2022 NFL Draft mailbag: Answer your Patriots questions before first round

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Perry's mailbag: Answering your Pats questions before 2022 NFL Draft originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2022 NFL Draft is here! Check out Phil Perry's final mailbag before the first round Thursday night.

My best educated guess is that, yes, the Patriots will draft a receiver this weekend. Where that happens depends on how the board falls. I wouldn't rule it out on Day 1. (More on that "dream scenario" later.) But it's more likely a Day 2 or 3 proposition. The Parker signing, from what I understand, does not rule out a receiver addition. Here are some of the best fits in the class.

If you're reading this, you're likely already familiar with some of the top names at the position, but if the Patriots end up looking at this spot late, Tennessee's Velus Jones, Northern Iowa's Isaiah Weston and Idaho State's Tanner Conner are freaky physical specimens. Slots? UCLA's Kyle Philips would make plenty of sense on Day 3.

Physical. Aggressive. Fast as all hell. Was a standout player in a defense loaded with standout players. Nothing not to like. Do the Patriots want another safety, though? He could play free safety, which the Patriots could use since they don't have a succession plan in place for Devin McCourty. But part of the allure of Cine is his tackling and his devil-may-care attitude attacking the line of scrimmage. They already have Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips and Jabrill Peppers. Just not sure the fit is there, but you never know. I've spoken to people who believe he'll be a first-round pick.

No. There are just too many things that can happen between now and next year's draft that you'd be planning ahead for a receiver. For a quarterback? Maybe. Not a receiver.

Yes. I think they would seriously consider it. He's a rare talent. He comes from Nick Saban's program. He was SEC Special Teams Player of the Year. Yes. Consider it. They should. And they would, in my opinion. I just think the idea that he'll get to them is pie-in-the-sky thinking...

...The dream scenario is that Jameson Williams slides to the Patriots. Or to within a reasonable range to trade up. (The later teens.) To me, he's one of the few true blue-chip players in this draft. If he hadn't torn his ACL, I think he'd be getting buzz as the No. 1 overall player. He didn't play with Mac Jones at Alabama, but he'd give Jones a legitimate stud to threaten defenses down the field. "Dream" is the operative word here, though. I believe there's a strong chance he goes inside the top-10 picks.

Trent McDuffie of Washington and Kaiir Elam of Florida would be my answers there. Different players. McDuffie is smaller but arguably the best tackler at the position in this year's draft -- that matters to the Patriots -- and he's brilliant. He can play man or zone and while he's not a rare athlete, he's plenty athletic to go in the middle of the first.

Elam is, I've been told, one of the best pure man-to-man corners in this class. He has size and ball skills, and he ran his 40 in 4.39 seconds at the combine. Keep an eye on him for the Patriots at pick No. 21 overall. When I gave the Patriots linebacker Quay Walker out of Georgia in my final mock draft, Elam was my next choice for them. They've valued the middle of the defense more than the perimeter early in drafts in the past, and Walker has the Georgia connection, which made me lean Walker in that scenario. But when it comes to positional value in the modern NFL, there's no question the more valuable position -- all things being equal -- is corner.

They're a red flag for some. Not for others. It's all about what you're comfortable with as a franchise. That stuff has been out there for some time, but for some reason it does seem to be garnering more buzz now. Maybe in response to the reports that some see Pickens as a first-rounder? From a talent point of view, there's no doubt in my mind he belongs in that discussion. Special athleticism and ball skills with really good size. He has some Brandon Lloyd-level acrobatic catches on his tape. And he's bigger.

I don't see it, Andrew. I asked some folks familiar with the Patriots program last offseason if they'd consider drafting him. Was told it might be hard to sell ownership on a Florida player with multiple gun-related incidents. Fair enough.

If you're looking at the roster and wondering where they most need a starter, guard is the answer. But... does that mean they need to draft that position early? I'd say no. They've found gems late on Day 2 and into Day 3 in the past. Because they have so many critical needs all over the roster -- they aren't a guard away -- it would come as some surprise if they went with a guard on Thursday. That said! Belichick loves drafting for need in the first round. They do draft with the current roster in mind. And Boston College's Zion Johnson is a perfect fit. He's incredibly smart, and he's as safe as they come. You aren't whiffing with Johnson.

