Patriots seven-round mock draft 5.0
The more you talk to people around the league, the more you hear the same thing over and over again: The second-round is the sweet spot in this year's draft. NFL Media's Daniel Jeremiah said as much during his conference call with reporters Thursday. "I think that there's 15 to 16 players that everybody in the league kind of agrees are the top guys," he said. "And then after that, once you get to 17, 18, all the way to 50 or 60, they're in all different order there. So it creates a lot of uncertainty of what's going to happen in the back half of the first round, which will be fun."
The Patriots just so happen to be in the back half of the first round. Never ones to pass up an opportunity to acquire value, they kick off our fifth seven-round, Patriots-specific mock by trading out of pick No. 32 and into the heart of where this draft is deepest. From there, we're loading up the Patriots with nothing but "prototypes" since we're in the middle of our annual Prototypical Patriots series.
As we've done for just about every pick -- save for our trade up in Round 1 of Mock 4.0 and our trade out of Round 1 here -- we've given the Patriots a new player with every mock selection we've made during the pre-draft process. The point isn't necessarily to predict what the Patriots will do but rather familiarize ourselves with as many potential fits as possible.
Patriots trade No. 32, Lions trade No. 43 and a 2020 second-rounder
No. 43. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida
We explained the logic behind the trade here. Not much explanation necessary to describe why Gardner-Johnson is a fit. He put together a combine (5-foot-11, 210 pounds, 4.48-second 40, 36-inch vertical) that was reminiscent of Patrick Chung's back in 2009 (5-11, 212, 4.49, 34). Gardner-Johnson is a do-it-all type who played free safety in 2017 and served in more of a box role in 2018. He's someone who could check tight ends and running backs, roam the deep portion, blitz and contribute on special teams for years to come. Without a doubt, this SEC product fits the "prototype" description and would be worthy of a selection here.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Florida
No. 56: Kaleb McGary, OL, Washington
No surprise the Patriots have done their due diligence on McGary during the pre-draft process, reportedly having him to Foxboro for a visit. The 6-foot-7, 317-pounder has good size and is an elite athlete. His 5.05-second 40, 33.5-inch vertical, 111-inch broad and 4.58-second short shuttle are all extremely impressive. For a team that values explosiveness and run-game experience from its drafted offensive linemen, McGary is perhaps the best fit in the class. He could serve as a swing tackle in Year 1 and then perhaps take over one of the starting edge spots down the line -- particularly if the Patriots ever decided to shift Isaiah Wynn to guard should Joe Thuney depart via free agency in 2020. McGary could move to guard himself. It's where some have him projected since his arm length (33 inches) isn't overwhelming.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: OL, Kaleb McGary, Washington
No. 64. Emanuel Hall, WR, Missouri
The 6-foot-2, 201-pounder is one of the most athletically-gifted receivers in this year's draft class. His explosiveness (43.5-inch vertical, 141-inch broad) is off the charts, and his speed (4.39-second 40) is dynamite. He's a long way from being considered one of the best pairs of hands in the draft -- 12 drops on 82 catchable targets the last two seasons, per Pro Football Focus -- but he looks like a threat to stress the deep portion of the field at the next level. He can also serve as a catch-and-run option if he finds the ball in space. This is a draft class deep with receiver talent, but Hall's physical tools are hard to find.
No. 64 in Mock 1.0: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida
No. 64 in Mock 2.0: Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia
No. 64 in Mock 3.0: D'Andre Walker, EDGE, Georgia
No. 64 in Mock 4.0: Christian Miller, EDGE, Alabama
No. 73: Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
Jace Sternberger was available at No. 64, but he was passed over in the late second round to bring in an above-average NFL-caliber athlete at wideout. By the time the Patriots were on the clock again, Sternberger was gone and Knox was the choice because of his rare blend of size and speed. At 6-foot-4, 249 pounds, he clocked a 4.51-second 40 at his pro day to go along with a 34.5-inch vertical and a 4.27-second short shuttle. Few tight ends move that well. Knox is also a willing blocker, and he looks capable of serving in a "move" tight end role where he's deployed out of various alignments. Had he been used more frequently in Ole Miss' offense -- there were several mouths to feed there in the passing game -- he'd likely be considered a strong second-round pick. Getting the former walk-on, complete with accompanying chip-on-the-shoulder attitude so many Patriots have exhibited, in the third could wind up being a steal.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: TE Dawson Knox, Ole Miss
No. 97: JoeJuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Are the Patriots desperate for corners? No. That doesn't mean they wouldn't pass up the chance to draft a good one if the opportunity presented itself. Coverage matters, and with a deep group of defensive backs set to return this season, the Patriots know it. At 6-foot-4, 211 pounds, Williams is the type of corner Bill Belichick discussed recently when he said, "This is another year where there’s a lot of big receivers – 6-4, 225, 230, whatever they are. I mean, somebody’s going to have to cover those guys one of these days." Williams might not have the long speed to match up with true burners (4.55-second 40), but if he gets a good jam at the line on bigger bodies across from him at the line of scrimmage, he may stop those top-off-the-defense routes before they start. Williams isn't afraid to be physical in the run game, he comes from a program Belichick respects, and his combination of length and quickness (4.07-second short shuttle) is rare. For a team that love to play press-man coverage on the outside, he's a fit.
