NEPD Staff Writer: Mike Gerken
And just like that, the 2016 NFL Draft is over. We all spent so much time watching players, analyzing the current roster and trying to figure team needs so we could be prepared for three of the craziest days where no actual football is played. And for what? Well, for me, it was a slap of reality right to my face because no matter how much I try and study these players and this process, I have no clue what the Patriots are looking for or what they will do when they are on the clock. It was a little bit of a different experience for me this year as I was lucky enough to be in Chicago and experience the Draft live for the first time. My friends and I had a lot of fun and it is an experience anyone who loves the draft should experience, but with limited access to the internet (stupid Iphone 4 decided to stop charging) I have been itching to get back in front of my computer, recheck my notes and see what I missed and how I was so off on this draft class. I have notes on all the drafted and a few of the UDFA’s and will be doing individual post draft scouting reports on them, but for now, here are some general thoughts on the Patriots draft class and the draft in general.
1. Another Quarterback?: My friends and I were in selection square for most of the draft and it was loud and chaotic, so it was difficult at times to hear the picks. When the selection was made, I thought the Patriots had traded out and I was desperately trying to hear what the compensation was. This is a pick I still cannot wrap my head around if I am being completely honest. It has nothing to do with Brissett either. Brissett was my 168 ranked player but I ranked him last in a tier of 32 players because of need, so he could have been ranked as high as 136. Obviously the Patriots thought the need and value added up to a 3rd round pick, but this was that WTF pick usually reserved for a 2nd round safety.
2. No Runningback drafted: If you told me I had to put money down on a position that the Patriots would select a player from, it would have been Runningback. On paper, you could make an argument that no RB was needed, but between the injuries, ineffectiveness, and the unknowns of the group, I would have guessed the team would grab a young back to compete with Blount for that bigger back role.
3. The Patriots do indeed double dip: Throughout this process I said that I thought the Patriots would double dip at some position. Turns out, this is one of the few things I got right….sort of. I had hinted at WR as a potential position but backed off that after what I saw the team do in free agency. I also thought Tackle would be a position they could take two players at, and they double dipped at Guard instead….maybe (more on that later)
4. Where does Joe Thuney play?: Funny story, remember when I said Brissett was in a tier of 32 players, well, Joe Thuney was in that same group and came in at 152, just missing the all important top 150 board. I loved his versatility and in my notes wrote “similar to Tuerk but without the feet. ” I think the Patriots are going to give him a shot at Tackle. He needs to add bulk and needs technique work in his kick slide, but he is a hard worker and studies the game. He has shorter than ideal arms for the position, but listening to Belichick talk, I think they view him as a Tackle.
5. Up is Down, Down is Up: Looking back at my board relative to where players were being selected, it seems I was consistently off by about a round up or down. I felt like the first round had a bunch of guys go earlier than I would have expected and by the time the 3rd day rolled around, I was shocked to see some of the talent that was still on the board. Obviously I am not privy to all the background information that the teams have, but it was interesting to see where some of the names went and when they went.
6. Did the Patriots lose out on “their” guys?: I heard a couple of reports talk about how the Patriots were all set to take Jaylon Smith if the Cowboys didn’t steal him away from them. This may be true, but unless the Patriots were planning a major trade up, the Cowboys took him almost 30 picks before the Patriots were to be on the clock. To say they stole him away from the Patriots seems like funny wording to me. I also heard that the Patriots had worked out Sterling Shepard late in the process and wanted to keep it very quiet. This one does sting a little bit because Shepard was very high on my board and I think he could have been great in this offense but…….
7. I love the Patriots new Wide Receivers!: Malcolm Mitchell has been one of my favorite players in this draft for many reasons. Most importantly, I think he is a really good football player. He is quick and fast, and while he is not a tradition deep threat, he has speed to run away from just about anyone. He does most of his damage in the intermediate range with great hands and amazing body control. His story is another reason why I like him so much. He took a negative and made it into a positive through hard work. He didn’t blame others and he didn’t just look the other way, he met the challenge head on it just shows to his character. Lucien is a guy I know many of you readers here really like and I will be honest, I didn’t get on him until late, and while I gave him a UDFA grade, I do see the intrigue and upside. He played really well down the stretch and his best football is probably ahead of him.
8. The Big Board vs. The Picks, where I did well: Well, this list is fairly short. I can live Jones where they took him, I was about a round lower. Same with Thuney and Brissett. I was really close on Mitchell, Lucien, Roberts (208 big board)
9. The Big Board vs. The Picks, where I sucked: I clearly missed on Vincent Valentine as I had him ranked 211th and I did not watch or grade Grugier-Hill or Karras. I had made a note of KGH’s pro day results but never got a chance to watch any of his tape. Karras was on a list I had and when I watch him it will be for the first time. Those two are the most disappointing for me. I hate the idea of putting in this much time and then the day after the draft not having any real knowledge on these guys. That will change in the next 24 hours.
10. Final thoughts, who will end up being right?: I had to miss most of yesterdays draft because of travel, so I still find myself going through the rounds and finding guys being drafted late than I had high grades on. Like I said before, we as fans are limited in the amount of information that we can get on all these players and the teams know more than they probably need to, but to see some of the names still on the board late in the draft at positions I felt like the Patriots needed or position they already addressed was crazy. I know I have a handful of names I still think are going to be solid contributors or even more in the NFL that went really late in the draft.
I am an open book when it comes to this. I do it because I love it and I do not claim to be an expert at scouting or evaluating players. This draft clearly shows that. I went into Thursday night feeling very good about my process and my rankings and as I sit here today, I realize just how little I know and how much more I need to learn. I hope that you will continue that journey with me and as I said before, I will be doing write ups for each of the picks over the next several days, so please check back often if you want my very uneducated opinion on all the newest Patriots.