Harvey Langi was considered a 1st round talent last year by the Patriots. (AP/Danny Moloshok)
The Patriots are in an odd situation this year with their first draft pick not until the third round at pick 72. Barring any trades, and we all know those are a distinct possibility, 71 players will be selected before the Patriots pick. That makes mock drafts for them quite difficult. To combat that difficulty last year I worked on creating a list of potential players that I believe will likely (hopefully) be available in that range and fit what the Patriots could be looking for. This year I will do the same. For a more detailed breakdown of players you can look at my 2017 Patriots Offseason Spreadsheet.
Currently I view defensive end, linebacker, offensive tackle, tight end, cornerback, and safety as my top priorities/needs for the Patriots, in that order. The Patriots don't always draft for need, as they value adding a good player over settling for filling a need from time to time, which is why there are some quality players at positions below that aren't on my needs list.
Carl Lawson (DE, Auburn) - Lawson is a bit of a tweener at 6'2" 261 lbs, but his athleticism is undeniable. He is someone you can use as a DE/OLB to control to edge with his strength. His injuries and unclear position could cause him to fall here, but he was a team captain with traits the Patriots look for.
Raekwon McMillan (LB, Ohio State) - Checks every box for a Patriots LB. He's a much more athletic Brandon Spikes. He may not be a natural in coverage, but his attitude towards the line of scrimmage will be a huge upgrade over what they currently have. While he may not be asked to play on the line of scrimmage due his smaller size, he's got great potential as one of the off-the-line linebackers in this defense.
Jourdan Lewis (CB, Michigan) - The biggest question with Lewis is if the Patriots are ok with his domestic violence arrest. He's scheduled for a July trial, which adds to the controversy. On the field he fits what the Patriots want and need for a slot corner. He's quick, can play press man, and gets after the ball. He's not afraid to be physical with WRs and could also offer return work on special teams. If they're not ok with his arrest then there's no need to get excited about him, but we'll have to see when the time comes.
Isaac Asiata (OL, Utah) - Nick Caserio has gone on record stating the Patriots draft good football players despite their needs. This would be one example. Asiata is an outstanding athlete for an offensive linemen, arguably the best in the draft in that regard.
Dalvin Tomlinson (DL, Alabama) - Once I heard about Tomlinson he quickly became one of my draft crushes. The man had the intelligence to go to Harvard, but chose to pursue a football career. His athleticism allows him to line up in a variety of techniques on the defensive line and he plays with his heart out on the field. His injury history, two ACL tears, may bring some to remember Dominique Easley, but if he is cleared by medical doctors his value in the 3rd round may be too much to pass up here.
Ryan Anderson (DE/OLB, Alabama) - While he may not be Reuben Foster, Anderson has garnered attention for his team first mentality and technical prowess. Anderson only started one year for the Crimson Tide, but with the players in front of him it is hard to blame him. He is someone Belichick would likely feel comfortable using as a LB that can play on and off the line. He can set the edge and knows how to give his teammates a chance to make plays. He sounds like a Patriot to me.
Round: 3rd Pick: 96 Acquired: Assigned pick
Jake Butt (TE, Michigan) - College football bowl games can be a cruel twist of fate for some great players, and Butt is no different. After undergoing a dramatic injury in his final college game, the potential 1st round pick will likely drop due to his knee injury. The injury should only keep him out until the summer, but it is likely he will start on a team's PUP list. His reliability and ability to work as a blocker and receiving threat is something the Patriots could need out of their #3 TE due to the health histories of Gronk and Dwayne Allen.
Derek Rivers (DE/OLB, Youngstown St) - Rivers is someone draft Twitter has going much higher than here, but due to his unclear position, the high number of quality DEs in the draft, and lack of a fit on most teams he may fall a tad. He's similar to the other DE/LBs I've mentioned as he is someone that could work on and off the line and provide some ability to cover in the pass game. He's known for his high character and his measurables are quite good. He'd be a solid defender for the Patriots.
Tyler Orlosky (OC, West Virginia) - A team captain with starting experience at guard and center, a combination we should come to expect from Patriots OL. While he might not be the most athletic lineman in the world, he uses his leverage and strength to be a force in the run game. With Andrews still on board a year with Scarnecchia could turn Orlosky into a starting quality center.
Adam Sheehan (TE, Ashland) - Sheehan was a riser in the draft process but that doesn't change the fact that he's still a raw player. He now has the size of a TE, with very good hands, but his work in the run game as a blocker still needs to be developed. Thankfully that is something he can learn to do behind Gronk and Allen. He's someone that may not do much this year, but with coaching he may turn into a very solid player.
