Mike Loyko’s 2014 NFL Draft Top 100: January Edition

How is Johnny Football ranked in Mike’s Top 100?

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

The college football season wrapped up last night and now it’s time to turn all of our attention to towards the NFL Draft. Even though the draft is more than four months away it’s not too early to start projecting how the board will stack up in May.

Based on our evaluations this season and previous seasons, this list  is intended to be a gauge of where I would select a player if I ran an NFL team. As more evaluation is completed and the Senior Bowl, Combine and Pro Days take place this list will change. For now, here is how I rank the top prospects for the 2014 NFL Draft.

A few notes, not all of the players have officially declared for the draft. The expectation is most of the underclassmen in my rankings will declare. In terms of top end talent this year’s draft is far superior to last year especially at QB and on the lines. How much depth this draft has remains to be seen, but the top 100 is strong.

1) Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina
2) Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Louisville
3) Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M
4) Johnny Manziel, QB, Texas A&M
5) Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA
6) Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson
7) Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
8) Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn
9) CJ Mosley, LB, Alabama
10) Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo
11) Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
12) Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
13) Marqise Lee, WR, Southern California
14) Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
15) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama
16) Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M
17) Blake Bortles, QB, Central Florida
18) Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama
19) Derek Carr, QB, Fresno State
20) Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan
21) Timmy Jernigan, DT, Florida State
22) Stephen Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
23) Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
24) Ryan Shazier, LB, Ohio State
25) Xavier Su’a-Filo, OG, UCLA

26) Cedric Ogbuehi, OT, Texas A&M
27) Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State
28) Ra’Shede Hageman, DL, Minnesota
29) Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
30) Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee
31) Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
32) David Yankey, OG, Stanford
33) Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State
34) La’El Collins, OT/OG, LSU
35) Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
36) Zach Mettenberger, OB, LSU
37) Lamarcus Joyner, S, Florida State
38) Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh
39) Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU
40) Zack Martin, OG, Notre Dame
41) Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
42) Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor
43) Trent Murphy, DE, Stanford
44) Telvin Smith, LB, Florida State
45) Jackson Jeffcoat, OLB, Texas
46) Marcus Roberson, CB, Florida
47) Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
48) Vic Beasley, DE, Clemson
49) Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Florida State
50) De’Anthony Thomas, OW, Oregon

51) Brandin Cooks, WR, Oregon State
52) Jason Verrett, CB, TCU
53) Ego Ferguson, DT, LSU
54) E.J. Gaines, CB, Missouri
55) Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
56) Travis Swanson, OC, Arkansas
57) Lache Seastrunk, RB, Baylor
58) Louchiez Purifoy, CB, Florida
59) Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State
60) Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
61) Christian Jones, OLB, Florida State
62) Dee Ford, DE/OLB, Auburn
63) Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU
64) Aaron Lynch, DE/OLB, South Florida
65) Davante Adams, WR, Fresno State
66) Chris Smith, DE, Arkansas
67) DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
68) Jordan Matthews, WR, Vanderbilt
69) Shayne Skov, ILB, Stanford
70) Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
71) Will Sutton, DT, Arizona State
72) Scott Chrichton, DE, Oregon State
73) Weston Richburg, OC, Colorado State
74) Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
75) Paul Richardson, WR, Colorado

76) Charles Sims, RB, West Virginia
77) Ka’Deem Carey, RB, Arizona
78) Ed Stinson, DE, Alabama
79) Dion Bailey, S, Southern California
80) Anthony Steen, OG, Alabama
81) Tre Mason, RB, Auburn
82) Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
83) Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State
84) Chris Borland, ILB, Wisconsin
85) Andre Williams, RB, Boston College
86) CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
87) Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State
88) Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma
89) Ben Gardner, DE, Stanford
90) Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville
91) AJ McCarron, QB, Alabama
92) Trevor Reilly, OLB, Utah
93) Craig Loston, S, LSU
94) Carl Bradford, OLB, Arizona State
95) Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
96) Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State
97) Yawin Smallwood, ILB, UConn
98) Ahmad Dixon, S, Baylor
99) Demarcus Lawrence, DE, Boise State
100) Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin

Just Missed: Denzel Perryman, Seantrel Henderson, Terrence Brooks, Donte Moncrief, James Wilder Jr.

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57 Responses to “Mike Loyko’s 2014 NFL Draft Top 100: January Edition”

  1. steve earle says:

    Well the season is now over for us, Denver won, Manning picked apart our def backfield. Talib injured in the 1st qt and out again. I think this reenforces our need for help in the def backfield. We must have another good CB and a SS to be competative against the top QB’s in the league.

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    Guys, a great prospect not found on anyones draft boards yet is TE Troy Niklas 6’6″ 270 Notre Dame, he just declared for the NFL draft. He’s a good blocker that uses his hands well, he looks better than CJ Fiedorowicz with ball in his hands, blocking and catching. On youtube they’re a couple different highlights, one with just pass catching only! I like this kid, i watched him in a Bowl vs Rutgers in New York this year.

    • acm says:

      that’s surprising – iirc, he was expected to stay for one more year in college, which I think would have also helped him improve at the position as he is a bit raw.
      I would say he is a better athlete than CJF but not as polished a TE, so about the same draft stock, imo.
      either way, his declaring increases the Pats chances of landing a good TE prospect (if they are looking for one that is) even with trading down from the 1st round.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        ACM, he could be early or late, but i’m hoping later because the more i watch the tapes on Troy and Colt Lyerla, they would be a good fit because of their differing skill sets and Troy being the better blocker than Gronk. I like both TE’s but later in the draft. Everyday more kid keep declaring for this draft class.

        • Alex says:

          I’m guessing you mean Troy being a better blocker than Lyerla, or like Gronk.

          Gronk is a flat up beastly blocker, and until someone can dominate in the NFL like he’s done, there is not a draft prospect that can be aid to be a better blocker.

          Do you remember him ‘chipping’ Suggs?