2019 NFL Draft Highlights: DB Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt
No. 101: Khalen Saunders, DL, Western Illinois
Though the Patriots signed Mike Pennel to help take over inside with Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton no longer on the roster, they could use another big body. At 6-feet, 324 pounds, Saunders has the weight to handle work on the interior. Saunders is much more than a space-eater, though. He's incredibly explosive (121-inch broad jump), and when given the opportunity to compete against top-tier competition at the Senior Bowl he was hard to handle. He had the second-highest win rate among interior defenders in Mobile, according to Pro Football Focus, winning all seven of his reps against potential first-rounders Garrett Bradbury, Chris Lindstrom and Erik McCoy.
No. 134: Anthony Nelson, EDGE, Iowa
You won't find many better fits for the Patriots at this position. Nelson doesn't just come from a program Belichick respects. He doesn't just have the kind of cartoonish length the Patriots look for on the edge (35-inch arms). His testing numbers were through the roof as well. His 4.23-second short shuttle and 6.95-second three cone at 6-foot-7, 271 pounds were elite. His 35.5-inch vertical was eye-opening, as was his 118-inch broad jump. You can hear more about why Nelson is such an easy add to the Patriots "prototype" conversation in our conversation with Iowa strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle on The Next Pats Podcast.
No. 134 in Mock 1.0: Jonathan Ledbetter, EDGE, Georgia
No. 134 in Mock 2.0: Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple
No. 134 in Mock 3.0: Stanley Morgan, WR, Nebraska
No. 134 in Mock 4.0: Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska
No. 205: Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas
While most players here are deemed "prototypes" based mostly off of their physical traits, Greenlaw is a Patriots fit for other reasons. At 5-foot-11, 237 pounds, his 4.73-second 40 is solid, but it won't blow anyone away. Greenlaw's history with Patriots assistant Bret Bielema, though, might mean there's someone inside the walls of Gillette Stadium banging on the table to get Greenlaw into camp. The Razorback captain has been described to me as a high-character person -- he's already faced significant adversity in his life -- who would do all that's asked of him at the next level. The Patriots might be willing to bring in the four-year starter and former safety if they feel he can play special teams and perhaps eventually serve in an Elandon Roberts-type role.
No. 239: Jesse Aniebonam, EDGE, Maryland
This might be a little rich for a player who's getting very little buzz during the pre-draft process, but Aniebonam has a rare physical skill set. At 6-foot-3, 258 pounds, he reportedly ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash, and jumped 123 inches in the broad jump at his pro day. As a sophomore, he had a gigantic year with 9.0 sacks and 14 tackles for losses. Early in the 2017 season, though, he broke his ankle, and then last season he had only two sacks and five tackles for losses. Aniebonam did, however, block a punt against Temple and return it for a touchdown last year. If his health checks out, at this stage of the draft, he's certainly worth a roll of the dice. Whitney Mercilus, drafted by the Texans in the first round in 2012, had a similar physical profile as a rookie (6-3, 261 pounds, 4.68-second 40, 118-inch broad jump). Former Patriots who compare to Aniebonam size-wise but weren't as fast in the 40 were Rob Ninkovich (6-3, 260, 4.91-second 40, 116-inch broad) and Roosevelt Colvin (6-3, 256, 4.92-second 40, 119-inch broad).
No. 243: Nick Easley, WR, Iowa
Two Hawkeyes in this mock and neither plays tight end? Easley may not be linked to the Patriots quite as often as his teammates T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant, but he looks like a fit at a position in the New England offense that is just as critical. At 5-foot-11, 203 pounds, he's a solidly-built slot -- like seventh-round receiver Julian Edelman -- and lightning quick. His 3.87-second short shuttle at Iowa's pro day was better than Edelman's (3.92 seconds) blazing time coming out of Kent State, and it approached the ridiculous number posted by Deion Branch back in 2002 (3.78 seconds). Easley's three-cone time (6.55) was also remarkable. A captain as a sophomore at Iowa Western Community College and named to Iowa's Leadership Group last year, Easley was the Outback Bowl's most valuable player after hauling in eight passes for 104 yards and two scores against No. 18 Mississippi State. Easley was also mentioned as a good match for the Patriots -- in case you needed any more evidence -- in our discussion with his strength and conditioning coach on The Next Pats Podcast.
No. 243 in Mock 1.0: Albert Huggins, DL, Clemson
No. 243 in Mock 2.0: Alec Ingold, FB, Wisconsin
No. 222 (trade) in Mock 3.0: Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State
No. 243 in Mock 4.0: Eric Dungey, QB, Syracuse
No. 246: Alex Barnes, RB, Kansas State
Maybe the best combination of size and athleticism in this year's draft class at running back, Barnes ran a 4.59 40, a 6.95 three-cone and a 4.1 short shuttle. For someone his size (6-feet, 226 pounds), that's impressive. Barnes also had some of the best jumps among those at his position at this year's combine (38.5 vertical, 126 broad), and he benched a whopping 34 reps of 225 pounds. If the Patriots are in the market for a "big back," Barnes can be that guy. But his athletic profile suggests he's capable of more should the Patriots run into injuries at the position as they did in 2018.
No. 252: Nsimba Webster, WR, Eastern Washington
Webster clocked a 40 in the 4.4-second range at his pro day and checked in with a very strong 6.7-second three-cone time, according to reports. With 84 catches for 1,379 yards and 11 scores last year, he clearly had no trouble producing in a conference that had few challenges for Webster's former teammate Cooper Kupp. Webster (5-10, 180) also has loads of kick-return experience, which should interest the Patriots after they lost Cordarrelle Patterson via free agency. We touched on Webster's fit with the Patriots in our Next Pats Podcast with Emory Hunt of the Athletic and FootballGameplan.com.