NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
Zero hour is before us. After months and months of speculation the 2013 NFL Draft is finally here. It’s without a doubt the most exciting time of the season for most fans. No matter what happens this weekend your team is going to add players to their roster, and with each selection there’s a possibility that your team’s next star is born. It’s what makes the draft so much fun. Forget about all the “this is the worst draft in a while” non-sense.
There will be stars drafted in this year’s draft and it’s up to your team to find them. Here is my latest Patriots only projection based on what I think is likely to happen over the course of the weekend. Have at it draft fans!
First Round (29) – TRADE
The Patriots have a group of players they are targeting at pick 29. If those players are off the board I expect the Patriots to trade back into the early second round to pick up at least another 3rd round draft choice. In this scenario I have the Patriots trade this pick to the Arizona Cardinals for their 2nd Round Choice (38) and 3rd Round Choice (69). In this scenario Arizona (or a similar team) comes up to get a QB in the late first round.
Second Round (38) – Keenan Allen, WR, California
After running a slower than ideal 40 time Keenan Allen slides into the second round and right into the Patriots lap. Allen is a trues “X” receiver that adds size and physicality to the perimeter of the Patriots offense. He won’t stretch the field with speed or explosion, but what he can do is catch the ball. Allen is one of the best route runners in the draft, has played in a pro style passing system and knows how to beat different coverages. His body positioning is very good as is the way he tempos his routes. Once thought of as the top receiver in the draft a PCL injury and the inability to workout at 100% pre-draft drop him to pick 38. The Patriots are likely to have a group of receivers graded closely together. If their top choice is off the board it makes sense for them to move down and pick up the extra selection.
Second Round (59) – Blidi Wreh-Wilson, CB, UConn
Wreh-Wilson is a cornerback name that has been heavily connected to the Patriots in recent days. His stock is fluid in NFL circles with some teams viewing him as a late first round pick, while others view him as a third rounder. Wreh-Wilson gives the Patriots another big athletic CB that excels in zone coverages. He has experience playing a number of different coverages and displays very good zone instincts. Not only can he play off-coverages, Wreh-Wilson has the package to potentially develop into a situational press corner. Initially he can back-up Aqib Talib for the 2013 season and take over if Talib leaves via free agency. Bill Belichick was on hand at the UConn Pro Day and a lot of attention was paid to the talented UConn DB. BBW was a team captain and four year contributor in college. He’s got great speed for a bigger corner and fits the trend the Patriots have began to follow at the position.
Third Round (69) – Phillip Thomas, FS, Fresno State
The one thing I took away from Nick Caserio’s press conference the other day was the way he highlighted the impressive depth at both cornerback and safety. He went out of his way to point out how many safeties have been asked to play different roles in the secondary. Perhaps no player has played more positions than Phillip Thomas. He played everywhere for the Bulldogs; box safety, single high, cover 2 safety, blitzer. Thomas has been well coached and has been praised for his smarts on the field. A natural “ballhawk” and maybe the best in the entire draft, intercepting 8 passes this past season. I was recently told, not to rule out the safety position with one of their first three picks simply because there are only a few set roster spots at the position. After listening to Nick Caserio on Monday it makes me think they take a guy like Thomas on day two of the draft.
Third Round (91) - David Bahktiati, OT/OG, Colorado
The Patriots lost Donald Thomas via free agency and they have yet to add any interior OL to the roster this off-season. You can guarantee that will change before the weekend is over. Bahktiari is someone the Patriots should be familiar with. He was Nate Solder’s teammate at Colorado and have spent time watching him over the last three seasons. What makes Bahktiari special is his ability to play almost every position on the line. He faces a likely to move inside to Guard, but it’s not out of the question that he plays center in the NFL either. An early entry after only his Junior season, but he has shown enough athleticism and versatility to be considered a great fit for the Patriots. While there are no current starting positions open on the offensive line, a player with Bahktiari’s versatility can be invaluable because he can step in at any position on the line if injuries arise.
Seventh Round (226) - Robbie Rouse, RB, Fresno State
After losing Danny Woodhead the Patriots are able to replace some of Woodhead’s value with a 7th round selection. While the team has signed Leon Washington, I get the sense he is more of a return specialist. Who knows what the deal is with Jeff Demps, but it’s pretty clear he doesn’t love the game of football. With Robbie Rouse it’s the opposite, the kid absolutely loves the game. He walks around with a smile on his face at all times and genuinely has fun playing. He is very small, but makes up for it with a thick lowerhalf and field vision. Rouse can operate in space and catches the ball nicely out of the backfield. As a gadget and spread offense specialist, Rouse can have value. This is the type of pick a team doesn’t mind using, because you know the kid is going to give it his all and not cause any problems in the locker room.
Seventh Round (235) – Jake Knott, LB, Iowa State
With a limited number of selection and the roster openings to sign 15-18 UDFA it’s likely the Patriots swing for the fences with at least one of their 7th round selections. It could be Knott or a similar player that has slipped due to injury, off the field concerns or limited athleticism. Whatever the case may be I look for it to be a boom or bust pick. Jake Knott is a vastly underrated OLB. He’s very good in coverage, is a smart player and should be able to contribute immediately on special teams.
I feel this is an accurate representation of what the Patriots could do this weekend. They fill needs while adding projectable players to certain roles. While everyone is focused on WR and CB early, don’t rule out the DE position. If they go DE early, it will throw a wrench in the rest of the draft as they will have to go WR and CB on day two.