September 2, 2014

Previously Unpicked Preseason Pats

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

The Patriots got to work signing undrafted free agents on Monday, filling out their roster before official practices begin. Below, we have a rundown of the players New England has reportedly signed.

For calming updates of this preseason news cyclone, we recommend the indispensable Mike Reiss’ blog. League-wide rookie free agent signings can be found for each team on NEPatriotsdraft.com.

Jeremy Ross, Cal wide receiver: Well, well, well. Patriots Daily finally got one! Ross has been a favorite of PD, not just for his skills, but also for his contributions to this piece about the travails of rookie free agency during the lockout.

Why undrafted: Ross had a mere 18 catches with an 11.7-yard average his senior year, hardly eye-popping numbers.

Why he’s in camp: The Cal Bear has three things going for him, including size (a sturdy 6-0, 209 pounds, big enough to tower over many Pats pass-catchers), athleticism (4.4-second 40, 39-inch vertical at his pro day), and special teams prowess (13-yard average on punt returns). With questions surrounding New England’s receiving corps, Ross could provide solid reps and could sneak his way into Foxboro by September.

Jeff Tarpinian, Iowa linebacker: Tarpinian continues the trend of productive Hawkeye linebackers Bill Belichick and his staff take long looks at due to the coach’s relationship with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Why undrafted: Due to injury, Tarpinian played in only eight games this past season. He’s also a bit undersized at 6-2, 235 pounds and put up only 16 bench presses at his pro day.

Why he’s in camp: Judging by his Iowa player page, this kid looks like a coach’s dream. Academic All-American, plus a Coaches Appreciation Award for special teams after his junior year.

Oh, the athleticism he showed off at his pro day probably helped, too, like a 4.56-second 40 and 6.78-second 3-cone drill.

Mike Berry, Auburn offensive lineman: Berry played guard for the national champion Tigers. He throws his hat into a crowded ring at the position but could get some consideration as the long-term statuses of Logan Mankins, Nick Kaczur and rookie Marcus Cannon remain unclear.

Why undrafted: Berry’s pro day did little to get him noticed, as his 19 bench reps and 5.5-second 40 weren’t exactly head-turners. (Unless those heads were turning away.)

Why he’s in camp: The Tiger started on an offense featuring a quarterback named Cam Newton who, you know, did pretty well for himself. At 6-3, 318 pounds, he’s a “phone booth” type of player whose foot speed shouldn’t matter all that much.

Alex Silvestro, Rutgers defensive end: At 6-3, 265 pounds, Silvestro projects to a pass-rushing outside linebacker at Gillette. He had 14.5 tackles for loss (including 5.5 sacks) and blocked a kick, which bodes well for a future on special teams.

Why undrafted: Rutgers has had some good seasons recently, but 2010’s 4-8 effort wasn’t one of them. Also, checking his size and pro day numbers (including a 4.83-second 40), Silvestro looks like a tweener stuck between 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker.

Why he’s in camp: His 20-yard shuttle (4.28 seconds) matches highly-touted Arizona pass-rusher Brooks Reed’s, while his bench press (29 reps) and 3-cone drill (7.16 seconds) compare well with Reed (30 reps, 7.11 seconds).

Not saying Silvestro will perform at the same level as Reed, a second-round pick for Houston. Just looking at stats beyond the 40-yard dash.

Corey Woods, Akron offensive lineman: Woods played both right and left tackle for the Zips, receiving All-MAC honors his junior and senior years. With his experience and size (6-5, 303 pounds), he has some flexibility along the offensive line.

Why undrafted: Woods exemplifies a consistent performer at a small school. He also failed to wow at his pro day.

Why he’s in camp: The aforementioned ability to change positions along the O-line, plus some respectable pro day numbers (5.25 40, 24 bench reps) show Woods shouldn’t be out of place at an NFL camp.

Kyle Hix, Texas offensive lineman: New England bolsters their O-line with this 6-7, 320-pound tackle, who started at Texas since his sophomore year.

Why undrafted: Hix may not possess the most speed, nor greatest strength, as shown in his combine results. He was also bothered by nagging injuries throughout his senior year.

Why he’s in camp: Um, you read the whole 6-7, 320-pound thing, right? Hix started at both left and right tackle in his career, giving him that good ol’ flexibility that gets so much attention in these parts. Add decent combine numbers (5.44 40, 24 bench reps, plus a 32-inch vertical), and the Longhorn seems worth a look, if not a draft pick.

Will Yeatman, Maryland tight end: The hefty Terrapin (6-6, 270) comes to Gillette as another in-line blocking candidate at the tight end position.

Why undrafted: Yeatman ran a 5.1-second 40 at his pro day. He also tallied a mere 13 catches his senior year at Maryland.

Why he’s in camp: Oh, where to begin? Yeatman transferred from Notre Dame, where he played under former Pats offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. In college, Yeatman also played lacrosse – a Belichick favorite. Watch him (number 23) show some athleticism as he helps the Terps come back to win vs. Georgetown here, starting at the 2-minute mark.

Just to tickle Belichick’s fancy further, Yeatman’s father played lacrosse at the Naval Academy, where Belichick’s father Steve coached football for decades.

Ryan Coulson, Nevada defensive end/long snapper: Are the Patriots continuing their search for a diamond-in-the-rough pass-rusher amidst the undrafted ranks? As a defensive end, Coulson had 56 tackles for the Wolfpack, including 8.5 for loss. The Pats are expected to look at him for his long snapping abilities.

Why undrafted: Coulson’s a bit slight at 6-3, 243 pounds. And really, who wants to spend a draft pick on a long snapper?

Right? I mean, who would do that?

Why he’s in camp: If you’re up for it, wade through this 15-minute highlight reel and watch number 58 at work. You’ll see a solid defender who can read opposing offenses quickly. And, apparently, a long snapper.

Clay Nurse, Illinois defensive end: This college defensive lineman joins the aforementioned hordes trying out for outside linebacker in New England’s 3-4 defense.

Why undrafted: Nurse ran a five-second 40 and otherwise did little to distinguish himself at his pro day. Also notched only 23 tackles in 2010 despite starting all 13 games.

Why he’s in camp: Blessed with prototypical size (6-2, 260), the Guyana native has only been playing football since the age of 16 and could improve in an NFL system. Among his 23 tackles were four sacks and eight QB hurries. Also blocked a punt and a PAT this past year.

You can watch Nurse at D-end for the Illini (number 97) in this footage from their game vs. Baylor in the Texas Bowl.

Anthony Leonard, West Virginia linebacker: Leonard comes to Foxboro as a sure tackler and a team leader for the Mountaineers.

Why undrafted: A 4.9-second 40 and an only half-decent 20 bench reps at his pro day didn’t win over many front offices.

Why he’s in camp: Leonard measures 6-1, 255 pounds, and plays faster than his 40 time. His senior year at West Virginia, Leonard had 70 tackles (6.5 for loss) and three pass breakups.

For an in-depth feature on Leonard put out by the Mountaineer sports department, see this YouTube clip.

Aaron Lavarias, Idaho defensive end: What’s that you say? A college defensive end who projects as a 3-4 outside linebacker? Why, come on over to Gillette!

Why undrafted: The Western Athletic Conference in general and Idaho in particular tend to get overlooked by NFL higher-ups. A 6-7 season record won’t help.

