2023 NFL Mock Draft: Projecting every Patriots pick in seven rounds
Perry's seven-round Patriots mock draft: Offensive line is top priority originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Now that we're through the initial free-agent surge, we know the Patriots could play a game tomorrow. We just don't know how competitive they would be if that were to be the case.
Just look at a handful of the game's premium positions. You'll find plenty of question marks.
They could use a high-quality tackle to sit atop the depth chart, despite the addition of veteran Riley Reiff. They could use a high-quality boundary cornerback, despite keeping Jalen Mills around on an altered contract. They could use a high-quality athlete at receiver, despite signing a powerful slot option in JuJu Smith-Schuster. They could use a dual threat at tight end to learn from Hunter Henry, since new addition Mike Gesicki won't offer much as a blocker.
Mel Kiper's assessment of 2023 draft class bodes well for Patriots
They could also be looking for a safety, a third-down back ... and don't forget about punter.
How will Bill Belichick try to address these vacancies on draft weekend? Let's put ourselves in his shoes and try to make some Belichickian selections in this seven-round mock.
First Round, No. 14: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
The Patriots luck out here. Four quarterbacks go off the board in the first seven picks. Six defenders come off in the first 13 picks. Two tackles come off ... But Jones remains. He's a physical specimen who plays with a mean streak in the running game.
The scariest thing about him -- and why Belichick could be enamored with him -- is that he is relatively inexperienced (only one season as a full-time starter) and he was still outstanding in pass protection in the SEC; he didn't allow a sack and allowed just nine total pressures in 470 pass-blocking snaps, per Pro Football Focus.
His best football is still ahead of him. And at 6-foot-5, 311 pounds with 35-inch arms and almost 11-inch hands, Jones would arrive to Foxboro with none of the size concerns that followed the previous Georgia left tackle taken by the Patriots in the first round.
Jones is physically gifted enough (4.97-second 40) to start right away, but if he's not deemed ready immediately, maybe he can learn for a bit behind grizzled veteran Riley Reiff before taking over.
Second Round, No. 46: Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
2023 NFL Draft Highlights: Julius Brents - CB, Kansas State
This would be a classic Belichick selection. Big-bodied defensive back with some impressive athletic traits? In the second round? Oh yeah.
The Patriots will of course hope that Brents is more of a Kyle Dugger or Patrick Chung than he is a Tavon Wilson, Jordan Richards or Joejuan Williams. But there's no questioning it: The K-State product is a physical specimen.
At 6-foot-3, 198 pounds with 34-inch arms, he has rare size. He also is a wildly explosive athlete with a 11-foot-6 broad jump (99th percentile), a 41.5-inch vertical (96th) and a lightning-quick 6.63-second three-cone drill. His 4.05-second shuttle time was also eye-opening for a man with his frame.
Oh. And he can play. He was one of the standouts at this year's Senior Bowl, which is where Dugger's stock skyrocketed back in 2020. For a team looking for a boundary corner who can bring some length to a diminutive room, Brents makes all the sense in the world.
Third Round, No. 76: Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State
In a class that looks historically deep at tight end, there's no way Belichick waits all that long to pull the trigger on drafting one, right? Kraft is his type with the size (6-foot-5, 254 pounds) to annihilate defensive backs in the running game, and the athleticism to test opposing defenses as a pass-catcher (10-foot-2 broad jump, 7.08-second three-cone, 4.69-second 40-yard dash).
Adding someone with the coordination to function in multiple roles -- not to mention the blue-collar demeanor to mix it up as a blocker -- would be a gift for new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, who was already gifted Mike Gesicki in free agency. If you recall, O'Brien had pretty good success with multiple tight ends the last time he was in New England.
Kraft, Gesicki and Hunter Henry could make a formidable trio should Belichick draft a second Jackrabbit in as many years (Pierre Strong Jr.).
Fourth Round, No. 107: Jonathan Mingo, WR, Ole Miss
2023 NFL Draft Highlights: Jonathan Mingo - WR, Ole Miss
The Patriots have four players who could conceivably start at receiver in 2023. Meanwhile, by adding Kraft in the third round, perhaps they have their sights set on becoming more of a 12-personnel team. Y'know, the way they would've liked with Jonnu Smith. But Belichick still needs some receiving talent.
He passed on the high-end players in the first round to go with a tackle. But here, early on Day 3, the Patriots nab a freak athlete out of the SEC who impressed offensive coaches at the combine with the football knowledge he flexed during interviews.
This 6-foot-2, 220-pounder looks like a bigger, more athletic version of JuJu Smith-Schuster. And his physical skill set (4.46-second 40, 39.5-inch vertical, 10-foot-9 broad) may allow him to play outside in a way that Smith-Schuster doesn't.
Mingo was -- right behind Brents -- one of the best pound-for-pound athletes at this year's combine, according to Relative Athletic Score. He'll play special teams and block like a banshee. At this stage of the draft, he's more than worthy of this choice. Plus, his playing style and football intelligence quotient will make him a seamless program fit.
Fourth Round, No. 117: Jon Gaines II, OL, UCLA
The Patriots continue their run on superb athletes with the selection of this Shrine Bowl participant.
