November 26, 2014

Pats Draft Scenarios: Testing, 1-2-3

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

As someone who has pored over combine and pro-day results over the past month, it’s worth taking a closer look at the impact of those numbers.

Let’s say, for example, you want the Patriots to draft a player like Alabama’s Mark Ingram.

I give you a prolific SEC running back, 5-11, 219 pounds, who ran a 40 in the 4.5-second range and bench pressed 225 pounds 24 times.

Sounds great. Except I just described BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Compare results from Green-Ellis’ combine to those of Ingram. Green-Ellis is over an inch taller and four pounds heavier. They have similar 40 times and bench press results (Green-Ellis tallied four more reps). Green-Ellis has a quicker shuttle time; Ingram wins the 3-cone drill.

Yet Green-Ellis never got drafted. By contrast, Ingram should get picked in the first round.

You can do this with most young New England players.

Look at Miami receiver Leonard Hankerson’s numbers and compare them to the results of Taylor Price. Exact same 40 time (4.40). Off by one-hundredth of a second in the 10- and 20- yard dashes. Minimal differences in all other results.

Coming out of a weak passing school in the MAC, Price played one game for New England in 2010. We expect Hankerson to put in significant minutes right away, but it’s not because he’s faster or quicker.

When it comes to putting too much credence in testing, I declare myself as guilty as anyone. Last year, a 46-inch vertical leap compelled me to interview Kent State tight end Jameson Konz.

Measuring 6-2, 209 pounds and running a 4.40 40 were enough to get me chasing Northwestern State receiver Dudley Guice for an interview in 2009 (one of my favorites, by the way).

Testing will cause teams to draft athletic freak Justin Houston too high while overlooking tenacious defenders like Central Florida’s Bruce Miller or Boston College’s Mark Herzlich.

Watch any highlight reel of those players and tell me whom you’d want on your team.

(Miller and Herzlich, that’s who. What, you’re not paying attention?)

We’ll continue comparing and contrasting combine and pro day results to get some kind of feel for who’s coming to Foxboro. That’s what we do.

Just please keep that in mind when our sleeper picks end up playing for the UFL next season.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: Six For The Sixth

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Maybe you have a draft-eligible player in mind right now staying under the radar. And maybe you feel a connection with that guy, kind of like how you felt about that band you discovered before their hit single.

Six months from now you’ll be saying, “You know, I always liked that guy.”

Coach Bill Belichick and his staff have had some success drafting in the sixth round and later. Looking over the indispensable timewaster – a draft history on patriots.com – we see quite a few late-round standouts over the past 11 years.

These include seventh-rounders Patrick Pass (2000), David Givens (2002), Tully Banta-Cain (2003), Matt Cassel (2005), Julian Edelman (2009) and Brandon Deaderick (2010).

Sixth-rounders Myron Pryor (2009) and a Certain Special Quarterback (2000) prove that Patriots fans should pay attention to any late Day Three picks on Saturday, April 23.

With past success in mind, we’ve found some potential picks worth a look for New England’s sixth-rounder, number 193 overall.

Aldrick Robinson, SMU WR: Teams may overlook Robinson for his smallish size (5-10, 184), but they’ll find it difficult to ignore his speed (4.35-second 40) and athleticism (40-inch vertical, 6.65-second 3-cone drill). Plus, the dude had 1,301 receiving yards in 2010.

I don’t care if you’re in Conference USA or a community flag football team, that’s an impressive stat.

USC's Allen Bradford

Allen Bradford, USC RB: Having failed to follow Southern Cal for the whole season, Bradford’s past year mystifies me. He led the Trojans with 7.2 yards per carry, but didn’t get the ball as much as junior Marc Tyler. Coach Lane Kiffin never stated a specific reason that Bradford, a senior, didn’t start more.

Meh, the mysteries of life. Here’s what we do know: 5-11, 242, a 4.53 40 and 28 bench reps. If Bradford remains available in the sixth round and New England doesn’t nab him, they must know more than I do.

I suppose that’s a given, but whatever.

Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M QB: A guilty pleasure here, as Johnson’s size (6-5, 250) and arm strength have me intrigued. He set several passing records at A&M, which seems akin to setting decibel records in a library, but as a junior he did throw his first 225 passes without an interception.

Maurice Hurt, Florida OL: Two things help the guard’s chances to make it to New England: one, Coach Belichick has a long-standing relationship with the Florida program; two, Hurt played all along the Gators’ line this past season.

While Hurt probably won’t be drafted, I could have said the same thing about Cassel or Edelman or Givens. The Patriots need O-line help; Hurt’s the kind of guy they could bring in with a late pick.

Plus, think of the headline possibilities: “Pats Need To Play Hurt.” I mean, come on.

We know that New England always has their eye on defensive end converts, from the drafting of SMU defensive end Justin Rogers as a sixth-rounder in 2006 to taking on Dane Fletcher as an undrafted free agent last year.

Below are two of similar types of players to consider.

Gabe Miller, Oregon State DE/OLB: We mentioned Miller in our pro day standouts piece in March and think he’s worth another take. The 6-3, 250-pound pass rusher ran a 4.62 40 and timed at 6.97 seconds in the 3-cone drill. Considering he switched from tight end to defensive end his junior year, Miller’s got an upside like a mountain.

Marc Schiechl, Colorado School of Mines DE/OLB: Yes, you read that right. Colorado School of Mines (Go Orediggers!)

Schiechl measures 6-2, 252 and ran a 4.65 40. He also benched 225 pounds 38 times (that’s right: 30 plus eight) and had a 35-inch vertical. Who knows where the career sacks record-holder in Division II will end up, but it looks like he can put that mining-related job on hold for a little while.

You can email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: The Perfect Mock Draft

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

We’ve gone over New England’s first six draft positions enough that it feels like we’ve been sent to Store 24 to play the lottery: 17, 28, 33, 60, 74, 92. With final selections in place, we now know that the Pats pick at 125 (fourth round), 159 (fifth) and 193 (sixth).