Why he’s in camp: Lavarias has decent size (6-2, 250) and displayed noteworthy athleticism at his pro day, including a 4.62 40 and a 33.5-inch vertical. The Vandal lived up to his mascot’s moniker in opposing backfields, tallying 17 tackles for loss (including 10 sacks).

Chris Koepplin, UMass kicker: Koepplin, who graduated from UMass in 2008, will take preseason reps and relieve Stephen Gostkowski.

Why undrafted: Gostkowski’s fourth-round status notwithstanding, most kickers don’t get picked on draft day.

Why he’s in camp: Koepplin spent two seasons in the Arena Football 2 League with the Manchester Wolves (now defunct). The uprights in Arena Football are much closer together than in the NFL.

Give this guy credit: he has done a great job of promoting himself. Watch this highlight reel of his time in Manchester and see if you don’t want to sign him yourself.

Any updates, comments or suggestions regarding New England’s rookie free agents, please give us a holler in the space below.

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]

Undrafted And Locked Out: Rookie Free Agents Await The Call

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Previous to 2011, NFL teams would follow up each draft by filling their rosters with undrafted free agents (UDFAs). Last year, for example, the Patriots ended up signing three UDFAs to the team: Kyle Love, Sergio Brown and Dane Fletcher.

After picking 254 total players his spring, NFL teams have refrained from contacting undrafted rookies due to the lockout. This has left hundreds of potential players who would normally get invited to rookie camp in limbo.

A previous PD column reviewed some UDFAs who would fit in New England. We decided to catch up with four of those players to get their perspective on this unusual off-season: Maine wide receiver Jeremy Kelley, Austin Peay running back Terrence Holt, Cal wide receiver Jeremy Ross and Colorado School of Mines defensive end Marc Schiechl.

Pre-Draft Hopes

Each player had varying expectations going into the draft. Kelley, a 6-foot-6, 225-pound receiver, said he felt optimistic. He had an impressive pro day that featured a 42-inch vertical leap and a 3.89-second 20-yard shuttle. Each mark would have placed him in the top three for NFL combine receivers.

“It was getting exciting,” Kelley said. “Momentum was continuing to build after my pro day performances, garnering some attention from a handful of teams. I think I had about 10 or 12 teams that had called me, the Patriots being one of them. I went from somebody who probably wasn’t on their radar to someone who had the potential to be a late round pick, and that was exciting.”

Holt, another small-school player, hoped that leading Austin Peay in rushing, receptions, and return yardage would get him noticed. “There were a couple of teams that talked to my agent that were calling my school, asking my coach what kind of player I was and what type of guy I was on and off the field,” he said.

Averaging 12.7 yards per punt return at Cal-Berkeley, Ross thought he’d get a look in the sixth or seventh round. “I think I prepared as best as I could. I worked my butt off getting ready for the draft, getting ready for the workouts and pro days and stuff like that. You know, I laid it all on the table, and I felt like I got the most I could out of myself going in.”

Ross took a visit to Green Bay and had workouts with the Niners, Raiders and the Patriots. He also talked with several other teams.

Colorado School of Mines defensive end Marc Schiechl

Though Schiechl set the Division II career record for sacks (46), he understood that NFL teams might overlook him due to his level of competition. “I just kind of went into the draft assuming that I wouldn’t be drafted, just so I wouldn’t have my hopes up. And I knew, you know, either way – sixth (round), seventh, undrafted – either way I’m going to have to make the team. So it really doesn’t matter where I went or how I made the team, because I’m still going to have to prove myself regardless.”

Schiechl worked out for the Colts and estimated that 12 to 14 teams talked to him before the draft, including the Patriots.

Adversity

Despite their hard work and potential, no calls came from NFL teams. Each player had something working against him going into draft weekend. All except Ross attended small schools. Ross suffered from a lack of production his senior year, as did Kelley.

Holt, at 5-7, is no stranger to getting overlooked.

“When I didn’t get picked,” Holt said, “I knew from the lockout that things wouldn’t go how I thought they would go, but I knew that something would give pretty soon. And I hope that I get picked up by a team if the lockout is over.”

Watching Cal teammates Cameron Jordan and Shane Vereen get drafted gave Ross some mixed emotions. “I was really happy for those guys, but you know, I had myself on my mind also,” Ross said. “(But) at that moment, I was like, man, that’s cool.”

In terms of Vereen going to New England, Ross said, “I felt like it fits him, with the Patriots. It fits his character, and I could really see him being in that organization. That’s a perfect fit for him. And they’ll use him well, I know they will.”

After Ross didn’t get picked, he said, “I felt a little discouraged at first, you know, because I got my hopes up. It was something I was expecting, something I wanted to see happen. I thought it would have been a good experience, a good feeling to be picked up, to be chosen, to be wanted. But that didn’t happen, so I was a little discouraged.”

Ross said he got some positive advice from friends. “They helped me see the benefit of being a free agent at this moment, as far as being able to have the opportunity to now choose the situation I’m going into… So I feel like, in some way, I’m kind of at an advantage. It actually worked out better for me, rather than getting drafted in the sixth or seventh.”

“I wasn’t really discouraged, because I was still aware that it was a long shot,” said Kelley. “But I was expecting a call, to be honest. So I wouldn’t say disappointment, by any means, just kind of more fuel to the fire. I’ve seen adversity… It just kind of keeps me in that underdog mentality, when I do get to a camp, that I’m going to make a name for myself. Whether it be special teams, whether I play offense or whatever it may be. That’s just the way I see it. It just kind of turns into motivation to be successful.”

Though he had little expectation of getting drafted, Schiechl’s potential position change brought up questions that no team could answer until he got into a camp. “I wasn’t too sure, because I knew with the lockout and everything that there wasn’t going to be free agency. That was really, to me, the only benefit of being drafted, was to know where I would go and whether I was going to be a 4-3 end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. That was probably the biggest thing that worried me, but you know, I just have to keep training and wait for this to end.”

Working It Out

All players have continued their regimens throughout this downtime, staying prepared for any opportunities that may arise.

Holt finished up his semester at Austin Peay before returning home to Nashville. Both Ross and Schiechl remain on their respective campuses.

Kelley is home in Buffalo, which has proven beneficial. His father runs a soccer complex (Sahlen’s Sports Park) where he has been working out with dozens of Buffalo Bills. Kelley’s friend from the area, Bills special teams ace John Corto, helped organize these sessions upon Kelley’s suggestion.

“Not a lot of free agents are in my position. You know, I’m actually working out with an NFL team and getting that experience. To live five minutes from an NFL squad is definitely a blessing, given the circumstances and the conditions of the lockout,” Kelley said.

Ross just graduated from Cal last weekend. He heads to the stadium every day to work out with his strength and conditioning coach. “Just training there, staying in shape, and just kind of waiting it out, getting ready for this thing to end.”

Schiechl remains on campus at CSM but plans to head home in a week or two. He trains with Loren Landow at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Englewood, Colorado. Several Denver Broncos have joined the workouts. “(Loren) has a lot of guys from other NFL teams that he’s training right now, just keeping us in shape, trying to simulate the amount of activity that we’d have if we were in a mini-camp,” said Schiechl. “So if anything does get ready to go, we’re heading into it already in good shape – we don’t have to play catch-up or anything like that.”