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      He’s an interesting prospect TE , who I would project as a 4th round guy. Great size at 6’7″ 270! Need to watch more tape on him. I saw him in the Bowl game I think he caught two balls.

    • acm says:

      Supposedly Niklas has received 2nd round draft evaluations, which is probably a big reason why he is declaring early.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        ACM, thanks for the info! This seemed easier when we had no picks. Another guy i will throw at you is DT/NT Zach Kerr 6’2″ 330lbs. Delaware. He reminds me of young Vince Wilfolk, he has a good highlight clip on youtube.

        • acm says:

          I am aware of Kerr, he is/was Russell’s guy for a late pick at DT for a while. I don’t think he is quite as big as to be a NT at the NFL level though. He is more of a DT of size similar to that of Pats’ own Chris Jones, iirc.
          At this point, as much as I would like to see them get Daquan Jones, I am looking at later round (4th and later) picks for DTs:
          Caraun Reid (very athletic player, a S. Richardson/G. Atkins type player); I think Kerr is a similar type of DT who’d provide good pass rush from the interior.
          Shamar Stephen (a very strong DT of Kelly/Armstead stature, can be also a 3-4 DE). And then Jay Bromley as more of a NT-type DTs to replace Wilfork. The thing about Bromley is that he is listed at 6’3″ 285lbs but looking at him, I think he is a lot closer to 320 at that height. Kind of confusing …

          Either way, I’d be perfectly content with a couple of the above player at a lower cost in the draft.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          Yes Sir , DT Zack Kerr looks very good to me, I have had him in my Early Mocks as an early 6th pick. He is also is a very smart guy.

        • steve earle says:

          Yea, big kid, about the size Wolfolk is listed at in preseason preview mags though I think Vince may have put on one or two pounds since that weight was first listed a decade back. Might be interesting to follow any news of him leading up to the draft?

  3. trent says:

    I am surprised to not see many talking about finding another DE to rotate in with jones and ninkovich. When I look forward to 2014 and 2015, I think that is an important need–someone with big talent to rotate in and then eventually replace ninkovich long-term.

    Carter was obviously a stop plug this year, and it is evident bequette is worthless on the 53-man roster, while I think buchanan could stay a solid #4. So I think there is an opening to fill there.

    I think a second or third round pick could be used on a DE, if we wait to get a long-term NT and extra O-lineman (i.e. just draft one OG/OC this year, not two) until 2015.

    I am curious of what people think of the DE prospects? Ealy will be long gone–and props to Mike Lyoko here to rank him #14, because most sites haven’t caught on that he will be a riser through the draft process. But who else do you guys like out of those next tier of guys?

    Personally I really like Jeffcoat. Seems like he could be a nice piece to move around. Definitely flew under the nation media attention this year but got high recognition in the Big 12. If a guy like him fell into the middle of the second round or something, I’d support a trade up.

    Any other takers? Trent Murphy? Or someone like a Demarcus Lawrence or Kareem Martin, someone that falls to the third round? Mostly just interested in seeing if anyone supports drafting a DE in the first three rounds.

    • J H TARBORO says:

      Trent, i have some DE choices but i like both of Mizzou’s DE’s Kony Ealy and Michael Sam!

    • acm says:

      DE is indeed a position that needs strengthening but probably not as urgent as some others (OL, LB, secondary). All in all, would have to wait and see how things shake out in free agency (who’s coming and going) before we have a better idea regarding draft needs.

      Personally, I am not too high on drafting a DE before the 4th, if possible. Don’t think there is that great a value to be had at the position too early in the draft – Ealy, Murphy are good but not that good, imo. M. Sam is an interesting prospect too but a tad overrated, imo.

      Jeffcoat did improve in his senior campaign. I like Arthur Lynch and K. Martin too but they all carry some sort of baggage be it lack of explosiveness, injury history or character concerns.
      Depending on how free agency shakes out, I’d probably go with whoever is available in the 4th (possibly earlier in the round assuming some sort of trade)

    • Alex says:

      I’d definitely be up for taking a DE late.
      Bequette will be gone, and we’ll have a red shirt space on the 53 to carry a high upside guy for a year. I’d be interested in Larry Webster from Bloomburg, who’s at the East West Shrine game in the 6th. He’s a long athletic pass rusher, who needs to add some more weight, but otherwise has a similar frame to Chandler Jones.

      Don’t sleep on Buchanan. Carter jumped him because he was more disciplined, but if he keeps adding weight, then Buchanan could be a great player. He has similar and mainly slightly better combine numbers than Jason Pierre Paul and Chandler Jones. He is the similar long limbed pass rush guy too. If he adds the strength and can show better rush discipline and run defense, then he can be a long term starter and Pro Bowler for us.

  4. steve earle says:

    Alex, with all due respect, I have to once again point out that your perception of our def backfield as a strong point is wrong. Your the only one on this site that sees it as such so I’ll try to explain why I disagree with you. Talib is very good when healthy but he has an injury history that has seen him miss several games this year and last. Dennard is a good second CB but he too has missed time. Ryan is developing nicely and I have high hopes and regard for him. Arrington is very limited. He does fairly well covering the slot receiver but outside he’s just as likely to give up a big play as he is to make a play. That’s not good. Cole has been a fill in who has made occasional plays but far from a good CB. At safety we have one dependable guy, Mc Courty. Gregory, Wilson, And Harmon, the rookie who may develop or may not, have made so few plays this year can only be described as back ups in quality. Ebner is strictly a special teams player who only sees the def in desperation. In sumation I’ll say we have 3 dependable starters when all are healthy, after that it’s awful. I have either played, coached and watched football for 55 odd years so I think I know what a good defense looks like. Please understand I hold you in high regard but just think you have a blind spot where the D backfield is concerned.

    • trent says:

      Steve, I don’t think Alex is too far off. So I will support him. If we fill talib’s spot by resigning him or signing another top FA CB, we would be four-deep at CB. Talib/Ryan/Dennard can man the two outside spots, and Arrington stays strictly inside.

