NEPD Staff Writer: Ken Vetrano
For most fans, day three of the NFL Draft doesn’t offer nearly the same excitement as the previous two. Most of the sexy names are off the board, and it can almost seem as if teams are just cashing in their chips to get home early. But the later rounds are when organizations try to find hidden gems. The Patriots have had more success on day three than a lot of teams, and most of that can be contributed to their front office leaving no stone unturned.
The following are players New England has most likely done their due diligence on already, and would make since after round three.
Trey Burton TE/WR/H-Back, University of Florida: Burton is the classic example of a jack of all trades master of none. What would make him a valuable player to a team like the Patriots, is his versatility. Recruited as a quarterback out of Venice, FL, Trey was often compared to Tim Tebow. Like Tebow, Burton is a physically gifted athlete with a skill set few players possess at the college level. However, his deficiencies at quarterback kept him from taking the reins of the position full time. He was used quite a bit throughout his Gator career at various positions, including QB/TE/H-Back and most recently WR.
Burton has the ability to be a poor man’s Aaron Hernandez. Like Hernandez, Burton presents tremendous flexibility at the line of scrimmage. He can be moved almost anywhere on the field, giving Josh McDaniels plenty of options. Considering Burton will most likely be available between rounds 6-UFA, he would be a great value pick up for New England.
Burton has excellent hands for a player that has been asked to do so much outside of just playing wide out, and can run more than adequate routes. At 6’2” 224lbs he has decent size to be an H-Back option out of the backfield, and viable threat taking occasional hand offs from Brady. There’s also the obvious Belichick-Florida connection, but I have a feeling Burton would have been on their radar regardless.
J.C. Copeland FB, LSU: I’m not going to waste time talking about stats, or accomplishments, because like most full backs those things don’t necessarily exist when recapping their careers. Any true full back can be judged solely by his mean mug, and while at LSU, Copeland had the meanest of them all. At 5’11” 270lbs, this behemoth can shake the heels of any defensive line with nothing but a subtle grin. Copeland flashed during the senior bowl, and anyone who saw his sideline interview during the game knows this kid has an infectious personality.
He’s nothing fancy, just brute force coming up the middle. Copeland has the ability to stamp the exclamation point on goal line situations, and put the final nail in the coffin of any game. He didn’t perform as well his senior year as past seasons, and is not a finished product by any extent, but late in the draft Copeland presents value. Not to mention we know how much Josh McDaniels loves to utilize his full backs.
Jerick McKinnon, QB/RB, Georgia Southern: If you’re in love with the annual spandex invitational at Lucas Oil, then you will quickly develop a crush on this combine maven. McKinnon posted some of the best, and most consistent numbers across the board at this year’s combine. Much like Burton, McKinnon split time between positions throughout his college career, and used his athleticism to take advantage of the option offense.
He saw most of his success running the ball during his junior and senior years, albeit against the Sun Belt Conference, McKinnon was still able to display a natural burst at the second level, and knack for getting up field. Even though most teams won’t spend a pick on him as a QB, he still showed some ability to hit the big play with his arm, and not just his legs.
Unlike the previous two players mentioned, pinning down where McKinnon will land is a bit tougher. Some sites have him listed as a mid round pick, and with more draft visits that estimation may rise. If the Patriots can land him anywhere between the 5th-7th round, he is the type of project player that could pay dividends down the line.