Patriots Mock Draft 7.0: First-Round Corner Headlines Final Projection

The real thing kicks off at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday

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April 28

It’s here: NESN.com’s seventh and final New England Patriots mock draft of 2022. Have a look at our last projection before the real thing kicks off Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET.

Previous mock drafts: 1.0 | 2.0 | 3.0 | 4.0 | 5.0 | 6.0

TRADE: Nos. 21 and 158 to Chiefs for Nos. 30 and 62

First round, No. 30 overall: CB Kaiir Elam, Florida
Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd would have been a strong consideration at No. 21, but he was off the board in this scenario. And though the Patriots have been more accepting of smaller ‘backers of late, we’re still not convinced they’d use a premier pick on one as undersized as the 5-foot-11, 229-pound Nakobe Dean.

So, they wait to address their linebacker need and instead fill another hole by grabbing Elam, a tall (6-foot-1 1/2, 191 pounds), fast (4.39-second 40-yard dash), physical outside cornerback who reportedly impressed teams in his pre-draft interviews. Elam would be the Patriots’ first Round 1 cornerback pick since Devin McCourty in 2010, but they sorely need help there after losing J.C. Jackson in free agency. They also pick up an additional second-rounder in the process — an asset in a draft that’s flush with Day 2 talent.

Second round, No. 54: LB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin
As new Patriots director of player personnel Matt Groh recently noted, the bigger linebackers New England traditionally has preferred are being phased out of the college game. But they’re not all gone. At 6-3, 250, Chenal boasts the size and power the Patriots typically value but also the athleticism they lacked at the second level last season, running a 4.53-second 40-yard dash with a 41-inch vertical jump and a 128-inch broad jump at the NFL Scouting Combine. All three ranked in the 91st percentile or better for his position. He also posted a sub-7-second three-cone drill and banged out 34 bench-press reps at his pro day.

On the field, Chenal was wildly productive in the Big 10, racking up 115 tackles, 18 1/2 tackles for loss and eight sacks last season while grading out as one of Pro Football Focus’s best run defenders. There are questions about his coverage chops, but there’s a lot to like about the rest of his game.

TRADE: Nos. 62 and 183 to Colts for Nos. 73 and 122

Third round, No. 73: DL Phidarian Mathis, Alabama
Last year, the Patriots traded up on Day 2 for an Alabama defensive tackle (Christian Barmore). This time around, they move down for one, converting a sixth-round pick into a fourth in the process.

The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Mathis is powerful, versatile, experienced and productive, registering nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss as a senior. The Nick Saban disciple has long arms, giant hands and desirable leadership traits as a Crimson Tide team captain, and though he wasn’t the most consistent performer in college, reuniting him with Barmore would bolster a Patriots D-line that sagged at times in 2021.

This would be tapping back into a familiar pipeline: New England has drafted four Alabama products in the last three years and six in the last seven.

Third round, No. 85: OL Cole Strange, Chattanooga
Could the Patriots plug their hole at left guard with a blue-chipper like Boston College’s Zion Johnson? That’s a definite possibility. But they haven’t had a single regular interior O-line starter who was drafted before the third round since Logan Mankins left in 2014. In our view, going guard late on Day 2 or early on Day 3 is the more likely avenue.

And in that range, Strange fits. After switching over from defensive end after high school, he proceeded to start 42 games at left guard at Chattanooga, plus one at left tackle and one at center. There are some quality-of-competition concerns with any FCS prospect, but Strange also acquitted himself well at the Senior Bowl and showed excellent athleticism and explosiveness at the combine, testing in the 86th percentile or better in the 40, three-cone, short shuttle, broad jump and bench press. His 120-inch broad ranked in the 99th percentile for O-linemen.

Fourth round, No. 122: WR Kyle Philips, UCLA
The Patriots landed a proven perimeter receiver in their early-April trade for DeVante Parker. The 5-foot-11, 189-pound 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 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, and played under a friend of Bill Belichick in UCLA head coach Chip Kelly.

Fourth round, No. 127: OL Zach Tom, Wake Forest
The 6-foot-4, 304-pound Tom had some rather bizarre positional splits at Wake, starting 14 games at center and then 23 at left tackle. Some draft analysts view him as an interior lineman at the NFL level, but New England hasn’t valued size at tackle the way some other teams do (see: Isaiah Wynn, Justin Herron) and could choose to keep him in his most recent role.

Tom had one of the best combine workouts of any O-line prospect, and he was nearly unbeatable in pass protection in college, allowing just 16 total pressures over his two seasons as the Demon Deacons’ top left tackle (a role he inherited from Herron, a 2020 Patriots draftee). He’d provide depth behind both the injury-prone Wynn and starting center David Andrews while potentially being groomed as the former’s long-term replacement.

TRADE: Nos. 200 and 245 to Bears for No. 186

Sixth round, No. 186: EDGE Christopher Allen, Alabama
Injuries prevented Allen from reaching his potential for the Crimson Tide, with a torn ACL wiping out his 2018 season and a foot injury ending his 2021 campaign after just one game. The latter also prevented the 6-foot-4, 241-pounder from testing at the combine or at Alabama’s pro day, so it’s hard to get an accurate read on his athletic profile.

But Allen tallied 13 tackles for loss and six sacks in 2020, and he has the versatility to rush the passer, set the edge or drop into coverage. If Belichick gets a positive review from his buddy Saban, Allen would be a worthwhile late-round flier.

Sixth round, No. 210: RB Trestan Ebner, Baylor
A former high school wideout, Ebner never topped 800 rushing yards nor held a full-time starting role in his five collegiate seasons, but he was a productive pass-catcher (127 total receptions for 1,515 yards and 11 touchdowns) and the Big 12’s Special Teams Player of the Year in both 2020 and 2021 (25.3 yards per kick return with three career scores).

If the Patriots, who have taken a running back in three of the last four drafts, want to groom a successor to veteran third-down back James White, Ebner’s receiving prowess makes him an intriguing target.

TRADE: WR N’Keal Harry to Cardinals for No. 244

Seventh round, No. 244: LB Damone Clark, LSU
The Patriots moving on from Harry seems like a foregone conclusion at this point, especially with DeVante Parker now aboard. Here, they offload the final year of the 2019 draft bust’s rookie contract to his hometown team and use the return on a late-round lottery ticket.

Clark recently underwent spinal fusion surgery and isn’t expected to play this season, but he was viewed as a likely second-round pick before his injury was discovered. Drafting a linebacker with back/neck issues is an obvious risk, but that’s what the seventh round is for. If Clark can recapture his pre-injury form in 2023, this pick would be a steal for New England.

Thumbnail photo via Doug Engle/Ocala Star-Banner via USA TODAY Sports Images
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