      Do I hate the Arrington contract? Yes, but there is nothing we can do about that. Belichick loves him. So unfortunately he is staying. Having a slot corner is important anyway, he fills that role fine.

      That means we need to fill that fifth CB spot, and getting someone on day three of the draft to develop and fill Cole’s ST duties is just fine IMO.

      The safety position–I hate gregory, it would be great to get rid of him and get someone like Joyner and keep Harmon as the third safety. If we use that pick on Joyner though, that leaves a likely hole somewhere else–which is fine, it just depends on what you value–for example a complete secondary vs a complete offense.

      Me personally, seeing that Belichick loves gregory which means he likely stays, having 3 of the 4 secondary spots filled (plus arrington in slot) isn’t that bad. See if harmon continues to develop next year, and if not, draft a safety in 2015 when gregory leaves. Meanwhile, use the pick instead on offense to replace edelman (who we probably can’t afford if we sign talib or another CB1 like in this scenario) or get a TE.

      It’s a lesser of two evils kind of concept. We can all point out which spots don’t have all-pro players right now, but we can’t fill all of them and fit under the cap. Everyone will have an opinion on which spots are more important to fill than others.

      • steve earle says:

        Well I’m wrong, Alex isn’t the only one who thinks we have a good D-backfield. I still stand by my evaluation however and whether BB loves Arrington and Gregory is not the point. He well may keep them and draft elsewhere, I don’t know I’m just saying we could do a lot better. What ever position Bill decides to spend the 1st pick on will leave holes elsewhere because we have lots and lots of holes so that is no reason to discount a player at any position. Taking a top DT/E who will help the def line is good but will leave holes. We can’t possably fill every need in just one draft even if we allow for free agent pickups. Taking away some player or portion of an oppnents game is what Bill does and the most dynamic element in NFL offenses is the passing attacks. So logically a strong pass defense is critical. Sure the pass rush is a big part of it but my thinking is that we have the elements in place for that especally if Wilfolk and Kelly return in good shape. What I’d like to see is Bill draft Perryman from Miami to replace Hightowerat LB’er and slide Hightower to DE giving us a rotation of Ninkovich, jones and Hightower DE’s. Perryman is faster then Hightower and covers more ground vs runs or pass. If Bill takes a CB, SS, LB in the first 4 rounds, in no particular order, but based on ability we would see a better run defense, pass rush and pass coverage in time. I don’t expect any rookie to start day one but building on an existing foundation should be a must.

        • trent says:

          I appreciate your thoughts, steve. I definitely agree that we could upgrade gregory and arrington, and pick up another LB/DE, etc., and that would surely improve our defense in all aspects both next year and long-term.

          The point I was trying to make was that in doing this, we would have little remaining resources to improve/maintain the offense. Is that a problem? Not necessarily, it just means you would prefer to build the defense now and let the offense try to sustain its 2013 results through 2014 and fill some needs in 2015. I have no problem with that perspective at all. If that’s how it goes down in reality, I’m all for it.

          Just keep in mind that others may not feel that way; some may prefer to address the offense’s issues now–OG/OC and TE–and wait to address some of the key spots on defense, like secondary, next year or at other points in the draft this year. It’s just someone’s opinion, and I happen to have an opinion similar to Alex in that addressing an issue or two on offense and defense this year may be more valuable than allocating everything towards defense.

        • steve earle says:

          I fully expect Bill will trade down the 1st for at least a 2nd and a 3rd With that I would look for something like this:
          2a) Lamarcus joiner or other DB
          2b) Travis Swanson or other OL
          3a) CJ Feidowowicz or other TE
          3b) Danzel Perryman or other OLB
          4) Deshavoe Everett or other DB
          6a) Spencer Long or other OL
          6b) Colt lyerla or other WR/TE
          7) BPA

          This approach would meet the most demanding needs on both sides of the ball with qualty prospects right down the line and I believe.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          looks good Steve! I’m thinking; Patriots trade 1st for; 2nd 3d mid-early round, and a 3d next year 2015, and choose:

          Trade 2nd- (Early) CB Kyle Fuller
          2nd- LB Shayne Skov
          Trade 3d- (early) DE Kareem Martin
          3d – TE Rob Branchflower
          4th- OG Spencer Long
          Trade 6th- CB Phillip Gaines
          6th – S/CB Brock Vereen
          7th- RB LaDarius Perkins

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          My Compensatory Picks:
          Comp. 6th – QB Connor Shaw
          Comp, 7th – OG Mason Walters

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I have to agree with Steve , the Patriots need more help at CB. Talib most likely will be gone. I like Ryan, and Dennard, and Arrington can play well in some coverages. McCourty can play CB if needed, but is better as a S. CB Justin Green played alot in preseason and was OK, and Cole has been cut.So Bill needs 5 CB’s on the roster, with McCourty a 6th if needed.
      So agree with Steve we need to draft or FA 1or 2 CB’s. My choice is keep the cost lower, and get youth/highth/speed in a draft choice. One solid guy, CB Kyle Fuller, and a later pick as a developmental guy,.. Brock Vereen… Phillip Gaines,..Donte Johnston.. etc.
      At S keep McCourty , Harmon, get some preseason playing time for Kannoris Davis, and draft a S. Cut Gregory, T.Wilson, and give E.Wilson a look off IR. Joyner is an interesting prospect I wish he was taller however. S Tre Boston… Ahmad Dixon…Hakeem Smith (my favorite)…etc.
      As far as DE goes I would like to see a guy like Kareem Martin to spell Ninkovich, Keep and play more preseason Buchanan, and Bequette . Armstead can play DE or DT .

