September 19, 2014

On The Clock: Acorn Hunting

logoby Chris Warner
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Not sure if you’ve been made aware of this, but the NFL Draft is coming up. It’s a shame no one in sports journalism pays attention. Those draft gurus work so hard. I mean, think about having to make predictions that end up mostly wrong, with everyone watching. And then doing it all over again, year after year. Can you imagine paying someone for that?

(Yes, of course we’re jealous.)

When we talk about the Patriots’ drafts during the Belichick era, it isn’t long before a certain sixth-round pick enters the conversation. While it makes sense to laud the Foxboro front office for their savvy in picking Tom Brady, a quick review of the entire 2000 draft shows their human side:

2nd – Adrian Klemm, OT
3rd – J. R. Redmond, RB
4th – Greg Robinson-Randall, OT
5th – Dave Stachelski, TE
5th – Jeff Marriott, DT
6th – Antwan Harris, CB
6th – Tom Brady, duh
7th – Casey Tisdale, OLB
7th – Patrick Pass, RB

I mean, really: Dave Stachelski? The intention here isn’t to downplay the greatest sixth round pick in NFL history. It just shows that, as an old coach used to say, even a blind sow finds an acorn once in a while.

Here goes a list of prospective late-round/undrafted rookies in whom the Pats could show some interest. Please don’t consider these as predictions, because they’ll be wrong, and then I’d have to take your money.

SecondaryTerrence Wheatley, Colorado. Small, fast and tough, Wheatley has displayed solid coverage (11 careers INTs) and kick returning skills (24.8-yard avg. in 2007). Despite his noteworthy speed at the combine (4.37 40), his height (5-9) and injury history (foot) could keep teams away and make him a late steal.

Secondary secondary pick: Nate Lyles, Virginia. Had 68 tackles last year. He’s a gamer who overcame a neck injury in 2005 to become a team leader the past two seasons. Belichick will get a spot-on scouting report from Virginia Coach Al Groh, who has a history with him going back to their time with the Cleveland Browns.

DB Honorable Mention: Scorpio Babers, Sam Houston State. Sure, I could tell you that he had ideal measurements (5-11) and speed (4.36 40) for a cornerback prospect. I could tell you that his broad jump went 10 feet, four inches. But all I really want to tell you is that his name is Scorpio! Do you think he’s emotional and stubborn, yet self-confident? Should his fortune go on the scouting report, along with his off-the-field issues? So many questions.

Linebacker Jameel McClain, Syracuse. Maybe another Oscar Lua in that he stops what’s in front of him but has trouble in coverage. Looks like a team player who gets credit for switching in college from linebacker to end based on his team’s needs. As they say, necessity is the mother of versatility. Wait: that’s not right…

LB Honorable Mention: Bryan Kehl, BYU. Small for an outside linebacker in the Pats’ defense (6-2, 242), but has the speed and quickness to break in as a special teamer and eventually gain playing time in coverage packages. At 24, he’s an older rookie, which makes some teams hesitate. I have no idea why.

Defensive LineFrank Okam, Texas. Slow as a glacier and similar in size (6-5, 347), Okam has the potential to take on blockers in New England’s 3-4 scheme. Since 2004, the Patriots have lacked a second nose tackle/leviathan in the Ted Washington/Keith Traylor mold. Okam stands a long way from that level, but he’s worth a late-round look if available.

Honorable Mention: Bryan Mattison, Iowa. Good speed and versatility makes this player a solid choice for backup defensive end. Played under Kirk Ferentz (another hire of Belichick’s while at Cleveland), which might garner him a second look.

Wide ReceiverDexter Jackson, Appalachian State. If you told me you’d heard of Jackson before ASU’s upset of Michigan last September, your pants would ignite. At 5-9, 185, this diminutive ball of lightning gets open and catches passes as well as punts. If Jackson ever feels the size thing getting him down, he can look at Wes Welker and smile (as many of us Pats fans do).

Because Jackson’s stock has risen almost as much as Tom Brady’s investment in scarves (I mean, seriously, all he needs are a leather pilot’s helmet and goggles to complete the outfit), we include two honorable mentions for this position:

WR Honorable Mention 1: Kevin Robinson, Utah State. A weak 40 time of 4.65 will keep him waiting on Day 2 of the draft, but his quickness and pass-catching ability should get him a look at camp. Also had great success as a punt and kick returner, as seen in this 100-yard treat vs. Hawaii last year.

