The New England Patriots have never been known for trading up in the NFL Draft. However, when there are impact players on the board, the organization has made exceptions. These exceptions have occurred particularly when impact players on the defensive side of the ball are available.
Take last year for example: Christian Barmore fell to the early second round and the Patriots capitalized via trading up in the second.
In 2012 the Patriots traded up twice in the first round to select Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower. Like Barmore, Hightower and Jones were impact players almost immediately and proved to be highly graded draft picks.
While it seems more likely that the Patriots will trade down rather than up in this year’s draft, let’s take a look at three prospects who would be worth moving up a few spots for.
Mcduffie is a prospect that has been mocked in many different draft slots. Draft experts such as Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks have Mcduffie being selected at 13 and 14 respectively. However, PFF has him rated as their 8th best prospect while Mike Tannenbaum has Mcduffie falling all the way to 19th overall in his latest mock draft.
If Mcduffie falls to the 17 to 19 range like some experts have predicted, then the Patriots would be wise to pounce depending on which other players are still on the board. An overall need for the Patriots on both sides of the ball is more speed, and a position-specific need for the team is cornerback. McDuffie checks both of those boxes.
He ran a 4.44 40 yard dash, but plays even faster than that time on film. Mcduffie flies to the ball and is not afraid to make open field tackles. Size is the main concern for McDuffie, but there are a few reasons why this could be a flaw that the Patriots easily overlook. First and foremost Mcduffie projects as a day 1 lockdown slot defender, so he will not need to be developed before he can make an immediate impact on the field.
In terms of defending on the outside, his size may be a problem but the receivers that he will be facing most often (Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Stefon Diggs, Elijah Moore) are not particularly big receivers. Whether McDuffie can cover 6-foot-3 plus receivers or not, he is a player that would greatly improve this defensive unit and his closing speed is something that Patriots fans would soon come to appreciate and cherish.
Nick Caruso had the Patriots taking him first overall in his 2.0 mock draft.
While it is less likely that the Patriots will have to trade up for Williams due to his ACL injury, he is still someone who the team should strongly consider trading up for or outright taking at 21. Particularly if he gets past 15 (the Eagles first of three picks in the first round), New England should make an enticing package to get to the 16 spot.
Both the Chargers and the Saints pick after 16 and before the Patriots at 21, and both teams seem like prime landing spots for the Alabama star.
Williams was likely a shoe-in to be a top ten pick before he tore his ACL in the national championship game; now some mock drafts have him going as late as 29, so a trade might not be necessary.
Although he could not run at the combine, it is likely that he is the fastest receiver in this draft and perhaps many previous drafts. His speed jumps out on film and his physical build is perfect for a modern-day wide receiver who can do it all. His size is a concern for many, but some evaluators believe he plays much stronger than his listed weight.
Chris Simms recently ranked Williams as his top receiver in the draft. Simms described Williams as the “Easiest, most slam dunk evaluation I’ve done so far.” He compared Williams to Heisman winner Devonta Smith, someone who Mac Jones displayed great chemistry with while at Alabama.
Williams is a player that would not only be an inexpensive number one option for Mac Jones for the next 4-5 years, but he would also open up the rest of the offense for guys like Bourne, Henry, Smith and even the run game. If he falls to 16, or even 21, the Patriots should do whatever it takes to acquire Williams.
Williams was taken in the first round of Caruso’s 3.0 mock draft.
It seems highly unlikely that Devin Lloyd will get past the Eagles and their three first-round picks before the Patriots at 21, he is someone who would solve many problems for this Patriots defensive unit.
Lloyd had a relatively disappointing combine, but his film shows a player who can do it all, and constantly makes an impact in every facet of the game. Lloyd can serve many different roles at the linebacker position: he can be used in the run game, pass rush, and pass coverage. While he excels more at the first two, the Patriots need a do-it-all linebacker and signal-caller that they had in the past.
Lloyd’s versatility will appeal to Belichick and with mobile QBs in the division, he would be the perfect player for Belichick to disguise on a play-to-play basis. A player with his level of versatility could spy Josh Allen for example, thump in the run game when needed, and match up on bigger backs and tight ends: that sounds like a Patriot to me. Although his versatility and physicality makes him great for New England, it also makes him unlikely to fall to them at 21.
Jumping Philly to get to the No. 14 spot would likely take more trade capital than a team with many needs would like to give up, but if he falls past 16, it would not be surprising to see the Patriots swap spots with the Chargers and make Lloyd their new signal-caller on defense.
Quinn Riley had the Patriots taking Lloyd first overall in his 1.0 mock draft.
While all of these have a possibility of falling to New England at pick No. 21, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to secure the pick by trading up in the draft.