NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano
The Patriots will select a wide out relatively high, and by relatively high I mean before round four. Belichick loves to maximize value, and after round one there will be plenty of value left over at receiver. Some 2nd-3rd round prospects that typically would have first round grades, will be sitting there for them to select at #62 and #93 overall. With the diverse array of receiving talent left on the board, there’s many different directions they can go at pass catcher. Three names to remember are Jarvis Landry, Kevin Norwood and Marqise Lee.
Landry is one of the most reliable players in the draft. He’s the ideal possession receiver who catches everything thrown to him. But what makes him so special is his big play ability. When games were on the line he routinely rose to the occasion, and made game changing grabs. Although Odell Beckham may be getting most of the hype, it was Landry who put the Tigers on his back more often than not during crucial situations last season. His game reminds me a lot of Anquan Boldin. When you need someone to go up and compete for a ball, he always gives you maximum effort.
If the Pats decide to tap into the Saban pipe line again, then Kevin Norwood could be coming to Gillette. Similar to Landry, it was Norwood’s teammate Amari Cooper who stole most of the headlines while at Tuscaloosa. His numbers steadily rose over four years at Alabama, and he posted 7 touchdowns last season. Norwood is built with good size and speed that should appeal to teams after round two, including New England.
After dealing with nagging injuries during his final season in college, Marqise Lee could experience a fall like the one Keenan Allen felt last year. Now I doubt he’ll drop to round three, but I believe there’s a chance he could still be available come Friday. And if the Patriots trade out of round one, an early 2nd round pick would be well spent on the former Trojan. Lee fits the classic Patriots’ receiver mold; he runs all the routes, and pads on yards after the catch. He has the ability to make defenders miss and hit the home run whenever the ball is in his hands. The fact Lee’s learning curve won’t be nearly as steep compared to other rookie receivers after playing in a pro style offense at USC, makes him a great option for New England.
The Patriots will double dip at Tight End. Whether it’s Jace Amaro or Austin Seferian-Jenkins, one of the two big men will be Foxborough bound. Both fit within New England’s offensive scheme, and could potentially play both TE spots. As I’ve said before, Amaro is basically an oversized slot receiver. He lives underneath and makes his money with yards after the catch.
Jenkins has the positional versatility to line up almost anywhere on the field. Although his junior tape might leave a sour taste in some team’s mouths, it’s his sophomore film that makes him well worth a 2nd round pick. He looked like a mobile Sequoia tree during his second year at Washington, carrying multiple defenders down field as they tried desperately to tackle the big man.
Between the two of them Amaro looks to be more NFL ready, but Jenkins’ ceiling is definitely higher. Both however will offer an immediate impact in the red zone, which would greatly help New England until Rob Gronkowski is at full strength.
The only way I see the Pats looking past either of them at TE is if Kelvin Benjamin’s phone still hasn’t rung by #29. Benjamin is one of the more intriguing prospects this year. I don’t think you can really pigeonhole him into a specific position, he’s best described as a red area threat. The Pats may be concerned with his immaturity, but at the end of the day if a player with that size and talent level is still hanging around at #29, you might just have to roll the dice.
After round two, the Patriots may not make their next decision at TE until day three. I’m curious to see where C.J. Fiedorowicz lands. Many have him pegged in the 3rd round, but if he slips into day three, the Kirk Ferentz product would make a lot sense for New England. He’s a big strong body with surprisingly soft hands, and would give the Pats some young, talented depth behind Gronkowski. If not Fiedorowicz, look for them to shop in the bargain bin late on day three and possibly take either University of Florida’s Trey Burton, or Marshall University’s Gator Hoskins. Two prospects that offer plenty of versatility at either H-back, or as an “F” type TE.
The Patriots might surprise everyone and trade up. Yes, I said up. This year’s first round is interesting because the fate of some impact defensive players will be determined by when certain quarterbacks and receivers leave the board.
If Ohio States Ryan Shazier is still available after #20, he would be an extremely tempting player for New England to move up and steal. Shazier posses a skill set that would allow him to thrive in Belichick’s defense. He has terrific range, along with the necessary rush skills to be a factor on 3rd down. Shazier’s field acumen paired with his athleticism would make him an instant contributor for New England’s defense. Schematically he could fit almost anywhere at linebacker. Belichick would be able to move him around the defense depending on game situations, and those are the sort of players he covets.
Overall, what I THINK I know heading into tonight will probably change a couple more times before Roger Goodell announces the first pick. But that’s what makes draft season so much fun. Just when you think you have it all figured out, somebody trades up ten spots out of nowhere, and the entire draft’s balance is thrown off course. The only thing I definitely know for sure is come Monday morning the Pro Shop at Patriot place will have a few more names hanging in the window, and Tim Tebow jerseys will still be on sale.