Tons of tape has been watched. Reams of reports have been read. Millions of mocks have been, well, mocked.
The three-day holiday extravaganza for football junkies — a.k.a. the NFL Draft — has finally arrived, and the Patriots are poised to add nine hopefuls to their roster, though that number is always in flux with trades thrown into the mix.
The age-old conundrum when it comes to selecting players is balancing needs vs. taking the best player available regardless of position.
“The key thing is, though, you want to make sure the player that you take is good enough, that he’s a good enough player,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick told the team’s website this week, “because if he isn’t, you haven’t really filled the need even if you have on paper, in the end it’s not going to work out.”
Here’s a somewhat educated guess (OK, total crapshoot!) at the names that will be coming from the team’s war room beginning Thursday night.
First round (No. 21 overall)
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
Yes, there are plenty of quality receivers available, but they just cannot pass on the opportunity to add this smart and athletic playmaker. Lloyd (6 feet 3 inches, 237 pounds) fits New England’s versatility mode — he can blitz, cover, and halt the run — and could be an immediate starter in the multiple schemes run by Steve Belichick and Jerod Mayo.
Second round (No. 54)
John Metchie, WR, Alabama
There naturally are concerns about the torn ACL he suffered in the SEC title game, but he’s recovering well, according to Lloyd Cain, who performed the surgery. Metchie (5-11, 187) is an excellent route runner with a penchant for finding open spots. Alabama coach Nick Saban called him “the epitome of what you look for in a wide receiver.” That’ll do.
Third round (No. 85)
Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA
Rhyan had 31 starts at left tackle for the Bruins, but the 6-5, 321-pound former rugby player might be best suited to be an inside mauler at the NFL level. He has excellent short-area burst and will stack, shed, and attack at the second level. Allowed only two sacks in his collegiate career.
Fourth round (No. 127)
Wan’Dale Robinson, WR, Kentucky
A dynamic, explosive, and versatile athlete, he makes up for a comparative lack of size (5-8, 178) with elite speed and shiftiness. Was used primarily as a slot receiver in the schemes cooked up by Wildcats offensive coordinator Liam Coen (the former UMass QB), but he can line up in multiple spots and break things open. Call him Deebo Light. Owns Kentucky season marks for receptions (104) and receiving yards (1,334).
Fifth round (No. 158)
Kyren Williams, RB, Notre Dame
The Patriots have really good depth here, but with Damien Harris in his contract year and James White coming off a serious hip injury, this is good business. No position group takes more of a beating than the backs, and Williams can provide insurance against that. The 5-9, 194-pounder is a rugged inside runner with thick, powerful legs. Additionally, he is an accomplished receiver out of the backfield and is no liability in pass protection.
Sixth round (No. 183)
Khalil Shakir, WR, Boise State
Another receiver? Oh, you betcha. Another exquisite route runner with excellent hands and top-notch body control. If it’s thrown near him, he’ll contort every which way to make the snag. Had 208 catches, 71 rushes, and 5 pass attempts in his career. Also is an accomplished kick and punt returner. Will need to work on his downfield blocking.
Sixth round (No. 200)
Gregory Junior, CB, Ouachita Baptist
A quick and twitchy athlete with excellent size and length (6 feet, 203 pounds). Playing in Division 2, he didn’t see top-tier competition, but, like Patriots safety Kyle Dugger, he stood out during Senior Bowl week. He has strong arms and can jam receivers and disrupt their routes. Also does a nice job turning his head and tracking the ball.
Sixth round (No. 210)
Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
Another quick athlete with good mirror skills, the 5-11, 180-pounder is fluid in his backpedal and has good instincts and anticipation. Flashes nice closing speed and collected 34 passes defensed and 6 interceptions in 53 games. Been with Sun Devils since 2016 (counting redshirt and extra COVID seasons). Has been friends with N’Keal Harry since they were the top two prospects in Arizona in high school.
Seventh round (No. 245)
Matt Waletzko, OT, North Dakota
This towering, 6-8, 312-pound fella will need some seasoning and added bulk, but he has the lateral quickness and long arms to become a force to be reckoned with. Didn’t play against super competition consistently but showed up and showed out during Senior Bowl week. As a bonus, he caught one pass for 5 yards in college. Versatility, anyone?
Read more NFL Draft stories
- Why are many college players busts in the NFL? Blame the hash marks.
- 15 things the Patriots should do in the draft, in the eyes of our NFL writers
- Here’s an inside look at this year’s unpredictable NFL Draft