4 players the Patriots can draft to replace those who left in free agency 

Dec 21, 2021; Frisco, TX, USA; UTSA Roadrunners wide receiver Joshua Cephus (2) avoids the tackle of
Dec 21, 2021; Frisco, TX, USA; UTSA Roadrunners wide receiver Joshua Cephus (2) avoids the tackle of / Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

One thing that the Patriots managed to do in 2023 was not to have a lot of players out of contract at the same time. That's the smallest of small victories, but still a victory though, eh? It should be five, but Austin Hooper will fill the place where Mike Gesicki's departure leaves. And they do already have Alex Austin to fill the Jalen Mills-sized hole in the defensive backfield 

But if the Patriots did want to draft a physical defensive back, they should probably look to Oregon like they did in 2023. Christian Gonzalez looked like he would take to professional football like the proverbial duck to water. But the turf monster at AT&T Stadium had other ideas.  

4 players the Patriots can draft to replace those who left in free agency 

Khyree Jackson for Jalen Mills

Khyree Jackson replaced Gonzalez when he transferred to the Ducks from Alabama. And the 6 feet 4-inch cornerback had quite the season. Not only did he defend seven passes and take three interceptions—you know, his day job—but he also made five tackles for a loss and two sacks!

The only problem with drafting Jackson is he has been projected as a third-round pick. And with all of the issues the Patriots offense has, it might be too early to take a defensive back. 

Brevyn Spann-Ford to replace Pharoah Brown 

Despite being seriously underused in the passing game Brown is one of the 2023 Patriots who can hold their head high as they leave the building. He caught 86.7% of his targets in 2023. But he only saw 15 targets.

Brown was mainly used as an extra blocker on an offensive line that desperately needed extra blocking. And because defenders didn’t expect him to catch any passers, he could just drift into space. But even so, if someone catches the first 12 passes you throw them in a season, they’re probably one of your best receivers. 

Spann-Ford is bigger than Brown. But then he is bigger than pretty much everyone. He is 6 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 270 lbs. He'll be a big fella when he grows up! Unsurprisingly, he can really block. And while he’s not exactly fast, neither is Brown.

Like Brown, he can leak out into space to provide his quarterback with a release valve. The best part about Spann-Ford is that he’s seriously underrated in this draft class. He’s projected to go in the sixth round

Joshua Cephus for DeVante Parker 

Technically, Parker left in a trade, but the important thing is that he left. Along similar lines, another technicality is Cephus is projected to become an undrafted free agent, so the Patriots may not even have to spend a draft pick on him. However, apart from those two minor details, this section is entirely accurate. 

6 foot 3 inch Cephus is as tall as Parker, but he is 30 lbs. Lighter. That shouldn’t really be an issue, though; it’s not like the Patriots were sending Parker on short crossers into the heart of defenses.

Parker was supposed to be the one who stretched defenses and opened up space for the underneath routes. But he only played 68% of the snaps in his first season in New England and 74% in his final season. So, he never really had the impact that he should have, 

Not only is Cephus as tall as Parker, but he also ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash like Paker. And he’s really good at wrong-footing defenders, which is impossible to quantify but is a very handy skill. 

Tommy Eichenberg for Mack Wilson 

Eichenberg is 13 lbs. Lighter than Wilson but he is an inch taller, so they’re not that different. Ohio State alum Eichenberg isn’t the fastest or the strongest, but neither is Wilson. Eichenberg ran a 4.69 40-yard dash, and Patriots'Wilson ran a 4.65. Wilson was the Patriots' Swiss army knife, and Eichenberg is quite versatile, too.

He might not be able to go sideline to sideline, but he shouldn’t have to in a 3-4 defense. And he’s not slow to shoot gaps in the offensive line when they appear. Eichenberg is projected to be a fourth-round pick, but his projection has been volatile over the last 12 months. He could go higher. 

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