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Lazar's Best Available Players for Day Three of the NFL Draft

With the Patriots addressing needs on offense in the first two days, who could New England target on day three?

North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker (9).
North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker (9).

The Patriots continued addressing their major needs heading into this year's draft by selecting wide receiver Ja'Lynn Polk (No. 37) and offensive tackle Caedan Wallace (No. 68) on Friday night.

Although there's a difference between addressing a hole and filling a hole, the latter of which will be determined by their play in the NFL, New England's brass stayed true to their word. After selecting quarterback Drake Maye in the first round, head coach Jerod Mayo and personnel chief Eliot Wolf did what they sought to do in the first rounds: for the first time since 2006, the Patriots went offense with their first three picks.

Time will tell if the Patriots picked the right players with their first three picks. However, it's hard to argue with their process. Maye and Polk were consensus top-50 players, and although we had a fourth-round grade on Wallace, the tackles with starting-caliber traits were running out.

With Polk, the Patriots are getting an incredibly tough receiver with excellent hands to stack defenders while finishing through contact on vertical routes. The Washington product often operated in high-traffic areas or against sticky press coverage on the outside, where he consistently made difficult catches that will translate to the NFL.

There are some concerns with his separation ability and modest speed (4.52s 40-yard dash), but when you turn on the film, Polk has the juice to win vertically and is great at navigating the middle of the field. To be clear, this isn't a jump-ball contested catch receiver a la DeVante Parker. Instead, Polk is a possession receiver whose pro comparisons are Tyler Boyd and Jakobi Meyers, or as a ceiling from the Patriot's second-round pick himself, Bears WR Keenan Allen.

As for Wallace, the traits that stand out are a good use of 34-inch arms and a quiet lower half in his pass sets. Wallace is a very balanced, fluid mover who can mirror pass-rushers on an island, while his hand strength and footwork can create creases in the run game. Our concerns with Wallace are that he has a short corner in pass protection and made most of his 40 career starts at right tackle. Due to some struggles against speed rushers, some see Wallace transitioning inside to guard in the NFL.

We'll have a full film review on Polk and a more in-depth analysis on Wallace shortly. For now, the Patriots have five selections on day three with plenty of talent still on the board: 103, 110, 180, 192, and 231 are the Patriots current draft picks on Saturday.

Here are my best available picks for the Patriots on day three of the NFL Draft:

Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin (11).
Oregon wide receiver Troy Franklin (11).

WR Troy Franklin, Oregon

Although there are some football reasons for his slide, I'm shocked to see Franklin on the board still. There are serious concerns about Franklin's ability to handle physical coverage, track the ball over his shoulder, and finish through contact. However, he's a pure separator. The Oregon product has a savvy release package and noticeable polish on fades, crossers, double moves, slants, and comebacks. Franklin was also highly productive, averaging 3.3 yards per route run. There are major red flags due to Franklin's overlap with Tyquan Thornton, but he's more of a technician.

WR Devontez Walker, North Carolina

After taking his college quarterback in the first round, I'm coming around to the idea of Walker. Not only does Walker have a history with Maye, but he is also a perfect complement to Polk, with the Washington product fitting more into an inside-outside Z role than a true X.

Walker is a legit vertical threat who plays to his 4.36 speed with long strides to eat up a cushion and explode past defenders. He also has an above-average catch radius and decent body control along the sideline. However, Walker is still a project receiver. He doesn't have very many branches to his route tree, doing a lot of his damage on go routes against off-coverage or soft press. Walker also struggled mightily with focus drops and finishing through contact, especially at the Senior Bowl, where his stock took a huge hit. There's a starting-caliber skill set there as an outside receiver, and pairing him with Maye could be an enticing option, but Walker's archetype has a lower hit rate in the NFL recently.

Central Florida wide receiver Javon Baker (1).
Central Florida wide receiver Javon Baker (1).

WR Javon Baker, UCF

Baker is at his best at the top of routes, where he suddenly snaps off route breaks off his vertical stems. The foundation is his ability to stack corners and track the deep ball over his shoulder, so DBs have to respect his ability to finish deep targets at the catch point, and that opens up avenues for some flashy route breaks. After transferring from Alabama, Baker finished a strong two-year campaign at UCF with 1,139 yards and seven scores in 2023. He'd fit the mold as an outside/X receiver who can play on the backside of the formation opposite Polk.