Time for our first Perfect Pats Mock. These aren’t necessarily the players that we think Bill Belichick will select (those can be found in a previous column); rather, these are the players we want him to pick.

The positions New England needs guided our thinking. You know, because we’ve had such good luck with that in the past…

Iowa's Adrian Clayborn

17 – Pass rusher: Adrian Clayborn, Iowa. We took a long look at Ryan Kerrigan (who may or may not make it past Carolina at 16), but we like Clayborn for his heft (6-3, 281) and explosiveness (7.08 seconds in his pro-day 3-cone). Watch his highlight reel – more like a “focus reel,” actually – of Clayborn vs. Wisconsin’s Gabe Carimi. While the All-American tackle walls off Clayborn effectively in the first few plays, the pass-rusher demonstrates his burst during a strip-sack.

That ability to get to the QB against fierce competition puts this Hawkeye on our wish list. It doesn’t hurt that a) Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz has worked with Belichick; and b) the Patriots worked out Clayborn this month.

28 – Defensive End: Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple. Good size (6-4, 310) and strength (27 bench reps) bring Wilkerson to the top of our DE list at this point of the draft. While we’ve lauded the work of Cameron Heyward of Ohio State, Wilkerson played tackle in a four-man front before switching to a 3-4 defensive end his senior year. His frame and experience point to versatility that Heyward may lack.

With the top defensive needs addressed (you’re welcome), time to turn to the other side of the ball.

33 – Offensive Lineman: Derek Sherrod, Mississippi State. Lots to like about Mr. Sherrod, especially his size (6-5, 320) and experience (first-team All-SEC). Sherrod helped the Bulldogs lead the conference in rushing and started 34 games in his college career.

Carimi will be long gone by pick 33, but Sherrod could contribute this coming season.

60 – Wide receiver: Edmund Gates, Abilene Christian. You may want to mock Division II Abilene Christian (Go Wildcats!), but do so knowing that Bears receiver Johnny Knox went there. Gates had similar speed (a 4.35 40 compared to Knox’s 4.29).

New England’s receiver group reminds me of a bees in a box: they can move quickly, but they don’t go very far. Defenses counteract that quickness by flooding the short zones with personnel. One burner can force opponents to re-think their strategy. Gates might be that one.

74 – Running back: Delone Carter, Syracuse. Carter increased his profile by improving his 40 time from 4.54 seconds at the combine to 4.43 at his pro day. He fits the mold as a consistent contributor on an inconsistent team, rising to the occasion in the Orangemen’s bowl game with 198 rushing yards. Getting named MVP of the East-West Shrine Game heightened his status. Speaking of height, don’t let 5-foot-9 fool you. At 222 pounds, he can bowl over opponents. Hence the nickname “Candlepin Carter.”

A nickname I just gave him, mind you. And a catchy one at that.

92 – Cornerback: Buster Skrine, Tennessee-Chattanooga. Because his name sounds like “screen,” we can look forward to plenty of pun-filled headlines with the 5-10, 195-pound phantom. (“Skrine Pass.” There. It’s done.) His 40 time (4.37) and 3-cone drill (6.44) have put lots of eyes on the Southern Conference star. Special teams prowess only adds to his luster, as seen on his highlight reel.

Coach Belichick worked him out last week after Patriots Daily had mentioned Skrine in a previous column. I tell ya, it’s great to see the influence PD has on the ol’ coach. Right?

125 – Offensive Lineman: Zach Hurd, UConn. Hurd and his linemates get credit for the production of Husky running back Jordan Todman this past season. A unanimous All-Big East choice, the 6-7, 316-pound Hurd could add depth to the Pats’ interior offensive line.

159 – Linebacker: Mike Mohamed, California. A noted scholar-athlete, Mohamed has the size (6-3, 240), speed (4.65 40) and brains (them Cal folks is smart) to play inside or outside behind a 3-4 defensive line. Add his surprising athleticism showcased at the combine(6.70 in the 3-cone drill) and Mohamed gets our vote to take the field at Gillette as a special teamer next season.

193 – Playing With House Money: Quarterback Josh Portis has gotten some mention over the past few columns, but that ends now after reading this report on Portis’ use of a stolen credit card. (Pay special attention to how, after allegedly using the card to purchase over $300 worth of goods, he asked for a store rewards card using his real name.)

Portis’ attorney called his action a “mistake.” To me, a mistake is when I put the cereal in the fridge and the milk in the cupboard. Nope: this felony puts Portis off our list.

Instead, we continue with defense and select Corbin Bryant, defensive end out of Northwestern. Bryant has had a great spring, including an attention-getting pro day workout that should get him on an NFL club. At 6-3, 297 pounds, Bryant ran the 40 in 5.1 seconds and benched 225 pounds 31 times. This past year he showed playmaking abilities with eight tackles for loss, an interception and forced fumble.

So, dear readers, there we go: the Perfect Pats Mock. Sure, Coach Belichick may choose to ignore these picks, but he does so at his own peril.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Pats Draft Scenarios: Please Don’t Take Offense

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Outside linebacker, defensive end and offensive lineman should sit at the top of New England’s draft list. But what about the rest of the offense?

Fellow PD writer Dan Snapp pointed out a recent comment on boston.com about Bill Belichick meeting Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (I guess you could call that info a Snapp to attention. Ha ha! Right?). It got us thinking about how we’d feel drafting specialty positions with New England’s first three picks (17, 28, 33).

Below lie the various reactions we expect if the home team were to take the best player available instead of addressing their most pressing needs.

Alabama RB Mark Ingram

RUNNING BACK (aka the “All right, I can see that” pick)Mark Ingram stands out as a clear first-rounder. We’re also big on Mikel Leshoure. People love Ryan Williams: that’s a polite way to say we don’t quite see it.

