Last week, the Patriots traded Brandin Cooks and a fourth-round pick to the Los Angeles Rams for the 23rd-overall pick and a sixth-round pick. It’s a disappointing end to Cooks’ short time in New England, but it’s certainly a favorable deal. I’ll let @LateRoundQB explain why:
Patriots just got a higher first-round pick than they gave up last year, all while having Brandin Cooks for a year on a rookie deal. They own this league.
— JJ Zachariason (@LateRoundQB) April 3, 2018
This trade will have major implications for the team’s draft strategy. The team now owns two first-round picks (23rd and 31st) in addition to their dual second-round selections (43rd and 63rd). That’s a substantial amount of draft capital, and it gives the front office a number of options. Forecasting Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio’s approach to the draft has always been a futile exercise. However, between the Patriots’ new draft picks and their…ahem…depleted depth chart in the wake of free agency, it’s worth revisiting the idea of a mock draft. Let’s dive in.
1st round – No. 23 overall: Rashaan Evans, LB, Alabama
For the record- I don’t think the Patriots will be trading up for a quarterback. If Buffalo, equipped with the 12th and 22nd overall picks, is having trouble moving up, how are the Patriots going to? Plus, they’ve already shown interest in a few mid-round prospects at the position. I think the front office has a 2012-type first round in mind where they’re able to net two impact players. Evans is a do-it-all linebacker with sound instincts who can play on at least two downs immediately.
1st round – No. 31 overall: Kolton Miller, OT, UCLA
Okay, maybe Miller isn’t an immediate impact player, per se. That being said, I seriously hope that La’Adrian Waddle is not a part of Bill Belichick’s long-term plans at left tackle. Nate Solder’s departure has left a hole on the offensive line that will need to be filled eventually. Ironically, Miller has drawn comparisons to Solder for his immense size (6-9!), athleticism, and raw game. Give offensive line coach Dante Scarneccia a year with him and in 2024 he’ll be jumping ship to New York for a fat payday.
2nd round – No. 43 overall: Dorance Armstrong, EDGE, Kansas
The signing of Adrian Clayborn has left the Patriots depth chart a bit crowded at defensive end. Derek Rivers, Clayborn, Deatrich Wise, and Trey Flowers will all compete for playing time, but Rivers is the only pure pass rusher of the bunch. Armstrong is a physically gifted edge rusher with similar measurables to Chandler Jones, a player the Patriots’ defense has been missing lately.
2nd round – No. 63 overall: Projected TRADE with Houston Texans
Patriots receive: 80th overall pick, 103rd overall pick
Texans receive: 63rd overall pick
The Patriots strike a deal with their minor league team to begin shoring up their depleted middle-round draft capital.
3rd round- No. 80 overall: Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
I’ve written and heard so much about Lauletta being linked to the Patriots over the past three months that I’m having a hard time picturing him in any other team’s uniform. Maybe that’s a bit far-fetched, but I think it makes too much sense not to happen. Even Armchair’s own Rob Paul compares him to Jimmy Garoppolo (though he has him going 11 picks earlier to the New York Giants).
3rd round – No. 95 overall: Holton Hill, CB, Texas
The Patriots traded for Jason McCourty, which should help assuage the impact of Malcolm Butler’s absence. However, Eric Rowe’s contract is up next spring, and the Patriots would be wise to draft a potential replacement. Hill has the requisite size (6-3) and length to play on the outside, but he isn’t ready to start yet.
4th round – No. 103 overall: Projected TRADE with Seattle Seahawks
Patriots receive: 120th overall pick, 146th overall pick
Seahawks receive: 103rd overall pick
Trading away picks that he just traded for is one of Bill Belichick’s favorite pastimes, along with blood magic and drafting left-footed punters.
4th round – No. 120 overall: Colby Gossett, OL, Appalachian St.
Gossett is the quintessential Belichick lineman: durable (started 46 straight games in college) and versatile (has starting experience at both guard and tackle). The Patriots’ depth at the interior offensive line positions is thin, and Gossett can be groomed as a potential replacement for Marcus Cannon (age) or Shaq Mason ($$$) in a few years.
5th round – No. 146 overall: Brandon Parker, OT, North Carolina A&T
The Patriots will probably double-dip at tackle, given that they also lost Cameron Fleming in free agency. Parker is a tall, long tackle who needs to fill out his frame and work on his hand technique.
6th round – No. 198 overall: Troy Apke, DB, Penn. State
Apke was a sensation at the combine, posting a 4.34-second 40-yard dash and a 41-inch vertical. He’s a developmental safety with immediate special teams upside. Even though the Patriots recently extended special teams aces Matthew Slater, Nate Ebner, and Brandon King, Apke is intriguing enough to merit the selection.
6th round – No. 210 overall: Jordan Thomas, TE, Mississippi St.
Thomas hardly has any football on his résumé, but his size and basketball background naturally make him intriguing. Martellus Bennett’s retirement, Dwayne Allen’s awfulness, and the retirement talks swirling around Rob Gronkowski surely have Bill Belichick thinking about the future at tight end. Thomas is a dart throw, but that’s what the late rounds are for.
7th round- No. 219 overall: Steven Dunbar, WR, Houston
The Brandin Cooks trade and Danny Amendola’s departure have thinned out the Patriots receiving corps, but Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell will be returning. Still, the team could look for depth and camp bodies in the late stages of the draft. Dunbar is a hard-working receiver with good size who will compete for a roster spot.