EDGE Austin Booker, Kansas

Despite playing only 505 career snaps in college, Booker is one of the more well-schooled edge rushers in his tier. He's an explosive counter rusher with a long, lanky frame who must add weight. But his twitched-up movements give him a consistent two-way go while he's very well-versed in how to use his length to keep tackles from getting into his frame. Booker's flexibility/bend allows him to dip and slip blocks in various ways, with his inside spin/arm over counter as a devastating move set up by his speed/long-arm. Booker's tape against Texas OTs Kelvin Banks and Christian Jones, two NFL prospects, was impressive (sack, three hurries, four stops). You're just banking on a very small sample size here.

CB Cam Hart, Notre Dame

If you want to be sold on Hart, turn on the Ohio State tape vs. Marvin Harrison Jr. – it was probably the best CB tape of any player vs. MHJ. Hart is a long, physical press-man specialist on the outside who will toe the line in bump-and-run coverage. Although he can get a bit grabby sometimes, he suffocates receivers like a Patriots corner throughout the route. You won't want him matching up against dynamic route-runners, but here's a scenario: say the Patriots are playing the Jets. Christian Gonzalez has Garrett Wilson, Hart has Mike Williams.

S Dadrion Taylor-Demerson, Texas Tech

The Texas Tech product makes up for lacking size (5-10, 197) with excellent instincts, ball skills, and play speed (4.41s) to be a starting free safety with the flexibility to play nickel. My favorite rep from him on film came in quarters coverage against the Chiefs WR Xavier Worthy. Worthy ran a double move that the outside corner bit on hard. Taylor-Demerson, who had anything breaking inside, saved Texas Tech's bacon by anticipating the route and recovering over his top of Worthy. Those are the types of instincts and play speed that he brings to the table.

RB Braelon Allen, Wisconsin

Allen is a classic early-down back with tremendous size at 6-1, 235 pounds and good college production, as is tradition with Wisconsin backs. He has a nasty stiff arm and is tough to bring down in the open field with good build-up speed. However, he needs to buy into the bully ball back style rather than trying to dance around tackles. Allen is built like a classic Patriots RB.

TE Ja'Tavion Sanders, Texas

Sanders is a flex tight end who will stretch the middle of the field as a seam, is savvy enough to work open in zone coverage, and presents high-end YAC value with a 7.7 YAC average last season. In a bootleg/play-action-heavy scheme, it's easy to see Sanders exploding past the second level up the seam, out-running defenders on crossers, or getting chunks of yards on passes into the flats as the Patriots version of David Njoku. However, Sanders is not an in-line blocker and doesn't offer much wiggle at the top of routes. Still, you like his fit in AVP's offense.

TCU tight end Jared Wiley (19).
TCU tight end Jared Wiley (19).

TE Jared Wiley, TCU

Wiley would be my day-three dart throw for the Patriots at tight end. Although you wish he had more punch as a run blocker for a well-built tight end (6-6, 249), Wiley is a very easy mover with good acceleration off the line (4.62s 40) and fluidity through his breaks to separate on horizontal cuts. The movement skills at his size are the gambles that could pay off at tight end. Plus, he's built just like an Eliot Wolf/Packers tight end that fits the Pats new offense. It makes sense that England reportedly hosted Wiley on a 30 visit recently.

TE Theo Johnson, Penn State

Johnson is a traits-based projection after posting an elite 9.93 relative athletic score with 4.57-speed at 6-6, 259 pounds. There's so much untapped potential for the Penn State product, who flashes receiving skill and has the frame to develop into a much better blocker. But only had 76 catches in college and some shaky run-blocking technique. Although the athleticism is rare for his size, it's unknown whether or not it'll lead to production at the next level.

OT Javon Foster, Missouri

Foster is an experienced left tackle prospect with 41 career starts in the SEC. He knows how to use his 35-inch arms to keep pass-rushers at his fingertips and combines it with upper-body power to generate movement in the run game. However, Foster is a segmented mover with choppy feet who struggles to change directions. You also worry about how his pads rise as he chops his feet in his pass sets, exposing himself to power rushers. Foster is a strong run blocker with good length and experience, but his uncoordinated pass sets worry you at the next level.

Other Remaining Big Board Players

QB Spencer Rattler, South Carolina - The Patriots probably won't double-dip at quarterback. However, Rattler has NFL-caliber arm talent.

WR Brenden Rice, USC - The son of NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice, Brenden is a much different receiver with a big-bodied playing style who can play on the perimeter and win jump balls.

OT Christian Jones, Texas - Jones also played on the right side for the Longhorns but has the people-moving playing style the Patriots have coveted in the past.

TE Jaheim Bell, Florida State - The Patriots had plenty of pre-draft exposures to Bell, who is in a similar mold to Sanders as a move tight end with high-end YAC skills. He's a scheme fit for AVP.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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