The New England Patriots will be playing for their sixth Super Bowl title on Sunday. This week will surely include a bunch of anticipation for the big game. However, with the Senior Bowl this past weekend, New England needs to keep one eye to the draft. The valuable draft season time they miss during Super Bowl preparation cannot be wasted. With that said, let’s take a look at a pre-Super Bowl Patriots seven round mock draft.
Will Hernandez! nasty pic.twitter.com/Trntxqh9yT
— Billy Marshall (@BillyM_91) January 23, 2018
Round 1 Pick 32 – Will Hernandez, Guard, UTEP
Hernandez weighed in at 340 pounds during the Senior Bowl, and his brute strength cannot be overstated. On top of his massive upper body and the strength in his game that comes with it, Hernandez has surprisingly able footwork and converts speed to power well. His ability to play “in a phonebooth” is impressive, as he dominates interior defensive lineman. With Shaq Mason and Joe Thuney becoming free agents after 2019, and the Patriots needing interior offensive lineman depth for next season, Hernandez could fit in to the Patriots future plans.
Round 2 Pick 11 – 43rd Overall – Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
With Malcolm Butler and Eric Rowe being impending free agents, New England will almost assuredly be looking to strengthen their secondary in the draft. Alexander is one of the most talented cornerbacks in the draft, but he could see himself fall into the second round due to being undersized. The Patriots haven’t shied away from drafting and starting undersized cornerbacks, and his man coverage abilities would fit in nicely in New England’s defensive scheme.
Round 2 Pick 32 – 64th Overall – Uchenna Nwosu, EDGE, USC
New England values versatility in their draft picks, and Nwosu could supply that for the Patriots defense. He projects as a linebacker who can stand up and run fit and cover, as well as being able to rush the passer from the edge on third downs. With the Patriots lacking a dominant pass rusher, Nwosu can contribute to the group effort on getting after the quarterback. He dominated the collegiate game with his first step and uncanny ability to knock passes away, which are traits that will surely translate to the next level. However, his physical profile and speed projects him as a weak side linebacker, and the Patriots could get the most out of him by moving him around to expose matchup problems.
A quick look at how ridiculous Dante Pettis has been in the punt return game so far this season: pic.twitter.com/MeeSeqfeCK
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) November 25, 2017
Round 3 Pick 32 – 96th Overall – Dante Pettis, WR, Washington
Speaking of versatility, Dante Pettis can come in as a chess piece wide receiver with the ability to move around the offense. Pettis has the explosiveness, speed, and footwork to get open consistently. He has enough size and experience to be played as an outside receiver, slot, or be moved around the formation with motions. His hip mobility is his main weapon, as he is fluid at the breakpoint and uses his body control well to win at all levels of the field. Additionally, Pettis is the all time NCAA leader in punt return touchdowns. His ability in that regard could be valuable to New England and produce beyond the level the Patriots thought they were getting when they drafted Cyrus Jones.
Round 4 Pick 34 – 136 Overall – Poona Ford, DT, Texas
New England has dipped into the Texas DT well recently, drafted Malcolm Brown just a few years ago, and could be looking there again with Poona Ford. Ford is a leverage king, at just 5’11 but with a wingspan over 6’8, he’s able to use his length to stay under offensive linemans pads. He has good explosiveness out of his stance and uses it to be a disruptive force. He fits the need for New England as another piece along the defensive line that could help stuff the run, and as an interior rusher who disrupts the pocket for opposing quarterbacks.
The little things that Mike McCray does during practice are infectious. Calls the defense, calls the strength, runs after the ball on incomplete passes, communicates with his teammates pre-snap.
There's a spot on my team for him any day.
— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) January 24, 2018
Round 6 Pick 33 – 209 Overall – Mike McCray, LB, Michigan
Bill Belichick has had an affinity for drafting players who were team captains in college, and McCray fits that bill. The fifth year Senior was seen all over the field during the Senior Bowl, being used on special teams and defense. With Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, and Brandon Bolden all set to become free agents this offseason, a spot for a core special teamer could open up for McCray. During Senior Bowl practices, McCray was calling the defense, displaying his leadership and capability to pick up a new system immediately. His downhill play style and ability to rush the passer as a blitzer is almost reminiscent of a poor mans’ Dont’a Hightower, a style of player the Patriots obviously covet.
It’s no secret that New England is stronger on the offensive side of the ball. With the departure of defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, a defensive minded draft could give the next coordinator some weapons to work with. In this scenario, it gives the Patriots a natural player at all three levels, as well as a versatile player in Nwosu that can move around the defense. On offense, adding a player to strengthen the trenches as well as a four down weapon is a balanced draft that could keep the Patriots offense at elite levels for as long as Tom Brady is under center.
(Note: Included is a projected compensatory selection courtesy of Jabaal Sheard signing with the Indianapolis Colts – Round 4 Pick 34.)
(Additional Note: Pick 32 was chosen because New England is the current Vegas favorites to win the SuperBowl, no other factor was considered.)