Holt is running and working out every day. He has a couple of tryouts lined up with the UFL and CFL, just to keep his options open. “I’m pretty sure every player’s dream is to go to the NFL,” Holt said. “But guys like me, with football, they’re real passionate: they would want to play somewhere and get paid for it. So the UFL and the CFL are great options for that.”

Outlook

Each player seems to understand the unpredictable nature of his situation, yet each tries to remain optimistic. “It is frustrating about this whole situation, just thinking if I was out here last year, I probably would be in a camp right now,” said Kelley. “But, you know, take it for what it is.”

Taking tips from Bills receiver Lee Evans and catching passes from QB Ryan Fitzpatrick have put Kelley in what he calls the “best situation possible.” His agents have also helped his confidence. “They’ve made it clear that I will be in a camp. Not only that, they think that I have a shot at playing next year, and they’ve expressed that to me multiple times. They really believe that. I really believe that, so I really can’t ask for much more from agents.”

Holt is a small player from a small school, but he says that his stature has helped him prepare for the challenge. “Since I’ve been playing football at the age of five, I’ve really always been one of the smallest guys on the field. But when you’ve got technique – if you and a guy have the same type of talent, but my technique is better – then I win the fight every time. It’s just the fight in the person, and how hard they want to accomplish something. So I always have to prove myself, being a smaller person, and by proving myself, then I feel that I have overcome that task.”

In terms of the NFL labor situation, Holt said he can’t do much beyond waiting to see what happens. “I still have hope. I pray every day that somebody will pick me up. I know it’s getting real strenuous because of the lockout going on right now, and everybody thinks that the lockout will go on, but I’ve still got hope and I think something will give for me.”

For now, Ross called the lockout a wait-and-see situation. “I’m just kind of really focusing on the things I can control. Basically, I’m like, when it unlocks, it unlocks, and I’ll be ready when it does. The only thing I can control at this point is myself, and training to make sure I’m ready to go when that time comes.”

In some ways, Schiechl epitomizes this rookie draft class. He knows what it takes to improve as a player, and he has used all of his talents – including his experience as a high school wrestler – to do so. “Coming out of high school, I was only 6-1, 185 my senior year,” said the currently 6-2, 255-pound pass-rusher. “So, I mean, I was really undersized, and I played D-end my senior year. There were a lot of receivers out there bigger than me, so that’s probably why I wasn’t recruited.”

Given his strength and stats, Schiechl believes he can complete the journey from a lightly-recruited D-II player to the NFL. Like the hundreds of other undrafted players, though, he needs the lockout to end.

“I just can’t see it not getting resolved,” he said. “I think there’s too much at stake for football, and too much money involved with it, that I can’t see it not happening. And I’m pretty confident that once it starts back up I’m going to get a chance with someone, so I’m not too worried about it. I just hope it happens soon.”

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Patriots Daily Wicked Premature Roster Count

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Unlike past seasons where NFL teams could bring in rookie free agents, hold camps, and give their fans a general idea of what they might think of their personnel, 2011 has provided a unique opportunity for roster rationalists.

Below, we give our rundown of where we think New England’s lineup should reside come September.

OFFENSE

RUNNING BACKS (4) – Benjarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley

What’s new: Bill Belichick makes more cold calculations than an Arctic physicist, and this practice causes him to cut veteran Kevin Faulk. Fresh faces Vereen and Ridley replace old-timey vets Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Robert Hughes (FB), Notre Dame.

WIDE RECEIVERS (6) – Wes Welker, Deion Branch, Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, Matthew Slater

What’s new: Not much, to the chagrin of most Patriots fans looking to draft a speedy downfield threat. We’d like to take Slater off this list, mostly because in three seasons he has exactly as many NFL receptions as I do (i.e., zip). Still, special teams work keeps him here.

With his age and injury history, Branch seems most likely to get replaced by a free agent pickup.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Jeremy Ross, Cal.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9) – Dan Koppen, Sebastian Vollmer, Logan Mankins, Nate Solder, Mark LeVoir, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell, Nick Kaczur, Quinn Ojinnaka

What’s new: More youth! Stephen Neal retired. In our most noteworthy move so far, we’re letting go of Matt Light. This puts a lot of pressure on the rookie Solder, but giving him experience at left tackle gets the team primed for the playoffs. Kaczur’s experience inside and out gives him value. Rookie guard Marcus Cannon starts the season on the PUP list.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU.

TIGHT ENDS (4) – Rob Gronkowski, Alge Crumpler, Aaron Hernandez, Lee Smith

What’s new: The rookie Smith bolsters a crew that probably didn’t need a lot of bolstering, but 2010’s offense can maintain its formidable versatility through the tight ends. Crumpler stays as the veteran wrangler of the baby TEs.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Schuylar Oordt, Northern Iowa

QUARTERBACKS (3) – Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett

What’s new: Bill Belichick has kept only two QBs for too long; the rookie/perceived nitwit Mallett comes on as a future starter-in-training. No new player will get more closely analyzed this preseason – and no one else will deserve that scrutiny more.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M

Total Offense: 26

DEFENSE

DEFENSIVE LINE (8) – Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, Marcus Stroud, Eric Moore, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Ron Brace, Mike Wright

What’s new: We considered starting Mike Wright on the PUP list, only because his inability to recover from a head injury last season scares the bejeebus out of us. Saying hello to veteran Stroud makes us say goodbye to Gerard Warren. We’re hoping for continued improvement from Deaderick and Brace while also hoping that Moore’s production continues beyond one-year-wonder status.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Elisha Joseph, Temple.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) – Tully Banta-Cain, Rob Ninkovich, Jermaine Cunningham, Markell Carter

What’s new: If rookie Carter provides anything remotely resembling a pass rush, fans will have to feel pleased with the sixth-rounder. Meanwhile, the much-publicized, much-hoped-for Year Two Bump needs to happen for Cunningham. Moore can also put in some work here.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Marc Schiechl, Colorado School of Mines

INSIDE LINEBACKERS (4) – Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton, Dane Fletcher

What’s new: Nothing, which looks fine to us. We liked the addition of Fletcher’s athleticism in 2010. If Spikes can avoid the banned pharmaceuticals (not what most of us thought), this crew should have a hell of a year.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Mark Herzlich, Boston College

CORNERBACKS (5) – Leigh Bodden, Devin McCourty, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Ras-I Dowling

What’s new: The Jonathan Wilhite experience ends as the rookie Dowling comes in for playing time, relegating Arrington and Butler to backup/rotational duty. Not too shabby.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Darrin Walls, Notre Dame

SAFETIES (3) – Patrick Chung, James Sanders, Jarrad Page

What’s new: The Pro Bowl pedigree might not keep Brandon Meriweather around, so here’s hoping Chung and Sanders are up to the task. Page stays over Sergio Brown for his special teams prowess. We see rookie Malcolm Williams starting the season on the practice squad.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Jeron Johnson, Boise State

Total Defense: 24

SPECIAL TEAMS (3) – Stephen Gostkowski (K), Zoltan Mesko (P), Matt Katula (LS)

What’s new: Gostkowski’s back and as good as ever, we hope. We don’t remember calling Katula’s name last year, which is all we ask. Mesko’s around for the foreseeable future, to the joy of his fan club.

