The New England Patriots have had a bit of an interesting offseason, and it remains to be seen whether or not they have actually improved themselves as a team to this point. They have had some key losses and additions in free agency, but perhaps more importantly, they have been swamped in speculation over the past few weeks, particularly when it comes to quarterback Mac Jones’ future with the team.
The Patriots needed a big offseason after missing the playoffs in 2022, but so far it’s been middling at best. Luckily for them, the 2023 NFL Draft is still on the calendar, and that will be the Pats best chance to make some big upgrades to their roster ahead of the upcoming season, a season in which there will surely be a lot at stake for several key members of the Patriots.
By now, there have been hundreds of mock drafts filled out by respective experts, and it seems like there won’t be a ton of big changes in terms of the draft board before the Carolina Panthers officially are on the clock. So with the draft quickly approaching, let’s take a look at three bold predictions for the Pats and see what moves they could end up making.
3. Patriots double down on offensive tackles in the fourth round
The Patriots have a couple of clear needs on their roster heading into the draft, with one of them being their offensive tackle position. New England’s o-line was a mess last season, but their tackle position, handled by Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown, was particularly bad. For that reason, it wouldn’t be surprising to see New England add an o-lineman with their first round pick for the second straight year.
New England hasn’t been totally idle at this position so far this offseason, adding Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson in free agency, which should help them out from a depth standpoint at the very least. Wynn almost certainly isn’t going to be returning to the team in free agency, and while Brown will be back in action, there is a vacant tackle spot across from him that needs someone to fill it.
Reiff and Anderson aren’t going to solve the issues at the tackle spot entirely, but given how it’s already been addressed in a sense, Bill Belichick may put off adding help here until later in the draft. New England will wait until Day 3 to add an offensive tackle, but they will do so by using two of their three fourth-round picks on this position of need.
2. Patriots don’t draft a wide receiver until Day 3
Another need the Patriots have comes at wide receiver, which was also dealt with in similar fashion as the tackle position in free agency. New England lost Jakobi Meyers to the Las Vegas Raiders, but they brought in JuJu Smith-Schuster to replace him, and still have DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, and Tyquan Thornton at the position as well.
Throughout the pre-draft process, New England has been tied to pretty much every top wide receiver available. This isn’t a super strong receiver draft class like it was last year, but Quentin Johnston, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Zay Flowers, and Jordan Addison have all been linked to the Pats. New England doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to drafting and developing top-tier wideouts, but they clearly need to get more help at this spot.
However, for fans who are hoping the Pats will finally draft a top wideout, don’t get your hopes up. They’ve already added Smith-Schuster and Mike Gesicki, a tight end who the team views more as a wide receiver, in free agency, and they drafted a young wideout in Thornton in the second-round last year. Don’t be surprised if the Pats wait until Day 3 to address this spot as well.
1. Patriots draft Devon Witherspoon with the 14th overall pick
There’s no doubt that the Patriots strength right now is their defense, but they need some reinforcements ahead of the 2023 season. New England did well to re-sign Jonathan Jones in free agency, but losing Devin McCourty to retirement is a huge loss. As a result tons of mock drafts have the Patriots addressing their secondary, particularly the cornerback spot, which makes Devon Witherspoon from Illinois a perfect fit.
Witherspoon is widely regarded as one of the top cornerbacks in this draft, if not the best one of them all. Witherspoon’s projected draft range seems to be in the 10-20 pick range in the first-round, and there’s a very good chance he will be available when the Patriots are up to pick. Witherspoon primarily plays corner, but he is an extremely versatile weapon in the secondary, which is something Belichick loves to have with his players.
Witherspoon can play in man or zone schemes, and is a willing tackler at the cornerback position, which also can’t be overlooked. The Patriots secondary could become a bit more of a zone based scheme, which means having good cover guys, regardless of position, is key. Witherspoon has the potential to become a lockdown number one corner, though, and if he falls to the Pats at 14, he will be headed to Foxboro.
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