77. Ivan Pace Jr., LB, Cincinnati
The Patriots look to be moving on from linebackers Raekwon McMillan and Matt Collins so some much-needed depth and use are needed at the position. This is where Cincinnati linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. comes in and we snag him here with the 77th overall pick.
The most obvious concern about pace is his size as he measures in at 5-foot-10 and 230 pounds which is a bit smaller than the Patriots generally like at linebacker. However he makes up for that size with his strength, tenacity and aggression. Pace was one of the best linebackers in college football and was a jack of all trades for the Bearcats in 2022 with 84 tackles, 11 sacks, and 3 pass breakups.
Pace has a great feel for the game and has just enough speed to do well in pursuit and he doesn’t let his lack of size get in the way of being a willing tackler. His size at the pro level may keep him from being a consistent Edge rusher which he did at Cincinnati but he can play more off the ball in New England
Pace can also be used as a situational pass rusher where his height may actually be an advantage against some of the taller tackles who could struggle to match his leverage. Either way, pace looks to be exactly what the Patriots are looking for at the linebacker position because of his smart, tenacity, and talent.
107. Darius Rush, CB, South Carolina
The Patriots need some help at outside corner and Darius Rush looks to be the prototypical player at that position. He measured in at 6-foot-1 and 198 pounds and ran a very impressive 4.36 40 at the combine which is in the top 8% at the position.
There are concerns about his injury history which are valid but he is exactly the type of prospect that you bet on in the second half of the draft. The combination of size and speed that he possesses are rare and Darius Rush could be coached up to be an immediate contributor.
118. Keeanu Benton, DT, Wisconsin
Depth at defensive tackle is another need for the New England Patriots and Keanu Benton out of Wisconsin is a player that’s climbing up mock draft boards. after a solid senior season, Benson had a great Senior Bowl and has seen his stock climb steadily with every workout.
He has the size you would expect from a defensive tackle at 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds but he showed off some impressive quickness and athleticism with a great score in both the broad jump and three-cone drill. The Patriots love to use multiple defensive lineman and Benton could contribute right away as a rotational player.
135. Olusegun Oluwatimi, OC, Michigan
The Patriots love smart offensive lineman and Olusegun Oluwatimi out of Michigan is the perfect combination of smarts and strength. Oluwatimi won the Outland and Remington trophies in 2022 and was one of the best offensive linemen in college football last year.
The former Michigan Wolverine has a solid size for the position and has the talent to be a long term answer at center whenever David Andrews decides to call it quits. He tested well at the combine with a great broad jump and bench press and can be a great developmental prospect in New England at No. 135 in this mock draft.