The last time New England won a Super Bowl, they had a big back in Corey Dillon (and the year before that, another bulky ball-carrier in Antowain Smith). That puts Ingram and Leshoure in the forefront for us.

Later round possibilities: Heavier guys like Delone Carter and Allen Bradford intrigue us. Carter (a bowling ball at 5-9, 222) rushed for over 1,000 yards at Syracuse, while forklift Bradford ran a 4.53-second 40 at 242 pounds. As a senior at USC he averaged over seven yards per carry.

WIDE RECEIVER (aka the “Well, that’s cool, I guess” pick) – If the Pats can get their hands on the likes of A. J. Green (consensus number one at the position) or Julio Jones, they have to consider it. However, the next three leave room for doubt.

Maryland’s Torrey Smith, Pittsburgh’s Jon Baldwin and Miami’s Hankerson could all produce at Gillette. Having Tom Brady at quarterback makes that seem obvious, though we shouldn’t forget the Chad Jackson Debacle. Smith (6-1, 204) has had a great spring, burning up the combine turf and showing good skills at his workouts. On the other hand, the freakish Baldwin (6-4, 228) has failed to show the speed or route discipline to make him a must-have selection.

Hankerson, though intriguing, begs the question: what are the Pats going to do with Taylor Price? Compare combine numbers between Hankerson and Price. The former is one inch taller; the latter leaps one inch higher. Their 40 times are both 4.40 seconds. Of course Hankerson’s experience at Miami outweighs Price’s at Ohio, but is he worth a top-33 pick?

Later round possibilities: We still like Edmund Gates and Cecil Shorts III – quick, athletic guys with special teams experience. In a deep receiver class, we can only mildly endorse a high pick.

TIGHT END (aka the “Punch me in the face so I feel something” pick) – Drafting Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez had one big benefit for Pats fans in that, for the first time in years, they spent the college football season not scouting tight ends. Kyle Rudolph of Notre Dame will change the dynamic of some lucky NFL team; however, having two 6-6, 260-pounders looks like too much.

D. J. Williams of Arkansas and Luke Stocker of Tennessee round out an unspectacular tight end class. (Here’s a funny, random fact: USC had a tight end named Jordan Cameron, while Cal had a defensive end named Cameron Jordan. Oh, that crazy Pac-10!)

Later round possibilities: We hear whispers about Virgil Green of Nevada, who’s got great athleticism (4.54 40, 42.5-inch vertical). We’d feel more comfortable with an H-back type like Ryan Taylor of North Carolina. He’s listed at fullback, but at 6-3, 250, he can take on the backfield blocker role where New England keeps platooning personnel.

QUARTERBACK (aka the “Hold me as I cry tears of rage” pick) – Some selections seem unnecessary but, much like Devin McCourty, defend themselves with a productive season. Blaine Gabbert of Missouri (who sounds like an Old West gold miner) should go to Carolina at number one overall. After that, Jake Locker and Cam Newton have the uppermost slots, though neither should make it to number 17.

A first-round QB to the Patriots? Shut your mouth. Shut it!

Later round possibilities: We like T. J. Yates, who put up record-setting numbers at North Carolina, and we remain intrigued by Josh Portis of California, Pennsylvania, who’s athletic, a prolific passer, and available late.

I know, I know: some of you believe Baldwin, Rudolph or (shudder) Locker would bring something special to Foxboro. If so, tell us in the comment section below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Pats Draft Scenarios: Picks To Avoid

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Well, now that I have as much chance of winning my NCAA pool as Pittsburgh does (thanks a lot, Big East!), time to refocus on the NFL draft.

Today we’ll discuss some players whose names have appeared on many mock drafts, but with whom we have some issues. (For a concise rundown of Pats mock picks, check out the draft tracker on patriots.com.) While most of the choices below have some merit, we just don’t see them as helping out the team as much as others could.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: (Um, just one, please?) While New England needs a boost to its front five, we disagree with taking two with their first two picks.

For the love of all that’s decent, Coach Belichick, WILL YOU PLEASE DRAFT A PASS RUSHER?

In other words, Mike Pouncey or Derek Sherrod or Gabe Carimi. Also, as much as we enjoy watching BC football – although “enjoy” is stretching it of late – we’re not looking to bring tackle Anthony Castonzo to Gillette. After watching his matchup against North Carolina’s Robert Quinn, we don’t have the confidence that Castonzo can start right away as an NFL tackle.

Jake Locker

QUARTERBACKS: We’ve seen Jake Locker of Washington mock-selected by prospective Pats fans in the first or early second round. Except for trade scenarios, we don’t want to see any QBs picked until at least Round Five. I mean, come on. That’s obvious. Or “obvi,” as the kids are saying.

Heaven help me, I just don’t get the kids.

PASS RUSHERS: The Patriots lack a pass rusher in the same way the moon lacks gravity: what’s there will hold you, but it’s less than what you really need. Some of the names being floated around on the team’s behalf make us nervous. For example, Aldon Smith of Missouri has good size (6-4, 263) but not-all-that-great strength (20 bench reps of 225) or quickness (4.5 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle). Declaring early for the draft after his sophomore year, he’s also greener than Kermit.

Dontay Moch of Nevada has tremendous speed (4.4 40) and production (22 tackles for loss in 2010), but at 6-1, 248, it’s hard to imagine him setting the edge in New England’s 3-4 defense.

While we like the leverage of Akeem Ayers of UCLA (6-3, 254), he failed to impress at the combine. A slow 40 (4.81) and a weak bench (18 reps) take him off our list.

RUNNING BACKS: New England needs a running back the same way I need a workout – if I continue without one, it doesn’t bode well for the future. That said, Daniel Thomas of Kansas State has left our draft boards due in part to a slow 40 (4.63), but mostly because of nagging injuries that have prevented him from displaying his quickness. While he remains on our radar, his current rank as a second-rounder looks too risky right now.

Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech has been posited as a first- or early second-round pick, but for whatever reason I don’t see it (that means good news, Ryan: you’re going to Foxboro!). He has solid quickness (4.18 in the shuttle) but only so-so speed (4.63 40); he’s also a smaller guy at 5-9, 212 pounds. His 2009 highlight reel looks impressive (the first three minutes of it feature the BC defense, by the way) but we wonder how well his game will translate from the ACC to the NFL.

WIDE RECEIVERS: First and foremost comes Jon Baldwin of Pittsburgh. The Brobdingnagian ballplayer (6-4, 228 pounds) failed to impress scouts at the combine, running dull routes, showing little quickness, and missing too many catches. While his athleticism intrigues, his lack of fundamentals frightens.

Tandon Doss of Indiana (6-2, 200) was unable to participate in the combine due to double groin surgery (Good gracious: two groins?). He looks like a solid, versatile receiver; however, so does Julian Edelman. If Doss puts up the kind of 40 time that makes him a downfield option, that’s just fine. If not, New England needs to look for something beyond what they already have.

Greg Little of North Carolina looks better on paper than a winning lottery ticket. At 6-2, 230 pounds, he ran a 4.5-second 40, leapt 41 inches and completed the 3-cone drill in 6.80 seconds. All remarkable. One problem with bringing him to Gillette, though: don’t the Pats already have a gifted, raw receiver out of UNC in Brandon Tate? As a third-rounder, there’s more than a Little temptation here (get it? So funny), but the team needs to stay away from another developmental project and look for a pass-catcher who can contribute from day one.

So, what mock Pats players chafe your chaps? Let us know in the comment section below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Pats Draft Scenarios: Pro Day Pop-Ups

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

So, looking for a way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day (or, as we say around New England, St. Pats)? Feeling a little too productive at work?

Either case provides a good reason to check out NFL pro day results on Gil Brandt’s blog. Not only is it a good way to check up on players looking to improve their combine numbers, it brings some previously overlooked athletes to light.

The following are a few up-and-comers we feel would fit on the Pats.

Nic Grigsby, Arizona RB: Besides a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, Grigsby (5-11, 199) exploded out of the box with a 43.5-inch vertical (what?!?) and an 11-foot broad jump. The Wildcats didn’t do much with their running game this past season, but such numbers will put Grigsby in teams’ sights on Day Three.

With New England in the market for a wide receiver, three players have risen since posting impressive pro days.

Chris Matthews, Kentucky WR: The big receiver (6-5, 224) ran in the 4.5 range at his pro day and showed good quickness (6.9-second 3-cone drill) for his size. Matthews has hit the region’s collective radar since he tweeted that he had a workout with the Pats.

UTEP's Kris Adams

Kris Adams, UTEP WR: A taller receiver at 6-3, 194 pounds, Adams ran a 4.43 40 and leapt 39.5 inches at the Miners’ pro day. He had just 47 catches but over 1,000 yards receiving in 2010, averaging nearly 23 yards per reception.

Stephen Burton, West Texas A&M WR: A combine participant who improved immensely at his pro day, upping his 40 time from 4.5 to 4.38 seconds. The 6-1, 221-pound specimen caught the ball 70 times for over 1,000 yards and returned kicks and punts for the Buffaloes.

Though the Pats have stocked up on youth in their defensive front seven over the past two years, the following candidates showed the type of athleticism that the Pats could have in reserve…

Michael Lockley, Florida Atlantic OLB: He’s 6-2, 237 and put up 225 pounds 22 times. Add a solid 40 (4.64) and 38.5-inch vertical, plus 120 tackles to make All-Sun-Belt Second Team honors, and Lockley could give himself a boost on (or just after) draft day.

Zach Clayton, Auburn DT: Clayton’s a little undersized (where else would 6-2, 299 pounds seem undersized besides NFL lineman and maybe storage closet?), but his 4.87-second 40-yard dash proved that Nick Fairley had some company along the Tigers’ defensive front. Has experience at both end and tackle.

Corbin Bryant, Northwestern DE: 6-4, 297, 31 bench reps His 6-4, 300-pound frame fits the description of a New England end. Running a 5-second 40 and putting up 31 reps of 225 fill out the resume. According to Pats blogger/raconteur Chris Price, Bryant was scheduled to work out for the Patriots.

Lucas Patterson, Texas A&M DL: Another solid fit for the Pats on paper, Patterson (6-4, 293) ran a 5.10 40 and had 32 bench reps. How dare you, combine people, for not inviting him to Indy.

How. Dare. You.

Gabe Miller, Oregon State OLB: Looking at his size (6-3, 250), his speed (4.61 40), and strength (33 bench reps), it looks like Miller will get a closer look from some NFL club this spring. The former tight end switched to defense his junior year. Good call: in 2010 he was second on the Beavers with five sacks.

Pete Hendrickson, Tulane OT: The 2010 Conference USA Football Honorable Mention recipient has great reach (6-7, 304) and showed good foot speed (5.09 40) at his pro day. He started 41 games for the Green Wave.

Now, dear readers, put down your Guinness (or Harp, Murphy’s or Smithwick’s), let the corned beef simmer for another few hours, and let us know about any Pats-centric pro day performances of note.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: The Too-Early Mock

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

While trying to guess whom Bill Belichick and Company will select in the last weekend of April, we reviewed recent history and came up with these basic rules for a New England draft.

Rule One: Avoid the flashy guy. Sure, there could be an incredible athlete available right when they’re picking, but the Pats tend to look past the Players of the Week to review each player’s overall career and see how it fits in Foxboro.

Rule Two: Trade down when possible. Relates to Rule One. This will happen, people. Heaven help us, this will happen.

Rule Three: Find a lesser-known player who may have been available later, and draft him. Too harsh? Maybe. While the Pats have a well-earned reputation for finding proverbial diamonds in the rough, for every Julian Edelman there’s at least one George Bussey.

