Mel Kiper Has Patriots Going Defense In Latest 2022 NFL Mock Draft

Kiper originally had New England taking a receiver


Mar 1, 2022

Despite the emergence of Christian Barmore and the pre-collapse success of Matthew Judon in 2021, the Patriots must improve their pass rush before next season. Mel Kiper believes they’ll do just that in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

In his first mock draft, ESPN’s draft guru predicted New England would use the 21st overall pick on Alabama receiver Jameson Williams. But Kiper since has shifted course, and now has the Patriots selecting Penn State defensive end Arnold Ebiketie.

Here’s an excerpt from his second mock draft, which was published Tuesday morning:

The Patriots got 12.5 sacks from free-agent pickup Matthew Judon last season, while Kyle Van Noy was second on the team with five. No other player had more than three. This front seven has to add an edge rusher, especially as it seems Bill Belichick & Co. don’t trust Chase Winovich, who played only 111 snaps last season, to take on a bigger role.

Ebiketie had 19 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks last season, his first at Penn State after transferring from Temple. At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, he could put on a few more pounds and add the position versatility that New England loves, shifting all along the defensive line. He has extremely long arms and can create leverage on his pass-rush moves. The Patriots also need to invest again at wide receiver, so I thought about one with this pick.

So, could Kiper be on to something?

Ebiketie seemingly fits the mold of what the Patriots look for on the defensive line. The Maryland native has long arms, something Bill Belichick places a high value on (see: Deatrich Wise). But his struggles against the run could be a recipe for failure in New England, as Winovich has learned over the last two seasons.

Here’s what NFL Network draft expert Daniel Jeremiah, who recently moved Ebiketie down from No. 24 to no. 42 on his prospect rankings, wrote of the Penn State product last month:

“Ebiketie is a long, twitched-up edge rusher with a nonstop motor,” Jeremiah wrote. “He has an explosive get-off and routinely rocks offensive tackles with the power in his hands. He charges upfield before powering through the outside shoulder. He also has a violent swipe move and will occasionally cross the face of the tackle with a nifty inside counter move. He can really corner and finish at the top of his rush.

“He isn’t as dominant against the run, however. He ducks his head too often and gets washed by OTs and TEs. He lacks ideal block awareness, too. Still, the effort is always there to hustle and chase from the back side. Overall, Ebiketie is a gifted rusher who should rack up pressures/sacks while he learns to play the run with more consistency.”

The Patriots need to get younger and more explosive with their front seven. Using a high draft pick to address the issue would make a lot of sense.

The NFL draft will start Thursday, April 28.

Thumbnail photo via Tommy Gilligan/USA TODAY Sports Images
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