In trading for wide receiver DeVante Parker this week, the New England Patriots both addressed one of their most prominent roster needs and added an additional pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
How will the Parker trade impact the Patriots’ drafting strategy? Here’s our latest projection — version 4.0 — of how draft weekend could shake out for New England.
TRADE: No. 21 to Kansas City for Nos. 29, 94 and 135
Round 1, No. 29 overall: DB Dax Hill, Michigan
We know what you’re thinking: One of the only things this Patriots roster doesn’t need is more safeties. And while it’s true that adding Hill would address a position of strength, New England seems to be trending toward a more “positionless” secondary, and Hill fits that mold to a T. He can patrol the back end or play in the slot, and with his speed (4.38-second 40-yard dash), quickness (6.57-second three-cone drill) and coverage skills, he might even be able to make it as an outside cornerback.
A more traditional corner like Florida’s Kaiir Elam also was a strong consideration here, as the Patriots still are light at that spot after losing Pro Bowler J.C. Jackson in free agency and adding low-risk veterans Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell.
TRADE: Nos. 54 and 170 to Philadelphia for No. 51
Round 2, No. 51 overall: LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
Though Bill Belichick has a well-earned reputation for trading down on draft day, the Patriots actually have traded up in the second round in each of the last four drafts. Here, they flip the fifth-round pick they acquired in the Parker trade to jump up three spots and snag Chenal, who’s seen his stock soar during the pre-draft process.
There are some questions about Chenal’s coverage chops, but he’s a good-sized (6-foot-3, 250 pounds) and phenomenally athletic player who dominated against the run for the Badgers, earning the third-highest run defense grade Pro Football Focus has ever recorded in 2021.
Currently the 35th-ranked prospect on PFF’s 2022 Big Board, Chenal racked up 115 tackles and 18 1/2 tackles for loss this past season. He was productive as a blitzer, too (eight sacks, 25 pressures in 11 games) and would add some much-needed juice to New England’s linebacking corps.
Round 3, No. 85 overall: OL Dylan Parham, Memphis
Parham isn’t a particularly big dude, with Memphis listing him at an eye-poppingly slim 285 pounds. But he measured in at a respectable 6-foot-3, 311 pounds at the combine, and he makes up for his lack of girth with excellent athleticism. Parham tested in the 95th percentile for O-lineman in the 40-yard dash (4.93 seconds) and 79th percentile in the broad jump (108 inches), showing he has both speed and explosiveness.
Parham also was a full-time starter at three different positions in college (left guard, right guard and right tackle) and took reps at center at the Senior Bowl. The Patriots currently have a void at one guard spot after losing both of their 2021 starters (Ted Karras and Shaq Mason) and have no qualms about starting rookies up front.
Round 3, No. 94 overall: OT Max Mitchell, Louisiana
Speaking of undersized offensive linemen, Mitchell stands a lean 6-foot-6, 307 pounds, putting him below the usual weight standard for NFL tackles. But he was a superb pass protector in college. A three-year starter, playing mostly at right tackle, he allowed just five sacks in 1,112 pass-blocking snaps from 2019 through 2021, finishing as PFF’s highest-graded pass-blocking tackle as a senior. Scouting reports also applaud his toughness and leadership.
Mitchell isn’t a mauler in the run game and must continue to add mass and strength, but the Patriots have been willing to roster lighter tackles (Isaiah Wynn is 310 pounds; Justin Herron is 305) and lack depth at the position behind the injury-prone Wynn and Trent Brown.
Round 4, No. 127 overall: WR Kyle Philips, UCLA
The Patriots landed a proven perimeter receiver in their trade for Parker. Philips would give them the traditional slot technician they’ve lacked since Julian Edelman’s departure. He ran a 6.75-second three-cone drill at his pro day, led the Pac-12 in touchdowns this past season (10) and has garnered pre-draft comparisons to Hunter Renfrow, who always was viewed as a natural fit for the Patriots. Philips also was an effective collegiate punt returner, averaging 19.3 yards per return with two touchdowns on 26 attempts.
We had New England grabbing Philips all the way down at Pick 210 in our second mock draft, but a fall that precipitous now seems unlikely for the Chip Kelly disciple.
Round 4, No. 135 overall: CB Zyon McCollum, Sam Houston State
We considered using this selection on Houston slot cornerback/uber-explosive return man Marcus Jones, who visited the Patriots this week, but were deterred by his small stature (5-8, 174) and the fact he’s coming off surgery on both of his shoulders.
Instead, we kept the McCollum train rolling. The 6-foot-2, 199-pound, ball-hawking FCS product is the only player to appear in each of our first four Patriots mock drafts. We love his fit from a physical and an intangible perspective, and New England badly needs young cornerback talent.
Round 5, No. 158 overall: RB James Cook, Georgia
James White re-signed this offseason, but he’s coming off major hip surgery, and his understudy, Brandon Bolden, now is in Las Vegas. While there’s a chance J.J. Taylor could take on additional receiving duties in his third pro season, the Patriots’ backfield doesn’t have much proven pass-catching depth behind White.
Cook might not be the game-changer that his sturdier older brother, Dalvin, is for the Minnesota Vikings, but his passing-game prowess makes him an intriguing target for the Patriots. He dropped just one pass in 68 catchable targets at Georgia, per PFF, and his evasiveness makes him a tough cover.
Round 6, No. 200 overall: EDGE Christopher Allen, Alabama
Allen came to Tuscaloosa as a stud recruit, and he showed flashes of that talent for the Crimson Tide, tallying six sacks and 13 tackles for loss in 2020. But his college career was wracked by injuries, including a broken foot in the 2021 opener that wiped out the rest of his final season and prevented him from testing at the combine or Alabama’s pro day. (He reportedly plans to work out at the school’s second pro day next week.)
Drafting a player like this would be an obvious gamble, but that’s what the late rounds are for. The Patriots love Alabama products — they’ve drafted four in the last three years and six in the last seven — and a positive review from Nick Saban could be enough to earn Allen a shot in New England.
Round 6, No. 210 overall: ST Drew Hartlaub, Penn State
Though he was listed as a safety, Hartlaub was a pure special teamer for the Nittany Lions. Most NFL clubs wouldn’t have any interest in drafting a player like that. The Patriots are one of the few exceptions. With 2008 fifth-round pick Matthew Slater nearing the end of his illustrious career, we have them using a late sixth on a 5-foot-11, 170-pound gunner who ran a blazing 4.22-second 40 at his pro day, along with a 6.75-second three-cone and 4.15-second short shuttle.
A Patriots scout met with Hartlaub at that workout, according to NFL Media’s Mike Giardi.