With the NFL Combine set to start February 26th and compensatory picks being handed out it’s time to look at what the Patriots can add in the draft to replace some pieces they will lose in free agency. The Patriots currently have 12 draft picks and would expect them to package picks to move around the draft board, but projected as if they would use all 12 picks.
This seven-round mock draft was conducted on FanSpeak.com using their mock draft simulator. I used the ‘Big Board’ rankings done by Matt Miller of Bleacher Report, with ‘NFL Mock’ for team needs, on the difficult draft setting. Some players may be ranked higher in other rankings and projections and post combine.
Round 1 pick 32: Dexter Lawrence, Defensive Lineman, Clemson
Defensive tackle was the Patriots most inconsistent position last season, with both Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton having their share of struggles and healthy scratches from the 46-man game day roster. Brown and Shelton are both set to be free agents and wouldn’t expect New England to re-sign either leaving defensive tackle an even more important position to address in the draft.
Dexter Lawrence was a big contributor to the vaunted Clemson defensive line despite missing time at the end of the season due to a PED suspension. Lawrence has great size at 6’4 340lbs and could be the force in the middle of the line the Patriots defense was desperately needing at times during the 2018 season. If Lawrence is still on the board at pick 32 the Patriots should run to the stage to select him and not give any second thoughts
Round 2 pick 56: Riley Ridley, Wide Receiver, Georgia
The Patriots receiver depth chart for 2019 is currently Julian Edelman and Braxton Berrios. Wide Receiver is a major area of need for the Patriots as I expect Chris Hogan to depart in free agency and would expect the team to try to re-sign Phillip Dorsett or Cordarrelle Patterson to cheap deals if given the opportunity.
Adding Riley Ridley would give Tom Brady an elite young talent who can play both inside and outside and someone who has great route running ability. to go along with size at 6’2 200lbs. Ridley’s brother Calvin, first round pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2018, had a great rookie season and I could see Riley emulating that success in the Patriots offense. Even with free agency and the potential of a Josh Gordon return it would be smart for the Patriots to address the wide receiver position early in the draft, and selecting Ridley would give the a young receiver that the team could build around in the future and give the team another Georgia product after selecting both Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel in the first round last year.
Round 2 pick 64: Jaylon Ferguson, Edge Rusher, Louisiana Tech
The Patriots could face a huge blow to their defense if they lose Trey Flowers in free agency. Even if they get Flowers back the team should look to add a pass rusher with Adrian Clayborn and Derek Rivers not meeting expectations.
in 2018, Jaylon Ferguson racked up 17.5 sacks his senior season and had 45 total sacks over his four seasons at LA. Tech, setting an NCAA record. Drafting Ferguson will give the Patriots a true pass rushed opposite Flowers (assuming he’s back) that they desperately need. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Ferguson end up as a first round draft pick, especially with a strong showing at the combine.
Round 3 pick 73: Jace Sternberger, Tight End, Texas A&M
It seems more and more likely that Rob Gronkowski will be returning which will be great for the Patriots offense. Even if Gronk does indeed come back and not retire addressing the tight end position is something the Patriots need to do this draft class, with Dwayne Allen and his $7.3 million cap hit likely to be gone and getting no production from both Allen and Jacob Hollister over the past two seasons adding a backup tight end is a must.
Jace Sternberger had a great 2018 season, his first at Texas A&M after transferring from JUCO, with 48 catches for 832 yards and 10 touchdowns. Sternberger only had one year of production which could be a red flag to teams, and is essentially just a receiving tight end and doesn’t offer much as a blocker. Adding Sternberger would give the Patriots offense someone who could stretch the field and take away some double teams from Gronkowski when on the field at the same time and become a formidable passing option in the Patriots offense.
Round 3 pick 97: Dakota Allen, Linebacker, Texas Tech
Kyle Van Noy had a fantastic 2018 for the Patriots and the team will be getting Ja’Whaun Bentley back after missing the 2018 season after being placed on Injured Reserve, which will help the linebacking core in 2019, but you can never have enough young, versatile talent at the linebacker position.
Former “Last Chance U” star Dakota Allen made the most of the second chance he got at Texas Tech, picking up 162 tackles for loss with 11.5 tackles for loss over two seasons. Allen could fall in the draft due to some red flags that led to his dismissal at Texas Tech his first time around, but his play on the field and no off-field issues following his return to Tech should lead to Allen being taken in the mid-rounds of the draft.
Round 3 pick 101: Isaiah Buggs, Alabama, Defensive Lineman
With the Patriots having several different holes to fill adding a versatile defensive lineman like Buggs, who can play both at tackle and end with his size at 6’5 290lbs. During his senior season at Alabama Buggs had 9.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss. Adding Buggs would give the Patriots depth along the whole defensive line and someone who can contribute as a rookie.
Round 4 pick 134: Hunter Renfrow, Wide Receiver, Clemson
The Patriots take their second wide receiver of the draft taking one of Clemson’s all-time leading receivers Hunter Renfrow. Renfrow worked out of the slot during his time at Clemson catching passes from DeShaun Watson, Kelly Bryant and Trevor Lawrence and constantly finding ways to get open and make big plays. Renfrow could be in line to be the next great Patriots slot receiver, as well as be a contributing piece to the Patriots offense right away.
Round 6 pick 205: Amani Hooker, Safety, Iowa
With both Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung set to turn 32 before the start of the 2019 season the Patriots could look to add another safety to groom and even stash on practice squad if needed. The Patriots picked up former Raiders second round pick Obi Melifonwu during the season and played limited snaps on special teams and could have a larger role on defense in 2019 and going forward. Hooker has versatility being able to play both safety and cornerback who has great ball skills and was a second team All-American in 2018.
Round 7 pick 239: Bryce Love, Running Back, Stanford
Running back is not an area of need for the Patriots after selecting Sony Michel in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft and having backs James White and Rex Burkhead on the roster, but being able to grab someone like Love at this point in the draft would be a steal. Love was a Heisman finalist several times during his years at Stanford and put up great numbers before tearing his ACL on the final play of his college career. The Patriots could select Love and place him on Injured Reserve to let him fully recover and team up with Michel to be be a part of the offense for the 2020 season and beyond.
Round 7 pick 243: Justin Hollins, Edge Rusher, Oregon
I don’t see the Patriots using all 12 draft picks that they currently have and could package some picks to move around the board, but projecting as they currently stand the Patriots add depth at pass rusher with their second of four seventh round picks. Hollins has good size at 6’4 240lbs with good speed for his size that would allow him to play special teams.
Round 7 pick 246: Alex Bars, Guard, Notre Dame
Bars missed most of the 2018 season after suffering an ACL and MCL injury against Stanford. Bars has good size at 6’6 315lbs and could give flexibility at both guard and tackle.
Round 7 pick 252: Clifton Duck, Cornerback, Appalachian State
Cornerback is probably the strongest position the Patriots have and one that they shouldn’t need to address during the draft. Eric Rowe is set to become a free agent and likely won’t be back, while both Jason McCourty and Jonathan Jones are all set to become free agents who I expect to be back with the team, especially with Jones being a restricted free-agent. The Patriots will also be getting second-round pick Duke Dawson back who missed all of last year due to injury. For some reason if the Patriots lose either McCourty or Jones, or both they could look to add a corner later in the draft. Duck doesn’t have great size at only 5’10 175lbs, but has great ball skills having 12 interceptions over three years at Appalachian State and projects as a slot corner at the next level.