Patriots land star defensive player in Mel Kiper’s final mock draft

The primary focus for the New England Patriots throughout the offseason has been on the offensive side of the ball. However, when they’re on the clock for their first pick of the 2023 NFL draft on Thursday, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has them turning their attention to defense.

Kiper released his final mock draft of the year, and with the No. 14 overall pick, he has the Patriots selecting University of Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith.

Scroll to continue with content

The two-time national champion finished his final year with the Bulldogs with 14 tackles, including seven tackles for a loss, three sacks and one pass deflection in only eight games played. He was knocked out of the season down the stretch for Georgia after suffering a torn pectoral muscle.

Despite the injury, he has been projected as high as a top-10 pick in this year’s draft.

Kiper wrote:

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.

Smith stepping into a defensive unit with Matthew Judon and Josh Uche on the roster is a terrifying possibility for opposing offenses. They’d be able to wreak havoc in the NFL.


Perhaps Kiper is onto something with the Patriots building on the strength of their team, which is undoubtedly the defense. They’ve already made big offensive moves in acquiring Bill O’Brien as offensive coordinator and Adrian Klemm as offensive line coach, along with adding other skilled players, such as JuJu Smith-Schuster, Mike Gesicki and James Robinson.

Maybe defense really is the way to go on Day 1.


2023 NFL draft: Time, TV schedule and how to watch Round 1

Jonathan Jones shoots down Mac Jones-Lamar Jackson comparison

Matt Judon revealed who he wants Patriots to draft in first round

Story originally appeared on Patriots Wire