2014 NFL Draft: Addressing Value, Depth, and the Patriots’ Needs

After trading back twice in Round 1 of the 2010 NFL draft – at the cost of Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant – Bill Belichick found value in Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

Enigmatic. Stubborn. Unpredictable.

Those three words are often linked to the draft approach of New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. But those three words aren’t Belichick’s intentions.

Finding value is.

Value is a loaded term. It’s not necessarily based on positional interest or the best-player-available adage; it’s what a team is willing to wage to acquire a player, relative to where a player could be selected.

Time has shown that it’s entirely interpretive. Yet time has also shown that it’s something Belichick invests tremendous stock in, as former Cleveland Browns general manager and NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi explained two years ago.

“Bill is very analytical. Bill is all about not falling in love with a player. Bill is looking at value,” said Lombardi, who served as Browns director of player personnel under Belichick from 1992 to 1995. “He wants the correct definition of the player and the correct value of the player. When he determines that, then he understands where he can move around in the draft.”

Belichick’s determinations have led the Patriots to Rutgers cornerback Devin McCourty, Colorado offensive tackle Nate Solder, Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones and Southern Mississippi linebacker Jamie Collins. His determinations have also led to surprises like Virginia corner Ras-I Dowling, Illinois safety Tavon Wilson, Ohio State special-teamer Nate Ebner and Rutgers safety Duron Harmon.

To Belichick, all of whom were in the right place at the right time. It remains to be seen who will be in the right place at the right time this May.

Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio and New England’s brass have areas to address this offseason. And while those areas are subject to change as unrestricted free agency opens March 11, the draft pool figures to play a role in how the chips fall.

The 2014 class is inevitably deeper at some positions than others, which makes the process all the more challenging for a team that likes accruing picks to minimize risk. In light of that, here is one perspective on New England’s positions of need, and how the heart of each could affect priority.

1. Defensive Tackle

Coming off Achilles surgery, the 32-year-old Vince Wilfork is due a base salary of $7.5 million in the final year of his contract. Regardless of what transpires with the five-time Pro Bowler, regardless of whether or not veteran defensive tackles Isaac Sopoaga and Tommy Kelly return, and regardless of Sealver Siliga’s emergence, expect New England to bolster the run defense and interior pass rush via the draft.

The best time to do so is Round 1, where Notre Dame’s Louis Nix III and Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman figure to fit the Patriots front in different facets. The run-disrupting Nix and the pass-rushing Hageman have versatility all across the line with the size and athleticism to specialize at the one- and three-technique, respectively. Now the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days could deter the current state, but it would be a best-case scenario if both were still waiting to hear their names called at pick 29.

In the distinct possibility that neither is, a wait-and-see approach would make sense for New England. Belichick and the small Patriots war room may have to sit back until Day 2 for a player among the likes of – if remaining – Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald, Florida State’s Timmy Jernigan, Penn State’s DaQuan Jones or Louisiana State’s Ego Ferguson. And Florida’s injured-but-unforgotten Dominique Easley could be a penetrator at the three-tech or five-tech, assuming his checks out medically.

After those names, waters grow murkier at a position of immediate importance. The need also may not meet the value for Belichick for any of the aforementioned; the Patriots haven’t drafted a defensive tackle since 2009, when Ron Brace, Myron Pryor and Darryl Richard were selected.

2. Tight End

With the start of Rob Gronkowski’s 2014 season on uncertain ground, the Patriots are expected to look at tight end early in this year’s draft. New England could very well retain Matthew Mulligan or Michael Hoomanawanui as utility blockers, but blocking would not be the reason Belichick and Co. would draft a tight end early in May.

At this point, North Carolina’s Eric Ebron can be unofficially crossed off the list. But next in line is Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, who, while also inconsistent as a blocker, can mismatch defensive personnel as a flex receiver in the slot or out wide. Amaro has played himself into first-round consideration. But if the Red Raider is off the board, or if Belichick and Co. decide the position can wait until Day 2, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas or Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz could be fits.

New England’s offense sorely missed the size and talent of Gronkowski late in the 2013-2014 campaign. And his ability to block and dictate coverage  is unlikely to be answered by a rookie. However, if there was a time to take a proactive stance on the position, it would be now.

The Patriots could certainly double-dip at tight end – something that hasn’t been done since 2010. Yet at the very least, expect New England to draft a tight end for the first time since Lee Smith in 2011. Without a receiving threat boasting inline potential, the Patriots passing attack grew rather one-dimensional this year. The first, second or third round would be the ideal venue to change that.

3. Interior Offensive Line

Starting center Ryan Wendell is on the doorstep of free agency. Starting right guard Dan Connolly is due a base salary of $3 million in a contract year. Offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia has retired after a total of 30 years in Foxborough.

All three will be factors in New England’s upcoming draft plans.

Now the Patriots are unlikely to move into 2014 with two new starters along the line due to continuity concerns, but little is guaranteed in regards to the interior pass protection surrounding quarterback Tom Brady. Depending on Belichick’s intentions for swing tackle and guard Marcus Cannon, the Patriots could assess the inside early in this year’s draft. Although, to put Scarnecchia’s coaching impact in perspective, the Patriots haven’t drafted a guard or center in the first three rounds since six-time Pro Bowler Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur in 2005.

