NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The 2013 NFL Draft is in the books and the totality of the New England Patriots draft class is finally known. It’s now time to analyze the results, breakdown how the Patriots fared and project the players into spots on the roster.
Over the last 24 hours I’ve had a ton of thoughts running through my head and I try to fit some of those in this article. Did the Patriots fill their holes? What can we expect from these players in year one?
These are some of my final thoughts on the Patriots draft now that it’s all said and done.
– Now that it has all sunk in and the results are known, I think the Patriots and Bill Belichick did almost as good as could have been expected. We have to remember that they entered that draft with only five selections and a massive gap in picks between the end of the 3rd round to the middle of the 7th. They were essentially handcuffed in the first round and had to hope a team would be willing to trade back into the first round in order for them to get more picks. With no teams willing or needing to move back into the first to get a QB this year, the trading partners were limited for the Patriots. Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio really did well to flush out a deal with the Minnesota Vikings. The ability to acquire four picks, when no other teams were trying to get the selection and at the same time the Vikings knowing the Patriots were desperate to trade back was impressive. It was imperative that at least one more mid-round selection prior to day two was added and they were able to do that.
– After making some calls today and touching base with a few people, I am under the impression that Jamie Collins was the selection all along. If the Patriots were unable to move down from pick #29 they likely would have chose the Southern Mississippi pass rusher there. I was told by one source today that one team high in the first round, attempted to trade down into the mid-late 20s with Jamie Collins in mind. His value across the league was right in-line with where the Patriots drafted him.
– Collins is an interesting pick in a lot of ways. For one, he’s someone that almost no one connected with the Patriots. He’s not a player that would traditionally be associated with Bill Belichick. But, we are starting to see a bit of a trend develop. With Chandler Jones last year and Jamie Collins this year, it looks like a concerted effort is being made to get more athletic on the edge with players who can both stand-up and rush with their hand in the dirt. The traditional measurables that we use to project Patriots DL/LB draft picks look to be useless now.
– It will be interesting to see where Collins plays, but I am under the belief that his best position in the first year is a an “elephant” or hybrid rusher. With his athleticism and speed it would be smart to see him stand up and be able to threaten the edge opposite Chandler Jones. Collins will be better right now playing in space and off the line while he develops more functional rush strength. The presence on Collins will allow the Patriots to be more creative with their fronts and the way their disguise their alignments.
– Many Patriot fans including myself have been clamoring for the Patriots to add more speed and athleticism to the LB ranks over the last two seasons. This pick addresses that need. Collins, at least in the short area, can line up over the TE and get a jam on them. He can cover in the short zone and close zone holes that have been exploited even by poor QBs over the past two seasons. Collins should also help the ability to cover RB out of the backfield. It’s clear opposing teams have gone to great lengths to get their backs singled up with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, because of their inability to run with them. Collins at the very least can buzz the flat and take away the short zone.
– As a pass rusher, Collins will be much more effective early on if they are able to get him one on one with an opposing lineman. It could be possible the Patriots plan to use him in a similar fashion to how the 49ers use Aldon Smith. Create some packages for him and run a bunch on twists and stunts where he can use his speed to exploit holes in the line or slower offensive guards. The knock on Collins right now is that he lacks strength to over-power blockers, so it will be important they let him use his speed and explosive lower half.
– The Patriots now have 4-5 young LB, all of whom can play different roles. The addition of an athletic outside backer will allow Bill Belchick to play with endless combinations of backers from Collins (WLB) – Hightower (MLB) – Mayo (SLB), to Collins – Hightower – Spikes – Mayo or even with Collins on the strong side. Collins’ usage will be one of the things I look for closely in training camp.
– The success of failure of this draft will come down to one thing; If Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce emerge as impact receivers this draft will be looked at as a success. If they fail to see the field and end up like Taylor Price and the others before him this draft will be considered a failure.
– This is 3 out of 4 years that the Patriots have doubled up at an offensive position of needs. In 2010 it was tight end with Gronkowski and Hernandez. In 2011 it was RB with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. Now this year it’s WR with Marshall’s Aaron Dobson and TCU’s Josh Boyce. We can only hope that the combination is as successful as they other pairs of offensive play-makers.
– Heading into the draft it was clear as day that the Patriots needed to get bigger, faster and more physical at the outside receiver position. On paper the Patriots were able to do that. Aaron Dobson stands 6’3″ tall and ran a 4.37 at his pro day. He has freakish ability to make tough catches and gives the Patriots a type of receiver that they just haven’t had for a long time. Dobson has the ability to beat man to man coverage and wins the battle for 50-50 balls. He will give the Patriots another big bodied threat in the red zone. I really hope the Patriots put Dobson in a position to succeed initially by letting him use his best attributes. If the Patriots use him in a similar fashion to what the Ravens have done with Torrey Smith and let him use his vertical speed he can make an impact. Dobson’s threat of speed and size over the top should open up things for the tight ends in the middle of the field. The inability of this team to find a viable downfield WR since Randy Moss has left has crippled it’s ability to adjust in the biggest games. If Dobson can grasp the offense, he can spread the field.
– Bill Belichick was effusive in his praise of Dobson’s smarts and intelligence. It’s absolutely crucial for a receiver to be smart when coming into the Patriots offense because they throw so much information at them. Take Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez for example, while neither seems to be the most book smart, they are both football smart and grasped the Patriots passing system in no time. Both Dobson and Boyce’s success will hinge on their ability to pick up the playbook because their physical ability is undisputed.