Potential 1st-Round Targets For New England
With the 2023 NFL draft scheduled for tonight at 8 pm, we’ll be taking a look at the Patriots drafting at 14th overall. This year will be the 24th with Bill Belichick in the Patriots draft room.
In the Belichick era, the Patriots have executed over 80 draft-day trades, a league-high. Known for trading back in the draft, New England has traded back in two of the last three years, including last year’s deal that sent the 21st overall pick to Kansas City for picks 29, 94, and 121.
New England is also known for out-of-the-box selections, defying mock draft consensus, and zigging when others zag. We saw this last year with the first-round selection of Cole Strange lesser, known Tennessee-Chattanooga.
I’ll note that we will not be projecting the Patriots to draft a running back (sorry, Bijan Robinson fans) or a wide receiver (although we do like Jaxon Smith-Njigba’s chances at being a good pro).
Without further ado, here are our top five prospects we believe could be available options:
1. OT Broderick Jones (Georgia)
After redshirting his first year in the program in 2020, Jones started four games in the Bulldogs’ 2021 national championship campaign before starting all fifteen games last year, helping Georgia win back-to-back national titles. A former five-star prospect, he possesses good size and is an A+ athlete as a former basketball player.
Jones does need help with some technique, especially in pass protection, but his ceiling is sky-high as a franchise left tackle. If he’s available, the Patriots would be lucky to select him.
2. CB Joey Porter Jr (Penn State)
Patriots fans of a certain age know Porter Jr’s father, Joey Porter, from his stints as a thorn in the side with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Miami Dolphins. Joey Porter Jr channels his father’s physicality as a tough press-cornerback who should excel in New England’s scheme and give the Patriots an option against bigger receivers and tight ends.
While there are concerns about his fast-twitch ability, Porter Jr was first-team All-Big 10 last year and recipient of the Nittany Lions Most Valuable Defensive Player Award.
3. CB Christian Gonzalez (Oregon)
A four-star recruit coming out of high school in 2020, Gonzalez played his first season for the Colorado Buffaloes before transferring to Oregon in 2021. He’s been a three-year starter and presents an intriguing combination of height/weight/speed at the position.
Gonzalez had an off-the-charts combine, with a 4.38 forty-yard dash, 41.5” vertical jump, and 11’1” broad jump. After earning All-Pac 12 honorable mention in 2021 and first-team All-Pac 12 honors last season, Gonzalez would step in and immediately become the biggest corner on the roster.
4. OT Cody Mauch (North Dakota State)
It wouldn’t be a Belichick draft without an out-of-the-box FCS selection, and Cody Mauch is just that. At 6’5” and 302 pounds, Mauch was an AP second-team All-American in 2021 and AP first-team All-American in 2022, starting all games in both years. Mauch excels as a run-blocker and in blitz pickup; however, his shorter arm length may dictate a move from tackle to guard.
5. CB Deonte Banks (Maryland)
While he hasn’t been a prospect the Patriots have brought in for a visit or really focused on in particular, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see New England select Banks in round 1. Similar to Christian Gonzalez, Banks had a terrific combine and possesses a great blend of height, weight, and speed for the position, at 6’0” tall and nearly 200 pounds.
Banks needs to improve ball skills, especially with his back to the ball, but has good size/speed and has shown a tendency to be physical in press coverage as a disruptor.