11) David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Selecting a running back doesn’t seem like it would be a priority for the Patriots, but Bill Belichick always finds a way to pull off the unexpected. The Patriots drafted two running backs last year in Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, so that should preclude them from taking one this year right? I would doubt it. The Patriots usually stay true to taking the best player available on the board and Wilson could be available for one of or both the Patriots second round picks.
The team lost running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to the Bengals in free agency and Kevin Faulk who will likely retire, so there is at least one RB spot available on the roster. One my be filled by one of the two fullbacks the Patriots brought in, however my point is if the Patriots view Wilson as the best player available, they will take him. Wilson runs extremely hard and is always fighting for every last yard. He hits the holes hard, can make people miss and can run away from a defense. He has solid hands and is deadly in the open field.
If the Patriots did select Wilson or another RB like him they would form one of the most intriguing young backfields in the NFL. There has been talk of taking some of the pressure off of Tom Brady in the coming years and one of the ways to do that is creating a dynamic stable of running backs.
12) Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
Joe Adams is the type of WR the Patriots usually target. He is probably best suited for the slot, but I think he could also play outside the numbers. What makes Adams so special is his ability to be deadly on kick and punt returns as well as create plays on offense with the ball in his hands. Adams played in a pro-style offense in college under Uber-Scumbag coach Bobby Petrino.
He was widely considered the best player in Mobile during the Senior Bowl week and really showed off his ability to catch the ball and get open. The Patriots really need to find a way to get better in the return game, which really hampered them in the field position game at times last year. It makes sense for the Patriots to select a player who can be a major factor on offense as well as on returns, in order to save a roster spot.
In the past we have seen the Patriots target wide outs such as Bethel Johnson and Brandon Tate because besides just being a WR they were also great return men. Adams is a better natural WR entering the league than either of those players and would immediately become a fan favorite because of how electric he is with the ball in his hands. At this point it looks like the Patriots would be able to select Adams at pick #63 which would be great value for a player who could bring so much to the offense and special teams units.
13) Bruce Irvin, OLB, West Virginia
Irvin is a very unique prospect. He is the fastest DE/OLB in the draft running a 4.43 forty yard dash at the combine, but he is also one of the lightest at 245 pounds. If the Patriots were to pick Bruce Irvin they would likely be doing so to help fill the void that was left by Mark Anderson. I view Irvin as a similar player to Mark Anderson, both are players who play best when they are allowed to just pin their ears back and rush the passer.
Anderson was listed at 6’4″ 254 lbs, when he entered the draft, but was not nearly as fast as Irvin, running a 4.62. Irvin was laughably misused at West Virginia. He was asked to play the 5-Tech and tie up blockers instead of rush the passer on each play. In the NFL I see Bruce Irvin standing up and just getting after the QB. He will need to add some bulk, strength and needs to get better against the run.
However, you can’t teach the speed that Irvin has and it’s rare to find an edge rusher who is athletic as Irvin. Bill Belichick is the master of finding the one thing a player can do well and putting them in position to be successful. There’s no doubt Bill Belichick would be able to find situations to use Irvin’s athleticism. I doubt he is someone the Patriots would reach for, but if Irvin is sliding down the board a little bit, I could see the Patriots biting. Irvin does have some off the field red flags and was just arrested for disorderly conduct which will effect his draft stock a little bit.
14) Brandon Taylor, FS, LSU
The Patriots still have depth and talent concerns at the safety position. They added Steve Gregory in free agency, but need more to fix what was the worst position on the team last season. With the limited talent at safety available at the top of the draft I think it’s likely the Patriots wait to draft a safety, if they do at all.
I view Taylor as a good fit because he can do a little bit of everything. He has solid range and cover skills which makes him attractive to a team that struggled to cover from the safety position. Taylor also isn’t afraid to get physical, he will come up in run support and can bring the wood at times. The Patriots ask their safeties to be versatile and Taylor is a defensive back who I believe can rotate between high and low safety. Taylor needs to clean up his tackling and needs to take better angles, as he misses to many tackles.
Taylor would make sense for the Patriots in the late third and would make even more sense if they could wait to get him in the fourth round.
15) Micah Pellerin, CB, Hampton
If the Patriots decide to focus on the front seven and pass rush through the first two-three rounds they will miss out on many of the top corners and safeties. Pellerin is a player the Patriots would be able to get in the fourth round or later who might be able to make an immediate impact. Pellerin is another player who might be able to make the switch to FS, but can also stick at CB.
He has really good feet, he can stick a foot in the round and break on a route as good as any CB in the draft. The Patriots send defensive backs coach Josh Boyer to personally work out Pellerin, which signals that they have at least some interest in the Hampton DB. To get a fluid, quick twitch defensive back in the late fourth round or later would be great value for a team in need of cover corners.
Bonus – 16) Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
Broyles is one more player I will throw out there, because selecting him would be a typical Patriots value pick. Broyles tore his ACL in November and won’t be fully healthy until well after the draft. Obviously going through the draft process with a torn acl has hurt Broyles draft stock. If healthy Broyles would have been a solid second round pick. Since he is not healthy he is likely going to be a 4th round pick. I believe Broyles is a great fit for what the Patriots do on offense.
He is a possession type WR who reminds me a lot of current Patriot WR Brandon Lloyd. He is able to get open on almost any route he runs and has very reliable hands. He is someone who I believed would be on the Patriots radar before he got injured. Last year we saw the Patriots select Marcus Cannon in the 5th round after it was found out he had a form of cancer at the combine. In 2009 we saw the Patriots select Brandon Tate who was coming off of a torn ACL in the third round, which was a situation very similar to Broyles current situation.
If the Patriots feel like they can get good value on Broyles and stash him on the PUP list until he is fully healthy I think they would do it.
17) Other players who the Patriots might look at include: Illinois WR AJ Jenkins, Wake Forest WR Chris Givens, LSU CB Ron Brooks, Cincinnati DT Derek Wolfe, Florida DT Jaye Howard, Wake Forest OLB Kyle Wilber, Furman CB Ryan Steed, Arizona State DB Omar Bolden, Notre Dame OLB Darius Fleming and North Carolina State ILB Audie Cole.
If the Patriots are going to trade up in the first round, which is usually unlikely, I believe it will be for one of two players. Either Michael Brockers whom I highlighted earlier or Alabama OLB Courtney Upshaw. I believe Upshaw is exactly the type of OLB the Patriots usually target and would be a great fit on the strong side of the Patriots defense. I know the Patriots have interest in Upshaw but would like have to trade up to the 15th pick or there abouts to get him.