NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
Many people dread their birthday after a certain age, but not me. Each year, in late July, I get excited just like when I was a kid, because I get the same gift every year–Patriots training camp, followed by college camps. That’s right, it is the gift of football.
All across the nation, college teams have started fall camp with an eye towards their first game in a few short weeks. For some, there are aspirations of a national championship while others simply aim to show improvement over last year.
Draftniks like me are eagerly sifting through the massive pool of players to get a better idea of what the 2015 draft crop is going to look like. Some of those players we already know, such as sophomores and juniors who had strong seasons last year, while others are still unknowns. Before the games start to count, I thought it would be fun to get a feel for each of the positions.
I am notoriously tough when scouting QBs. This may be because I have been spoiled by watching Tom Brady all of these years, but I expect a lot from a QB prospect if I am to give him a high grade. This year’s crop does have some potential to break into that elite grade. It seems to be filled with athletes that run simplified offenses. If any of these guys are going to be successful at the NFL level, they need to show improvement in their passing game.
QB-Who to Watch:
1. Marcus Mariota, Oregon
2. Jameis Winston, Florida St
3. Brett Hundley, UCLA
4. Bryce Petty, Baylor
5. Sean Mannion, Oregon St.
It has been 2 years since a Running Back was selected in the first round of the NFL Draft, but that could change this year with a couple of explosive players such as Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. There has also been a lot of turnover at the position with some big names moving onto the NFL in last year’s draft, so the position seems to be filled with potential but many guys are still relatively unknown. This should be a fun group to watch to see who breaks out as the next great running back.
RB-Who to Watch:
1. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
2. Todd Gurley, Georgia
3. Karlos Williams, Florida St.
4. Malcolm Brown, Texas
5. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
The Wide Receiver class last year was one of the deepest ever and that has left this year’s class a little short on talent. That is not to say there is none, but it looks like we will not see the same type of high-end talent that teams were able to find last year. Let’s hope that throughout the season, some lesser-known guys step up to help round out the class.
WR-Who To Watch:
1. Amari Cooper, Alabama
2. Nelson Agholor, USC
3. Stefon Diggs, Maryland
4. Rashad Greene, Florida St.
5. Ty Montgomery, Stanford
Most Patriots fans thought this position would be addressed last year, and after seeing the turnover of guys already in training camp, my guess is that the Tight End position will once again be a focus. At first glance, it looks to be thin on top-end talent. Unless we see someone unexpected break out or vast improvement from the bigger names of the pre-season, I would not get your hopes up of finding an elite talent to pair with Gronkowski.
TE-Who To Watch:
1. Devin Funchess, Michigan (TE/WR)
2. Ben Koyack, Notre Dame
3. Tyler Kroft, Rutgers
4. Nick O’Leary, Florida St.
5. E.J. Bibbs, Iowa St.
Once again, the Offensive Line looks to have a heavy influence in the first round of the 2015 draft. It seems that each year these guys get bigger and more athletic and their games are more NFL ready than those of the previous year. On the surface, Tackle does not seem to be a huge need for the Patriots, but the line did struggle last year and if that trend continues again this season, the Patriots may see talent on the board too good to pass up.
Offensive Tackle-Who To Watch:
1. Brandon Scherff, Iowa
2. Andrus Peat, Stanford
3. Cedric Ogbuehi, Texas A&M
4. Cameron Irving, Florida St.
5. La’el Collins, LSU
In my opinion, Guard and Center are the most difficult of all the offensive positions to scout. It is challenging to see what each individual prospect is doing through the traffic in the trenches. It has been ingrained in my head over the years that you can find interior offensive lineman later in the draft, but that trend has changed recently as more and more have been taken early. There does not seem to be that type of buzz for any of these guys this year, so it seems that this class may lack elite talent for the positions.
Interior Lineman-Who To Watch
1. Hroniss Grasu, Oregon (center)
2. Tre Jackson, Florida St. (guard)
3. Vadal Alexander, LSU (guard)
4. Reese Dismukes, Auburn (center)
5. Laken Tomlinson, Duke (guard)
Overall, I think the talent pool on the offensive side of the ball for next year’s class is intriguing. There may not be the historic talent we saw at Wide Receiver last year, but the crop of Quarterbacks should make the 1st round very interesting. The talent at Offensive Tackle is very strong once again and we should see 5 or 6 guys in the 1st round. There is some exciting talent at the Running Back position. Time will tell if that talent will help vault one of these guys into the 1st round for the first time in 3 years.