We’re about three weeks away from the 2019 NFL Draft, which means Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay are nearing crunch time in terms of preparing for what will happen come April 25.
ESPN took its latest mock draft to the next level Wednesday, with Kiper and McShay offering predictions for the first two rounds, beginning with the Arizona Cardinals’ selection at No. 1 and ending with the New England Patriots’ pick at No. 64.
The Patriots have 12 picks in this year’s draft, including six in the first three rounds. They own the 32nd pick in the first round, by virtue of winning Super Bowl LIII, and the 56th and 64th overall selections in the second round.
NESN.com’s Doug Kyed took a whack at predicting the Patriots’ entire draft class in his seven-round mock draft, which you can read here.
Now, let’s look at who Kiper and McShay believe New England will select with its first- and second-round picks, along with their reasoning for each selection. (For the record, both have the Cardinals picking quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 1 overall.)
First round, 32nd overall
Kiper: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
Bill Belichick could address the front seven, but I like Smith here as a potential Gronk replacement.
McShay: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
The Pats have 12 picks, and history suggests they’ll wait until Day 2 to get their future quarterback project. I agree with Mel here — Smith is a matchup nightmare.
Second round, 56th overall (from the Chicago Bears)
Kiper: Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Michigan
The Patriots lost a few starters this offseason and need to add depth in the front seven. Saunders, a four-year starter at Western Michigan, could develop into a starter.
McShay: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Time to take a shot at the heir to Tom Brady on the Patriots’ QB throne. Jones will need time to develop — he doesn’t have a cannon and needs work under pressure — but luckily Brady isn’t going anywhere just yet.
Second round, 64th overall
Kiper: Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
This is quarterback No. 6 in the first two rounds. Stidham had an inconsistent 2018, but he has the tools to be a starter in the NFL. And Tom Brady can’t play forever …
McShay: Gerald Willis III, DT, Miami
Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown are elsewhere, so Bill Belichick would be happy to land this fierce defensive lineman.
Smith seems to be a popular potential target in mock drafts, which makes sense given New England’s lack of depth at tight end, especially after Rob Gronkowski’s retirement. It’s interesting to see Kiper and McShay both project the Patriots to select a quarterback in the second round, though, as the succession plan for life after Brady has been an ongoing storyline in New England over the past few years.
Thumbnail photo via Steve Mitchell/USA TODAY Sports Images