Patriots focus on improving the defense in new 7-round mock draft

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Super Bowl winner and historic terrorizer of defensive backs Doug Baldwin once said, “Change is inevitable, change will always happen, but you have to apply direction to the change, and that’s where there’s progress.” 

The biggest change in New England was the dismissal of Bill Belichick, but the biggest change on the field was definitely Matthew Slater-related, who will go down as one of the Patriots’ best fifth-round picks ever.

His 16-year career in New England is a fantastic achievement and a testament to his love of the game. But it’s hardly surprising when you know that his dad, Jackie, played offensive tackle for the Rams for 20 years! 

For the Patriots, replacing Slater will be crucial and get lost in the wash of trying to fix the quarterback position AND finding a left tackle. But, with the new kickoff rules, it’s arguably as, if not more important.

Speed is of the essence at the best of times, but with the kicking team in a flat line instead of staggered, the speed to chase down a returner who can make the first guy miss will be vital.

The good news is that, unlike the quarterbacks and left tackle position, there won’t be too much competition to pick the best special teams' maven in April. If the Patriots chose to do so, they would be able to improve the depth of the defense at the same time.

The defense is a bit of a mystery at the moment. Five members of the 2023 unit are still available in free agency. They may well return, but oddly, it’s taking so long to re-sign them. 

Patriots focus on improving the defense in new 7-round mock draft

Round 1, Pick No. 3 – Dallas Turner (EDGE, Alabama) 

Jared Verse does look a bit more like a Patriots defender, but Turner is the next Will Anderson Jr., the third overall pick in 2023. If you call seven sacks and 22 QB hits “pretty well,” Turner is 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 247 lbs. Anderson Jr. is one inch taller and four lbs. lighter. Nick Saban sure does have a type. 

The major difference between Turner and Anderson Jr. is that Turner ran an electric 4.46 40-yard time at the combine (the same time Stef Diggs clocked in 2015), while Anderson only managed a 4.6. That’s why Turner is the only defender projected to go with the first 11 picks!

The Patriots could even trade back in the draft, acquire some extra picks, and still take a guy who will be a spark plug for the defense. But for simplicity’s sake, let’s say they use the third overall pick to bag him.