      • steve earle says:

        I think were looking at the problems from different angles Russel. We both seem to think Talib and Spikes are goners due to costs. If I’m correct you think to replace spikes with Skov, and yea that would work. We both are looking for another DE to rotate with Ninokvich and Jones. We also want another CB and a safety. Here is an idea, tell me what you think.
        Where Spikes/Skov are run stuffers couldn’t we find another hammer lower down, say Andrew Jackson W. Kentucky? Cost less do the same job just as well? (A 4th rd?)
        Where we need both CB and SS, Joyner, short bet effective, has the ability to play both at a high level. ( high 2nd)
        Perryman and slide Hightower to DE. Draft one player and fill two roles of need? (low 2nd high 3rd)?
        Wouldn’t this approach be more efficent and allow us to fill the greater needs from higher picks and still save room later for depth and value picks like Long, Neb or Murray, Geo.?

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          Interesting Steve, I guess it comes down to which player you like of feel fits the team the best. Joyner is 5’8″ 190 runs a 4.54 40yd, Kyle Fuller is 6′ 195 runs a 4.45 40yd. Joyner has played SS, and CB, Fuller has played CB and Bandit LB….. etc. Which could grasp Bill’s D-system? Both are looking like Mid 2nd rounders.
          Patriots may resign Spikes, guys with contract trouble, .. Talib, Gregory, Connolly, Kelly,are a big Question? For Me, LB’s and DB’s get hurt/banged-up, so you need depth. I just like Skov very smart guy. Bill may move toward a 3-4 D in the future ?
          As far as DE goes I’m not sure Hightower has a quick 1st step to rush the passer. Ninkovich plays well , just needs to share time at the DE spot to stay quick. A guy with more size maybe, Kareem Martin 6’6″ 275lbs. with a quick 1st step rusher.
          I find my self looking at my draft board; saying; Which of these guys has an all-pro in there future, Fire inside to play every play like it’s thier last. It was the Washington Redskin coach in the 1980’s, that said; “If you were hanging by a rope over a cliff, would you want that draft choice holding the other end of the rope?”

      • steve earle says:

        Honestly I don’t know how quick or not quick Hightower’s 1st step is but when he rushed from DE at Bama he was a force. He has the size, strength to set the edge and we do see him rush the QB sometimes. The thing is Perryman and Martin are both rated as 3rd rd picks. Select Martin and we possably fill one need, select Perryman and we possably fill two needs. I like Joyner probably because he’s an underdog in my mind, size wise, likely has a chip on shoulder, something to prove. Very subjective of me I know. I also think Fuller would be a good fit too.
        About Connelly with contract troubles, how do you mean? Real troubles or danger of not making team next year? I’d think Windell falls into that group, his contract ends after the SB and he’s not having a very good year either?

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      Hay Steve I had no idea you were an old fart like me…HAA My try-out with the Patriots was in 1980 at CB/KR/PR……………..Seems like light years ago!

      • steve earle says:

        Hey Russell, your still a young fella, I’m 71 and can’t believe all the years that have gone by. To busy living, raising a family, working and what not.

    • Alex says:

      Sorry this is late. Steve, thanks for your words, and I likewise respect your opinion (my distaste was for signing Verner, and then spending our first pick on another CB), and am not trying to score internet points or make myself feel big etc, but I’m not the only one who thinks we have a good secondary. This isn’t the only site on the web with football knowledge, and most Pats fans I know think our secondary is solid.

      I’ll reply briefly to your points, and then make my own (long) case, but first, can you let me know which teams have a better secondary than ours please?

      Surely Steve, you can recognise other levels of ability than dependable and awful? McCourty and Talib are studs, no two ways about it. Would start for every team in the league. Dennard and Ryan have both shown to be starting quality corners. They are better than dependable, they are good options, with Pro Bowl futures if they keep improving. Arrington and Gregory, are the guys we love to hate, but they aren’t awful, call them mediocre to average, but I’ve seen the 2011 Pats, I know what awful is. When you’re starting Sergio Brown, who gets beaten out by Slater and Edelman, you know you’re in trouble. Harmon has shown he’s dependable this year and still has upside. Tavon Wilson is adequate at backup too.
      Even Marquice Cole has made plays. How many #5 CBs can you name in the league? Of course he’s rubbish, and mainly a STer, that’s why he was #5 on the depth chart.

      Making plays makes you a playmaker, and therefore probably a perennial pro bowler. Not everyone in the league is making picks, deflecting passes and getting sacks. I’m not saying our secondary are all Canton bound, or they couldn’t be improved by a first or second round pick, I’m just saying that our secondary is much better than you give it credit for, and is along with our linebackers, the strength of our defense. If we can add a stud at SS I’ll be happy, and it will improve our defense, but I’d argue not as much as adding a stud at DT. Not to mention this is a pretty poor safety class, and a good DT one. We’ve spent tonnes of draft capital on the secondary over the years, and almost none at DT. Since 2010 we’ve spent two 7ths in 2010 at DT, a 1, 3 and 7 at DE, a 1, 2, 3 and 6 at safety and a 2, 3, 7 and 7 (plus a 4th traded for Talib). Of those guys, all the safeties are on the roster, as are the DEs, and all but one 7th round CB. None of the DTs are. Are young guys are UDFAs, and have low ceilings. A dominant talent would put this defense over the top at DT more than any other position.

      Here’s my case for our secondary.

      Yes we could upgrade on Gregory and Arrington fairly easily IMO. But they are both average starter quality, on par with a lot of starters in the league, and BB seems to like them. Given his contract, Arrington will be sticking around, but Gregory might well be gone, and as a slot guy he is fairly good.

      Outside of them we have PFF #1 Safety, a shutdown #1 CB in Talib (admittedly not under contract for next year) and two quality, young ascending CBs in Dennard and Ryan. Talib has injury history, but still manages to play 85% of games he’s been available for since entering the league, and Dennard has missed a bit of time this season, but no long term concerns or history. Harmon has also looked solid as a SS option, and probable starter as things stand for next year.

      So out of five starting positions, we have two All-Pros, and two young quality CBs, and a couple of averageish starters at NB and SS, with a promising 3rd rd SS to boot.

      So what might happen this offseason. Three scenarios. 1a) We keep Talib, 1b) We sign a good FA CB to replace Talib and 2) We lose Talib. We’ll take the first two together.

