Patriots seven-round mock draft 3.0
This is an ever-evolving guessing game. Early on in Mock Draft Season, we can base our selections on what happened college football fields in last fall. Later, we have NFL Scouting Combine information to help inform our choices. And now that we've seen the initial wave of free agency come and go, team needs have become ever clearer.
Look at how our Patriots-specific mocks have played out thus far. We went with tight end TJ Hockenson at No. 32 off the bat. But through the pre-draft process he's worked his way from a second-rounder for many experts into a possible top-15 pick. Our last mock had the Patriots rolling with 340-pound defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence. Then the team signed a veteran 340-pound tackle in free agency.
How might the Patriots draft play out now that some of their needs have come into sharper focus? Let's take a stab . . . without doubling up on any of the names we've hit in mocks No. 1 or 2. At the end of the day, this is about familiarizing ourselves with potential Patriots more so than it is accurately predicting their choices. The more names we're familiar with, the better. So let's get familiar.
No. 32: Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
At 6-foot-6 and a shade under 300 pounds, Tillery is long (34-inch arms, 10.5-inch hands) and an impressive athlete (4.93 40, 4.33-second short shuttle). In some ways, his physical profile is reminiscent of Richard Seymour's (6-6, 299, 34-inch arms, 4.95 40). Tillery is a refined pass-rusher -- he had the highest interior pass-rushing grade handed out by Pro Football Focus last season -- but is stout enough to hold up in all situations and could play a variety of techniques. Making Tillery even more intriguing is he said he played with a torn labrum last season that might've hindered his production. Help along the interior of the defensive line isn't a screaming need at the moment in New England, but Belichick loves drafting those players early, making Seymour, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown first-rounders during his Patriots tenure.
TRADE: No. 56, No. 97, future fourth-rounder to Denver
No. 41: Irv Smith, TE, Alabama
The Patriots aren't taking 12 players in this year's draft class so here's a deal that consolidates a handful of their selections -- both this year and next year -- to shoot up 15 spots in the second round. Smith isn't a true in-line tight end in the mold of Rob Gronkowski. But he is a dual-threat player in his own right. He was among the most productive receiving tight ends in college football last year, and he aligned all over 'Bama's offensive formations as a blocker. His size (6-foot-2, 242 pounds) and speed (4.63-second 40) give him a physical profile similar to that of to Aaron Hernandez (6-2, 245, 4.64). Smith has only two years of real college production under his belt so there may still be room for him to grow. With a good review from Nick Saban, Bill Belichick could be interested in climbing up the board to get New England's next star at this spot. A true "Y" tight end, if the Patriots are interested, could be had later in the draft. LSU's Foster Moreau, perhaps?
No. 64: D'Andre Walker, EDGE, Georgia
The Patriots just released their primary sub rusher from 2018 (Adrian Clayborn). Maybe they feel as though Derek Rivers can fill that role, but if they'd like another option there then Walker would be an intriguing fit. We know how Belichick feels about the Georgia program, and Walker has been a longtime contributor in Athens. He led the team in tackles for loss last year (11) and sacks (7.5), seeing some of the best competition in the country. At 6-2, 251 pounds he's a little undersized when compared to players the Patriots have recently drafted to play on the edge, but he's among the longest edge defenders in the draft class (34.375 inches) which should help him hold up at the point of attack in the NFL. He also seems to pack a punch for his size, as his tape is littered with instances where he meets a pulling guards in the backfield, stands him up, and blows up run plays before they begin. Walker has been recovering from sports hernia surgery during the pre-draft process so we don't have any workout numbers for him at this point, making him a little tougher to peg than most. But Georgia used Walker extensively in the kicking game, which should serve as an indication of his athleticism.
No. 73: Michael Deiter, OL, Wisconsin
The Patriots probably can't afford to stop building up their offensive line depth even after drafting Isaiah Wynn in the first round last spring. They lost swing tackle LaAdrian Waddle to the Bills in free agency. Joe Thuney is going into a contract year. So how about drafting player with guard and tackle experience? Someone who played in a pro-style offense and cleared running lanes in a variety of run schemes? That's Deiter (6-5, 309), a four-year starter who also saw significant experience (16 starts) at center for the Badgers in his career. There's no shortage of Wisconsin linemen who've worked in the NFL ranks, and Deiter could help make up the next wave of dependable pros from that program.
