WEEI Mock Draft 4.0: Patriots grab mauling OT in first round


“Let’s go crazy. Let’s get nuts.”

Okay, maybe not it’s as wild as all that. But the WEEI’s Mock Draft 4.0 features a couple of off-the-beaten path selections, including a trend-breaker right off the top.

Knowing that the Patriots have set themselves up to go a variety of different ways with this year’s draft led to some interesting permutations this round.

Here’s what we went with.

No. 16 (via Washington): Darnell Wright, OT (Tennessee)

A little trade-back with the Washington Commanders nets you some extra draft capital and the top tackle prospect who best fits what the Patriots want.

He’s experienced, having started more than 40 college games — none of the Peter Skoronski/Paris Johnson Jr./Broderick Jones trio have more than two full years as starters under their belt.

He participated in the Senior Bowl (and dominated his reps there).

He can play either left or right tackle (though he played his best on the right side).

He runs gap-based schemes like he was born to do it and has high-quality reps against some of the best pass-rushers college football had to offer.

The Patriots don’t absolutely need a rookie starting tackle this year the way they’ve set things up. But Wright would be taking someone’s job by the time the season started.

No. 36 (via LAR): Will McDonald, EDGE (Iowa State)

Once upon a time, the Patriots took Josh Uche in the second round of thr 2020 draft to give their pass rush a boost.

With Uche potentially looking for a payday he won’t get from this team, Bill Belichick goes back to the second-round well to grab one of the Senior Bowl’s big winners this winter.

McDonald needs to add more weight to his frame to stand up better against the run, but his exceptional length and explosiveness help him maintain leverage on the edge as an every-down player.

Then, when he gets to pin his ears back and get the quarterback, you’ll be hard-pressed to find guys with a better combination of get-off and ability to bend the edge.

No. 76: Darius Rush, CB (South Carolina)

There’s your man-coverage corner.

Cam Smith gets all the headlines for the Gamecocks, but Rush (6-1, 198 pounds) looks the part, boasts big-time 4.36 speed and has the quick feet to mirror even the toughest routes.

He was also named Cornerback of the Week at the Senior Bowl for the American Team whose defensive coordinator was none other than New England’s DeMarcus Covington.

Rush is still a work in progress in terms of production and isn’t yet a great tackler. But the Patriots could afford to bring him on slowly as they did with Jack Jones last season and eventually reap the benefits of Rush’s potential.

No. 117: Parker Washington, WR (Penn State)

He might not be the splashy play-maker a lot of people – including myself – might have locked early in the draft, but Washington is a sneaky-good fit for the Patriots in the middle rounds.

Think of him as something of a Jakobi Meyers with more tackling-breaking ability and breakaway speed. He would thrive as a complimentary receiver that would allow him to work in the slot, make tough catches over the middle and rack up YAC while continuing to hone his route-running at the next level.

No. 135: Davis Allen, TE (Clemson)

For all intents and purposes, let’s pretend Mike Gesicki isn’t even a tight end. He’s out there to catch passes, not block, and the Dolphins never really asked him to.

Truthfully, Henry is best suited to catch passes as well and has had some rough moments when asked to block like an in-line tight end.

Allen would be a perfect fit for what the Patriots want and need a more traditional tight end, allowing the other two to do what they do best. The former Clemson Tiger is tenacious at the point of attack and can absolutely be the “Y” that could make New England’s two-tight end scheme work.

He’s also a tremendous athlete in the passing game with the speed and smoothness to attack defenses down the seam and the catch radius to make his quarterback look good.

No. 184: Jonah Tavai, DE (San Diego State)

Why not get the set? His brother Jahlani already plays here!

Okay, but really: Jonah is a very good player in his own right.

The Aztec defensive lineman had 25 sacks total in his college career, including 12 last year, and has played basically anywhere you can play on a defensive front — even off the ball. You can even find some clips of him playing running back in high school.

Honestly, you might be getting the better Tavai here.

No. 187: Adam Korsak, P (Rutgers)

A punter from Rutgers? Say less.

Korsak won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter last year, averaging 43.6 net yards per punt.

The Patriots just happen to need a punter after releasing Jake Bailey. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see New England spend a fifth for Korsak the way they did for Bailey back in 2019.

No. 192: Juice Scruggs, C (Penn State)

Another Nittany Lion on the squad.

Scruggs has quickly become a popular late-round interior offensive line prospect, not least because of his versatility to play center and both guard spots.

He didn’t play on the Patriots’ Shrine Bowl team in Las Vegas, but they’ll be plenty familiar with his game from going against him in the East-West game.

With David Andrews getting on in years and Michael Onwenu’s contract up after this year, Scruggs could serve as insurance for both.

No. 210: Justin Shorter, WR (Florida)

Ain’t nothing short about this man at 6-4, 235 pounds.

Shorter has a true, “X” receiver body type with very good hands, the ability to take the top off a defense with long-striding, deep speed and the size/movement skills to play as an H-back, which could be gold in Bill O’Brien’s system.

His production wasn’t great at Florida (never topped 557 yards receiving), but the Patriots might’ve seen something worth digging into at the Shrine Bowl.

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