Patriots Draft Targets: These 2023 Prospects Are Best Fits For New England

New England enters the draft with a variety of needs


Apr 24, 2023

Who will the Patriots pick in the 2023 NFL Draft? Correctly predicting that is a borderline impossible task.

Bill Belichick’s draft-day approach often surprises even the savviest fans and most plugged-in prognosticators. Case in point: Who expected New England to use its top two selections last year on Cole Strange and Tyquan Thornton? No one.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

We’ve spent the last month-and-a-half doing our best to identify the prospects most likely to pique the Patriots’ interest in this year’s draft, which kicks off Thursday night and runs through Saturday. Our six Patriots mock drafts — with a seventh and final coming this Thursday — featured a total of 56 players who would make sense for Belichick’s squad, from Day 1 studs to late-round fliers.

Here is a full rundown of all of those players, categorized by position and projected draft slot:

Offensive tackles
Day 1: Broderick Jones, Georgia; Darnell Wright, Tennessee
Day 2: Dawand Jones, Ohio State; Cody Mauch, North Dakota State; Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse
Day 3: Tyler Steen, Alabama; Blake Freeland, BYU

With projected starters Trent Brown and Riley Reiff both on expiring contracts and prone to injuries, tackle is one of the Patriots’ most obvious draft needs. Wright, who started 42 collegiate games at three different positions, might be our favorite Day 1 Patriots fit. Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr. are expected to go earlier than No. 14 but would be in this conversation, too, if either fell.

Wide receivers
Day 1: Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
Day 2: Josh Downs, North Carolina; Tyler Scott, Cincinnati; Jayden Reed, Michigan State; Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss; Tank Dell, Houston
Day 3: Ronnie Bell, Michigan; Puka Nacua, BYU; Bryce Ford-Wheaton, West Virginia

Would the Patriots use a first-round pick on a receiver? That’s one of the big questions entering this draft. They’ve only done so once during Belichick’s tenure (N’Keal Harry, 2019). Smith-Njigba looks like the only wideout worthy of the 14th overall pick, but Boston College’s Zay Flowers — a local favorite — could be in play if the Patriots trade down. There are some exciting players in that Day 2 group, too.

Day 1: Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Day 2: Emmanuel Forbes, Mississippi State
Day 3: Julius Brents, Kansas State; Cory Trice, Purdue; Riley Moss, Iowa; Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford; Nic Jones, Ball State

The Patriots need to add height and length to their cornerback group, and Porter, Forbes, Brents and Trice are among the longest corners in this year’s draft. Oregon’s Christian Gonzalez and Illinois’ Devon Witherspoon also are possibilities at No. 14 if they slide that far, and Maryland’s Deonte Banks could be a target later in Round 1.

Tight ends
Day 2: Sam LaPorta, Iowa; Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State; Darnell Washington, Georgia
Day 3: Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan; Zack Kuntz, Old Dominion

This is considered the best tight end class in recent memory, and with Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki both entering contract years, it would be very surprising if the Patriots didn’t select at least one. There is a variety of flavors here, too. Kuntz, for instance, is more in the receiving-focused Gesicki mold, while Washington and Schoonmaker are known for their blocking. If the Patriots wanted to take a tight end on Day 1, Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer and Utah’s Dalton Kincaid would be top options.

Day 2: Jack Campbell, Iowa
Day 3: Ivan Pace, Cincinnati; Isaiah Moore, North Carolina State; Mohamoud Diabate, Utah

Campbell, a big, athletic ‘backer who can cover, would be a great fit for the Patriots, but they’d likely need to use a top-50 pick to land him. Pace is an undersized wrecking ball who can wreak havoc as a blitzer, and Moore and Diabate both reportedly impressed New England’s coaches while playing for them at the 2023 East-West Shrine Bowl.

Day 3: Jartavius Martin, Illinois; Jordan Battle, Alabama; Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State; Jammie Robinson, Florida State; Chamarri Conner, Virginia Tech

Martin is one of our favorite draft fits for the Patriots as they search for their next Devin McCourty. He’s played everywhere in the secondary, is a great tackler, tested extremely well at the combine and, because of all those factors, could wind up sneaking into Day 2.

Running backs
Day 2: Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
Day 3: Eric Gray, Oklahoma; Evan Hull, Northwestern; Deuce Vaughn, Kansas State

We couldn’t pull the trigger on a first-round Bijan Robinson pick despite some pre-draft buzz about the Patriots’ interest in the former Texas standout. But Gibbs is an intriguing second-round possibility. He played under Bill O’Brien at Alabama and has shades of Alvin Kamara in his game. We also love Hull, who caught 88 passes over the last two seasons, in the later rounds.

Edge rushers/defensive linemen
Day 1: Myles Murphy, Clemson
Day 2: Siaki Ika, Baylor
Day 3: Viliami Fehoko, San Jose State; Scott Matlock, Boise State; DJ Dale, Alabama; Truman Jones, Harvard

There are some Day 2 edge prospects who should have been featured in our mocks. Georgia Tech’s Keion White, Auburn’s Derrick Hall, Notre Dame’s Isaiah Foskey, Ohio State’s Zach Harrison and Missouri’s Isaiah McGuire come to mind. The Patriots hosted nearly every projected first-rounder at the position for a pre-draft visit (Murphy, Tyree Wilson, Lukas Van Ness and Nolan Smith), so don’t rule out them taking an edge rusher on Day 1.

Day 3: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA; Clayton Tune, Houston

Thompson-Robinson has been frequently mentioned as a potential late-round Patriots pick. Their coaches got a good, hard look at the longtime UCLA starter at the East-West Shrine Bowl. Tune’s another possible Day 3 pickup. He was a four-year starter and three-year captain at Houston, and, like Thompson-Robinson, he’s a good athlete for the position and would add some dual-threat capability to New England’s QB room. The Patriots also hosted projected first-rounder Will Levis for a pre-draft visit last week, so it’ll be fascinating to see how they’d proceed if the Kentucky product (or Florida’s Anthony Richardson, whom they interviewed at the combine) slides to No. 14.

Interior offensive linemen
Day 3: Andrew Vorhees, USC; T.J. Bass, Oregon

Another position we probably should have spotlighted more, as 33-year-old James Ferentz currently is the Patriots’ top interior backup. Some evaluators view Mauch, Steen and Bergeron as NFL guards, though, so they should be able to help out inside, too, if drafted.

Day 3: P Adam Korsak, Rutgers; K Jake Moody, Michigan; K Chad Ryland, Maryland

Korsak, a three-year captain who set NCAA punting records and played under a friend of Bill Belichick in Greg Schiano, would make a ton of sense for the Patriots after they cut Jake Bailey earlier this offseason. Moody was the co-MVP of the Shrine Bowl, and he and Ryland are arguably this year’s top kicker prospects. Either could challenge 38-year-old Nick Folk in training camp.

Day 3: FB/TE Jack Colletto, Oregon State; FB/DE Derek Parish, Houston

Colletto and Parish both were multipositional college players whom the Patriots saw at the Shrine Bowl. Both could offer versatility and special teams potential as late-round fliers.

Thumbnail photo via Orlando Ramirez, Andrew Wevers, Ron Johnson, Bryan Lynn/USA TODAY Sports Images
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