After a week in Indianapolis for the NFL's Scouting Combine, the 2023 draft class is becoming further clarified as interviews and testing numbers stack up and provide another point of evaluation. For the Patriots, they were of course active in Indy reportedly meeting with many top prospects at their biggest positions of need.
Now, armed with that new-ish information, here's my Mock Draft 2.0 with the top three positions remaining the same but the order changing. The value of pairing one of the three fourth-rounders with the second rounder to move up in the second round was too good to pass up to make sure the team gets the best player possible at a significant position of need.
Going with the assumption that top tackles Paris Johnson and Broderick Jone are gone along with the cornerback Christian Gonzalez, the 2.0 pick at 14th overall is one of the players I was most impressed by in Indy, Joey Porter Jr. Yes, this is a deep corner group with quite a few intriguing Patriots fits, but I'm not wasting any time in picking up a potential shutdown option in Porter who checked all the boxes as far as measurements and dealing with the Combine media. Porter is long and physical and has the kind of size that the Patriots could desperately use an injection of in their secondary. The biggest questions surrounding Porter have to do with change of direction skills, as is the case with many in this year's class, like my selection in mock draft 1.0 Kelee Ringo. But with plenty of small, agile corners already in the mix the Patriots can afford to take this small risk with Porter because he has everything else they need.
Combine quote of note: "Definitely took some time coming in as a young freshman, not knowing everything, thinking I knew everything. It took, it took a couple years, but it was great years that I needed. I wanted to leave last year, but it was hard. I had a hard conversation with my parents and they told me I wasn't ready and I took that and listened to them because my dad's been there before. I would say just honing in on my skills, getting more in-depth with the playbook and really watching film."
Wright was one of the Combine risers, impressing everyone with his workouts and podium session. The Patriots would likely have to trade back up in the second round and that's what I'm doing here, using one of the three fourth-rounders in a package deal with their existing second-rounder to get up near the top of the round. Wright surprised with his athletic profile in drills at the Combine, with strong performances in the 40 and broad jump, showing speed and explosiveness. With experience on both sides and nearly 3,000 career college snaps, there's versatility to experiment with and underrated athleticism, but Wright's strength is power and he'll bring that to the next level. He did not allow a sack at right tackle during Tennesee's successful 2022 campaign. Wright is an ascending prospect who could be a long-term starter at right tackle, perhaps immediately depending on what the free agency haul looks like.
Combine quote of note, on playing his best vs. the best competition: "I think of myself as the competition rises I just want to meet that challenge. You see the best guys and you want your name to be in there so much. I don't know how to explain it."
It was tough to wait this long for a receiver but Jayden Reed, along with Josh Downs, are two of my Day 2 favorites that have just what I'm looking to add to the offense. In Mock 1.0 I had taken Jordan Addison at 14th overall which now feels like too much of a reach. With Downs off the board I was happy to glad Reed, who tore up the Senior Bowl after finishing up a versatile career at Michigan State. Reed played inside and outside while returning kicks and punts but his fit in New England would be in the slot, where he has the quickness to separate early in the down. With a 4.45 40 the necessary long speed is there. He's really tough too and in a long line of potential slot picks for the Patriots, he's as good a fit as there's been. If Jakobi Meyers departs Reid would immediately help fill some of the void, especially in the "gotta have it" moments.
In a loaded receiver class it was also tough waiting until the fourth round to take one but Schoonmaker is still a really good fit with true "Y" potential as a blocker and receiver. His 4.63 40 landed him at fifth in this class, and while he might not be a threat to run away from anyone in the open field, the Michigan man checks all the boxes we're looking for as a developmental tight end with a good catch radius, ideal size and reliable hands. He had seven touchdowns in his final season in Ann Arbor. It wouldn't be surprising to see Schoonmaker make an immediate contribution even as the third tight end. His technique will need refining but he has the size and athletic talent to set a high ceiling.
Combine quote of note, on working with the Patriots at the Shrine Bowl: "Yeah, it was awesome just being able to be around them, they've been so successful in the past years and just being able to see that on a daily basis. And growing up in Connecticut, some of my family from Boston, I've always been Pats fan, and it was cool just to see how they operate and things like that. It was a great week with them."
Of course Deuce is going with Deuce! A third down back could still be on the radar for the Patriots even after selecting two running backs last year. Vaughn is undersized and compares to J.J. Taylor, who has struggled to find his way from the practice squad to the game field in three years with the team, but Vaugh is his own player with some surprising strength and pull-away burst. This would make three-straight playmaker picks for the Patriots offense, all of which are directly targeted toward giving Bill O'Brien pieces to work with and toys for Mac Jones to throw to in the middle of the field. Vaughn played a little out of the slot too, logging 617 snaps in his final season at K State, as his showed good durability despite his stature. Kenny McIntosh, Tyjae Spears (also undersized but quick as hell) and Eric Gray are a few other options to consider. There are some fun gadget backs in this class that Bill O'Brien could have some fun with.
Alright, we're getting into the flyer territory here in the sixth round and the Patriots certainly got an up-close look at Owens while scouting Marcus Jones in Houston's secondary last year. A four-year starter and team captain, Owens was a balanced safety playing 320 snaps at free safety and 202 in the box. The physical element of his game is on point, he's quick to trigger downhill when he reads run even from the deepest part of the field and has a solid build, but his ball skills are a question with just four career interceptions. This pick would be targeted toward a potential Devin McCourty retirement as the team looks to find a similar balanced safety who might be a little more comfortable on the back end of the defense.
Combine quote of note: "I feel like I had a very good situation in college playing under Doug Belk and how he runs his defense and things, and I feel like it translates very well to the NFL. They kind of ask him a lot of stuff about how he runs a defense and stuff. We run a very NFL-style defense. Multiple, 4-2-5s and things like that. I feel like the transition will be very much be smooth."
I had DTR in my first mock and he's remaining on after Combine after hearing him talk and getting a closer look at him, not to mention the reported news that Brian Hoyer will be released in the coming week, leaving the Patriots with only two quarterbacks on the roster. There's a lot to like here, despite his smaller stature, including a surprisingly live arm to go with his standout mobility. DTR feels like an ascending prospect who made real strides under Chip Kelly and then made a good impression during Shrine Bowl practices. Even if he doesn't develop into a back-up, he'll bring immediate value in helping the Pats prepare for the many mobile quarterbacks that they must face. And who knows, maybe after a year behind the scenes he continues his rise and ends up bringing significantly more value in one way or another.
Yup, another Shrine Bowl guy, this time an old-school linebacker with an old-school mentality and one who sees plays develop and can make plays with anticipation despite looking a little high-cut and stiff. He might not be quite as thick as Ja'Whaun Bentley but he plays the same kind of game and makes plenty of plays behind the line of scrimmage. Moore is also a three-time captain who played special teams. Add it all up and Moore has a very Patriots feel to him as a late-rounder.