Patriots Mock Draft 2.0: Two Trades Help Bolster New England Defense

The Patriots still have plenty of needs a week into free agency


Mar 24, 2022

With moves made during the opening week of NFL free agency shifting the New England’s offseason priorities, it’s time to roll out our second 2022 Patriots mock draft.

Unlike version 1.0, which ran before the NFL’s legal tampering period opened, this mock allowed for draft-day trades. We wound up swinging two, including a Day 1 deal.

Let’s dive in:

TRADE: No. 21 overall to Tampa Bay for Nos. 27, 91 and 261

Round 1, No. 27: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Our first mock draft had New England using its first-round pick on Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie. We still view McDuffie as a great fit who would fill a clear need in the wake of J.C. Jackson’s departure, but recent projections suggest he could hear his name called as high as the mid-teens. That would put him out of the Patriots’ reach unless they trade up.

Instead, we have them moving back six spots, adding an extra third-round pick and still landing one of the top corners in this class. Elam is long (6-foot-2, 191 pounds), athletic, aggressive and physical, with strong ball skills and an SEC pedigree to boot. He is prone to penalties at times, but so was Jackson early in his career. The Patriots can coach him up in that area.

Signing journeyman Terrance Mitchell and bringing back 32-year-old Malcolm Butler shouldn’t preclude the Patriots from using a high pick on a cornerback. They still badly need young talent at the position.

Round 2, No. 54: WR John Metchie, Alabama
We love the idea of reuniting quarterback Mac Jones with one of his former college targets. The two showed a strong connection in 2020, with Metchie tallying 55 catches for 916 yards and six touchdowns as the second or third option in Alabama’s offense, and the wideout’s production skyrocketed in 2021, posting a 96-1,142-8 receiving line before a torn ACL ended his season in the SEC Championship.

The Patriots will need to properly vet that injury, but Metchie expects to be ready in time for training camp. He said he’d love to team back up with Jones.

“I think Mac-10 and I would be special together, for sure,” Metchie said at the NFL Scouting Combine.

TRADE: Nos. 85, 170 and 200 to Denver for No. 75

Round 3, No. 75: LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
The Patriots package the fifth-round pick they received from the Buccaneers in the Shaq Mason trade to move up 10 spots for Chenal. Even this might be a bit late for the Wisconsin ‘backer — ESPN’s Todd McShay pegs him as a top-50 prospect — but we’re banking on his coverage questions giving teams pause.

While deficient in that area, Chenal was a ferocious run stuffer for the Badgers, posting the third-highest run defense grade Pro Football Focus has ever recorded. He’s not just a big bruiser, either. Chenal put on a phenomenal workout at his pro day, showing a rare blend of speed, strength, quickness and explosiveness at 6-foot-3, 250 pounds.

Chenal racked up 115 tackles and 18 1/2 tackles for loss this past season and was productive as a pass rusher, as well, finishing with eight sacks and 25 pressures in 11 games. He’d be a great fit in a Patriots linebacking corps that needs to get faster and more explosive.

Round 3, No. 91: OL Sean Rhyan, UCLA
The Patriots value experience in their offensive line prospects, and Rhyan was a three-year starter at left tackle for the Bruins, though most scouting reports project a move to guard. He played under a friend of Bill Belichick in Chip Kelly and can bring some positional versatility to a Patriots O-line that currently lacks depth at every spot.

Round 4, No. 127: CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State
The lone holdover from our first mock draft, we love McCollum’s ball-hawking (13 interceptions, six forced fumbles in his college career) and size/athleticism profile. He crushed his combine workout.

McCollum also was a team captain and productive special teamer in college, checking two more boxes on the Patriots’ prospect wish list. There always are quality-of-competition concerns with players coming from lower levels of the NCAA (Sam Houston is an FCS program), but New England recently saw safety Kyle Dugger leap from Division II to the NFL with little difficulty.

Round 6, No. 210: WR Kyle Philips, UCLA
New England has lacked a lightning-quick slot since Julian Edelman’s knees gave out. Enter the 5-11, 189-pound Phillips, who ran a 6.75-second three-cone drill at his pro day and has garnered pre-draft comparisons to Hunter Renfrow. He led the Pac-12 in touchdown catches this past season with 10 and also is an accomplished punt returner. The Kelly connection applies here, too. Will Philips last this long? Maybe not. But the fit is obvious.

Round 7, No. 261: DL LaBryan Ray, Alabama
Ray came to Alabama as a five-star recruit, but injuries prevented him from ever becoming an impact player for Nick Saban’s squad. The seventh round is the time for fliers, so the Patriots take a swing on a talented, versatile player from their favorite college program.

Thumbnail photo via Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun via Imagn Content Services, LLC
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