NEPD Editor: James Christensen
After seven rounds and a grueling undrafted free agent signing period, the New England Patriots rookie class has finally taken shape. With eleven draft picks and five undrafted rookies, there will be plenty of competition in training camp this year. Only the strong will survive.
Here are some of the best, worst and interesting picks of the weekend.
Best Player Selected: DL Malcom Brown
Brown is going to wreak havoc at either the 1-tech or 3-tech spot on the defensive line. Unlike Dominique Easley last year, Brown is healthy and ready to go through the offseason program. This should allow him to hit the ground running come training camp.
If Brown is able to draw some attention inside, Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Jabaal Sheard are poised to have enormous years on the edge. With the deep rotation along the front seven, the Patriots should have fresh rushers all year long.
As long as Tre Jackson can stay healthy, the trio of Jackson, Trey Flowers and Shaq Mason make for an incredible haul in the fourth round. Flowers is an eventual Rob Ninkovich replacement, while Jackson and Mason have the ability to compete for a starting spot on the interior offensive line.
Mason was one of the best run-blockers in the college game, while Jackson was center Bryan Stork’s teammate on a National Championship squad. Mason could see time as a 6th offensive line—Cam Fleming’s role last year—in power running situations.
Most Upside: TE AJ Derby
Patriots fans have seen what you can do with an over-powered tight end. When you dictate the matchups, defenses are constantly playing catchup. If Derby can develop his route-running and become a functional blocker, he and Gronkowski will dominate the league.
In the meantime, he will have to fight for playing time—and perhaps a roster spot—with Tim Wright and Michael Hoomanawanui. Scott Chandler should have the upper hand on the No. 2 tight end spot.
Head-scratcher: DB Jordan Richards
I admittedly studied Richards only tangentially, while looking at his more talented teammates. Belichick’s affinity for smart, coachable players won out over speed and physicality. Having another coach on the field is great, but if he can’t get off the sidelines, that is a problem. Richards will certainly develop under Matt Patricia and company, but it remains to be seen if he can get his athleticism up to NFL standards.
In my mind, I’m going to say that Tre Jackson was a 2nd-round pick and Richards was a 4th-rounder and everything will make sense.
Most Intriguing: LB Geneo Grissom
Grissom is a man without a position. His athleticism, however, is undeniable. I think you could eventually see Grissom—the former defensive lineman—turn into a middle linebacker, like Tedy Bruschi and Dont’a Hightower before him.
His skills as a tight end are also tough to argue with. Belichick described his workout at TE as the best they saw this year. So, a defensive lineman turned linebacker with tight end skills… Mike Vrabel anyone?
Darkhorse: WR Devin Gardner
Gardner will be draw myriad—perhaps unfair—comparisons to Julian Edelman over the next few months. Gardner was a quarterback that never had a chance at Michigan. Poor coaching, poor roster management. Gardner deserves some blame as well—he never really developed in the passing game—but this move to receiver seemed pre-ordained.
Gardner’s best bet would be to learn from Edelman as part of the practice squad and try to be in position to contribute a year or two down the line.
Your turn — who do you have winning these awards?