October 31, 2014

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]

 

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]