Patriots 7-round mock draft 1.0: Loading up on offense post-Tom Brady
What now? After losing Tom Brady to free agency, how will the Patriots try to cope through the draft? Will they add a quarterback themselves? Load up defensively to win low-scoring affairs? In this, our first seven-round Patriots-specific mock draft of the year, we're going to give the next quarterback in town — whoever that is — all kinds of help.
Some kind of sick joke? Nope. But isn't that why Brady was getting fed up in New England in the first place, that he wasn't getting the help he needed offensively? Well, partly. But they've drafted offense early for years now (N'Keal Harry, Isaiah Wynn, Sony Michel), and yet the Patriots are where they are. They still need help.
They're a team that'll go into the season with a new quarterback, a 34-year-old No. 1 receiver and a 30-year-old No. 2 going into the final year of his contract. They're a team that last year had the least-productive group of tight ends in the league. They're an offense that simply did not appear to have enough speed in 2019.
Can the Patriots address all of those things come the draft? Maybe. Let's figure it out, with the help of the mock draft simulator over at The Draft Network. Here's how things went for Brady's former club...
No. 23: Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
Safe to say quite a bit has changed across the NFL landscape since we last compiled our first-round NFL mock draft and slotted Mims in at No. 23. Still, we're sticking with the selection. For an offense in need of speed, Mims provides it. His athleticism is off the charts for someone who measured in at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds at the combine. He'll block. And he'll be able to co-exist with Harry because his skill set is different. Harry excels in space with the ball in his hands as a hulking wideout. Mims has the speed to threaten safeties, the size to win jump balls and the change-of-direction ability to separate on a variety of routes.
It may seem unlikely for the Patriots to take a first-round wideout for the second straight year. But to give, say, Jarrett Stidham a starting trio of receivers that includes Mims, Julian Edelman and N'Keal Harry? That'd make the second-year passer's impossible job of filling in for Brady a bit easier.
No. 87: Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
True dual-threat tight ends are hard to find these days, scouts will tell you, but the Patriots had one of the few with that kind of potential in this class fall to them at the end of the third round. They may not be able to wait this long if they want Trautman — or the other do-it-all tight end in the class, Notre Dame's Cole Kmet — but if he's there as he was in this simulation? They'd have to pounce.
Trautman (6-5, 255) has some wiggle to him for a big man and posted a ridiculous 6.78 three-cone drill to accompany a strong 34.5-inch vertical at the combine. He's a quarterback-turned-tight-end who dominated FCS competition with the Flyers as a receiver and a blocker. (Though the latter is where he needs polish.) Then he went to the Senior Bowl, saw some of the best players in the country, and acquitted himself well in both areas.
No. 98: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
Speaking of the Senior Bowl, the Patriots took one of the 2019 Senior Bowl practice players of the week in the fourth round last year when they nabbed Stidham. Might they want to take another at the same position this year? Hurts isn't the Patriots prototype behind center, but he had a strong week in Mobile while wearing a helmet that reflected he'd played at both Alabama and for the Sooners. With intangibles and a football IQ that have impressed over his years in the spotlight, Hurts has a personality New England would likely appreciate at that position. Hurts is so well-respected by Nick Saban that Saban still considered Hurts "one of our players" even after he transferred.
Hurts isn't the most accurate quarterback in the class, but he won almost 40 games as a starter in college, he's tough, and his athleticism would add a wrinkle to the Patriots offense if they wanted to work him into the game in certain packages. Insert him into a competition with Stidham and perhaps a veteran? He'd compete.
No. 100: K'Von Wallace, DB, Clemson
Think Bill Belichick might be interested in a versatile defensive back? Wallace likely wouldn't be Duron Harmon's replacement as a true single-high safety, but he might be able to handle responsibilities in Belichick's defense as a box safety or a slot corner. The Patriots have Patrick Chung in line to start in 2020, but he's closer to the end than the beginning, and perhaps Belichick envisions a scenario in which Wallace and Jonathan Jones can share the near-the-line-of-scrimmage Patriots roles of the "star" (slot corner) and strong safety.
At 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, Wallace has a similar build to Chung when Chung was coming out of Oregon in 2009 (5-11, 212), so he's solid enough to handle himself in the running game. Pro Football Focus docked him for just 18 missed tackles on 171 career attempts, making him one of the best tackling defensive backs in the country. Wallace also tested well at the combine, with a fast-enough 4.53 40 and a very impressive 38-inch vertical and 133-inch broad jump. Match those explosive leaps with quick change-of-direction times (6.76 three-cone drill, 4.15 short shuttle) and you can bank on the fact that the effectiveness he had in traffic at Clemson will translate at the next level. Special teams could be where he makes his mark early.
No. 125: Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri
Elliott (6-4, 302 pounds) looks like he'll be able to more than handle himself as a defensive end in New England's 3-4 looks. Opposite Lawrence Guy, the Patriots utilized Adam Butler as their No. 2 end in 2019, but Elliott could challenge for time early if drafted by Belichick this spring. Why? In an age when most big-bodied interior defensive linemen want to tear up the field and get after the quarterback, Elliott understands there's a time and place for that. There's also a time to stack blockers, find ball-carriers and finish.
