NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
It’s hard to believe that the 2013 football season is almost at the halfway point. By now the Patriots and their fans have a pretty good grasp at the strengths and weaknesses of their football team, as well as areas that need to be addressed in the future. Despite a tumultouous off-season the Patriots have kept up with their winning ways, but have done so in a much different fashion.
The 2014 draft will give the Patriots another opportunity to restock the cubbord and fills holes that were created in the past year. What could the Patriots 2014 draft class look like? Here is my early projection.
TE - The Patriots didn’t come close to replacing Aaron Hernandez this year, his loss combined with Rob Gronkowski’s injury situation elevates this position to the top of the list.
DT – Vince Wilfork’s injury has thrust two young late round/UDFA into starting roles. Joe Vellano and Chris Jones look like they can be contributors for the long term, but a big body run stuffer is needed.
DE – Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich are locked in as starters, Michael Buchanan has flashed, but the depth after that is non-exsistant. Adding at least one pass rusher during the 2014 draft should be a priority.
OG/OC - Ryan Wendell is a free agent that I expect to be back, but Dan Connolly can be upgraded upon.
WR – The offense is in transition and a number of young WR were brought in, it’s probably a good idea to keep adding young talent to the position in Tom Brady’s final years.
CB – This need is reliant upon Aqib Talib re-signing. If he leaves this need jumps way up the list.
RB – Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are productive when they play, but as we’ve seen this year the Patriots miss Danny Woodhead and don’t have a pass catching threat when Shane Vereen is out.
Draft Picks and Compensatory Selections:
The Patriots have their full compliment of draft picks in 2014, one pick in each of the seven rounds. Based on research and numbers from past years the Patriots are expected to receive a few compensatory selections this year. The loss of Wes Welker is cancelled out by the signing of Danny Amendola. However, the Patriots lost both Donald Thomas and Patrick Chung to fairly large contracts, as well as Danny Woodhead to a smaller contract. Based on previous years I project the Patriots to receiver two 6th Round Selections for Thomas and Chung, and possibly a 7th round pick for Danny Woodhead. This will give the Patriots 10 selections in the 2014 NFL Draft.
2014 Patriots Mock Draft: Edition 1.0
Round 1 (29) – Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington (6’6″-276)
There is no doubt the Patriots miss Aaron Hernandez and his production on offense. Hernandez and his unique skill-set are not coming back and can’t be replaced. What can be replaced is the match-up nightmare and middle of the field production that the Patriots produced out of their two tight end sets from 2010-2012. Seferian-Jenkins is a power forward playing tight end, he’s got a massive catch radius and outstanding measurables.
Seferian-Jenkins, when paired up with the Patriots current monster TE Rob Gronkowski, would create a size and physicality mismatch that is incredibly tough to defend. Seferian-Jenkins does have a few red flags on his resume-nothing compared to Colt Lyerla mind you-but if the Patriots get the opportunity to add this type of TE and replace Aaron Hernandez this quickly, they better take it.
Round 2 - Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford (6’6″- 261)
The Patriots have shifted gears at the defensive end position. Gone are the days of the 6’6″/310 pound defensive ends that specialize in stopping the run. The Patriots now look for big, long, athletes on the edge that can do a variety of different things. Trent Murphy strikes me as a Patriots type of player. A hybrid OLB/DE in college, Murphy projects best as a 4-3 end at the NFL level.
Murphy quite simply is a playmaker, using his strength and smarts to track down the ball-carrier or generate pressure. Murphy is a very cerebral player, he doesn’t necessarily jump off the screen with his quickness or explosion. But, over the course of the game he is going to make 2-3 huge plays. With little depth behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, adding a defensive end like Trent Murphy should be a priority. Murphy’s teammate Ben Gardner is another Stanford DL that could interest the Patriots in later rounds.
Round 3 – Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State (5’11″-197)
The Alfonzo Dennard pick has worked out so well for the Patriots why not go back to the same family tree and pick his cousin who is a similar type player. Darqueze reminds me a lot of Alfonso with the way they attack the ball in coverage and show no fear in coverage. Darqueze is bigger and definitely more fluid on film than Alfonzo was coming out of collge.
Dennard (both of them) show very good toughness and strength when matched up 1 on 1 down the field, that’s a tough trait to teach a cornerback. Darqueze showcases all the skills to play man to man coverage in the NFL and is a very good fit for what the Patriots are currently doing on defense.
