8 ) Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame
If the Patriots are unable to get Mark Barron in round one and choose not to address the need in free agency, then Harrison Smith is likely the next best alternative. Smith is not flashy and may not be as exciting to watch on the field as other DBs, but he is a smart, cerebral and steady player at the back end of a defense.
Smith is the type of player the Patriots usually look for because they are natural competitors who show a love for the game. At the very least Smith will be able to be a core special teamer and a great locker room presence. While his ceiling isn’t as high as other safeties, he comes with much less risk and fewer question marks than other DBs.
Smith has shown the ability, like Mark Barron, to play multiple safety roles in different situations. Smith’s combine numbers put to rest questions that he’s a below average athlete. In the middle to end of round two Harrison Smith would be great value at a position of need.
9)Trumaine Johnson, CB/S, Montana
Johnson is a small school player who is not as well known as the other top DBs in the draft. Johnson played primarily CB at Montana and exhibited terrific man to man cover ability. However, I think Johnson might end up being the best Free Safety in this entire draft.
Johnson possesses great size at almost 6’2″ and 204 pounds. He also has 34 1/2″ arms which allows him to get his hands on a lot of passes thrown his way. What would make Johnson an intriguing FS prospect is the fact that he has very good range, great closing speed and can really hit people.
In a draft where their is a lack of safeties and especially free safeties, Johnson could really see a boost in his value. That versatility to play both CB and FS is always attractive to Bill Belichick. We saw him move Devin McCourty to FS this year when he struggled to regain his confidence at CB.
While Johnson isn’t likely to go in the first round, the Patriots would have to use one of their second round picks on Johnson, because he’s not lasting much longer than that.
10) Jared Crick, DL, Nebraska
Before Jared Crick tore his pectoral muscle this season he looked like a sure fire first round pick. Like many prospects before him, once you’re out of the spotlight your stock tends to fall a little bit.
Crick should be firmly on the radar of the Patriots because he is a legitimate 3-4 DE. He played mostly 3 technique at Nebraska but possesses the size and strength to play DE in the 3-4. Crick also has displayed natural ability to be a 3-4 end in that he doesn’t offer much of a pass rush. He does gets really good extension with his arms and is able to tie up blockers.
He is also a very solid run defender and tough to move off the line of scrimmage. Crick is a disciplined player similar to the type of player the Patriots picked when they selected Ty Warren in 2003. While Crick’s stock has take a hit, it’s tough to see him lasting until the Patriots third round pick.
11) Josh Robinson, CB, UCF
What makes Robinson an especially intriguing fit for the Patriots is that current Patriot assistant coach George Godsey was Robinson’s lead recruiter at the University of Central Florida. T
he Patriots already have a natural “in” with Robinson based on the fact that one of the reasons Robinson chose UCF, according to him, was his relationship with Coach Godsey. Bill Belichick often uses these coaching connections to get a better feel for a prospect. Last year, for example, the Patriots hired Moses Cabrera as their assistant Strength and Conditioning coordinator from the University of Colorado. Bill Belichick said during his draft press conference that he was able to lean on Moses to learn what kind of work ethic Nate Solder had and what kind of person he was off the field.
I expect Coach Godsey to provide similar information to Bill Belichick and scouts on Robinson. Besides all that, Robinson is the fastest CB in this year’s draft. He is a little undersized and has some flaws with his technique, but is coachable. A team may over-draft Robinson based on his combine numbers, but if not, the late third round would be good value for Robinson.