The New England Patriots still have positions to fill on their roster, but since the start of free agency, they’ve quietly put themselves in a position where they can enter the 2023 NFL draft without a finger on the panic button.
There are no glaring needs on the roster to the point where it would force the Patriots to get desperate.
Sure, they could use upgrades at the offensive tackle, cornerback, safety and wide receiver positions, but they’ve laid enough of a foundation where they can be more fluid in their approach to the draft board.
That brings us to this three-round mock draft, where things get a bit interesting. Coach Bill Belichick has a reputation for skipping to the beat of his own drum, and this mock draft takes that into consideration by making a bit of a surprising move early.
Here are the three rookies the Patriots ended up with on their roster.
No. 14: OT, Broderick Jones, Georgia
Offensive tackle might still be a trouble spot for the Patriots if they aren’t careful.
They still have Trent Brown, and they just gave Riley Reiff guaranteed money. Conor McDermott is back, and Calvin Anderson got a two-year deal. Everything should be good, right?
Simply being satisfied isn’t a luxury for the Patriots after the way the 2022 season ended. Mac Jones served as a crash test dummy on most Sundays due to the offensive line struggles. With Broderick Jones sitting there on the draft board, this pick was just too good to pass up.
The Patriots get a young enforcer to plug onto the offensive front to try and keep grass stains off Jones’ jersey. A big-play receiver doesn’t matter if the opposing defense is constantly feasting on sack lunches.
No. 46: QB, Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
Here’s where things get fun.
The Patriots could have added another cornerback early, or they could have gone after another receiver. But they make a surprise selection at No. 46 by taking quarterback Hendon Hooker from the University of Tennessee.
Jones probably won’t like this pick much, but then again, he’s entering a year where he’s going to have to step it up and prove he’s worthy of the franchise quarterback title in New England.
Hooker is still recovering from a torn ACL, which means he may not be in a position to compete right out of the gates. So it’ll be the Jones and Bailey Zappe show early on. But when Hooker is ready, he would give the Patriots one of the new breed of quarterbacks—a legitimate dual threat as both a runner and passer.
You can’t tell me Belichick hasn’t looked at guys like Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts and Josh Allen and wondered what if.
No. 76: CB, Eli Ricks, Alabama
After shocking the NFL world by taking a quarterback in the second round, the Patriots come back down to Earth in the third round by selecting cornerback Eli Ricks out of the University of Alabama.
Jonathan Jones, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones could top the depth chart, but the Patriots need to add more competition and quality depth to the cornerback room.
Ricks has the right size and ball tracking skills to be physical and force tight windows for opposing quarterbacks. Coming from an SEC program, he’s already seen some of the best receivers in the country. He’ll fit right into Belichick’s defense and help fortify a Patriots defensive backfield currently experiencing a full-on youth movement.