Mike Fanelli | April 1st, 2020
Needless to say, this is an offseason New England Patriot fans will never forget. After 20 years and six Super Bowl victories, Tom Brady signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. With Brady now in Tampa Bay, Jarrett Stidham and recently sign Brian Hoyer will reportedly battle for the starting quarterback job this summer. While Brady was the biggest loss this offseason for the Patriots, they lost several key defensive playmakers like Kyle Van Noy, Jamie Collins, and Danny Shelton.
Entering the offseason, the Patriots placed the franchise tag on left guard Joe Thuney as they try to work out a long term deal. Given the Patriots’ history of willing to trade players, don’t be surprised if he is traded at some point this offseason if the two sides can’t come to a long term deal. The Patriots already made a trade this offseason, sending safety Duron Harmon to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a day three pick swap. Shortly after trading away Harmon, the Patriots signed former Los Angeles Chargers’ safety Adrian Phillips.
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 a total of six 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.
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: A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Patriots trade back since they don’t have a second-round pick. However, if they stay put at 23 overall, Epenesa should be a target for them. Yes, they did spend a third-round pick on Chase Winovich last year, and he did have 5.5 sacks as a rookie, but the Patriots lack a productive pass rusher. Collins led the team with seven sacks last year, while Van Noy’s 6.5 was second on the team. Meanwhile, Epenesa had at least 10.5 sacks in each of his last two years at Iowa, finishing his college career with 26.5 sacks and 36 tackles for loss. He would step in day one and become the Patriots’ top pass rusher.
Round 3, Pick 87: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri
After Rob Gronkowski retired last offseason, the Patriots used several veteran tight ends during the 2019 season, led by the recently retired Ben Watson. Currently, Matt LaCosse is projected to be the starting tight end. Needless to say, the Patriots need to upgrade at the position. In his first two years at Missouri, Okwuegbunam scored 17 touchdowns and was viewed as a potential first-round pick. When Drew Lock went on to the NFL, Okwuegbunam’s production dropped. In 2019, Okwuegbunam had career lows across the board and just six touchdowns. However, he is an athletic freak and with solid quarterback play, Okwuegbunam should make an impact as a rookie.
Round 3, Pick 98: Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma
What are the odds the Patriots end the draft without adding a quarterback? No one knows what Bill Belichick is thinking. However, not adding a quarterback to compete with Stidham and Hoyer would be a mistake. Everyone knows Hurts’ story at Alabama and what a great teammate he is, so even if he ends up being a career backup, Hurts will be the best teammate in the Patriots’ locker room. However, the Patriots shouldn’t take Hurts here with plans of him being the backup, because he could win this starting job. In his one season at Oklahoma, Hurts had a career year, throwing for over 3,800 yards, 32 passing touchdowns, while adding another almost 1,300 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns. Let’s see what Belichick can do with Hurts.
Round 3, Pick 100: Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
The Patriots lost several linebackers in free agency, headlined by Collins and Van Noy. In fact, Dont’a Hightower is the only remaining starting linebacker from last year’s team still on the roster. Needless to say, the Patriots need to spend multiple middle-round picks on the linebacker position. While this linebacker class doesn’t get a lot of attention outside the potential three first-round guys, there are several middle-round impact players like Dye. During his four years at Oregon, Dye recorded at least 84 tackles in every season and finished his career with 41.5 tackles for loss, 13 sacks, and five interceptions. His versatility is something the Patriots will value for their defensive scheme.
Round 4, Pick 125: Leki Fotu, DL, Utah
After losing Shelton in free agency, the Patriots went out and signed former Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defensive tackle Beau Allen to a two year deal with an easy out in the contract after the first year. They also re-signed Adam Butler to a one year deal. While the team is in good shape at nose tackle this year, both Allen and Butler could be playing elsewhere in 2021. Fotu is a big man at 6’5” and 335 lbs, but he moves well for his size. While he struggled to stay healthy at times during his career at Utah, Fotu still totaled 17 tackles for loss. With Shelton now in Detroit, adding Fotu in the middle rounds would be a smart move.
Round 5, Pick 172: Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami
Back to the linebacker position. After considering to declare for the draft last year, Quarterman returned for his senior season and had a career year; posting 107 tackles, including 15.5 for a loss. However, he had just one career interception and some have concerns with his ability to cover in space. Even if he is just an early down linebacker, Quarterman is a steal late in the fifth round. Quarterman had 12 career sacks at Miami and the Patriots value linebackers who can get to the quarterback.
Round 6, Pick 195: Jauan Jennings, WR, Tennessee
Last year’s first-round pick N’Keal Harry showed some flashes to close out his rookie year but struggled with injuries. Julian Edelman and Sanu aren’t getting any younger and could be moved at the trade deadline. Jakobi Meyers was a nice find as an undrafted free agent last year but adding a wide receiver on day three is critical. Jennings had a career year during his senior season at Tennessee, catching 59 balls for 969 yards and eight touchdowns. With an aging wide receiver group, the Patriots need to add some youth to the position.
Round 6, Pick 204: Trevis Gipson, EDGE, Tulsa
The perfect time to add depth at edge rusher is on day three. With both Deatrich Wise Jr. and Derek Rivers both free agents after the 2020 season, now is the time for the Patriots to build up their depth. While Wise has been solid (11.5 career sacks), Rivers has struggled to stay healthy, playing in just six games in three years and his roster spot is in jeopardy. Over his last two years at Tulsa, Gipson totaled 95 tackles, 24 for a loss, and 12 sacks. He may never turn into anything other than a rotational edge rusher, but late in the sixth round, he’s worth taking a shot on.
Round 6, Pick 212: Darryl Williams, iOL, Mississippi State
Last year the offensive line was killed with injuries. However, when healthy, the unit is very good. With that being said, the team lacks a backup center and the starter, David Andrews, missed all of last season with blood clots and could end up missing time in the future. Williams has lined up in several spots along the offensive line and would provide versatility and depth as a rookie, but would also be able to start at center if needed.
Round 6, Pick 213: A.J. Green, CB, Oklahoma State
The cornerback position isn’t one of need for the Patriots but you can never have too much depth at the position. Stephon Gilmore and Jason McCourty are locked in as the starters, while Jonathan Jones and J.C. Jackson are very good reserves. Last year’s second-round pick Joejuan Williams struggled to see the field, playing in just nine games. However, McCourty’s deal expires after the 2020 season and Gilmore’s expires after the 2021 season. Both guys will be over the age of 32 when their deals expire. Green has plenty of experience, playing in 39 straight games to close out his Oklahoma State career, finishing with six interceptions and 21 passes defended.
Round 7, Pick 230: 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 241: Khaleke Hudson, LB/SAF, Michigan
What’s the one thing a player can offer that will catch the Patriots’ scouting department’s eye? Versatility. Hudson is a linebacker/safety tweener, who would provide depth at both positions as well as be a critical member on special teams. Given all the players the Patriots lost in free agency, leaving the draft with three different styles of linebacker is a good idea.
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