2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Notre Dame Tight End Troy Niklas

April 4th, 2014

Troy Niklas wasn’t a full-time receiver in Notre Dame’s passing attack last fall, but he seldom left the field. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this 10th installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas.

Troy Niklas has football bloodlines. He has experience playing all over the field. And he also has the size, strength and athleticism to never leave the field.

But as a tight end who carries traits that cannot be taught, his development will hinge on what can be.

After all, as the nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews, the cousin of current NFL linebackers Clay and Casey Matthews, and the brother of former Air Force linebacker Austin Niklas, the 6’6”, 270-pound Niklas has done more than catch passes since his days at Servite High School. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 NFL Draft: Patriots Mock Draft Version 3.0

April 1st, 2014

Will the Patriots replace one big Running Back with another big back from LSU?

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

We are now less than 40 days until the 2014 NFL Draft. The official draft order is set, the compensation picks are known, and we’ve gained a lot more clarity now that free agency is winding down. Although more moves will be made before the Patriots go on the clock May 8th, we now have a better understanding of areas they will and won’t target.

The draft board is still very fluid and a lot can still change, but I take my best shot at projecting what the Patriots 2014 NFL Draft will look like.

Read the rest of this entry »


Vince Wilfork, Patriots Bend But Don’t Break Future Plans

March 31st, 2014

Vince Wilfork’s restructured return to New England was a compromise on what lies ahead. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

For 14 days, it seemed imminent.

It seemed as if his success in holding the point of attack on the field and the organization’s success in doing the same off the field would be their unraveling.

For Vince Wilfork and the New England Patriots, it seemed to be about pride.

But as two weeks of uncertainty wore on, so did the semblance of hope that the 10-year NFL veteran would restructure his $11.6 million salary cap hit to return to the team that drafted him 21st overall in 2004.

In the afternoon hours of March 27, that came to fruition, as ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported the 32-year-old defensive tackle had re-signed on a one-year, $8 million deal with $2.6 million guaranteed and a two-year option worth up to $22.5 million.

His cleaned-out locker and torn-off nameplate would not spell the end of his stay in Foxborough, Mass.; it would only catalyze a new one. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Florida Defensive Lineman Dominique Easley

March 27th, 2014

Ligament tears in both knees have derailed him, but Florida’s Dominique Easley continues to battle back. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this ninth installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley.

Coming out of Curtis High School in Staten Island, N.Y., Dominique Easley was a five-star recruit. He was the second-ranked defensive tackle in the 2010 class by Rivals.com and Scout.com. He was invited to the Under Armour All-America Game that January. And by that February, the 6’2”, 255-pound Warrior was committed to the Florida Gators.

Five months later, Easley was enrolled down in Gainesville. He flashed enough promise that summer to avoid redshirt that fall, ultimately playing in six games and recording four tackles as a true freshman. Although in 2011, the preseason All-SEC third-teamer did more than flash; he started all 12 regular-season contests to register 37 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and a blocked punt.

He wouldn’t make a 13th start as a sophomore, though. A second-quarter play versus Florida State took that from him.

Easley planted his left leg in the Ben Griffin Hill Stadium grass and went down without contact. And after limping to the sideline under the assistance of Florida’s medical staff, the flourishing 288-pounder had to be carted off.

It was a torn ACL. But it wasn’t the last of him.

Read the rest of this entry »


2014 NFL Draft Close-Up: Northern Illinois Safety Jimmie Ward

March 24th, 2014

Jimmie Ward made his presence felt all over the Northern Illinois secondary. And upon reflection, the recognition he’s earned leading up to May’s draft has been well-deserved. (USA Today Sports Images)

NEPD Editor: Oliver Thomas

In the coming weeks and months leading up to the 2014 NFL draft, NEPatriotsDraft.com will profile college prospects that potentially fit the needs and draft seating of the New England Patriots. In this eighth installment, we will take a closer look at the film behind Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward.

Instinctual and determined.

Over the last four years, that was Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward in a nutshell.

Whether he was lined up as a special-teamer, a cornerback, a nickelback or a safety for the Huskies, Ward took the same approach to each play: make it count. The Mobile, Ala., native was able to do so dating back to his freshman season in 2010, when he participated all 14 games to block a school-record three punts, return one for a touchdown and record 21 tackles, a forced fumble and a pass deflection as a reserve safety.

Ward was named Northern Illinois’ Special Teams Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. And that momentum carried over on defense in 2011, as the sophomore logged work in all 14 games once again, starting 12 as a defensive back. He went on to tally 100 total tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception, four pass deflections, a forced fumble as well as another blocked kick, garnering second-team All Mid-American Conference acknowledgement in the process.

In 2012, Ward took another step forward, receiving first-team All Mid-American Conference honors in result. Despite missing one contest due to injury, the junior led the Northern Illinois defense with 104 tackles, one tackle for loss, three interceptions, 11 pass deflections and a forced fumble over 13 starts at safety. His best, however, was yet to come.

This past fall, the senior started all 14 games to register 95 tackles, 2.5 for loss, a sack, seven interceptions, 10 pass deflections, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery on his way to becoming a first-team All-MAC selection, a third-team All-American and a Jim Thorpe Award semifinalist.

Ward’s collegiate career ended with a 21-14 loss to Utah State in the Poinsettia Bowl. But an unceremonious finish could not derail the perception on the former Alabama 6A All-State honorable mention. He outdid expectations. And leading up to May’s NFL draft, expectations are that he’ll be a first- or second-round draft choice. Read the rest of this entry »


2014 TE Prospects: Analyzing Athleticism

March 22nd, 2014

Eric Ebron is the consensus #1 TE prospect, but he’s joined by a few others in the discussion for the “Best Athlete” at the position (Photo: US Presswire)

By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer

The tight end position has endured a paradigm shift in recent years evolving from an athletically limited, run blocking specialist to a hybrid receiver with the separation skills of a wide out and the size of a tight end. With Rob Gronkowski being unreliable in terms of staying healthy the Pats could very well decide to supplement his elite skill set with someone who would complement as well as fill in for the man we call Gronk.

Read the rest of this entry »


Thoughts on the NFL Draft and Patriots Free Agency

March 20th, 2014

You can stop the talk right now. Brandon Browner isn’t moving to Safety.

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

This past week was one of the most exciting periods for the New England Patriots and their fans especially in terms of player acquisition. Unlike most years where the Patriots let the market come to them, Coach Belichick attacked the free agent market with a sense of urgency and landed real impact players. The free agent transactions have a real effect on the Patriots draft needs and their strategy entering the draft. Even though free agency is only week old, it’s time to breakdown the moves already made and look ahead to what’s next for the Patriots.

Read the rest of this entry »




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