Daily Patriots News 4/28: 5 Things to Know Heading into the NFL Draft
Some news and notes on this Thursday:
1) It’s finally time, as tonight kicks off night one of the 2022 NFL Draft as the New England Patriots take the first step in injecting youth into their roster as they continue to build for the future.
What they’ll decide to do tonight is obviously the big question, with the Patriots currently slated to have the #21 overall pick in Round One. Based on all the mock drafts and with everything we know, the odds seem like they favor the team either making a selection on the defensive side of the football or trade out of round one altogether.
With much of the value seemingly coming in the mid rounds, that approach seems to make the most sense. The key part of that equation is simply going to be whether or not the guy they’re targeting is available by the time they get an opportunity to make a selection. If not, we’ve seen the club waste no time in switching gears and moving on, even if it involved moving out of night one altogether.
As for who they’ll potentially select, it should be interesting. The majority of mock drafts seem to favor Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd, with the athletic linebacker believed to be a player who could be someone the team builds around. That approach worked out well with Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower, both of whom were round one selections who each played key roles in the defense.
Some mocks have seen them target an offensive lineman in round one, which given their issues at the position definitely seems to make sense. But barring the opportunity to grab a tackle who would be at the level of guys like Matt Light or Nate Solder, it would be a surprise for the team to go there if no one of that caliber is available.
Defensive back would be the other obvious choice, and the belief, given what we’ve seen, is that Bill Belichick may opt to stay in the SEC and potentially go after Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. or Florida’s Kaiir Elam, both of whom have come up in various mock drafts.
Then again, another thought that Mel Kiper Jr. brought up recently during an appearance on the Next Pats Podcast with NBC Sports Boston’s Phil Perry has been that if the club sees LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. drop far enough, possibly to that 15-17 spot, they may make a move to go up and take him. That might be tough, as Stingley’s stock seems to have been rising in recent days and he’s now been projected in quite a few mocks to be taken in the top 10.
We could also see them target someone up front on the defensive line alongside Christian Barmore, giving the club a young formidable nucleus for a team that at times struggled against the run in 2021 and also had difficulty getting consistent pressure up the middle. Georgia’s Devonte Wyatt’s name has come up as both he and teammate Travon Walker are both projected to go in round one, with Walker believed to be gone within the top 5 selections.
We’ll have to see how it plays out, but there definitely seems to be some good options if the board falls in their favor. If not, it may be an evening of simply staying up late, only to see a much busier couple of days should they make a change of plans and trade out.
2) Meanwhile, speaking of Perry, he believes Belichick will stay in the SEC and target Georgia linebacker Quay Walker on night one, who was among the players the team met with back in March at the NFL Combine.
Walker is a terrific player, with the former Bulldog finishing the 2021 season as one of Georgia’s key playmakers on defense. Walker finished the year with 65 tackles, including 5.5 for a loss. He also had 1.5 sacks and defended 3 passes, as well as ending up with a fumble recovery.
Looking at some of the film, what stands out about Walker is the fact he’s an incredibly patient player who reads the play and then does a great job of using his strength and leverage to fight off the block and make the tackle. He also has terrific acceleration, both in getting upfield between the tackles as well as laterally.
Another area he does well is in pass coverage, with Walker running with some pretty quick receivers yet he typically held his own and made the play. His explosiveness when he breaks on the football stands out, as there’s no hesitation. He’s a guy who knows what he’s doing and has the athletic ability to finish the play.
He also has great balance and change of direction and doesn’t miss tackles. According to Pro Football Focus, Walker missed just seven tackles in 138 attempts during his four years at Georgia.
Walker appears like he would be a pretty good fit for a defense that could certainly use someone of his skillset. He’s also an intriguing player because most mocks have him slated as a late first round or even an early second-round selection so if New England does decide to target him, it will be interesting to see if they do make a move back before doing so.
It should be fun to watch as there are so many moving parts that it will definitely make the next three days fun to follow.
3) The team posted an interview between Scott Zolak and Belichick leading into tonight, with the head coach noting that all the work they’ve put in heading into this weekend is essentially like “one big final exam” and it’s important they get it right.
“This is like the proverbial final exam,” said Belichick, who appeared to be in good spirits, wearing a button-up shirt, blue jeans, and Nike sneakers as he stood out in the sunlight at the far end of Gillette Stadium with the former quarterback. “We’ll see what the questions are and hopefully we’re prepared to answer them.”
Belichick was asked about this week’s trade with Houston where the club traded a 5th round selection for two later round picks and jokingly called it a “blockbuster”, but went on to say that it gave them some flexibility heading into this weekend.
“It gives us kind of a two-for-one situation there,” said Belichick. “We felt like it was really about positioning. The trade was numerically equal.”
As for what they’ll do this weekend, Belichick didn’t get into that but Zolak asked him about how tough it is balancing both the top players on the board against the team’s needs, which Belichick admitted was difficult.
“That’s a decision, for sure,” said Belichick. “I think the key thing, though, is you want to make sure the player that you take is good enough … he’s a good enough player. Because if he isn’t, then you haven’t really filled the need even if you have on paper. In the end, it’s not going to work out. So you want to make sure that the players are good enough to actually make your team and can contribute to your team if you take him.”
We have this interview fully transcribed and it should be available shortly, so be sure to check the front page of PatsFans.com periodically to read the full interview.
4) The team continued doing some due diligence as Justin Melo of The Draft Network reported that the club recently held a virtual pre-draft meeting with Wake Forest offensive lineman, Zach Tom.
According to Melo, the Patriots were among 15-20 teams to meet with the former Demon Deacon, with Melo pointing out that Tom is a versatile player who can “legitimately play all 5 positions”.
Tom is a big player, coming in at 6’5″, 295lbs and was a three-year starter, which included each of the last two seasons at left tackle.
He’s extremely athletic, with scouting reports raving about his footwork in pass blocking and he’s also got pretty good speed for a guy his size. He ran a 4.94 40-yard dash at the Combine, as well as a 4.47 short shuttle, and a 7.32 three-cone drill. He’s also got long arms (33 1/4″), which was a knock against Isaiah Wynn and something that seemed to make things challenging for him on the outside.
Tom is expected to be a Day 2 or Day 3 pick, which given all the things he’s able to do will certainly make him someone to follow in the coming days.
5) One last thing to keep an eye on will be whether or not the team makes a move from N’Keal Harry, which will be something else to watch this weekend.
The two sides have reportedly had a “positive dialogue” when it came to potentially moving the embattled wideout, which could see the Patriots use him to acquire a late-round chip to put themselves in position to give them additional flexibility to move around the board as they continue building their roster.
Moving Harry would also allow them to finally part ways with a player who was still lining up wrong in his third season, as well as being late off the line while still looking unsure of himself. Harry excelled as a blocker in 2021 but did little in the passing game, with the addition of DeVante Parker seemingly filling the need that Harry never was able to.
One recent proposal by ESPN’s Bill Barnwell included a trade back by the Patriots with Green Bay, which would see the Patriots pick up the Packers’ No. 28 pick along with a second and third-round selection as well as Harry.
It’s a trade few Patriots fans would be disappointed to see happen and one that would certainly help the club. But for now, the possibility of Harry being moved appears to be fairly real, which will be something to keep an eye on as New England hopefully can turn what had been a negative into a future positive this weekend.
Posted Under: 2022 Patriots Draft
Tags: 2022 Patriots Draft Bill Belichick Devin Lloyd New England Patriots Scott Zolak