It couldn’t be a better draft for the Patriots needing to upgrade their defense. This year’s draft class is jam-packed with defensive talent, giving New England a wide range to choose from.
Will they look to replace J.C. Jackson and draft a top cornerback? Will they be selecting a speedy and explosive linebacker? Let’s take a look at some of their best options for their defense.
The cornerback group on the Patriots has seen quite the shakeup this past year. With Stephon Gilmore being traded to the Panthers last October and J.C. Jackson signing with the Chargers this free agency, there is a major gap needing to be addressed.
Although free agents Malcolm Butler and Terrance Mitchell have been signed this off-season, the CB1 position has not yet been addressed.
With the draft nearing and fewer players available in free agency, it’s likely The Patriots will look for their next superstar corner in the draft. The team has been connected to several of the top names in mock drafts since the position is one of their neediest.
With the 21st pick in the first round, it’s possible they could choose the cornerback of the future for their team.
Kaiir Elam – University Of Florida
A favorite amongst the experts to land with the Patriots has been Kaiir Elam out of the University of Florida. Losing Stephon Gilmore and J.C. Jackson all within the same season leaves New England’s secondary truly vulnerable. Drafting Elam would instantly improve the defense, as he could be a starter on day one.
At 6-foot-2 and 193 pounds, he possesses the ideal physical traits to succeed in his position. He’s fast, agile, and consistently improved throughout his college career. He’s a former high school wide receiver, giving him a true advantage over those he covers during games.
Throughout his college career, his versatility shined when he successfully played other positions in the secondary. Elam is able to use his size and speed to his advantage as he covered some of the best receivers in college football.
To learn more about Elam’s fit with the Patriots, check out my full profile here!
Andrew Booth Jr. – Clemson University
One of the hottest names to hit the draft this year is Andrew Booth Jr. While he has been popular to land with the Patriots in mock drafts, there have been some concerns about whether he would be available for them to select at pick 21. And although he is recovering from sports hernia surgery, he is said to be ready by training camp.
During his time at Clemson, he consistently played at a high level. In the 2021 season, he was a second-team pick, ending the year with 37 tackles, three TFL, and five pass breakups in 11 games. Booth could be exactly what the Patriots are looking for in their secondary; a physical, speedy, and aggressive corner who is multi-faceted and ready to learn.
With the addition of Tyreek Hill in the division, the Patriots will need a cornerback who can keep up. Booth has the potential to be just that. With a bit more playing experience and development he could become a lock-down corner in no time.
Trent McDuffie – University Of Washington
One of the best cornerback prospects has gone under the radar leading up to the draft. Booth and Elam get a lot of the hype but don’t forget about Trent McDuffie out of UW.
Although he’s labeled as “undersized” for his position, he fits the mold of what the Patriots look for and need. McDuffie’s natural athleticism allowed him to line up anywhere his team needed him, and his well-rounded skillset shows he can be successful wherever he’s placed. With the Patriots set on getting younger and faster, this could be a main component in possibly drafting him.
McDuffie already has a similar play style to what New England looks for, making him a legitimate candidate to start right away. He’s aggressive and instinctual, creating a no-fun zone for those he lines up against.
He’s great as run support and limits yards after the catch, two weak points for the Patriots in recent years.
If the Patriots are keen on resetting their defense, McDuffie should be a prospect at the top of their list. He may not be a flashy player, but he’s a gifted athlete that would thrive under the coaching of Belichick and company.
At the start of free agency, it was clear Belichick was ready to improve his linebacker group. Re-signing Ja’Whaun Bentley and trading with the Browns for Mack Wilson was a good start. The rest of the group are young, some of which are still yet to play in the NFL, leaving question marks as to how well they will play.
With the departure of Kyle Van Noy and presumptively Jamie Collins, and Dont’a Hightower, there’s a lot of production to make up for. The top linebackers in this year’s draft have been connected to the Patriots throughout several mock drafts, which begs the question, “who should they select?”
Devin Lloyd – University Of Utah
A former high school safety, Devin Lloyd has flourished in his move to linebacker. He’s a sideline-to-sideline defender that consistently makes plays. He’s able to use his size and aggressive style to easily blitz the quarterback, tallying 31 pressures and an 88.4 pass-rushing grade last season.
Because New England struggled to get to the QB in the latter half of the 2021 season, Lloyd would bring the heat to opposing offenses easily lining up with Matthew Judon.
In his last season at Utah, Lloyd totaled 110 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, eight sacks, and four interceptions (including two returned for touchdowns.) He’s an athletic defender, using his speed and instincts to always be around the ball.
This is particularly intriguing for the Patriots who struggled to stop the run last year, allowing four and a half yards per carry. Lloyd’s impressive range and skills would be an immediate help to turn that around.
With big shoes to fill, Lloyd has the leadership qualities and high football IQ the Patriots will need. He fits exactly what Belichick looks for and can be an impactful player on day one.
Nakobe Dean – University Of Georgia
Coming straight from the reigning national champions in The University of Georgia, Nakobe Dean is another impressive linebacker for the Patriots to consider. Labeled as “undersized” for the position, Dean’s playmaking erases any possible doubt a team may have.
Although he doesn’t fit Belichick’s usual mold, Dean could be exactly the kind of boost the Patriots defense needs. His infusion of speed and football awareness could make them annoying for opposing offenses to handle. Dean is always at the football, whether he’s blitzing or running through a ball carrier, he brings the explosiveness the team is currently lacking.
To learn more about Dean’s fit with the Patriots, check out my full profile here!
The Patriots are currently stacked at the safety position, so they’re not needing to draft there. But there are some interesting prospects they should consider this year.
New England loves a player capable of wearing multiple hats. Because versatility continues to be treated with the utmost importance, the new director of player personnel, Matt Groh, made it clear it’s a big focus for them this year; “You can put these guys all over the place and that’s one way to increase the overall speed of the defense”
As the Patriots continue to evolve, drafting players that are flexible positionally will be key.
Daxton Hill – University Of Michigan
The ambiguity of a player like Daxton Hill will be hard for Belichick to pass up. Listed as a safety, Hill demonstrated his ability to play out of position often during his time at Michigan. Because the Patriots aren’t necessarily in the market for a safety. However, that versatility could put him over the edge for why the team should draft him.
The emphasis on creating a speedy defense makes Hill a great Patriots candidate. During the NFL combine, Hill was impressive with the drills he participated in. Finishing second overall with his timing during the three-cone (6.57) and 20-yard shuttle (4.06), his speed would be a valuable addition to New England’s secondary.
Hill is certainly a unique player, which fits right in with what the Patriots love. He’s another position-less contributor that the team could only benefit from. His pure talent and athleticism are unmatched, making him an enticing choice for the Patriots to consider.
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