When it comes to the Patriots and the NFL draft, there’s always one very important disclaimer: Nobody has any real idea what Bill Belichick will do on draft night.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, though, it’s certainly easy to see a few potential paths for the Patriots to take in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.
New England currently owns the 21st pick in the first round, and a lot of what it does will come down two things. The first is whether the Patriots even keep the pick given their propensity for trading down, and the second is what happens in the picks that precede New England, obviously.
With a little more than a week before the draft gets underway in Las Vegas, the mock draft industrial complex has kicked into overdrive, and it’s quite clear a consensus has built among the supposed experts.
Here’s a quick collection of recent Patriots mock draft picks:
The Athletic (Diante Lee): CB Andrew Booth Jr. (Clemson)
The Athletic (Dane Brugler): CB/S Dax Hill (Michigan)
NFL.com (Peter Schrager): CB Trent McDuffie (Washington)
NFL.com (Charles Davis): Booth
Pro Football Focus (Sam Monson): McDuffie
Sharp Football (Brendan Donahue): Hill
ESPN.com (Todd McShay, Mel Kiper Jr.): LB Nakobe Dean (Georgia)
The Patriots need to get younger and faster defensively, so it’s no surprise the entire football world expects them to take a defensive player. The betting odds, unsurprisingly, reflect as much. DraftKings Sportsbook offers “exact position of first drafted player” odds, and again, everything points to the Patriots going defense.
Defensive back +200
Defensive lineman/EDGE +275
Offensive lineman +330
Wide receiver +330
Running Back +7500
Tight end +10000
Kicker/punter/long snapper +20000
Side note: Belichick drafting a punter in the first round would be objectively hilarious.
Given the mounting consensus and belief among tapped-in experts that the Patriots would look to improve the secondary makes that 2-1 number for defensive back look very inviting. It’s especially appealing because it covers multiple positions — cornerback and safety — and it doesn’t hurt the bet if they take someone like Hill, who doesn’t have a defined position in the secondary.
It would be a bit of a change for Belichick, who has taken a defensive back in the first round just twice.
The Patriots might actually be more likely to go defense, especially in the secondary, if there’s a run on a different position or positions in the top half of the first round. It doesn’t figure to be an especially deep quarterback class, so it’s certainly possible a team like Pittsburgh — holding the No. 20 pick — decides it has to jump at someone like Desmond Ridder before it’s too late to get a quarterback. It’s also a loaded receiver draft with plenty of high-end talent, and with the league trending in that direction, there could be a rush to make sure you end up with one of those players.
As to whether the Patriots might use their first-round pick on a wideout, it’s something Belichick has done just once in his entire tenure. That was an objective disaster with New England taking N’Keal Harry in the first round of the 2019 draft. If the Patriots were to go offense, selecting a lineman makes the most sense.