With those three rules in mind, we’ll give this a shot. New England has six picks in the first three rounds (17, 28, 33, 60, 74 and 92 overall). They also have one pick each in rounds four, five and six (numbers to be determined). Ladies and gentlemen fans of Foxboroites, your 2011 Patriots draft…

Gabe Carimi

Just after Pick 17: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin OT. Yep. Despite needing a dominant pass-rusher more than a waterfall needs gravity, New England will trade down (see Rule Two) for an offensive lineman. A great one, sure – Carimi won the Outland Trophy this past season – but was it the Pats’ offense or defense that had us screaming at the TV in January?

We’d like to see: We at PD have made our hopes clear regarding trading up for pass rusher/athletic freak Robert Quinn of North Carolina (How about San Francisco at number seven, Bill? Think about it). Barring that, defensive end J. J. Watt would fit quite nicely, as would myriad other pass-rushing candidates.

Pick 28: Cameron Heyward, Ohio State DE. Here’s a situation where the Pats look beyond Heyward’s elbow surgery earlier this year that prevented him from participating in the combine. His body of work, his size (6-5, 294) and his status (a captain at OSU) put him on the local radar and bring him to Gillette as a rookie starter.

We’d like to see: Barring a trade up for Quinn, maybe another pass-rushing type like Ryan Kerrigan of Iowa or Justin Houston of Georgia. But we have no problems with picking a defensive lineman, as it fills a need with a productive player. In fact, writing the previous statement makes us wonder if it’s going to happen. We’ll just be quiet now.

Pick 35 or so: Brooks Reed, Arizona OLB. The Pats will trade down again (because they can) and snatch up the best pass rusher available. That looks like Reed, an outside linebacker who – unlike the Pats’ current crop – can get to quarterbacks before they have a chance to set up their proverbial picnic blankets. Reed’s 6-3, 263-pound frame and 30 reps on the bench press should hold up against the run as well, potentially making him an every-down player on defense.

We’d like to see: Nothing against Reed (we heard his name was going to be Rivers but he was smaller than expected. Ha), but we’d address the pass-rushing position in Round One and take Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith here. Smith has good size and excellent speed; he would add a deep threat to New England’s well-stocked wideouts.

Pick 60: Kenrick Ellis, Hampton DT. Not the flashy receiver or running back fans will want, but a big body who can take up space in the middle – or anywhere else along the line. At 6-5, 346, Hampton brings to mind a big body like Ted Washington of the 2003 Patriots.

We’d like to see: It’s hard to mess with this pick, and not only because that dude just got classified as a planet. (Sorry, Mercury!) The more monoliths along the defensive line, the better.

Pick 74: Ronald Johnson, USC WR. He doesn’t have great straightaway speed (4.46 in the 40) nor size (5-11, 199), but Johnson’s experience, big-school production and versatility (second team All Pac-10 punt returner) get him drafted ahead of schedule here.

We’d like to see: Wide receiver Edmund Gates of Abilene Christian. Faster and quicker than Johnson, Gates proved an exciting playmaker at the Division II level. With time – much like what they allowed for Taylor Price this past season – Gates could develop into a reliable receiver.

Pick 92: Delone Carter, Syracuse RB. Due to his stature (5-9), Carter may get compared to Lil’ Danny Woodhead. Some similarities hold true, especially when looking at the quickness of each player (compare Carter’s combine numbers with Woodhead’s 2008 pro day numbers). Though slower in the 40, Carter actually showed quicker times in the 20-yard shuttle and the 3-cone drill. Plus, Carter outweighs Woodhead by 25 pounds. We envision the ol’ coach hearkening back to the days of Joe Morris with this pick.

We’d like to see: Based on pure athleticism, cornerback Buster Skrine (pronounced screen) of Tennessee-Chattanooga warrants a long look here. Though undersized at 5-9, his 40 (4.37), quickness and return skills give Skrine the ability to help the team immediately, both as kick returner and defensive back in a dime (six-DB) package.

Round Four: Cortez Allen, Citadel CB. Ever heard of him? Nope? Exactly. Our nod to Rule Three comes in the form of a solid athlete who attended a military-style academy. Allen made second-team all conference and led the Bulldogs with five pass breakups. He has good size (6-1, 197) and quickness (4.1 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle) and seems like the type of guy about whom the Pats’ scouts would have enough inside info to warrant a selection.

We’d like to see: As we’ve said before, Hawaii running back Alex Green seems to fit the Patriots. As part of the Warriors’ pass-oriented offense, Green still gained over 1,000 yards this past season. His combine 40 (4.45) belies his size (6-0, 225). If the Pats decide to wait until the middle rounds, they can get some heft and speed for their backfield here.

Round Five: David Arkin, Missouri State OG. The Pats have taken offensive linemen recently in this area of the draft. This off-season has given them no reason to stop such a trend, as Stephen Neal has retired and Logan Mankins has made his contract dissatisfaction clear. Arkin earned All Missouri Valley Football Conference honors for every one of his four years at college. That’ll work.

Also, while Arkin attended Missouri State, Pats guard Dan Connolly went to Southeast Missouri State. So… that’s something. Right?

We’d like to see: If he’s still available, this looks like a great spot for linebacker Mark Herzlich of BC. A heady player with strength, Herzlich has been a great leader for the Eagles and could contribute right away on special teams.

Round Six: T. J. Yates, North Carolina QB. The Pats pick up another dependable, productive QB from a solid system who will make a dependable, solid backup. (I mean, when you have Tom Brady, who wants to see anyone else under center?) Yates (6-3, 219) holds both the career and single-season passing records at UNC. When New England trades him for a second-rounder in a few years, we shall all nod with the understanding that this was part of the plan.