Round 4 - DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State (6’3″ – 318)
Sooner or later the Bill O’Brien Penn State to New England connection will start flowing and it could start with DaQuan Jones. Jones is a thick, strong, powerful run defender in the middle of the defense. He finds a way to make a ton of plays around the line of scrimmage and produces numbers that a defensive tackle shouldn’t produce. This year the Patriots brought in two young defensive tackles in Joe Vellano and Chris Jones, probably the two most productive defensive tackles in college football last season, but both men lack some of the size and power needed to hold up consistently at the line of scrimmage. Jones is a similarly productive player, that takes on blocks, eats double teams, and locates the ball quickly.
There is no guarantee that Vince Wilfork is coming back to be the same player he once was. Even if he does, he’s a free agent after the 2014 season and the Patriots face a tough decision on him. By adding another smart, productive playmaker on the interior defensive line, the Patriots protect themselves and add depth at a position of need.
Round 5 – Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin (6’2″ – 190)
This seems like the perfect match. No matter what game or what situation, Abbrederis just makes plays. He’s perhaps the most dependable WR in college football and one that I think can fit the Patriots scheme. Abbrederis can contribute a lot of the same things that Julian Edelman does for the team right now, but with more ability to get vertical and make plays deep downfield. Abbrederis has become a very solid route runner and has the versatility to play in the slot or on the outside depending of the formation.
A former walk-on that has worked extremely hard to earn his spot and develop into one of the most productive players in college football. Abbrederis has the kind of work ethic that is needed to succeed in the Patriots complex scheme, which asks WR to think fast and make decisions on the fly.
Round 6 - Spencer Long, OG, Nebraska (6’4″- 315)
The Patriots offensive line is one of the most consistent units in football and a unit that should be together for a long time once Ryan Wendell is resigned. The one spot that can be upgraded is at Right Guard, which is currently occupied by Dan Connolly. Not only is Connolly the least productive Patriot OL, he also makes a lot of money, making him a candidate to be cut after the season. I expect the Patriots to target an OG at some point in the draft. Long could possibly go a round or two higher than this, however the problem is Long suffered a knee injury and is now out for the season.
Long’s knee injury is likely to force him to miss most of the post-season and draft process as well. Long is a three year starter, team captain, and all-acadmic selection. He reminds me a little of Logan Mankins coming out of college because of his nastiness and toughness in the run game. He’s a physical player that looks to physically and mentally demoralize his man on each play.
Round 6 (Comp) - Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton (6’2″ – 305)
Notice a theme to these draft picks yet? The majority of the players picked so far are smart, dependable leaders that play the game the right way, so why not pick a defensive tackle from Princeton? Reid is one of the best small school players in this year’s draft and a very productive pass rusher from the DT position. Despite being faced with constant double teams the past two seasons, Reid has still managed to generate 13.5 sacks and 25.5 TFL. Reid would give the Patriots another productive interior DT and one that has shown he can get to the QB.
Round 6 (Comp) - Antonio Andrews, RB, Western Kentucky (5’11″ – 212)
Antonio Andrews is the best all-purpose RB in the country right now. Andrews is a workhorse RB, with reliable hands and can even return kicks. The Patriots depth at RB has been tested this year and has shown that when Shane Vereen isn’t on the field, they don’t have a player they can consistently rely on to catch the ball. Andrews could be a weapon on passing downs specifically, but has the build and size to become a productive lead back in the NFL.
Round 7 – Austin Wentworth, OT, Fresno State (6’5″ – 305)
The Patriots haven’t selected and Offensive Tackle in the NFL Draft since picking Marcus Cannon in the 5th round of the 2011 draft. With all their picks entact, I expect them to use one pick on a versatile, developmental tackle type. Wentworth is a three year starter that has experience all over the line. As a Sophomore he started six games at Right Tackle and seven games at Right Guard. As a Junior he made the move to Left Tackle and plays there this year as well. Wentworth was developed by former Bill Belichick diciple Pat Hill and would joining Logan Mankins and Ryan Wendell as the 3rd Fresno State OL on the Patriots roster. Wentworth might profile best to Guard, but he has shown he has the versatility and skillset to be a dependable swing tackle or back-up, all-purpose OL in the NFL. That in itself is a valuable commodity.
Round 7 (Comp) - Glenn Carson, ILB, Penn State (6’3″ – 235)
Brandon Spikes’ future with the Patriots is in doubt and as we’re seeing right now it’s never a bad thing to have linebacker depth. Glenn Carson, like many Penn State LB before him, is an intelligent, gritty, player that has developed into a vocal leader on the field. Carson is an Academic All-American candidate that has already graduated and is now working on his second degree. Carson would provide depth and special teams capability to a team that values both things greatly.