When the offseason began, many identified offensive tackle as the position the Patriots most likely would target in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. And that made sense, given New England’s issues with protecting Mac Jones in 2022.
But it might be time to adjust our thinking.
In the latest episode of his “Next Pats” podcast, NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry indicated the Patriots might be looking to use the 14th overall pick — either by keeping it or trading it — to land a receiver or a cornerback. He went on to say that the high-end tackle prospects might be gone by the time New England picks and that the remaining tackles might not be worthy of first-round consideration.
“Having conversations with people around the league of late, the buzz seems to be that we should be focused in on the cornerback position and the receiver spot when it comes to the Patriots,” Perry said. “And you may be sitting there saying, ‘Well, those are the spots we’ve already been focused on.’ Well, there’s a position that I’m leaving out for now, and I’ll just say that — for now.
“And it’s the tackle spot. And the reason I say that, just a few of the notes that have made their way to me … I’m not sure it’s the strongest tackle class. And, by the time the Patriots are on the board at 14, who will be available?”
So, who could be on the Patriots’ radar?
The consensus top receivers in the draft are Quentin Johnston, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jordan Addison, all of whom have been connected to New England. Boston College product Zay Flowers also could hear his name called in the first round.
As for cornerbacks, Devon Witherspoon, Christian Gonzalez and Joey Porter Jr. are the top players available, with Emmanuel Forbes and Deonte Banks recently surging up draft boards. Gonzalez, Porter and Forbes all have met with the Patriots during the pre-draft process.
You can click here for our draft preview on receivers and here for a look at the top cornerback prospects.
This year’s NFL draft is scheduled to start on Thursday, April 27.