This leads us to the 2014 O-line class, which is a top-heavy one. If the Patriots neglect to select a converted-type in Notre Dame’s Zack Martin or UCLA’s Xavier Su’a-Filo on Day 1, you’d be hard pressed to see them in Round 2. Colorado State center Weston Richburg is one to keep an eye on there in the second- and third-round scope, as is Arkansas center Travis Swanson and Mississippi State guard Gabe Jackson.

Further along in the middle rounds, tackle-guard Joel Bitonio of Nevada deserves to be mentioned, as does center Marcus Martin of USC.

If defensive tackle and tight end value reign supreme, then quality along the offensive line would be the apparent sacrifice. However, focusing on one position is an omission to talent; it’s where some teams get stuck, taking need over player.

4. Defensive End

While the Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich combined for 170 tackles, 19.5 sacks and three forced fumbles this season, the two defensive ends also combined for 2,256 defensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Rookie seventh-round pick Michael Buchanan and the 34-year-old Andre Carter both served as pass-rush specialists. Further down the chart, though, Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia didn’t receive what Jake Bequette was brought in to provide as a 2012 third-rounder.

In turn, New England carried only three or four defensive ends on the 46-man gameday roster. Expect the Patriots to add depth because of it. Now it would come as a slight surprise if the Patriots opted for an edge-rusher in Round 1, particularly if a worthy defensive tackle is waiting. Given the strengths of this draft class, it’d be more reasonable to anticipate a selection on Day 2 or Day 3.

With that being the ballpark, Notre Dame’s tackle-end Stephon Tuitt has the upside of a Richard Seymour-like purpose in a multiple defense if he fell out of Round 1. Other possibilities at different spots include Missouri’s Kony Ealy, South Florida’s Aaron Lynch and Auburn’s stand-up rusher Dee Ford, depending on what mold of player Belichick is searching for and when.

5. Cornerback

While Alfonzo Dennard, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington have all proven to be integral cogs at the position, New England’s cornerback interest could hinge on the fate of unrestricted free agent Aqib Talib.

Talib’s size and presence as a press-man corner on the outside dictated New England’s coverage assignments this season. Without him in the lineup, the imbalance was visible. And for that reason, Belichick could very well be in the market for a cornerback prospect with comparable size and range to No. 31.

If the Patriots decide to rejuvenate defensive line, tight end and offensive line in the early stages, the team could take interest in a long, physical corner late on Day 2 or early on Day 3 if the picks allot for it.

If available in that third- to fifth-round window, Lindenwood’s Pierre Desir, Nebraska’s 6’3”, 215-pound Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Utah’s 6’3”, 214-pound Keith McGill are all intriguing cornerbacks, not only for their size, but their physicality, fluidity and range on the outside. All three will be unfairly compared for their similar height and weight, but the truth is, each has a strong suit beyond their body type. They look like safeties; they play like corners, and they could prove good value for a department that is looking.

The Patriots have drafted a defensive back within the first three rounds 11 times in the Belichick era.

6. Linebacker

With the aforementioned five positions standing above the rest in draft ranking and depth, May 10 could be a time to fill alternative voids after the Patriots’ initial three picks are spent. Sometimes, those voids are also top-round talent, like Dennard in Round 7 of 2012.

One of those valuable voids may be at linebacker, where it appears Brandon Spikes’ fourth season as a Patriot will be his last. If special-teamer and rotational linebacker Dane Fletcher finds a starting opportunity elsewhere as well, the Patriots could be in the market for a fourth or fifth man who can cover the seam, defend the run or rush the passer.

Steve Beauharnais was taken in the seventh round last year, while the team also filled special-teams duties with Chris White and undrafted promotion Ja’Gared Davis. Yet with Belichick having drafted 15 linebackers since 2000, supplementing the collection cannot be ruled out.

Connecticut’s Yawin Smallwood, South Florida’s DeDe Lattimore, Iowa’s Christian Kirksey, Alabama’s Adrian Hubbard and Montana’s Jordan Tripp are five names that could coincide with what Belichick is looking for in a fourth linebacker. Nevertheless, the trio of Jerod Mayo, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower looks entrenched as starters for years to come.

7. Quarterback

Ryan Mallett was a cost-effective option over Brian Hoyer’s $1.9 million tender in August of 2012. But heading into 2014, the former third-round pick has one year left on his rookie deal and hasn’t handled a regular-season snap since 2012.

Much has been made of his trade value. But it’s hard to trade a third-round pick for a player who has less recent game tape than a third-round prospect. And the notion that the Patriots must flip Mallett after three years is also misleading, considering Mallett was New England’s No. 1 QB in the 2011 draft.

Whether the 25-year-old is on the roster next season or not, it would not be a surprise to see the Patriots choose a developmental QB option later on in May’s draft. New England has drafted eight quarterbacks over Belichick’s tenure; six of them were chosen after the third round.

