The final exam is almost here for the Patriots as the three-day 2023 NFL Draft extravaganza begins Thursday night in Kansas City.
Starting at the top of the draft, it’s not a very heavy year, with many teams having fewer than 15 players with first-round ratings, a small number compared to other drafts. Additionally, this class has little consensus beyond the first overall pick (Alabama QB Bryce Young), and many consider prospects in the 25-125 range to be close to equal talent.
For the Patriots, I also wouldn’t expect them to use the 11 draft selections they currently have with 75 players already on the roster. That would leave only four spots open for undrafted free agent signings. They could cut players to make more room for rookies, but reducing their draft to less than ten players seems more realistic from this point of view.
Finally, to set up the sim, we have to read a bit between the lines with director of player personnel Matt Groh’s pre-draft press conference. Although this is the season for lies and Groh may have thrown smokescreens over New England’s intentions, his remarks make sense.
If we take it at face value, the Patriots like their veteran depth at offensive tackle and see Day 2 as the sweet spot for this class of wide receivers. Most players in the league believe Ohio State’s WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba is the only true first-rounder, making it a down year for first-round wide receivers.
With that in mind, this draft sets up for the Patriots to target a defensive player in the first round, tapping into a cornerback class that Groh gushed over or a bunch of stacked rushers. While you don’t want to be too reactionary, New England and the AFC East’s 2023 schedule is now loaded offensively with Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and Belichick’s response to that might be to pick an item. base for defense.
Here’s our fourth and final Patriots mock draft attempt in seven rounds:
TRADE: Patriots trade Tennessee No. 14 and No. 76 for No. 11
While it would be shocking to some for Belichick to trade in the first round, we’ve outlined the thought process behind it above. The Patriots may have to be aggressive to come away with a true blue-chipper in a class short of top-end talent, and they desperately need game changers. They have enough depth. Also, like we said, they don’t need all the picks they’re currently supposed to have, so parting with one of the four picks from No. 76 to No. 135 isn’t. the end of the world. For Tennessee, I see two scenarios where this makes sense. Either they’re targeting Texas RB Bijan Robinson to replace Derrick Henry (who’s on the trading block), or they’re going down three slots to select Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.