7-round mock draft: Patriots load up on defensive playmakers

Ladies and gentlemen, we have made it! Happy Draft Day to all those who celebrate! All of the mock drafts, research, arguing over who is better is now over, and it is time to do the real thing.

As for the New England Patriots, with just three picks inside the top 100 and a need for playmaking and depth on both sides of the ball, there is a good chance we will see some trade action on Thursday night. The Patriots might value the middle rounds of this weekend’s draft in order to get the best value at specific needs – which leads us to …

Our final seven-round mock draft of this year. Here’s a stab at how I think the draft may shake out for New England. If you want to compare results to previous mocks, here are my mock drafts 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0.

Please click here for an in-depth look at all 2022 NFL Draft prospects and here for Keagan Stiefel and my 2022 Patriots Top 50 Big Board.

Trades

Round 1, Pick 31 (via CIN): LB Quay Walker, Georgia

There hasn’t been a linebacker receiving as much buzz as Quay Walker recently. Initially viewed as a Day 2 pick, he has steadily climbed up draft boards ever since his performances in the pre-draft process going all the way back to his week in Mobile at the Senior Bowl. He is getting some serious first-round hype right now.

It is no surprise. Walker certainly looks the part and at 6-foot-4, 241 pounds fits the physical mold the Patriots are looking for. He also flashes athleticism and coverage ability at the second level.

With New England looking to get more athletic at linebacker without compromising size, Walker might be a slam-dunk pick late in the first round. He would have the opportunity to see prominent snaps as a Mike linebacker right away, and help the team start life after long-time captain Dont’a Hightower.

For more on Walker, please check out Keagan’s draft profile on him.

Round 2, Pick 54: DL DeMarvin Leal, Texas A&M

The Patriots continue to bolster their front seven, snagging DeMarvin Leal here at pick No. 54. Leal was viewed as a top edge rusher in the class headed into the 2022 college football season, but after the rise of Georgia’s Travon Walker and Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson has pushed him down a few spots. He might be available in the second round, but don’t sleep on his upside.

At 6-foot-4, 290 pounds, Leal lined up all over the Aggies’ defensive front. He offers a raw mix of size, speed and explosiveness that could be a true chess piece for Bill Belichick along the line of scrimmage. After the departure of both Chase Winovich and Kyle Van Noy, the Patriots could use some help across from Matthew Judon and Leal should provide that and more from the moment he arrives at 1 Patriot Place.

Round 2, Pick 63 (via CIN): WR John Metchie III, Alabama

The Patriots got a nice surprise in Kendrick Bourne in 2021 with his ability to make plays after the catch, but they are still lacking a true playmaker and speedy threat that can challenge defenses on all three levels. Enter John Metchie.

Metchie teamed up with Mac Jones in 2020 en route to Alabama’s perfect 13-0 season that finished off with a National Championship. He caught 150 passes for over 2,000 yards over the last two seasons and looks to be one of the best prospects that will likely be off the board some time on Day 2.

While he is coming off an ACL injury, Metchie told reporters and teams at the Scouting Combine that he expects to compete in all offseason team activities. That optimistic outlook has not changed since. With Jones’ development priority No. 1 for the Patriots, they land arguably his favorite target from his time at Alabama to help get more explosive on offense.

Round 3, Pick 85: G Dylan Parham, Memphis

There is a lot of buzz about the Patriots addressing their interior offensive line early on in the NFL Draft. However, with their recent history of drafting elite guards in the middle rounds, they might just decide to wait a little before addressing the position. In this scenario, they land Dylan Parham in Round 3.

Parham, who stands at 6-foot-3, 311 pounds, has all the tools to be able to come in and start for the Patriots alongside fellow interior linemen Michael Onwenu and David Andrews. He is a smooth and athletic prospect, who also flashes the ability to move well laterally and hold his own in the run game.

For more on Parham, please take a look at Keagan’s draft profile of him.

Round 4, Pick 137 (via CAR): OT Kellen Diesch, Arizona State

Similar to the situation they had during the 2021 season, the Patriots don’t have much of a plan beyond 2022 at both tackle spots. Isaiah Wynn will play 2022 on his fifth-year option while Trent Brown was brought back on a two-year, incentive-heavy deal. While both tackles have been productive, it is no secret they have struggled to stay on the field consistently.

With not much depth at the swing tackle position and the Patriots potentially looking for a developmental piece to take over in 2023, they land a potential stud here in the fourth round. Kellen Diesch was one of Pro Football Focus’ top-ranked tackles during the 2021 college football season and has all the tools to be able to compete at either starter spot at the pro level.

Round 6, Pick 183: CB Derion Kendrick, Georgia

With JC Jackson playing elsewhere and the Patriots’ lack of additions on the outside, it is almost a given they will address the cornerback position at some point in the 2022 draft. If they select to wait, Derion Kendrick might be a player to watch.

A former wide receiver who started his career at Clemson before finishing up at Georgia this past season, Kendrick brings a good mix of athleticism and experience to the position. Kendrick. He improved mightily as his college career went on and flashes his receiver skills when mirroring opponents.

Kendrick has the length and physicality the Patriots are typically looking for in their outside corners and will have the opportunity to become a late-round gem for any NFL team looking for a guy to come in and develop. He would give New England a high-upside option at a minimal cost.

Round 6, Pick 210: WR Slade Bolden, Alabama

Why not draft all of the Alabama receivers? Kidding … sort of. All jokes aside, Bolden is best friends with Mac Jones and displays all of the traits the Patriots look for in their receivers when drafting them in the late rounds.

He idolized Patriots legend Julian Edelman and could be able to carve out a role for himself if given the opportunity to do so. Although he’s not as physically gifted as most receivers-which might lead to him maybe even going undrafted-Bolden wins with toughness and has an elite motor and competitiveness to be able to out-will defenders in the intermediate part of the field. The fit is there.

For more on Bolden, please check out Keagan’s draft profile.

Round 7, Pick 245: S Brad Hawkins, Michigan

If the Patriots come away with any safety from Michigan at any point in the draft this weekend, it would be a win for them. Although a lot of the pre-draft buzz is surrounding Daxton Hill (and deservedly so), Hawkins is a nice late-round find for the Patriots as they dip into the Wolverine pipeline to cap off their 2022 draft.

Hawkins brings leadership and experience to a crowded positional group. Although he is viewed as a late Day 3 pick, he could have the opportunity to carve out a role for himself at some point due to his traits and special teams abilities.

So, there you have it: the final mock draft of the year. Whether or not any of the projected picks or trades will actually happen remains to be seen, but the Patriots certainly will have their options to improve a roster in need of young talent on both sides of the ball.

With that said, what do you think of this proposed haul?

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