Eastern Illinois’ Jimmy Garoppolo has risen from the FCS level to possibly second-day level, which could be too high an asking price for Belichick. If that comes to fruition, Louisiana State’s Zach Mettenberger, San Jose State’s David Fales, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Alabama’s A.J. McCarron are four others who may align with what the Patriots are looking for in the later rounds.

McCarron is the most polarizing prospect in this group – perhaps rightfully so, talent-wise – but Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban is someone Belichick has trusted since their days in Cleveland.

8. Wide Receiver

When you think about what Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, and receivers coach Chad O’Shea asked of New England’s rookies in 2013, you think about how they responded. You think about their flashes, even when it was unreasonable to expect starts without mistakes.

The Patriots carried seven rookie wide receivers on the roster in some capacity this past season. Belichick invested second- and fourth-round picks in Marshall’s Aaron Dobson and Texas Christian’s Josh Boyce, while undrafted Cincinnati product Kenbrell Thompkins stepped in and had his moments as well.

Factoring in the likes of Rutgers’ Mark Harrison and Missouri’s T.J. Moe, the average age of the position is 25 years old. So while this young pass-catching corps revealed its growing pains in 2013, it is expected to develop further in 2014. Although the future of 100-catch, 1,000-yard slot target Julian Edelman is up in the air, need not forget about Danny Amendola, who also should improve with another year of familiarity.

Considering Belichick has drafted 11 wideouts since 2000 – and completed five draft classes without one – taking a receiver in 2014 should not be branded the be-all, end-all. Much could change after the peak of free agency hits, but signing a prized veteran free agent like the Denver Broncos’ Eric Decker or the San Francisco 49ers’ Anquan Boldin may not wise financially, either.

So if the Patriots do in fact stock up without stifling, a mid-level free agent or a third-day prospect would make sense. It’s early. We don’t know if second-day fringe targets could include Jordan Matthews out of Vanderbilt or Brandon Coleman out of Rutgers; both could be overlooked in a vast group of underclassmen. Others more likely to be waiting later on Day 3 include Oregon’s Josh Huff, Indiana’s  Cody Latimer, Brigham Young’s Cody Hoffman and Notre Dame’s T.J. Jones.

Wake Forest slot receiver Michael Campanaro and Northwestern quarterback-turned-wideout Kain Colter could draw intrigue in compensatory territory. Yet as it stands now, the Patriots roster carries a bevy of potential at receiver.

Time, and value, will determine if Belichick agrees.

Tags: 2014 NFL Draft, Draft Needs

65 Responses to “2014 NFL Draft: Addressing Value, Depth, and the Patriots’ Needs”

  1. John says:

    Anybody think the Patriots take a run at RFA Vinny Rey? Think he could be a really good fit as one of the ILBs

    • acm says:

      may well be worth a look or two, if the price is right. I think they need a vet LB as Mayo is now the only leader there – not sure Hightower can be trusted yet – and if he goes down, they are left without a signal caller.
      Ideally, someone like Dansby or D. Smith could be had on a 1-year deal but they likely both stay put with the Cards and the Ravens; if they don’t that would likely mean they’d be too expensive for the Pats too.
      So, I guess an up and coming player with experience in the league like Vinny Rey is the next best thing, as long as the price is right (if they have to surrender a pick). Certainly more experienced than drafting another rookie. Shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive either.

  2. YESSIR77 says:

    This draft all depends on how this off season goes. If we can not restructure some of these guys and get more cap space, we are going to have to have a hell of a draft. If we can restructure Vince, Mayo, Mankins. Extend DMC, Ghost. Cut Kelly, Gregory, and a few more, we should have some series cash on our hands. I would love to see this team sign either Johnson for Allen, I prefer Johnson myself. I would look to add a TE in FA. I would not mind Chandler, Owen Daniels, or Gresham(if they are cut). I think anyone of these 3 would have a good yr in NE. Then we can grab a TE in the draft for the future. We are not replacing Gronk, we need to replace Hooman and Mulligan. Add a SS in the FA market. Whittner, Pollard, Harper. We need someone who can hit people. If we can add these type of players, I would be very happy. Then we can draft Nix. Then we can look at Fiedorowicz or Niklas in the 2nd. Grab a SS in the 3rd, I like McGill. The 4th rd we can grab best player available.

    • Matt says:

      Good ideas . I hope your including Arrington in your cuts. He is a joke like Gregory and has made so many mistakes. And I really hope we are lucky to draft Nix. Wilfork is a great player but he is getting older. And I think he could do well teaching Nix.

      • YESSIR77 says:

        Matt.

        I think Arrington is here if Talib is not. I think after what Ryan did, Arrington is expendable. The thing with Arrington, he is actually pretty good in the slot, but can not cover anything on the outside. Every year we are faced with having to play Arrington on the outside because Talib, Dennard seem to be hurt a few games. Arrington gets exposed out there. If we lose Talib, I think he stays, if Talib stays, no reason for Ryan to not take that spot and look for another CB later in the draft. There is so much money that can be had for this team, just have to make it work. I am not sold guys will be willing to restructure. I think Gregory is gone and BB is done playing around with that SS spot. Wilson was a bust, and not sure Harmon is any better. To this day, I still say we should have taken Harrison Smith over Hightower, and I still believe that.

  3. Hose says:

    trade amendola to the soon to be money loaded redskins for a fifth or sixth, trade mallet for 3rd, take amaro, Hageman, Jernigan, tuiett, or Louis nix in the first round, and take a guarde/ tackle in the second. Keith McGill, or the TE out of iowa in the third. pending previous picks.

  4. Karte says:

    I would like to hear other’s thoughts on the following moves that the patriots can / I think they should make this offseason.

    Creating some cap space –
    Restructure Vince Wilfork contract – Cap Savings of 4 M
    Restructure Logan Mankins contract – Cap savings of 1.5 M
    Extend Gostkowski, Devin McCourty, Dan Connoly (Connoly can play Centre) – Cap savings of 4 M
    Release Isaac Sopoaga, Tommy Kelly, Adrian Wilson – Cap savings of 6.5 M
    That would be a total savings of 16 M.
    If we get 3 – 4 M from Aaron Hernandez cap hit,
    The total cap space would be around 20 M (from above savings) + 2014 present cap space 3 M (if 126.8 is the cap limit) + 2013 rollover 4.5 M = 27.5 M

    Keep aside 4 M for signing rookies in the draft.
    3 M for having some room for the season which the Patriots generally do.

    Free Agency –
    Re sign Aqib Talib for a contract of something like 3 yrs 19 to 20 M – 2014 Cap hit of 5.5 M
    Sign Donte Whitner for something like 2 yrs 11 M – 2014 Cap hit of around 5 M
    Make offer for Edelman for around 4 M a year and if he agrees, resign him now and cut Edelman or Amendola next year based on production. This is just to give Amendola some more time to prove himself.
    If he leaves, target a guy like Emmanuel Sanders who can play on the outside as well in the slot for around the same money that is offered to Edelman.
    If a deal works out for Sanders or Edelman, get a low cost receiver like Hakeem Nicks / Riley Cooper / James Jones for around 3 M
    If neither of Sanders or Edelman work out, go for a more costly receiver like Jacoby Jones / Jeremy Maclin / Anquan Boldin
    Get a veteran Defensive End – for around 3 M (not sure who is on the market for that price range) to back up Chander Jones and Ninkovich. I really don’t understand why the pats did not sign John Abraham last year. He was signed for just 2 years 4.6 M. He should have definitely be paid that money and look at the production he had in 2013.

    Draft –
    Trade down from the first round to get an early pick in second round and some later round picks.
    Draft a DT like Stephon Tuitt with the acquired second round pick.
    Trade up from the 2nd round 29th pick to draft the TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (as I don’t think ASJ will last till the 29th pick in 2nd round).
    Draft OG/Center, a second TE and a DE later in the draft.

  5. Philip says:

    Maybe we can trade Mallett for a 3rd + 5rd pick to OAK or HOU…. Mal for 2nd rounder won’t happen

  6. Daniel R. Martin says:

    I’ve been screaming for the Pats to trade out of the first and to trade Ryan Mallet away for additional picks, and then to utilize the earliest selection to draft the best TE available. Hopefully Austin Seferian-Jenkins would still be on the board.

    While I don’t question Tight End is the single greatest need the team has, I am now beginning to wonder if expending the first round selection to draft Rashede Hageman and then taking a TE in the second wouldn’t be a more beneficial course of action. I’m unconcerned with the most prudent course for the team to take because I believe the time to win is now.

    I suppose the answer to this question would depend heavily on how steep one considers the drop off from ASJ to be to another TE likely to be available late in the second round.

    • Ryan says:

      I really like the idea of having three second-round picks so that we can get a DT, S, and TE at second-round value. At DT I see guys like DaQuan Jones, Kelcy Quarles, and Dominique Easley being good fits in that range. For S, Deone Bucannon, Ed Reynolds, Dion Bailey, and Ahmad Dixon seem like potential values. Then for TE you have Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Troy Niklas, and C.J. Fiedorowicz. This doesn’t even include guys who could fall from the first round.

  7. mjp says:

    When is Chandler Jones going to become this “stud” edge rusher? Right now he’s more Tully 2.0, junk sack city, than anything else.

    Has he beat an OT around the edge recently? How any OT gets beat to the inside by Jones is beyond me since he lacks the speed and athleticism to be true edge-rusher, if he can’t slip those gangly limps past the OT to the outside then he’s stuck in a hand fight to nowhere (2 games this year he posted ZERO pressures on the QB, unacceptable). Maybe he’ll get a 2nd effort sack 6 seconds after the snap because Nink has flushed the QB into his lap.

    Put some weight on this kid, move him inside where he’s more effective (guarantee his pass-rush productivity is much higher in sub packages as a DT with someone like Buchanan on the edge). He can actually beat the slower footed, less athletic OG’s, otherwise we have to hear about how great this kid is going to be as an edge rusher instead of seeing it.

