Adding a big play threat like Baylor's Mims could be in play at 37. Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Some of you didn't want the Patriots to trade out of the first round. Bill Belichick cared not for your wishes. The Patriots jumped at the opportunity to turn their 23rd overall pick into two cracks at the apple, flipping it to the LA Chargers in exchange for a second and a third rounder. Essentially, they gained the 71st pick by moving back 14 spots, where they will presumably make their first selection of the 2020 draft at 37.
Holding the fifth pick of the second round, the Patriots have a decent idea of the players who will be available to them. With that in mind, here's a look at some of the top players who could be their target at 37, a player who according to Adam Schefter they would have taken at 23.
Josh Jones: Offensive tackle, Houston
A highly athletic left tackle who started four seasons for the Cougars, Jones was projected by many to go in the first round. He has some technical flaws to coach out of him, but Jones has the upside to turn into an upper echelon left tackle at the next level. Jones only allowed four total pressures last year and looked the part at the Senior Bowl, impressing during the 1v1 pass protection drills. His excellent mobility makes him a prototype fit for the Patriots, who have always prioritized athleticism from their lineman. Jones would be a slam dunk if he makes it to 37, but that could be unlikely with the Bengals and Colts possibly in the market for a left tackle. Perhaps one of those teams opts for Boise State's Ezra Cleveland instead, pushing our preferred player Jones down the board.
Fall back option at 71: Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
Antoine Winfield Jr: Safety, Minnesota
The son of the former Bills and Vikings star, Winfield Jr was an absolute playmaker whenever on the field for the Gophers. He was a Nagurski Award finalist after a redshirt sophomore season that saw him rack up impact plays all over the place: 88 tackles (62 solo), 3 sacks, 7 interceptions (1 returned for a TD) and 2 forced fumbles. A fiery unmistakable ball of fury on the field, Winfield is undersized and not quite an elite athlete, but he makes up for that instincts and, as a cliche as it may sound, the intensity he plays with. The Patriots will love his versatility, as he's equally capable of playing effectively in the box, matching up in man coverage from the slot or patrolling the backend with a predatory knack for creating takeaways. The one risk is his injury history, as he missed all but four games in both 2017 and 2018 with different injuries before returning to play every game last fall. If he can stay in one piece, however, he could be a huge steal here. Our mock draft projected Winfield as the Patriots first selection, after a similar trade back to 41.
Fall back option at 71: Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal (probably would need to trade up)
Baun fits major need. Jeff Hanisch/USA Today Sports
Zack Baun: Linebacker, Wisconsin
A versatile playmaker, Baun projects perfectly into the hybrid edge/outside linebacker position left vacant by the free agent departures of Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins. Baun exploded from relative obscurity to finish his senior year a Butkis Award finalist and a consensus All American after racking up 12.5 sacks, 19.5 TFLs, 76 tackles and an interception (returned for a touchdown). At 6'2" and 238 pounds, Baun's too light to handle full time duties on the edge, but he's athletic enough to transition to more of an off-the-ball linebacker role. Baun moved fluidly in such a role at the Senior Bowl, looking surprisingly comfortable in coverage for a guy who spent most of his college career battling offensive tackles. A team captain, he also checks the leadership box for Bill Belichick, and his smarts and never ending motor will be appreciated in New England.
Fall back option at 71: Josh Uche, LB, Michigan
Denzel Mims: Wide Receiver, Baylor
I don't what is worse: Patriots fans' PTSD over Belichick's draft history at receiver, or over his history in the second round. Needless to say, plenty of superstitious fans would disapprove of taking a receiver this high. Thats at least until they got a good look at the 6'3, 207 pound Mims, who brings a tantalizing combination of size, strength and speed on the outside. Athletically, there's little he can do, with his Senior Bowl performance flashing the upside to turn into a number one receiver at the next level. However, his film left many wishing for more consistency, as he'd go for quiet for far too long stretches for a player with his talent. If that consistency issue is a major turnoff, USC's Michael Pittman offers a higher floor but lower ceiling as a similarly sized and more reliable but less explosive option.
