There was a good chance the Patriots would find a receiver at some point on draft day when Sanders was still a possibility, but now that he’s out the pressure to find a playmaker only increases.
Fortunately for Tom Brady and company, this year’s draft offers an array of talent on the outside and the Patriots should have some good talent to choose from at the end of the first round.
Tavon Austin and Cordarrelle Patterson are projected as the top two wide receivers to come off the board, but there is still no telling whether they’ll be taken before the Patriots pick at No. 29. Either way, players like Tennessee’s Justin Hunter, California’s Keenan Allen and Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins are also available and could fit into the Patriots’ offensive system.
With all that in mind, let’s jump into this week’s mock draft and see who the Patriots and the rest of the league could have coming their way next Thursday night.
Editor’s Note: Draft order is as follows for the first round of this year’s draft.
1. Kansas City Chiefs (2-14): Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
Joeckel has been the pick for almost every one of these mocks, and there’s a reason: he’s the best player available.
2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2-14): Dion Jordan, OLB/DE, Oregon
The rumors about interest in Geno Smith sounds more like the Jags trying to stir up interest in the pick. If they keep it, Jordan makes the most sense.
3. Oakland Raiders (4-12): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Oakland needs a playmaker on defense. Floyd would give them a building block for the future.
4. Philadelphia Eagles (4-12): Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
I still think Chip Kelly‘s eyeing EJ Manuel over Geno. So, drafting on defense and waiting another round for the quarterback seems like the right play.
Previous pick: Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
5. Detroit Lions (4-12): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Fisher falls out of the top four, but he won’t last long. The Lions need some help on the offensive line after losing Gosder Cherilus.
Previous pick: Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
6. Cleveland Browns (5-11): Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
Milliner would give the Browns the best young cornerback tandem in football. Joe Haden would be jumping for joy.
7. Arizona Cardinals (5-11): Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma
Rumor has it that Bruce Arians is very high on Johnson. So, he’ll get his man at left tackle.
Previous pick: Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
8. Buffalo Bills (6-10): Geno Smith, QB, West Virginia
Kevin Kolb said he’s in Buffalo to win a Super Bowl, but he may not even have the chance with Geno in town.
9. New York Jets (6-10): Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
The Jets may have a chance to get Rhodes at No. 13, if they send Darrelle Revis to the Buccaneers. Either way, they need to replace him somehow.
Previous pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
10. Tennessee Titans (6-10): Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
There might be a little too much hype surrounding Ansah, but the Titans would be foolish to pass on his talent at No. 10.
Previous pick: Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah
11. San Diego Chargers (6-10): Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina
Chance Warmack has the better grade from most scouts, but Cooper is more athletic and seems like a better fit for Mike McCoy‘s offense.
12. Miami Dolphins (7-9): Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The tackles are all gone, but the Dolphins still need help in front of Ryan Tannehill.
Previous pick: Ezekiel Ansah, DE/OLB, BYU
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (7-9): Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
With Milliner and Rhodes gone, the Bucs may jump on Trufant early to fill their need on the outside.
Previous pick: Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
14. Carolina Panthers (7-9): Shelden Richardson, DT, Missouri
Richardson is a beast in the middle, and the Panthers will benefit from his big frame in trying to stop the run.
15. New Orleans Saints (7-9): Barkevious Mingo, DE, LSU
Mingo’s pass rushing will help ease some of the Saints’ woes in the secondary.
16. St. Louis Rams (7-8-1): Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia
Jeff Fisher may literally jump for joy if Austin falls to them here. He’s the best receiver in this draft and Sam Bradford desperately needs a playmaker like him.
Previous pick: Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
17. Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8): Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia
Jones is looking more and more like a fit in the Steel city.
18. Dallas Cowboys (8-8): Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
The Cowboys could be tempted by Cordarrelle Patterson, but addressing a major issue on the defensive line seems more important.
Previous pick: D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
19. New York Giants (9-7): D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
I don’t know if Tom Coughlin and Jerry Reese can stay away from the defensive side of the ball, but if they do then getting a right tackle is first on the agenda.
Previous pick: Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
20. Chicago Bears (10-6): Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame
Jay Cutler is in a contract year, so the Bears will give him all the weapons necessary to prove he is the answer long term.
21. Cincinnati Bengals (10-6): Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Ogletree could be the best linebacker in this draft five years from now.
Previous pick: Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
22. St. Louis Rams [via Washington Redskins (10-6)]: Matt Elam, S, Florida
The Rams could use a heavy hitter to set the tone in their secondary. Boom, Elam it is.
Previous pick: Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
23. Minnesota Vikings (10-6): Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia
The Vikings don’t appear intent on signing Brian Urlacher after all. So, Ogletree could address their need at inside linebacker.
Previous pick: Keenan Allen, WR, California
24. Indianapolis Colts (11-5): Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee
Reggie Wayne is getting old and Andrew Luck needs a new toy.
Previous pick: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
25. Minnesota Vikings [via Seattle Seahawks (11-5)]: Keenan Allen, WR, California
Allen’s slow 40 time (4.72 seconds) might have turned many teams away from taking him in the first round. Then again, the Vikings were interested in Anquan Boldin earlier this offseason, and the two do have some similarities.
Previous pick: Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
26. Green Bay Packers (12-4): Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
Instead of reaching for a safety, the Packers grab a corner who is built like a safety. Who knows, maybe that’s where Banks ends up playing.
Previous pick: Matt Elam, S, Florida
27. Houston Texans (12-4): Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State
Rather than getting Matt Schaub a receiver, the Texans find him some help on the right side of the offensive line.
Previous pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
28. Denver Broncos (13-3): Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, DE, Florida State
Seminoles go back to back. Carradine is an injury risk, but if he pans out the Broncos will have themselves a steal.
Previous pick: Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
29. New England Patriots (12-4): DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
Emmanuel Sanders didn’t end up in New England after all, which means the Patriots need a playmaker ready to come in and contribute immediately.
Previous pick: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee
30. Atlanta Falcons (13-3): Datone Jones, DE, UCLA
Losing John Abraham hurts, so the Falcons will look to replenish with a playmaker in the draft.
Previous pick: Jonathan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
31. San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1): Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama
The 49ers are a prime target to trade out of this pick, given their abundance of selections on draft day. But, for the time being, Williams seems like a good fit in Jim Harbaugh‘s defensive scheme.
Previous pick: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International;
32. Baltimore Ravens (10-6): Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State
They just got Elvis Dumervil to bolster the pass rush, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking for more help off the edge.
Previous pick: Justin Pugh, G, Syracuse
Dropped: Justin Hunter, WR, Tennessee: Jonathan Cyprien, S, Florida International; Justin Pugh, G, Syracuse;
Newcomers: Menelik Watson, OT, Florida State; Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, DE, Florida State; Jesse Williams, DT, Alabama;
Photo via Facebook/DeAndre Hopkins