Rookie free agent worth looking at: Tom Mante, punter and kickoff specialist, Yale

Questions, comments, tirades? Let us know in the comment space below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Patriots Daily Q&A With Malcolm Williams

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

When New England took Malcolm Williams in the seventh round (219 overall), quite a few draft followers were surprised. That group included Williams himself.

The Texas Christian defensive back played two seasons for the Horned Frogs at safety and cornerback. A successful pro day put him on the NFL radar.

This past weekend, Williams spoke to PD about his unusual route to Foxboro, what he hopes to bring to the team, and his TCU teammate and fellow Patriots rookie Marcus Cannon.

Let’s talk about the draft and where you were when you heard that New England had picked you.

Patriots 7th Round Pick Malcolm Williams

Actually, me, my wife and my daughter, we were at the house, and we were watching Netflix. We weren’t really watching – I was keeping up with the draft on my phone, but we weren’t watching on TV. About pick 216, 217, Bill Belichick called me and he let me know that I was a part of the Patriot family.

So I was just chilling in the living room… I really wasn’t expecting it; I was just waiting on a lot of my friends to go who are also in the draft. I wasn’t expecting a call, and they gave me a shout. It was just – it was crazy.

Since then, have you talked to them? Have you gotten a sense of what they liked about you to pick you in the seventh?

Oh, no. The only contact I had with them was the day of the draft. That’s the last little bit of contact I had with them.

So, had you had any contact with the Patriots or any other teams prior to the draft?

No. I just heard word that the Texans were looking at me and the Patriots were looking at me. That’s really all I heard word of. But other than that, no.

Well, speaking of Texas, it seems like your journey to the pros was kind of unusual. Why don’t you talk a little bit about starting out at – is it South View Prairie?

South Grand Prairie, yeah.

South Grand Prairie, and your trip eventually to TCU and in the end to Foxboro?

Well, I started out at South Grand Prairie as a sophomore, and I played my sophomore, junior, senior year up there in football. And my senior year, I ended up becoming a 5A Defensive Player of the Year for the state of Texas… And then, I had a scholarship to Oklahoma – that’s who I ended up signing with out of high school was OU. I failed this thing called the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge Skills) test we have down here, it’s the entry-level test for the high school. So in the summer of ’07 I got my GED and enrolled at the junior college, so I sat the ’06 season out. I worked at the DFW airport.

Wow.

I worked there for six months. I was a bar back up there… The first few months, I didn’t know what I was going to do, because after I failed that last TAKS test, I was just stuck. I had to end up moving back home with my mom, and I went ahead and got me a job.

And Brad Smiley from Trinity Valley Community College, he gave me a call, and he was like, “I heard you don’t have a family.” And I said not right now. He said you have a family up here in Trinity Valley. And he explained to me what it was, where it was, Athens, Texas. So that’s how I ended up signing with Trinity Valley Community College to play my JUCO ball.

So you were working as a bar back at a bar at Dallas Fort Worth airport?

Yeah. From January until about June when I enrolled at summer school at Trinity Valley of ’07.

What was your day like? You just – were you working out? Were you planning on a future in football? What were you thinking?

Oh, I always worked out. I had a membership to a 24-hour fitness club, so I was always constantly working out. That call just came out of nowhere, at a time that it was really needed. Because I really didn’t know what I was going to do… I ended up at Trinity Valley, and from there, (Coach) Jarett Anderson from TCU, he was recruiting me, and he came up and got me into TCU.

I played two years there, mostly special teams. I didn’t play much defense, because I switched from safety my junior year to corner my senior year. It was learning back and forth, and I had people who were not necessarily more athletic than me, but more experienced, who knew the defense more. That’s why I didn’t get very much playing time at defense, but I did what I had to do on special teams, and I worked really hard and trained for my TCU pro day. I did pretty well at that, and that’s what I think I (got) drafted off of, pretty much.

When you were training for the pro day, was there any particular aspect of those drills that you were preparing for, or just everything in general?

Oh, it was just everything in general. Mostly, though, our strength and conditioning coach said the thing you need to worry about is your 40 (yard dash). Just get your 40 down. Your 40 needs to be low to be successful at the next level… So that’s what we worked on mostly, our 40s, our starts and just speed in general.

Do you think learning both safety and corner has helped you understand defense better overall?

Oh, yes sir. Most definitely. Because when I played safety, I would give a call out to the corner and really not know what he was doing until I moved to corner. Then, when that safety gave me a call, I was like, okay, it all comes into play right now. I see how it works. So, yeah, it does help me, playing safety one year and then corner the next year. It helped me out and helped me understand the defense more.

How do you – I know it’s tough to answer, because you haven’t really spoken to anybody – but what do you see as your role at the next level?

Wherever Bill Belichick wants me to play, I want to play. If he just wants me to run down on kickoffs and make tackles, hey, I’m going to do that. It doesn’t matter. If he wants me to block on punts, even return a punt, return a kickoff, block on kickoff: it doesn’t matter, wherever they put me. I’m a football player. I just want to play wherever, it doesn’t matter. Whatever my role is, then I’m going to fulfill it to the max.

Before you got the call from New England, you weren’t expecting to be drafted. Did you have a plan for afterward? Were you going to wait for calls, or maybe look at other leagues?

Well, throughout the whole process, me and my dad were looking for CFL tryouts or UFL tryouts, and I ended up attending three CFL tryouts and one UFL tryout. I did pretty well at that, so I was expecting if the draft didn’t work out, then I knew I’d get a call from one of these CFL teams because I did pretty well at all the combines I went to.

I mean, I had a Plan A and B going pretty well for me. It just so happens Plan A worked out. (Laughs.) I got drafted. So, I’m pretty happy about that.

Now, I know you were defense and Marcus Cannon was offense, but what can you tell Patriots fans about your new New England teammate?

Oh, Marcus Cannon, he’s a leader, he’s a hard worker. He’s going to work hard at all times. And he has his moments where he can be a big kid, but at the same time, he has his serious moments. He’s a fun character. There’s really nothing negative I can say about him – all positive stuff. So I’m just looking forward to playing with him again.

Excellent. That’s great. Well, I’m looking forward to seeing you up there, Malcolm. I hope it happens soon.

All right. Thank you.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Pats Post-Draft Scenarios: Undrafted Wish List

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Unlike past seasons where NFL teams could seek out undrafted players to fill out their camp rosters, rookie free agents have to sit and wait for the lockout to end.

Below we’ve listed some of those unpicked prospects whom we’d like to see get a shot in Foxboro.

Mark Herzlich, Boston College LB – Unbelievable that no team would spend even a seventh-round pick on this guy. He’s big (6-4, 245) and strong (29 bench reps of 225 pounds) and has been a stalwart on BC’s defense (65 tackles, four interceptions in 2010).

Having beaten cancer, you’d think he’d get a shot on his story alone. But Herzlich’s no pity pick: whatever team he decides to go to will be lucky to have him. Here’s hoping he finds a home at Foxboro this fall.

Jeremy Kelley, Maine WR/ST – Definitely something intriguing about this local athlete, a 6-6, 225-pound receiver who got on the field any way possible, from special teams to pass-rusher. His foot speed (6.60-second 3-cone drill) and suddenness (10-11 broad jump, 42-inch vertical) could get him into an NFL camp. We’d enjoy watching him at Gillette.

