The 2023 NFL Draft is right around the corner. As the draft is 10 days away, the New England Patriots have three clear needs entering the start of the three-day event: offensive tackle, cornerback and wide receiver.
Luckily for them, there’s (at least) one prospect at each position that conceivably could be available when they’re on the board with the No. 14 overall pick or someone they would be in striking distance to trade up for if they would like.
With that in mind, here is one draft prospect at each of the Patriots’ three biggest needs that they should draft with the No. 14 overall pick.
The Patriots need steady play at left tackle. Jones is the most reasonable draft prospect they can get to do that.
Coming out of Georgia, Jones is widely regarded as one of the best offensive tackle prospects in this spring’s draft. He didn’t allow a single sack in the Bulldogs’ quest to repeat as national champions. He gave up just seven hurries and two hits while playing left tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.
A year prior, Jones stepped up as a backup and started four games due to injuries among Georgia’s other offensive linemen. There wasn’t much of a difference for the Bulldogs as Jones gave up only sacks and five hurries over the 438 snaps he played in 2021, per PFF.
Look at Georgia LT Broderick Jones get out in space and get the kill shot on the DB. Bulldogs aren’t messing around on either side of the ball today. pic.twitter.com/Z9GblTFTVm
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) November 5, 2022
One of the edges that Jones has on Northwestern tackle Peter Skoronski, who is the other commonly viewed top tackle prospect in this draft, is his size. Jones is 6-foot-4 and with a near 35-inch arm length, he doesn’t have the same concerns that Skoronski does about being long enough to play offensive tackle.
Not only does Jones have strong size in his favor, but he also has elite athleticism for an offensive tackle. He ran a 4.97 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and had a 1.74 10-yard split. Jones’ performance in those two drills helped him earn high production and athleticism scores in Next Gen Stats’ system, which graded his performance as the second-best among all offensive tackles.
— NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2023
Sure, Jones doesn’t have the experience that some other offensive tackles have in this draft considering he only has one full season as a starter. But everything else is hard to ignore, and not to mention, he played well in the so-called limited action he saw.
Jones has the makings to be a great offensive tackle in the NFL – a claim that no one on the Patriots’ offensive line can currently make.
Joey Porter Jr.
There’s only one reason why the Patriots should draft Porter: they need to get bigger at corner.
OK, there’s more than just one reason. But size is something that the Patriots struggle with at the position. None of their main corners reach the six-foot threshold in height. The two corners they drafted last year, Jack Jones and Marcus Jones, are 5-foot-11 and 5-foot-8, respectively.
If you are an NFL team looking for a cornerback with an alpha mentality and some of the most absurd length you will ever see at the position, maybe I introduce to you: Joey Porter Jr. pic.twitter.com/QirD4XlMi1
— PJ Moran (@PJonDraft) April 14, 2023
The lack of size at corner might have been a big reason why the Patriots struggled against some of the game’s top receivers last season, such as Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs, even if they slowed down much of the competition they faced.
Porter certainly checks the size box. He checked in at the NFL Scouting Combine just a smidge over 6-foot-2 and weighed 193 pounds.
More importantly, Porter checks the talent box, too. The Penn State product shut down his opposing receivers in 2022. The receivers Porter covered in 2022 were targeted just 30 times over 10 games. He allowed just 15 of those targets to become receptions, totaling only 143 yards. Oh, and he didn’t give up a single touchdown this past season either, all per PFF.
After a remarkable collegiate career at Penn State, CB Joey Porter Jr. is primed for big things in his future @jjporter_1
— NFL (@NFL) April 12, 2023
Porter was impressive in his first two years of action at Penn State too, even if he wasn’t a full lockdown corner. He gave up 55 receptions on 86 targets for 585 yards, allowing six touchdowns over 21 games in the 2020 and 2021 seasons combined.
Porter’s commonly viewed in the mix as the top corner prospect in this draft class. If the Patriots can’t get Broderick Jones or another top offensive tackle on the board, their attention should move to Porter (if he’s available) with the No. 14 overall pick.
Checking the third of the Patriots’ three biggest needs in the draft, Smith-Njigba would be the best receiver option at No. 14.
Sure, he pretty much never played on the outside at Ohio State, but you can’t ignore the damage he did everywhere else. In a Buckeyes receiver room that included Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, Smith-Njigba was the one that led the team in receiving in 2021, recording 95 receptions for 1,606 yards and nine touchdowns.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) November 27, 2021
The biggest concern possibly surrounding Smith-Njigba was the hamstring injury he suffered in 2022, which caused him to only play in parts of three games.
But Smith-Njigba has been cleared to work out since he suffered the injury, and he showed out at the NFL Scouting Combine. He recorded 3.93-second 20-yard shuttle, which is the fourth-best by a receiver since 2007. He also recorded a 6.57-second three-cone drill, which is the 12th-best mark for a receiver since 2007. He didn’t run the 40 at the combine, opting to run it at Ohio State’s Pro Day instead, running a respectable 4.48 40-yard dash.
— NFL (@NFL) March 5, 2023
Smith-Njigba’s performance in the predraft drills should give some hope that he can at least play a little bit on the outside in the pros. His performance at Ohio State and his size should help, too. Smith-Njigba checked in at 6-foot-1 and 196 pounds at the combine, which should give him the size to hang with the big boys on the boundary.
Even if Smith-Njigba is more of a slot guy though, the Patriots could certainly use him. Following the departure of Jakobi Meyers, Mac Jones is in search of a safety valve replacement. JuJu Smith-Schuster, who the Patriots signed this offseason, is likely the leading in-house candidate. But the way the Patriots have run their offenses in the past, they could certainly operate with two middle-of-the-field receivers to help elevate their offense.
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