Mike Fanelli | February 27th, 2020
The 2019 NFL season didn’t end the way the New England Patriots had hoped. After starting the season 8-0 the Patriots suffered their first defeat of the season to the Baltimore Ravens 37-20 in week nine. The team was 10-1 entering December and normally the Patriots are almost unbeatable during the last month of the season. However, the Patriots finished the month 2-3, including a week 17 loss at home against the Miami Dolphins which dropped them down to the three seed in the AFC playoffs.
Without the first-round bye, the Patriots had to play on Wild Card weekend against the red hot Tennessee Titans. The offense struggled to score and they lost 20-13. Entering the offseason, the Patriots have a lot to figure out. First and foremost is if Tom Brady will be back in New England next season. Because of previous contract negotiations, Brady isn’t eligible for the franchise tag and could leave if he chooses.
The Patriots don’t have a second-round pick after trading it away in the Mohamed Sanu deal at the trade deadline but do have 12 total picks, including three in the third round and total of seven over the last two rounds of the draft. In total, the Patriots have 12 picks this year but like every year, they are likely to move around in the draft. How the Patriots act during the draft will depend on if TB12 returns or not. For the sake of this mock draft, I am going to assume Brady is under center for the Patriots in 2020, with the mindset of pushing in all the chips to make another Super Bowl run.
To help with this mock draft, I used the Fanspeak mock draft simulator.
Make sure to check out all of our other NFL team mock drafts here.
Round 1, Pick 23: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
While Brady is the team’s most critical free agent, the linebacker unit could look very different next season. Jamie Collins, Elandon Roberts, and Kyle Van Noy all have played critical roles on this defense and all three are upcoming free agents. The Patriots don’t have a history of dealing out big contracts to keep their own players. More than likely, the Patriots will let all three test the open market and maybe only re-sign one or two if the price is right. Meanwhile, Murray would be the perfect replacement for any of the three. He has all the tools to play in multiple spots and situations. His ability to man the middle of a defense, while providing intensity and leadership makes him the best pure linebacker in the draft.
If you want to add some intensity, leadership, and attitude to the center of your defense, draft Kenneth Murray. He brings it every single play.pic.twitter.com/HUw81pW9bh— Jordan Reid (@JReidNFL) January 2, 2020
Round 3, Pick 87: Antoine Winfield Jr., SAF, Minnesota
Starting safety Devin McCourty and reserve Nate Ebner are both upcoming free agents. Even if both are brought back, the Patriots need to get younger at the position as McCourty and Patrick Chung will be 33 years old before the start of next season. Winfield is one of draft twitter’s favorite prospects and for good reason. He has ball hawk skills and had seven interceptions in 2019, including returning one for a touchdown. His ability to track the ball in the air and create turnovers makes him one of the best safeties in the draft class. His game winning interception in double overtime against Fresno State was one of the top plays in all of college football this season.
In Antoine Winfield Jr. we trust. 〽️ pic.twitter.com/KVIjOlxiwL— Minnesota Football (@GopherFootball) September 8, 2019
Round 3, Pick 97: Shane Lemieux, iOL, Oregon
The Patriots don’t have a history of handing out big money contracts, especially on the offensive line. Last year they let Trent Brown leave in free agency and I expect Joe Thuney to be the next big name Patriots’ offensive lineman cashing in elsewhere in free agency. With a big hole at left guard, Lemieux would have the first crack at replacing Thuney but would have competition from last year’s fourth-round pick Hjalte Froholdt and veteran Jermaine Eluemunor.
Round 3, Pick 99: Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
No Rob Gronkowski, no way in hell can you say no problem. With Gronk retired, the Patriots rolled out Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, and Ryan Izzo at tight end. Clearly half of the defensive coordinators in the league thought there was a typo on the Patriots’ game day roster. However, the Patriots won’t be rolling out that trio again in 2020. Hopefully, they sign a veteran in free agency and allow Hopkins to work his way into the offense but if not, Hopkins would be an upgrade over that trio. Hopkins had a career year in 2019, catching 61 balls for 830 yards and seven touchdowns. While his blocking needs some work, Hopkins could easily step in as a rookie and score six or more touchdowns.
