– I almost like the Boyce pick more than the Dobson pick. I really believe Josh Boyce is going to have an impact in the NFL this year. When you watch him on film at TCU you can gain appreciate for his big play ability, most of which he sets up with smart route running and tempo. Boyce changes the speed of his routes very well and sets up the defender properly. He’s going to be deadly out of the Patriots play-action game because he does such a good job of selling the run. Boyce has great timed speed (sub 4.40) and while he doesn’t play quite that fast, his speed is visible on film. Boyce has a sturdy 5’11” 206 lbs. build and like Dobson does a good job of winning 50-50 balls. Both receivers also have very reliable hands and can track the ball down the field. Boyce can play outside the numbers as an X receiver or in the slot.
– If both players can get on the field this year the Patriots would be looking at a top five of Amendola, Gronkowski, Hernande, Dobson and Boyce. That group certainly has more size, speed and vertical ability than last year’s group. While last’s year group looked great on paper, they were fair to one-dimensional and finesse oriented. How these two rookie WR pick up the offense and integrate themselves into the passing game is without a doubt the #1 story line heading into the summer.
– As I talked about the other night, I loved the Logan Ryan selection because I felt it was the best value at CB on the board. If they missed out on Ryan they risked not being able to land a CB that can play next year. Ryan played the same position as Devin McCourty at Rutgers and as Bill Belchick spoke about Saturday, Rutgers plays a similar style defense to the Patriots. Ryan should be familiar with responsibilities, terminology and technique. The transition period with so many Rutgers players on the roster should be quite easy.
– Unlike other cornerback draft picks of the past, Logan Ryan won’t necessarily be asked to come in and start from day one. I feel like part of the reason some of these draft picks have failed is because they have been asked to do too much too early. The addition of Ryan gives the Patriots more depth at CB than thay have had in a very long time. Looking at the depth chart right now they have a top five of 1) Aqib Talib 2) Alfonzo Dennard 3) Kyle Arrington 4) Logan Ryan 5) Marquise Cole and if Ras-I Dowling can ever get healthy throw him into the mix. Essentially, the same secondary will return to Foxboro next year with a few key additions. Lack of cohesion, familiarity and communication has killed the Patriots secondary over the last 3-4 years. That can’t be an excuse this year.
– Ryan can play both in the slot or as an outside CB. He’s a very good tackler and an aggressive run defender, totaling 94 tackles in 2012 alone. Ryan is much more comfortable in zone schemes and finds a way to the ball. He’s a legitimate NFL talent and had one of the best CB seasons in college football last season. Broke up 21 passes and intercepted another 4. I would be surprised if Ryan wasn’t one of the four active corners on game day in 2013.
– The Duron Harmon pick is still a head-scratcher, although I have learned that plenty of other NFL teams have interest in him. It seems like the rest of the NFL considered him a 5th-6th round pick with the highest possibility being the 4th round. None of that matters to Bill Belichick as he obviously saw something in Harmon that he loved. I can’t answer what that is, but I do know he appears to be a smart, instinctive and well-coached player.
– If Durmon Harmon is a reach pick in terms of value, then the Michael Buchanan pick is a steal. Buchanan was widely considered a 3rd-4th round player by most analysts and draft experts. Even Daniel Jeremiah sung his praises on NFL Network prior to the draft calling him a “3rd-4th round player”. Like Alfonzo Dennard last year, Buchanan was the best player left on the draft board (besides Da’Rick Rogers who the Patriots weren’t touching). While Jamie Collins will be asked to play a hybrid role and play off the line of scrimmage in my opinion, I believe Michael Buchanan will play on the line of scrimmage. At 6’5″ 255 lbs. he has a frame that can withstand the addition of an extra ten pounds. He will provide some more athleticism and edge rush ability from the defensive end position.
– How anyone could be upset with the Patriots adding athletic pass rushers to the defensive front seven is beyond me. As we have learned a team can never have too many pass rushers. While people are trying to figure out where Buchanan will fit, just think of him as a replacement for Trevor Scott. He has a much higher upside, with the ability to cover lots of range and does well to get his hands into passing lanes. (I still expect the Patriots to add John Abraham, as a veteran rush presence).
– The Patriots wrapped up their draft with Rutgers ILB Steven Beuaharnais. I was able to interview Beauharnais, along with his teammate Khaseem Greene at the Senior Bowl and the thing that stands out with these players is their football IQ. There is no doubting their ability to diagnose, recognize and put themselves in position to make plays. The Rutgers football team seems like such a close knit community, it’s no wonder why Bill Belichick loves it.
– Beauharnais actually has a decent chance to stick in my opinion. Looking at the Patriots ILB depth chart and it’s very very thin. It’s basically Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher (recovering from ACL surgery). While people like Dane Fletcher, I tend to think people have overrated him a bit. Where Beauharnais likely fits is on special teams units. Tracy White is gone, Jeff Tarpinian adds zero value outside of special teams, so it was important to add Special Teams LB depth, that can contribute on defense if injuries occur.
– As I stated at the beginning of this I feel like the Patriots did as good as I expected them to do. I have no problems with 6 out of 7 selections. Each year fans expectations for the Patriots drafts are unreasonable. We have to remember that each year they are at a disadvantage because they pick at the end of the draft. Especially this year with limited picks and picking late in the rounds they were in a tough spot. I think they found at least 3-4 contributing players at areas of need next year and that’s all one can ask for.
– Finally, the Patriots UDFA class really stands out to me as one of the most talented UDFA classes that I can remember them bringing in. Usually they bring in a bunch of kids that have no shot at all of making the roster, but this year there is some legit talent on that list. It’s filled with combine invites, All-Conference players and speedy players. Out of all the players TJ Moe is the name that stands out. Moe was a draftable WR that has drawn comparisons to Wes Welker because of his explosive quickness and sudden change of direction. He was the top performer at the combine in both the short shuttle and 3-cone drill, as well as posting an impressive 26 reps on the bench. Moe is the type of player that is really tough to cut. Coaches and teammates tend to love him. He was Blaine Gabbert’s BFF and go to guy before he got drafted. I think Tom Brady is going to love throwing the ball to Moe and ultimately I expect him on the team.
– Other names that stand out from the UDFA list are Zach Sudfeld, TE, Nevada who could add depth behind Rob Gronkowski. Matt Stankiewitch, OC, Penn State that Patriots are light on interior OL depth. It seems every year there is one guy that sticks on the OL from the UDFA ranks and Stankiewitch could be that guy this year. Cory Grissom, DT, South Florida is a NT and “run plugger” that can back-up Vince Wilfork if he makes the roster. Quentin Hines, RB/KR, Akron is going to be used primarily as a kick returner and is an explosive athlete. Ran a sub-4.35 forty yard dash and has the speed to make an impact on returns. I am also very intrigued by the signing of Punter Ryan Allen out of Louisiana Tech. I was impressed by Allen at the Senior Bowl and he is one of the most decorated kickers in NCAA history. Zoltan Mesko has had exactly zero competition over the past two seasons and a little competition never hurt anyone.
– These are just some initial thoughts that have crossed by mind since the draft ended on Saturday, I’m sure there will be lots more to come. Stay tuned to NEPD for more off-season draft and Patriots coverage.