We are WORLD CHAMPIONS.
Tom Brady didn’t play his best game, it was a defensive struggle, offense only scored 13 points, it was a boring game, there was a bad halftime show, blah, blah, blah. Fact is, the New England Patriots are Super Bowl Champions for the sixth time, and that annoys a lot of fanbases (and I wouldn’t have it any other way).
With the Super Bowl behind us, every fanbase is focused on improving their rosters through free agency and the NFL Draft. If the Patriots are going to repeat as Super Bowl contenders, there are plenty of improvements that can be made.
Its important to note that many of Bill Belichick’s draft picks over the years have come from his “trust tree” of college coaches.
Additionally, compensatory selections have yet to be announced. New England is actually in line to benefit the most from those compensatory selections, with the expectation that they will receive two additional third-round picks for the losses of Nate Solder and Malcolm Butler in free agency.
That could effect the Patriots plan, but for today we’re focused on the selections that they definitively have.
In order to make these selections, I fired up our Mock Draft Machine, which releases to the public on February 25th. You can draft for one team, two teams, heck, you can draft for all 32 teams if you’d like. Make sure to keep your eye out for the launch!
Round 1, Pick 32: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
The Patriots pass rush heated up during the postseason, but finished the regular season 30th in the NFL in sacks. Trey Flowers is a free agent, and New England will look to bring him back. Even if they’re able to, they need pass rush help.
Mississippi State EDGE Montez Sweat isn’t a guy who will bend the edge, but he can win with power. On top of that, he’s an excellent run defender with knowledge of block destruction and setting the edge. He would be a welcome fit into the defensive end rotation along with Deatrich Wise Jr. and Adrian Clayborn.
Round 2, Pick 56: Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
New England has this selection as apart of a trade down with the Chicago Bears during the 2018 NFL Draft.
It’s no secret that Rob Gronkowski has been considering retirement for a couple of seasons. Whether he decides to retire or not, New England should look for his future replacement in this loaded tight end class.
Belichick drafted two Georgia Bulldogs last year in Isaiah Wynn and Sony Michel, and he has a long-standing relationship with head coach Kirby Smart. Isaac Nauta is a former 5-star recruit who was underutilized at Georgia, but has NFL traits and athleticism. On just 35 targets in 2018, Nauta produced 30 receptions for 430 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Round 2, Pick 64: Lonnie Johnson Jr., CB, Kentucky
New England has one of, if not the, best cornerbacks in football in Stephon Gilmore. While 2018 undrafted free agent JC Jackson looks like a future answer at the nickel spot, incumbent starter Jason McCourty will be 32 by the start of next season.
McCourty is still playing at a starter-level, but it’s probably time to find a successor who they can develop behind him. Kentucky’s Lonnie Johnson Jr. is one of the most physically gifted cornerbacks in the draft, and he showed out during the Senior Bowl. His best fit will be into a scheme heavy on press-man coverages, which New England runs as much as any team.
There are still some raw aspects to his game, but a season behind veterans such as Gilmore and McCourty could be perfect for his career progression.
Round 3, Pick 74: Isaiah Buggs, IDL, Alabama
New England has this selection as apart of a draft pick swap with the Detroit Lions during the 2018 NFL Draft.
New England will almost certainly be looking towards the interior defensive line during the NFL Draft, as both Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton are impending free agents. On top of that, it was one of the more uninspiring units on the roster.
Alabama defensive tackle Isaiah Buggs took a good amount of reps on the edge, but measured in at the Senior Bowl at 295 pounds. He projects to the interior at the next level, offering potential against the run and pass. Additionally, a Buggs will likely come with the recommendation of Belichick’s longtime friend Nick Saban.
Round 4, Pick 128: Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
The Patriots wide receiver depth chart will be one of the biggest storylines of the Patriots offseason. Julian Edelman will be 32 years-old by next season, while Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett (and Josh Gordon) will all be free agents.
Luckily for New England, the wide receiver class is deep enough that they can wait a few rounds before targeting one. It’s no secret that Belichick values special teams versatility, and Ohio State’s Terry McLaurin offers a mix of wide receiver and special teams traits. McLaurin was the talk of the Senior Bowl, as he ate up the cornerbacks for three practices.
When former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was at Florida, it seems like Belichick would target his players on a yearly basis. That trend could continue with McLaurin.
Round 7, Pick 217: Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis
New England has this selection due to a late-round pick swap with the Philadelphia Eagles during the 2018 NFL Draft.
Tony Pollard is one of the most versatile players in the NFL Draft, taking reps at running back and wide receiver while at Memphis. On top of that, he offers special teams versatility as the all-time record holder for kick return touchdowns.
In the 7th round, finding players who can contribute in some way is the goal. Pollard’s versatility could allow him to stick to the roster.
Round 7, Pick 224: Jah’Shawn Johnson, S, Texas Tech
New England has a deep and talented safety group, but there will be concerns about the position moving forward. Patrick Chung is a 10-year veteran who injured his arm during the Super Bowl, and Devin McCourty will be 32 years-old next season.
Safety feels like a position that New England could target earlier in the NFL Draft, but there wasn’t a great fit early on. Texas Tech’s Jah’Shawn Johnson is undersized, but has elite closing speed on the backend.
*REMINDER*: You can play general manager for your favorite team too when Mock Draft Machine releases to the public on February 25th!