    • acm says:

      I have to say I have my doubts he would ever be that. CJ should get better with improved technique and adding another 10 or so pounds of muscle to his frame (imo 275-278 lbs would be his ideal weight) but I can’t help thinking that he lacks the necessary body control and overall coordination of motion. This results in lots of energy going to waste and lack of explosion and suddenness in his play, which is the bread and butter of the top pass rushers out there. A byproduct of this is also his having difficulty keeping up with quick, sudden changes in direction during the play, as well as losing leverage in setting the edge. Doesn’t seem to have much of a bend either, for those exact same reasons.

      I know his stats this last season were quite impressive, but as you pointed out, but a bit too often his sacks are the result of a bad play/misstep or broken pass coverage by the opposing lineman, as opposed to CJ forcing things happen with power and speed.

      All in all, CJ makes for a pretty good DE already and next year could be even better with adding some weight. But in order to be the best he can be and turn into a pro-bowl level DE, I think he needs to work on his body control above all.

      • Russell says:

        Well done, … If the Patriots could sign DE Arthur Jones, he would be better than a drafted player right away, and spell Nick , or C Jones.

        • steve earle says:

          I’m with you on this Russell. Arthur Jones would be a terrific addition and I can’t help still hoping Nix III could join him on our line. I can dream can’t I?

    • Matt says:

      Jones has had 11.5 sacks this season. You don’t think that’s good?

      • Ryan says:

        He did get heaps of sacks, but he was far from applying consistent pressure to the QB. He capitalizes on mistakes very well, but can he beat guys on his own enough to make the QB worry about him? I just don’t know at this stage.

        • Matt says:

          Well if he gets some help. If the Pats can draft a guy like Tuitt then teams won’t be able to double team him. And he will get a lot more pressure on the QB.

        • acm says:

          that’s the problem Ryan is alluding to – teams don’t have to and more often than not aren’t double teaming him. CJ isn’t at the level where teams are game-planning for him. Ryan put it nicely – he capitalizes on mistakes by the LT but doesn’t consistently force things happen on his own thru speed and power.

          I suggest you look at his mechanics more closely and you will see what I meant by referring to poor body control and limb coordination. Look how “loose”, heavy and even chaotic his limbs look … almost as if they are too heavy for his muscles to carry and control. He tends to bring his feet too high when he makes those first steps. Just lacks tightness in his coordination, compactness in his motion where he keeps his limbs closer to his body and extends when contact is needed. That’s why he lacks explosion, suddenness and overwhelming power in his game.
          This is similar to a maximally compressed vs a more relaxed spring – the former has a lot more energy stored in it and explodes if let go, while the latter mostly just whimpers around.

  8. GM-In-Training says:

    Another possible answer is trade more players for picks.
    It seems to me they don’t have a lot they would part with who are still under contract.
    The ideal candidates are kind of expensive starters who have competent backups, and no dead money in their contracts.
    Who, besides Mallet, might the Pats trade for picks?
    Mathew Slater? (all pro, but only for special teams)
    Ridley? (Not until Blount is re signed)
    Can they get anything for Sopoaga?
    Bueller? Bueller?

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      I’ve asked that same question. I believe resigning Blount and trading Ridley for a 4th round pick to be utilized in acquiring Dri Archer would provide an elite, versatile, dynamic running back corps that would be hard for other teams to contend with. Archer, who may well be the fastest player in the history of the league, following Blount would be a change of pace in every sense of the term. We’d still have Vereen catching passes out of the backfield and Bolden to provide quality backup in the power running game.

      Trading Mallet for a pick or two would be of tremendous value to the team.

    • Russell says:

      Mallett has value for sure, say a 4th, and maybe moving up in the 3d round by trading places with a team. Ridley a 7th if your lucky, look at Blount?
      You could try to sign Spike’s and trade him to the Bears, Raiders..??

      • steve earle says:

        Your likely right on a 4th for Mallett though not sure Ridley would only bring a 7th. Might as well keep him at that point. About trying to sign Spikes then trading him I think would be very risky and could backfire. Giving him a new higher contract could be a turnoff for teams looking for him as FA. Still if Bill could pull these things off I’d be very happy.
        I still thinking Mallett’s greatist value would come once the season starts and some teams starter goes down with an injury. What’s your thinking about that Russell?

  9. Bob says:

    Sign Arthur Jones so you don’t have to worry about DL. Draft Amaro in the first round if you can get him. If not trade down and take Deone Bucannon and Troy Niklas in the 2nd round. Bucannon is a hard hitting safety with a knack for making plays. Niklas is a poor mans gronk. Go OL in the 3 and 4th round. Then with the 6th round picks and 7th get depth players, thus LB’s and Wr’s who are falling. Maybe get TJ Jones if you pick up an extra 4th or 5th round pick by trading down.

  10. Stephen J says:

    Any guesses to whose this years Tavon Wilson is?

