With the 2023 NFL draft just under a month away, the Patriots’ brass is hopefully solidifying their draft strategy. While Bill Belichick was relatively active in the free agency period, there are still various holes in the roster that can hopefully be filled with the team’s 11 draft picks come the weekend of April 27. In the mock draft below, I draft based on expectation and practicality; additionally, I strayed away from executing any trades, as it’s extremely difficult to predict them and doing so only adds more chaos into a mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 14: Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State
After re-signing Jonathan Jones to a fresh contract in early March, the Patriots secondary room felt refreshed. If Jones had been lost during free agency, the team would have needed to rely on turnstile Myles Bryant and inexperienced players such as Marcus and Jack Jones. However, even with Jonathan Jones’s return, the secondary still needs an influx of talent. Enter Joey Porter Jr. A four-star recruit when he entered Penn State in 2019, Porter Jr. burst onto the scene in 2021 after amassing 50 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups. Listed at 6’2” and 193 pounds, he is the ideal size for a Steve Belichick defensive back. In a stacked cornerback draft class, Joey Porter Jr. might slide on day 1 to the Patriots, which would be an absolute steal for the organization.
Round 2, Pick 15: Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson
While Ja’Whaun Bentley continues to improve each season, the right inside linebacker position is currently vacant. Jahlani Tavai is the supposed starter next season with Raekwon McMillan lurking as the backup, and I don’t have much trust in that duo. Instead, Belichick should draft a do-it-all linebacker in Trenton Simpson. While many will compare him to draft bust Isaiah Simmons, Simpson fits a better mold for the linebacker position. At Clemson, he was rarely asked to fill in as an inside linebacker; however, his versatility will allow Jerod Mayo — the inside linebackers coach — and Belichick to form him into a cornerstone on this defense.
Round 3, Pick 76: Blake Freeland, OT, BYU
While I watched the offensive tackles fly off the board in the first two rounds, I was still confident I’d find a day 1 starter in round 3. BYU’s Freeland does have his weaknesses, but his size (6’8”, 307 pounds) and durability would be beneficial to protecting quarterback Mac Jones in 2023. With free agent acquisition Riley Reiff manning the right tackle position, Freeland can work behind the veteran and be eased into NFL game speed in his first year.
Many pundits jab at Coach Bill Belichick’s unorthodox draft strategy, as most of their early round picks (N’Keal Harry being one of them), have rarely panned out to be stars. I urge the Patriots’ brass to focus on drafting for need within this draft, as foundational pieces are crucial if they want to build a future dynasty in New England.