The Patriots had the NFL’s best secondary in 2019, but offseason turnover might have New England doing some rebuilding on the fly.

While the Super Bowl still is a little more than a week away, NFL draft season officially is upon us. Just about anyone not involved in the Super Bowl is in Alabama this week for the Senior Bowl, as teams start making inroads on prospects ahead of the April draft.

With the return of draft season comes the return of NFL mock drafts, and no one carries more weight in that area than ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. The veteran draft expert released his first mock Friday, and perhaps to the surprise of some, he has the Patriots adding a safety in the first round.

Kiper predicted New England will draft Xavier McKinney out of Alabama.

“They have a few other important free agents, though, including safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Jamie Collins, who had a resurgent season,” Kiper wrote. “That’s why I like the fit of McKinney, my top-ranked safety after I took a closer look at his 2019 tape. He’s a complete player and is versatile, which is a trait Bill Belichick values.”

Kiper also noted a fairly obvious point, which is the Alabama connection, as Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban is one of Belichick’s best friends in the sport.

TheDraftNetwork.com believes McKinney might not be an elite talent, but it sounds as if he can do a little bit of everything — and do it well, which is something Belichick typically covets.

“He’s got some Minkah Fitzpatrick in his game, can be implemented in man to man coverage, as a deep safety, a blitzer off of the edge or as a sub-package linebacker with effectiveness thanks to his length, tackling prowess and overall athletic ability,” his Draft Network scouting report reads. “Very heady in coverage, particularly in the middle of the field — shows great anticipation to feel route combinations.”

Oh, and he can lower the boom from time to time.

As for the quarterback position, Kiper wrote he likes potential Patriots incumbent Jarrett Stidham, while also saying New England could be in the mix for a QB as it waits to see what Tom Brady ultimately decides for his future. With free agency beginning in mid-March, ahead of the draft, it’s safe to say the Patriots’ draft focus could shift quickly and dramatically if Brady walks.

Click here for Kiper’s full mock draft >>

Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images