Bill Belichick has been New England Patriots head coach for 19 NFL drafts. He’s taken two running backs, two tight ends, two offensive tackles, one guard, one defensive end, five defensive tackles, two linebackers, a cornerback and a safety with 17 first-round picks. He’s never selected a quarterback, wide receiver or center in the first round.
Yet, right around this time every year, I start to convince myself this is the year Belichick finally pulls the trigger and takes a wide receiver with his first-round pick. And this would be the year to do it. The Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart is in rough shape.
On Monday night, I did what any normal 32-year-old sports writer does, and that’s fire up the old Fanspeak mock draft simulator.
Here’s what I came up with using CBS Sports’ rankings, user-voted needs and a difficult degree of … difficulty.
First round, 32nd overall: WR A.J. Brown, Mississippi
Of Brown’s 84 catches and 115 targets last season, 59 and 76, respectively, came out of the slot, where Brown had a 77.6 percent catch rate.
Brown ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and a 6.89-second three-cone at his pro day. Those aren’t amazing numbers, but they should be good enough for the Patriots.
Will the Patriots actually do this? It would be unprecedented, but on the surface, he seems like a good fit for the offense with the size and versatility to line up outside or in the slot.
Second round, 56th overall: TE Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
Smith dropped in CBS’s rankings over the last week. He’s a great receiver but only a good athlete and average blocker. The Patriots pretty desperately need tight end help. Smith could enter as a Week 1 starter.
Second round, 64th overall: TE Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M
Sternberger was sitting there at the end of the second round, and we couldn’t help but double up on tight ends with back-to-back picks. While Smith is only 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, Sternberger is bigger at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. The Patriots need pass-catchers of all shapes and sizes.
Third round, 73rd overall: LB Germaine Pratt, N.C. State
At 6-foot-2, 240 pounds, Pratt is a very interesting prospect. He’s a former safety, but he excelled in run defense and as a pass-rusher last season. He unsurprisingly moves well and also has the right size for a Patriots linebacker.
Third round, 97th overall: DE Anthony Nelson, Iowa
We love Nelson’s potential at 6-foot-7, 271 pounds. He could afford to bulk up, but he should have the frame to do so.
Third round, 101st overall: QB Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier might not be a perfect fit for the Patriots, but we couldn’t pass on taking him at the end of the third round.
It would be surprising if the Patriots didn’t take a quarterback in the first three rounds. Keep in mind they did so in 2008, 2011, 2014 and 2016.
Fourth round, 134th overall: WR Miles Boykin, Notre Dame
Boykin is the best athletic fit in the draft for the Patriots. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, he ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash with a 6.77-second three-cone and 4.07-second short shuttle. He only dropped three passes in 2018 and caught 11 deep passes for 296 yards with three touchdowns.
Sixth round, 205th overall: OT Trey Pipkins, Sioux Falls
Pipkins has prototypical athleticism for a Patriots offensive tackle. He’d be a project.
Seventh round, 239th overall: DT PJ Johnson, Arizona
Johnson is big and athletic. Pro Football Focus also graded him well. We don’t know why he’s considered a seventh-round prospect.
Seventh round, 243rd overall: OT Tyler Roemer, San Diego State
Like Pipkins, Roemer is also a big, athletic project at offensive tackle. He was suspended with two games remaining in the 2018 season and subsequently declared for the draft. The seventh-round is the perfect place to take a high-upside player with off-field issues.
Seventh round, 246th overall: S Jake Gervase, Iowa
Non-combine invitee. Began his college career as a walk-on. Aced his pro day with a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, 6.76-second three-cone and 3.89-second short shuttle at 6-foot-1, 210 pounds. Yeah, he checks all of the potential-Patriot boxes here.
He’s also good. He allowed just seven catches on 21 targets for 72 yards with one touchdown and four interceptions as a senior.
Seventh round, 252nd overall: RB Alex Barnes, Kansas State
It’s hard to find running backs who run sub-7-second three-cone drills these days. Barnes did so at 6-feet, 226 pounds.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images