Josh Jones (S, NC State) - Belichick has to draft a safety at some point right? Josh Jones could be that guy. Jones has worked as a linebacker and strong safety at NC State and has become someone receivers over the middle fear. While he might not be Chung in terms of his coverage ability, his work in the box and on special teams could get him playing early. Like Chung, Jones isn't someone you want covering WRs deep down field, but if you put him in position in the box he can do some damage.
Antonio Garcia (OT, Troy) - Add some weight to Garcia and he may be a 1st round pick. He was a four year starter at left tackle for Troy, and he shows the experience. His aggressive nature and athleticism make him a force in the run game. His quickness allows him to adjust to stunts and pass rush moves. A year to get bigger and stronger could turn Garcia into a starting tackle.
Shaq Griffin (CB, UCF) - A prototype Patriots CB. He gets involved in the run game, is solid in man coverage, and gets to the ball when it's in the air. He's in his comfort zone when asked to play press man. His powerful legs close distance and allow him to recover if he's beat. If he can limit his guess work in coverage he'd be a solid CB for the Patriots.
Ethan Pocic (OL, LSU) - You may not find a more versatile lineman in this draft. Pocic has the size and athleticism to play any of the five OL positions. The words used to describe him are leader, work ethic, intelligent and that's not even mentioning his athleticism. Pocic is someone the Patriots could not ignore if he falls.
Round: 4th Pick: 131 Acquired: Seahawks pick acquired in draft pick deal last year
Harvey Langi (LB, BYU) - There is a rumor that the Patriots would have selected Langi in the 1st round last year had he declared for the draft. He didn't. Now, a year older and spending last year out of position, his stock has fallen. He played defensive end yet having a linebacker build. He's quick, he's strong, and he can play on and off the ball. He's a natural fit for the Patriots and fits a huge need.
Carroll Phillips (DE/OLB, Illinois) - Another tweener with the size and athleticism to play on and off the line. Phillips is known for his tackling and working in space. He's able to rush the edge and get after the QB. His biggest problem is if his speed can't get the job done, and he may not be able to work a 3 technique mug that the Patriots typically ask of their LBs. His role would be on the edge or off the line.
Tarrell Basham (LB, Ohio) - Basham is one of the bigger hybrid DE/OLBs that I have as potential fits for the Patriots at 6'3" 259 lbs. He doesn't shy away from contact and has the athleticism to play off the ball if needed. He's someone that could benefit from some coaching, and may struggle at times on the edge, but someone that has a higher ceiling once his role is clearly defined.
George Kittle (TE, Iowa) - Currently being called the best blocking tight end in the draft. Kittle comes from a run heavy pro style offense at Iowa, where his role was primarily blocking. While he may not break off a huge 60 yard touchdown, his hands are reliable and he's able to line up all over the field. He's the most logical of the TE options I've offered to fit with the Patriots.
Roderick Johnson (OT, Florida St) - Johnson is a typical Patriots pick. Young player, coming off a season ending injury, that will likely slip to a point where his value is perfect. Johnson is a large tackle at 6'7" 300 lbs, and he's coming from a college system where the Patriots have dipped into the offensive line talent twice now in the last several years (Tre' Jackson/Bryan Stork). While the similar situations as Jackson and Stork will undoubtedly, and deservedly, worry most fans, with the measurables that Johnson has, he could develop into a starting tackle in time. A year to condition, build muscle, add weight, and learn behind Solder and Cannon could make Johnson a worthy stash.
Kendell Beckwith (LB, LSU) - Another player coming off a season ending injury that will likely cause him to slip. Beckwith is a physical linebacker that is felt in the run game. He has a good feel for run fits and knows how to finish his tackles. While he won't be coverage stud, his role could be similar to that of Elandon Roberts, which no other linebacker on the team currently excels at.
Julie'n Davenport (OT, Bucknell) - Davenport was a two year captain for LSU and helped give Leonard Fournette the lanes he needed to tear up the NCAA. He's big, long, and athletic but his technique leaves a lot to be desired. Given that this could be a redshirt year for him, the value could be right for him to develop into Solder's replacement next year.
Round: 5th Pick: 183 Acquired: Compensatory pick awarded for loss of Akiem Hicks
Dylan Donahue (LB, West Georgia) - Another DE/OLB tweener that will be better suited as a linebacker than a true defensive end. He's another player that can play on and off the line of scrimmage, rush the quarterback, or drop into coverage. His shorter arms likely cause concern for teams looking at him as a DE, which will cause him to fall, but his athleticism and block shedding ability can make him a fit for the Patriots.
