BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL Draft is finally upon us. Yes, an actual live sporting event begins Thursday night, and will fill our sports craving throughout the weekend.

This is an important three-day stretch for the New England Patriots as they enter the post-Tom Brady days of the franchise. With 12 selections in this year’s draft, it’s a golden opportunity for Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio to rebuild a roster that currently has plenty of holes to fill.

In their final mock drafts of the year, the mockers are a bit all over the place with who they have the Patriots taking at No. 23 in the first round. Nine of 15 mock drafts we picked have New England going with a defensive player, while two have Belichick drafting a quarterback in the first round. There are even a few trades, an offensive lineman and a running back (a running back?) thrown in there for good measure.

For our final installment of the 2020 M.D.R., we’re going with the local guys first, since they tend to have a better idea of what is going on in Foxboro. And we’ll find out if any of the mockers are right come Thursday evening.

Mike Reiss, ESPN Boston

Patrick Queen, LSU, LB

LSU linebacker Patrick Queen hits Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during the 2019 season. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It’s a new day in New England. Selecting a 6-foot, 229-pound linebacker doesn’t fit the usual prototype at the position (bigger and more rugged is the norm), but Queen’s speed and coverage skills are exactly what the Patriots need. When you have to beat QBs such as Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson in the AFC, playmaking linebackers who can run are especially valuable.

Doug Kyed, NESN

Trade Down To No. 26 For Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

A source told that Kmet could wind up being a first-round pick despite second-round projections. We also were told Kmet is a Patriots fit in this draft. In this mock, the Patriots will take their chances by trading down to get him 26th overall. He has the best combination of size and speed among all draft-eligible tight ends. His blocking needs work, but the Patriots can coach up that aspect of his game.

As for the trade, it’s a doooooozy.

Let’s bridge the gap between the first and third round, so the Patriots are sending the 23rd and 100th overall picks plus left guard Joe Thuney to the Miami Dolphins for their 26th, 56th and 70th overall picks.

That swap would give Belichick a second-round pick and an early third-round selection, plus trading Thuney would net New England some much-needed cap space. With those two picks from Miami, Kyed has New England drafting Michigan linebacker Josh Uche at No. 56 and Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool at No. 70

Phil Perry, NBC Sports Boston

Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)

Plenty of size. Oozing with athleticism. A starter and play-caller in the middle of the Sooners defense for three years. An aggressive run-defender and dynamic blitzer. Murray has everything the Patriots want at the second level. And his presence might allow Dont’a Hightower to see more time on the edge, where the Patriots could use some help. 

Mel Kiper Jr. ESPN

Cesar Ruiz, C/G, Michigan

Bill Belichick loves to trade down, and I could see the Patriots adding picks and then taking a quarterback like Jalen Hurts in the second round. But Ruiz could be a replacement for guard Joe Thuney, who was franchise tagged but could be traded.

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports

A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

A.J. Epenesa (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

This is a little high for us — Epenesa flashed at Iowa but didn’t play with the consistency we hoped to see, and he followed that up with a disappointing combine — but Bill Belichick has a knack of zigging when others zag, and Epenesa, who plays outside but can kick inside, feels like a player who would excel in New England.

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports

Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

Yetur Gross-Matos of the Penn State Nittany Lions hits the arm of Wisconsin QB Jack Coan. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The Patriots go with an ascending outside pass rusher to boost that group in a big way.

Will Brinson, CBS Sports

Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State

This just feels like a very Patriots pick for some reason.

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports

Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

They have to get linebackers who can run to the football. With Kyle Van Noy gone and Dont’a Hightower in the final year of his contract, taking Queen makes sense

R.J. White, CBS Sports

Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

Justin Herbert (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)

If the Chargers opt to pass on the QB position at No. 6, it could be quite a fall for one of the presumed top picks in this class. If the Patriots don’t have to give up anything extra to land Herbert, this could be his ultimate landing spot, and it would give him a great chance to succeed at the next level.

Josh Edwards, CBS Sports

Trade Up To No. 17 For Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Jordan Love (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

The Patriots are looking over their shoulders at the Saints and decide to move up for the right to select Love. Jarrett Stidham could be their answer but Love offers so much more upside. The Cowboys give up No. 17 in exchange for No. 23, No. 87 and a 2021 fifth-round pick.

Love is the fourth QB drafted in Edwards’ mock after Joe Burrows (No. 1 to Bengals), Tua Tagovailoa (No. 3 to Dolphins) and Justin Herbert (No. 7 to Chargers).

Pete Schrager,

Trade Down To No. 28 For D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia

Georgia running back D’Andre Swift lunges forward for a touchdown against Kentucky. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

 I don’t see the Patriots going wide receiver or quarterback here and think they could go right back to the University of Georgia running back well. Swift is a dynamic playmaker and that Georgia connection is real.

New England acquires one of Baltimore’s two third-round picks in Schrager’s swap. While trading down is likely, drafting a running back in the first round for the second time in three years seems unlikely.

Daniel Jeremiah,

Cole Kmet, TE, Notre Dame

Kmet could sneak into the first round as the top tight end in the class. He would help the Patriots’ run game as well as provide a security blanket for Jarrett Stidham/ Brian Hoyer.

Charles Davis,

A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

Brings power to the pass rush and could potentially do his most damage as a rusher inside in sub or nickel packages.

Rhett Lewis,

A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa

How many times have you thought to yourself, this prospect “feels like a Patriot”? Probably not more than I have with Epenesa. The strong relationship ties between Belichick and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, and the fact that Epenesa provides some positional versatility up front (a coveted quality in New England), makes this a good fit.

Kevin Hanson, Sports Illustrated

Trade Down To No. 28 For A.J. Epenesa

Still without a second-rounder, the Patriots could use one of their (now) four third-rounders (including my projected trade) to later move up into Round 2 and potentially target a tight end, such as Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet. For this pick, however, Epenesa could remind Bill Belichick of one of his former players (Trey Flowers). The former Hawkeye wins with a blend of power, length, technique and heavy hands, and has the versatility to rush from the inside as well. While he started 2019 slowly, Epenesa closed the season strong with eight sacks and four forced fumbles over his final five games.

The Pats acquire No. 92 overall in the third round from Baltimore in this mock trade.


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