NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas
The NFL draft is a fluid process.
Between now and May, the NFL Scouting Combine, college pro days, interviews, private workouts and unrestricted free agency will alter the landscape. Within that landscape, a prospect’s perceived value will swing, as will the perceived needs and interests of their suitors.
Now there are no absolutes in the midst of February, March or April. There are no guarantees that a player will be a top-15 selection. There are no guarantees that an organization will address the draft board by roster priority, either.
All we can do is form an educated projection as to how the picture will be painted.
Projecting, however, is especially difficult when it comes to the New England Patriots war room.
Head coach Bill Belichick, director of player personnel Nick Caserio, and the rest of the Patriots front office have their own interpretation of value. At its very essence, though, it is about waging the worth of a player in contrast with where that player could be selected. It’s about reading the previous picks and gauging what type of player will be available when.
And that is what we’ll attempt to accomplish in this Patriots seven-round mock draft exercise.
- New England currently holds seven picks. Yet when accounting for compensatory selections – as NEPatriotsDraft’s Mike Loyko forecasted in his post-Senior Bowl mock – that could yield two sixth-rounders in exchange for safety Patrick Chung and offensive guard Donald Thomas, and perhaps even an additional seventh-rounder for tailback Danny Woodhead.
Round 1 – Zack Martin, Offensive Tackle, Notre Dame
Drafting a player, not a position, often saves the on-field product from becoming diluted. Yet on occasion, Belichick and Co. have been able to draft a player and a position in the same pick. And that could be the case with Notre Dame’s dependable 52-game starter Zack Martin.
Martin has drawn semblance to former Fresno State left tackle and current Patriots left guard Logan Mankins, and I see him as one of five ideal fits at pick 29 overall. Those four others play defensive tackle, tight end, offensive guard and offensive tackle. But if we are to assume that a top-15 talent in Martin is still waiting – and his teammate Louis Nix III is not – the Patriots could do far worse than shore up the offensive line with a future 10-year starter.
He lacks ideal size and range to play tackle at 6’4”, 305-pounds, but “Ironman” Martin has earned that nickname; he’s as steady as they come. The Pinstripe Bowl MVP could step in and be an immediate difference-maker at right guard.
Round 2 – Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida
Belichick’s drafts are guided by certain measurables: Take note of receivers, defensive backs and edge-rushers who place in the top-10 for three-cone time; discount cornerbacks with 40-yard dash over 4.5 seconds, as well as defensive ends under 6’5” and defensive tackles under 290 pounds.
All of these been common trend in recent memory. But much like cornerback Logan Ryan’s 40-time last year, sometimes the common trend is meant to be broken. And that is the school of thought here with undersized and injured Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley.
Easley is 6’2”, 285-pounds, lacking the weight prototypical to defend the run. The senior is also coming off his second torn ACL and also has a torn MCL on record – medical red flags for most teams. Yet ultimately, the Gators’ interior pass-rusher is quicker off the ball than any defensive tackle in this class. If it weren’t for injury, the havoc that he wreaks wouldn’t make it out of the first 20 picks. With injury, he could be placed on the PUP list for the first part of 2014 before being eased in as a pass-rusher. Easley thrives at the one- and three-technique; he’s not limited to those alignments, however. He’s a scheme-diverse force.
Round 3 – C.J. Fiedorowicz, Tight End, Iowa
Texas Tech’s Jace Amaro, Washington’s Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas and even California’s Richard Rodgers could align with New England’s need for a receiving tight end. But if those five are all gone before the end of Round 3, that might just keep Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz around.
Fiedorowicz was curiously utilized in the Hawkeyes offense, but there’s nothing curious about 6’7”, 265-pounder’s ability. What you see is what you get. And what you get with Fiedorowicz is a sound, all-around football player who blocks willingly, runs precise routes, makes hands-catches and is a red-zone threat.
A decade ago, Fiedorowicz would be a first-round draft choice. Yet as offenses evolve, the intrigue of a traditional inline ‘Y’ tight end is often replaced by a slot receiving, offline ‘F’ tight end. That paradigm shift could end up playing into the Patriots’ hands, as the Iowa connections run deep.
Round 4 – Keith McGill, Cornerback, Utah
Long, rangy and physical outside cornerbacks are growing in popularity largely due to the Seattle Seahawks’ brand of football. But in New England’s brand of football, it is equally important to have a defensive back that can press, jam and consequently frustrate No. 1 receivers.
That is Aqib Talib. But regardless of what transpires in the 28-year-old’s contract negotiations, the Patriots could look to add a cornerback of similar stature and play this May. One who could be available at the end of Round 4 is Utah’s 6’3”, 205-pound Keith McGill.
