NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
It’s hard to believe that the 2013 NFL season is more than half-way over. The playoff picture is taking shape and teams are looking forward towards the 2014 NFL Draft. In terms of the 2013 rookie class it’s still early in their careers, but that hasn’t stopped fans from labeling players “busts” or “steals”.
With the Patriots coming off their bye week, it is the perfect time to review the Patriots 2013 NFL Draft class, evaluate how the rookies have performed to date, and look ahead to what each player could bring in future seasons.
1st Round: The Patriots traded their first round selection #29 overall for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th round pick. At the time a lot of Patriot fans were unhappy that they passed on the opportunity to select Tennesse WR Cordarrelle Patterson. Patterson has been one of the best kickoff returners in the NFL as a rookie, but hasn’t done much as a receiver.
When it was all said and done, the Patriots turned the 29th pick into Jamie Collins, Logan Ryan, Josh Boyce and essentially Michael Buchanan (they traded the Minnesota 7th round pick for LeGarrette Blount, but the extra pick allowed them to pick Buchanan). Only time will tell for sure how the trade works out, but I like the early returns.
2nd Round (52): Jamie Collins, LB, Southern Mississippi
Draft Day Analysis: Collins was considered one of the best defensive athletes in the draft, but was very raw as a football player. There were questions about what position he could play in the NFL, but most assumed his best fit was as a pass rusher. Collins draft stock was rather fluid and most draft expects expected him to be drafted between the late 2nd round and the end of the 3rd round.
Midseason Review: To this point, Collins hasn’t made much of an impact on the defense. The Patriots drafted him and decided to make him a full-time linebacker, meaning Collins has had to learn a new position with a lot of responsibilities. Collins’ athleticism has flashed in coverage, most notably in the final minutes of the Falcons game, but he has played only 94 defensive snaps to this point. He has looked over-matched trying to set the edge in the run game and is still learning the coverage schemes.
Collins’ biggest contributions have come on special teams, playing on the majority of the units and was recognized by PFF as one of the better special teams LB this season.
Long Term Impact: Like many early Patriot draft selections, this pick was made with next season in mind. Brandon Spikes becomes an unrestricted free agent and there is a good chance he will not return to Foxboro. The Patriots needed to get better pass coverage from their linebackers and the only way to do that was to get faster and more athletic. In 2014 Brandon Spikes leaves and Jamie Collins becomes a full-time starter at one of the LB spots. While his impact this year will be limited, his long term potential is among the highest in this draft class.
2nd Round (59): Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
Draft Day Analysis: Everyone knew the Patriots were going to select a wide receiver and they decided to tab Aaron Dobson first. Dobson was projected to go around this area of the draft and was considered one of the best “X” receiver prospects in the draft. Dobson was hailed for his solid hands, ball skills, ability to make tough catches. He was coming off a pro day in which he ran a sub 4.4 forty and turned heads with his size/speed combination.
Midseason Review: Dobson started off a bit slow in minicamp and early in the summer, allowing UDFA Kenbrell Thompkins to beat him out for a starting job. As the season has gone on Dobson has not only caught Thompkins, he’s passed him on the depth chart, and I don’t see him turning back. Dobson is turning into a significant contributor on offense.
Each week he’s becoming more comfortable in the system, is making better route adjustments, and is getting open with increasing ease. Tom Brady has started to go to Dobson more on 3rd down and now trusts him in big situations. The back shoulder throw last week vs. Pittsburgh was a thing of beauty and something we haven’t seen around here in a long time. Dobson is becoming the “vertical threat” that this passing attack has severely lacked the past three seasons. Dobson still drops too many catchable passes, but based on the develop and impact so far, he looks like one of the best WR ever drafted by Bill Belichick.
Long Term Impact: If Dobson continues on his development curve there is no doubt he can become the Patriots #1 WR of the future. This off-season will be huge for Dobson, as it will allow him to work on his hands, further integrate himself into the passing game, and build a better rapport with Tom Brady. It’s still early, but this one looks like a cornerstone player of the future.