In less than 24 hours, the time for the talk will be over. The 2018 NFL Draft will have begun and 32 NFL teams will be deeply entrenched in the process of helping to improve their present while securing their future.
While the Draft is an important time for every NFL team, there is a great deal of focus on the New England Patriots, and with due cause. To say the least, it has been an interesting offseason. Following their Super Bowl LII loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Pats have seen several key players depart via free agency. They have also been subject to a barrage of questions regarding the relationships of their coach, training staff, owner and superstar players.
Despite the offseason issues that have surrounded the team, the Patriots still face the task of adding a complement of young players to an older roster at this year’s Draft. They have needs at linebacker, secondary, left tackle, and even at quarterback. Luckily for New England, they have amassed quite the amount of draft capital heading into Thursday. The Pats have eight selections overall, including two first rounders and two second rounders.
Who might they select? Only the ‘brain trust’ led by head coach Bill Belichick knows for sure. However, here is my attempt to gaze into the Belichickian Crystal Ball and prognosticate the likeness to which the 2018 NFL Draft might hold for the New England Patriots.
Without further ado, I present to you, the FPC Patriots Mock Draft for 2018:
(NOTE: The follwing is based on the Patriots selections, as of April 25, 2018. No trades were considered for the purposes of this Mock Draft)
1st round — 23rd overall – Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
1st round — 31st overall – Connor Williams, OT, Texas
2nd round — 43rd overall – Lorenzo Carter, EDGE, Georgia
2nd round — 63rd overall – Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
3rd round — 95th overall – Dalton Schultz, TE, Stanford
6th round — 198th overall – Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame
6th round — 210th overall – Davontae Harris, CB, Illinois State
7th round — 219th overall – Kamathi Holsey WR, Buffalo
Projected to be a late first rounder, Evans can do it all. In fact, some have considerd him to be a potential Draft ‘steal.’ His talent all but gaurantees that he will produce as an active tackler from any spot on the second level. With Evans playing in tandem (at least early) with fellow Tide alum Dont’a Hightower, the Patriots would have a force at linebacker in the next couple years. Therefore, why hasn’t Rashaan Evans been projected as a higher selection? It’s a good question, with a good answer.
Several teams questioned Evans’ speed going into the pre-draft process. The fact that he did not run the forty at the Combine or his pro day will raise some red flags about his athleticism. Therefore, it’s not a surprise that his draft stock has fallen a bit in the last couple of weeks. However, the Patriots are fearless when they identify talent and potential. Evans certainly has both. Last year for Alabama, Evans posted 31 total pressures, seven of them resulted in sacks. He also surrendered just 6.9 yards per reception into his coverage, with two pass break-ups and just one touchdown allowed. Evans also recorded 13 tackles for loss to go along with his 74 tackles. Because of his production in 2017, Evans was named to the All-SEC and All-American team. As a result, the Patriots would be more than justified in selecting Evans with the 23rd pick to vastly improve their defense for 2018 and beyond.
At this time last year, many had touted Williams as a top 10 pick in the 2018 draft. Until recenlty, Williams had been projected as an early first rounder. However, there has recently been a great deal of emphasis on his ‘sub-par’ season in 2017. Williams also has an injury history that might make teams squeamish. In fact, it has already begun to affect his draft stock.
Despite the concerns, he has pro-bowl caliber talent and the Patriots recognize it. Dante Scarnecchia is one of the top offensive line coaches in the NFL. If there is anyone that can develop a player like this and get the most out of him, it is Coach Scarnecchia. If he can revert to his old form, Williams could end up being the best offensive tackle from this year’s draft. He is a fluid athlete that can kick-slide and glide when asked to block in space. When looking for a left tackle, while size and strength are valued by the league, with teams getting faster and lighter each and every year, athleticism is one of the key traits for any player and Williams is one of the more athletic lineman in this class.