Marc Schiechl, Colorado School of Mines OLB – Schiechl gets the Dane Fletcher undrafted nod as the western school defensive end who absolutely killed at his pro day. The 6-2, 252-pound outside linebacker prospect had 38 bench reps and a 35-inch vertical, showing the athleticism that should get him an extra look from scouts.

Jeremy Ross, Cal WR – The Pats drafted his teammate Shane Vereen, and should take a shot at Ross. The receiver has good size at 6-0, 207 pounds, good speed with a 4.45 40, and good special teams prowess, leading Cal in punts. Productive, athletic and smart all have to be worth something, right?

Terrence Holt of Autin Peay

Terrence Holt, Austin Peay RB/RS – We first called Holt’s name in our Superlatives column as the Lil’ Danny Woodhead Award winner. The 5-8, 185-pound pocketknife led the Governors in rushing, receiving and returning. At the very least, that kind of production could make him a versatile addition to New England’s practice squad.

Cedric Thornton, Southern Arkansas DT – Considering the Pats went through defensive linemen last year the way I go through movie popcorn (and believe you me, that’s quick), Thornton (6-3, 310) could bolster the D-line. In eight games last year Thornton had 52 tackles, including 13 for losses.

Jake Kirkpatrick, TCU C – He’s not huge (6-2, 300) nor Herculean (25 bench reps), but Kirkpatrick is consistent. His winning the Rimington Award for the nation’s best college center says all we need to know.

Jeron Johnson, Boise State FS – The 5-10, 212-pound Johnson led Boise State in tackles for the past three years and started 44 games over his Broncos career. Though not the fastest, he put up a respectable 4.5-second 40.

Darrin Walls, Notre Dame CB – Walls had the type of pro day that will get him onto an NFL practice field. Why not New England’s?

He submitted a 4.42 40, a 6.88 3-cone drill, and 10-2 broad jump. With the success of former Irish safety Sergio Brown coming onto the club as a rookie free agent last year, the Patriots must be looking Walls’ way.

Any players whose names went uncalled on draft weekend you’d like to see at Gillette? Please let us know below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Patriots Daily Q&A With Stevan Ridley

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

New England took LSU running back Stevan Ridley in the third round, 73rd overall. The 225-pound back looks to complement the Patriots’ versatile stable of ball carriers.

Ridley had a breakout 2010, gaining over 1,100 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. His success compelled him to declare for the NFL draft after his junior year.

Third Round Pick Stevan Ridley

In his interview with PD, Ridley discussed his decision to declare early, his consistent impressions of the Patriots, and a certain position he will not be playing at Gillette this fall.

Tell me about your decision to leave early. It certainly seemed to pay off, and I wonder what went into that decision?

Oh, you know, I really had to weigh it out, man. I looked at it, how much it would benefit me to come back and play another year at LSU. The thing is, I’m a redshirt junior, so I played four years at LSU. If I was to come back next year and really try to up my stock, you know, and get my value that much higher, I’d have to have a 1,400 or 1,500 yard season. Everyone knows that LSU has been known for rotating backs since way back. They always rotate running backs, there are always three or four backs in the backfield. My chances of getting the carries I need to get for a 1,400 or 1,500 yard season to make me a for-sure first-rounder – the chances of that are kind of slim… And also, what happened to (former LSU running back) Charles Scott the last year, going out and getting hurt, then going from a second- or third-rounder to a free agent.

So, there’s always a risk coming back for your senior year. It was just a gamble that I didn’t want to take. You know, my stock was high enough. I had a draft projection, and I ended up going in the third round, and I was satisfied with that. It’s not about where you get in, it’s what you do once you get in the league.

Maybe something the scouts were wary about is that you really didn’t have much production (overall), but you didn’t really get much of a chance. Do you think that’s a credit to the backs ahead of you, or do you think you’re a much better back now than you were a year ago?

Oh, I think I’m a much better back than I was a few years ago, because I didn’t get the opportunities I felt I should have, you know what I mean? It was just – everybody thinks that they’re going to come in and play right away. That’s what everybody says when they come into the program: “I’m going to go in there and start; I’m going to go in there and play.” But in reality, it’s all about timing. You have to know that playbook. You have to be comfortable in that playbook and know everything that’s going on. And once you do that, you put yourself into that playbook all the way. You know everything about it.

So, it was just all about timing. The right time for me was when I was getting to know that system. I had to buy into that, and I hated waiting it out and doing that, but I think it made me a better runner because when I got my chance, I made the most of my opportunities.

I’m wondering what you’ve been able to learn about the Patriots offense and what you’re able to do there?

I really haven’t learned much because they can’t give us any playbooks or anything like that during the lockout period. I really haven’t had that much time to get into the playbook or even have a chance to look at it. I do know they’re going to need a downhill back, someone to come in there and help out with their running game. They’ve got some veterans in there. Kevin Faulk came from LSU. They’ve got a backfield full. There’s a running back in front of me, so there’s going to be a lot of backs in there battling it out for playing time this year.

What were your impressions of the Patriots before the draft, and what are your impressions now?

It’s kind of the same. You know, the Patriots are a winning program. That’s somewhere where they’re expected to be deep in the playoffs or in the Super Bowl every year. So I know if I can go up there and play and produce, I’ve got a good chance to win a Super Bowl, man. It’s just – that’s part of going to the Patriots and playing with arguably the best quarterback in the NFL right now. Coach Belichick is an awesome coach, and I’m going to a wonderful system.

I mean, going from LSU to New England, I couldn’t ask for any better fit. I think the expectations are probably equally high in both places. Because at LSU, the fans aren’t happy unless we’re winning a national championship every year, and in New England, they’re expecting Super Bowls. So, I know I have to go up there and work hard in whatever I do, in whatever role they ask me to fill in New England.

Speaking of LSU, was that your main college? Was that the big school you were looking at?

Oh, definitely. Definitely, because they were the most successful. You know, they won. I wanted to come to a winning team. I wanted to come somewhere where I had a chance to win a national championship, and I fell into a national championship my freshman year.

And what’s that like?

I mean, it just kind of installed a hunger in me. Winning a national championship as a freshman, I really didn’t play that much, but I watched guys like Jacob Hester and Matt Flynn and Quinn Johnson, people like that going in and producing and leading our team – Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson – those are the types of guys that you have to have in order to win a championship.

I think that’s what I’m going into with the Patriots. I’m falling into a system where they have a lot of veterans in key positions, and they know what it takes to win championships up in New England.

Now, in high school, you played a lot of different positions. Is that correct?

Yeah, in high school, man, I played pretty much everywhere. For me, I think that’s what really helped me out in my career to where I’m at now, because I was so versatile. In high school, I had to play quarterback, running back, receiver. I played linebacker; I played safety. I played nose guard early on. You know, playing at a small school, a lot of people said that would hurt me, but I really think it helped me. It kept my body fresh. I did not get all that wear and tear on my body in high school. Then in college, to get one full year playing in the SEC, that helped me out also, not having the beating and the wear and tear there.

I really am – I’m in a good position going into the NFL to go up there and, hopefully, just have a long career. But I know that can’t happen unless I prepare myself and really buy into that system.

