The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away and with the Scouting Combine and the biggest portion of Free Agency in the rearview mirror, it's time for the third and final mock draft of 2023. Many of the same themes remain from its first two iterations, targeting the needs at wide receiver, tackle and cornerback are the priorities, while secondary needs like free safety and edge also factor in along with the quality depth at positions like tight end and nose tackle that can't be ignored.
However, not all of the Patriots needs appear easily filled unless the Pats get aggressive. That's what I've done here, trading up twice to get guys I love, but questions would remain even with what I consider to be my favorite pretend Pats picks of the spring. What I'd feel great about though is really addressing the offense and putting some critical pieces in place that should help get the team back into the contending conversation.
NOTE: 1st round/14th overall
After focusing on the needs at cornerback and wide receiver in my first two mock drafts I'm landing on the one that feels the most realistic with my favorite tackle in this class, Broderick Jones. Jones is raw with less than two starting seasons, but he's played on the best team in the best league and has all the other traits with his mean streak, athleticism and youth. Taking a tackle isn't the sexiest pick but with as much promise as Jones has, it's a long-term slam dunk even if there might be some growing pains. With the added free agency depth at the position the team could still afford to ease him in if he needs it, he'll be worth any potential wait. Outside of extensive experience, Jones checks every box necessary for the Patriots and would bring the kind of attitude that would mesh well up front next to Cole Strange, who plays with a similar combination of feistiness and athleticism. The only real question in my mind is if Jones does in fact fall to 14.
NOTE: 2nd round/36th overall (trading up with 46th, 117th, 187th)
The Pats have to make a move to get an impact wide receiver at this point so I'm making a mock draft trade and packaging a fourth-round pick and a seventh-round pick to get back up early in Day Two for a tough, productive inside receiver in Josh Downs. His 4.48 40-yard dash at the Combine was solid, but it's his route savvy and experience that make him an excellent fit for what the Patriots need to round out their receiving corps. His size (5-foot-9, 171 pounds) is a concern but it won't hinder him with so many big receivers on the roster. Downs would quickly become the quarterback's best friend and while he wouldn't have to immediately be an every-down player, he could contribute right out of the gate in Bill O'Brien's offense. Both of these first two picks would inject the Patriots offense with two players at positions of need, but also toughness and high levels of competitiveness. It's just the kind of boost I'm hoping for.
NOTE: 3rd round/76th overall
Ideally this would've been a cornerback pick for me as I've tried to hit those needs in each of my mocks, but the tight end group is just too good to pass up at this point so I'm going with a small school developmental Y tight end in Kraft who has the all the traits necessary but will be making the jump from South Dakota St., a school the Patriots clearly have on their radar after taking Pierre Strong last year. With both Hunter Henry and Mike Gesicki on one-year deals and neither being elite blockers, there could be a glaring need at tight end in 2024 so it makes sense to grab one now from this stacked class and allow them to work in over their rookie season before potentially taking over as TE1 next season. Kraft is athletic and a willing blocker, not to mention toughness that comes with playing in the conditions that occur in South Dakota. Those traits would quickly get him on the field.
NOTE: 4th round/107th overall
This might be a little low for Moss, who demonstrated his excellent athleticism at the Scouting Combine and if there's one thing I don't feel great about with this mock it's not giving them one of my true favorite cornerbacks. Still, Moss is from a proven program and might even end up at safety, filling more of a Devin McCourty need than an outside corner need. He's been highly productive with 11 career interceptions and played a ton of football for the Hawkeyes. His tackling also stands out, as he's got a lot of skill to work with which should help him carve out a role in the secondary one way or another. If he lasts past the third round the team that gets him should count their blessings.
NOTE: 4th round/135th overall
There are quite a few big defensive tackles that fit the Patriots scheme, none more intriguing than Coburn whose value might be diminished on other teams, but whose size, strength and bull rush make him an ideal candidate to work in behind Lawrence Guy and Davon Godchaux in the Pats base defense. He played 45 games for Texas, continuing a three-pick trend of players who have played a high volume of snaps. He'd be in immediate competition against veteran Carl Davis for the nose tackle spot, and though he might be limited to first and second down, he'd provide a needed injection of youth who might elevate the front play beyond where it's been the last two years with largely the same starters.
NOTE: 5th round/155th overall (trading up 184th, 192nd)
Nick Folk has reached new career levels with the Patriots but he'll be 39 this fall and you wonder if the team will finally make a move in the draft to secure the position for the foreseeable future. Moody would do just that and as MVP of the Shrine Bowl, he's certainly someone who should be on the Patriots radar. His reliability inside the 40 is Folk-esque, while his ability to handle kickoffs would also simplify things for the team as they look for a new punter this offseason as well. His distance is a concern, although he did hit a 59-yarder against TCU in the National Semifinal.
NOTE: 6th round, 210th overall
This area of the draft continues to be my quarterback flier territory and while UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson remains a favorite fit, for this mock draft I'm going with Haener who was the Senior Bowl MVP. While DTR's intrigue are his raw athleticism and arm strength, Haener is more in line with Mac Jones' scouting report, a smart quarterback who knows where to go with the ball. Haener could carve out a role as QB3, perhaps on the practice squad while allowing some time to see if his game can translate to the pros. Taking a QB is always good business and with just two on the roster, the Patriots need to add another.
NOTE: 7th round, 245th overall
Rutgers jokes aside there's a lot to like about the Aussy Korsak, who told us at the Combine that he had a number of different punting techniques in his bag. While the Patriots signed veteran Corliss Waitman, he's likely to face competition from a rookie punter as there are a number of intriguing ones in this class, including Michael Turk and Bryce Baringer. Jake Bailey was a fifth-round pick while former punter Ryan Allen was undrafted so the 7th round feels about right. After two years of inconsistency from Bailey, the team should be looking to get this aspect of their special teams on track for the foreseeable future. The selection of Korsak would do just that and should help improve their 19th-ranked starting defensive field position in 2022 which was only a slight improvement of their 20th rank in 2021.