We’re just two months removed from the 2022 NFL Draft, yet ESPN’s Matt Miller already is looking toward the 2023 NFL Draft.
Obviously, an entire college football season and an entire NFL season separate us from next year’s draft, and a lot almost certainly will change in that 10-month span. But Miller on Tuesday released an “extremely early” evaluation on ESPN.com that included his first attempt at projecting the top 32 picks.
Miller explained his overall assessment is “based on 2021 tape, expected progression from prospects and expected NFL team needs.” It’s also important to note the draft order, which is “based on the 2023 projections from ESPN’s Football Power Index.”
All told, the Patriots own the No. 18 pick in Miller’s mock draft.
Their selection: LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte.
Here’s what Miller wrote about the prediction:
Let’s get quarterback Mac Jones some help in New England. Boutte had 38 catches last season, but coach Brian Kelly should usher in a more pro-style offense for the Tigers, in turn boosting Boutte’s numbers. At 6-foot, 190 pounds, his size and speed remind me some of Philadelphia’s DeVonta Smith, who was the No. 10 pick in 2021. Boutte needs the on-field production to propel himself up draft boards in the same way Smith did when he won the Heisman Trophy in 2020.
Boutte, a junior, is the third wide receiver off the board in Miller’s mock draft, behind Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba (No. 2) and USC’s Jordan Addison (No. 14).
The wide receiver position remains a need for New England ahead of the 2022 NFL season, even though the Patriots traded for DeVante Parker, signed Ty Montgomery and drafted Tyquan Thornton one year after adding both Kendrick Bourne and Nelson Agholor in free agency.
It’ll be fascinating to see what New England’s offense looks like in Mac Jones’ second year as the starting quarterback, especially with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels leaving to become head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, but it’s entirely possible the Patriots will enter next offseason still looking for weapons.
For what it’s worth, Miller’s projected top five picks include Alabama defensive end Will Anderson Jr., Smith-Njigba, Georgie defensive tackle Jalen Carter, ‘Bama cornerback Eli Ricks and Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud.