McShay's new 2022 Mock Draft has Patriots going defense with first two picks

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The New England Patriots' last game was an embarrassing 47-17 loss to the rival Buffalo Bills in the AFC Wild Card playoff round.

Even though the offense played poorly, the New England defense was the real culprit in the defeat. The Bills scored at will and got into the end zone on each of their first seven drives. 

The Patriots defense looked slow and clearly lacked the talent required to slow down an offense of Buffalo's caliber -- especially when the weather conditions aren't extreme.

So, it's no surprise many experts expect the Patriots to devote plenty of 2022 draft capital to bolstering key positions on defense.

In his new 2022 NFL Mock Draft posted Tuesday, ESPN's Todd McShay projects the Patriots selecting University of Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean with the No. 21 pick in the first round.

Here is McShay's explanation for the Dean pick:

"New England could use a spark in the middle of the defense. Dean might not have the measurables that NFL teams seek -- he is 5-foot-11 with shorter arms -- but his tape might be my favorite in the entire class because of his incredible effort on every play and the way he can impact the run defense, pass defense and pass rush on any given set of downs. I think he'd be a star in coach Bill Belichick's system."

Dean would add much-needed athleticism to the Patriots' linebacker corps. His ability to excel in pass coverage also would be a nice upgrade to New England's defense. The Patriots released veteran linebacker Kyle Van Noy earlier in the offseason, and Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower both are still free agents. Therefore, bolstering their depth at linebacker has to be a priority for the Patriots in this upcoming draft.

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The Patriots own the No. 54 overall pick, too, and that's where McShay projects New England selecting University of Florida cornerback Kaiir Elam in the second round.

Here is McShay's explanation for the Elam pick: 

"J.C. Jackson signed with the Chargers, and the Pats have Jalen Mills and Malcolm Butler penciled in as their starters at cornerback. Adding another playmaker there in the draft -- especially one with Elam's speed, instincts and physicality -- gives New England options."

Jackson's departure definitely stung because it leaves the Patriots without a legit No. 1 cornerback on the roster. That's a not a good situation to be in, especially when you have to play talented wideouts such as Stefon Diggs, Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle multiple times per season inside the AFC East division.

The Patriots don't have a great history selecting cornerbacks in Round 2, though. Recent busts include Joejuan Williams (2019), Duke Dawson (2018) and Cyrus Jones (2016).

That said, cornerback is a position of significant need and importance for the Patriots, so they absolutely should take one in the first three rounds as they try to rebuild their defense.

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