Lloyd is really interesting. He's considered a top-10 player by some. I've also spoken to teams who would be more comfortable taking him as a second or third-rounder. He could slide all the way to No. 21. I think the Patriots would like Walker better for a variety of reasons. There are some questions about the consistency of Lloyd's effort. Not the case with Walker. Lloyd is also an older player (he'll be 24 in September) and there are some teams who have injury concerns with him. But if you feel he's the next Fred Warner or Darius Leonard -- and I've heard him compared to both this offseason -- then he's totally worthy of No. 21 overall. Both those players just got contracts worth over $90 million.

Very possible. They lost two starters. They love having depth there. They know how valuable it is. There are plenty of fits at tackle and guard this year late into the draft.

Great question. Let's go with smaller-school guys who could be drafted on Day 1 or 2. Northern Iowa's Trevor Penning, Tulsa's Tyler Smith and Central Michigan's Bernhard Raimann both check a lot of boxes at tackle. Cole Strange from UT-Chattanooga is a Day 2 guard who had a tremendous Senior Bowl. Western Michigan's Skyy Moore and North Dakota State's Christian Watson are dynamic wideouts who could end up going in the first round.

Two of the best linebackers in the class are smaller-school guys who could be taken in the second round. There's Wyoming's Chad Muma, who's like his former teammate Logan Wilson but may be a little better against the run (Wilson is better against the pass). Then there's Montana State's Troy Andersen, who has one of the best stories in the draft. He played quarterback. He played running back. He really has only one year under his belt. But he's an incredible athlete. Maybe the best athlete at the position in this class. "You're getting a Brian Urlacher-esque in terms of size and speed but he's going to be a little bit raw," an NFC linebackers coach told me recently. "I love this kid."

I'm thinking they should really value premium positions in the first round. But the talent has to be right. I think Penning is talented enough to be a quick-trigger pick at No. 21 overall. Same for Elam. I'd also say that if Jermaine Johnson somehow slides down the board on the edge, he should be in that class. He's getting a lot of love lately. But as recently as a month ago he was mocked right around where the Patriots are picking. He's too good to last that long. But if he does, grab him.

Wouldn't surprise me at all. He's impressive in terms of the number of alignments he can work out of. He has real receiver chops. And he's a very capable runner.

Think it's just ammo. Flexibility to move up a slot or two if needed. Maybe it's to jump the line for a priority free agent. If you listen to Next Pats, you know I'd personally be advocating for Mercer guard Jason Poe late on Day 3. Not many humans his size who move the way he does.

Any order? Corner. Linebacker. Guard. Just a guess. But if I get the order right, you have to promise you'll bring this up at a later date.

It would make a lot of sense to me. Right now, based on conversations I've had, it feels like the Patriots are sitting just outside that second tier of player at No. 54 overall. If they wanted to get two players from the second tier (they may be forced to take one at No. 21 overall in a draft that has a top tier of about 15 players), then they'd have to trade up a bit from where they are now in the second round. They did it last year. I think it would be a good time to be aggressive.

Could see them doing it for Jameson Williams, Jordan Davis, Jermaine Johnson or Trent McDuffie. I don't think the other corners are getting to them, and I think McDuffie is clearly the third-best guy there. I don't think Williams is getting to them, but because of the injury you never know. I think Johnson is the last best edge defender who could be in their range for a trade up.

I think he plays faster than that. And his length helps with his range. He tested almost identically to what Fred Warner posted a few years ago.

Nope. He'd be more of a float-and-fill off-the-ball linebacker. Just think he's a little undersized, a little less explosive than they'd like, and he has a few too many durability concerns to be a first-round guy for them. Really good player. Great guest on Next Pats. Football IQ through the roof. Just not sure he's a first-rounder though.

Mid-round is early. But late? Sure. Here are some fits.

Not a reach, in my opinion.

I like him. Not sure how early they'd invest in him. Much slower agilities than what they typically want. Quickness matters. Especially for guys playing on the inside. I think he plays faster than his times, but the times were what they were.

Davis.

How about corner Tre Avery from Rutgers? Probably not a pick. Probably a priority free agent. But the Patriots have done OK with defensive backs coached up by Greg Schiano. Avery also happens to be a ridiculous athlete. More on him here.