      1) We go into next year with what we have now. Which is a top 5 CB, two quality #2 CBs, who can also play NB, a young relatively promising SS, and a NB and STer, and maybe Gregory.
      Can we improve that? Of course. We have no standout #5 CB option, with guys like Cole, Green and Davis not really standing out, and we could definitely see an upgrade at SS.

      2) We go into next year with two quality #2 CBs, with likely one who could do a job as the #1 CB, but maybe not. We’d also have no-one we’d like to put in on the boundary if one of them went down. We’d then have the same situation at safety as above. This would definitely call for a high pick, 1st to 3rd at latest, to replace Talib, and give us some depth. If we have to spend a high pick on a corner, then that only lessens the chance we spend another high pick on a safety.

      So with Talib, a good FA and/or a high pick, I’d say we have a secondary in good shape. We have some injury concerns with Talib, but no-one else, other than this being football and people getting hurt. Our top 3 CBs are all young and very good (or a high pick just taken) with Arrington as a solid #4 option. That leaves us a gap for a #5 guy to compete with Cole, Green and Davis etc for the last spot on the 53.

      So what about at safety? Well we don’t have a guy suited for replacing McCourty at deep safety, if he gets injured, and as for the other safety position, well we haven’t got a stud there, that’s for sure. But with Gregory we have an acceptable vet, and with Harmon a promising rookie who’s been a reasonable starter when called upon. Then we have Tavon Wilson, who showed some signs last year, but has been beaten out this year. So we could do with another guy there. Either a high upside developmental guy for depth and STs, or a starter at the second safety spot.

      So now the question is how much do we need to spend (draft capital) on offense, and with what’s left, how can we best strengthen our defense.

      After Gronk, we have no options on the roster at TE for next year. We desperately need some more talent there, even if we can keep Hooman. This is a position primed for the Belichick special double dip. We could also do with at least one interior O-lineman, to add talent there, and give us cover when Mankins is gone. Our WRs are young, and if supplemented, it should be with vets, not draft picks. We could probably do with a developmental QB, but could wait for UDFA.

      Given the team’s performance this year, I’d say splitting our picks 50:50 between defense and offense seems fair.

      Then on defense, where do we go? Wilfork has an $11.6m cap hit next year, that he’s not worth. Not at 32-33 and coming off a major injury, especially for a man his size. Kelly is likewise 33-34 coming off a season ender. So both guys are old and coming off injuries, which we don’t know how much they’ll be affected by. Siliga has looked good and is a keeper, and Jones and Vellano are decent developmental guys. Armstead should be good and is the high upside guy.

      Still that is a group that has been our weakest this year, and one that we haven’t invested in draft capital or salary in the last few years.

      At DE we have a stud in Chandler Jones, and a good bookend who we’ve extended in Nink. Buchanan is a high upside #3 guy, and so we don’t need more than a late Bequette replacement here. We could also bring Justin Francis back.

      At LB we’ll probably lose Spikes, but we have spent a lot of draft capital at the position. And with Hightower at MLB, and Mayo and Collins either side, we’ll have a grouping that is up there with most in the league. If we can keep Fletcher to be first man of the bench, that’s even better. Add Beauharnais, as the Spikes run stopper replacement and we’re good. Although a mid to late round fast athletic guy to be a second coverage backer, and allow us to be more versatile with how we sue Collins would be good.

      Then the question is what are the best defences in the NFL like, and how do we compare to them? Of them, I’d say Seattle is the only one whose strength is in their secondary, and their front 7 is hardly shabby. Most of them it’s in their front seven. That’s the case with San Fran, Cincinnati, Carolina, Arizona and in the good but not great defenses like the Jets, Browns and Bills.

      The Panthers are the best example. They only have one guy in their entire secondary that they drafted in the top 3 rounds, and he was third round pick. Most of their secondary is UDFAs, and it is the weakness on that defense. Yet their defense were second in the league this year, and they’d start most of our guys over theirs.

      The pattern seems clear. The front seven is the key to a good defense. Solid against the run, good intermediate coverage by the linebackers, and pass rush off the edges, and crucially through the middle. Of those areas, I’d say we could improve on all three, with the DTs being the weakest area. If you have all of that, you can cover up a weak secondary like the Panthers have. Without it, even a good one can be exposed.

      Then would you please consider and answer my persistent question. Which other teams secondary would you take over ours?

      Two potential mock drafts, the first assuming Talib stays, the second assuming he goes. Ignoring trades, and comp picks for now. Players are a suggestion, but the positions are more pertinent.

      1) DT Stephon Tuitt TE ASJ
      2) TE Troy Niklas CB Kyle Fuller
      3) OC Travis Swanson DT Dominique Easley
      4) LB Boseko Lokombo OG Billy Turner
      6) S Brock Vereen LB Justin Jackson
      6) OG Spencer Long S Jonathan Dowling
      7) TE Colt Lyerla FB Trey Millard

      • steve earle says:

        Okay Alex maybe I over dramatized saying awful but I still say we have 3 starters, Talib (when healthy, and yes dependability counts) Dennard and McCourty. The rest are back up cal. at best imo. Teams I think have better def backfields, Okay, arguably of course, I’d say Atlanta, KC, TB, Saints, Chicago, Phily, Cinn and Denver, then at least as good if not having an edge, Pitt, GB, Dallas, Jets, and Ravens. A couple of these teams did poorly but not because of the DB’s also the caviat of when healthy applies. Then another half dozen teams we are just slightly better then at DBF.
        We just disagree on this one area Alex, I can’t convince you nor you me so I’m moving on to where we do agree.

  5. Mike says:

    1 problem as this relates to the Pats. I don’t see a single Rutgers player in the top 100. I expect we will draft atleast 2!

  6. J H TARBORO says:

    Going thru some draft scenarios :
    Our picks in 2014 NFL draft : 1,2,3,4,6,6,7
    If we trade our #1 pick for a : 3,5,7 very similar to last year at least.
    Pkg. Ridley and Mallett for a possible : 2,3,4 + a pick in 2015 or other variables.
    If this could happen, our picks: 2,2,3,3,3,4,4,5,6,6,7,7
    5 picks in top 100
    Why it would make sense!
    11 players coming off IR. Can they regain their form?
    Patriot FA’s: CB A.Talib LB B.Spikes LB D.Fletcher TE M.Hooman TE M.Mulligan TE DJ.Williams DL A.Carter WR J.Edleman WR A.Collie C R.Wendell OT W.Svitek
    Players that may not be back: DT T.Kelly S A.Wilson DT I. Sopoga LB J.Beckett etc.

    • steve earle says:

      That would be something if BB could pull it off JH. I have toyed with like ideas myself but have thought them pretty unlikely so filed them in the wish folder but if anyone could make it happen it would be Bill. Have to keep our fingers crossed I guess?

    • acm says:

      not sure that’s a realistic scenario, JH. For one, trading the 1st rounder for a 3rd, 5th and a 7th is nowhere near the value they got last year. In fact, it’s downright a horrendous trade in terms of value … maybe you missed a 2nd rounder in there, as that would make it close enough to last-years trade?

      And then Ridley doesn’t have much trade value right about now. I’d say his value is so low that it would make more sense for the Pats to keep him and give him another shot, even as a back up RB (assuming they bring Blount back) than trade him away.
      Mallet’s value is also considerably less than last year – 1) now he has only one year left on his rookie contract and 2) this year’s draft has quite a few QBs that are likely to be seen as “franchise players” by QB-needy teams out there. Last year that wasn’t the case as Mallet was heads and shoulders above any QB in the 2013 draft, which would have kept his trade value high.
      All in all, I think you’d be lucky to get a 3rd rounder (more like a 4th, tbh) for both Ridley and Mallett before the draft.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        ACM, last year was a 3,5,7,7 not that horrendous! Packaging Ridley and Mallett wouldn’t be that hard, look at all the teams at the top of draft that need a QB and RB. Things like this are very possible, look at last year when we had no picks (1,2,3,7)

        • acm says:

          no, last year the Pats got a mid 2nd (Collins), mid 3rd (Ryan), a very high 4th( Boyce) and a mid 7th rounder (Beauharnais) for their late 1st round pick. You must be mis-remembering or something.

          There are way too many QBs that are going in the 1st year and quite a few good ones in the 2-3 round range too, as well as some very interesting talent projected to go later. Makes no sense to trade for Mallett with 1-year left on his rookie deal for anything higher than a 4th, more like a 5th, right now.
          Ridley (also with only one year left on his deal) has about 0 trade value now, maybe a 6th … either way, way too low to make sense for the Pats to trade him. Giving him another season to straighten out his issues makes a lot more sense, value-wise.
          Any trade involving trading these two for anything higher than an earlish 4th rounder is more of a pipe-dream than not.

        • steve earle says:

          I think trying to trade Mallett before the draft is poor stragity because as acm says to many QB’s in the draft and the needy teams will go after them because Mallett has seen just a few quarters of preseason action since being drafted to be judged by whereas the rookies are fresh in the minds of GM’s. Better to wait until next season when some teams starter goes down and they have to rely on some washed up retread or 6th rd rookie. That’s when his value will peak.
          I disagree that Ridley’s value crashed because of a few fumbles. BB will not tolorate fumbles and demonstrates that to his RB’s by benching offenders, that’s not the same as the player not having the skills to be a starter.
          For instance, Cleveland is in need of a francise QB and a starting RB. Ridley, a proven starter has to have as much appeal as a rookie 2nd round RB imo. Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think so.

        • acm says:

          Ridley has 1 and 1/2 feet in the Pats doghouse and is nothing more than a back up RB with a serious fumbling history (going all the way back to his college days) … and one year left on a rookie deal. In a possible trade, the value is set by the circumstances of both teams and right now the Pats would have little to no leverage in a possible trade as the other team would know that Ridley is anything but precious/irreplaceable to the Pats.

          I am sure there are several teams out there, not just the Browns in need of an upgrade at RB but there would be quite a few free agents available and then there’s the draft too to fix that, making Ridley anything but unique. The Browns and others would have options to choose from, right now the Pats are more likely to end up cutting/letting Ridley go than not. As I said, 0 leverage.

          And I am not sure “proven” is the word I would use for him – he had one good season in which he fumbled several times again and more specifically, when it was least desirable. Above all, however, in the NFL you are as good as your last season and Ridley is still the league’s leader in fumbles and lost fumbles, iirc, with half-a-season worth of snaps.

      • steve earle says:

        acm, you may be right about Ridley’s value but then I may. My impression is that we’ve see other RB’s traded over the years who have had problems one way or another. It all depends on the needs and perceptions of the GM. As you say there are other teams that need a RB I used Cleveland as a for instance. (Fumbles always come at the worst possable time, I think you’ll agree, because whenever they occure it takes the initiative from one team and gives it to the other.) Bill may yet keep him on board hoping he can overcome the problem because there is no doubt of his talent, I don’t know. Plus his contract is not going to have a negative impact on the cap even if he only is used as a backup. Lots of pro’s and con’s here, have to wait to see how it plays out.

    • Russell Easterbrooks says:

      I agree with Tarboro about trading draft Picks. Last year Bill got a 2nd, 3d, 4th and a 7th for the first Pick, Which was alot. Finding a trade partner is Key. The Patriots are also inline for 1 or 2 Compenstory picks later in the draft. So I look for Bill to get some picks if he trades the 1st pick this year and some picks next year;
      Patriots 1st pick to Jacksonville for 3d, two 4ths, and a 3d, 4th in the 2015 draft
      Patriots 1st pick to Dallas for a 2nd, and a 2nd, 6th in 2015
      Patriots 1st pick to Chicago for a 2nd, and a 2nd, 6th in 2015
      OR ???

