NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
So much for a boring off-season. Over the past 24 hours, the Patriots have been busy. Not only did they make a blockbuster trade when they dealt Chandler Jones to Arizona for Jonathon Cooper and a 2nd round pick (#60) but they also added former top 5 draft pick Chris Long to replace the now departed Jones. What may have been lost in all this activity was that just a few days earlier, the league announced the compensatory picks for the upcoming draft, and the Patriots were awarded four, a 3rd round pick as well as three 6th round picks. This is the final year that these particular picks cannot be traded, so the Patriots will be making these picks, so I thought I would throw out some players I think fit the Patriots and have a chance to make the team.
Before I get to the players, I want to give you my thoughts on the Jones trade as well as what positions I think the Patriots still need to fill either in free agency or the draft. This trade has generated a lot of discussion since it was announced, both positive and negative. I have read everything from this is a classic Belichick move to Belichick should be fired. We, as fans, are guilty of taking things like this very personal, but if you look at it from a business perspective, this trade makes a lot of sense. I don’t think you have to look at this trade in such black and white terms. Sure, it is tough losing a player that at times was one of the Patriots better defenders. He was the Patriots best pass rusher and showed that he could be an impact player on a consistent basis. On the other hand, the team is in the fortunate dilemma of having a lot of talented players in need of new contracts. Collins, Hightower, Butler, and Jones are all set to get huge pay increases over the next year and there is no way the team could keep all of them after some of the free agent contracts we saw last week. The Patriots drafted a couple of players last year at the Defensive End position, giving the team enough depth to make this move now. Sure the Patriots could have kept Jones for another year and let him walk for a compensatory pick, but a pick one round later and two years from now is not great value.
For the Patriots, the trade gives them flexibility. Not only in the draft, but with cap relief. Freeing up that money allows the team to start working on some of the contracts that I mentioned above. In the draft, the Patriots now have 11 picks and 4 in the top 100. Four of those picks cannot be traded, so I am assuming the Patriots will be very active with their other picks. The other part of the trade, Jonathon Cooper, is classic Belichick. Cooper was a can’t miss prospect from the 2013 draft class. Many experts had him pegged as the next great Guard in the NFL and was drafted as such. Rarely do you see Guards drafted that high in the draft, so there is some talent there. Now, Cooper’s career has been derailed somewhat by injuries. His rookie year, he broke his leg and missed the season and last year he was dealing with a knee injury. He only has 9 career starts and is the classic buy low player with high upside the Patriots love to bring in. If Cooper can get back to his college form, the Patriots could have gotten more than just a throw in player that most people believe him to be.
I have received a lot of questions on who the Patriots might target with those 3 compensatory picks in the 6th round. Since the team cannot trade them, we know they will be picking at those spots, so I thought I would give you all some players at each position that I think will be available and fit the Patriots.
QB: Brandon Allen, Arkansas-If the Patriots do decide to draft a QB, Allen is my target. He is not the biggest or most athletic Quarterback in the draft, but he comes from a pro style offense and he plays with great intelligence and anticipation. He may never be a starter in the league, but he could be a serviceable back up who could win some games as a spot starter.
RB: Keith Marshall, Georgia– The Patriots need help at the Runningback position and if they decide to wait, Marshall might be an interesting option. Highly recruited out of high school (higher than Gurley) his career has been filled with injuries. He had a great combine and could be a late round guy who can give a team immediate production.
RB/FB: Dan Vitale, Northwestern– Called the Superback at Northwestern, Vitale was asked to do it all. He can block, he can catch, and he can run. He tested out better than I would have expected at the Combine and I could see the Patriots loving his versatility.
WR: Michael Thomas, Southern Mississippi– I personally have Thomas ranked as a 4th/5th round pick, but when you are a small school player who does not get a Combine invite, that means something. He has excellent hands and high points the ball very well. He shows good quickness and acceleration as well as above average speed. If he lasts this long, he could be a steal.
WR: Daniel Braverman, Western Michigan– You always see the short, tough, white receiver being compared to Wes Welker or Julien Edeleman and it is unfair, but this time, it really works. Even in his body language he reminds me of Edelman. He plays with a chip on his shoulder and will do anything to get open. Another slot guy that is quicker than fast that has reliable hands. He has the look of a Patriots receiver.
