Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest 2020 NFL mock draft has Patriots picking QB in first round

Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest 2020 NFL mock draft has Patriots picking QB in first round

Could the New England Patriots find Tom Brady's replacement or his eventual successor in the 2020 NFL Draft?

The Patriots are projected to have as many as 12 picks (including compensatory selections) in April's draft, beginning with No. 23 overall in the first round. That's where ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has the Patriots picking a quarterback in his 2020 NFL Mock Draft 2.0 released Tuesday.

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Here is Kiper's reasoning for slotting Washington's Jacob Eason at No. 23 with the Patriots:

Yes, that's right, I'm now going with a quarterback for the Patriots, who still don't know if they'll have Tom Brady under center in 2020. Even if the 42-year-old free agent returns on a short-term deal, the Pats have to address the position on the first two days of the draft, so why not do it now? I like 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham's potential, but I'm not sold on him as a long-term starter. Eason has been getting a lot of buzz from people I talk to in the NFL lately, though he's not a lock to be the fourth quarterback taken; he's still battling with Utah State's Jordan Love, but I'll give the 6-6 Eason the edge for now. He has the best arm of any signal-caller in this class, though he can be erratic at times. It'd be ideal if he got a year or two to sit behind Brady, but he has a much higher ceiling that Stidham. Safety and linebacker are other positions to keep an eye on for New England's top pick.

Eason spent his first two collegiate seasons at Georgia before transferring to Washington. He completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 3,132 yards with 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season. The Huskies earned an 8-5 record and beat Boise State 38-7 in the Las Vegas Bowl. Eason is the son of a former Notre Dame wide receiver named Tony Eason. Jacob Eason is NOT related to former Patriots quarterback Tony Eason. 

It wouldn't make much sense for the Patriots to take a quarterback in Round 1 if Brady is coming back for the 2020 season. In that scenario, the Patriots should try to surround Brady with as much offensive talent as possible. This means finding a tight end who can make a genuine impact in the passing game, improving the wide receiver depth and bolstering an offensive line that was ravaged by injuries last season. The 2020 draft class is absolutely loaded with talented wide receivers.

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The Patriots also drafted Auburn's Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round of last year's draft. He has yet to get an opportunity to prove himself. 

Regardless of what Brady decides in free agency, the Patriots need to nail the upcoming draft if they're going to compete for a Super Bowl title in the 2020 season.

NFL's 2010s All-Decade team is stacked with ex-Patriots players

NFL's 2010s All-Decade team is stacked with ex-Patriots players

This may shock you, but the NFL's best team of the last 10 years also employed some of the league's best players.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame revealed its All-Decade Team of the 2010s (2010 to 2019) on Monday, and the New England Patriots are well-represented.

Here's a full list of players on the All-Decade Team who played at least one game for the Patriots:

Tom Brady, quarterback
Antonio Brown, wide receiver
Rob Gronkowski, tight end
Logan Mankins, guard

Chandler Jones, defensive end
Darrelle Revis, cornerback

Stephen Gostkowski, kicker
Codarrelle Patterson, return specialist

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick also joined Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll as the two coaches of the decade.

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Those eight players obviously varied in their contributions with New England: Patterson, Revis and Brown each spent just one year (or in Brown's case, one game) with the Patriots outside their primes, while Brady, Gronkowski and Gostkowski built their entire careers in Foxboro.

Still it's a testament to the Patriots' greatness that they have more ex-players on the All-Decade Team than any other club.

That stat also makes sense considering New England played in five of the decade's 10 Super Bowls, winning three.

It's also worth noting that none of these players are still on the Patriots after Brady joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in free agency and Gostkowski was released.

Does that mean the 2020s will belong to another franchise?

2020 NFL Draft: Prototypical Patriot offensive tackles available

2020 NFL Draft: Prototypical Patriot offensive tackles available

What do the Patriots like to see in tackles coming out of the draft?

Going through their choices at that position over the last decade, it's clear they want athletes. Vertical jumps sniffing 30 inches, broad jumps up over 100 inches and short-shuttle times under 5.0 seconds are preferred. Clock a 40 time in the 5.15-second range (helped by a good 10-yard split) and a three-cone around 7.5-seconds, and you've got a shot. 

Height mattered once upon a time, it seemed. Then they drafted Isaiah Wynn (6-foot-3, 313 pounds) in the first round in 2018.

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We'll have a few players here who don't meet typical Patriots standards or didn't test at the combine at all. Call it the Wynn Rule. But those mentioned here performed well enough in college or at the Senior Bowl to warrant consideration. Or they showed good athleticism on tape, as Yodny Cajuste — who couldn't test due to injury — did last year.

Whether the Patriots want a tackle or not remains to be seen, but with the future of the offensive line in New England in somewhat of a state of flux — Wynn has played nine games in two years; Joe Thuney is under contract for one year after signing his franchise tender; Marcus Cannon will be 32 when the season begins — finding depth there might be a worthwhile pursuit. Particularly after seeing how things looked when injuries depleted their top-end talent at the position last season.

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