Patriots get arguable best cornerback in Jordan Reid's latest NFL mock draft


The Patriots shouldn't reach for a cornerback in the first round, no matter how pressing the need for a long, tall outside corner seems. But if the right one falls to them at pick No. 14, they should pounce on it without a second thought.

That's what happens in Jordan Reid's latest seven-round mock draft for ESPN, who has arguably the best cornerback prospect in the draft -- Illinois' Devon Witherspoon -- fall into New England's lap in the middle of the first round.

"Selecting a cornerback here would be unconventional for the Patriots, as Devin McCourty is the highest-selected player at the position during the Bill Belichick era (No. 27 in 2010)," Reid points out. "Corner and offensive tackle are the two biggest holes on the roster, however, and Witherspoon is too good to pass up. At 6 feet, 181 pounds, he plays with a consistent physical nature, and Belichick and the defensive coaches could fall in love with him. With the versatility to play inside in nickel as well as on the outside, Witherspoon has the technique to immediately fit into the complex New England defense."

Hard to say it better than that.

Witherspoon might not have the physical profile of a Christian Gonzalez or Joey Porter Jr., but he's probably better than both and plays with the kind of fire and physicality that Belichick would covet. He would probably be a Day 1 starter at one of the corner spots and is the sort of all-around playmaker that can elevate a defense's performance.

But if you're still worried about offensive tackle, Reid's got you covered in Round 2. With the 46th pick, the ESPN reporter mocked Syracuse's Matthew Bergeron, an "intriguing prospect who has shown dominant flashes as a run blocker," to the Patriots with the 46th overall pick.

Bergeron, who has primarily played left tackle, also earned a pass-protection grade of 80.8 from Pro Football Focus last year and could be a candidate to start at either tackle spot Week 1 of the 2023 season.

Then, Reid addressed a sneakily important position -- wide receiver -- with New England's third-round pick, nabbing Tennessee's Cedrick Tillman with the 76th pick.

"The Patriots have been aggressive about acquiring more targets for quarterback Mac Jones in free agency, but they shouldn't stop in the draft," Reid said. "Tillman is a big 6-3 receiver who reminds me of Buffalo's Gabe Davis."

The 6-3, 213-pound Tillman wouldn't be talked off this low in the draft if he hadn't suffered from injuries in 2022 and had to have season-ending ankle surgery. But his monster performances as Hendon Hooker's top receiver, especially against the likes of Alabama and Georgia in 2021, could make him a Day 2 steal for a Patriots team that still needs playmakers on offense.

Later draft picks include: Michigan edge rusher Mike Morris (No. 107), Illinois safety Sydney Brown (No. 117), Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell (No. 135), Arkansas receiver Matt Landers (No. 184), Penn State interior offensive lineman Juice Scruggs (No. 187), BYU quarterback Jaren Hall (No. 192) and tight end/fullback Hunter Luepke from North Dakota State (No. 210).

Brown and Scruggs, especially, would be intriguing additions given Brown's athleticism and versatility at the safety position, which is heading into the post-Devin McCourty era, and the flexibility Scruggs brings as a developmental prospect behind David Andrews and Mike Onwenu, who will both soon need new contracts.

Hall, meanwhile, is an athletic, big-armed quarterback who adds a rushing element to his game but also thrives with smart decisions and accuracy from the pocket, boasting a 75.9 adjusted completion percentage that ranked 31st among all FBS quarterbacks with more than 300 drop-backs last year. He's also an older rookie at age 25 after serving a mission with the LDS Church before enrolling BYU, but the Patriots tend to like their rookies with more seasoning.

It's truthfully hard to imagine a late-round quarterback that fits the Patriots' scheme better while also providing a hint of skill set that Mac Jones nor Bailey Zappe have than Hall.

If New England actually ended up with a draft like this, it would be hard to feel bad about it.

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