October 2, 2014

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]

College Scout – QB and RB Review

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
As the Bowl season gets under way, lets take a look back at our rankings back in September of quarterbacks and running backs who could be in the 2011 draft. Some guys, like Case Keenum, would have fallen off a lot. In his case, its due to injuries. Others lived up to the hype and in some cases have moved way up the draft charts. We’ll also take a look at some players at both positions who have moved into the top 10 and up in the draft.

Quarterbacks:

Washington QB Jake Locker

September College Scout Rankings:
1.) Jake Locker, Washington
2.) Christian Ponder, Florida State
3.) Andrew Luck, Stanford
4.) Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State
5.) Case Keenum, Houston
6.) John Brantley, Florida
7.) Greg McElroy Alabama
8.) Ryan Mallett, Arkansas
9.) Jerrod Johnson, Texas A+M
10.) Adam Weber, Minnesota

Analysis: Locker had a decent, but not great, year and Luck has clearly surpassed him and is the number one quarterback in the draft if he comes out. You can watch highlights of Locker and see how he athletic he is in this video clip. Mallett probably surpassed him as well with an excellent year. Locker is a good athlete but may have slipped down to the bottom of the first round or even second round. Luck, the son of former NFL quarterback and current West Virginia Athletic Director Oliver Luck, could go number one overall if he comes out, though if Carolina has the pick perhaps they stick with Jimmy Clausen and look elsewhere. You can get a look at Andrew Luck highlights here. Ponder had a good season and at times looks terrific. He can be a bit inconsistent. It seems unlikely Pryor comes out. Keenum got hurt with a torn ACL and only played in 3 games. He tried to get another year of eligibility but was denied. His draft stock has been hurt, but he would be good late value for an NFL team willing to wait while he rehabs his knee. McElroy is a winner who will make a nice third round pick to develop for some team. Johnson got benched late in the year and Texas A+M got hot afterwards. Reportedly he took it well and is a team player with good character. He also is a top-flight athlete so is still draftable late.

If we had to do the list again, Rick Stanzi from Iowa would probably creep into the list and is certainly draftable. He’s smart, only threw 4 INTs all year and there is a tie to the Patriots as Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is a close friend of Bill Belichick and former assistant to him. Delaware QB Pat Devlin will likely be a mid-round choice and has lots of potential. He was originally at Penn State before transferring to Delaware. You can watch some highlights of Devlin in this video link. TCU quarterback Andy Dalton is a winner with limited skills, but smarts and could make a good NFL backup. Of course Cam Newton from Auburn has to be mentioned. The Heisman Trophy winner could come out with all the controversy that swirled around him. And we do know being paid to be football would please his family. He has tremendous skills. The running, size, arm and strength are all top notch. But he could use another year of experience. If he comes out, his talent will get him drafted high.

Running Backs:

September College Scout Rankings:
1.) Daniel Thomas, Kansas State
2.) Mark Ingram, Alabama
3.) Evan Royster, Penn State
4.) DeMarco Murray, Oklahoma
5.) Anthony Allen, Georgia Tech
6.) Brandon Saine, Ohio State
7.) John Clay, Wisconsin
8.) Roy Helu, Nebraska
9.) Derrick Locke, Kentucky
10.) Noel Devine, West Virginia

Analysis: Thomas is not the top runner according to many, though in the top 5 in most opinions. I like him because his size-speed combo translates to the NFL, along with his excellent power. But there is some bust potential there as he disappears at times. I chalk that up more to playing for a middling team. You can see some excellent highlights of Thomas in this clip. Ingram had an up and down year and started out injured. The 2009 Heisman Trophy winner remains a great prospect, but is perhaps towards the back end of the first round now. Some have Murray as the top back in the draft and he is perhaps the most well-rounded. He’s a good player. Saine had a very disappointing year and didn’t even get the majority of snaps for OSU. He’s a late round project despite great talent. Something is missing. Many like Devine more than me and while he is electrifying, I see him as a third down back and perhaps not even as good a one as Locke.

