NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Even with the Patriots getting ready to play in another AFC Championship Game, the draft is on the mind as the Senior Bowl and draft process really gets kick started this week.
The Patriots hit a home run in 2012 by trading up and drafting impact defensive players. In 2013 the Patriots will continue to add defensive playmakers to a young defensive core while possibly adding one or two more offensive weapons.
Here is my latest edition of a Patriots seven round mock draft.
The Patriots currently own only five selections in the 2013 draft due to trades over the last two years. The trades have brought varying degrees of success. The Aqib Talib move looks like a bargain and if he resigns the Patriots have a legitimate #1-2 corner for the price of a fourth round pick. Conversely the Albert Haynesworth trade was an unmitigated disaster and Ochocinco trade was marginally better. With a shortage of “draft capital”, it’s fair to assume that Bill Belichick will manipulate the draft board again this year, to either gain extra picks or to get the player he really wants.
Patriots Biggest Needs:
DT – Lack depth and a play-maker next to Vince Wilfork. Need someone who can push the pocket, penetrate and play in multiple defensive alignments.
DE/OLB – Chandler Jones and Justin Francis look like pass rushers for the future, but the team still struggled to rush pass without the blitz. Team needs to continue to add young, versatile pass rushers.
LB – Behind the top three, the Patriots are extremely thin at linebacker. Ideally a backer who can play three downs, come in on sub-packages and cover TE/RB/Slot.
WR – After Welker and Lloyd (Edelman a UFA) there is nothing here. If Welker leaves it becomes even a bigger need. Outside receiver a need, not necessarily a vertical threat, but someone with speed who can run the route tree.
CB – If Talib resigns the top two CB spots are locked in. Kyle Arrington (UFA) has been up and down. Another corner who can play both outside and in the slot would go a long way to sure up a developing secondary.
OG – Only weakness on OL was at RG, even though Dan Connolly is more than servicable. The position can be upgraded.
SAF – Devin McCourty and Steve Gregory are locked in as starters, Tavon Wilson as #3 SAF going forward. Need one more guy who can play both safety positions and offer special teams value.
First Round (32) – Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida (6’3″/303)
There are going to be a lot of defensive linemen coming off the board at this point in the draft and many of them could be a fit for what the Patriots are looking for. Floyd is an early entry into the draft and would provide the Patriots the versatility to play at the 3 technique as well as 5 technique in a three man front. Floyd exhibits very good quickness off the ball and in short areas. His motor is impressive and he attempts to chase down just about every play. Uses his hands well to get extension, read the play and then shed. Lined up at DE most of the time at Florida, so he has experience playing up and down the line, but his best position in inside in my opinion.
Floyd’s best football is ahead of him. If he learns to refine his technique and play with better leverage he can be the best DT in the draft. In terms of fit for the Patriots, he would make a very good compliment to Vince Wilfork. The Patriots don’t have a player like Floyd and while Wilfork can draw double teams Floyd can beat blocks with his quickness and on stunts. He would give the Patriots a little bit of what they looked for when they signed Jonathan Fanene last off-season. If they choose to go with another DT, Kawann Short, Johnathan Hankins (if he falls some) and John Jenkins are possibilities.
2nd Round (64) - TRADE
The Patriots trade their late second round pick for a mid-third and a fourth round pick. It would give the Patriots more flexibility in an area of the draft where there isn’t much separating the players.
3rd Round (traded pick) - John Simon, DE/OLB, Ohio State (6’2″/260)
Simon is a bit on the small side to play defensive end, so many project him to some sort of LB position in the NFL. When I watch Simon it’s tough not to like his tenacity and the fire in which he plays the game. He gets after it on every single play with good accleration off the line and violent use of hands. Simon reminds me a lot of current Patriot Rob Ninkovich and former Patriot Mike Vrabel in that they can rush the passer from multiple spots (hand in dirt, stand up), but are also smart and agile enough to drop into coverage.
Simon always has to be accounted for the offense as he is always a threat to make an impact play. He’s a two time captain at Ohio State and plays the game the right way. It probably doesn’t hurt that he is actually coached by the player he reminds me of. Adding Simon to a young front seven would give the Patriots a ton of versatility. He would give them the ability to change from a 4-3 to a 3-4 with relative ease during games and would add another pass rusher, which is never a bad thing.
3rd Round (95) – Leon McFadden, CB, San Diego State (5’10″/190)
Teams can never have too many good corners and that’s the thinking with this pick. McFadden is a productive three year starter for the Aztecs. Throughout his career McFadden has shown very good zone coverage instincts, with the ability to sit in his zone, read the QB and make plays on the ball. I believe he has the ability to play either the outside cornerback spot and in the slot, due to his fluid ability to cover. McFadden plays with an edge and aggressiveness. He fights through blocks to make plays in run support and seems to just have an overall high football IQ. On top of that he has experience on all special teams units, from returning punts to being an edge rusher on field goal blocks.
The Patriots are starting to assemble a talented young secondary with Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington and Tavon Wilson. Ras-I Dowling is still on the team, but can’t be counted on. Adding another cover corner who has experience in different types of coverage schemes and can play both corner spots, could give the Patriots the last piece in their lengthy secondary rebuild.
Fourth – seventh round picks can be found on page two.