Round 4, Pick 122: Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
While edge rusher isn’t a huge need for the Patriots, both Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise Jr. are entering the final year of their rookie deals. Rivers’ roster spot is at risk as he has played in just six games in three years, while Wise’s sack total has decreased in each of his three seasons in the league. Over his last two seasons at Michigan State, Willekes had 18 sacks and 36 tackles for loss. Down at the Senior Bowl, Willekes had a strong week, beating blockers at the line of scrimmage and creating problems in the backfield.
Round 6, Pick 195: Binjimen Victor, WR, Ohio State
The Patriots have to upgrade at wide receiver and I expect them to add a veteran in free agency or the trade market. The only wide receivers currently on the roster with a guaranteed roster spot for next season is Sanu, Julian Edelman, and N’Keal Harry. However, even with a veteran addition, the Patriots would be wise to spend some day three picks on wide receivers. Victor may be a bit raw, but he has the speed to threaten defenses downfield and showed off an impressive double move at the Shrine Bowl earlier this offseason. For more on Victor’s be sure to check out our scouting report on him here.
Round 6, Pick 204: Jon Runyan, OL, Michigan
Now that the Patriots got some speed on the outside, it’s time to focus back on the big guys. Runyan has plenty of starting experience but mostly played left tackle for Michigan. However, many scouts believe his NFL future is inside at guard or center. No matter where he lines up, the Patriots need to add depth along the offensive line. They were killed by injuries last season and have four upcoming free agents along the offensive line. If Runyan can play multiple spots along the line in the NFL, he will easily make the roster and be the perfect backup for the Patriots.
Round 6, Pick 212: Willie Gay Jr., LB, Mississippi State
Last year Mississippi State had a historically great defense as three of their players (Jeffery Simmons, Montez Sweat, and Johnathan Abram) were all first-round picks. Gay also played a big role for that defense, finishing the 2018 season with 5.5 tackles for loss, five sacks, and two interceptions. With less NFL talent around him in 2019, defenses focused more on him and his production slipped. However, Gay is the perfect combination of pass rusher and cover linebacker that the Patriots target. Gay showed off his ability to create turnovers and make them count as his lone interception this year was an impressive pick-six against Kentucky.
Round 6, Pick 213: Alex Taylor, OT, South Carolina State
Back to the offensive line. This late in the draft, you are making dart throws at picks so why not swing for the upside. Isaiah Wynn and Marcus Cannon are set as the starting tackles, and the team has high hopes for last year’s third-round pick Yodny Cajuste, who struggled with injuries his entire rookie season. However, Marshall Newhouse was signed midseason and had to start games protecting Brady’s blindside. Needless to say, that can’t happen again. At 6’9” and 308 lbs, Taylor will be one of the biggest offensive linemen in the league. He is raw and needs some time to develop but if the Patriots can give him a year to redshirt, he could turn into a key part of the roster next season.
Round 7, Pick 230: Malcolm Perry, WR, Navy
For those of you who forgot, Edelman was a college quarterback from Kent State and a seventh-round pick back in 2009. Well, Perry was a quarterback/do it all guy at Navy and now will attempt to make the same transition to wide receiver like Edelman. Will it work out? Who knows. But Perry has great burst and a lot of athletic upside. Those two tools should help him convert full time to wide receiver and potentially be Edelman’s replacement in a year or two.
Navy QB/WR Malcolm Perry showing off some huge burst. Has a lot of athletic upside. Will be interesting to see him adjust to playing WR in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/ehb1DUC6l8— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) January 18, 2020
Round 7, Pick 235: Steven Montez, QB, Colorado
If the Patriots go this long without drafting a quarterback it means they believe last year’s fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham has a real chance to be Brady’s heir apparent. However, it never hurts to burn a late-round pick on some competition, especially when they offer upside. The fifth-year senior finished his Colorado career with over 9,700 passing yards and a solid 1.9 touchdown to interception ratio. Montez may not turn into Brady’s heir apparent but he has a big arm and offers upside, even if it’s as a practice squad player. This late in the draft, the Patriots should take a shot on the former Colorado star.
Round 7, Pick 241: Carlos Davis, DL, Nebraska
With their final pick in the draft and one of the final overall picks in the draft, the Patriots add some depth along their defensive front. Starting defensive tackle Danny Shelton is a free agent and more than likely won’t be re-signed. However, between Adam Butler, Lawrence Guy, Byron Cowart, and others, the Patriots have plenty of other defensive tackles. Davis will have to fight his way onto the roster and more than likely will end up on the practice squad, but when the injury bug hits, having depth along the defensive line is critical.
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