Others who’ve slipped into the conversation are Mario Fannin who is a big, talented back from Auburn who had limited playing time as the Tigers used a younger, top recruit as their main back. Fannin has played some receiver and is good in the passing game, but also has great power and running skills as a back. Kendall Hunter from Oklahoma State is a bit undersized, but has good speed and elusiveness. You can see some sweet highlights of Hunter here.

College Scout – Running Backs

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

This week we’ll look at the running backs who could be among the best in next year’s NFL draft. Running back is a position the Patriots will have to pay very close attention to next offseason. With two first round and second round picks, the position is likely to look a lot different next year. Of the six backs with the team currently (5 on the regular roster, 1 on the practice squad) only 1 do the Patriots control the rights of for next season an that is BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The rest will be free agents. At their ages, its probably unlikely Fred Taylor or Sammy Morris will be back. A lot can change over the course of a season, but right now it looks like Laurence Maroney is out of favor with the team. Kevin Faulk is seemingly ageless, but his contract is up and who knows how much longer he’ll play. You would assume if he remains effective this year and wants to continue, the Patriots will again have a one year contract waiting for him for next year, but at some point very soon they need to replace his skills as well. So lets take a look at who’ll be out there at this critical position for the Patriots next offseason.

Daniel Thomas of Kansas State

1.) Daniel Thomas (#8) Kansas State: While its close, to me Thomas is the better pro prospect than Heisman winner Mark Ingram. Not that they’re not both great, they are. But Thomas has a rare combination of size, power and speed that is just a bit beyond that of Ingram. A former JUCO quarterback who Kansas State converted to running back, Thomas was the Big 12 Newcomer of the year last season. Alls he did was run for 1,265 yards and catch passes for 257 more. A big, powerful, bruising back in the mold of Steven Jackson, Thomas stands 6’2″ and checks in at 229 lbs. Given their needs at the position, the Patriots will undoubtedly take a long, hard look at Thomas with one of their first round picks in 2011. A great game to check Thomas out would be the nationally televised Thursday night game on ESPN at 7:30 PM EST on October 7th vs. Nebraska.

2.) Mark Ingram (#22), Alabama: Ingram is last year’s Heisman trophy winner who has struggled early this season with injuries. He recently underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee and sat out last week’s opening win against San Jose State. He is questionable today against Penn State. Ingram is a fast, shifty back with good power. He seems to squeeze out yards after contact every time. He isn’t quite as fast or powerful as Thomas, but may be more elusive and natural in his running style. He is the son of former New York Giants wide receiver Mark Ingram who played on the Giants teams Bill Belichick coached with in the 1980′s. Of course he is also playing for Nick Saban who has a close friendship with Belichick as well. He is a sure fire 1st round pick and will also surely interest the Patriots. Check him out on October 2nd when he should be healthy versus Florida at home. The game will be shown on CBS at 8:00 PM EST.

3.) Evan Royster (#22), Penn State: Royster is another back with 1st round potential. A tall 6’1″ and 213, Royster relies more on speed, shiftyness and elusiveness in his game then power. He is excellent receiving passes out of the backfield. A homerun threat, Royster blossomed into a 1st team All-Big 10 player last year. He is not a great short yardage back, but is improving. Perhaps some slight bulking up to the 220s could improve his game in the NFL. Watch him do his thing on October 9 versus Illinois at Noon on either ESPN or ESPN2.

4.) DeMarco Murray (#7), Oklahoma: Murray split carries last season with Chris Brown and ran for 705 yards. An excellent receiver, he also caught 41 passes for an additional 522 yards. He has nearly 2,500 yards rushing for his career. This year he should be a bit more of a featured back. Whether he is or not, there is much to like about his game. His pass catching skills translate excellently into the NFL. He is reportedly very tough and a leader on the Oklahoma team. He handles blitz pickup well and he runs with a combination of power and speed when carrying the ball. He has a chance to be a 1st round pick as well and perhaps the most well-rounded back (so far) in the draft. Watch him on September 18th when Air Force visits at 3:30 PM EST on Fox Sports Net.