    • GM-In-Training says:

      No one…I hope. Tavon Wilson was a high-character anonymous guy who hasn’t shown as much promise as you’d hope for a second rounder (as Dobson, Collins, Vereen, Gronkowski and even Spikes did since they were drafted in the 2nd round)…and he probably would’ve been there later.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        Yeah Wilson was a big head scratcher. Was it Logan Ryan or Duron Harmon that was projected to not even be taken in the entire 7 round draft? I seem to recall the network broadcasting the draft didn’t even have any highlight footage prepared for that player.

      • steve earle says:

        Yea, I remember when Travon Wilson’s name was announced everyone said, “who”? Bill does those things from time to time, I,m sure it’s some kind of brain cramp.

  11. JMayo_51 says:

    Offseason priorities for the Pats as I’d see it and other than the oft-heard TE and DT needs:
    1. Third DE that can be thrown into the rotation relieving Jones and Nink to keep them fresher while also capable of playing the designated pass rusher role. Think Justin Tuck in FA or Kony Ealy in the draft. Also reading a lot about Aaron Lynch but not sure what to make about him
    1b. Hard-hitting safety. Think Donte Whitner in FA or going Calvin Pryor with their first pick in the draft
    2. Speedy RB with good receiving skills. I’m thinking Auburn’s Tre Mason in late Rd 2 and also reading some good things on West Virginia’s Charles Sims
    3. Swing or right tackle with guard potential. Pats need to protect themselves against either another Vollmer’s injury or Solder’s demands for his new contract. Ability to play inside would only increase value. If Zach Martin is there at pick #29, I think the Pats need to pull the trigger whoever else is still on board. Mid-round pick such as Joel Bitonio would be the more likely

    • jim r says:

      I like the way you are going. Defense is top priority IMO. Would like to see them get DE,corner and SS, then look at oline and TE. Crazy trade # 1(29) and Mallett to Tampa for Revis. I did say crazy. Sign Talib. I think that takes care of a few issues on defense

    • Russell says:

      I’m hopeing we sign Arthur Jones DE to help take pressure off Nick, C.Jones.

      • steve earle says:

        I really hope that happens too. It would solve that delema for the next 3-4 years. jim r says signing Talib would solve several problems but only to a point, I still think another good CB needs to join the position.

      • acm says:

        A. Jones is a 3-4 DE i.e. in a 4-3 defense he projects as a DT. He wouldn’t sub for Ninkovich of his brother Chandler but rather play the role of an interior rusher, which the Pats still need direly (kind of what Chris Jones did for them last season). Arthur Jones is pretty stout against the run too.

      • carlo strada says:

        I want Arthur Jones on the team too. Yet im not sure what his role would be on the line. Hes a great run stopper whos able to hold his own against the double teams. He has great interior pass rush, and often he has been seen rush as a 4-3 DE as on 2012 SB. other thing, the guy has freaking long arms and is relatively fast so Id like to think he d translate fine to a 4-3 DT, but i also think he could be a great light NT on our line.

    • carlo strada says:

      Over any DE free agent, i think Jared Allen is the best fit for the pats. The guy wants his ring, even over a good amount of money (M. johnson and Hardy). M. Johnson is good, but not great, id rather get Kraken Hardy (but wouldnt be according to pats currently tight cap space). Allen still is productive and could be a more reasonable pick. The question is, what do we do with Ninko? Back to OLB?

    • Pete H. says:

      On need 2, the Patriots do have a speedy, pass-catching running back already in Shane Vereen. Bolden can back up his role, although he is certainly less explosive. If you’re taking a guy like that, I’d like to see the pats try for it with a 6th rounder, there are other roster areas besides backup pass-catching running back that are more important, imo, to target in round 2 (interior o-line, TE). I agree with a 3rd DE and O-line help, although Cannon seemed servicable as the 3rd OT last season. Rounds 2-4 could be devoted to a couple of interior linemen and a tight end.

  12. CDR says:

    I can see Bill and the Pats going for Michael Sam. The Pats have always prioritized team first before any other personal matter.

  13. Russell says:

    Very well done article. Bill likes to trade out of the 1st round to get better value, and additional picks. Given the quality of younger players on the Roster, I would not be surprised if Bill trades out of the first round, and gets some picks in the 2015 draft. (no cost to the team this year in salary’s) I’m not sure there is a 1st round guy the Patriots would pick, maybe; OG Zack Martin, DE Kony Ealy, or TE Jace Amaro. I like LB Kyle Van Noy, but he is most likely picked before #29.
    I’m very high on Kyle Fuller CB from Virginia Tech, as a Patriot draft pick early. Bill could suprise us all and take QB A.J. McCarron early, maybe even #29 if it’s not traded.

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      I don’t watch NCAA football or collegiate sports in general. That being said, I was given to believe A. J. McCarron wasn’t projected to transition as a starter in the NFL. He is projected to be a very late, almost 4th round, selection. I believe it would be uncharacteristically poor decision making on Coach Bill’s behalf if he were to reach into the first round for him. Besides, Aaron Murray will likely fall to the fourth or even fifth round, and I believe he has every bit as much potential.

