BOSTON (CBS) — Armed with a pair of first-round picks, the New England Patriots are in a great position to make a big splash at the NFL Draft.
With those two selections, and five total in the first 95 picks, Bill Belichick can manipulate the board however he wants at the end of the month. He’ll probably be able to draft a pair of extremely skilled defensive players, much like he did back in 2012 when the Patriots drafted Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Trading way up to draft a quarterback of the future remains unlikely, but it’s an option. Or Belichick can do what he normally does and trade down to secure more picks, which will probably happen since the Patriots don’t have a pick in the fourth or fifth rounds.
Here are the picks that Belichick and the Patriots are currently working with following last week’s trade of Brandin Cooks.
1st round — 23rd overall
1st round — 31st overall
2nd round — 43rd overall
2nd round — 63rd overall
3rd round — 95th overall
6th round — 198th overall
6th round — 210th overall
7th round — 219th overall
Those two first rounders have given our favorite people in the world, mock drafters, quite a bit to think about over the last few days. Here’s how the latest round of mockers think the Patriots will use those two selections on April 26:
No. 23: Josh Jackson, CB, Iowa
What if the Patriots aren’t taking a quarterback and simply want to get two really good players in a draft where, again, talent is going to fall as a result of the quarterbacks up top.
No. 31: Arden Key, DE, LSU
Maybe the Patriots don’t have to draft a quarterback in the first round at all (although I suspect they like the idea of having the fifth-year option on someone next time, as Jimmy G could still be on the roster this coming year) and maybe they just want to reload on defense.
No. 23: Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB, Alabama
The Patriots get someone who comes with a high recommendation from Bill Belichick’s friend Nick Saban to be a versatile member of the secondary.
No. 31: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Miller is the ideal prospect to immediately step into the vacancy left by Nate Solder, who signed with the Giants in free agency.
(Trapasso had the Patriots taking Boston College linebacker Harold Landry at No. 31 in his previous mock draft)
No. 23: Rashaan Evans, ILB, Alabama
The Patriots didn’t trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams and acquire the 23rd pick to take a quarterback. At this point in the proceedings, four of them are already off the board and it wouldn’t be surprising if the Cardinals took one at No. 15. Instead, Bill Belichick takes Evans, who played for Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. As, “Belichick has history of placing a high priority on the linebacker spot; he moved up in Round 1 of the 2012 draft to pick Donte’ Hightower even after trading up earlier in that round to grab Chandler Jones.”
No. 31: Mike Hughes, CB, UCF
The Patriots let Malcolm Butler walk in free agency, and while they added Devin McCourty’s twin brother, Jason, there’s a need to get younger and better at cornerback.
(Wilson had the Patriots taking Texas OT Connor Williams in his previous mock draft)
No. 23: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
This is a regular pick I’ve been making for the Patriots because it just makes sense. Another person who likes it? The godfather of the draft, Gil Brandt. Here’s what he told Peter King of Sports Illustrated about the pairing:
“(Miller is) Nate Solder, is what he is … 6’8, 310 pounds, unbelievable 10-yard speed which is what you need for a tackle. Needs development. But [offensive line coach] Dante Scarnecchia can develop a guy like that as well as anyone.”
No. 31: Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
The lure of getting a quarterback on the cheap for five years could be too tempting for some the teams in the back of the first round. That includes New England. Tom Brady has said he wants to keep playing, to me it’s a year-by-year proposition.
(Kadar had the Patriots taking Miller with the No. 31 pick in his previous mock draft)
No. 23: D.J Moore, WR, Maryland
The Patriots just acquired this pick in the Brandin Cooks trade … so they could use the selection to either trade for Odell Beckham Jr. or select a receiver. The rising D.J. Moore makes sense.
No. 31: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Nate Solder signed with the Giants. It wasn’t a surprise that the Patriots opted not to keep him. Solder is obviously very talented, but he’s had severe injury problems over the past several seasons, so he was too risky to give a big contract to, despite what the Giants just did. Regardless, the Patriots need a new blind-side protector.
(Walterfootball.com had the Patriots taking Miller at No. 31 in their previous mock draft)
No. 23: Harold Landry, LB, Boston College
It’s possible that the Patriots’ trade of Brandin Cooks to the Rams was the precursor to another deal. On the other hand, it’s possible Bill Belichick just wanted to move on from Cooks and secure younger talent in this draft. I’ll go with the latter, with the Pats keeping Landry in the Northeast to chase quarterbacks.
No. 31: Trade With Buccaneers
Finding a new running back is paramount for the Buccaneers, so it won’t be surprising if they trade into the first round to grab [Derrius] Guice.
(Reuter had the Patriots drafting Kolton Miller in his previous mock draft)