If the Patriots decide to move up in the first round, who should they target?
With New England’s victory over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII, the franchise locked up the 32nd pick in the upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.
Will New England sit back and hope their top prospects fall to them at the end of the first round, or will they look to trade up and go get their guy?
Since Bill Belichick became head coach of the Patriots in 2000, he has made 21 moves up in the draft. He has also made 24 moves back in the draft and 25 trades involving players and/or future considerations.
Needless to say, trades will be made. The Patriots are armed with 12 draft picks and six of those selections coming in the first three rounds. This provides them with the arsenal to package a few picks into a deal to move up this year and go get the player that best fits the “Patriot Way”.
It is highly unlikely that the Patriots will be willing to give up the king’s ransom it would take to move into the top five, and it may even be too costly to move into the top-10 since the Patriots first-round trade bait is the last pick of the first round.
Here are some prospects that the Patriots would target if they decided to make a deal and trade up in the first round:
*There are a million mock drafts. We will base the selections off this drafttek.com mock draft located here.
Players projected to go picks 6-12
Montez Sweat, EDGE
6’6”, 260 pounds
New England’s defense ended 2018 tied for the second-fewest sacks in the entire league. They desperately need a young lineman that can rejuvenate the stagnant pass-rush from a year ago.
Montez Sweat has the length, speed, and athleticism that few other prospects can match. His electric speed, shown by his 4.41 forty-time, allows him to get to the quarterback quicker than his 6-foot-6 frame would suggest. Sweat uses his lengthy frame and upper body strength to set the edge, making him incredibly effective against the run. Over the past two seasons, Montez sweat has wreaked havoc in the backfield racking up 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for loss.
The SEC is considered to have the top competition at the collegiate level and Montez Sweat dominated the best players in the country. Under the proper coaching from Bill Belichick, he has the opportunity to dazzle at the next level for years to come.
Players projected to go picks 13-19
Brian Burns, EDGE
6’5”, 249 pounds
The Patriots were left with a giant hole in their defensive line when Trey Flowers signed with the Detroit Lions in the offseason. Brian Burns can immediately turn around the depleted pass-rush in New England.
The first-team All-ACC lineman has an uncanny ability to overwhelm offensive tackles with his quick first step and ability to drop his shoulder low to the ground to slip past the block and eat up the quarterback.
Burns ran a 4.53 forty-yard dash at the combine, showcasing he has the speed to not only sack the quarterback but to also cover tight ends up the seem and running backs out of the backfield. He uses his freakishly 83 ? inch long wingspan to create space from the tackle and shed the block. This allows him a clear view to diagnose the play and stop the run or get a clean shot at the quarterback.
He may be a pure pass-rusher early on in his career, but as Burns becomes more polished he can transform into an every-down player for the Patriots.
T.J. Hockenson, TE
6’5”, 251 pounds
With the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, the tight end position becomes a necessity even with the signing of Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. New England will never be able to replace a player like Gronk, but they need to immediately start grooming a young tight end to be the reliable target Gronk once was.
This year’s draft is deep with tight end talent, but T.J. Hockenson stands head and shoulders above the rest. Last year, he won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end and won the Big Ten Tight End of the Year award. He led the Hawkeyes with 49 catches for 790 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games.
Hockenson has the athleticism and quickness to beat linebackers over the middle and up the seam. He has exceptional hands (Pro Football Focus had him dropping only one of his 51 catchable targets) and uses his large frame to shield and post up the defender. His quick acceleration off the line creates early separation up the seam where his superb body control allows him to challenge safeties at the third level.
T.J. Hockenson could fit in any system and become a superstar in his rookie season, but he especially excels in two-tight end sets like Iowa implemented during his tenure. Josh McDaniels loves to deploy two tight ends in his offense which makes New England an ideal landing spot for Hockenson.
Players projected to go picks 20-31
D.K. Metcalf, WR
6’3”, 228 pounds
The Patriots are in desperate need of offensive weapons aside from Julian Edelman and the running backs. Gronk is retired, Edelman is 32-years-old, and Phillip Dorsett is not scaring anyone on the outside.
D.K. Metcalf would become the Patriots true number one wideout from the second he hits rookie minicamp. He possesses a combination of weight, size, and speed that is unmatched by any other wide receiver in the draft.
His 4.33 forty-yard dash and 27 bench reps at the combine make him a mismatch for most corners in the NFL. The meaty receiver is a handful in press coverage but has the closing speed to erase any cushion and take the top off the defense. Metcalf has strong sticky hands that he routinely used to make one-handed circus grabs.
He has a bit of injury history that ended his final season at Ole Miss after seven games, but he still managed to impress by catching 26 passes for 569 yards and five touchdowns.
With the tools Metcalf possesses, he can truly change the way the defense has to prepare for the Patriots’ offense. His use as a deep threat and over the middle could give Tom Brady a target that helps extend his career. This kid is the real deal.
N’Keal Harry, WR
6’2”, 228 pounds
If New England is going pull the trigger and move up in the first round then they will do it for one of the best pass rushers or an offensive weapon. Josh Gordon will likely be suspended for the majority of the season, if not the whole season, and Edelman can’t be the only threat at wide receiver.
Much like Metcalf, if N’Keal Harry is drafted by the Patriots he will be the top passing option immediately upon receiving his jersey.
Harry is not the fastest wideout in the draft but his 27 bench reps at the combine suggest he may be one of the strongest. He uses that strength to body-up his opponent and break free of press coverage. He thrives on back shoulder throws and contested catches showing excellent ball skills while in the air. Harry has cemented himself as a scrappy blocker that can be an asset in run situations.
New England needs a consistent dependable target on the outside and Harry provides just that.
Harry has improved every year at Arizona State signaling his ability to accept and apply the coaching he receives. Under Belichick and McDaniels, this budding wideout could have a long and fruitful career.