No. 101 (compensatory): Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia
After trading pick No. 97 to the Broncos to land Irv Smith, the next Patriots pick comes in at No. 101. Finally, they address their receiver spot by adding one of the draft's most explosive athletes. Hardman (5-10, 187) clocked a 4.33-second 40 and only needs a little bit of daylight to create a game-changing play. He's only spent two seasons as a receiver so he won't be a short-to-intermediate route-running whiz. But maybe with some coaching, and if he gets a good reference from coach Kirby Smart, he'll provide the Patriots with an explosive presence who can be used from the slot (he's drawn comps to Seattle's slot speedster Tyler Lockett) or on the outside.
No. 134: Stanley Morgan, WR, Nebraska
Considered one of the best route-runners in this year's class, Morgan also had himself a nice day of working out at the combine. He checked in with a 6.78-second three-cone drill, a 38.5-inch vertical and a 125-inch broad jump to go along with a solid 4.53-second 40. So why might he last into the fourth round? His athleticism didn't necessarily pop on tape and there are some concerns when it comes to his hands. But he projects as the type of player who could play inside or out, making him an interesting fit in New England where versatility at receiver is a highly valuable commodity.
No. 205 (compensatory): Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson
This was our Day 3 quarterback spot through two Patriots-specific mocks, but in this scenario the Patriots opt to build up their linebacker depth. Who better to build with than a late-round prospect that the Patriots will value more than most? Lamar (6-3, 253) is massive by today's off-the-ball linebacker standards in a league where size is less important than speed and agility to keep up with running backs in the passing game. That's not Lamar's game. He's bigger and slower than most. But on first and second downs? He'll be a thumper. If he profiles too closely to Ja'Whaun Bentley -- who was off of one linebacker-needy team's draft board last year because of his perceived lack of athleticism -- maybe the Patriots will pass. But where it's so late in the draft, and knowing Lamar has found success at the highest levels of college football, this pick makes sense.
No. 239 (from Philadelphia): Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky
If the Patriots want a true hammer between the tackles coming out of this year's draft, Snell is one of the later-round options who could fit that role. The Patriots were hoping to have Jeremy Hill available to them last season as a hard-charger between the tackles, but when he got hurt, Sony Michel had even more to do. Snell (5-10, 224), a captain at Kentucky, could provide the Patriots with some protection against a Michel injury and a legit goal-line option. He scored 48 times in three years with the Wildcats.
TRADE: No. 243, No. 246 to Chicago
No. 222: Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State
At this point in the draft, the perfect quarterback doesn't exist. But if you want someone with starting experience, experience both under center and out of the shotgun, someone who's considered a leader, someone who has NFL-caliber athleticism, then Stick is an enticing option. Why not take a flier on a 6-1, 224-pounder who was a four-year starter for the Bison and won three FCS titles? His arm is strong enough to push the ball down the field though he has some trouble fitting attempts into tighter windows. And he's a good enough athlete (4.62-second 40; 6.65-second three-cone; 4.05-second short shuttle) to give himself more time behind the line of scrimmage or to create yards on his own if necessary.
No. 252 (compensatory): John Cominsky, DL, Charleston
The Patriots have a history of rolling the dice on great athletes from smaller programs late in drafts, whether it's Keion Crossen from Western Carolina, Kamu Grugier-Hill from Eastern Illinois, Zach Moore from Concordia St. Paul or Julian Edelman from Kent State. Cominsky fits that mold. At the combine he measured in at 6-5, 286 and put up some eye-popping test results (4.69-second 40; 33.5-inch vertical; 4.38-second short shuttle; 7.03-second three-cone). He could compete for a role as a special teamer and perhaps blossom as an option for New England's rotation on the defensive line if he takes to the coaching at One Patriot Place. An option quarterback in high school, Cominsky has put on about 70 pounds since hitting campus, according to NFL.com's Lance Zierlein, and he was named Mountain East Defensive Player of the Year last year.