NEPD Editor: James Christensen
Holy hell, that just happened didn’t it? The New England Patriots’ fourth rings fits as well as the first, earned after a year full of roller-coaster emotions. Don’t expect Bill Belichick to celebrate the win too long, however.
He is most certainly “On to the 2015 NFL Draft.” Here is one way the Patriots could attack the draft this April.
First Round (Trade to 20th Overall via Philadelphia Eagles)
Belichick has a long history of making trades with the Eagles organization, which may rekindle with Chip Kelly in charge. If the Eagles can’t move up to draft Marcus Mariota, they may be willing to move down and pick up additional picks. Shipping New England’s first-, second-, fourth- and seventh-round picks gets them in line to pick at No. 20 and lets them pick up a sixth-round to boot.
The Patriots meanwhile, have a very specific need to address: interior line talent and depth. Enter Iowa’s Brandon Scherff (OT, Iowa).
Born in the image of Logan Mankins, Scherff is a tough-as-nails (he didn’t miss a game after an in-season knee surgery) competitor that played left tackle in college, but likely fits better inside in the NFL. He has an unreal strength profile—Iowa has an NFL caliber weight program—and can win with power or agility. Putting him next to Bryan Stork will keep the offensive line as a strength moving forward.
LSU’s La-El Collins is another top-flight guard/tackle they may have their eyes on.
If the Patriot stay put, adding an inside linebacker to replace Jerod Mayo—who may be cut if he doesn’t restructure—is a distinct possibility.
Third Round (96th Overall)
After moving their second-round pick to move up for Scherff, the Patriots have a bit of a wait on Day Two of the 2015 NFL Draft. Fans of adding to the depth along the defensive line will be happy when Belichick selects Trey Flowers (DE, Arkansas).
Jake Bequette might not have worked out for New England, but Flowers’ ability to shed blockers at the point of attack should give the Patriots’ staff confidence in picking another Razorback. Like Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, Flowers can play with his hand up or down. He may not be a 10-sack per year player, but he can develop into a solid three-down player in the NFL. If Akeem Ayers isn’t resigned, Flowers would be a good depth play here.
Preston Smith (DE, Mississippi State) is another option here.
Third Round (97th Overall, Projected Compensatory Pick)
Stevan Ridley is an unrestricted free agent and is recovering from a torn ACL. Shane Vereen will be an unrestricted free agent as well. Selecting David Johnson (RB, UNI) could fill both spots with one pick.
At 6’2″ and 230 pounds, Johnson—like Ridley—is a load to bring down. He doesn’t have much of a second gear, but his small-area quickness and smooth agility are evident in the passing game. Reminiscent of Vereen, Johnson absolutely torches linebackers in the passing game. He had 200+ yards receiving against the rival Iowa Hawkeyes.
Johnson is a bit upright in his running style, but running backs coach Ivan Fears has done amazing things with his charges in the past. Adding Johnson as a Swiss Army type (RB, WR, Move-TE) looks like a move Belichick would love.
Speaking of moves Belichick would love, adding a player falling down draft boards due to injury or off-the-field concerns—think Marcus Cannon, Alfonzo Dennard—is right up his alley. Ifo Ekpre-Olomu (CB, Oregon) was in the running for a first-round selection before injuring his knee in the buildup to the College Playoffs.
While Ekpre-Olomu isn’t big (5’9″ / 195) or incredibly fast, he has the innate instincts and quick-twitch skills that would allow him to thrive inside as the “star” cornerback who comes on in nickel situations. Getting him at a discount rate—even if he isn’t able to play in 2015—would be a coup for the future.
Sixth Round (Projected trade via Philadelphia)
If New England is willing to be patient, Blake Bell (TE, Oklahoma) just might reward them. With Gronkowski-esque size at 6’6″ and 260 pounds, Bell’s conversion from quarterback to tight end is starting to pick up steam. He is certainly still raw, but his upside as a pass-catcher—especially in the red-zone—is hard to overlook.
Should Tim Wright or Michael Hoomanawanui not be back with the Patriots next season, Bell would be an interesting developmental prospect. Even if it meant carrying four tight ends, Bell’s versatility might make it worthwhile.
Dezmin Lewis (WR, Central Arkansas) is a big receiver (6’4″) that is a good route-runner. He has decent hands, but has failed to take advantage of his full set of athletic skills as a receiver. Giving him some time in an NFL program could lead to some big improvements.
He would be competing with the likes of Josh Boyce and Aaron Dobson for the last receiver on the roster.
Depending on how Vince Wilfork is handled this offseason—kept or released—the Patriots either have a small or a very large need for a defensive tackle. Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch have been solid depth players at this point. Adding Darius Kilgo (DT, Maryland) to the mix would give them another wide-bodied tackle that is capable of eating up blockers and allowing linebackers to make the play. Kilgo doesn’t seem to know what he is capable of at this point in his career. Spending time with Wilfork and company could take him to the next level.
If Wilfork isn’t back with the team, move defensive tackle to the top of the list of draft needs moving forward.