We’d like to see: Something about quarterback Josh Portis of California-PA intrigues us here at PD. He showed his ability to run (4.59 combine 40), yet he passed for over 6,000 yards in his two-year career. Maybe we’re just hearkening back to the days of Michael Bishop at backup QB, but it would really mess with opposing defenses to have someone like Portis take a snap once in a while.

Thoughts? Opinions? Martha Stewart crafts? Please post any or all of them below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: Day Three

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

No one can accurately predict the first round of the NFL draft. Predicting the last four rounds is like being a weatherman for Neptune: you have to guess based on meager information.

Instead of a prediction, let’s call this a wish list. If all goes according to plan on April 28 and 29, Saturday will become a mere formality. The Pats will have used their first six picks to add playmakers to their defense, muscle to their offensive line and maybe some talent to their specialist corps.

If successful early, New England could trade away their final three picks (one each in rounds four, five and six) for future compensation. If not, they could bring in a few contributors in later rounds. Below are 10 such players the Patriots could consider to fill out their rookie class…

Mark Herzlich

Outside linebacker Mark Herzlich, Boston College. Okay, he’s slow in the 40 (5.9 seconds). He’s not huge (6-4, 244). But come on. The dude beat cancer. You think he can’t take on a couple of flesh-and-blood NFL linemen?

Defensive end David Carter, UCLA. His prototypical size (6-5, 300) separates Carter from a relatively short field of prospects. And by “short,” I mean 6-3 or under. It’s all relative.

Offensive tackle Chris Hairston, Clemson. At 6-6, 326 pounds, Hairston fills out the tackle spot nicely. His 40 time was underwhelming (5.38), but his quick feet will get him drafted early on day three.

Offensive guard Justin Boren, Ohio State. First team Big Ten and a second-team All-American, the 6-3, 310-pound guard can also play center.

Wide receiver Cecil Shorts III, Mount Union. A small school guy with big numbers, what Shorts might lack in straight-ahead speed he makes up for in quickness, clocking in at 6.50 seconds in the 3-cone drill (top five at the combine). Oh, versatility? Add punt- and kick-returner to his duties, as well as over 100 yards running the ball this past season.

Running back Alex Green, Hawaii. Three things to know about Green: his size (6-0, 225), his speed (4.45 40), and his production (8.2 yards per carry in 2010). Aloha.

Middle linebacker Mike Mohamed, California. The speedy (4.65 40) Pac-10 All-Academic first-teamer (I know, but still, it’s something) led the conference in tackles this past season (112 total). With his athleticism, he could contribute on special teams right away.

Fullback Ryan Taylor, North Carolina. New England has tried myriad lead blockers in their backfield, including tight ends, guards and linebackers. Time to consider a horse (6-3, 250) with experience. Taylor had zero carries and 36 catches in 2010, the perfect stat combo for a potential H-back.

Quarterback Josh Portis, California-PA. A QB with great athleticism (4.59 40, 40-inch vertical), Portis passed for 2,650 yards for the D-II powerhouse. Should be available late and could be had for a trade down to the seventh round. (Note: the Pats have some experience with Cal-PA alums, as they brought in Vulcan cornerback Terrence Johnson for rookie camp last year.)

Tight end Schuylar Oordt, Northern Iowa. He’s a 6-6, 261-pounder who runs a 4.63 40. The Pats aren’t looking for a tight end, but who’s going to mess with a guy named Oordt? He should be an assassin in one of the Girl With a Dragon Tattoo movies.

Any day three players on your radar, please let us know with a comment below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: Day Two

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Continuing with our Nobel-Prize-winning series on the draft (note: previous statement may not be true), today we preview potential picks for rounds two and three, to be chosen on Friday, April 29.

Kenrick Ellis

Defensive front seven: Though we hope beyond hope that the Patriots address these positions in round one, a couple of players stand out in the top 100. One is defensive lineman Phil Taylor out of Baylor. At 6-3, 334 pounds, Taylor has the size to play anywhere in a three-man defensive front. Speaking of size, 6-5, 346-pound nose tackle/forklift Kenrick Ellis of Hampton also warrants a closer look.

Arizona’s Brooks Reed has prototypical size as an outside linebacker. Reed showed the type of hustle that too often eludes players with such athleticism. (For a heavy-metal-infused highlight reel of the long-haired dervish, click here.) We’d love to see him flying around Gillette next season.

Keep an eye onChristian Ballard out of Iowa, a little light at 290 but well-suited for the defensive end spot.

Offensive line: Danny Watkins of Baylor could go in the second round, while Clint Boling of Georgia looks like a third-rounder. Both would restock New England’s interior.

Keep an eye onOrlando Franklin of Miami. Despite hurting his knee last August, he played the entire season at left tackle for the Hurricanes, making the move from guard. Toughness and adaptability put him on our list.

Receivers: It looks like Torrey Smith of Maryland had his breakout combine, including a 4.41-second 40 and a 41-inch vertical leap. At 6-1, 204 pounds, Smith could provide the size/speed combo that opens up the field for the smaller guys. Though Jon Baldwin of Pitt hasn’t had a great off-season, I’m not ready to give up on him. His 6-4 frame should harass defenders, and his 42-inch vertical won’t hurt, either. He didn’t make these kinds of plays by accident.

Keep an eye on – Sure, Edmond Gates went to lil’ ol’ Abilene Christian. Fine, his highlight reel makes it seem as though he competed below his talent. But then you see his combine numbers (4.31 40, 40-inch vertical) and think, hey, maybe this guy could do something for New England.

Running backs: Lest we forget, the Pats have the first pick in the second round (thank you, Carolina Panthers). If Illinois’ Mikel Leshoure remains available at 33, New England should consider picking him up – or, as Bill Belichick is wont to do, trading down for him and getting future picksohfortheloveofGodpleaseno.

Keep an eye onDelone Carter, Syracuse. Short (5-9) but not small (222 pounds), Carter managed to gain over 3,000 yards rushing in his career, impressive considering the Orangemen had an offense about as potent as a hypoallergenic pillow.

