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Seven-round Pats mock draft: Drake Maye gets UNC teammate to weaponize offense

Seven-round Pats mock draft: Drake Maye gets UNC teammate to weaponize offense originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

Remember, it takes two to tango in free agency. If the Patriots can't convince high-end players at premium positions to sign with them this offseason... then what?

At that point, it'd be all about the NFL Draft. That's "The Packer Way." Draft and develop. Play your young players. Jerod Mayo and Eliot Wolf may be forced into that kind of build if they can't pay their way into watchability in 2024.

Here's one seven-round scenario in which the Patriots fill their positions of need with young, cost-controlled athletes. Is it ideal? It isn't. But this is a less-than-ideal situation the current New England brass faces, and they may have to make the best of it come late April with real questions still lingering on their roster.

Let's get to the picks...

Round 1 (No. 3 overall): Drake Maye, QB, North Carolina

In this scenario, the Patriots don't mind that their roster isn't built to support a young quarterback in his first season. They see face-of-the-franchise potential in Drake Maye and they turn in a card bearing his name as soon as the Commanders select Jayden Daniels at No. 2 overall.

Maye is just 21 years old, he is the prototype physically, he's seen as having a high football IQ, and he impressed New England with how he interviewed in their first meeting. The opportunities to draft marquee quarterbacks are too few and far between for the Patriots to pass here, so all that's left for them to determine is whether or not they actually want to start him in his rookie season.

Round 2 (No. 34 overall): Jordan Morgan, OT, Arizona

Arizona offensive lineman Jordan Morgan played in 12 games last season after coming back from a torn ACL late in 2022.
Arizona offensive lineman Jordan Morgan played in 12 games last season after coming back from a torn ACL late in 2022.

The Patriots, as of this writing, still need a tackle. Lucky for them, that need just so happens to be glaring in a year where the draft is loaded with high-end talents at the position. Ten could go in the first round. And Morgan might be one of them. But in this scenario, he remains available at No. 34 and the Patriots scoop him up as a big-bodied athlete with upside.

He's not a behemoth edge-protector (6-foot-5, 311 pounds), and he tore his ACL at the end of 2022 and still seemed limited in his return in 2023. But the fact he was able to come back the way he did, showing some real resiliency in the process, was impressive. And if another year removed from the injury allows him to better showcase his athletic gifts as a pro, the Patriots could have their starting left tackle for the foreseeable future. Which, at this point in the draft, would be a steal.

Round 3 (No. 68 overall): Devontez Walker, WR, North Carolina

Speed, speed and more speed. The Patriots need difference-makers at the receiver position. And though they'd have a better chance of landing themselves a true No. 1 by using No. 34 overall on a wideout, the drop-off at tackle is even more stark. So this is the path they choose: quarterback, tackle, receiver.

Walker and Maye had just one season together with the Tar Heels, but perhaps there's some chemistry that's been built up there that will carry over to the league the way it has for some other first-round passers who've been paired with college teammates in recent years.

Walker is inconsistent as a route-runner, and his hands let him down at the Senior Bowl. But he's a gifted athlete (4.36-second 40, 11-foot-2 broad jump, 40.5-inch vertical) with good enough size (6-foot-2, 193 pounds) to play on the outside. If he hits, he's exactly the kind of boundary threat the Patriots could use.

Round 4 (No. 103 overall): Malik Washington, WR, Virginia

How bad is the outlook at receiver for the Patriots? Bad enough that two of their first four picks could conceivably -- barring a free-agent add -- be used to stock the position.

Washington might be considered a bit redundant for a team that already employs DeMario "Pop" Douglas, but he has a sturdier build than the second-year receiver out of Liberty. Washington checks in at 5-foot-9 and 191 pounds but has a significant amount of explosiveness coiled up in that smaller frame (42.5-inch vertical, 98th percentile).

This hard-to-tackle catch-and-run option is coming off a ridiculously productive year at UVA  -- 1,426 yards and nine touchdowns on 110 catches in 12 games -- and would be a safety blanket for a young quarterback.

Round 5 (No. 137 overall): Ben Sinnott, TE, Kansas State

The Patriots already have Hunter Henry and Austin Hooper as their No. 1 and 2 at this position, but Sinnott is the kind of athlete who's worthy of a selection at this point in the draft.

At 6-foot-4 and 250 pounds, he's big enough to do some of the dirty work involved at the position if he can exhibit the willingness to handle that kind of role as a pro. But his movement skills are what make him enticing.

He has the quickness (6.82-second three-cone drill) to run real routes and the explosiveness (40-inch vertical) to compete against other NFL-caliber athletes in the short-to-intermediate range.

Round 6 (No. 180 overall): Kamal Hadden, CB, Tennessee

Kamal Hadden had three interceptions in seven games in 2023 before a shoulder injury ended his season.
Kamal Hadden had three interceptions in seven games in 2023 before a shoulder injury ended his season.

The Patriots need another boundary corner at some point. If they don't land one in free agency, and if they don't want to invest in one early in the draft, Hadden has the type of traits that would be intriguing. Especially if all he costs is a sixth-round flier.

The former Vol is 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds with the athletic talent to compete in what should be a heavy man-to-man scheme in New England under new head coach Jerod Mayo. His 2023 was ended by a shoulder injury that could allow him to slide to this point.

Round 6 (No. 193 overall): Tanor Bortolini, OL, Wisconsin

The Packer Way is all about adding athletic and versatile offensive linemen, so using the selection acquired via the Mac Jones trade would make all kinds of sense for raised-in-the-Packer-Way personnel chief Eliot Wolf.

Bortolini is a 6-foot-4, 303-pounder with some tremendous movement skills. His broad jump ranked in the 93rd percentile, and his 4.94-second 40 was good enough to place him in the 96th percentile. He looks exactly like the kind of player who could chip in at center or guard at the next level.

Round 7 (No. 231 overall): Brandon Coleman, OL, TCU

Would the Patriots really spend all but one choice in the draft on the offensive side of the ball? Wouldn't be a bad idea given where the roster sits from a talent standpoint. Plus, at this point, you're looking to strike gold with rolls of the dice. Coleman certainly would be worthy of that kind of Day 3 roll.

He's not a gargantuan option on the edge at 6-foot-5, 313 pounds, but he has great length (35-inch arms, 11-inch hands). A three-year starter and team captain, Coleman conceivably could have some guard-and-tackle flexibility. He may play a little high, but his athleticism could allow him to make up for flaws in his technique (90th percentile 40-yard dash, 95th percentile vertical, 93rd percentile broad jump).