So, after playing quarterback, it looks like you’re going to probably be running the Wildcat for the Patriots, right?

(Laughs.) I wouldn’t say that much. I don’t think the Patriots have a Wildcat in their playbook at all. I mean, with Tom Brady in there, I think it’s really just a blessing to be able to fall in with a quality quarterback like that. I don’t think they’re going to need me for the Wildcat.

Where were you when you found out you got drafted?

I was actually at home. We were having a cookout with the family and some of my close friends. My high school coach came, and also some of my high school teammates, my family from Jackson and Georgia. And also my family that’s in Natchez, Mississippi. I mean, everybody was there. My dad came down from Chicago. It was a good time for my family and also for me to really enjoy that moment and that turn in my career.

That’s excellent. Well, welcome to New England. I hope you get a chance to get up here soon.

I appreciate it. I appreciate it.

Fans can check out Ridley’s Facebook page at facebook.com/stevanridley or his Twitter account at twitter.com/stevanridley.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Pats Draft Review: No Rush To Judgment

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Okay, kids. A quick review of this year’s draft haul.

ROUND ONE: (17) Nate Solder, Colorado OT

Second Round Pick Ras-I Dowling (#19)

ROUND TWO: (33) Ras-I Dowling, Virginia CB; (56) Shane Vereen, Cal RB

ROUND THREE: (73) Stevan Ridley, LSU RB; (74) Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB

ROUND FIVE: (138) Marcus Cannon, TCU OG; (159) Lee Smith, Marshall TE

ROUND SIX: (194) Markell Carter, Central Arkansas OLB

ROUND SEVEN: (219) Malcolm Williams, TCU DB

WHAT’S GREAT: In and of itself (a phrase to remember), the drafting of Solder can help the team for years to come. He’s huge (over 6-foot-8) and has the athleticism of a former hoops player. If he can pick up the offense and strengthen his upper body, he’ll prove himself as the right pick.

We’re also high on Vereen. He’s compact and strong (31 bench reps at the combine). During interviews, he said he prides himself on his pass protection, which we’re sure Tom Brady enjoyed hearing. Though he projects as a third-down specialist, his versatility makes him a threat on every down.

WHAT’S GOOD: New England needed another big back, and – even if he was taken a round or two higher than expected – Ridley fits well in a complementary role. We worry about his limited carries at LSU before 2010, but we can’t argue with a 225-pound back who gained 1,147 yards this past season vs. SEC defenses.

Dowling fell down draft boards due to an injury-prone 2010. Again, in and of itself, getting a top DB with the 33rd pick seems like a solid move. We also know Bill Belichick got the ultimate scouting report from his pal, former Virginia coach Al Groh.

Though it might take some time to witness Cannon’s on-field ability before he addresses his medical concerns, we like drafting him for myriad reasons. The Brobdingnagian brawler (6-5, 358 pounds) should be able to make a path through opposing defenses. His current situation (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) stinks, but he has a 90 percent chance of recovery. The Patriots did the proper thing here.

MEH: We don’t know how much Smith can bring to the team, unless Belichick is subtly encouraging veteran tight end Alge Crumpler to explore other NFL cities (a plan we do not endorse). Smith might end up as a contributor, but we’d hate to mess with the best tight end combo the Patriots have had in recent memory.

Williams is a clear case of the Patriots wanting to get a potential rookie free agent into camp because the lockout prevents them from signing undrafted players. He has been described as “another Matthew Slater.” We’re not sure how to feel about that.

Carter did some damage as a defensive end in college (19 tackles for loss in 2010). We like his size (6-4, 252) and his production for the Bruins; we’re just not sure how it translates to the NFL level. It does give us a bit of hope that Central Arkansas alum Jacob Ford has had some success with the Titans (15.5 sacks in three years).

Hey, who knows? Carter could become the best pass-rusher on the team. Speaking of which…

WHAT’S CONFUSING: Hmm, let’s see. I knew there was something I wanted to… HOW ABOUT DRAFTING A TOP PASS RUSHER? HUH? WHY NOT DRAFT A PROVEN SACK GUY FOR ONCE? WHAT DO WE HAVE TO DO?

HELLO? IS THIS THING ON?

Sorry, sorry. Had to get that out of my system. Let’s just say that if Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Jordan, Jabaal Sheard or Brooks Reed end up with double-digit sacks this season, the words “value” and “draft” should only be used to promote two-for-one beer night.

We’re also confused by the Mallett selection. With his past drug use and rumors of poor behavior, he doesn’t seem like a Patriots guy.

We’re not saying he can’t be a good player or that he can’t turn himself around; we’re just pointing out that it seems weird.

WHAT’S TERRIBLE: Actually, nothing. Nothing looks terrible in this draft. From top to bottom, it’s fine. Perfectly fine.

And there lies the problem.

This was the year where the Patriots seemed lined up to wheel and deal for the now; instead, they prepared for 2012 and beyond.

By doing so, they raised questions about 2011.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: Day One Reaction

By Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Well, if it’s any consolation, this is how we felt after the Pats drafted Devin McCourty.

Patriots First Round Draft Pick Nate Solder

Instead of going with the one glaring need of pass rusher at 17 and thrilling fans in the process, Bill “Ebenezer” Belichick got Nate Solder, a big offensive tackle who will probably need a year or two to become a solid starter.

Watching a Patriots draft feels like eating those super sour candies: it takes a second for the full effect, and you want to like it, but you’re not quite sure if you do.

Fans hoped the team would use the first round to fill a need they’ve had for years. With defenders like Adrian Clayborn (Tampa) and Cameron Jordan (New Orleans) still available, that looked promising. Nope.

At 28, the Pats had a shot at a D-lineman like Muhammad Wilkerson (Jets) but traded that pick to New Orleans for a second-rounder (56 overall) and a 2010 first-rounder.

Ah, another first-rounder next year. We wonder what they’ll get in exchange for that pick?

At the end of Day One, it looks like this draft will provide some solid game day contributors and extra trades in 2012. Too bad they need help in 2011. Here’s hoping they get results on Day Two.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Chris Warner’s Patriots Draft Central

Editor’s note: This year the format of our draft coverage has been somewhat different than in past years. Rather than player interviews (and to our chagrin, not a single player PD interviewed ended up getting drafted by the Patriots), Chris Warner led a one-man charge into examining the NFL draft from as many possible angles as possible.

Here are the results.

Pats Draft Scenarios: Day One - Who might the Patriots take on day one?

Pats Draft Scenarios: Day Two How about day two?

Pats Draft Scenarios: Day Three Day three, anyone?

Pats Draft Scenarios: The Perfect Mock Draft – Chris would like to see things fall this way.

Pats Draft Scenarios: Pro Day Pop-Ups – Who impressed at various Pro Days?

Pats Draft Scenarios: Picks To Avoid – Please, please, please don’t take these guys.

Pats Draft Scenarios: Please Don’t Take Offense – We’re all set there, thanks.

Pats Draft Scenarios: Six For The Sixth – Longshots, but still intriguing.

Pats Draft Scenarios: Testing, 1-2-3 – Who tested the best at the combine?

Pats Draft Scenarios: In Belichick We Trust, Mostly – He’s going to trade, I just know it…

Pats Draft Scenarios: A Primer – What do the Patriots need, and what are the strengths of this draft?