Michael Roberts (TE, Toledo) - Roberts is a less refined George Kittle in my eyes. Roberts is a big target with solid hands that can get the job done in the run game. His production in the red zone is notable, and his ability to make himself open will be welcomed. He's not the fastest guy on the field, but he's someone that can contribute as a third TE and get the job done.
Jack Tocho (CB, NC State) - Tocho has the size to be a safety and the athleticism of a corner. Naturally he could be a fit to play in Patrick Chung's hybrid role. He has experience playing press man and has been noted for his intelligence, work ethic, and maturity as team captain.
John Johnson (S, Boston College) - Johnson is a very smooth player that can work in a variety of roles. He has the athleticism to line up as a slot cornerback, and the range to be a free safety. He gets his hands on the ball and knows how to work himself in the run game.
JJ Dielman (OL, Utah) - Dielman has starting experience at center and right tackle during his college career and the athleticism to play a variety of spots up front. While his length may force him to play as a guard or center, he shouldn't have an issue with that given his quickness. He plays very aware, with an ability to see stunts and blitzes as they happen.
Brendan Langley (CB, Lamar) - Is relatively new to the corner position after spending a good deal of time at wide receiver, but his athleticism is undeniable. He can pluck the ball out of the air and stick with receivers downfield, all while providing an option for kick and punt returns. He's a developmental prospect that has the measurables to become a solid corner.
Round: 6th Pick: 200 Acquired: Colts pick acquired in Dwayne Allen trade
Deatrich Wise Jr (DE, Arkansas) - A powerful edge defender that knows how to tackle. His strength allows him to control the edge and bull rush on passing downs. His injuries and lack of playing time bring him down, but he's a very solid fit.
Fadol Brown (DE, Mississippi) - What he lacks in true speed he makes up for in subtle quickness and size. He is someone you can put on the line to shed blockers and get after the running back. He won't be able to drop into coverage or speed rush, but against the run he's a very solid fit.
Josh Carraway (LB, TCU) - Yet again an end/linebacker hybrid. Carraway is long and can work on and off the line. He's athletic enough to cover tight ends and running backs while also rushing off the edge. He may not be able to line up inside, but he's someone that could work at an outside linebacker.
Ben Gedeon (LB, Michigan) - Prototypical Patriots linebacker. his biggest issue is his tackling, which is abnormal for a Patriots linebacker, but his instincts and work in space make him someone that can carve out a role on special teams and work on defense on first and second down.
Kyle Fuller (C, Baylor) - When Dante Scarnecchia personally works you out, Patriots fans should pay attention. While Fuller didn't impress anyone with his testing, his size is notable. Being able to reach defensive tackles and hold his own would be a big part of his future. With strength training and Scar's tutelage, Fuller could be someone the Pats develop behind Andrews.
Round: 7th Pick: 239 Acquired: Lions pick acquired in Kyle Van Noy deal
Jeremiah Ledbetter (DL, Arkansas) - A defensive end that can kick inside on passing downs. What he lacks in speed he makes up for with power. He did 29 reps on the bench press at the combine and shows a knack for bullying offensive linemen. That dominance up front can allow other players to get into the backfield and make plays.
Tyler Catalina (OL, Georgia) - The Patriots last signed a Georgia lineman as an UDFA and he's currently their starting center. Catalina worked primarily as a tackle at Georgia but has been working out as a center and guard during the draft process. His athleticism is notable and his size and position versatility make him a sleeper.
Jylan Ware (OT, Alabama State) - One of his top athletic comparisons from his pro day was Nate Solder. He's a large lineman with unreal athleticism, his fall is due to his lack of strength and inferior competition.
Brad Seaton (OT, Villanova) - Another late riser at the offensive tackle position. Seaton isn't quite as athletic as Ware is, but at almost 6'9" and three years of starting experience at Villanova, he could be another project to work with. Several teams have spent time learning about him of late, and the interest is warranted.
Connor Harris (LB, Lindenwood) - He's only 5'11", but he's also the NCAA record holder for tackles with 633 in his career. A three year captain that also worked as a running back and punter at Lindenwood, you may not find a more Patriots styled player in the draft. His calling card would likely be special teams, where his athleticism, sound tackling, and nose for the ball could make him the next Nate Ebner.
If I had to make a complete mock draft it would go like this:
3rd Round, Pick 72 - Carl Lawson
3rd Round, Pick 96 - Josh Jones
4th Round, Pick 131 - Harvey Langi
5th Round, Pick 183 - Brendan Langley
6th Round, Pick 200 - Deatrich Wise Jr.
7th Round, Pick 239 - Connor Harris
They add multiple players that can play the edge and function as linebackers. They get their typical safety that could work in variety of roles. They add a developmental corner with good athleticism, and finish it up with a potential special teams stud. Let me know what you think.