Fall back option at 71: Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
Xavier McKinney: Safety, Alabama
Regularly mocked in the first round throughout the pre draft process, it is slightly surprising to see the versatile McKinney still on the board. An intelligent player, McKinney played a ton of roles for Nick Saban's Alabama defense, ranging from covering tight ends, playing linebacker in the box, blitzing, to deep coverage roles as a free safety. He handled them all capably as a Patrick Chung-type swiss army knife for the Tide. McKinney might have a moderately low ceiling as a good but not great athlete who didn't make a ton of splash plays, but he should be able to do a lot of things well right away and projects as an excellent fit in New England due to his smarts, leadership and versatility.
Fall back option at 71: Terrell Burgess, S, Utah
AJ Epenesa: Defensive End, Iowa
Routinely mocked to the Patriots at 23, Epenesa is a natural scheme fit who could be the pick if former Belichick disciples Matt Patricia or Joe Judge don't pick him up first. A heavy handed defensive lineman, Epenesa doesn't win with athleticism and speed but with his power and technique, using masterful hand usage to defeat offensive lineman. His gaudy collegiate sack production is unlikely to continue against bigger, stronger NFL tackles, but Epenesa projects as a brawler who will set a good physical edge against the run on early downs before bumping inside in certain pressure packages, a la Trey Flowers.
Fall back option at 71: Darrell Taylor, DE, Tennessee (more of a pure edge rusher)
Davidson is a powerful, versatile defensive lineman. Photo: Julie Bennett
Marlon Davidson: Defensive tackle, Auburn
Davidson has been less commonly linked to the Patriots than Epenesa, but he brings more athletic upside and projects to a similar hybrid role. Despite his defensive tackle size (6'3", 303), Davidson played the bulk of his college snaps at defensive end. He's got impressive burst for a man his size, which he combined with his power and relentless motor to be a handful for SEC linemen. Like Epenesa, Davidson could set the edge as a power end in a 4-3 or two gap inside as a 5 tech end in a 3-4 on base downs, with his third down value coming primarily by bumping inside to use his quickness against guards. An added bonus? His penchant for blocking kicks, with his three last season surely catching Belichick's eye.
Fall back option at 71: Jordan Elliot, DT, Missouri (might need to trade up)
Cole Kmet: Tight End, Notre Dame
Let the record state that I am out on Kmet, especially this early in the draft. But I'd be remiss if he didn't at least mention the top rated player by most at the team's most glaring need. At 6'6" and 262 pounds, Kmet brings a pro-sized frame, which he uses well to shield smaller defenders from the ball. While not overwhelmingly explosive, he's a good athlete who projects well as a reliable possession type receiver. Kyle Rudolph is a name that's been brought up as a comparison and its a good one in the passing game. My issues with Kmet are tethered to his blocking, which was subpar at Notre Dame despite his size. Based on what he put on tape, Kmet would be a blocking liability until he gets stronger and improves his technique. I would prefer the team to wait on tight end, with Kmet ranked significantly lower on my board than any of the other players listed here, but they could decide to address their biggest need right here at 37 if they choose.
Fall back option at 71: Adam Trautman, TE, Dayton
Yetur Gross-Matos: Defensive End, Penn State
We finish with one more player that I'm lower on than most, but one who deserves mention given how often he's been mentioned by Patriots followers as an option. Still somewhat raw and in need of development, Gross-Matos brings an intriguing blend of length and athleticism to the edge that some have compared to a young Chandler Jones coming out of Syracuse. The tools are unquestionably there, but Gross-Matos was maddeningly inconsistent at times in college, with his lack of polish and technique preventing him from dominating the way a player with his gifts should. Development could come, but Gross-Matos is far more of a projection than most of the other names on this list. Still the upside is at least worth considering, as he has the talent to develop into a Pro Bowl level defensive end if he puts it all together.
Fall back option at 71: Terrell Lewis, DE/OLB, Alabama