Defensive backs: Though a little slight at 185 pounds, we like Curtis Brown out of Texas as a second-rounder. His lack of upper-body strength could hurt him, but he has great quickness numbers from the combine (top seven in both 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle).

Keep an eye onChris Culliver, South Carolina. The free safety missed much of 2010 with a shoulder injury, but his feet seem fine. The Gamecock ran a 4.36 in the 40, fastest of all players projected at safety.

Up next: 10 players the Pats should look for on Day Three.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Pats Draft Scenarios: Day One

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

We miss the good old days of the NFL draft weekend, spending Saturday and Sunday sitting on the couch, blogging, eating pizza and sipping diet Dr. Pepper.

(Sorry, ladies: I’m married.)

Over the next few days, we’ll be posting our thoughts on what New England might do on each draft day of the new, ratings-improved, three-day format beginning Thursday, April 28 with Round One. (Friday night will feature Rounds Two and Three; Saturday afternoon has Rounds Four through Seven – and no, I don’t know why I’m putting rounds in capital letters.)

Every year, it seems, Bill Belichick gets his team in prime position heading into draft weekend. And every year, it seems, he trades down to get his team in prime position for next year.

You’d think at this point that it wouldn’t be a surprise.

Due to such finagling of picks past, New England finds itself with two selections on Day One (17, 28). This gives them some serious bartering power. We’ll see if they use it.

SCENARIO ONE: The Big Kahuna

As mentioned in a previous PD piece, Coach Belichick could trade up for a top pick such as Robert Quinn of North Carolina. Despite some off-field issues (health questions and a suspension this fall), the pass-rusher helped himself during the NFL combine. His speed numbers (4.62-second 40) fit a running back, much less a 6-foot-4, 265-pound college defensive end.

Sure, there’s risk involved (What if he can’t stay healthy? What if he’s a jerk? What if he reads a headline that says “The Mighty Quinn” for the 7,000th time and loses it?). But for the past few years, New England’s defense has been like a drummer, bassist and piano player doing jazz: okay in general, but you need some sax.

Cal's Cameron Jordan

Sorry. It’s been a long winter.

Other looks: Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Cal DE Cameron Jordan and Alabama DT Marcell Dareus would each merit a trade up. All have the potential to start right away in New England’s defense.

If the Pats make a move for anyone other than a front seven defender, get me a throat lozenge because I’ll be screaming myself hoarse.

SCENARIO TWO: The Blue Chippers

With the depth in this draft at outside linebacker and defensive end, the Patriots should improve themselves by the end of round one.

At outside linebacker, we like Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, Adrian Clayborn of Iowa and Justin Houston of Georgia. All can get after the QB, and all showed the quickness necessary to drop back into coverage. While Missouri’s Aldon Smith had an impressive combine, the sophomore’s lack of experience scares me off.

Defensive ends include Wisconsin’s J. J. Watt and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward. When healthy, Heyward has changed games. Of course, “when healthy” is the Mephistopheles of introductory clauses, promising great things but always leading you astray.

Other looks: New England needs help on the offensive line. The one athlete who really pops out is tackle Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin. Watching him take on Clayborn in this highlight reel shows his agility and strength. He makes a top-ranked pass rusher look about as relevant as a tailor at a nudist colony. Mike Pouncey out of Florida could help the O-line as well.

So, Mr. Belichick, no specialists. No receiver (A. J. Green of Georgia), no running backs (Mikel Leshoure of Illinois, Mark Ingram of Alabama). Plenty of guys to look at on Days Two and Three.

Deal? Deal.

SCENARIO THREE: The Contributors (aka The Fans’ Nightmare)

Hey, it could happen. Maybe the coach will be too busy to consult PD on draft day and he’ll fail to heed our advice. In that case, he’ll trade down and get some less flashy players who will help the team – just not as much as we’d hoped.

Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson of Temple, cornerback Jimmy Smith of Colorado and linebacker Martez Wilson of Illinois all fit that description for me. Each seems able to get onto the field and help the team out; none seems like an immediate game-changer in New England.

Coming up: Day Two possibilities, including wide receivers and running backs.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

Pats Draft Scenarios: The Machines Take Over

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

As we note every year here at PD Draft Central, you can make your list of picks, but you’ll never accurately predict where the top players will go. Hey, they call them mock drafts for a reason.

So, what if we took the guesswork out of it?

On your behalf, dear reader, we have scanned various websites for their top-rated draft prospects and matched them up with New England’s first six picks for 2011 (17, 28, 33, 60, 74, 92). It seems that these computer thingies just might catch on.

CBS Sports/NFL Draft Scout:

17 – J. J. Watt, (6-5, 290) DE, Wisconsin

28 – Justin Houston (6-3, 270) OLB, Georgia

33 – Kyle Rudolph (6-6, 259), TE, Notre Dame

60 – Marcus Cannon (6-5, 358) OT, TCU

74 – Daniel Thomas (6-0, 230) RB, Kansas State

92 – James Carpenter (6-4, 321) OT, Alabama

Human commentary: You know what? I dig this. New England addresses their needs in the defensive front seven while bolstering the offensive line and adding a horse to their running back stable. While yesterday I wrote about trading up to get a game-changer like North Carolina pass-rusher Robert Quinn, I’d feel more than content with these six players coming to the Patriots. (You may argue against drafting a tight end, but Rudolph could become another Rob Gronkowski. That just might be illegal.)

Trade the later three picks for the future and invite a ton of rookie free agents to camp, and this looks strong to me.

Scott Wright’s Draft Countdown:

17 – Mark Ingram (5-10, 215) RB, Alabama

28 – Nate Solder (6-9, 315) OT, Colorado

33 – Justin Houston, OLB (see 28 above)

60 – Brandon Burton (6-0, 185) CB, Utah

74 – DeMarco Murray (6-1, 207) RB, Oklahoma

92 – Kenrick Ellis (6-5, 340) DT, Hampton

Human commentary: That Houston guy deserves another look, apparently. While the addition of Ingram could only help, and the size of both Solder and Ellis look intriguing (not to mention Ellis’ 5.05-second 40-yard dash), this random lineup fails to fit as well as the previous one. Still, it proves that the depth of this draft gives our Patriots a great shot to improve this year (six shots, actually).

