2022 NFL Mock Draft: ESPN projects Patriots' first three picks

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2022 NFL Mock Draft: Kiper, McShay have Patriots filling three needs originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

The 2022 NFL Draft is just over a week away, and the New England Patriots still could go in several directions with their top picks.

The Patriots own three picks inside the top 100 at No. 21 (Round 1), No. 54 (Round 2) and No. 85 (Round 3). They have several areas of need to address on both sides of the ball, from offensive line (interior line and tackle) and wide receiver on offense to cornerback and linebacker on defense.

Most recent mock drafts have the Patriots choosing from one of those positions in the first round (assuming they don't trade down, which Bill Belichick has been wont to do).  But what about Rounds 2 and 3?

Perry's crowd-sourced NFL Mock Draft: Pats fans take CB, WR early

ESPN draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay have a unveiled a new three-round mock draft in which they alternate selections from pick No. 1 to No. 105. Here's a rundown of the three players heading to New England in this exercise.

First round, No. 21: Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia

McShay's explanation: If you've read my other mock drafts this spring, you know I love this fit. Dean has some unbelievable tape, and coach Bill Belichick would get him involved on defense in a number of ways.

McShay has projected Dean to the Patriots in multiple mock drafts. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker would bring some much-needed speed and coverage skills to New England and recently told our Phil Perry he'd feel very comfortable in Foxboro.

"Growing up, my mother's team was the Patriots. My mom is a big Belichick fan," Dean said on Perry's Next Pats Podcast. "I've had meetings with the Patriots. I feel like I definitely enjoy talking ball with them. ... They seem to have the same philosophy (as Georgia) when it comes to playing defense, when it comes to playing football."

Next Pats Podcast: Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean explains why he'd thrive with the Patriots | Listen & Follow | Watch on YouTube

Second round, No. 54: Dylan Parham, C/G, Memphis

Kiper's explanation: Parham just feels like a Patriots kind of lineman. He's a veteran (51 college starts) who is technically sound. He played both guard spots and right tackle for the Tigers, but he will likely stay at guard in the NFL.

Perry agrees with Kiper, identifying Parham as a "Prototypical Patriot" offensive lineman and noting that Patriots assistant Joe Judge was present at Memphis' pro day this spring. New England could use some versatility on the offensive line after losing Ted Karras and Shaq Mason this offseason.

Third round, No. 85: Cordale Flott, CB, LSU

McShay's explanation: Cornerback depth is important for New England, which lost J.C. Jackson in free agency. Flott's size and speed provide upside.

There's a good chance the Patriots draft a cornerback at some point, as their current top three corners are Jalen Mills, Malcolm Butler and Jonathan Jones. The 6-foot, 175-pound Flott comes from a program with a great track record of producing talented cornerbacks and played 29 games for the Tigers over three seasons.