TE: Henry Krieger-Coble, Iowa– As much as it pains me to put a Hawkeye on this list, he does fill a need and is a good fit. He comes from a program that has littered the NFL with Tight Ends and he plays with good technique and tenacity. He is an average athlete who wins with toughness and work ethic. A blocker first with reliable hands to at least be a reliable target from time to time.
OT: Brandon Shell, South Carolina-Shell looks the part of a Patriots Offensive Tackle. He has a big frame and long arms with good quickness at the snap. He needs work on his technique, especially his footwork. He is heavy footed and does not play with great leverage right now, but could develop into a swing tackle with some proper coaching and time.
OG/OC: Joe Thuney, NC State– I would guess Guard will not be a position the Patriots look at, but if they do, Thuney would be a fit for their scheme. Thuney wins more with his intellegence and technique than he does with his athleticism. He has experience at all 5 Offensive Line positions and has decent lower body movement skills. Will need to get much stronger to hold up in the NFL.
DT: D.J. Reader, Clemson– Reader is big and athletic for a guy his size. He plays with good leverage and is good at stopping the run as well as giving some pass rush up the middle. He left the team for personal reasons this year so that is something that teams need to investigate more. Reader has more talent that a 6th round pick would suggest, but in a class full of Defensive Lineman, a guy like Reader might get pushed down and play well over his draft slot.
DE: Anthony Zettel, Penn St.-Last year at this time, Zettel was a name being thrown around as a future Day 1 or Day 2 pick. He plays the game like his hair is on fire, which is good and bad. He is overaggressive to the point where he takes himself out of plays, he must learn to play with more control and technique. He does have good first step quickness and has a variety of pass rush moves (crazy spin move). One of those guys that has been analyzed so much that it has gone too far to the negative, he might be a nice pickup.
LB: Nick Kwiatkoski, West Virginia– Former Safety turned run and chase Linebacker. He shows good quickness and agility with the ability to track down receivers and make the tackle. He is a reliable tackler in the open field and has good change of direction. Should be an asset on special teams. He will struggle when opponents get their hands on him and he relies on going around them instead of fighting through them,which can get him out of position.
LB/EDGE: Victor Ochi, Stoney Brook– Ochi lacks ideal measurables but could be a valuable pass rusher in sub packages. He has longer arms which helps compensate for his less than ideal hieght and bulk. He is a smooth mover with excellent agility to bend the edge without losing momentum. He is quick off the snap and plays bigger than his size.
CB: KeiVarae Russell, Notre Dame– Russell has the talent to be picked much higher, but off field issues and a broken leg late in the season will push him down to this area of the draft. He could be looking at a red shirt year as a rookie because of the injury, but for a team like the Patriots, it may be worth the wait. Russell has the size and athleticism to be a very good corner in the league. Here is a more detailed write up I did on Russell early in the college season. http://www.nepatriotsdraft.com/2015/11/scouting-report-keivarae-russell-cb.html
Safety: Kavon Frazier, Central Michigan– Frazier has great size and speed for the position. A former RB who will come up and hit you. Frazier is a good tackler, racking up 108 tackles in his senior season. He is very aggressive, which gets him in trouble at times. He will take bad angles and is better against the run than the pass. The athletic traits are there and he could play a role similar to Patrick Chung down the road.
Other Names To Consider:
QB: Kevin Hogan, Stanford
RB: Tre Madden, USC
WR: Alex Erickson, Wisconsin
TE: Tanner McEvoy, Wisconsin
OL: Tyler Johnston, Oregon
OL: Dominique Robertson, West Georgia
DL: Quinton Jefferson, Maryland
DL: Dean Lowry, Northwestern
CB: Kevin Peterson, Oklahoma State
S: Kevin Byard, Middle Tennessee
Obviously this list just scratches the surface of the players who the Patriots might pick with those 3 compensatory picks in the 6th round. I would love to hear some names that you would like to hear when the Patriots go on the clock late on Day 3.
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