The New England Patriots are locked into the No. 21 overall pick in the 2022 draft after their first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.
With a number of starters and key depth pieces set to hit free agency, the Patriots could go a lot of different directions with the selection.
For example, ESPN expert Mel Kiper Jr.’s first mock draft had New England pouncing on Alabama receiver Jameson Williams. Conversely, Daniel Jeremiah of the NFL Network had the team drafting Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis to give rookie standout Christian Barmore a proper running mate.
You could also make the case for the Patriots drafting an edge rusher, a cornerback — depending on what happens with JC Jackson — and a linebacker with Dont’a Hightower and Ja’Whaun Bentley hitting free agency.
Speaking strictly in terms of linebackers, Utah’s Devin Lloyd and Georgia’s Nakobe Dean are two clearcut first-round talents. However, Patriots beat reporter Even Lazar of CLNS Media isn’t sold on either player.
Lazar’s take on Lloyd was especially confounding.
Patriots reporter Evan Lazar isn’t high on Utah linebacker Devin Lloyd.
Lazar thinking Lloyd is “disappointing” is one thing given he’s received rave reviews from seemingly every expert in the industry. But that’s fine. He’s entitled to his own opinion. Maybe go into greater detail about what makes a player who could easily be drafted inside the top 10 so underwhelming?
Just a thought!
At 6-foot-3 and 232 pounds, Lloyd can adapt to a number of schemes. As a former safety, he’s capable of dropping back in coverage against tight ends, slot receivers and running backs, and has tremendous ball skills. In 2021 alone, he produced four interceptions (two pick-sixes) and six passes defended.
That experience at safety has blessed Lloyd with vision beyond his years. That, coupled with his ferocious downhill speed, has helped him become a consistent disruptor against the run (111 total tackles this season).
The million-dollar question is whether Lloyd projects as more of a weak-side LB who’s given the freedom to roam sideline to sideline, or a mike linebacker who calls out defensive signals and holds down the fort in the second level of the defense.
But that’s what makes him such a fun prospect. There really isn’t anything “disappointing” about his game that’s glaringly obvious on film.
Nobody’s saying that Lloyd will be a smashing success as a rookie — or that he’ll even fall to the Patriots at No. 21 overall — but don’t let skeptics like Lazar talk you out of the idea that he’d be a dream fit with Bill Belichick.