Patriots land star CB in ESPN expert Matt Miller's new 2022 NFL Mock Draft

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The New England Patriots should consider targeting several different positions in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, but you could make a compelling case that this team's most glaring need is cornerback.

The NFL is a passing league. It's extraordinarily difficult to win the Super Bowl if you can't stop the top quarterbacks and wide receivers. Just look at the Los Angeles Rams and their elite defense. They beat Kyler Murray, Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo and Joe Burrow on the way to winning a championship last season.

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The Patriots lost their best defensive player in March when star cornerback J.C. Jackson took his talents to the Los Angeles Chargers in free agency. Jackson's departure left New England without a No. 1 cornerback. Jonathan Jones, who missed a good chunk of 2021 with an injury, is a solid player but not a top-tier shutdown cornerback. Jalen Mills is competent, but he also doesn't project to be a Jackson-like performer at the position.

This is why drafting a cornerback in the first or second round makes a ton of sense for the Patriots. One interesting option for Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is Clemson star Andrew Booth Jr. 

ESPN expert Matt Miller published a full seven-round 2022 NFL Mock Draft on Tuesday, and he projects Booth going to the Patriots at No. 21 overall in Round 1.

Here is Miller's take on the pick:

"Booth could be the replacement for J.C. Jackson, and he could be the steal of the cornerback class here. Booth's Clemson tape shows a tough technician who is quick, fluid and agile. He has also shown versatility in a diverse defensive scheme.

"The Patriots have needs at wide receiver and linebacker, but Booth's value and the importance of the position make him an easy pick."

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Another reason for the Patriots to find a starting cornerback in this draft is their competition in the AFC East.

The Dolphins have Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle at wide receiver. The Bills offense is loaded with star quarterback Josh Allen and elite wideout Stefon Diggs. Buffalo didn't punt once during its dominant 47-17 win over the Patriots in the AFC Wild Card Round in January. The New York Jets still lack stars at the skill positions, but they could draft a wide receiver in Round 1 and quarterback Zach Wilson should be much better in Year 2.

It's hard to imagine the Patriots getting back to the playoffs in a much-improved AFC without making a meaningful upgrade at cornerback. It's among the most important positions, and right now New England has a concerning lack of depth and high-end talent on its cornerback depth chart.

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