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Cedric Tillman Vikings

Patriots 7-Round Mock Draft 2023: Getting Back On Track

  • Jack McKessy
  • February 22, 2023
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The New England Patriots have been in a weird spot ever since quarterback Tom Brady left for Tampa Bay. In the three years since, they’ve had just one winning season and a 25-25 record, partly due to the strange decisions that head coach and general manager Bill Belichick has made. The team had no real offensive coordinator in 2022 and has had bad draft classes just about every year since… 2012.

Still, they’ve managed to stay afloat as a fringe contender, making the playoffs as a wild-card team in 2021 and staying in contention into Week 18 this past year. If they just managed to add more talent to this roster and patched up some glaring holes in the draft, they could become a real, annual contender. 

Ahead of free agency, here’s what a seven-round mock would look like for New England if I were its general manager.

Round 1 (No. 14 overall): Broderick Jones OT, Georgia

Quarterback Mac Jones needs some weapons around him, yes, but he also needs some better protection up front as a more stationary quarterback. Jones’ 34 sacks taken were 11th-most in the NFL last year, and on top of allowing sacks, left tackle Trent Brown was flagged 13 times, tied for second of all NFL offensive linemen. 

Jones, meanwhile, helped lead the Georgia Bulldogs to back-to-back national titles with incredible athleticism for his position, a highly competitive motor, and tons of upside with a bit more development. He’s one of the top tackles in this draft class and could provide Jones and the Patriots with a big upgrade on the left side.

Round 2 (No. 47 overall): Kyu Blu Kelly CB, Stanford

In a division that has wide receiver talent like Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Stefon Diggs, and Garrett Wilson, the Patriots need a talented group of cornerbacks to defend them all on the outside. That’s especially true after J.C. “Mr. INT” Jackson’s departure in free agency last offseason. 

With Kelly, New England gets a man coverage specialist, something that is music to Belichick’s ears. The Stanford product is sticky in man, doing well to disrupt receivers early in their routes before mirroring their movement and creating leverage advantages with his good footwork and technique.

Round 3 (No. 77 overall): Jammie Robinson SAF, Florida State

This is a spot I wanted to take a receiver, but the board didn’t quite fall the way I anticipated. No matter, because on top of cornerback, safety is also one of the Patriots’ big needs as Devin McCourty and Jabrill Peppers prepare to become free agents. 

Robinson mostly aligned at the free safety position for the Seminoles, but one of his greatest strengths is the versatility he has in the defensive backfield, having also lined up at strong safety, nickel, and linebacker. With that kind of player potentially on the way out in Peppers, Robinson, a Senior Bowler, could represent an immediate replacement.

Round 4 (No. 108 overall): Cedric Tillman WR, Tennessee

Jones needs better weapons around him to pass to in 2023 after no receiver in the New England offense tallied more than 57.5 yards per game. Jakobi Meyers, who will be a free agent in March, led the Patriots with 804 yards and an average of 57.4 yards per game, marks that rank 37th and 32nd in the NFL, respectively. Tillman is a big-bodied receiver at 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds that also has phenomenal ball skills and a great ability to win at the catch point. College teammate Jalin Hyatt might get more attention for his home-run plays, but Tillman seems to be the receiver with more translatable skills thanks to his large frame, competitive toughness, ball skills, and excellent hands.

Round 4 (No. 118 overall): Kenny McIntosh RB, Georgia

The Patriots already have an early-down back on the roster in angry runner Rhamondre Stevenson, but his counterpart, Damien Harris, is going to be a free agent—and neither of those guys excelled as an extra receiver on passing downs. That’s where McIntosh comes in. 

McIntosh is 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, and fast, bringing a height/weight/speed combination to the tailback position that would be exciting for any team. He can force missed tackles in space with good agility and contact balance, and on top of his skills as a runner is one of the best pass-catching backs in his class. He can run routes out of the backfield, the slot, and out wide and make things happen from any spot. He’s a true dual-threat running back, another piece New England’s offense has been missing in recent years.

Round 4 (No. 136 overall): Zach Harrison EDGE, Ohio State

Matt Judon was a sacks monster on the edge for the Patriots this season, but even so, New England surprisingly ranked near the bottom of the NFL in ESPN’s pass-rush win rate. Their 33% mark ranked 29th in the NFL, with only the Chargers, Colts, and Saints winning fewer pass-rush reps. 

Given some time to develop with an NFL coaching staff, Harrison could step in and be an excellent complement to Judon on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He has the length, stature, and athleticism to be a potentially dominating force as an NFL edge rusher but has yet to put together all of those tools. Even in his first season though, Harrison would bring plenty of upside as a rotational piece on the defensive line.

Round 6 (No. 185 overall): Darius Rush CB, South Carolina

Once again, the Patriots need guys on the outside who can lock down talented receivers. Where Kelly excels in man coverage, Rush excels in zone as a lengthy corner with great ball skills and instincts that he pairs with his notable length to shut down any big plays. As a guy who played wide receiver until 2019, there’s also a ton of developmental upside with Rush, who can get more comfortable in the New England system when given the time to grow.

Round 6 (No. 188 overall): Cameron Latu TE, Alabama

The duo of tight ends the Patriots signed a couple of offseasons ago, Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith, have been underwhelming in the last two seasons. With Latu, New England continues the Alabama-Patriots connection and gets a tight end with a high football IQ that knows how to find gaps in defensive zone coverages and be a solid middle-of-the-field target for Jones. He’s also a solid blocker in the run game when playing as an in-line tight end on the line of scrimmage.

Round 6 (No. 193 overall): Jonathan Mingo WR, Ole Miss

Jones gets another weapon here in Mingo, an experienced college receiver who’s coming off of a career year at Ole Miss with 861 receiving yards and five touchdowns on 51 receptions. Mingo uses his big frame to bully defenders to gain immediate leverage on cornerbacks after the snaps and tack on extra yards after the catch. He’d bring a physical presence and that strong yards-after-catch ability to a New England offense that hasn’t had much of that at the wide receiver position.

Round 6 (No. 211 overall): Evan Hull RB, Northwestern

Hull is another running back that brings a ton of upside in the passing game, finishing his Northwestern career with over 850 receiving yards in just two years as the Wildcats’ starting running back. He’d be a solid upgrade at RB3 for New England over the aging Ty Montgomery and could come in as either an extra receiver or extra blocker on passing downs with the occasional run here and there to take the load off of the top two guys.

Round 7 (No. 259 overall): SirVocea Dennis LB, Pittsburgh

Dennis is a smart linebacker that consistently makes quick reads and takes early action on opposing offenses with his sharp processing speed. He has good burst with good change-in-direction and lateral speed that can finish plays as a secure tackler. Dennis has experience playing special teams and could contribute there immediately at the next level.

Written By

Jack McKessy