Pats Draft Scenarios: The Machines Take Over – What happens if we take the national mock drafts, and combine them?

Pats Draft Scenarios: Local Talent – Who are the kids from local colleges that might get drafted?

Pats Draft Scenarios: The Too-Early Mock – A very early edition of the mock.

The NFL Draft: Superlatives – You remember your high school superlatives? “Most Likely to Succeed” etc? Chris names the superlatives of the 2011 NFL draft class.

We’ll also include the detailed positional reviews from the in-season “College Scout” series from Greg Doyle

College Scout – Quarterbacks

College Scout – Running Backs

College Scout – Wide Receivers

College Scout – Tight Ends

College Scout – Offensive Line

College Scout – Defensive Linemen

College Scout – Inside Linebackers

College Scout – Cornerbacks

College Scout – Safeties

College Scout – Special Teamers

College Scout – QB and RB Review

With all of these post, if you see a player of interest, look at the bottom of the post, and you’ll see all players mentioned in the post tagged. Click on the tag, and you’ll be brought to a list of all articles on Patriots Daily that mention that player.

Pats Draft Scenarios: Local Talent

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

A brief look at some local college talent with chances to hook on with NFL teams this spring.

BOSTON COLLEGE – Beyond offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and linebacker/inspirational-sports-movie-waiting-to-happen Mark Herzlich (a New England fan favorite), the Eagles could place a few more players into the league next year.

Candidates include tackle Damik Scafe and defensive end Alex Albright. Scafe anchored BC’s defensive line at 6-2, 300 pounds. At the Eagle’s pro day, Albright (6-4, 250) displayed solid quickness, including a 4.03-second 20-yard shuttle.

UCONN – A lot of Huskies look to make their mark in the NFL. At the top, there’s running back Jordan Todman, who is graded as a Day Two prospect. In the middle rounds, look for outside linebackers Lawrence Wilson and Scott Lutrus, productive, speedier guys who fit a 4-3 defense.

Keeping the Pats in mind, Todman and offensive guard Zach Hurd seem to fit best on New England’s roster. Meanwhile, fullback Anthony Sherman might find a spot on a team willing to devote a spot to that position.

On to standouts from some of the region’s smaller programs…

DARTMOUTH – Charles Bay, DE:

Charles Bay of Dartmouth

Bay put up solid numbers at his pro day, including a 10-foot broad jump and 25 bench press reps. The 6-2, 250-pounder should get to show off his stuff at an NFL camp this spring.

HARVARD – Collin Zych, SS: An impressive pro day,  including a 4.45-second 40, will get Zych a second look from scouts.

MAINE – Wide receiver Jeremy Kelley has one of the more compelling stories going into this week. Kelley possesses the size (6-6, 225) and quickness (3.89 20-yard shuttle, 6.60 3-cone) to make an impression. Even more intriguing: somehow he went all of 2010 without catching a pass, getting on the field as a special-teamer and occasional pass rusher.

One Kelley fact of interest to Pats fans: in the off-season he works out with fellow upstate New Yorker Rob Gronkowski.

Other Black Bears getting consideration are outside linebacker Mark Masterson (6-2, 240), and receivers Tyrell Jones (6-2, 204) and Desmond Randall (5-11, 185, 36-inch vertical).

UMASS – Interesting that two candidates below transferred from Northeastern (or maybe not that interesting. Whatever). Offensive guard Greg Niland worked out at BC’s pro day. The 6-4, 300-pounder did well for himself, running a 5.07-second 40 and putting up 27 bench reps.

Running back John Griffin ran a 4.57 at the BC pro day, adding a 36-inch vertical and 6.82-second 3-cone drill for good measure. At 5-11, 205 pounds, Griffin averaged five yards per carry for the Minutemen.

Though his slow 40 will turn off some scouts, receiver Anthony Nelson (5-9, 185) deserves mention here. He not only led the team with 61 catches, he averaged over 25 yards per punt return and 27 yards per kick return.

NEW HAMPSHIRE – Hugo Souza, SS: Souza (5-11, 212) made the All-Colonial Athletic Association First Team. He had 82 tackles in 2010.

RHODE ISLAND – Outside linebacker Victor Adesanya (6-3, 227) made the All-CAA First Team, leading the Rams in sacks along with four QB hits and three forced fumbles. At his pro day, he ran a 4.62 40 and leapt a 36.5-inch vertical.

Sure, linebacker Matt Hansen may look small (5-11, 230), but so does dynamite. Hansen led URI with 114 tackles last season. If you want to watch Hansen put up 26 reps at his pro day, click here.

YALE – Chris Blohm, tight end: The 6-4, 260-pound Blohm showed his strength (30 bench reps) at his pro day and his hands (26 receptions) throughout the season.

Team captain Tom McCarthy fits the part of a college defensive end at 6-5, 265. His 4.72-second 40 and a 35-inch vertical jump put him in line with other outside linebacker candidates. In 2010 he led Yale with four sacks and three forced fumbles.

Any local college candidates you think deserve a mention here, dear readers, please comment below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Patriots Draft Scenarios: In Belichick We Trust, Mostly

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

This season on PD, we’ve shown different scenarios of how we think the Patriots draft will go, and how we want it to go. Now, armed with updated pro day info and a different week’s perspective, we revisit how April 28-30 will go down.

New England has six picks in the first three rounds (say them with me, people: 17, 28, 33, 60, 74, 92) and one pick in each of the following three. The Patriots have selected 24 rookies over the past two years, 17 of whom remain on the roster.

In short, youth has been served; at this point, quality rules over quantity.

A review of the second round of the 2009 draft helps us predict Bill Belichick’s draft tendencies. He traded down for safety Patrick Chung, a potential long-term starter at Foxboro, then fulfilled a defensive line need with Ron Brace.

Belichick later grabbed cornerback Darius Butler, whom many saw as a first-round talent. Finally, he surprised New England fans by taking offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer, an under-the-radar prospect who quickly became a starter.

The second round yielded two starters (Chung, Vollmer), one contributor (Brace), and Butler, who may not pan out for the team despite coming in as the highest-rated of the bunch.

Based on that round, let’s predict the Patriots 2011 draft.

FIRST PICK (17 and 33) – Belichick will trade up for the pass rusher he wants here. As much as we’ve been begging for UNC’s Robert Quinn, we can more safely predict that Cal’s Cameron Jordan gets the call.

At 6-4, 285 pounds, Jordan can rush the passer as a down end or contain the run as a 3-4 outside linebacker. That flexibility makes him an every-down player and gives opposing offenses something else to think about.

SECOND PICK (28) – Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin. New England’s O-line needs help and Carimi can provide it, as he was the best on the Badgers’ formidable front in 2010.

In the past we would have liked to see a defensive end drafted here, but Jordan gives the Pats some leeway to improve the other side of the ball.

THIRD PICK (60) – Running back DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma. Here’s where we differ with Coach Belichick. We see plenty of backfield talent available on Day Three, and would seek defensive help here. However, Murray’s speed (4.38 40) and production (school record 6,626 career all-purpose yards) bring him to the Pats in the second round.

While recent pro day results have many looking at Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones in this area of the draft (including a 4.33 40 and a 39.5-inch vertical), Jones’ double-digit fumbles over the past two seasons (danger!) will keep him out of a Pats uniform.

