Patriots

Patriots pick Alabama star in Mel Kiper's first 2020 NFL mock draft

Patriots pick Alabama star in Mel Kiper's first 2020 NFL mock draft

The New England Patriots' preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft is well underway.

Multiple members of the Patriots were in Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl, including head coach Bill Belichick. Patriots scouts reportedly were "gushing" over SMU wide receiver Jordan Proche, who plays at a position New England would be wise to upgrade through the draft.

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The Patriots have plenty of defensive needs as well, and ESPN's Mel Kiper has the AFC East champs bolstering their secondary in his first 2020 NFL mock draft of the season. 

Here's part of Kiper's rationale for slotting Alabama safety Xavier McKinney to the Patriots with the 23rd pick in the first round.

...They have a few other important free agents, though, including safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Jamie Collins, who had a resurgent season. That's why I like the fit of McKinney, my top-ranked safety after I took a closer look at his 2019 tape. He's a complete player and is versatile, which is a trait Bill Belichick values. McKinney also has another thing Belichick likes: He played for Belichick's buddy Nick Saban.

NBC Sports Boston Patriots insider Phil Perry also had McKinney going to the Patriots in his first 2020 NFL mock draft.

McKinney played three seasons with the Crimson Tide and set career highs in 2019 with 95 total tackles, four forced fumbles and three interceptions. He also tallied five passes defensed and three sacks. One of McKinney's best games of the season came against No. 1 ranked and eventual national champions LSU, where he tallied 13 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble in Alabama's 46-41 loss.

The Patriots have one of the league's most talented secondaries, but it's not a young group. Devin McCourty is an unrestricted free agent at 32 years old. His brother, Jason, also is 32 and has one more year left on his contract. Veteran safeties Duron Harmon (29 years old) and Patrick Chung (32 years old) are at the end of their primes. The NFL is a passing league, so it would behoove the Patriots to add some new blood to their defensive backfield.

McKinney is one of the top defensive backs in the 2020 draft class, and he obviously was well coached by Nick Saban and played in many big games as an Alabama starter.

Perry: LSU WR Jefferson movin' up draft boards

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Report: Ex-Patriots WR Danny Amendola to re-sign with Lions

Scratch that Danny Amendola-Patriots reunion.

Peter Schrager of the NFL Network reports the free-agent wide receiver is re-signing with the Detroit Lions, where he spent last season and had 62 catches for 678 yards. Former Pats defensive coordinator Matt Patricia will enter his third season as Lions coach in 2020. 

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The 34-year-old left the Patriots after five seasons to sign with the Miami Dolphins in 2018 and may have burned a bridge or two with Bill Belichick. 

It had been speculated that perhaps bringing in a former reliable Tom Brady receiver might be part of a plan to lure Brady back to New England, with a report in late January that Amendola could come along to wherever Brady lands in free agency, but a Brady-Amendola reunion in Detroit isn't happening, either. 

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

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NBC Sports Boston Illustration

Next Pats Podcast: Will Patriots go mobile at QB if Tom Brady leaves?

There's one big question that New England Patriots are facing this offseason. Who is going to be their starting quarterback in 2020?

For the past 20 seasons, the team hasn't really had questions at the position. It has always been Tom Brady's job. But with the 42-year-old set to hit free agency, the Patriots can't necessarily count on him returning unless they want to pay him what he's worth.

So, now the question for the Patriots becomes, what will life look like if Brady departs?

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On the latest episode of The Next Pats Podcast, which returns for its first episode of the 2020 offseason, Phil Perry is here to explore that question. And really what it all boils down to is what the Patriots are looking for in a potential successor.

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As Perry notes, it's likely to be one of two types of quarterback: The traditional pocket passer or a more mobile athlete in the mold of some of the recent success stories at the position.

Do the Patriots look for the next Brady? Uber-accurate, somebody who's going to sit in the pocket and absolutely dissect every little aspect of the defense that he is looking at. Or, do they go a different route? Do they go with an athlete? Do they get more mobile? Because talking to people this offseason, I'm getting a whiff -- I'm getting a scent that people believe the pocket passer might be dead.

Perry is joined by guests including Pro Football Focus' Steve Palazzolo, Greg Cosell of ESPN and NFL Films, and NFL Network's Kurt Warner to answer questions about Brady's future and what his game has looked like in recent seasons.

For more thoughts about the Patriots offseason, check out the latest episode of the Next Pats Podcast, available as part of the NBC Sports Boston Podcast Network.