Sunday, February 25, 2024

Best Bet For Patriots’ Draft? Odds Say Receiver Quite Possible

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The Patriots own the No. 14 pick — for now

NFL mock draft season is kicking into full gear, and there’s no shortage of intrigue when it comes to the Patriots and the No. 14 pick.

We’re amid a transformative offseason in New England. The biggest move, to this point, was Bill Belichick’s hiring of Bill O’Brien to replace Matt Patricia as an official offensive coordinator. Since then, the Patriots have spent the bulk of free agency retooling that side of the ball. They let Jakobi Meyers head to Las Vegas, opting to replace him with the speedier, more explosive JuJu Smith-Schuster. The failed Jonnu Smith experiment reached a merciful end, and the Patriots plucked tight end Mike Gesicki from Miami to replace the recently cut Smith.

The draft is still a month away, and pro-day season begins in earnest this week. We’ll begin to learn even more about how teams are leaning toward entering the 2023 NFL Draft in the coming days and weeks, but the deluge of mocks has already begun.

On Tuesday, we saw a handful of big-name prognosticators drop their latest mock drafts, including one big surprise prediction. Here’s how they had the Patriots going at No. 14 in the draft.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: RB Bijan Robinson, Texas
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN.com: CB Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
Danny Kelly, The Ringer: CB Devon Witherspoon Illinois
Pete Prisco, CBS: OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State
WalterFootball.com: WR Quentin Johnston, TCU

A bit all over the place, to say the least.

The consensus is far from clear, but the groupthink does seem to indicate the Patriots could either look to upgrade anywhere on the offense — outside of quarterback — or bolster the secondary.

The betting market can also be a somewhat intuitive guide when it comes to trying to predict the unpredictable that is Belichick’s draft strategy.

As of Wednesday morning, given the betting options available, the market does point toward the Patriots going receiver at No. 14. More specifically, Johnston, the TCU wideout, is a name to remember based on oddsmakers and betting activity. As recently as Tuesday, the Patriots were the favorite to select Johnston. They’re now the second favorite behind the Minnesota Vikings. A potential reason for that: ESPN’s Kiper mocked Johnston to Minnesota in his most recent piece.

Which team will draft Johnston (DraftKings)
Vikings +650
Patriots +700
Ravens +750
Packers +950

FanDuel Sportsbook has a similarly priced market for Johnston.

Team to draft Johnston (FanDuel)
Ravens +700
Vikings +800
Patriots +800
Packers +900

While there hasn’t been a ton of connecting the Patriots to top wideout prospect Jaxon Smith-Njigba, sportsbooks are protecting themselves against New England making that splash at No. 14.

Which team will draft Smith-Njigba? (DraftKings)
Texans +400
Bears +500
Patriots +600

Team to draft Smith-Njigba (FanDuel)
Texans +350
Bears +700
Patriots +900

It’s still all a bit of a crap shoot at this point. Take Smith-Njigba, for example. Despite him having the shortest odds to be the first receiver drafted, Kiper has him falling all the way to No. 20 in his latest mock. Other mocks have the Tennessee Titans taking the Ohio State product as high as the No. 11 pick, and the Texans — the betting favorite at the moment — loom right behind their division rivals with the 12th pick.

The safest bet, though, in all of this? That Belichick and the Patriots probably will zig where everyone expects them to zag on draft night.

Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images

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