A rush of final predictions are pouring in with the 2023 NFL draft slated for Thursday night.
It’s obvious at this point that the New England Patriots are the most unpredictable team on the board with the No. 14 overall pick. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a team that has done the work in the offseason to ensure they didn’t have any glaring holes heading into the draft.
Granted, there are areas that definitely need upgrading, including wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback and inside linebacker. But the Patriots are in a desired position of being able to take the best available player on the board when they’re on the clock.
That has made for a lot of fun mock drafts when it comes to what the team might do with the No. 14 pick. Today, we’re rounding up all of the final predictions from NFL experts ahead of Thursday’s big event.
USA TODAY: Christian Gonzalez, CB, Oregon
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The 6-1, 197-pound All-Pac-12 performer had four INTs and seven passes defensed in 2022 and showcased his explosiveness at the combine, running a 4.38 40-yard dash, posting a 41½-inch vertical leap and broad jumping 11 feet, 1 inch. Given the value here and Gonzalez’s ability to play man or zone, he’s a good fit for a team that needs help at corner – especially at a time when New England could be in the unfamiliar position of facing a superior quarterback in all of its divisional games.
The Athletic: Broderick Jones, OT, Georgia
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Addressing the offensive line is a big need for the Patriots, and The Athletic’s Chad Graff does exactly that in his latest mock draft pick.
Jones has so many of the traits teams want in a modern offensive tackle, but there’s one concern: He played in only 19 collegiate games, the least of any lineman in the class. But the Pats badly need an offensive tackle of the future, and they get one in Jones, who is only 21 and should have a lengthy career in front of him.
Pro Football Focus: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
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Pro Football Focus has the Patriots selecting the tall, rangy cornerback out of Penn State, Joey Porter Jr., to beef up their defense.
As far as team-player fits go, there aren’t too many better than Porter to New England. The Patriots ask their cornerbacks to play a lot of press man, something the Penn State product specializes in.
ESPN: Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
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The Patriots love linebackers, and ESPN’s Mel Kiper sees the team addressing that area on the defense by picking up Georgia’s Nolan Smith.
Smith strikes me as exactly the type of edge defender the Patriots would love to have. He could rack up 10 sacks per season for Bill Belichick & Co. I love this fit.
NFL Wire Network: Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College
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Patriots Wire’s Jordy McElroy has the Patriots finally addressing their issue of a No. 1 playmaking receiver by taking Zay Flowers in the first round.
The Patriots finally make up for years of misses at the wide receiver position by taking Zay Flowers with the No. 14 overall pick. This is exactly the sort of rookie the team needs to get their offense going in the right direction. Put the ball in Flowers’ hands and watch him put ankles in graveyards. An elite speedster with the ability to cause real separation and rack up home run plays is just what the Patriots need offensively to make opposing defenses start respecting them.
NFL.com: Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern
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NFL.com’s Eric Edholm believes the Patriots will address their offensive tackle woes by using the 14th overall pick on Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski.
Skoronski has a very clean scouting report, with his arm length the lone area of concern. But New England has played smaller tackles before (Isaiah Wynn) and might not be as concerned. The Patriots could certainly use more youth at the position, with both Trent Brown and Riley Reiff in their 30s and only under contract through 2023.
NY Daily News: Nolan Smith, LB, Georgia
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The NY Daily News’ Pat Leonard is looking to improve the middle of the defense by adding Georgia’s Nolan Smith to the roster.
Bill Belichick needs more weapons on defense in an AFC East that will likely feature Rodgers on top of the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Dolphins’ speedy receivers.
NBC Sports Boston: Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
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NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry is keeping the focus on the defensive side of the ball with the Patriots taking Maryland cornerback Deonte Banks.
No matter. I believe Banks is a very realistic option for the Patriots at this spot. He’s a ridiculous athlete (4.35-second 40, 42-inch vertical). He has real size, which the Patriots desperately need at this position (6-feet, 197 pounds). He can play in a variety of coverages, as he showed while with the Terps.
Pro Football Network: Darnell Wright, OT, Tennessee
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Riley Reiff is, as the kids say, not it. Darnell Wright is the type of mauler that New England has coveted over the years.