He's played all along the defensive line at Missouri, and would give the Patriots flexibility to alter their fronts on the fly. He's PFF's No. 20 player overall and their No. 3 interior defensive lineman in the class thanks to his production for the Tigers, but he didn't make NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah's Top 50. Does that mean he'll fall out of the Top 100? If he does, the Patriots could use the front-seven help.
No. 172: Lynn Bowden Jr., WR, Kentucky
The Patriots have taken an athletic quarterback and turned him into a slot receiver before. Would they try to do it again? It's unfair to Bowden to be compared to Julian Edelman, but Edelman's path offers Bowden an ideal for which to shoot. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder had to start the last eight games of his junior season at quarterback for the Wildcats, even though that won't be his position at the next level. Still, by season's end he'd rushed for almost 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns, caught 30 passes for 348 yards, and returned both kicks (24.4 yards per return average) and punts (13.2 yards per return).
He started a fight before the Belk Bowl, which might turn off the Patriots, but that's somewhat consistent with his reputation as a maniacal competitor. Can he return? Can he play in the slot? Might he be able to serve as a pass-catching back who takes the occasional handoff? He broke 48 tackles on 166 runs last season, per PFF. Wherever he lands, he'll bring versatility and a competitive spirit.
No. 195: Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
At this point in the draft, even hitting on special-teamers is no sure thing. Wilson, though, would feel like very solid value. There are NFL evaluators who see him as a Day 2 choice. The reason he fits what the Patriots might like? He has good size at 6-2, 241 — particularly in a world where the off-ball linebackers are shrinking by the year — and can move. His 4.63-second 40, 7.07 three-cone and 4.27 short-shuttle are all impressive for someone at that weight.
The Patriots lost both Jamie Collins and Elandon Roberts to free agency this offseason, so they'll need bodies at the second level of their defense. Wilson might be able to compete for a defensive role while chipping in primarily as a "teams" guy early in his pro career.
No. 204: Gage Cervenka, OL, Clemson
Why not dip into the Clemson pipeline again here? There are worse programs to raid. Cervenka is a fascinating player. He shifted from defensive line to offensive line early in his Tigers career, played both center and guard, and might've been one of the strongest players in college football with a personal record 44 bench reps of 225 pounds to his name.
A four-time state champion wrestler in high school at South Carolina, he seems to fit the "smart, tough and athletic enough" profile Dante Scarnecchia used to refer to when describing what the Patriots want up front.
No. 212: Charlie Taumoepeau, FB, Portland State
He's listed as a tight end most places, but might the Patriots draft a fullback at this late stage? They desperately needed one last season — using Roberts, who'd never played the position before, in critical situations — and so a sixth-round pick seems like a small price to pay to fortify that spot in 2020.
At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds Taumoepeau offers a potentially valuable combination of good hands and unrelenting effort as a blocker. In 2018, he played Nevada and Oregon and posted eight catches for 255 yards and four touchdowns.
No. 213: Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado
It's early enough in the process that it's hard to pinpoint exactly where some of these players will go. I've heard Taylor could be a third-rounder. Here he almost makes it to the seventh. Either way, he was available in this simulation, so why not? He's not the big-bodied 'backer Belichick typically likes, but he falls into the Kamu Grugier-Hill mold of an uber-athlete who'd be a special-teams standout if he makes the team. (Grugier-Hill was released at the end of training camp after being drafted in the sixth round out of Eastern Illinois in 2016 and became a special-teams standout with some defensive responsibilities in Philadelphia.)
At 6-feet, 228 pounds, Taylor ran a ridiculous 4.49-second 40, jumped 35 inches in the vertical and 127 inches in the broad, and posed a 6.96-second three-cone drill. That's elite movement skills for someone his size. Taylor played just one high school football game before making a stop at junior college and eventually landing at Buffalo. His mother is a member of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, which observes Saturday as the Sabbath. As a result, Taylor did not play sports from Friday night until Sunday morning.
No. 230: Casey Toohill, OLB, Stanford
We're well into our draft-athletes-and-see-what-sticks portion of the program. Toohill looks the part of a Patriots outside linebacker at 6-4, 250 pounds and with 33-inch arms. How he moves at the combine, though, was really eye-opening. A 4.62-second 40? A 39-inch vertical? A 7.08-second three-cone? Impressive. And he produced for the Cardinal, with a team-leading 11.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks.
He was also a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the "academic Heisman." He's not going to replace Kyle Van Noy any time soon, but the Patriots could use some versatile athletes on the edge. Toohill may develop into an option there.
No. 241: John Reid, DB, Penn State
The Patriots have one of the deepest secondaries in football, even after trading Duron Harmon to the Lions. But you can never have enough talent in the defensive backfield. And, man, does Reid have some physical talent. He ran a 4.49 40, a 6.95-second three-cone and a ridiculous 3.97-second short shuttle at the combine. That's elite change-of-direction ability. And he was explosive to boot, with a 36.5-inch vert and a 129-inch broad.
If he's strictly a slot defender, Reid (5-10, 187) would have to get in line for a crack at the Patriots "star" role behind Wallace and Jones. But a little competition never hurt anybody.