NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Now that the NFL Scouting Combine is in the rear-view mirror, we can start isolating prospects who fit what the Patriots need and want in this year’s draft. I have developed a list of 20 prospects who could become Patriots in April based on scheme fit, on field performance, as well as, confirmed combine numbers.
This is a realistic view of players who could be by the Patriots in the first three rounds of the draft. The list will be updated throughout the off-season with players being added and subtracted as the off-season goes on.
What we know the Patriots need : The Patriots essentially have to rebuild their Wide Receiver and Cornerback positions through free agency and the draft. I expect them to be active in both areas through free agency, but also use some of their picks at the position. Defensive tackle, the Patriots love to build their interior lines through the draft. After failing to address the position last season I expect the team to add another DT who can add some interior pass rush.
The team will be aggressive going after pass rushers in free agency, especially one that can be paired with Chandler Jones for the future. Finally the offensive line will be target as well, likely trying to find some offensive guard depth and another versatile offensive tackle.
What the Patriots look for: It varies by position and none of us are quite sure exactly what criteria must be met by draft prospects, but we do know a little bit. The Patriots value versatility highly. Not necessarily being able to play multiple positions, but the ability to contribute on special teams. They also value prospects who can fill a niche role (i.e nickel back, elephant, safety that can play LB in packages).
Bill Belichick’s number one requirement for a prospect is that they have to be passionate about the game of football, without that nothing else matters. They have to be smart both in the classroom and on the football field. The Patriots throw a lot at young players and have to be able to learn quickly. Leadership ability is important and being a team captain doesn’t hurt.
Measurables are important at certain positions, but not everything. Belichick certainly like his edge rushers to be a certain size and weight. Usually, 6’4″ 265+ pounds. He likes his linebackers to be big and physical and he likes his defensive backs to have speed (under 4.50). The 3-Cone drill is valued highly for WR, DE/OLB and DBs.
In terms of character, the Patriots are willing to take chances on certain guys with red flags. The ones they take chances on via the draft, usually have a passion for the game of football. I’m sure the interview process is weighed heavily with the Patriots, but that’s something we can’t project. Based on the needs of the team, how we know they draft and my opinion on some of these players I have put together a list of players I think will be on the Patriots draft board in April. There isn’t a defined order as of yet and I have geared it to focus on round one through three.
2013 Patriots Draft Board (no particular order)
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington (5115/190 – 4.38)
One of the top corners in the draft. Can play outside corner or move inside to the slot. Four year college player, with good pedigree. Good size and extremely competitive in coverage. Outstanding combine numbers running sub 4.40 and 3.85 in three cone. Scheme versatile.
Kawann Short, DT, Purdue (6027/299)
Versatile and athletic tackle who is very good at creating disruption. Four year player and two time defensive captain. Returned to school to finish his degree. Can play NT, 3-Tech and 5-Tech and is one of the most productive defensive linemen in this year’s draft. Can get to the Quarterback, showing as much pass rush potential as any interior DL in the draft.
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (5084/174 – 4.34)
Would add dynamic element to the Patriots offensive. Dynamic player who showed unreal speed at combine. Can return kicks, rush the ball or play slot WR. Makes plays and is a match up nightmare for defenses. Quick, explosive, dynamic and flashy. A miniature Percy Harvin. As compliment to Welker I like him, not as a replacement.
Keenan Allen, WR, California (6020/206)
Big and polished outside receiver. Production doesn’t match upside due to poor QB situation at Cal. Would add a big physical receiver that Brady needs. Not a burner and doesn’t stretch field vertically, but savvy route runner and sure handed. Didn’t work out at combine, but will have Pro Day in March.
Datone Jones, DE/DT, UCLA (6037/283 – 4.80)
Physical edge presence with ability to rush from the edge or from DT. Ultimately, could move to 4-3 to utilize his straight line speed and power to overwhelm Guards. Perfect build for NFL, played all over the DL at UCLA. Very well spoken, showing high football IQ and passion for the game in interview.
Robert Woods, WR, USC (6003/203 – 4.51)
Another highly productive wide receiver who projects well to the NFL. Proved his speed with good 40 at the combine. Very good possession receiver who excels of short to intermediate routes. If ankle was fully healthy could be top receiver in the draft. Poor 3-Cone and Shuttle drills, but they could be overlooked for production.
Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (6027/320 – 5.30)
Doesn’t have a pretty body, but showed agility and movement skills at the combine. At Ohio State, Hankins played multiple positions on the DL and exhibited power to take on blocks, clog things up. Has strong hands and decent quickness off the snap. Not real productive, but the Ohio State, Urban Meyer connection is intriguing.
Jordan Poyer, CB, Oregon State (5117/197 – 4.54)
A solid all-around corner, not flashy, just makes plays. Has experience in both zone and man coverage. Makes decisive breaks and finds a way to get his hands on the ball. Playing strength is questionable, but a willing factor in run support. Experienced returning kicks and punts. Showed good timed speed at combine, which was a big question.
Matt Elam, S, Florida (5097/208 – 4.54)
Elam is a “heat-seeking missile” Flies around the field looking to hit anything with the ball. Plays both FS and SS. Can play in almost any coverage scheme and shows very good athleticism for the position. Vocal and physical leader, with clear passion for the game. Florida connection and has a brother who played in the NFL.
Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State (5105/192 – 4.39)
Very sound cornerback skills. Smooth hips, can play press-bail, as well as most other coverages. Good instincts in coverage with aggressive plays on the ball. 5th year Senior. Had outstanding combine running under 4.4 seconds and looked fluid, easy and natural and DB drills. Not afraid to attack the ball in run support.
The last ten names on the Patriots Big Board can be found on page two.