With the celebratory confetti from Super Bowl LIII still being shaken from the shoulders of the New England Patriots, an organizational eye is about to be sharply turned toward Nashville, Tennessee. With the 2019 NFL Draft set to begin on Thursday, April 25, the defending champions currently possess an abundant 12 selections; tying them with the New York Giants for the most in the league. Needless to say, the Patriots will be among the busiest teams on Draft Weekend.
New England is not a place for rebuilding, as much as it is reloading. Despite making some attempts to bolster their roster, the Patriots typically stayed quiet in free agency. As a result, they are likely looking toward the Draft to help craft their roster for the 2019 season. While a trade or two cannot be ruled out (in fact, it might be a very likely scenario), there are several collegiate hopefuls that can help to make an immediate impact on the Pats roster.
For the sake of this argument, it is assumed that the Patriots will make all twelve selections. Without further ado, here are the 2019 ‘Mike’s Mock’ Draft selections for your Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots
No. 32: Dexter Lawrence, DT Clemson
While there was a very strong temptation to select Kansas State’s offensive tackle, Dalton Risner here, it is unlikely (at least, in my humble opinion) that he will fall to the Patriots at 32. Risner’s stock has risen in the past couple of weeks and could be an earlier target for a team that is hungry for offensive line talent. As such, Lawrence’s selection at 32 gives him the ability to make an immediate impact on New England’s defensive line. The Patriots do have a need at this position (with the departures of Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton), and Lawrence would adequately fill the void. At 6’4”, 340 pounds, Lawrence shows tremendous conditioning and agility for a man of his size. He is among the best technical blockers in this draft class. Lawrence would be projected much higher, but for a positive test for ostarine (a muscle growth supplement) which kept him out of the College Football Playoffs. Despite his claim that he is unaware of what led to the failed test, Lawrence has been projected as a late-first round, or second-round selection. If available at 32, the Patriots might be able to land a potential steal at the end of the first round.
No. 56: Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington
McGary is being touted as a possible first-rounder, as of late. While that might be a bit overzealous, McGary has the tools to be a bona fide NFL offensive lineman. There is familiarity between McGary and the Patriots. Not only did he meet with the team at his Pro Day, he also paid a pre-draft visit to Foxboro. His 6’7” frame make him a sizable fit on the Pats’ offensive line; helping to lessen the impact of Trent Brown’s departure via free agency. McGary’s most natural fit would be at right tackle, thus bringing added power to the run game. However, he possesses the athleticism to play on the left, as well. With the proper tutelage under coach Dante Scarnecchia, McGary would project as a potential starter within his first two years in the league.
No. 64, Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
While no draft prospect can be expected to (literally and figuratively) fill the large shoes of Rob Gronkowski, Jace Sternberger might just be able to provide the greatest return on investment of any tight end in this year’s draft class. He is an athletic receiver with great hands and impressive size. Despite some questions regarding his blocking ability, Sternberger possesses enough of an upside to provide great value at the 64th pick.
No. 73, Chuma Edoga, OT, USC
In the unlikely event Edoga is available at 73, the Pats would be hard-pressed to pass on a potential gem, here. The common reaction to this selection will be “Another offensive lineman??? They already have Wynn and Cannon!” However, with the loss of LaAdrian Waddle (in addition to Trent Brown) the Pats lack depth on the line. Edoga has the length and athleticism to be an adequate pass-protector at left tackle. This will be especially appreciated should Isaiah Wynn need additional time to develop after his 2018 season-ending injury. As with McGary, Edoga would greatly benefit from Scarnecchia’s coaching. Should he learn greater efficiency in his movement, he could be a starter on the line, as well.
No. 97: Will Harris, S, Boston College
With the injury to Patrick Chung, the Patriots will look for insurance in the defensive backfield. Harris is a great athlete, and plays the position at a very physical level. He ran a 4.41-second 40-yard dash with a 6.91-second 3-cone drill and 4.12-second short shuttle at 6-foot-1, 207 pounds. As previously pointed out by NESN’s Doug Kyed, he could be an ideal option to cover tight ends in the NFL.
No. 101: Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia
While most will scoff at the idea of the Patriots waiting until the 101st pick to upgrade their receiving corps, the prospect of ‘value’ over ‘flash’ may prove to be the prudent course at wideout. Hardman was recently brought in for a pre-draft workout by the Pats. In his Junior season at Georgia, he had 35 receptions for 543 yards and seven touchdowns. In what may end up being his greatest asset to the team, Hardman proved to be quite adept at returning punts, having returned 16 in 2018.
No.134: Ben Banogu, EDGE, TCU
Some recent projections (most notably by Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal) have Banogu being selected via the 134th pick by the Patriots. Quite frankly, it is hard to disagree. Banogu is a raw, but athletic situational pass-rusher. At 6’3”, 250 pounds, Banogu could immediately contribute on the edge. The Patriots did meet with Banogu at the Senior Bowl, and also hosted him for a private workout.
No. 205: Jalen Hurd, WR
While 205 might be considered a bit early for Baylor WR Jalen Hurd, the Patriots are not afraid to use a higher choice to select a player, whom they have targeted. Hurd might be a sleeper pick in the 2019 NFL draft, and would be a welcomed addition to the Pats receiving corps. A converted running back, Hurd had 946 receiving yards on 69 catches with a total of seven touchdowns (four receiving, three rushing) in 2018.
At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds and an unofficial 40-yard dash time of 4.47 seconds, he’s an exceptional athlete with upside as a goal line or deep threat, with the proper development.
No. 239: Shareef Miller, EDGE, Penn State
Miller totaled 41 tackles with 15 for a loss and 7.5 sacks in 2018. The drawback with Miller is that he is considered an undersized player, at 6’4”, 254 pounds. However, there is undeniable talent and he could be a great value at 239 for the Patriots, who will appreciate the pass-rush assistance.
No. 243: Ken Webster, CB Ole Miss
If available at 243, the Patriots will certainly have interest in Webster. While the cornerback position is one of strength for the Pats, they always look to the draft for depth in the secondary. In 2018, Webster totaled 33 tackles, two interceptions and six passes batted. Webster has had some nagging injuries, which has lessened his draft value. However, he did run a 4.43 40-yard at the Combine, which was faster than expected. He might be a value pick for the Pats in the seventh round.
No. 246: Terez Hall, LB Missouri
Hall has a tangible upside. However, there are injury concerns. As a senior, Hall was slowed by a torn pectoral muscle. He totaled 45 tackles with five sacks, one forced fumble and one interception. He had 85 tackles with three passes batted in 2017. With the presence of Jerod Mayo on the New England’s defensive coaching staff, Hall may benefit from his coaching. A torn pectoral is an injury with which Mayo had dealt during his playing career.
No. 252: Taylor Cornelius, QB, Oklahoma
While Cornelius is projected as going undrafted, the Pats may be intrigued by the 6’6”, 232-pound quarterback from Oklahoma State. In his only season as the Cowboys’ starter, he threw for 32 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was also top 10 nationally in passing yards and passing touchdowns. His demonstrated arm strength and ability to move in the pocket could make him a potential selection, as the 2019 Draft comes to a close. While Cornelius was not invited to the Combine, the Patriots were present at his Pro Day workout.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and provides NFL editorial content. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC