For the New England Patriots fanbase, many fans will begin to keep an eye on the NFL Draft class as New England is currently out of the playoff picture. With just 6 games remaining, the weaknesses of the roster have become clear. As it currently stands, New England could fall near the middle of the NFL Draft order, which will give them plenty of options in the early rounds.
For Patriots fans, here are the prospects to keep an eye on during the weekend of college football games. I’ve chosen prospects at positions of needs, as well as only one per time slot. That way the dedicated fan could watch each of these prospects play on Friday and Saturday.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Notre Dame, LB/SAF
– Friday at 3:30 PM vs. North Carolina
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has been a revelation for the Fighting Irish defense over the past two seasons. The hybrid second-level defender stands at 6’1 and 215 pounds, and has similar versatility to 2020 first-round pick Isaiah Simmons. Owusu-Koramoah has shown he’s capable of rushing the passer, sticking with receivers up the seam, and fly towards the football against the run. He’s crept up to the conversation of a mid-first round pick, right in the range that New England could be drafted.
Facing an explosive air raid offense from North Carolina, Owusu-Koramoah will be tested in space on Friday afternoon. This will be key for his evaluation and projection as a strong safety, but he’s previously shown the ability to cover vertically.
Hamilcar Rashed Jr., Oregon State, EDGE
– Friday at 7:00 PM vs. Oregon
During the 2019 college football season, Hamilcar Rashed Jr. was the key to a bit of a resurgence from the Oregon State football program. He registered 14.0 sacks from his outside linebacker position, showing length, explosiveness and bend off the edge. While Rashed Jr. has a wiry frame, New England is desperate for added pass rush versatility (currently 29th in the NFL in sacks).
Rashed Jr. has yet to make the same impact in three games so far this season, clearly garnering more attention from opposing offensive lines. With a rivalry game against undefeated Oregon on tap, it’s a chance for Rashed Jr. to re-establish himself as a potential top-50 selection.
Kyle Pitts, Florida, TE
– Saturday at 12:00 PM vs. Kentucky
Kyle Pitts is a future first-round selection, who may be the best offensive weapon in the entire country. Pitts has recently missed time due to concussion-like symptoms, but will be returning to the Gators lineup for their Noon kickoff against Kentucky. Through 5 games this season, Pitts has racked up 414 yards and 8 receiving touchdowns.
Pitts is an athletic, 240-pound tight end with size and speed. While he doesn’t fit the traditional in-line tight end role, he’s a threat as a pass catcher and is a plus blocker in space. For a Patriots offense currently using receivers such as N’Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers to be key run blockers, Pitts would be an upgrade there while providing untapped upside as a receiver. New England desperately needs more production from the tight end room, and Pitts is the crown jewel of the class.
DeVonta Smith, Alabama, WR
– Saturday at 3:30 PM vs. Auburn
DeVonta Smith has felt like a future Patriots receiver for four years now, as he’s a technician route-runner who could thrive in the slot in the NFL. Smith might be undersized at sub-180 pounds, but few receiver prospects can separate as well as him. On top of that, Smith’s lack of weight has yet to hold him back in contested spots, as he’ll compete with any defensive back.
The reliable target has posted over 2,100 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns over his past 20 games, most of which have come against SEC defenses. He’ll be an option for NFL teams in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft despite a potentially historic class of wide receiver. New England needs additional talent from that position, especially with Julian Edelman aging and Damiere Byrd on a one-year contract. Expect them to target a wide receiver early in the NFL Draft.
Jordan Davis, Georgia, DL
– Saturday at 7:00 PM vs. South Carolina
Jordan Davis has missed the previous three games, but the first-team preseason All-SEC pick is expected to return Saturday night against South Carolina. Davis has untapped potential, standing a monstrous 6’6 and 330 pounds. He’s made flash plays in spots throughout his career, but has yet to find consistency from game to game. Especially after missing time this season, Davis needs to get back on track.
With Lawrence Guy and Adam Butler both entering free agency in the offseason, New England needs depth on their defensive line. That means that the Patriots should be looking to add prospects to the position outside of the first-round, where Davis’ raw talent would provide excellent value. Davis could develop into an elite penetrating defensive lineman in the NFL.