3rd Round (83): Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
Draft Day Analysis: Ryan was an early entry into the draft coming off a season in which he was one of the most productive cornerbacks in college football. Known for his physical play and his tackling ability in the run game. Ryan ran a little slower than NFL teams liked at the combine(4.53) and that less than stellar 40 time probably dropped him 20-30 picks. At the time he was drafted Ryan was the last in my “second tier” of cornerbacks available, so I considered him very good value where they got him.
Midseason Review: The early returns on Logan Ryan are very promising. Like Alfonzo Dennard last season, it took Ryan a little while to work his way into the rotation, but once he’s in the game it’s tough to take him out. Aqib Talib’s injury has forced Ryan to play major snaps in 4 straight games and he has not disappointed. His physicality at corner has been evident, leading to a pick six vs. the Jets when David Nelson couldn’t get off his jam at the line. As expected, Ryan has shown an ability to set the edge vs. the run and is a sound tackler in the open field.
Bill Belichick has not been afraid to use him as a blitzer off the edge in big situations. This isn’t to say he hasn’t been beaten, because he certainly has. But, when you consider how tough it is to play corner in the NFL as a rookie, his early play bodes well. His playing time may decrease a little bit when Talib comes back from his hip injury, but Ryan has played well enough to be trusted in coverage. He gives the Patriots four very talented cornerbacks atop the depth chart.
Long Term Impact: Bill Belichick takes a beating for all his misses in the secondary, but it sure looks like he hit on his last two cornerback selections (Dennard and Ryan). Ryan certainly has starting potential and his role going forward will likely be dictated by what the Patriots choose to do with Aqib Talib after the season. Either way, Ryan is likely to be a key contributor going forward because in today’s NFL you can never have enough good cornerbacks.
3rd Round(91): Duron Harmon, SAF, Rutgers
Draft Day Analysis: My analysis of the Harmon pick has received a lot of attention via Twitter. This pick was a major shock at the time and considered by everyone in the NFL as a big time reach. Harmon himself even admitted that he didn’t imagine getting drafted this high. While Harmon had a productive All-Big East worthy career at Rutgers, he flew under the radar and was considered by most as a fringe NFL talent. Coming on the heels of the 2nd Round Tavon Wilson reach in 2012, this pick as a major head-scratcher.
While Harmon has played better than expected, I still can’t justify selecting a player that would have been available at least two rounds later.
Midseason Review: Compared to Tavon Wilson, Duron Harmon looks like Ed Reed circa 2007. Harmon quickly surpassed Wilson on the depth chart and has actually played some meaningful minutes on defense in recent weeks. Harmon has two interceptions on the season, but both were gimmees. He has played better than I expected, but still has a number of break downs. His missed tackle on 3rd and close to 30 in the Pittsburgh game still resonates.
Starting Safety Steve Gregory is likely to miss at least a game with a broken thumb, which means we will get a much better look at what Harmon can bring to the table. Even before the Gregory injury, his snaps were on the rise, which in itself has to be considered a successful rookie campaign.
Long Term Impact: It’s still too early to tell what the future holds for Harmon. The Patriots could really use a long term complement to Devin McCourty, who is playing at an All-Pro level. Can Duron Harmon be that guy or will he be just another special teams safety? At least Harmon looks like he can be a reliable rotational player, which is a lot more than can be said for Tavon Wilson. Harmon’s smarts and ability to pick up the defensive scheme quickly probably bodes well for his future.
4th Round(102): Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
Draft Day Analysis: Boyce was selected coming off a combine performance in which he ran a 4.40 flat with a broken foot. Boyce was a big play receiver at TCU and had experience playing in the slot and on the outside. At the time of the draft I thought his polish as a route runner along with his size/speed combo made him a perfect fit in the New England offense.
Midseason Review: There is no doubt that this pick has been something of a disappointment to this point. Josh Boyce has failed to even suit up for recent games, meaning the coaching staff doesn’t think he is ready for prime time. On the season Boyce has 1 catch for 24 yards, which came against the Falcons in week 4. Since then he’s done nothing, so suffice to say more was expected.
Boyce missed almost all of the off-season with his foot injury, but I thought he looked good in training camp practices. Once Austin Collie was signed, Boyce became a game day inactive, does that change now that Collie is gone? Can he pass Kenbrell Thompkins and become that #4 WR before the season is over?
Long Term Impact: I firmly believe that Boyce will have a big impact before it’s all said and done. I am a believer in his route running ability and his speed out of the slot. Before people jump to conclusions and immediately lable him a bust, remember that Shane Vereen was essentially “red-shirted” after getting injured during training camp of his rookie season. Like it does with most players, Boyce’s ability to learn and adapt to the system will determine how successful he can be in New England, natural ability isn’t the question. For now this one is too early to call, but disappointing as of right now.
7th Round (226): Michael Buchanan, DE/OLB, Illinois
Draft Day Analysis: Buchanan was widely considered a mid-round selection and was one of the best players on the board at the time of the pick. Buchanan has really good size and length for a 4-3 end and flashed pass rush potential in college. For much of his career his ability didn’t match the product he put on film and his pass rush impact tailed off in his final season in college. I viewed this pick as an example of taking the best player on the board and hoping they strike gold (similar to what they did with Alfonzo Dennard in 2012).
Midseason Review: Buchanan got a chance early in the season to play meaningful minutes in the defensive end rotation. Buchanan beat out a number of veteran players to make the roster out of camp and it didn’t take him long to leapfrog Jake Bequette on the depth chart. Buchanan has flashed a few times getting to the QB and recorded a couple sacks, however it doesn’t look like he’s ready to play in big spots.
Buchanan has been a big liability against the run and has failed to contain the QB a number of times, leading to big plays. He has yet to develop a go to power rush move and instead relies on beating the OT by running the loop. With Andre Carter now in the mix it’s unlikely Michael Buchanan will see much playing time during the stretch run.
Long Term Impact: From what I have seen I don’t envision Buchanan being a long term impact player. He has some natural pass rush ability, but is not physical or strong enough to hold up against top flight OT. Buchanan will be given a chance to improve in the off-season, but will likely have to fight for a roster spot next season.
7th Round(235): Steve Beauharnais, ILB, Rutgers
Draft Day Analysis: Beauharnais was the 3rd Rutgers player to be drafted and unlike the Harmon selection, I approved of this pick. I had a chance to speak at length with Beauharnais during the Senior Bowl and his leadership qualities were evident. I believed Beauharnais could be a core special teams player and a depth linebacker on the 53 man roster.
Midseason Review: Beauharnais has made close to zero impact on the football field. He was able to beat out a handful of other linebackers during the summer for a 53 man roster spot, but hasn’t found his way onto the field yet. It’s a little bit disconcerting that Beauharnais hasn’t found a way to crack at least the special teams rotation and the team felt the need to sign LB Chris White after roster cut downs. Like many 7th round picks, this one has failed to pay any dividends.
Long Term Impact: Much like Buchanan, I now have questions about Beauharnais long term ability to stick on the roster, although he does have a chance to stick on a special teams unit. Beauharnais will be fighting for a roster spot next summer with an uphill battle unless something changes.