      • J H TARBORO says:

        Thanks Rus, i understand what ACM was saying, i may have been off a little with the draft picks from last year, but trading down and finding worth is about improving the team. They’re going to be suitors for QBs and RBs that aren’t rookies and at least 5 teams need both even after the draft. That being said you, Steve E., and ACM are my guys from last year!

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          Thanks; QB Mallett is very tradeable IMO, not so sure about Ridley however. Mallett has played alittle preseason, but has trained/practiced with Tom , which is a huge jump over any guy coming out of College day one. Value however is hard to call. If I was in Cleveland, with Hoyer coming back, I would give a 3d pick this year and a 5th pick next year for Mallett. Then draft a QB pospect I like with a 3-4th (Cleveland has two 3d’s and two 4th’s this year)to learn the system. This is ONLY if Mallett is not the future guy in New England. Mallett is a non-issue IF he’s the future guy, and the Patriots are willing to pay him 3-4 mil. a year to back-up Tom for a few more years.
          Ridley I cut next year, draft a guy later (RB LaDauris Perkins 6th-7th) and watch for a Cheap FA, BUT carry only 4 RB’s on next years roster.

        • steve earle says:

          To all, a kid from Geo. So. Jerick McKinnon intrigues me. Anyone know where I can find some highlights on him? So far my searches have been rather unproductive. He’s been invited to the senor bowl this year, which I don’t get on my cable. I’d like to watch him in action because I like what I read of him.

  7. J H TARBORO says:

    Mike Loyko, very good preliminary list. thanks!

  8. Russell Easterbrooks says:

    I still feel Talib will cost to much for the Patriots to re-sign making CB help #1 in the draft. I think the Patriots take CB Kyle Fuller 6 195lbs runs a 4.45 -40yd with thier 1st pick. Fuller played some Bandit LB when VT had injuries, and show very soild Tackling. Fuller runs well in coverage, turns his hips well, looks for the ball, has good lenghth, and is solid in the run game for a CB.
    Patriots 2nd pick, I like Shayne Skov LB 6’3″ 250. Now I know his 40 yd time 4.9 is not great, however watch the tape on Skov, he moves much better than his time would suggest. Skov reads well, hides behind his Dline to move along the line, and stay out of the wash. Uses his hands well to get off blocks. But the best thing I see on Skov’s tape is the angle’s he takes , to get to the ball, his vision, and his ability to hit the gap, and contact the ball carrier. I really feel Skov is a smart player, who reminds me of Teddy Burschi.
    Patriots 3d pick, I like TE Rob Blanchflower 6’4″ 255. This could be early for Blanchflower in this draft, however his abilitiy to line-up in so many differant positions in Massachusett’s offense to get him the ball ,is a special abilitiy. He has very large hands 9 3/4″ (Gronks hands are 10 1/4″) and catches all put the very low balls well. Blanchflower blocks very well staying on his man, or getting to the second level as the play calls for.

    • trent says:

      I like fuller if talib leaves–fuller may fly under the radar a little compared to dennard/gilbert/roby by the time the draft comes along. That being said, I hope talib is the priority over edelman. If we use our #1 pick to replace one of these two (edelman with a TE vs talib with a CB), I think we would take a large step back on D if fuller replaced talib, compared to a small step back (or no change) on offense if one of the TE’s replaced edelman (and tj moe would fill his WR spot–who could be the next edelman, who knows). It would put a lot of pressure on fuller to become a #1 CB for us.

      I know a lot of people think talib will cost a lot, and we are tight in the cap right now, but this free agency is going to be like last year’s–lots of FA’s wanting big contracts, but there just isn’t a lot of cap space available amongst the teams (except teams like JAX/OAK/CLE–and some big names may not take the money to go there). As a result, big players are going to realize there just isn’t big money available to them. I bet we could get talib for $7-8M a year pretty easily, and a first year cap hit of about $6M will fit under our cap just fine.

      If not, check out the other FA CB’s–verner/grimes/vontae davis among others–I still may prefer filling a #1 CB role through free agency and filling an offensive role with a #1 pick. Keep an eye on verner from TEN–they already have mccourty’s twin locked up and likely won’t put two big contracts into their CB position, so verner may test the FA waters. He seems like a Patriots guy, and i’m sure some feedback would come through the mccourty line of communication on the kind of guy he is.

      Anyway, just a reminder that honing in on one player to pick is rather useless until free agency cools down and teams have remaining needs. The cap management side of building a team is just as interesting to me as obsessing about who the patriots should draft.

      • Russell Easterbrooks says:

        Free agent CB Alterraun Verner would be a great pick-up if the price is fair 4-5 mil. a year? Ithink your right about Talib at 7-8 mil. a year, still question if the Patriots see that kind of value in him. If I could have Verner for 4 mil. a year, I would let Talib go. The Patriots depth at CB has had a hard time with injuries this year, and I would still take Fuller with my 1st pick. If the Patriots don’t get a FA CB, I would play both Ryan,and Fuller at Talibs spot.
        Edleman is a hard one, this spring I felt T.J.Moe would make the Patriots starting roster. I think the Patriots did also, letting Edleman try-out with the NYG’s before signing with the Patriots. Much the same as Danny Woodhead, because the Patriots had Vereen in that roll. IMO Edleman has out played Amandola at the slot spot, and stayed healthy ,and with T.J.Moe also in line for that spot, I question if we keep Amandola at 5.7 mil. a year. However Amandola has 10 mil. Guaranteed money. Can Bill keep three slot guys on the roster?

        • J H TARBORO says:

          Russell, Checkout Free Agent Safety Taylor Mays 6’3 230lbs. he would be the guy i would pick up in free agency. He was the freak of the combine a few years ago, again another talented guy who goes to team or teams that didn’t know how to get the most from it’s player. Patriots I hope you are watching!!!

