Five Day 2 Targets For Patriots
A good rule of thumb is to wait at least three years before grading a team’s draft, so it seems silly to declare the Patriots winners less than 24 hours after round one has been completed, but here we are.
By trading down from 14 overall to 17 overall, New England (1) acquired an additional fourth-rounder this year, (2) selected blue chip corner Christian Gonzalez from Oregon (who we projected in our previous piece last week), and (3) blocked division rival New York Jets plans from selecting OT Broderick Jones. How’s that for night one?
Gonzalez is a height/weight/speed freak who will immediately be the Patriot’s biggest cornerback and bolster a secondary in need of talent. With rounds two and three taking place tonight, let’s take a look at five prospects who New England should be looking at close:
5. OT Cody Mauch (North Dakota State)
In our round-one preview, we called Mauch a dark-horse round-one candidate for New England. With an aging and thin depth chart at OT, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Patriots addressed this position with multiple selections over the next two days. Mauch is an experienced, versatile, talented offensive line prospect who fits the mold of previous Belichick selections.
4. OT Matt Bergeron (Syracuse)
Like Mauch, Bergeron is a versatile tackle prospect whose future may be best suited inside based on his run-blocking strength and inconsistent footwork in pass protection. However, he’s an athletic OL who has started games all four years, spending the last two at left tackle, earning second-team all-conference honors this past season.
3. TE Darnell Washington (Georgia)
While the Patriots seem set at tight end this season with Hunter Henry and newly signed receiving weapon Mike Gesicki, Henry will be a free agent after the season, and we all know how Belichick feels about his dual TE sets. With Washington still, on the board, he’s a possible selection for the Patriots at 46 overall.
With a massive frame at 6’7 265 pounds, Washington is an excellent and willing blocker who could act as a defacto sixth offensive lineman in dual TE sets. A five-star prospect coming out of high school, Washington was underutilized in the passing game but could be an attractive option and safety net for QB Mac Jones.
2. WR Jalin Hyatt (Tennessee)
It will be hard to properly grade QB Mac Jones with the current WR core New England has surrounded him with. There are pieces to like, no doubt, but it looks to be one of the least talented or reliable groups in the league. The team selected burner Tyquan Thornton in round two last year; he struggled to find rapport with Mac all season after breaking his clavicle in training camp.
Jalin Hyatt flashed his explosive big-play ability last season, earning first-team all-SEC honors, becoming a unanimous all-American, and winning the Biletnikoff award as the nation’s best receiver. While he does struggle with a limited route tree, there’s no coaching his speed and ability to take the top off a defense, opening up routes underneath for an offense that struggled with big-play ability.
1. S Brian Branch (Alabama)
There’s no question the Patriots have benefitted from the bromance between Bill Belichick and Alabama HC Nick Saban. This relationship goes back more than 30 years, when they worked together on the same staff for the Cleveland Browns.
With the retirement of beloved safety Devin McCourty this offseason, we could see New England look to bolster the position group with another Alabama standout, Brian Branch. A multi-year starter, Branch possesses solid size for the position, versatility as a nickel corner or free safety, and a reputation as an intelligent player with great instincts.