NFL Draft News & Analysis

Diving into the New England Patriots’ options in the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft

Sat., Jan. 1, 2022; Pasadena, California, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) races to the end zone for a touchdown during the second quarter of the 108th Rose Bowl Game between the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Utah Utes at the Rose Bowl. Rose Bowl Game Ohio State Buckeyes Against Utah Utes

The New England Patriots face an uphill battle to reclaim the AFC East crown from the Buffalo Bills, and the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are arguably in a better spot to compete right now. They do, however, have two top-50 picks and can bridge the divisional gap with a standout 2023 NFL Draft.

Let's use the PFF Mock Draft Simulator to look at various options for the Patriots.

Option 1: Tackle at No. 14, Wide Receiver at No. 46

Considering Isaiah Wynn‘s recent injury history and likelihood of leaving in free agency, tackle is a big need for the Patriots. Paris Johnson Jr. impressed in 2022 as a run blocker, earning an 80.9 PFF run-blocking grade, and a pass blocker, allowing just 14 pressures from 449 pass-blocking snaps.

Josh Downs was a dominant slot receiver at North Carolina, producing PFF receiving grades of 83.4 and 86.5 in each of the past two seasons.

Option 2: Wide Receiver at No. 14, Tackle at No. 46

The Patriots could also flip the order of receiver and tackle while still coming away with two quality prospects. Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba out-produced 2022 first-round picks Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave on a per-route basis in 2021 and produced elite numbers in the three-cone (6.57 seconds) and short-shuttle (3.39 seconds) drills at the 2023 NFL Scouting Combine.

Dawand Jones is an imposing force at tackle, producing an 85.0 PFF run-blocking grade and allowing just five pressures from 419 pass-blocking snaps this past season.

Option 3: Best Player Available at No. 14, Need at No. 46

This would be similar to the Baltimore Ravens landing safety Kyle Hamilton at Pick No. 14 a year ago. While safety is not a huge need for New England, a versatile defensive back is rarely a bad addition for an NFL team. Branch spent the bulk of his snaps in 2022 lined up in the slot, and he produced 85.0-plus PFF grades both in run defense and coverage.

Option 4: Trade down

With the way talent breaks down in this draft class, trading down 10 spots could net the Patriots a 2023 second-round pick this year and a 2024 third-round pick. They find some value here with Zay Flowers at Pick No. 24, before adding to the trenches with Will McDonald IV on defense and Matthew Bergeron on offense.

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