FOURTH PICK (74) – Defensive lineman Terrell McClain, South Florida. The word “explosive” gets thrown around in sports the same way “genius” gets used in Hollywood: far too often. Still, McClain’s physical nature fits the description. At 6-2, 295 pounds, he ran a 4.85-second 40, faster than most fullback candidates.

Though we’d look for a taller candidate to fill out the defensive end spot, McClain’s (wait for it…) explosiveness will entice Belichick to draft him here.

FIFTH PICK (92) – receiver Greg Salas, Hawaii. Now, if we were picking, Edmund Gates of Abilene Christian would wind up in Foxboro. Gates has breakneck speed that can open up the field.

Salas lacks that straight-line zip, but he has mid-range quickness and a knack for getting open that Belichick will appreciate, as will a certain someone whose name rhymes with Pom Shady.

SIXTH PICK (125) – Traded for future considerations. Let’s face it: when it comes to Belichick and trades, the man can’t help himself.

So, let’s try that again…

SIXTH PICK (159) – Outside linebacker Bruce Miller, Central Florida. The Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year proved a nightmare for opposing defenses. His size (6-1, 254) will keep him on the board late, but his strength (35 bench reps) and his tenacity (watch him wreak havoc here) will make him a contributor on any 3-4 defense as an outside linebacker convert.

SEVENTH PICK (193) – Offensive lineman Andrew Jackson, Fresno State. The 2009 All-WAC guard spent most of this past season injured, pushing back his status to later on Day Three.

Jackson tossed up 225 pounds 25 times at the combine. Besides having a historical name, he plays for old Belichick pal Pat Hill at Logan Mankins’ alma mater. None of that hurts.

FREE AGENTS – With only seven picks taken in this year’s draft (we hope), the Pats will need some players to round out rookie camp. We offer some prime choices below.

Running back Terrence Holt, Austin Peay. Holt already made our superlatives list as the Danny Woodhead of 2011 (he’s 5-7, 185). We’d like nothing better than for the Pats to give him a shot. The running back/returner did yeoman work for the Governors this past season, leading the team in rushing, receiving and return yards (averaging 23.4 per kickoff).

For confirmation that kick and punt returns can be the most exciting plays in football, watch Holt here.

Tackle David Mims, Virginia Union. He’s about as raw as a fresh egg, but who better to deal with young linemen than Belichick and Coach Dante Scarnecchia? Having size (6-8, 331) and strength (29 bench reps) adds a ton of potential.

Receiver Jeremy Ross, California. Ross led the Golden Bears in punt return yardage and, at 6-0, 209 pounds, qualifies as a bigger wideout in New England (aka Receiver Lilliput). His speed (4.44 40) and – dare I say it – explosiveness ( 39-inch vertical) should get him a look.

If you want a look, see his highlights here.

Defensive tackle Elisha Joseph, Temple. Though he got overlooked in favor of teammate Muhammad Wilkerson, Joseph’s pro day turned heads. He benched 225 pounds 43 times (whoa) and managed to hurl his 295-pound body 28 inches skyward (yeesh). If he goes undrafted, he should get a call from Foxboro.

Cornerback Darrin Walls, Notre Dame. The Pats found success signing Irish safety Sergio Brown last year, so why not return to South Bend for his battery mate? Walls managed a 4.42 40 at his pro day and showed good quickness. He had three interceptions and four pass breakups this past season.

Middle Linebacker Cobrani Mixon, Kent State. New England got their money’s worth out of Kent State alum Julian Edelman; look for them to invite this All-MAC Football first-teamer to camp. The 6-1, 245-pound Mixon ran a 4.68 40 and had 33 bench reps at his pro day. In 2010 he had 82 tackles, including 6.5 sacks.

You can see Mixon’s pass-rushing ability in his highlight reel.

Well, dear readers, any thoughts on this year’s draft – or any players we should be looking out for – please let us know in the comment section below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

The NFL Draft: Superlatives

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Tired of seeing the same old names on your draft list? Try these special players on for size. And strength. And speed.

Winged Mercury Award: The fastest player at the combine this year was Miami defensive back Demarcus Van Dyke, who blazed a 4.28-second 40. Because speed isn’t an issue, at 6-1, 176 pounds, perhaps Demarcus should consider making a regular appearance at his local Sunday buffet.

Hercules, Hercules Award: Oregon State defensive tackle Stephen Paea bench pressed 225 pounds 49 times. Coincidentally, that’s 49 times more than I’ve bench pressed anything over the past three years.

I guess that’s not coincidental. Ah, well.

Refutin’ Newton Award: Highest vertical jump at the combine went to Virgil Green at 42.5 inches. That, plus his 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump can be witnessed on this clip, where Green appears to float.

Some have associated Green’s name with the Pats. I don’t see that happening, but whoever gets him has a surefire jump ball play near the goal line.

Highest pro day vertical went to Arizona running back Nic Grigsby, who leapt – wait for it – 43.5 inches and broad jumped 11 feet. Now that’s just silly.

Catch That Chicken, Rocky Award: You want quick? Sure. Somehow Oregon receiver Jeff Maehl maneuvered through the 3-cone drill in 6.42 seconds. For perspective, Julian Edelman (no slowpoke himself) timed at 6.62.

Maehl looks like the type of quick-footed, overachieving receiver we could root for. Unless he goes to the Colts. Or the Jets. Or – you know what? Forget it.

Beanpole Award: Wide receiver Mantwan Harris of Albany State (GA) is listed at 6-4, 183 pounds. Thus concludes everything we know about Mantwan Harris.

Lil’ Danny Woodhead Award: This one goes to tiny Terrence Holt, Austin Peay running back. At 5-5, 175 pounds, Holt makes Woodhead look like a linebacker.

Like Woodhead, though, Holt has an outside chance to make the NFL. He led the Governors in rushing (5.4 yards per carry) and kickoff returns (over 1,100 yards total).

Jupiter Award for Best Gravitational Pull: At first we figured defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis of Hampton had the prize at 346 pounds, but then we discovered offensive lineman Cedric Mack of Florida International, who brings it home at 351.

Hey, Cedric. Have you met Demarcus Van Dyke? I didn’t think so.

Brobdingnagian Award: Biggest overall goes to an offensive lineman (yeah, go figure). Josh Davis of Georgia measured in at 6-7, 331 pounds.

For perspective, think of Glen “Big Baby” Davis on the Celtics. Now lop off two inches of height and add over 40 pounds. Low post player, indeed.

Flyweight Award: With all the heft of an electron, Henry Sailes, Tennessee Tech running back (5-6, 169) averaged over 19 yards per punt return for the Golden Eagles.

If you’ve got 22 minutes, you can see all the Sailes highlights you could ever want here. That’s right: 22 minutes. Pass the peanuts, it’s going to be a while.

Wait a minute: did Cedric Mack eat all the peanuts?

Best Football Name: We settled on Bubba Bartlett of Carroll College of Montana. As we remain suckers for alliteration, backfield Bubba bestowed blessings by being a bruising ball-player. He’s a fullback candidate at 6-1, 237.

Any pro day standouts who bested the combine numbers listed above, any all-name candidates or any physical specimens that catch your eye, please let us know.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]