Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay took a break from their usual prognostication techniques for their latest NFL mock drafts published Wednesday on ESPN.com.
Kiper and McShay stepped up their game last week by predicting the first two rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft. The draft experts opted for a new exercise this time around, though, instead playing the role of NFL general manager while projecting the first three rounds.
In other words, Kiper and McShay made selections for the first 102 picks based on what’s best for each team at that particular slot — so that each team gets an “A” grade — rather than projecting picks based on what they’re hearing around the NFL.
“At each slot, I make a pick in the best interest of only the team with the pick,” Kiper wrote in explaining the ground rules. “I try to address team needs, but value can supersede need.”
It’s important to note trades weren’t considered for this exercise, although ESPN’s Dan Graziano suggested earlier this week the New England Patriots were the team most likely to trade up, largely because of their draft capital. New England owns six picks in the first three rounds.
So, what would constitute an “A” level draft for the Patriots if they kept all of those picks? Here’s who Kiper and McShay believe New England should select based on their most recent GM-style mock draft.
First round, 32nd overall
Kiper: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
McShay: L.J. Collier, DE, TCU
Second round, 56th overall
Kiper: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame
McShay: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Second round, 64th overall
Kiper: Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame
McShay: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
Third round, 73rd overall
Kiper: Lonnie Johnson Jr., CB, Kentucky
McShay: Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss
Third round, 97th overall
Kiper: Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State
McShay: Josh Oliver, TE, San Jose State
Third round, 101st overall
Kiper: Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
McShay: Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
For all of you scoring at home: Kiper has the Patriots selecting a quarterback, a defensive tackle, a wide receiver, a cornerback and two tight ends. McShay also believes New England should pick a quarterback, a wide receiver, a cornerback and two tight ends, though he opted for a defensive end — rather than a defensive tackle — when making the Patriots’ first pick at the end of Round 1.
The Patriots could go in several different directions after the draft kicks off April 25, but it’ll be interesting to see whether they prioritize finding Tom Brady’s potential successor in the early rounds and how much Rob Gronkowski’s recent retirement impacts their overall strategy. New England could use some wide receiver depth, too, but Bill Belichick typically has shied away from targeting wideouts early in the draft.