3 sleeper prospects for Patriots to target in 2023 NFL Draft

The New England Patriots have had a bit of a strange offseason so far, and it’s becoming abundantly clear that they are going to have to do some good work in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft. Some solid additions have been made to their roster so far, but with many of the big name free agents off the board, it’s clear the remaining holes on this team need to be addressed through the draft.

Barring any shocking moves ahead of the draft, the Pats have some clear cut needs on their roster currently. Offensive tackle and cornerback seem to be the two big ones, with wide receiver, linebacker, and help on the defensive line being more secondary needs. With New England being armed with 11 picks entering the draft, it’s safe to expect them to address all these needs in the draft.

Bill Belichick loves to zig when other teams zag, especially when it comes to the draft. Belichick is notorious for bucking conventional wisdom when it comes to making his picks, with the most recent example coming last year when they drafted Cole Strange with their first round pick. The Pats always like to make surprising picks, so let’s take a look at three sleeper picks that New England could end up making.

3. McClendon Curtis, OT, Chattanooga

Does the school Chattanooga sound familiar to you, Patriots fans? Speaking of Strange a second ago, it seems like New England could pursue a reunion here by targeting his former college teammate and fellow offensive lineman in McClendon Curtis. The Patriots clearly need a new starting tackle after moving on from Isaiah Wynn this offseason, and Curtis could be a sneaky pick for Pats.

Curtis was a full-time starter for Chattanooga over the past two seasons, and made the switch from right guard to left tackle fairly seamlessly last season. Curtis was an FCS All-American in 2022, and earned the SoCon Jacobs Blocking Trophy in 2022 as well, which is given to the best offensive lineman in the Southern Conference.

Curtis’ versatility is something that will obviously stick out to Belichick here, and he’s already somewhat familiar with Chattanooga’s program after drafting Strange last year. Many folks are expecting Belichick to draft a tackle in the first-round, but after adding depth options in Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson in free agency, they may end up waiting longer than expected, which makes Curtis an interesting sleeper pick who could come off the board in the third or fourth round.

2. Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

There are several avenues the Patriots could opt to take when it comes to using their first-round draft pick, but taking a cornerback is beginning to become an increasingly popular pick for mock draft experts. However, they could opt to move down the board in the first-round, and if they do, Brian Branch would immediately become an unexpected target for New England.

Branch is a versatile defensive back who spent time playing as a safety and cornerback during his three seasons with the Alabama Crimson Tide. Branch isn’t the typical lockdown corner that many Pats fans are looking for, but he’s a guy who can do a little bit of everything in the secondary, which is really what New England needs, especially with Devin McCourty recently retiring.

Branch would seemingly be a perfect fit for the Patriots, and there are a lot of reasons to believe this could happen. Branch seems like the exact type of player Belichick would be interested in, and Belichick obviously has deep ties with Alabama and their head coach Nick Saban. If New England trades down in the first round, Branch seems like he could be available at the backend of the first-round, or maybe even early in the second-round, depending on how the board shakes out.

1. Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College

Similarly to how the Patriots could conceivably trade down in an effort to land Branch, they could do the same thing if they wanted to land wide receiver Zay Flowers. New England clearly needs some help when it comes to adding talented pass catchers, and while they have been linked to many wideouts with the 14th overall pick, Flowers isn’t typically one of those names.

Flowers is coming off a breakout senior season at Boston College (78 REC, 1077 YDS, 12 TD) that has helped him emerge as a de facto first-round pick. Flowers is an explosive playmaker at all three levels of the field, and that is exactly what the Pats need on offense. However, the Pats may be picking too early at number 14 if they want to grab Flowers.

Anticipating trades down in the draft is usually risky, unless it’s Belichick. Flowers will likely be going in a similar range as Branch mentioned above, and with his ties to the New England region, Flowers would obviously be an extremely popular pick if this is the way the Pats ended up going. New England always likes to make surprising moves, so trading down in the draft to land Flowers could end up being a sneaky sleeper move that the Patriots make in the draft.

The post 3 sleeper prospects for Patriots to target in 2023 NFL Draft appeared first on ClutchPoints.

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