WR Honorable Mention 2: Chaz Schilens, San Diego State. Measured 6-4 and showed freakish ability at his pro day, including a 4.38 40 and a 43-inch vertical. The Pats have drafted athletic wide receivers who didn’t pan out (“Simmons and Johnson” isn’t the name of a law firm), but if they got Schilens into camp, he’d be fun to watch. Speaking of watching, if you’re in the mood for a grainy highlight video, here’s one right here.

Offensive LineMike Gibson, Cal. This former teammate of Ryan O’Callaghan takes the Heart and Guts train over the Athleticism Express. At 6-4, 305, he fits the physical profile of Patriots linemen and has shown the type of position flexibility New England seeks. Seems to have the nasty attitude necessary, a form of praise reserved for pro football and few other lines of work. (I mean, wouldn’t it feel awesome to put “nasty attitude” on your resume?)

OL Honorable Mention: Shannon Boatman, FSU. A junior college transfer who has yet to live up to his potential, yet what potential he has: at 6-6, 315, he ran a 4.95 40-yard dash. I’d like to see what he could do after two years under line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

Tight End Craig Stevens, Cal. While many faux drafts (I feel they don’t “mock” as much as they seem fake) have the Pats picking Notre Dame’s John Carlson, Stevens has been rated as a better blocker (most 225-pound reps of any tight end). His underwhelming stats stemmed from playing with an NFL-caliber receiving corps (DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, RB Justin Forsett).

Honorable Mention: Mike Peterson, NW Missouri State. Short at 6-2, 250, Peterson would play H-back to free up Benjamin Watson and David Thomas in the passing game.

Running Back – Hugh Charles, Colorado. Justin Forsett’s a target for the Pats mid-round, but Charles shouldn’t be overlooked for any team seeking a small, strong and fast halfback who can be gotten for the price of a phone call and a preseason meal plan. Like Patrick Cobbs in 2006, he’d be the darling of camp. Unlike Cobbs, he can fly. Watch him during a Buffaloes track meet.

RB Honorable Mention: Andre Callender, Boston College. Not dynamic, but with Matt Ryan at QB Callender caught 72 passes in 2007. (Of course, an oil drum on wheels could catch passes with Ryan at the helm.) Callender has potential as a backup and special-teamer in the Patrick Pass mold.

QuarterbackMatt Flynn, LSU. He won’t wow you slinging it, but he won’t kill you, either. A prototypical dink-and-dunker who managed his team to the national championship, he’s got good athleticism but doesn’t seem to defer to it too much.

QB Honorable Mention: Bernard Morris, Marshall. A QB working in a halfback’s body. Isn’t it about time we brought back the Michael Bishop era?

Some other potential picks of note:

DE/OLB conversion projectTrevor Scott, Buffalo. An unknown for most of his career, his story broke after a stellar pro day that had him running a 4.54 40 and putting up 225 pounds 32 times. If he’s still available late, the Pats could pounce, although don’t they already have their conversion project in Pierre Woods?

Awesome OLB candidate, if only… – Vince Redd, Liberty. Redd has the rare size and speed of a Pats-prototype OLB (6-5, 260, 4.56 40), but the locals will put up a red flag because Coach Groh booted Redd out of Virginia.

Just for the heck of it, look out forDT Jason Shirley, Fresno State. If not for off-the-field troubles (note: cars plus drinking equals bad), his size (6-5, 330) would make him a mid-round pick or higher. Also has a noteworthy coaching background from Pat Hill (worked at Cleveland under Belichick, blah blah blah).

The Chris Henry freakishly athletic back you hadn’t heard of – Lavarus Giles, Jackson State. A big back at 6-1, 220, Giles runs track and was timed at a 4.4 40. Why would the Pats be interested? Ask them: they had reps in attendance for his pro day, according to this blogger.

Guy to root forOLB Tommy Blake, TCU. Blake had been projected as a first-round pick until his senior season, when he had to take a medical leave due to bipolar disorder. Seems like a decent guy with a terrible problem, but recent signs of his improvement have been positive on the professional and personal front.

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