The New England Patriots did what they could with limited cap room in the first wave of free agency, but they still have major needs to address across their roster.
Fortunately, with an NFL-high 12 selections, they can fill those spots in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Here’s our third crack at a Patriots seven-round mock draft:
First round, 32nd overall: DL Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
One of the Patriots’ biggest needs is on their defensive line, and Tillery, at 6-foot-6, 295 pounds, has the versatility to move around the front seven. He could essentially fill multiple needs with one draft pick.
Players with Tillery’s size and athleticism classify under the “hard to find” bracket.
Second round, 56th overall: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State
The Patriots’ biggest need is at wide receiver, but they haven’t taken a wideout in the first round since Bill Belichick took over in 2000. If the right player is available (Ole Miss’s A.J. Brown perhaps?) in the first round then perhaps New England will bite this spring. We have them waiting until their second pick, however.
The Patriots need an infusion of youth at this position, and Campbell seems like an ideal choice at 6-feet, 205 pounds with 4.3 speed and top-tier quickness. He caught passes, ran the ball and returned kicks at Ohio State. The Patriots hired former Buckeyes defensive coordinator Greg Schiano for the same role in New England. He’ll know if Campbell is a fit.
Second round, 64th overall: S Amani Hooker, Iowa
The Patriots haven’t drafted a safety since they selected Jordan Richards in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung won’t play forever, though, so it’s time to start planning for the future.
Hooker has a lot of Chung in his game. He can play in the slot or as a hybrid safety/linebacker. He ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash with a 6.81-second 3-cone drill and 4.1-second short shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he allowed just a 55.8 passer rating in 2018, according to Pro Football Focus. Iowa coaches Kirk and Brian Ferentz will tell Belichick if he’s a fit.
Third round, 73rd overall: TE Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
The Patriots likely will miss out on Iowa tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson in the first round, and they might decide Alabama’s Irv Smith would be overdrafted at No. 32 overall. Sternberger is a nice consolation prize, though he’s not quite as athletic as the top tight ends in the draft.
Third round, 97th overall: DE Anthony Nelson, Iowa
We’re still trying to figure out why Nelson isn’t a higher regarded prospect. He has ideal size and length at 6-foot-7, 271 pounds with nearly 35-inch arms. He’s a good athlete and was productive at Iowa, registering 10 sacks, 14 QB hits and 29 hurries in 2018, according to PFF. If the Patriots can get him in the third round, they should jump at the chance.
Third round, 101st overall: OT Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
Offensive tackle might not seem like a major need with Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon slotted in as starters, but, uh, who’s backing those guys up? Scharping has experience at both left and right tackle. He could give the Patriots some flexibility moving forward.
Fourth round, 134th overall: QB Brett Rypien, Boise State
Rypien is a bit undersized at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, but we don’t see a major difference between him and projected second- and third-rounders Will Grier and Ryan Finley.
We could see the Patriots taking a project like Buffalo’s Tyree Jackson in this spot, as well.
Sixth round, 205th overall: WR Miles Boykin, Notre Dame
He’s a project, but he’s also one of the most athletic players in the entire draft. Belichick has a relationship with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.
Seventh round, 239th overall: DT Byron Cowart, Maryland
Cowart was a highly regarded high school recruit who never quite lived up to his billing. His story is reminiscent of Patriots defensive tackle Frank Herron.
Seventh round, 243rd overall: LB Otaro Alaka, Texas A&M
Linebackers who are 6-foot-3, 239 pounds are rare. PFF graded Alaka as a tremendous run defender. Don’t ask about his coverage skills.
Seventh round, 246th overall: RB James Williams, Washington State
He caught 83 (!) passes with the Cougars in 2018 to go along with 16 total touchdowns. The Patriots like their receiving backs.
Seventh round, 252nd overall: TE Keenen Brown, Texas State
Why not double up on tight ends with an intriguing late-round fit. Brown was PFF’s second-highest graded tight end in 2018. He caught 54 passes for 580 yards with five touchdowns last season and was impressive as a run blocker. We wonder if he’ll last this long, but he’s currently being projected as a seventh-rounder or undrafted free agent.
For more grades, advanced statistics and more at Pro Football Focus, go to ProFootballFocus.com.
Thumbnail photo via Joe Maiorana/USA TODAY Sports Images