We’re back with our 4th edition of our 2011 Patriots NFL Mock Draft. You may now commence praising, ripping, or completely re-doing the entire mock draft in the comments section.
1st Round – #17
Aldon Smith (DE/OLB, Missouri) is quite the polarizing prospect. People say that he “can’t cover”, but all the tape that we see of him has him taking decent drops (and even making a nice interception) on the VERY rare occasion that he was asked to drop into coverage at Missouri. Others say he can’t play the run. While we’ll agree that he can get stronger anchoring against tackles and that he needs to improve his backside pursuit, those are correctable errors for a guy that will only turn 22 during the second half of the 2011 season.
The larger question is, would drafting Aldon Smith make the Patriots a better team? If you are willing to stick with Rob Ninkovich or Tully Banta-Cain as potential starters, and not very good depth players, then we can’t help you. That said, Smith is a rare prospect with the requisite size, length, speed, and skill to excel as an outside linebacker in the Patriots 3-4 system.
He is still raw, but mixing him in during the 2011 season while he gets stronger and learns the system, a la Jermaine Cunningham in 2010, seems like the correct course of action. He’ll still be able to contribute greatly on 3rd down, where the Patriots need it most, with the ability to become a full-fledged force late in 2011 or early in 2012.
1st Round – #28
The need for help on the defensive front is obvious. Injury concerns were rampant in 2010, with Ty Warren, Mike Wright, Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, and others missing significant time. Muhammad Wilkerson (DE, Temple) would provide some youth at the position, while also upgrading the quality of the group.
Wilkerson has the ideal build for a 5-technique defensive end, but will need some coaching on how to 2-gap and stay low. All the physical tools are there though – Patriots coaches would be happy to show him the ways.
2nd Round – #33
Derek Sherrod (OT, Mississippi State) is the guy that does nothing spectacularly, but everything well. He is probably the most complete left tackle in this draft, but lacks some of the upside of the guys like Nate Solder and Tyron Smith.
If the Patriots decide to slide Sebastian Vollmer to the left side to eventually replace Matt Light, you can substitute guys like Gabe Carimi or Anthony Castonzo in here. Both of those prospects are able to play either tackle position.
2nd Round – #60
Stephen Neal. Logan Mankins. Dan Koppen. All of the aforementioned stalwarts of the Patriots interior line could be gone after 2011, with Neal and Mankins probably having played their final game for the Foxboro faithful. Enter John Moffitt (OL, Wisconsin), who brings with him the nastiness and toughness that Coach Scarnecchia adores. He is also from Wisconsin, which just might help.
Moffitt moves well for a 320 pound guy and has the ability to play both guard and center. That is the sort of versatility that will turn heads in the offices of Gillette Stadium.
3rd Round – #74
After addressing the interior line with Moffitt and the edge with Sherrod, you might think that the Patriots would be done with the offensive line. If Clint Boling (OL, Georgia) is available here though, they may have a tough time not adding some quality youth and depth at the position.
Boling is great in pulling and screen situations, which really boosts his value to the Patriots. His experience playing four OL positions at Georgia will also look good to the New England front office.
3rd Round – #92
We had Jeremy Beal (DE/OLB, Oklahoma) rated as a 1st-round prospect going into the 2010 NCAA season and a borderline 1st-2nd after. Things changed for Beal at the Senior Bowl, where he was consistently bested by linemen.
Beal’s work-ethic, football smarts, and leaderships make the Patriots a smart bet to try and get some production out of this former Sooner star at the LOLB position.
3rd Round (trade using 4th and 5th round picks)
While the Patriots would love for Ahmad Black (S, Florida) to fall to them in the 4th round, they’ll probably have to snag him with one of their third rounders. With already selecting Beal and Boling, we had the Patriots package their 4th and 5th round picks to move up into the tail end of the 3rd round.
Black is a special-teams demon that will also be able to contribute as a defensive back. He has a very small build for a safety, but he will excel covering the slot as a 3rd safety.
With an already relatively-stacked roster, the Patriots may just take a flyer on a guy like John Clay (RB, Wisconsin). A big bruising back would rekindle flickers of clock-killin’ Corey Dillon in Patriot heads everywhere.
Clay has some serious concerns with his work-ethic, but in the right locker room he could thrive as a power-back in the NFL.