The New England Patriots’ entire offseason has been like no other.
It’s been surrounded by rumors and speculations of the franchise wanting to move on from starting quarterback Mac Jones. An obvious crack in the foundation between head coach Bill Belichick and Jones has led to a league-wide rumor mill. But at this point, we should all expect Jones to be with New England this season.
There’s also speculation about who has more of a power trip in the Patriots organization.
Is it Belichick or Robert Kraft?
The conversations all offseason have been “he said, she said” between the two. Nevertheless, with the NFL Draft approaching, the entire organization should be able to agree upon one thing, surrounding Jones with talent and upgrading the team overall is a priority now to keep up in the division, let alone the rest of the league. But, nevertheless
In my seven-round mock draft, I focused on bringing in offensive talent regarding linemen and weaponry, but I also focused on cornerback and linebacker. Of course, I also kept in mind how I believe Belichick approaches the draft.
Here’s my mock draft ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft on Apr. 27.
Round1 (No. 14 Overall): Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State
The Patriots typically stay away from wide receivers in the first round, as N’Keal Harry (32nd, 2019) is the only wide receiver drafted in the first round under Bill Belichick, and we saw how that turned out.
If the Patriots were to take another shot at a wide receiver in the first round, it should be on Jaxon Smith-Njigba, one of the top wide receivers coming out of the draft this year.
At 6’1” and 196 lbs, Smith-Njigba led Ohio State in 2021 in an amplifying season that put his name on the map, corralling 96 receptions for 1,606 yards and scoring nine touchdowns.
Unfortunately, he missed most of the 2022 season with a hamstring injury, but it’s fair to say he showcased himself enough in 2021 still to be a top prospect in this year’s draft.
The Patriots need a slot receiver after saying a difficult goodbye to Jakobi Meyers, the team’s leading receiver and one of Jones’ go-to guys. The slot position once controlled the offense and set the tone for the Patriots. With Bill O’Brien back in control, there’s a chance of that happening again, but they’ll need a talented receiver to do so.
Smith-Njigba is one of the best slot receivers and playmakers the draft has to offer to the position this year. Therefore, the Patriots should draft him 14th overall, even if it’s against their draft philosophies.
Round 2 (No. 46 Overall): Deonte Banks, CB, Maryland
The Patriots need to bolster their defensive back group, specifically the cornerback position. Jalen Mills is likely returning to safety, leaving Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, Marcus Jones, and Jack Jones as the only somewhat proven corners left on the depth chart.
At 6’0” tall, 197 lbs, Deonte Banks is a long and physical cornerback out of Maryland, where he had 83 tackles over four years. He ran the 40-yard dash at the Combine in 4.35 seconds, proving he has the top speed to keep up and defend some of the NFL’s best wide receivers.
His long and strong physique allows him to push and use the sidelines to his advantage, which gives him positioning to intercept and deflect passes.
Banks would immediately upgrade the corner position with the combination of his size and speed. The addition of Banks would also make him the second-tallest defensive back on the team behind Kyle Dugger.