McGill looks like a safety – he was a first-team All-American one at Cerritos College – but he plays like a corner. And that flexibility could be of great benefit to a team like New England. He is suited to cover tight ends or big-bodied receivers, but he can also help out as a run defender. He would add diversity and insurance to the Patriots cornerback group in the fourth-round range.
Round 6 – T.J. Jones, Wide Receiver, Notre Dame
George Winn, Cierre Wood, Jonas Gray, Braxston Cave – all of whom were on the Patriots roster in some capacity over the last year. And based on this year’s crop, there’s reason to believe that those four won’t be the last Brian Kelly products to land in Foxborough.
In light of this, keep an eye on wide receiver T.J. Jones on Day 3. Even though the Patriots had seven rookie wideouts in the fold last season and the position is still developing, Jones has the tools to complement if the vast group of physically imposing underclassmen pulls him down.
A three-time candidate for the Biletnikoff Award, the Canadian-born senior is one of the most consistent and trusted receivers in college football. While he’s only 5’11” and 195 pounds, Jones is a smooth, sure competitor. He displays field awareness to surpass the sticks or get his feet down at the boundary. And with excellent hands, he’s the type of player a quarterback wants on their team.
Round 6 – Ryan Carrethers, Defensive Tackle, Arkansas State
The Patriots have pieces in place at defensive tackle. But some of those pieces have more certain futures than others. And having selected a scheme-diverse lineman in Easley on Day 2, the Patriots find more traditional nose tackle on Day 3 in Arkansas State’s Ryan Carrethers.
A redshirt senior in 2013, the 6’2”, 330-pound Carrethers found himself on the Bednarik Award and Outland Trophy watch lists. He tallied 93 tackles and four sacks for the Red Wolves in the process.
Carrethers moves well for his size and has the functional strength to leverage or consume blocks from the zero- or one-technique. He would give the Patriots a third option in the Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga run-stuffer role.
Round 6 (Compensatory) – DeDe Lattimore, Linebacker, South Florida
He’s 6’0” and 237 pounds. He’s got 30-inch arms. He’s a “tweener.”
South Florida’s DeDe Lattimore is a lot of things. But he’s also an instinctive, play-diagnosing, high-effort, explosive inside linebacker who’d be a very serviceable draft choice in the compensatory territory of Round 6.
Lattimore will be a middle linebacker in the NFL, not because of his height or weight but because he can fight off blocks to stop the run and crash delayed blitzes through the A-gaps. He may not be cut out for cover-linebacker duties, but he’s cut out to be a hard-nosed defender who will work his way up on special teams and bring intensity to whatever job he’s asked to fulfill. The 2013 team captain brings 48 starts in 49 career games to the table.
Round 6 (Compensatory) – Tom Savage, Quarterback, Pittsburgh
Sooner or later, the Patriots will draft a quarterback. And with the second compensatory pick of the sixth round, this seems as appropriate a time as any. Pittsburgh QB Tom Savage was once a Rutgers Scarlet Knight starter as a true freshman, but that’s not why there’s intrigue.
Since then, he has been an Arizona Wildcat and a Pittsburgh Panther. He transferred twice after losing his starting job and experiencing coaching and scheme changes. But last season, the 6’5”, 230-pound 23-year-old found a home and completed 61 percent of passes for 2,958 yards, 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Savage plays with heavy feet, which leaves him in harm’s way as the pocket collapses. He often looks laborious scrambling to the sideline and negotiating through pressure as well.
Yet when taking it all into consideration, Savage has a powerful arm, intermediate accuracy, clean mechanics when time is afforded, and more upside than he’s given credit for as a developmental quarterback.
Round 7 – Gator Hoskins, Tight End, Marshall
The seventh round could be the venue for New England to take a flier on second tight end. But while the most well-known name from this tier once played for the Oregon Ducks, another fit from this tier played for the Marshall Thundering Herd. His name is Gator Hoskins.
Hoskins is quick and streamline receiver in the H-back mold. This shapes him as a second tight end who can line up in the slot, offline or at fullback in the NFL. Albeit physically limited at 6’2” and 244 pounds, Hoskins proved vital for quarterback Rakeem Cato and the Herd over the last two seasons, and that’s an attack that once had the services of 2013 second-round pick Aaron Dobson.
Hoskins caught 10 touchdowns in Marshall’s spread as a junior in 2012. He added on another 15 as a senior this past fall. And he’s the type of versatile contributor the Patriots could utilize this upcoming fall.
Special thanks to DraftBreakdown.com for making prospect videos readily accessible.
Tags: 2014 NFL Mock Draft