Mel Kiper Has Patriots Taking Stud Receiver In Latest Mock Draft

The 2023 NFL Draft is two months away


Feb 28, 2023

Will the Patriots use the 14th pick in the 2023 NFL Draft to select an offensive tackle? What about a cornerback?

Mel Kiper believes New England will go in neither direction.

In his first mock draft, ESPN’s draft czar had the Patriots taking Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon. But Kiper shifted gears for his second mock, predicting New England to draft Ohio State receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

“The Patriots have a new offensive coordinator in Bill O’Brien and could look completely different on that side of the ball in 2023,” Kiper wrote. “That’s a good thing, because quarterback Mac Jones regressed last season. He’d benefit greatly from Smith-Njigba, a true No. 1 wideout who knows how to get open. Smith-Njigba is coming off a season in which a nagging hamstring injury limited him to five catches total, but he led Ohio State in catches (95) and yards (1,606) in 2021. Assuming his medicals check out and his hamstring won’t be an issue, he’ll be my top-ranked wideout in this class. There’s no consensus within the league on this receiver class at the top.

“If Bill Belichick and company go a different direction, cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State) could be the pick, particularly if free agent corner Jonathan Jones departs. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Pats targeted an offensive tackle.”

As Kiper mentioned, the 2022 season was a lost campaign for Smith-Njigba.

The 6-foot-1, 197-pound receiver caught just five passes for 43 yards in three games. Considering he only caught 10 passes in seven games as a freshman in 2020, NFL teams really only have his 2021 season to go on.

Nevertheless, Smith-Njigba is considered one of the best receivers available in the 2023 draft. He could provide needed speed and play-making ability to a Patriots receivers group devoid of high-end talent.

Thumbnail photo via Adam Cairns/USA TODAY Sports Images
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