NEPD Staff Writer: Dan Hope
I’m neither Bill Belichick nor Nick Caserio, but the better part of last week, I represented the New England Patriots in #MockTwo, a draft simulation in which 32 Twitter users, ranging from well-known NFL writers and analysts to diehard fans representing their favorite teams, each represent an NFL team in a seven-round 2013 NFL mock draft, complete with trading and all.
This year’s second simulation presented by MockOne.Net, I was privileged to have the opportunity to participate with a great group of general managers. In the process, I had the opportunity to help create a realistic simulation of what the 2013 NFL draft could end up looking like in April, as the players and picks available for me to use as Patriots GM were shaped by the decisions of 31 other GMs who all knew their teams’ rosters inside and out.
Read on to see which players I picked for the Patriots, which trades I did and did not make, why I made the moves I did, and what I would do differently.
Round 1, Pick 29 (No. 29 overall): Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State
With Aqib Talib being an unrestricted free agent, the Patriots’ only sure returning starter at cornerback is Alfonzo Dennard, who has only season of NFL experience under his belt and is also facing off-field legal issues. This makes the cornerback position one of their primary needs, if not their greatest position of need.
The selection of Johnthan Banks, however, was more about value than it was about need. Knowing that he could fall to the No. 29 overall selection coming off of a poor 40-yard dash time at the combine, Banks was a player ranked in my top 20 who I was targeting to fall to this pick all along. When he landed at No. 29, it was a quick and easy selection to make.
Banks is my No. 2-rated cornerback behind only Dee Milliner, and can be an immediate starter in the secondary. He is a polished four-year starter from Mississippi State who makes up for subpar speed with size, length, ball skills and instincts. Banks can make the Patriots’ secondary better immediately, and is well worth a late first-round pick.
Trading down from the No. 29 overall selection may have in fact been my best possible move: given the slide of cornerbacks down the board, it is possible that I still could have drafted Banks in the early second round. Additionally, it would have eliminated my need to trade out of the Patriots’ second-round pick, which I could have used to get a different cornerback bargain on Boise State’s Jamar Taylor, a very good man cover corner who fell into Round 3.
Patriots Trade Round 2, Pick 29 (No. 59 overall) for Round 3, Pick 21 (No. 83), Round 4, Pick 5 (No. 99) and Round 6, Pick 21 (No. 179)
The Patriots came into the draft without any picks between Rounds 4-6, and in the interest of picking up some quality Day 3 talent and being able to address more positions of need, trading down at some point was a necessity. This trade gave the Patriots the ability to pick up two additional selections on Day 3, while not sacrificing their total number of Day 2 picks.
The trade down, however, came with a price. The ultimate plan was a calculated risk that didn’t turn out exactly as hoped.
If not for trading down, I would have selected Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short at No. 59 overall, an outstanding value late in Round 2 who could bring increased pressure inside at defensive tackle. After trading down, I attempted to trade back up to get into position to select Short in the middle of Round 3, but was beaten to the punch by the Seattle Seahawks, who traded up with the New York Jets for the No. 73 overall selection — a selection I had also negotiated for — to select Short.
As a general manager in this situation, you have to make a tough decision. What is worth more to the team’s draft: getting the player you covet, or trade down and risk missing out on the opportunity to select him? In this case, although I feel that the Patriots missed out on what would have been a great addition in Short, I felt that adding more picks was necessary and that the loss of Short could be made up by selecting other defensive tackles later.
Round 3, Pick 21 (No. 83 overall): Cobi Hamilton, WR, Arkansas
If the Patriots are to release Brandon Lloyd, they do not have a single receiver currently under contract who should have a featured role at the position in the offense next season. That made selecting a receiver early a necessity, and the Patriots got good value in Round 3 with the selection of Arkansas’ Cobi Hamilton.
If the Patriots are able to re-sign free agent slot receiver Wes Welker, then their biggest need at the position will be for vertical threats to play on the outside. The Patriots could get that from Hamilton, a talented downfield receiver who tracks the ball well and making plays.
Hamilton is my No. 10-rated wideout, but was only the 14th receiver off the board in Mock One. The Patriots should be glad to get him where they did in this simulation.