Gaines finished inside the top three among all offensive linemen at this year's combine in the vertical (32.5 inches), broad (9-foot-6), three-cone (7.31 seconds), short shuttle (4.45 seconds) and 10-yard split of his 40-yard dash (1.73 seconds). His 40 time, vertical, broad and shuttle times all rank in the 93rd percentile or better among combine participants of the last two decades. The 6-foot-4, 303-pounder scored a 9.97 out of 10.0 in RAS, just behind Brents (9.99) and just ahead of Mingo (9.93).
He's considered smart, he's played all five positions for the Bruins, and he has rare movement skills. Not a bad shiny new toy for Adrian Klemm to play with in his first year as Patriots offensive line coach.
Fourth Round, No. 135: YaYa Diaby, DE, Louisville
Punch Diaby's name into Mockdraftable.com, and you'll see some of the top height-weight-speed comparisons include players like Jadeveon Clowney, Adalius Thomas and Robert Quinn. The Louisville product is a rare blend of size (6-foot-3, 263 pounds) and explosiveness (4.51-second 40, 37-inch vertical).
At a position that is so dependent on premium athleticism, this would be a later-round dice-roll by Belichick to see if he can strike it rich the way he did with Trey Flowers in the fourth round back in 2016.
Diaby is incredibly quick for a man his size, and even if he needs some polish when it comes to his pass-rush moves, he'd fit right in with Jerod Mayo's game and twist-heavy pass-rushing attack.
Sixth Round, No. 184: Tre Tucker, WR, Cincinnati
The Patriots have already added a big-bodied wideout in Jonathan Mingo in this draft, adding him to a group that includes Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne and Tyquan Thornton. But Tucker is a very different type of player.
Tucker is the type of player the Patriots don't have at this position at the moment. He's an explosive separator. He ran a 4.4-second 40 at this year's combine with a blazing 10-yard split of 1.48 seconds, which was second-fastest among all receivers in Indy. Tucker also recorded a vertical of 37.5 inches and a broad jump of 10-feet-4 -- both 70th percentile or above for combine wideouts of the last 20 years -- making him the type of athlete worthy of a dice roll at this point in the draft.
He won't be a contested-catch deep threat at 5-foot-9, 182 pounds. Leave that stuff to Parker, Gesicki and potentially Mingo. But as someone who can shake coverage at all three levels? A waterbug option-route runner underneath? A screen target? An RPO threat? That could be Tucker's game in New England's offense under Bill O'Brien.
Sixth Round, No. 187: Jack Coletto, FB, Oregon State
It's hard to see Belichick not drafting this Swiss Army knife of a football player.
Like Patriots corner Marcus Jones in his last year as a collegian, Coletto won the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in the country. Fullback, running back, wide receiver, quarterback and linebacker. The 6-foot-3, 239-pounder played 'em all over the course of his college career.
He's not quite as thick as former fullbacks in New England like Jakob Johnson (255 pounds) and James Develin (255 pounds), but maybe he can add to his frame if that's the position where he ends up settling. Regardless, Belichick loves a player who can handle a variety of roles.
That's Coletto, who got an up-close look at what it might be like to play for the Patriots when he worked under Shrine Bowl West head coach Troy Brown earlier this offseason.
Sixth Round, No. 192: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA
2023 NFL Draft Highlights: Dorian Thompson-Robinson
Wouldn't be surprising at all to see the Patriots nab a quarterback late in the draft to add to the room with Mac Jones and Bailey Zappe.
The Patriots just got a chance to spend a lot of time with Thompson-Robinson out at the Shrine Bowl so they'll have a very good idea of what he can and can't handle at the next level. But when it comes to his fit on paper? It's there.
Power Five. Enough height, barely (6-foot-2, 203 pounds). Enough hand size (10 inches). Five years as a starter. Over 1,300 attempts. Efficient numbers (7.9 yards per attempt, 63 percent completions, better than 2-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio).
If the Patriots liked what they saw in Vegas earlier this offseason, maybe "DTR" is a Day 3 option for them.
Sixth Round, No. 210: Daniel Scott, S, California
A free safety who has next-level athleticism and has the sign-off from Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy? Hmm. Scott feels like a Patriots fit.
Perhaps Belichick will want to shift slot expert Jonathan Jones to free safety -- leaving room for Marcus Jones to take over the "star" slot cornerback role -- but if not... Scott might make some sense back there.
He recorded an eyebrow-raising 9.92 RAS after checking into the combine at 6-foot-1, 208 pounds and running a 4.45-second 40 to go along with a 6.75 three-cone drill and a 39.5-inch vertical. Not a bad option at this late stage in the draft as someone who could play in the kicking game and potentially function as a single-high safety in Belichick's defense.
Seventh Round, No. 245: Adam Korsak, P, Rutgers
The Rutgers pipeline is back open! Not only was Korsak named the Ray Guy Punter of the Year for his performance last season, but the Aussie punter has also been deemed by Belichick pal Greg Schiano as the best punter Schiano has been around in 35 years.
What's more... Belichick has been fond of talking about specialists in the past who are truly a part of the football team and are respected by others in the locker room. Well, Schiano has described Korsak -- who would be a replacement for the recently-released Jake Bailey -- in the same way.
"I really have so much respect for Adam, the way he approaches his craft and the way that he leads on our football team," Schiano said of Korsak. "That’s not an ordinary thing for a punter on a football team to be respected and looked up to like he is on our team."