      Also, I am against any trade for future picks. The future is now. Brady is only getting older. He hasn’t had many great offensive players even when he was winning super bowls. Manning has won far less in the way of championships, but he has had something like 4X’S as many pro bowlers on his teams. It is a travesty to consistently equip the greatest QB in the history of professional football with mid tier, at best, talent.

      • Russell says:

        I can promise you McCarron is off the board in the second round for sure. Also lets not forget how Tom got his chance with Bledsoe going down for the year. On any given play it could happen, having a back-up is one thing, a future starter, backing up Tom another.
        QB Murray is a great though, as is Conner Shaw later on in the draft, but we need more than just a back-up.

        • Daniel R. Martin says:

          I suppose my position, all be it somewhat less informed concerning college football, is that IF McCarron is better than Murray he isn’t by much. And because I don’t recognize a distinguishable drop off from McCarron to Murray, I’d say Murray in the 5th represents significantly greater value than McCarron in the second, and especially in the first.

      • Ryan says:

        Completely agree with you about the future being now. No need to trade for next year because players take time to develop. By the time they are NFL ready Brady will be gone and we can’t guarantee our next QB will be half of what he is. This is not the time to grab project players; we need studs who can perform almost instantly.

    • Henry says:

      I would probably jump out a window if the Patriots took AJ McCarron with the 29th pick. I do feel they should trade down though, perhaps into the early 2nd. At that point I would like Stephon Tuitt as a target.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        I agree on the window jumping. Though is this article is accurate in representing Tuitt as primarily a run stuffing DT and Hageman as someone who can generate more QB pressures, I’d prefer Hageman.

        • steve earle says:

          Sorry but I’ve got 1st dibs on that window in that case ( no offense Russell). Ryan said it right a little up page, “we need studs now”, Guys who can impact now.

    • steve earle says:

      I’d add Nix III to that list Russell otherwise we agree it’s very likely Bill trades down for more picks. I’d like to see a 2nd, 3rd, and 5th but that might be difficult.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        I guess we truly did make off like bandits last year, fleecing Minnesota for a 2nd, 3rd, 4th & 7th, eh Steve?

        • Bill Vermont says:

          The trade was great for Pats because they had only 5 picks in the draft. But Vikes were a playoff team last year and their picks were like #23 of each round. The trade actually worked just as the so called trade value chart indicated.

          There does appear to be a lot of very interesting names in the 2-3 rd

        • steve earle says:

          Yea, I think we did. Bill points out they were lower round picks but just the same, jeeze I was happy with it. If we trade down again this year, and we might, I’d hope for a couple picks but higher in the rounds.

    • steve earle says:

      I fully admit I’m a terrable judge of QB prospects but in spite of your assurances that McCarron will go in the 2nd I just have a hard time seeing that right now. However if he lights up the combine ( if he throws) my opinion could change. So far he did not impress me as the guy we want stepping into Tom’s shoes.

  14. Daniel R. Martin says:

    For the first time in more than half a decade, the Patriots’ Defensive Unit isn’t the problem. While it can certainly be improved upon further, marked improvement has been made over the past two seasons.

    On the back of a season that fielded the most anemic Offense in MANY years, I’d say adding offensive play makers is the priority that must trump all other off season objectives. Considering how dominant the team was offensively with the two TE set other franchises have since attempted to imitate, I’d suggest the team must start there.

    For decades the pass catching TE who was a receiver first and blocker second was the exception (Tony Gonzalez) that proved the rule. Players seem to be more athletically gifted in the sports world of today. Tight Ends are the new wave of the future. Gronk, A-Hern and Graham may have been the first monster playmaking TE’s of this generation, but they most assuredly will not be the last. Tight Ends of today, or at least the elite ones, are too quick to be adequately covered by linebackers and too big and strong to be easily brought down by secondary defenders.

    This is THE draft class where the Patriots can successfully rebuild the two TE set. The depth at the TE position for this draft may not be seen again for many years to come. If the Patriots are forward thinking enough to take either Jace Amaro late in the first, or to trade back into the early second round and select Austin Seferian-Jenkins, I feel as though these moves will pay immediate dividends. And if the Patriots are brave enough to face the media scrutiny that would certainly accompany the selection of Colt Lyerla in the wake of the Hernandez disaster, he could well be the biggest steal of this draft, last year’s draft, or any other draft for the next few years. The guy can be that good. However, admittedly he may also fall on this face due to his character concerns actually being character faults.

    These moves taken in tandem would replace Hernandez, provide a capable backup to the oft injured Gronkowski and allow for a big bodied, mismatch night mare in the slot receiver position, to be fielded with both Gronk and the first selected TE.

    Furthermore, we already have quality talent and depth along the defensive line in house. Also, talented DT’s and DE’s will be available during free agency this year. Many of whom, such as Arthur Jones, Jared Allen and especially Lamarr Houston shouldn’t break the bank. Gronkowski is not only the sole playmaking TE currently on the roster, he is also the only legitimate red zone target TB12 has. One need only consider the red zone productivity while Gronk was present as contrasted against the anemic, impotent inefficiency that hall marked the team in his absence. Lastly, there aren’t any players at the TE position entering free agency this year aside from Graham, who will undoubtedly be either resigned or franchise tagged, that possess the upside of either Amaro, ASJ, Lyerla and even Fiedorowitz (check spelling) and Nikklas to a lesser extent.

