Defensive Players who could make the Patriots better
Should the Patriots decide to go defense with their top two picks, there are a number of available prospects who would be welcome additions. One is Nakobe Dean, the inside linebacker from FBS Champion Georgia. Dean brings a similar physical profile to Mike Singletary, the Chicago Bears’ legendary linebacker.
Singletary was also smaller at 6-0 and 230 pounds; Dean measures in at 5-11 and 229 pounds. Comparing Dean to a Pro Football Hall of Famer is neither fair nor prudent, but like that Bears great, Dean is a leader and will likely be calling the defensive signals early on in his career. If he can ever approximate Singletary’s impact on the field, it would be a home run pick for the Patriots.
Others on the defensive side of the ball who’d be welcome additions would be inside linebackers Chad Muma of Wyoming, a sideline-to-sideline tackling machine, and the more Patriot-like bigger linebacker, Leo Chenal of Wisconsin. Either would be a solid addition to the second level.
Should the Patriots decide to draft to the interior defensive line, having Jordan Davis, Dean’s teammate, fall to the Patriots would be hard to pass up. He’s a massive presence along the interior defensive front and, teamed with Christian Barmore, would present a formidable duo indeed. Another defensive lineman who’d fit nicely a bit later on is Barmore’s former Alabama teammate Phidarian Mathis. He’s a Sack Master from the interior of the line, an asset the Patriots could use in abundance.
There is also the distinct possibility of selecting a defensive back high up in the draft, specifically a cornerback. Having lost both J.C. Jackson and Stephon Gilmore in the past year, the Patriots need reinforcements there. Kaiir Elam, a rangy cornerback from Florida is a name often talked about, as is Washington cornerback Trent McDuffie.
The consistent thought here has been to refrain from drafting a cornerback in the first two rounds, since the Patriots’ track record in drafting that position has been abysmal. Conversely, they have been amazingly proficient in finding gems at the position in undrafted free agency (e.g. Malcolm Butler and J.C. Jackson, among others) and that’s an option for them this season, as well.
In short, there are many avenues open to the Patriots to deliver a great draft. Of course, whichever of the numerous positions on the roster they try to remedy, they still have to get it right. That’s both the challenge and the dilemma.
In 2021, the team had arguably its best draft in decades. They need to do the same in 2022. Absent that, a return to the largely unproductive drafts of the previous four years would likely consign the team to also-ran status in the ever more competitive AFC East.
We’ll have a somewhat better idea of how they did by Sunday. Yet, it won’t be until the players hit the field in summer camp that potential draft success or lack thereof will be more thoroughly observable and benchmarked. After all, the draft is risky business, and, as Ned Ryerson said in the movie Groundhog Day, “It’s all one big crapshoot anyhoo”.