Patriots seven-round mock draft 4.0
Smell that? Mock drafts. Cooking. Around the country.
As we get ever closer to draft weekend, as projections flood the ether, you start to realize the mock-draft process can be (should be?) more art than science. Mock drafts will certainly use data to lay out their selections. We'll do that here. But the most interesting mocks seem to be more about trying to decipher philosophies, thought processes, and finding historical examples of what teams like and dislike. They go beyond the numbers.
If you can predict picks accurately based on athletic testing results and statistical production, all the power to you. But, in my experience, sticking too tightly to those can be a humbling exercise. That's why in our latest Patriots-specific seven-round mock, we'll be selecting a brand new crop of players once again — outside of of one selection, which we'll explain. The goal is to try to introduce as many potential Patriots as possible and in the process lay out a draft-weekend approach that is consistent with what we've learned from Bill Belichick and his staff over the years.
There will be numbers. Of course there will be numbers. But in this mock we'll try to go beyond what the numbers tell us. We'll try to get creative. And in so doing we'll try to give you a relatively realistic picture of how things could play out for the Patriots at the end of this month.
Patriots trade No. 32 and No. 73 to Seattle, Patriots acquire No. 21 and No. 159
No. 21: TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa
The Patriots are not strangers to trading up in the first round, and if Hockenson slides down into the bottom third of the first round, he would be the type of player worth trading up for. Explosive receiver. Nasty run-blocker. Someone who so loved his coaching staff — a staff that is led by two former Belichick assistants — that he started to well up at the combine after I asked him about the Ferentz family. We went into the trade, which provides the pick-poor Seahawks more capital, in more detail here.
Could TJ Hockenson or Jace Sternberger replace Rob Gronkowski?
No. 56: Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
Isabella has been the focus of some fascinating pre-draft discussion. He was a deep threat at UMass and is fairly new to learning interior routes, which he told us at the combine. I think he'd make a lot of sense as a versatile inside-out option, which makes him a prototypical Patriot. Want to use him like Brandin Cooks? He has the speed to do that. Want to put him inside, where his smarts, toughness, and his stop-start acceleration could be used to Tom Brady's advantage? He can do that, too. Getting him off the line, putting him in motion, and moving him around formations should allow him the types of free releases that would accentuate his speed.
Drafting Slot Receivers: Deebo Samuel and Andy Isabella
No. 64: Christian Miller, EDGE, Alabama
This would be a classic Patriots second-round choice. Miller is a player with tremendous upside whose bottom-line numbers in terms of production haven't always been there because of injury. He only has one season with more than 150 snaps at 'Bama, but he knows how to rush the passer. He has great length (35-inch arms) and an ability to bend the corner that would make him a nice fit as a sub-rusher — a spot the Patriots could address early with Adrian Clayborn gone and Derek Rivers left as the top option on the roster in that role. According to Pro Football Focus, his pass-rush win percentage (22.7 percent) was sixth in this year's absolutely loaded edge-rusher draft class. In the late second, he could be a steal.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: LB Christian Miller, Alabama
No. 97: Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame
The Patriots have their tight end. They have their versatile inside-outside threat. Now they could use a contested-catch monster, if he's available. Good news for them: He's available. It's not an exaggeration to say Boykin is one of the best athletes to hit the combine in recent memory. At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, with an 81-inch wingspan, he's built like a classic "X." He didn't test like one. He tested like Calvin Johnson. His 4.42-second 40 and 4.07 short shuttle were among the best times at this year's combine at the position. His 43.5-inch vertical (98th percentile among drafted, according to Mockdraftable.com) and 140-inch broad jump (99th percentile) were out of this world. Without Rob Gronkowski and with Josh Gordon suspended, Brady could use some jump-ball specimens. He has two now in Hockenson and Boykin.
No. 101: Justin Hollins, LB, Oregon
Hollins is another rare athlete in this draft class in that he measured in at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds and ran a 4.50-second 40 at the combine. His vertical (36.5 inches) and three-cone (7.06 seconds) were also excellent for someone his size. But his versatility is what makes him a nice fit for Belichick's defense. He has experience setting an edge and getting after quarterbacks as an end-of-the-line player. But he's also instinctive enough to play off the ball as a "Will" linebacker. He played off the line and on at the East-West Shrine Game, and I've heard him compared to Jamie Collins and Anthony Barr because of his versatility and movement skills.
No. 134: Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska
Remember Jeremy Hill? The Patriots seemed to have Hill pegged for a big role in 2018 before he suffered a season-ending ACL tear. The between-the-tackles workload then fell primarily on the shoulders of Sony Michel. Because both Michel and Rex Burkhead have had issues at times staying healthy, drafting a "big back" for first and second-down work makes a lot of sense. Enter Ozigbo. The 5-11, 225-pounder is explosive on tape and has no problem running through contact. Even if Michel is healthy and getting most of the work, Ozigbo should be able to contribute on special teams.
Patriots trade No. 159, No. 205, No. 239 to Philadelphia, Patriots acquire No. 138
No. 138: Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma
Have we mentioned before that the Patriots hate picking in the fifth round? Though it happened last year when they selected Ja'Whaun Bentley, it's rare that they select in the fifth. That's why in this scenario they take the fifth they acquired from the Seahawks in the Hockenson trade and package it with a pair of sevenths to move into the last slot of the fourth round. The Eagles acknowledged recently they like to pick in bulk so this deal might be attractive to them. The Patriots often take the same approach, but they entered the draft with a dozen selections and likely won't use them all. Evans seems to hit all the criteria the Patriots look for up front — smart, tough, athletic enough — as he was an effective puller who played both tackle spots on one of the best offensive lines in the country. Patriots need a swing tackle, and Evans could be the answer there.
No. 243: Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse
If the Patriots aren't going to invest a top-end pick on a quarterback, someone like Dungey would be intriguing. It's an approach reminiscent of the one the team took when it selected Danny Etling in the seventh round last year. Why not throw a few darts at the position, and see if you hit? Dungey was a record-setting passer at Syracuse in coach Dino Baber's offense. If Baber's name sounds familiar, it should. He was Jimmy Garoppolo's coach at Eastern Illinois. Dungey is extremely competitive but has an injury history that might make teams wary of drafting him.
No. 246: Cole Holcomb, LB, UNC
While several big-name players on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball in New England would admit they're closer to the end than the beginning, the same is true of some of their top special teamers. Holcomb looks like an immediate fit in the kicking game and someone with some upside as a developmental linebacker. He's one of the best athletes in the draft class, having clocked a 4.48-second 40, a 4.18 short-shuttle and a 6.77 three-cone at 6-foot-1, 234 pounds at his pro day. He also jumped 39.5 inches at the regional combine. Those numbers match up favorably with (and are slightly better in some cases than) Darron Lee's back in 2011, when he was made the No. 20 overall pick out of Ohio State at 6-1, 232. Holcomb was a walk-on at North Carolina, a two-time captain, and he racked up over 105 tackles in 11 games last season.
No. 252: Edwin Alexander, DT, LSU
Not a bad point in the draft to find a "those guys don't grow on trees" type. That's Alexander, who was listed at 6-foot-3, 331 pounds last season. A five-star recruit from James White's alma mater St. Thomas Aquinas, Alexander played through knee injuries in college but says he's healthy now. He certainly looked healthy mid-season when he had arguably his best performance of the year when matched up against Georgia center (and first-team All-SEC selection) Lamont Gaillard. That sort of flash could get the Patriots to bite in the later rounds as they love to see prospects compete against top competition.