NEPD Editor: James Christensen
The Patriots like to perform their “due diligence” on prospects in the NFL Draft. They rack up countless pro day visits, interviews, private workouts and official visits.
What trends are we seeing this year?
The Patriots certainly look to be scouting their need areas. Of the workouts, interviews and visits that we know of, defensive backs and wide receivers make up the majority of the 2013 NFL Draft Contacts so far.
This certainly stands to reason, as the Patriots have only Donald Jones, Danny Amendola and Michael Jenkins as receivers that have seen extended playing time in the NFL. The defensive backfield is a bit more set, but the uncertainty surrounding Ras-I Dowling and Alfonzo Dennard might prompt the Patriots to invest a high draft pick at corner.
Among the receivers that the Patriots have worked out, Stedman Bailey and Deandre Hopkins tend to stand out. Both of them run solid routes exhibit the hands needed to earn Tom Brady’s trust as a rookie. Hopkins figures to be a first round pick while Bailey will probably be a second or third round selection.
Bailey’s teammate, Tavon Austin, was also worked out by the Patriots, but he figures to be long gone by the time the Patriots are picking on draft night.
One later round option that the Patriots have looked at is Iowa receiver Keenan Davis. He has a lot of physical tools and can make some unreal catches, but a poor senior campaign and some concentration issues will push him down draft boards.
As for the defensive backs, Tyrann Mathieu certainly stands out.
I’m sure that all NFL teams will want to conduct their own exhaustive background check on Mathieu, but I’m just going to talk about his play on the field.
Mathieu is small. He doesn’t have great speed. He gets exposed down the field. I’d still want him on my team if I were an NFL coach. If you put him in a position to succeed and hide his shortcomings – something that Bill Belichick excels at – he can really impact the game. Either on special teams or with an impact play from the slot corner position, Mathieu sways the outcome of games with turnovers and huge returns.
Another trend that I’m seeing and not sure what to make of yet is that the Patriots are working out a lot of running backs. With Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden on the roster – three players that impressed me in 2012 – I’m not quite sure what they are up to.
The Patriots certainly aren’t done with looking at prospects. Expect 20-25 more visits this month and countless private workouts. We’ll be here to cover as many as we can uncover.