4th Round (Trade) – Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M (6’0″/205)
While opting not to pick a WR earlier in the draft, the Patriots miss out on the high ceiling players. But what they do get is one of the most reliable players in the draft. Swope is a max effort player who is smart and dependable each week. Swope isn’t overly explosive but, he knows how to get open and catch the ball. He recognizes coverages and adjusts his routes accordingly. He’s good on screens and not afraid to sell his body out by going over the middle.
The number one requirement for a WR playing with Tom Brady is they have to be smart and able to make adjustments quickly. Swope possesses that ability along with reliable hands. His vertical speed is the main question mark surrounding Swope, but he’s able to make up for it with body positioning and precision route running. The WR position is the oldest position on the Patriots roster and the team lacks any kind of depth at the position. Swope fits their mold for a wide receiver perfectly, he’s smart, has good hands, a good blocker for a receiver and understands what the defenses are trying to do. Sounds like a Patriots player to me.
7th Round (via Chicago thru TB) – Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State (6’2″/232)
With a long gap between picks, I expect the Patriots to be aggressive with their seventh round picks and try to hit a home run. Last year the Patriots took a chance on CB Alfonzo Dennard who had plummeted to the seventh round after an incident the week before the draft, and now the Patriots are reaping the rewards of that pick. Mauti would be a steal for a much different reason. He has outstanding character, however he has battled through a number of serious injuries at Penn State including another knee injury this past season. He had already torn both ACL’s prior to this injury. When on the field Mauti is the Nittany Lions physical and emotional leader.
He’s an instinctive player who makes an impact in the passing game as well as a run defender. He relies more on his awareness and instincts than his natural athleticism. All Penn State players who I talked to last year raved about his leadership ability and what he meant to that team both on/off the field. Due to his major injury concerns, Mauti is likely to fall in the draft. For the Patriots Mauti would give them some depth at a position where it’s needed. Mauti if healthy could be a big time contributor as a fourth linebacker. Either way it will be interesting to see how the Bill O’Brien – Bill Belichick connection influences the draft this year.
7th Round – Joe Vellano, DT, Maryland (6’1″/300)
Vellano fits the Mike Wright, Dan Klecko mold in that he is undersized for the position and isn’t the most physically gifted player. However, he makes up for all that with “grit and balls” (thanks KG). He’s a blue collar worker who battles play in and play out. His motor is unquestioned and he does a good job of finding the ball. He can play both tackle and end, I like him better inside where he can use his quickness to beat the blocker to the gap.
If Vellano was 6’4″ and more agile he would be a much higher pick. Nevertheless which ever team drafts Vellano is getting a lunch-pail player who will come to work ready to play hard each day.