Will the New England Patriots use their first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft pick on this year’s top local prospect?
NFL Media’s Peter Schrager on Thursday reported New England is high on Boston College wide receiver Zay Flowers as a potential Round 1 target. Schrager also mentioned Iowa defensive end Lukas Van Ness as a player the Patriots “like” on Day 1 of the draft, which kicks off Thursday night.
“The name that I’ve heard for them is Zay Flowers,” Schrager said on “The Pat McAfee Show.” “If they stay at (pick No.) 14, that’s a possibility. And I also hear they like Lukas Van Ness, who is a pass rusher out of Iowa. But I don’t think this is the year where they just take an offensive guard out of a small school who dropped to us.”
Both players had considerable pre-draft contact with the Patriots. Flowers played for the Patriots-coached West Team at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl, giving Bill Belichick, Bill O’Brien and company an up-close look at his skill set. Van Ness initially met with New England at the NFL Scouting Combine, and he and Flowers both took top-30 visits to Gillette Stadium during the pre-draft process.
Flowers, who put up excellent numbers in a bad BC offense last season, would fill a clear need for the Patriots, who’ve lacked top-tier receiver talent for the past several seasons. He’s undersized at 5-foot-9, 182 pounds, however, and though he’s widely viewed as a likely first-round pick, evaluators question whether he’s worthy of the 14th overall selection. Schrager has no such concerns, projecting Flowers to the Patriots at No. 14 in his final mock draft.
Edge rusher, meanwhile, isn’t an immediate need for New England. But with Josh Uche entering the final year of his rookie contract and Matthew Judon turning 31 in August, the Patriots could look to add another difference-maker at that spot. They hosted nearly every projected first-rounder at the position for a pre-draft visit. Van Ness, a former high school hockey player, is a tough, quick, explosive defender who never started a game in college but can play multiple positions along the D-line. NFL Media’s Daniel Jeremiah’s final mock draft had the Patriots taking Van Ness at No. 14.
The Patriots also have holes at offensive tackle and cornerback and could look to fill either in Round 1. Tackles Peter Skoronski, Darnell Wright and Broderick Jones and corners Deonte Banks and Joey Porter Jr. all could be in play at No. 14, with additional options materializing if New England trades up or back from that spot.