bailey, 2019).

"The Patriots love a good deal, and they are scheduled to pay Bailey more in base salary than any other punter this year. And, finally, the left-footed Araiza just posted one of the best punting seasons in the history of college football."

Get the red, white and blue jerseys ready now. Just in case.

Fifth round, No. 170: Velus Jones Jr., WR/ST, Tennessee

Because the voting was so tight between Araiza and Jones (6-feet, 204 pounds), and because Jones was still available with the next fifth-round pick for the Patriots, we sent this Volunteer to New England. 

And why not? Jones has next-level speed (4.31-second 40) and was named co-special teams Player of the Year in the SEC last season. He's an accomplished returner, leading the conference in kick-return yards the last two last seasons, but he also possesses the toughness to get physical in the kicking game as a blocker and kick-coverage player.

He's still developing as a wideout, but he may be able to eventually contribute offensively as well thanks to his physical gifts. According to The Athletic's Dane Brugler, he was the only FBS player with at least 700 receiving yards, 500 kick-return yards and 200 punt-return yards last season.

Sixth round, No. 200: Marquan McCall, DT, Kentucky

The reluctance to snare a tackle in this year's draft class is becoming clearer by the round.

Even with a couple of athletic and enticing developmental options at that all-important position still on the board, fans simply did not want to go there. Puzzling, given both Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown's injury histories and Wynn's contract situation. But perhaps fans would simply rather take a shot on an immediate starter early in next year's draft.

 

With this selection, they've added another player who could have a real role on the defensive side of the ball right away. The Patriots struggled to defend runs between the tackles last season, and McCall would be a true nose tackle at his size (6-foot-3, 342 pounds).

He could allow players like Davon Godchaux, Lawrence Guy and Christian Barmore to play more as 3-4 style defensive ends -- their more natural spots -- while he eats space in the middle. That's just about all he'll do. It's why he's available at this stage. But in Belichick's defense, that has value.

Sixth round, No. 210: EJ Perry, QB, Brown

Now you're just messing with us. Would Belichick really pass on a productive linebacker and captain out of Navy? Well, he might.

The Patriots have done their homework on Perry, who hails from Andover, Mass. And Perry's performance at this year's Shrine Bowl was indicative of the fact that he has more promise behind center than some may be willing to admit. Could this selection then make him a replacement for Jarrett Stidham and Brian Hoyer's eventual successor as the No. 2 in New England? 

Could QB E.J. Perry could be a Jarrett Stidham replacement?

Perry also has this going for him: He's an athlete. Take a look at his height, weight and speed numbers versus those of Cooper Kupp from 2017. Not all that dissimilar.

Not saying that Perry will or should convert to being a receiver. But he clearly is a pro-caliber athlete, and the Patriots could get creative with that type of player. Wouldn't be the first time they've taken a quarterback on Day 3 and leveraged his athleticism to help the team at other positions.