        • steve earle says:

          I really like the idea of picking up Verner if Talib walks and as you say he and Ryan could alternate the spot. What would you think of taking Joyner with an early 2nd if Bill does a deal for the 1st to join the CB crew of that makeup?
          The Edelman question is the big one. Can Bill keep 3 slot WR? Or put another way can Bill keep letting Tom’s most reliable receivers go? Also, what if anything could be saved by letting Amendola go? Isn’t Boyce viewed mostly as a slot receiver too? That would be 4. ( Holy gremlins Batman, keep these guys away from the water) kidding.
          Really think Edelman is young enough to invest in a 3 year, 5.5 mil deal. Deal or cut Danny, let Moe back up Edelman and Boyce swing between outside and slot.

        • Alex says:

          Verner would be great, but at $4-5m the price is not at all fair to him, he was one of the best corners in the league this year, with better numbers than Talib.

          The good news is this FA CB class is stacked, and that should mean the prices are down across the board, as teams have more leverage than the players. There’s Talib, Verner, DRC, Browner, Thurmond, Shields, Graham, Grimes and Davis, who all range from good #2 to great #1 CBs. Even if we can’t keep Talib, I expect we’ll be able to haul in one of them.

          The concerns with our CB group are overblown. We have a group that goes 4 deep with starters as it stands. If we lose Talib, then we need to replace him. If we don’t, then we could do at bringing him a high upside guy late for Special Teams and to be developed as a hopeful future starter. But we shouldn’t take a CB before the 3rd or 4th round, unless the value is spectacular.
          Even with injuries, we only had to trot out the 5th guy for a handful of snaps. Compare our guys to any other team in the league, and you’ll struggle to find five teams whose CBs you’d take over ours.

          As for WR. We’ll give Amendola at least another year, and so we might keep Edelman too, given we can cut Danny after next year cheaply, and so would only have to pay them both for one year. That said, it will all come down to price, and I can see him getting bigger offers from elsewhere that we won’t be able to match. Moe hasn’t shown anything yet, so if he makes himself uncutable in camp next year, then that’s a bonus.

        • Alex says:

          Steve, I would go ‘Urgh’.
          Spending a first pick for a #5 CB would be a terrible investment. Especially taking a guy at the top of his range. Not good value for the player, terrible value for the position.

          We only have three choices for our first pick (assuming Talib or an equivalent is signed in FA) and they are DT, TE and OC/OG. The depth of the class and positional value, means I think a first or early 2nd OC/OG would be a mistake, when comparable quality will be available through the next two rounds. So it comes down to a DT or TE, conceivably all the first round talent might be gone before our pick, and so we look to trade down, and get the best of the second tier guys at our new pick.

          Either way, I can’t see how anyone would want us to take a CB first if we’ve kept or properly replaced Talib, that is madness. It would be upgrading the strongest position on our defense, and one with less positional value than the D-line. Why do you think that would be a good idea?

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          Alex, I’m not sure I see a DT-E valued as a 1st-2nd pick in this class, maybe DE Martin N.C. 2nd round. Bill will most likely trade back out of the first round anyway, and an Olineman maybe a pick in the 2nd round. With the guys we have at CB we have had a hard time keeping them healthy so better depth here is important, but as you say maybe not an early pick. However it comes down to which player the Patriots like at CB , Phillip Gaines (Rice)6′ 185lbs runs 4.54 40yd. looks good as a 4th-5th? Brock Vereen a S/CB (Minn.) 5′ 10″ 190 lbs runs a 4.49 40yd. is an interesting prospect, also a 4th-6th?
          But if Talib is gone, I’m much more interested in a young /affordable talented player , then a costly FA/or Talib. CB Fuller looks good at 6′ 195lbs runs a 4.45 40yd. similar to Logan Ryan but faster, as a long term future guy, But an early draft pick/affordable for 4yrs.

        • Russell Easterbrooks says:

          Steve, I like Joyner as a SS, but not as a CB. Not sure as a 1st pick after a trade back however. I feel strongly Bill looks at LB Skov in the 2nd round, so maybe Joyner as a 2nd as well. Cut Gregory, T. Wilson??? Wilson on IR ??? Joyner would give the Patriots a hitting S in the run game, but at 5’8″ in the passing game ?? Got to be better than Gregory, IMO.

        • trent says:

          Re: Verner, agree that he is going to cost more than $4-5M/yr. I think he is going to cost the same as talib–verner has a cleaner history and is a little younger. BB probably prefers that vs. the risk that Talib can’t stay healthy or does something stupid off the field once he gets paid.

          Re: D-line, curious to see what NE does to address Wilfork, if anything. They can move on now, not worry about the risk of him recovering and aging, and in that case, drafting a NT now like a louis nix or daquan jones would make sense. We have all seen that BB is comfortable with moving on from the bigger guys before their careers tail off. We would save $8M on the cap and could use that towards talib/CB, edelman, or OL or whatever.

          That being said, I would love to see Big Vince stay. NE may try to extend him (injury risk) and lessen his cap hit for 2014. In that case, I think it would be smart to wait for another year to find his replacement, keep siliga as a backup.

        • steve earle says:

          Russell call Joyner a SS if you prefer but I see him covering the slot receiver which I suspect would be a huge upgrade over Arrington and I’d rather trust him then Arrington covering outside if necessary. I just don’t think we can have to many quality DB’s around.

  9. Jeff says:

    Based on these rankings, I’d think the ideal scenario for the Pats would be:

    Re-sign Talib, or a good tight end. Sign a good tight end (if possible sign Talib instead).
    Re-sign Fletcher and Hoomanawanui as top backups.

    1) TE Sefarian-Jenkins (or CB – Justin Gilbert if Talib is not resigned)
    2) C – Travis Swanson
    3) G – Anthony Steen or Gabe Jackson

    The team would still need a depth player at WR, TE, RB, OL, DE, LB, and CB, and can fill them with competitions between lower draft picks, practice squad players, low cost free agents, and IR’d players from this year (Moe, Harrison, etc.).

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