NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
It has been an interesting couple of weeks for the Patriots and their fans. The team made a surprising 11 picks in the draft, but those players have been overshadowed by the Deflategate controversy and everything that has come with it. I won’t go into my particular feelings on Deflategate here, but I will say that I do think the NFL went way too far on their punishment. I have posted a couple of articles on a few of the draft picks already, but I wanted to recap the rest of the class before moving on to the 2016 class. Here are my thoughts on the Patriots draft selections in the 2015 NFL draft.
Round 1, pick 32: Malcom Brown, DT: The Patriots got started off on the right foot with the selection of Brown. Most “experts” had him going earlier in the first round. I called Brown a dancing bear in my writeup of him earlier in the draft process. He is big guy who moves surprisingly well. He reminds me of Vince Wilfork coming out of college. He has the skills to be a player who can be affective as both a pass rusher and a run stuffer. Brown has a quick first step and great athleticism for someone his size. He is young and his game is inconsistent, but he plays with a high motor and effort. He will be able to come in right away and contribute. Pairing him up with a guy like Easley could make for an exciting defensive line unit.
Round 2, pick 64: Jordan Richards, S: Belichick does it again. He takes a guy that most believe to be a colossal reach in the second round and at the safety position no less. We have all seen this before with the likes of Tavon Wilson and Duron Harmon. Everything points to Richardson being an extremely smart player with a high football IQ and a player gifted with intangibles. I went back and watched as much Stanford tape as I could and while I didn’t see anything jump of the tape that warranted a 2nd round pick, I did see a player who does some things well. He is a tough player to watch. Stanford had him lined up as a single high safety a lot and he typically lined up way off screen so you were not sure where exactly he was. He is not afraid to come up and make a tackle, although sometimes he gets out of control and misses. He is limited athletically and struggles with his change of direction. When the play is in front of him, he does a nice job of reading the QB and sliding laterally to cover. He has good hands and made some nice interceptions over his career. You can clearly tell that he directed traffic and told his teammates where to line up or what their responsibilities were. There is something either Belichick or his scouting staff are particularly looking for from these safeties they seem to be over drafting and it hasn’t panned out yet, but maybe that will change with Richardson. I just wish I knew exactly what it was.
Round 3, pick 96: Geneo Grissom, DE/OLB: Read my detailed write up on him here http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2015/05/post-draft-scouting-report-geneo-grissom-delb.html
Round 4, pick 101: Trey Flowers, DE: Talk about a fun guy to watch. If you haven’t, I highly recommend you do. Flowers may not wow you with his athleticism, but he plays the game the way it is supposed to be played. He will out hustle, out work, and out smart his opponent. He works his tail off and it pays off. He plays with great leverage and hand work and he uses that to be an excellent run defender. He plays with his head up and an eye on the ball at all times. He does not have flexibility, burst, or athleticism to be considered an edge rusher, but he sets up a variety of moves and works hard to get pressure and sacks. He has a lot of the same qualities as Rob Ninkovich and could be a great rotational guy at that position with the potential to slide into a starting role within a couple of years.
Round 4, pick 111: Tre Jackson, OG: I think many of us Patriots fans had at least penciled in Tre Jackson’s name for the Patriots. With the recent success the Patriots had drafting Florida State offensive lineman and Scar personally working these guys out, you thought the Patriots might target one of them and Jackson was an obvious choice. I wrote earlier this year that I wasn’t sure what type of lineman the Patriots were going to be looking at. For so long they had drafted lighter, more athletic lineman, but with this class and last year’s class, you can see a shift to bigger, more powerful player. Jackson fits that mold perfectly. He is a mauler who drives his opponent back and finishes. In his 2013 tape he showed that he could move well in space and be an effective blocker at the 2nd level but it didn’t show up as often this year. He needs help with his footwork but overall he should be able to come in and probably start.
Round 4, pick 131: Shaq Mason, OG/C: Another favorite for may Patriots fans that I talked to. Widely considered the best run blocker in this years draft class. He is athletic and moves well in space. He is relentless in his blocking and drives his opponents into the ground. Mason lacks ideal measureables, but he actually uses his shorter stature to his advantage, playing with excellent leverage. He played in an offensive scheme that was extremely run heavy and he needs work as a pass protector. He struggled with pass protection down at the Senior Bowl, but to his credit, he did improve as the week went on. He most likely will be a reserve guard and center to start his career, but if he can develop as a pass protector, he could find a starting spot along the line in a year or two.
Round 5, pick 166: Joe Cardona, LS: I laughed when this pick came up. I have not watched one snap of his except at the Senior Bowl and I won’t tell you I know what exactly makes a great long snapper. There was an obvious connection with the Navy and I think they used a higher pick than a team normally would to show the Navy they are serious about him as a football player.
Round 6, pick 178: Matthew Wells, LB/S: Read the real Wells report here: http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2015/05/post-draft-scouting-report-matthew-wells-lbs.html
Round 6, pick 202: A.J. Derby, TE: I knew of Derby when he was the QB at Iowa but lost track of him once he transferred. As you probably already know, Derby was a QB who recently made the conversion to TE. He played a limited role for the Razorbacks, but in his limited time, he showed that he has the physical attributes to be an NFL Tight End. He has a great size and speed combination. He shows soft hands and good power after the catch. He is raw as a blocker, but shows a willingness to do so. He is a project with upside if he can develop his route running and his blocking. At the very least, his raw athleticism should be fun to watch in training camp and preseason games. Derby is probably a candidate for the practice squad this year.
Round 7, pick 247: Darryl Roberts, CB: I wish I could find more tape on this guy because his limited tape is intriguing. He posted fantastic numbers at his pro day and you can see that athleticism on tape. He has fantastic change of direction and speed to keep up with receivers down field. At times, the game looked easy to him and the guys he was asked to cover had no chance of getting openHis footwork is something he must improve and he needs to do a better job of locating the ball. He plays very physical and can get grabby, which led to a lot of penalties. The physical and athletic traits are there and he could be a surprise on the final 53 man roster because of his raw skills and the lack of overall talent at the position.
Round 7, pick 253: Xzavier Dickson, DE/OLB: Dickson is a good sized athlete that does a lot of things well, but nothing great. He is not a quick twitch pass rusher, but he shows good fundamentals and enough burst and bend to be productive at it. He also shows an ability to set the edge but can struggle to disengage from blocks to make the play. Dickson most likely will have to earn a place on this team through special teams first and then maybe earn some reps on defense later. He was highly productive and comes to the NFL well coached so he may be ahead of the game in that respect.
All in all, it was a good draft I think. To me it felt like the Patriots did not see this as a particularly strong draft, so they drafted as many players as they could to see who sticks and who doesn’t. Brown and Jackson should be able to come in and start or be a major part of the plan. Richardson will be given every opportunity to contribute and we will see if he can fill that role that Belichick has been trying to fill with all these Safeties he has drafted recently. Grissom is very intriguing and I am excited to see what his role will be. The same goes for Wells. Hopefully Roberts will be a late round gem and help out the secondary that looks like it could use all the help it can get. Mason should find a role as a reserve G/C and the others should be fun to watch as they develop.
Now it is on to the 2016 class. It is unfortunate to have lost a first round pick for Deflategate, but that will not stop me from watching the tape and bringing you guys as much information as I can. I have a few things I am working on for next season and I would encourage all of you to leave me feedback on what you liked or what you would like to see different from my reports next season. I will be posting here randomly before the season and then will be back on a regular basis when the college football season starts up. As always, you can reach me on twitter @midwestpatsfan as well. Thanks again to everyone who read my posts and replied. There were some fantastic conversations and informative posts and I hope that continues.