Perfect Patriots Day 2 draft target could miss entire 2022 season

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 16: Damone Clark #18 of the LSU Tigers (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA - OCTOBER 16: Damone Clark #18 of the LSU Tigers (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The New England Patriots have some holes on defense that might need to be addressed throughout the 2022 offseason, with the NFL Draft serving as a perfect opportunity for them to replenish their depth chart with young talent. One player that once made a ton of sense at linebacker was LSU product Damone Clark.

At 6-3 and 245 pounds, Clark can be a force in between the tackles while showing off stronger sideline-to-sideline speed and pre-snap intuition. With Bill Belichick’s known affinity for SEC players, going to a blue blood like LSU and picking Clark in the second round seemed like a classic maneuver.

Unfortunately, it looks like Clark will have to put his NFL debut on ice for a bit. The injury that Clark is undergoing treatment for could knock him off of New England’s board when the second or third round comes along. Simply put, it’s a crippling blow to his stock as a prospect.

Clark is undergoing spinal fusion surgery to clean up a herniated disk in his back that was discovered at the combine. While he is expected to eventually make a full recovery, it appears as though he will miss the entire 2022 season. That will scare away a good chunk of the league.

Will the New England Patriots still draft Damone Clark?

Clark recorded an insane 136 tackles this year, making up for a somewhat sluggish 2020 season. A team captain who wore LSU’s prestigious No. 18, Clark could’ve been a long-term developmental project that New England might try to mold into a Dont’a Hightower successor. 

The Patriots could pivot to using that second-round pick on either a wide receiver to help out Mac Jones or a cornerback that makes up for the loss of JC Jackson in free agency. Clark has to feel heartbroken, as no team will likely use a pick that high on someone with such radioactive stock.

If the Patriots still want to draft a linebacker, alternatives like Cincinnati’s Darrian Beavers, Alabama’s Christian Harris, or a small school sleeper like Montana State’s Troy Anderson could appeal to Belichick. Even with the deluge of replacements, Clark’s injury is just a lousy turn of events.

If he’s even half of the player that he was before his injury, Clark is worthy of being selected very high in the draft. If any team has multiple fourth-round picks, he’s worth a gamble. Still, Clark just lost a ton of money as a result of this development. The Patriots lost a potential second-round pick.