Five Patriots/NFL Things to Know For 4/7: Could the Patriots Potentially Bring Back A Familiar Face?
Some news and notes on this Thursday:
1) According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Patriots have a high-profile player they’ll be taking a look at in the coming days to potentially fill a need in their secondary.
Rapoport reports that the Patriots are using one of their top 30 visits on Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth, who will reportedly be visiting the Patriots Friday. The 6’0″ 195-pound standout for the Tigers is certainly one of the notable names heading into this year’s NFL Draft and if he’s selected, he’d be the first player the Patriots have targeted out of Clemson during Bill Belichick’s tenure.
He’s a talented player, finishing his junior season recording 75 tackles including 5.5 for a loss, along with 10 pass breakups, five interceptions, a sack, as well as a fumble recovery that he returned for a touchdown. He’s incredibly athletic and also has great hands as seen in the below Tweet of a one-handed interception he made back in 2020.
One-handed, falling back … WOW.
Interception of the year candidate from Clemson's Andrew Booth Jr. 😱 pic.twitter.com/VsftCLvYnd
— ESPN (@espn) October 4, 2020
Booth sat out Clemson’s Pro Day last month and has since undergone core surgery, and also skipped the NFL Combine due to a hamstring injury. He’s expected to be a first-round selection, but those two things could make him slip into the later part of the round, potentially making him available to New England as one recent mock draft at CBS Sports had him getting picked up by the Bills with the 25th overall pick.
He certainly has plenty of upside and our own Steve Balestrieri took a closer look at him in a recent draft profile, which you can CHECK OUT HERE.
2) Another player who is also reportedly set to visit the Patriots is offensive lineman Kenyon Green, who could fill a need in protecting quarterback, Mac Jones, should New England opt to go in that direction early in the draft.
According to Pro Football Focus, the standout from Texas A&M is scheduled to meet with New England as he continues on a tour that reportedly includes the Giants, Eagels, Titans, Texans, Falcons, and Bears.
He’s a big player, coming in at 6’4″ 325 pounds and was extremely tough inside. He also has terrific footwork, with scouting reports noting his skills in pass protection and his awareness when it comes to picking up guys coming in unblocked.
Overall, he seems like a strong prospect, which makes it no surprise that the Patriots are among the teams doing their due diligence on him heading into the draft. CBS Sports has him being selected at 24th overall to Dallas in the previously mentioned Mock Draft.
3) When it comes to the addition of DeVante Parker, one of the biggest questions will be how he’ll be featured in the offense.
Tom Curran spoke to WEEI radio on Wednesday and one of the things he talked about is the fact that Parker will essentially fill a similar role to N’Keal Harry, with Parker being someone who is simply better at doing what Harry just hasn’t over the last few seasons. He also believes that there will be a significant shift in the offense, which could see the Patriots look to push the football downfield more this season.
“I think it’s more, ‘hey, he’ll be N’Keal Harry’,” Curran said of Parker during his weekly interview on Gresh & Keefe on WEEI. “I do think the offense will certainly be tweaked significantly. If they’re taking the fullback out, and Jakob Johnson’s saying they’re not going to use a fullback anymore and it’s going to be Jonnu Smith, you’re not going to pay $9 million in salary to Jonnu Smith to run into nose tackles and middle linebackers all year. He has to have a huge role, a [Aaron] Hernandez-style – I would imagine – role in the offense and I’m curious to see, whoever the offensive coordinator is, what he has decided for the formula the Patriots are going to employ and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s more downfield, press the ball downfield a little bit.”
Curran was then asked if he believes that wide receiver might still be an area of focus in the draft despite Parker’s addition.
“100%,” answered Curran. “Because [Nelson] Agholor is thankfully a short-timer. They might get a good season from him. But if he does give you a 35-45-catch season, yeah it was expensive as hell to have him here for that in 2022, but he’s gone next year. The Patriots right now are #3 in the NFL in positional spending against the cap at the wide receiver position. Next year, they’re 26th. So with money cleared, you can either shop for wideouts next year, or you can draft one this year and I think the [John] Metchie and Jameson Williams question, those guys, you tell me which one you would like?”
4) Curran also gave his thoughts on the defensive side of the football for this upcoming season, and he feels there’s one former player who might be worth consideration toward a return.
Heading into the season, one of the biggest changes Curran believes will happen is that we’ll see a shift back toward a zone defense, which he believes would potentially make bringing back former Patriots defensive back Jason McCourty a possibility.
“I think they’re going to play a zone defense,” said Curran. “There still might be an opportunity for a guy like Jason McCourty to come back to add that. I don’t think he was a bad player by any stretch when he was here. He’s older, he’s coming back from plantar fascia and I spoke to him a little bit yesterday and he’d like to play. He’s still trying to rehab that.”
“But I think they’re going to be a zone defense. They’re going to be fast at linebacker and there’s going to be a lot of safeties on the field who can hit and cover and run and they’re going to try and weaponize themselves to deal with the AFC East competition which is very fast offenses with mobile quarterbacks. You don’t want to play man against Josh Allen anyway, otherwise, he’s going to be running up your backs because he can scramble. You want to play zone so you can keep eyes on him. So I think that’s the way they’re trending.”
One thing Curran also touched on is the fact that the Patriots could be making a shift personnel-wise to more safeties and faster linebackers, which may not make size as big of a priority. One player who comes to mind is Georgia’s Nakobe Dean, who despite being 5’11” has the speed and skill set to possibily fit what they’re potentially looking at doing on defense.
“I think Nakobe Dean from Georgia would be kind of that ideal guy,” said Curran. “[He] can be on the field all three downs. Who’s the power running game the Patriots have to deal with, really? Not a ton. It’s more running, read-option quarterbacks…just, be able to get Josh Allen down.”
5) This offseason is going to be interesting for Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold, who is certainly experiencing quite the turnaround from where he was a year ago.
Last offseason saw the Panthers go out of their way to acquire him from the New York Jets thinking he’d be their future quarterback, giving up a sixth-rounder in 2021 and a second and fourth-round pick in 2022. The move initially paid off after Darnold started the year 3-0. But things unraveled from there and a shoulder injury ultimately added to what was just a disappointing season.
The Panthers ultimately brought back former Panthers quarterback Cam Newton last season to replace Darnold, but despite Newton’s struggles it was obvious the Panthers lost confidence in their signal-caller and Carolina was among several teams who inquired on Deshaun Watson before he ultimately landed in Cleveland.
With Carolina sitting at #6 overall, the belief is that they’ll likely use that selection on a quarterback. According to an ESPN report, they were recently were among teams scouting Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, as well as Mississippi’s Matt Coral and Liberty’s Malik Willis.
Darnold said on a recent appearance of “Bussin’ with the Boys” that he’s not worried and he’s confident in himself, regardless of what happens.
“I have enough security in myself where I can say, ‘I know I’m a good quarterback,” said Darnold. “I know I can be a good quarterback in this league. I’ve proved it.’
“And I know there’s a team, if something happens, that would want me.”
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Offseason
Tags: 2022 NFL Draft 2022 Patriots Draft New England Patriots