FFToolbox:

17 – J. J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin (same ranking as CBS)

28 – Jake Locker (6-3, 230) QB, Washington

33 – Jeremy Beal (6-3, 267) DE, Oklahoma

60 – Dontay Moch (6-1, 245) DE, Nevada

74 – Martez Wilson (6-4, 250) LB, Illinois

92 – Marcus Cannon OT, TCU (number 60 on CBS)

Human commentary: Watt has made his mark this season and would be welcome in Foxboro, as would Beal – although he seemed more solid than spectacular when watching him last fall. At his size and speed (an eye-busting 4.42 in the 40), Wilson looks under-ranked here, but if he falls to the third, the Pats could do some damage with the versatile linebacker.

ESPN (First Round):

17 – Corey Liuget (6-3, 300) DT, Illinois

28 – Justin Houston, Georgia

Human commentary: Hmm… that Justin Houston thing can’t be mere coincidence, can it? (Note: Yes. Yes, it can.) He’s a player to keep in mind, especially after running a 4.62 40-yard dash and putting up 30 bench reps of 225 pounds at the combine. After watching his highlight reel, he only seems to have one pass-rush move, but it’s a doozy. While Liuget looks like he has potential to become a solid contributor, he lacks the wow factor that I’d like to see (which, looking at my past scouting record, pretty much guarantees him a spot on the Patriots).

MOCK DRAFT LOOK

Just for the heck of it, let’s compare the above random selections with an intentional one. This is from Walter Football:

17 – Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

28 – Muhammad Wilkerson (6-4, 315) DL, Temple

33 – Mikel Leshoure (6-0, 227) RB, Illinois

60 – Titus Young (5-11, 174) WR, Boise State

74 – Rashad Carmichael (5-10, 192) CB, Virginia Tech

92 – Dontay Moch, OLB, Nevada (ranked 60 by FFToolbox)

Not bad, Walter. I’ve been a fan of Leshoure all year – he gained nearly 1,700 yards with every opponent looking to stop him. His bulk and quickness (6.82 seconds in the 3-cone drill) set him apart from most other backs. Carmichael has good feet and could impress at corner. Wilkerson’s got the size of a versatile 3-4 defensive lineman. Speaking of size, I think Moch’s lack of height will keep him off New England’s draft board, though his speed (4.40 40, faster than Young) and production (22 tackles for loss in 2010 as a DE) should get him off the board before the fourth round. While I like Young’s playmaking ability, at 175 pounds he might be a better paperweight than NFL receiver.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for more mocks (and mocking, to be sure). In the meantime, tell us your Pats picks for April.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

Pats Draft Scenarios: A Primer

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Well people, it is time. Despite the beginning of spring training, despite the Patriots’ inglorious playoff exit, it is time to take interest in the draft this year.

After numerous misleading headlines courtesy of The Bleacher Report (to me, potentially letting go of Nick Kaczur doesn’t warrant the alarm of “Pats To Release Stud Lineman?”), we need to take matters into our own hands here at PD.

Robert Quinn

The draft is like art, where works appreciate – or don’t – over the years. That unknown pick could, like Julian Edelman, turn out as a contributor or, like George Bussey, end up on the Tampa Bay Storm of the Arena Football League.

Though I’ve done little to keep up with this year’s potential selections, a recent bit on ESPN piqued my interest. (Not that the Entirely Self-Promotional Network needs the plug, but they deserve some credit here.) In light of one of their scenarios, I give you three possible outcomes of draft day…

SCENARIO ONE: This is my favorite, proposed on the aforementioned network. The Patriots trade their first three picks for a top five pass-rusher like North Carolina’s Robert Quinn. They need a pass rush. They have needed a pass rush. If they don’t make a big splash at that position, they will still need a pass rush and we will watch Quinn tear it up for another team and think how great he would have looked with a Flying Elvis on his head.

Good: You have to like New England’s record with early first-rounders. Plus, it would be awesome as a fan to watch opposing QBs actually have to hurry instead of sitting down for tea before completing a pass.

Bad: Vernon Gholston looked awesome. He now has the same NFL occupation I do: watching. A harrowing account of his non-career cited here.

SCENARIO TWO: Stay put. Probably not going to happen. On draft day, Bill Belichick moves around like an electron. The Pats picking at 17, 28 and 33 seems about as likely as Rex Ryan getting hired as a spokesman for Dr. Scholl’s. (What? It’s been a while.) Still, three picks out of the first 33 could infuse the team with some top-end talent at the necessary spots.

Good: That “top-end talent” comment pretty much says it all.

Bad: No one’s saying the Patriots are untalented. If they need certain, special players at certain positions, isn’t now the time to go get them?

SCENARIO THREE: Same old, same old. Move around the board picking up some solid players, while trading down to get picks for the future. If this happens, you’ll hear similar language in our household to what was said during New England’s last game.

Good: Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Pat Chung. All three players and many other high-end contributors came to the Patriots in this same scenario.

Bad: Devin McCourty, Rob Gronkowski, Pat Chung. The youth has arrived. Why trade for the future if the future is now? The Patriots have picked 24 rookies in the past two drafts. Including undrafted free agents, they had 23 players on the 2010 roster with less than two years of experience.

New England has nine draft picks. If they end up with that many drafted rookies in camp, how many of them are the Patriots just grooming for another team once they cut down their roster? Here’s my stand: time to move up and, with six picks in the first three rounds, get two or three high-impact players who can start right away.

It’s the draft, people. This time of year, everyone can be right. Give me your right answer below.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]