After losing Nate Solder to free agency, the Patriots have a need for help at left tackle. In recent projections, Notre Dame OT Mike McGlinchey has overtaken Williams on the depth chart. In fact, many have speculated that McGlinchey might even be gone by the time the Patriots make their first selection at 23. While rumors abound that the Patriots have become quite enamored with McGlinchey, they would be more than happy to select Williams to potentially fill their void at left tackle.
Carter possesses the height and athleticism that would make him a formidable edge rusher for the Patriots. It’s no secret that the Patriots struggled mightily in the pass rush last season. Carter can adequately rush the passer and even play as an off-ball linebacker. While he may need to add a bit more strength to defend against the run, he possesses flashes of high-caliber speed, and ability to bend around the edge. He may need to add more strength to aid his cause against the run, should he play three downs. Ideally, Carter could rotate with Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn initially as he gets acclimated to the NFL, giving the Patriots a massively upgraded pass rush for 2018.
Lauletta has been linked to the Patriots in many mock drafts this year, and the 63rd pick seems to be the consensus spot for his selection. He put up some impressive numbers at Richmond. He completed 67 percent of his passes last fall, had three-straight 3,000-yard seasons. Over the last three years, he increased his touchdown pass total from 19 (to start) to 24 and then 28. Lauletta’s draft stock rose prominently after his MVP-winning performance at the Senior Bowl. Scouts were impressed with the speed and quickness with which he was able to pick up schemes and game plans. Often compared to former Patriot and current 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, Lauletta might prove to be a wise selection for the Pats in the second round.
This offseason may have given the Patriots second thoughts about looking toward the future at the tight end position. Scouts have praised Schultz and see him as a do-it-all Y tight end. He is a good route-runner, excellent at catching the ball, and a really good blocker. As a third-round projection, he might be sleeper selection, with ‘steal’ potential.
While operating in Stanford’s ground-based offense, Schultz totaled 22 receptions for 212 yards and three touchdowns. In 2017, Stanford used Schultz’s blocking skill to help open holes for Bryce Love. Against Notre Dame, Schultz put those well-rounded skills on display by opening holes in the ground game and also making an athletic touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. As an adept blocker and receiver, he looks to fit the mold of the prototypical Patriots tight end quite nicely. It also would not hurt to know that he would be learning from the best tight end in football in Rob Gronkowski.
Late Round Impact:
The Patriots might look for running back assistance late in the draft. However, they would obtain a more than capable runner in Adams, should he be available in the sixth round. The Notre Dame back ran really well in 2017, with the Fighting Irish fielding one of the best ground attacks in the nation. Behind a tremendous offensive line, Adams was a tough runner, He can use his size to be a downhill power back while still possessing enough quickness to break off long runs. Adams averaged 6.9 yards per carry for 1,430 yards with nine touchdowns on the year. He had 13 receptions for 101 yards as well. Adams ran for 933 yards as a sophomore after putting up 835 yards as a freshman.
Harris impressed scouting sources early in the 2017 season. However, scouts have said that Harris’ tape late in the year wasn’t as good. He also was not overly impressive in St. Petersburg at the East-West Shrine. Harris has enough size, but he struggles with speed downfield. In 2017, Harris totaled 57 tackles with two interceptions, 14 passes broken up, two sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss. Still, Harris ran well and showed some developmental potential at the combine. As one to always prioritize ‘value to the team.’ Belichick might look to bolster his secondary by drafting Harris in the waning hours of the 2018 Draft.
Holsey, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound wideout from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is a Junior College transfer who enjoyed a breakout senior campaign at the University of Buffalo. Holsey was one of the Bulls most productive players. In 2017, the Bulls were 22nd in the country in passing and offense. Holsey was a large part of the reason why. He finished the season with 32 receptions for 548 yards and a touchdown. In addition to a very capable skillset, Holsey would provide the Pats with a wideout, rich in heart and determination. Based on the Patriots history at the position, Holsey seems to fit the prerequisites quite nicely.
The first round of the NFL Draft begins Thursday night at 8 pm, with Rounds 2-3 on Friday night and Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC.