Devin McCourty and Dont’a Hightower are both reaching the end of their career, and regardless of whether the New England Patriots decide to re-sign them or not — which will likely be determined by how much cap space is left, and that will be decided by whether the team decides to bring back J.C. Jackson — they’re going to have to find long-term replacements for safety and linebacker in the near future.
We find a replacement for both, bet on Jakobi Meyers having a breakout season, and more in my 2.0 mock draft on The Draft Network.
Prior mock drafts:
Nick Caruso’s 2.0 is also coming this weekend as well.
Round 1, Pick No. 21: Michigan S Daxton Hill
When finding McCourty’s replacement, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to grab someone similar to McCourty.
Daxton Hill is rather a prototypical Patriot. The Draft Network describes him as an “ultra-competitive tackler,” also noting that he has a strong ability to play special teams. His player comparison on TDN? You guessed it — it’s McCourty.
The junior free safety, 21, had two interceptions this season, making 69 tackles (47 solo) and defending eight passes. In his career, he’s compiled a total of four interceptions, 150 tackles (96 solo), and 15 passes defended.
TDN slates him to have second-round value, but there’s little to no chance he’s on the board by pick No. 54, New England’s second-round pick. And, with it being a linebacker-heavy draft, there will still be plenty of pass rush talent on the board by pick No. 54.
This pick would be most likely to happen under a number of circumstances: The Patriots let McCourty walk (age and or price tag for reasoning), and are willing to bet on another breakout season from Meyers and or another receiver.
Picking a safety would plague New England’s ability to pick a receiver, considering a receiver is in a position of need but likely not as big of a priority as linebacker or cornerback. Cornerback will be a priority regardless of what the team does with Jackson.
In my 1.0 mock, I had the Patriots picking Devin Lloyd, and he was still on the board at No. 21 — and so was some elite receiver talent. But, I avoided picking Lloyd because I didn’t want to repeat picks, and I didn’t pick a receiver because I also believe the Patriots value their current receiver core more than most do — and that Meyers will find even greater success in 2022.
And again, this pick would only be happening if New England decides to let McCourty walk to make space for Jackson’s contract — there are too many holes to fill elsewhere to pick a safety in the first round if the safety isn’t replacing somebody. This is an ideal replacement for McCourty through the draft.
Round 2, Pick No. 54: Wyoming LB Chad Muma
While I wanted to avoid picking players in mocks more than once, Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma is a very ideal pick for the Patriots.
Muma landed as a third-round pick in my first mock, but he has second-round value and he shouldn’t fall that far in the draft — making him worth a pick in the second round.
Versatility is key here.
A safety-turned-linebacker, Muma has the ability to play all three linebacker spots and has been a three-year starter for Wyoming (21 games). He had 142 tackles this season, making 1.5 sacks and three interceptions, taking two back for a touchdown.
Through the 6-foot-3 linebacker’s career, Muma has 266 tackles (19 for a loss), 5.5 sacks, three picks, and two touchdowns.
Round 3, Pick No. 85: Georgia LB Quay Walker
While Quay Walker isn’t that great of a scheme fit for the Patriots compared to a guy like Muma, TDN does give him an intriguing comparison — three-tenure Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins, who was picked in 2013 by New England.
The 6-foot-4 senior was a crucial part of Georgia’s 2021 National Championship, making 63 tackles (39 solo) while defending two passes. While just 1.5 sacks in 2021 might not be all that appealing, Walker has the versatility and the ability to play on the defensive line and in the pass rush.
Walker has both the size to defend the run and the athleticism to defend the pass, and could be a solid third-round option for New England.
Round 4, Pick 125: Alabama CB Josh Jobe
Regardless of what New England does with Jackson, the Patriots still need a cornerback or two from the draft. Josh Jobe was the most appealing cornerback option still left out of a shaky class of cornerbacks.
Jobe, a 6-foot-1 senior, is very aggressive as a press man and boundary corner which can sometimes lead to penalties and miscues. He’s also said to have “tight hips” while lacking versatility, though has good tenacity and effort.
The corner is also coming off of foot surgery which forced him to miss the College Football Playoff. He made 38 tackles (28 solo) in 2021, making three interceptions.
Round 6, Pick 208: Virginia Tech WR Tre Turner
Tre Turner could be a late-round receiving option for the Patriots.
Turner, a senior wideout, is a versatile and talented playmaker with good ball skills. In 2021, he had 40 receptions for 675 yards for the Hokies, tallying three touchdowns.
He could also be used through the ground, posting 12 carries for 64 yards in 2021.