BOSTON (CBS) -- The NFL Draft is just over a month away, and with the Patriots remaining mostly quiet on the free agent front, the draft seems like their best bet at landing Mac Jones a No. 1 receiver. Will it happen in the first round?
That's a somewhat scary proposition, given Bill Belichick's track record at drafting receivers early in the draft. The only receiver he's ever taken in the first round is N'Keal Harry, who hasn't done much of anything over his three NFL seasons other than request a trade last July. Aaron Dobson (second round, 2013), Taylor Price (third round, 2010), Brandon Tate (third round, 2009) and Chad Jackson (second round, 2006) are some of the other wide receiver lowlights from Belichick's draft history. The last time the Patriots drafted an impact receiver early in the draft was in 2002, when they added Deion Branch with a second-round pick.
At least Belichick's really, really good at finding undrafted guys to come in and make an impact. And maybe he'll be able to buck the trend of the last two decades and find someone to catch a lot of passes from Jones for the foreseeable future.
The mock drafters are a bit split on what the Patriots will do with the 21st overall selection on April 28, but a few of them have the Patriots landing that receiver they so desperately need. Let's round up the latest selections that the mockers believe the Patriots will make in the first round.
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Unlike last year, the Patriots have been quiet in free agency, notably losing star cornerback J.C. Jackson to a huge-money deal while not adding any surefire starters. I see holes at right tackle, off-ball linebacker, defensive end, cornerback and wide receiver. They've also lost several coaches this offseason, including offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. And yet, Bill Belichick's Patriots team won 10 games last season and still has a lot of really good players. I projected Williams here in my debut mock in mid-January, and it is a nice fit. Williams, who tore his ACL in the national title game, had a tremendous season for the Crimson Tide, with 1,572 yards and 15 scores. He said at the combine that he's ahead of his schedule in his recovery, but it's possible he misses a chunk of the season while rehabbing. New England could afford to wait for a receiver with true No. 1 upside who could be a star for years to come. And we know Belichick has a history of taking Alabama stars.
Williams had just three touchdowns in his two seasons at Ohio State before breaking out as a stud for the Crimson Tide. While he'll likely miss time as he recovers from a torn ACL, the 6-foot-2 Williams could be the receiver the Patriots offense needs for years to come.
Kaiir Elam, DB, Florida
After losing star cornerback J.C. Jackson to the Chargers in free agency, the Patriots find his replacement here. Elam combines size, physicality, and speed―and can start from day one.
Elam picked off five passes and defensed 20 others in his three seasons at Florida.
Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
The Patriots need to get more dynamic weapons for Mac Jones. Though he's currently recovering from a torn ACL, Williams has elite top speed and toughness.
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
This is the perfect pick for head coach Bill Belichick, who gets a versatile linebacker that played like a top-five player in the class in 2021. Positional value and an unimpressive 40 time could cause Lloyd to fall, but his floor should be New England.
In his fourth and final year at Utah, Lloyd racked up 111 total tackles, seven sacks and scored a pair of touchdowns over 14 games last season. He generated a bunch of turnovers too, with four interceptions, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Devin Lloyd, LB, Utah
The Pats trade for linebacker Mack Wilson may signal that they are in play for a smaller linebacker than their normal 250-pound-plus type. Lloyd can fit that bill while still being a threat as a blitzer. He racked up 31 pressures and an 88.4 pass-rushing grade last season.
Renner has the Patriots drafting Tulsa tackle Tyler Smith in the second round.
Andrew Booth Jr., CB, Clemson
Andrew Booth had a strong '21 season for Clemson and he's only going to get better with experience. The Patriots lost J.C. Jackson to the Chargers and they'll need to upgrade their secondary this offseason, something they didn't do during the first week of free agency.
Booth had five interceptions and nine passes defended in his three seasons at Florida. Wilson also has the Patriots drafting Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma in the second round.
Chris Olave, WR, Ohio State
New England adds a reliable wide receiver for Mac Jones. Olave has speed and is going to be in the right place every time Jones looks his way.
The 6-foot-1 Olave hauled in 35 touchdowns in his four seasons with the Buckeyes, and caught 65 passes for 936 yards and 13 scores as a senior in 2021.
George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue
Matthew Judon needs a running mate on the edge of the Patriots defensive line. Karlaftis is high floor and high upside.
Karlaftis racked up 14 sacks in his 26 games for the Boilermakers, with an impressive 29 tackles for a loss in his career. He also forced three fumbles and recovered four, and scored a defensive touchdown in 2021.
Kenyon Greene, OL, Texas A&M
They traded away Shaq Mason, so it's time to get his replacement. Green can also play right tackle if need be.
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