What To Know About Patriots’ Top First-Round Options In 2020 NFL Draft

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It’s Christmas Eve for draftniks, and fans of the New England Patriots will have unwrapped plenty of presents by the time the three days of the 2020 NFL Draft are over.

The Patriots have 12 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, including a selection at No. 23 overall in the first round. If the Patriots keep their pick in the first round — and that’s a big if — these are the players we regard as New England’s top options at No. 23 overall through talking to sources, analyzing strengths and weaknesses and digging through measurable data.

QB JORDAN LOVE, UTAH STATE
We’re not entirely ruling out a quarterback in the first round. Love seems like an odd choice given his 17 interceptions to just 20 touchdowns in 2019. But he was much safer with the football in 2018 when the Utah State team around him was better. Love has the traits, he simply would need to be reined back in by Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. And let’s not pretend like the Patriots will let a poor final season cloud their judgment. Jarrett Stidham was a much better quarterback in 2015 and 2017 than he was in 2018. Then the Patriots took him anyway albeit in the fourth round.

That being said, Love will probably be gone by No. 23 overall, and his turnover rate in 2019 was a problem.

WR DENZEL MIMS, BAYLOR
Mims fits the Patriots based on his measurable profile to a T. He’s a super talented wide receiver who could use some refinement in the NFL. A player with his size, athleticism and production is usually drafted in the first half of the first round. He’s being pushed down by a talented class around him, so he could wind up being a steal. We like his potential fit with a talented deep passer like Stidham.

TE COLE KMET, NOTRE DAME
We know Kmet has been projected as a second-round pick throughout this draft process. Just don’t be shocked if the Patriots, or another team, deem him worthy of a first-round pick. He has elite size at 6-foot-6, 262 pounds with a 4.7-second 40-yard dash. He caught 43 passes for 515 yards with six touchdowns in 2019.

He needs work on his blocking, but he has the size to improve.

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OL CESAR RUIZ, MICHIGAN
If the Patriots trade left guard Joe Thuney or have doubts about the health of center David Andrews (blood clots in his lungs), then they might feel the need to take an offensive lineman very early. Ruiz played guard and center at Michigan. He ran a 5.08-second 40-yard dash and displayed impressive athleticism with a 4.64-second short shuttle and 33-inch vertical leap at 6-foot-3, 307 pounds.

The Patriots don’t want to be caught with their pants down without a center, and backup Ted Karras left to the Miami Dolphins in free agency.

LB KENNETH MURRAY, OKLAHOMA
Murray has a unique blend of height and athleticism at 6-foot-3, 245 pounds with a 4.52-second 40-yard dash, 38-inch vertical leap and 10-feet, 9-inch broad jump.

He’s more of a sideline-to-sideline linebacker than a thumper, but the Patriots could use his speed and playmaking ability in the second level of their defense. The Patriots need to replenish at linebacker after losing Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in free agency.

S XAVIER MCKINNEY, ALABAMA
McKinney didn’t test well at 6-feet, 201 pounds, but he showed off range and versatility in Alabama’s defense, splitting his time between the slot, free safety and strong safety. His 4.63-second 40-yard dash is a little concerning to us, and he never tested in the three-cone or short shuttle. But he’s the kind of chess piece the Patriots value on defense. He could play a role similar to Devin McCourty’s or Patrick Chung’s.

DE A.J. EPENESA, IOWA
Epenesa is another guy who didn’t test well, but he plays like a Patriots fit. He can set a hard edge, and he was super productive as a pass rusher. Would the Patriots look past his lack of athleticism to add his 6-foot-5, 275-pound frame to their defensive line? It’s certainly possible.

TRADE DOWN
We personally like the idea of trading down to pick up at least one second-round pick. They could get a late first and late second, two seconds or an early second and early third with a variety of different deals involving the 23rd overall pick.

Our top fits from late in the first round to the second round would be Wisconsin outside linebacker Zack Baun, Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., South Carolina wide receiver Bryan Edwards, Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn, Boise State offensive lineman Ezra Cleveland and Michigan’s Josh Uche.

We also think Notre Dame wide receiver/tight end Chase Claypool would be a nice fit in New England thanks to his versatility and special teams prowess.

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