NEPD Editor: Matthew Jones
New England may unfortunately enter the 2013 NFL Draft with more needs than draft picks, having traded away their fourth, fifth, and sixth-round selections in deals for Aqib Talib, Albert Haynesworth, and Chad Johnson, respectively. The Patriots could use young wide receiver talent, depth along the offensive line and defensive front seven, and starters in the defensive backfield. Read on to find out how they might choose to allocate their draft selections in order to address these areas of their roster.
1.29. CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi St.
Banks may have struggled through a disappointing senior campaign, but he remains an attractive option for New England in the first round. Banks’ prototypical size (6’1” and 185 pounds) and long arms could remind the Patriots of 2010 second-round pick Ras-I Dowling, whose career has been seemingly derailed by injuries.
With rumors that New England is apprehensive about signing left cornerback Aqib Talib to a long-term contract, it makes sense that the Patriots would target a replacement defender at the position. Banks is experienced in both man and zone coverages, with intriguing press coverage skills as well as a smooth, polished backpedal.
2.59. SS Tony Jefferson, Oklahoma
Jefferson is one of the most versatile defensive backs in the entire draft class; he is most comfortable playing as an in-the-box safety, functioning almost as an extra linebacker, but the Sooners have employed him in the slot and in deep zone coverage as well. Jefferson is considered an excellent tackler and an effective run defender.
This versatility could draw New England’s interest, with the Oklahoma safety eventually stepping in as a starting option opposite free safety Devin McCourty. Steve Gregory and Tavon Wilson are both on the roster, but neither of the two has established themselves as a playmaker in the defensive backfield.
3.91. DE Cornellius Carradine, Florida St.
Carradine tore his ACL against Florida on November 24th, but until then had dramatically increased his draft stock with impressive performances as an injury replacement for Brandon Jenkins. Carradine, who has played on both sides of the line, recorded 80 tackles and eleven sacks in just over eleven games; his excellent size (6’5”, 265 pounds) and length could remind New England of Chandler Jones, last year’s first-round pick.
Carradine can be a little bit slow off the line at times, but most of his flaws appear correctable. Starting left end Rob Ninkovich is a dependable, well-rounded player, but it would be hard to pass on a potential first-round talent at this point.
7.xxx. (from Buccaneers) WR Marquess Wilson, Washington St.*
Considered a second-round pick entering this season following a 2011 campaign in which he caught 82 passes for 1,388 yards and twelve touchdowns, Marquess Wilson was expected to take his game to another level under incoming coach Mike Leach. However, the season turned out to be a disaster, with Wilson ultimately quitting the team in early November; the wide receiver cited the coaching staff’s “abuse” for his decision.
At this point, Wilson is considered a risky pick, but it would be wise for the Patriots to investigate selecting him this late in the draft. Like cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, a seventh-round pick last season, New England could find a starting option simply by giving Wilson an opportunity; he’s undervalued at this point.
7.xxx. DT Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame
The Patriots have some options at the defensive tackle position heading into next season; starters Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love are returning, joined by Brandon Deaderick, Myron Pryor, Marcus Forston, and incoming tackles Armond Armstead and Tracy Robertson. However, increased competition at the position is always welcome; if New England opts to add to that stable of tackles, one possible option is Notre Dame defensive lineman Kapron Lewis-Moore, a team captain this season who recorded six sacks for the Irish this year before tearing his ACL in the BCS Championship.
Lewis-Moore may not be ready for the start of training camp, but New England could potentially stash him on the PUP list to begin the season. Be sure to check back later this week for NEPD’s interview with Lewis-Moore.