    The first priority must be acquiring at least one dynamic receiving TE, preferably two.

    The second priority should be to develop pass rushing productivity and general backfield disruption all along the front seven, and even in the secondary.

    The third most important endeavor the Patriots Front Office can pursue, at least by my account, is to add aggressive, powerfully built, smash mouth playing safeties and corners.

    An additional priority must be adding contributing players and quality backup and developmental pieces along the offensive line

    • Matt says:

      The Pats more then likely will not pick up a free agent DE or DE because they don’t have a lot of cap space thanks to Danny A. Also there in house D line has been banged up. Wilfork & Kelly who are not coming off season ending injuries but are also older. If they were to draft a player like Tuitt. He could play either DT Or DE he can rush the QB very well and he can open up huge holes for the middle linebackers to stuff the run or get after the QB.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        Hey smart ass I didn’t say Tuck instead of drafting a player. Try reading a little more critically. D*O*M*I*N*I*Q*U*E* E*A*S*L*E*Y in the second right.

        I guess knee injuries end a players career every time, huh? I guess we should have kicked Brady to the curve after his. And Welker. Now Gronk

        Any other wicked repartee?

        • Matt says:

          Your right about Mr. Easley and I was wrong. He tore his ACL in his right knee in 2013. Tore is ACL in his left knee in 2011 and was arrested for assault in Oct 2011. Yea the Pats won’t have a problem with drafting another player that has been arrested. And as for Brady and his torn ACL Brady isn’t almost 300 lbs and his job isn’t to push other large guys around is it.

    • steve earle says:

      Dan I fully agree this is THE draft to rebuild the TE dominating offense we enjoyed for to short a time imo. But I feel we also must address some glearing concerns on Def. What if Wolfolk doesn’t return to form? We can’t rely on Armstead he’s just an unknown right now. WE have suffered watching the lackluster play in the def backfield for to long now.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        I agree Steve. I think many of the defensive players that I have included in my mock, including one such player as late as the 7th round, can radically transform our defense. I’m not entirely sold on Loston. Perhaps Dixon is the better SS, as you have suggested. I just don’t think that the Pats will take Dixon and Lyerla in the same draft.

        The Patriots won many games with a lackluster team that got eaten alive in the passing game. They were able to do so on the back of a dominating offense that could drop 40 on an opponent in any given game. When this was the case I too wanted the team to invest heavily in our defense. However, they did just that. The offense was neglected and the team is weaker overall because of it. I think the defense is far and away better now than they were in previous years. Even after losing Wilfork, Kelly, Mayo, Spikes and others, the defense was no longer a liability. The mighty Broncos were held in check to a “paltry” 26 points scored. The offense of recent tears would have won that game handily.

        I suggested the 2nd round selection of DL Dominique Easley in my mock draft. If it weren’t for a recent injury, I believe this guy would be a top 15 overall pick.

        Matt I believe we can afford Lamarr Houston easily enough. By cutting Wilfork alone we can bring in Justin Tuck (3.2 Million in 2012), Lamarr Houston (Who made only 522K in 2012) Bernard Pollard (who earned a paltry 1.3 million last season) & perhaps even someone else.

        • Matt says:

          Justin Tuck? The same Justin Tuck that has knee problems? Good idea. Instead of drafting a healthy player.

        • steve earle says:

          Been giving this some thought Dan, and though Dixon had some on field flags nothing like Lyerla’s. Even so I’d say in for a penny in for a pound. Dixon’s on field things can be controled by a strong coaching staff and locker room. Pat’s would be the perfect fit for him whether or not he would be he would be for them which I think he would as he is bound to slide some due to others concerns to where we could take him at a value meets need spot.

        • steve earle says:

          Oh boy, I mangled that sentance, sorry.

    • carlo strada says:

      I fully agree on that this year, is gonna be the year on wich the “Magic 3″ Prophecy is fulfilled. No one better than belichick to go gambling big with 3 TE ofensive sets. I mean TE is nowadays a weakness for us, and learning from past mistakes will make Belichick to bring back to live the TE based ancient ofensive scheme, only that this time i think we will have a very complete TE depth. Personally i think we ll be tradding down the 1st one with San francisco and get in exchange 2nd (55 overall from chiefs) and 3rd(75 overall from titans), Niklas, our first pick, Lynch (late forth/early 5th rounder) and hopefully Lyerla on very late/undrafted, that d be enough. We dont need WR, lets get our hands full with what is proved we can work it.

  15. Matt says:

    If the Pats draft either Nix or Tuitt i’ll be shocked and happy. I have watched them both play for ND and they are two great players. I think they would be a big help for the Pats D.

  16. Patrick Haugen says:

    Get Sam!






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