Round One, Pick 32: Jerry Tillery, DL (Notre Dame)
Belichick has an extensive track record of swapping selections on draft day, so it should be no surprise if New England never ends up making a pick at 32. And while he tends to trade down, this year’s treasure trove of 12 draft picks gives Belichick plenty of ammunition should he fancy a top-31 prospect. Personally, I’d like to see the Patriots package #32 with a day two pick to move up a handful of slots and grab either Iowa’s Noah Fant (Tight End) or Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry (Wide Receiver). That said, if New England does stand pat, Tillery makes a lot of sense. After watching former 32nd overall pick Malcolm Brown walk in free agency, the Patriots are dangerously thin on the interior of their defensive line, and the addition of Mike Pennel and his one career sack will do little to fill that void. Even if Danny Shelton does re-sign, his one-dimensional style of play will prevent him from seeing the field on all three downs. Undrafted free agent Adam Butler has shown promise, and Lawrence Guy figures to be a stabilizing veteran presence, but the thought of either seeing the field for over half of New England’s defensive stats is terrifying. Tillery, meanwhile, has shown the ability to rush the passer, registering seven sacks in his senior year, and his imposing 6’ 7,” 305-pound frame gives him exciting potential as a run stuffer.
Round Two, Pick 56: Kelvin Harmon, WR (NC State)
Whether Josh Gordon suits up for New England in week one or not, Tom Brady is in desperate need of additional pass catchers. As of now, the Patriots have exactly zero wide receivers under contract beyond the 2019 season, and while Julian Edelman seems a sure bet to re-sign, an injection of youth into the receivers room seems necessary. At 6’ 2” and 221 pounds, Harmon is a big, physical receiver capable of making contested catches. Crucially, however, he’s also an adept route runner, affording him a playstyle that can find success with or without the jump ball. Harmon is no burner, but his 4.6 40-yard dash is not far off from the likes of Dez Bryant, Davante Adams, and Keenan Allen, all excellent receivers who are roughly the same height and weight as Harmon. Pairing Harmon with Gordon would give Brady a dynamic tandem of outside-the-numbers threats that could help stretch the field and ease the burden of replacing Rob Gronkowski’s red zone contributions. Although Belichick has been largely unsuccessful at drafting wide receivers in the past, Harmon’s tremendous blocking, a quality Belichick values very highly in his offensive skilled positions, should make Harmon all the more enticing of a commodity at pick 56.
Round Two, Pick 64: Jachai Polite, EDGE (Florida)
Even before budding star Trey Flowers left for Detroit in Free Agency, a retooling of the defensive end group was in order. A starting tandem of newly acquired Michael Bennet and third-year Deatrich Wise would be subpar but serviceable. Although it seldom translated to eye-popping sack numbers, Trey Flower’s contributions were consistent and impactful. In his third and fourth seasons, he tallied 23 total tackles for loss, became a highly disruptive presence on New England’s run defense, and generated constant pass rush. He finished 2018 as Pro Football Focus’ 6th highest rated edge rusher. The addition of veteran Michael Bennet should largely offset Flowers’ exit, but Bennet’s advancing age prevents him from being a long term solution, and Deatrich Wise hasn’t proven himself consistent enough in either the run or pass rush games to merit much respect as a week one starter. Jachai Polite, however, at 6’ 3” and 258 pounds, has a similar frame to that of Flowers, and his impressive tally of 11 sacks and 6 forced fumbles in his junior year at Florida suggest he could be an impact pass rusher early on, with solid upside to become a strong all-around defensive end.
Round Three, Pick 73: Jace Sternberger, TE (Texas A&M)
The retirement of Rob Gronkowski leaves a massive hole at tight end that will likely never be completely filled. Likewise, Dwayne Allen’s release, though unlikely to impact the passing game or be nearly as noticeable on the stat sheet, removes a vital component of New England’s run blocking game. In his collegiate career, Sternberger proved himself a capable pass catcher, hauling in 48 receptions for over 830 yards in his final season. While TJ Hockenson, Noah Fant, and Irv Smith Jr are almost certain to be the first three tight ends off of the board, a year or two under the Patriots system will give Sternberger every chance to become an impact starter.
Round Three, Pick 97: Andy Isabella, WR (UMass)
Grabbing Harmon at pick 56 shouldn’t be cause to pass on Isabella, who would be a steal at the end of round three. The UMass product’s small frame and impressive short area quickness make him a prototypical New England slot receiver, but Isabella’s blazing 4.27 speed has earned him Brandin Cooks comparisons and allowed him to stretch the field in a way that few others can. It seems to me that the Ohio native’s draft stock has been impacted far too heavily by his lack of experience against elite competition in college, While at UMass, Isabella made the most out of his few opportunities against highly regarded programs. Against Georgia earlier this year, the speedster produced an eye-popping stat line of 15 receptions, 219 yards, and 2 TDs. In his final collegiate season, Isabella posted 102 catches for 1,698 yards and 13 TDs. Pairing the lightning-quick Isabella with the long, athletic Harmon would afford the Patriots a one-of-a-kind receiving duo for years to come.
Round Three, Pick 101: Christian Miller, EDGE (Alabama)
Although he figures to play linebacker in the NFL, Miller has the size to line up at defensive end without being overpowered. At Alabama, Miller’s explosiveness, as demonstrated by his 38.5” vertical jump, helped him tally 8.5 sacks and 35 total tackles in his final year. While New England’s linebacker room looks solid for the moment, featuring Dont’a Hightower, Kyle Van Noy, Elandon Roberts, and Ja’Whuan Bentley, adding Miller, who could help fill the team’s defensive end void for the meantime, would give the Patriots some valuable leverage in Van Noy’s impending free agency.
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