NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
Now that the first wave of free agency has come and gone, we now have a clearer picture of what the Patriots are going to look like going into the draft. The Patriots have lost a lot of players from key roles on both offensive and defense and have not done anything to fill those needs. Obviously, there will be pieces still added, but the big name free agents have signed their massive contracts elsewhere and unless the Patriots make a shocking trade, the players that are brought in are more role players than impact players. That means filling holes and adding talent through the draft. In years past, the Patriots have gone into the draft without glaring needs to fill. This has allowed them to stick to their board and pick the players they liked the best regardless of position. From an outside perspective, this year seems a little different. Can the Patriots stick to their board and still add players at positions of need? Here is my view on how the draft might play out and you tell me if this would make you happy as a Patriots fan.
Round 1 (pick 32) Marcus Peters, CB: Peters has all the tools to be a number 1 corner in the NFL. He has good size, speed, and fluidity for the position. He has great instincts and ball skills. Peters has shown the ability to play in both man coverage and zone in college. That type of scheme flexibility could be important to the Patriots with Revis and Browner gone. If there were no off field issues, Peters would be a top half of the first round type talent and maybe even top 10, so having a chance to get him in late round one would be great value.
Round 2 (pick 64) Danielle Hunter, DE: Hunter would be a pick that might raise some eyebrows, especially after the Patriots signed Sheard last week. To me, Hunter is a physical and athletic freak that has not reached his potential yet. The Patriots are going to have some big contracts coming up in the next couple of years, one of those being Chandler Jones. Hunter looks a lot like Jones on film, and with some coaching, could be a better pass rusher than Jones. I know the numbers are not impressive for Hunter, but if you study his tape, you can see that his first assignment was to set the edge and stop the run. He was rarely allowed to let loose and go after the QB.
Round 3 (pick 96) Marcus Hardison, DT: I am surprised that Hardison isn’t talked about more. For a man his size, he moves extremely well. He has scheme and position versatility, which we all know Belichick loves. He has a great first step and can be a mismatch against slower offensive lineman. Could be a nice complementary piece to Dominique Easley if the Patriots want to go with a smaller, faster, more penetrating defensive line. He needs some work on his run defensive, but he has the size to anchor in the middle and with some good coaching, could be nice piece in that interior defensive line.
Round 4 (pick #98, from TB) John Miller, OG: I originally had Ali Marpet here and if he is still on the board, then I would pick him, but his stock seems too high to keep him at this pick now. Miller is no slouch at guard either. He has a thick frame and powerful upper and lower body. He moves well for his size and can pull and block at the second level. Miller has some technique issues that he needs to work out, but like last year, he could be a fourth round offensive lineman that comes in and starts from day one.
Round 4 (pick #128) Eric Rowe, CB: Rowe is another big, physical corner to go with Peters. Rowe played free safety his first 3 years of college and then moved to corner his senior year. Rowe ran well enough at the combine to be considered a CB at the next level, but long speed does seem to be an issue on tape. He is aggressive in run support and does a nice job of locating the ball and breaking up the pass. If the Patriots were to draft Rowe and Peters, they would have a young tandem that would allow the Patriots to play the same style of defense they did with Revis and Browner.
Round 6 (pick #196, from TB) Zack Hodges, LB: On tape, Hodges shows good burst as a rusher as well as good awareness and movement skills to drop into coverage. He would add another versatile athlete to the linebacker corp. as well as on special teams. There have been some rumblings of off field issues, but what they are have never come to surface, at least for the public. I really like his tape and if the off field issues don’t scare away the team, this could be an excellent value pick.
Round 7 (pick #226, from TEN) Antwan Goodley, WR: You guessed it, an undersized WR. Goodley is on the shorter side, but he is fast and could be a nice deep threat option as well as a contributor on kick off and punt returns. Goodley is a tough kid who is willing to go over the middle as well. Will need to develop as a route runner to be anything more than a go route guy, but he is a hard worker and a nice option as a late round flyer.
Well, there you have it. My first mock of the year. I think if the Patriots were to have a draft like this, they could get contributions from everyone of the picks at key positions. Peters would probably be a day 1 starter and Rowe could have a chance as well. The thought of 2 rookie CB’s starting is scary and they may struggle at times, but it gives the Patriots depth and versatility with their scheme. Miller should be a guy who can win that starting guard job day 1 as well. Hunter, Hardison, and Hodges would probably be rotational guys year 1, but could give the team significant contributions in their limited role. Goodley, at the very least, would have a good chance to win the kick off and punt return duties, which would help keep Edelman from having to do it and risk injury. As far as UDFA’s, I would go heavy in the secondary, I would look at WR since it is deep and someone could fall. I would also bring in a RB and some additional offensive lineman as well.
Typically, mock drafts get lots of attention and feedback. I would love to hear your thoughts, but please give me more than “he won’t be there.” It is so fluid right now that anything is possible at this point. I used CBS as a reference to not take 1st round guys in the 6th, but for the most part, I honestly feel these guys will be available at or close to where the Patriots pick, so all are viable options.
follow me on twitter @midwestpatsfan