Ex-NFL GM's new mock draft predicts Patriots taking SEC star in first round

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The New England Patriots need to find a long-term solution at left tackle, and the 2023 NFL Draft is the best place to find that player before next season.

Isaiah Wynn's time with the franchise has likely ended. He's actually still on the free agent market. Trent Brown is under contract for the 2023 season but he's not a long-term answer at left tackle.

The Patriots signed offensive tackles Calvin Anderson and Riley Reiff in free agency as well, but both are primarily backup players rather than starters.

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It wouldn't be a bad idea to take a left tackle with the No. 14 pick in the first round, and in ESPN analyst and former NFL general manager Mike Tannenbaum's latest mock draft, he projects the Patriots selecting Tennessee offensive tackle Darnell Wright.

"I was impressed with Wright's tape, especially when the 6-foot-5, 333-pounder faced Will Anderson Jr. and neutralized him in Tennessee's huge win over Alabama," Tannenbaum wrote. "Wright allowed just one sack all season and also excelled during Senior Bowl week. The Patriots allowed a sack on 8.0% of their pass snaps, which was the third-highest mark in the NFL last season.

"New England has not been the same on the offensive front, and while it signed Riley Reiff, he is not a long-term answer. The Pats have to do a better job of protecting Mac Jones, and Wright would help."

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Poor pass protection and too many penalties were issues for the Patriots' offensive line in 2022. Fixing these problems will be critical to the offense making dramatic improvement next season. The Patriots have already bolstered their coaching staff this offseason, which should help the offensive line. They hired Bill O'Brien to be the new offensive coordinator and Adrian Klemm to be the new offensive line coach.

Now it's time to bring in a few more players to give this group the talent and depth it needs to be successful.

There are other positions the Patriots could target in Round 1 -- wide receiver and cornerback are probably at the top of that list. But it's easy to make the argument that offensive tackle should be the top priority. It's hard to win enough games to make the playoffs when left tackle is a weak spot.ย 

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