It’s never ideal to head into the NFL Draft with obvious needs to fill, but three weeks out from this year’s event, that’s the situation the New England Patriots face.
There’s still time for the Patriots to acquire veteran talent through free agency or trades, but they should be looking to use the 2019 NFL Draft to fill out their wide receiver, tight end, offensive tackle and defensive line depth.
That’s exactly what we did in our latest Patriots seven-round mock draft.
First round, 32nd overall: TE Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
The Patriots need a replacement for retired tight end Rob Gronkowski, and top prospects T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant likely will be off the board at this point. Barring a trade up, the Patriots’ best first-round option is Smith, who caught 44 passes for 710 yards with seven touchdowns in 2018 with the Crimson Tide.
Hockenson is a better blocker, and Fant is more athletic, but Smith is a solid overall pass-catching tight with blocking upside at 6-foot-2, 242 pounds.
Second round, 56th overall: WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
The Patriots add another pass-catcher with their second pick. Samuel showed versatility with the Gamecocks, working outside, in the slot and as a kick returner. Fittingly, the Patriots need an outside receiver who can work inside and return kicks.
Samuel caught 62 passes for 882 yards with 11 touchdowns as a senior. He ran a 4.48-second 40-yard dash with a 4.14-second short shuttle at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Second round, 64th overall: QB Ryan Finley, NC State
He’s not the sexiest quarterback prospect in the draft, but he might be the best fit for the Patriots. He’s on the slim side at 6-foot-4, 213 pounds, but he’s accurate, has some decent mobility and has plenty of starting experience.
He comes from the same offense that produced Patriots 2016 third-round pick Jacoby Brissett.
Third round, 73rd overall: DE Anthony Nelson, Iowa
It’s tough to figure out where Nelson will end up drafted. He’s got a nice combination of size (6-foot-7, 271 pounds), length (34 7/8-inch arms) and athleticism (35.5-inch vertical leap, 6.95-second three-cone drill). He also produced well in college with 53 total pressures in 2018.
He’s not flashy, and he could afford to add some more strength, but he’s a nice fit here in the third round.
Third round, 97th overall: DL L.J. Collier, TCU
Collier is a bit of a tweener at 6-foot-2, 283 pounds, but we could see him setting the edge at defensive end on early downs and rushing the passer from inside on passing downs.
As far as a Patriots fit goes, think Jarvis Green, Mike Wright or Dominique Easley.
Third round, 101st overall: OT Max Scharping, Northern Illinois
Offensive tackle is a sneaky-big need for the Patriots. They have no sure-things behind projected starters Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon with Trent Brown and LaAdrian Waddle departed in free agency.
Scharping is a great athlete at 6-foot-6, 327 pounds. He could be the Patriots’ current swing tackle, future right tackle and insurance for Wynn, who missed the 2018 season with a torn Achilles.
Fourth round, 134th overall: WR David Sills V, West Virginia
We wrote a lot about Sills before the draft. We like his combination of smarts and red-zone ability.
Sixth round, 205th overall: S Will Harris, Boston College
Harris is an amazing athlete who could start his career as a special-teams ace and backup at free and strong safety.
Seventh round, 239th overall: LB Sione Takitaki, BYU
The Patriots have targeted versatile BYU prospects in the past, signing Harvey Langi as a priority rookie free agent and trading for Kyle Van Noy. Takitaki was a similar player, lining up at defensive end and linebacker throughout his career with the Cougars.
Seventh round, 243rd overall: OL Tyler Jones, N.C. State
Jones, like Patriots starting left guard Joe Thuney, was a left tackle with the Wolfpack who projects as a guard in the NFL. He’s a solid athlete.
Seventh round, 246th overall: TE Keenen Brown, Texas State
We keep pounding the table for Brown here in the late rounds. Pro Football Focus loved him last season, and he’s currently projected to go undrafted.
Seventh round, 252nd overall: DT PJ Johnson, Sacramento State
Johnson is 6-foot-4, 323 pounds and ran a 5.09-second 40-yard dash at his pro day in March. As Bill Belichick likes to say, those guys are hard to find.
Johnson currently is projected to be an undrafted free agent. We don’t see any reason why he shouldn’t get drafted.
Thumbnail photo via Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports Images