NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko
The first two days of the NFL Draft are in the books and I have to say I’m a little surprised the Patriots only made two selections thus far. The Patriots clearly got two players they felt very strongly about and decided to move out of the 3rd round for an extra pick. To this point in the draft there hasn’t been a Tavon Wilson type reach and for that we can all be thankful.
Here are a few thoughts I have on the Patriots draft to this point.
1) The Patriots absolutely positively got their man in the first round. I heard back in March that Easley was “at the top of their board” and that never changed. Bill Belichick especially loved his versatility and explosion from multiple alignments. The lack of versatility on the defensive line really hindered and hamstrung this defense last season, adding an impact guy was vital. People can criticize it for his injury history, but truth is he tore his ACL in late September, was given medical clearance by multiple teams, and was not getting out of the first round past Seattle. In fact, the Patriots take Easley even if they are picking #20, they like him that much.
2) It’s tough not to be a little disappointed in day two of the draft. I would have liked to see the Patriots add another player at a position of need and a player they could get production out of in 2014. Truth be told, the Patriots had Garoppolo ranked very high and it’s clearly another example of zeroing in on a player. I had the opportunity to interview every single Senior Bowl QB one on one and I was by far the most impressed with Garoppolo. He’s smart, well-spoken, and shows a high football IQ.
On the field he has an ultra-quick release with good ball velocity. He can move out the pocket and throw on the run, always shows tremendous command of his offense. This is a kid that went to the Shrine Game and won the MVP Award, then got upgraded to the Senior Bowl and performed better than any other QB there. It’s a little disappointing they picked a QB here because we won’t see him play for awhile, but I have no problem whatsoever with the selection of Garoppolo. If they were going to pick a QB, I’m glad it’s him.
3) This team is loaded for bear on day three of the draft. Entering tomorrow the Patriots will have three 4th Round picks, three 6th Round picks (including the 3rd overall) and a 7th Round pick. If you’ve followed me long enough you’ve heard me talk about the great depth and value within this draft. Looking at my board, I believe this will be the most talent laden 3rd day of the draft in history, so it’s no surprise the Patriots added picks to take advantage of it. Doing the trade with Jacksonville allowed the Patriots to close a big gap in between their last 4th Round pick and their 6th Round pick. As we stand right now the Patriots have no 5th round pick, but select last in the 4th, 3rd in the 6th with plenty of ammo to make a move.
There was not one player selected from the time the Patriots traded out of the 93rd pick to the end of the third round that I believe the Patriots had interest in, so the trade back hasn’t effected them yet.
4) This team still has plenty of needs to fill. Looking at the roster it’s imperative that they add at least one linebacker to the mix, it’s important for them to add at least one more RB to the mix, and it’s important to add another defensive lineman. Lucky for the Patriots the board broke pretty well for them and there is good depth at all three of those positions. As has been brought up before, when you look at the Patriots roster there are very few starting positions up for grabs. They have depth areas that need to be filled in with so many picks on day three they are likely to improve the back end of the roster.
5) The addition of Garoppolo leaves Ryan Mallett in a tenuous situation. It is highly unlikely he gets moved at this point, but there is always a possibility at the end of training camp for a move to take place. During Belichick’s press conference, it was clear this selection was made with some thought given to Tom Brady’s age. Belichick said “It’s better to be early than late”, meaning they took Garoppolo with at least a little hope he can be the guy to take over for Tom Brady in 2018-2019. As far as losing Mallet goes, even if they don’t trade him, they should get a compensation pick for his departure, all is not lost yet.
6) At the top of the 3rd Round I’d keep an eye on Rutgers WR Brandon Coleman he’s a player the Patriots have some interest in and there is a good chance he’s on the board at #105. If they opt for a receiver other than Coleman, South Carolina’s Bruce Ellington is a guy the Patriots had a lot of pre-draft contact with. At Linebacker, Jordan Tripp, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Carl Bradford, and Christian Jones are all players I can see fitting in with the Patriots. No matter what happens they will be picking at #140, as they can’t trade the compensation pick. Listening to Bill Belichick a few minutes ago, it certainly sounds like the Patriots plan on being active and “positioning themselves if a player begins to slide”. Buckle up.