5.) Anthony Allen (#18), Georgia Tech: Allen is stepping into a starting role this season taking over for the departed Jonathan Dwyer who was a 6th round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers himself. Allen is very similar in his game to Dwyer, checking in at 239 lbs. He may not be quite as powerful as the bruising Dwyer, but could be a bit faster and more elusive. He did get the chance to carry the ball 64 times last year and averaged an amazing 9.7 yards per carry for a total of 618 yards and 6 touchdowns. His pass catching is untested. The Georgia Tech option-oriented offense makes transition to an NFL offense difficult, but in Allen’s case he is a transfer there. He previously played at Louisville for two seasons (rushing for a total of 1,102 yards) who ran a more pro-oriented offense. So he does have some experience with it moreso than Dwyer did. It was thought that hurt Dwyer’s draft standing but shouldn’t be as much of an issue with Allen. Watch him do his thing as a feature back on November 4th when the Yellow Jackets travel to Virginia Tech on a Thursday night ESPN game at 7:30 PM EST.

6.) Brandon Saine (#3), Ohio State: Saine was a highly regarded running back who has had a slightly disappointing career at Ohio State. Still, he began to put things together finally last season running for 739 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also showed some pass catching ability. This year he’s looking to continue his progress and become one of the nation’s elite backs. He got off to a great start in week 1. He stands 6’1″ and 219 lbs. and has great speed as well. He hasn’t shown great elusiveness yet, but he is improving. Watch him today on ESPN at 3:40 PM EST when Miami (FLA) visits.

7.) John Clay (#32), Wisconsin: Another Big 10 back, Clay is typical Wisconsin. Big, powerful, bruising and not that elusive. Clay is only a junior and unlikely to come out after this season, but did run for 1,500 yards plus last year as a sophomore. He needs to work on his pass catching and pass receiving. He is powerful at 248 lbs. and will be drafted, how high depends on how much he can diversify his game by being more than just a power back. Watch him on October 9th which is Wisconsin’s homecoming game versus Minnesota. It’ll be on either ESPN or ESPN2 at Noon.

8.) Roy Helu (#10), Nebraska: A good, solid back Helu does nothing spectacularly. He produces, has good size, shows elusiveness and okay speed. Like many college backs, he could work on his pass catching but its decent. What he hasn’t done so far is dominate. He’ll undoubtedly get a chance in the NFL, how highly regarded he is while getting that chance depends on if he can go from a good to great runner this season. He can’t be 2nd team All-Big 12 again as a Senior and expect to be drafted high. He must dominate. Check him out on September 18th at Washington on either ABC or ESPN at 3:30 PM EST.

9.) Derrick Locke (#20), Kentucky: Locke is a very, very fast back who also is among the nation’s best kick returners. He is a bit small at 5’9″ 191 lbs. and may translate into a 3rd down back. He does have excellent hands. Very elusive, he is also a leader on the Kentucky team. While the Patriots are looking for running backs next year, including a possible need to replace third down back Kevin Faulk, Locke may deserve consideration. See him play versus September 25th at Florida, network and time to be determined.

10.) Noel Devine (#7), West Virginia: Devine is another small back who translates into a 3rd down NFL back. He has good hands, breakaway, burner speed and could possibly translate to a top-notch kick returner. What he isn’t is a NFL feature back, nor is he as explosive as last year’s similar back Dexter McCluster, who went in the 2nd round. He is probably a second day pick in the 4th or 5th round who could turn out to be a useful role player. He does truly have sprinter-type speed. He’ll play on a Friday night at Connecticut on October 29th at 8:00 PM on ESPN2.

College Scout – November 21, 2009

Another week of College Scout and we’ll take a look at two smaller schools, the legendary Harvard vs. Yale game. Or just “The Game” as it is known, as well as a good matchup with bowl implications between Nebraska and Kansas State.

Harvard at Yale (Noon EST Versus):

The 126th meeting between these two storied universities. The 2009 version of “The Game” finds Yale leading the overall series 65-52-8 but with Harvard having won last season at home 10-0 and having won two straight. Harvard checks in this season at 6-3 while Yale is 4-5. But you throw all records out in this series and it should be a good matchup between two well coached teams. There are a couple NFL prospects in the game, including the very good prospect James Williams, so lets take a look:

Harvard T James Williams (#53):

Williams_JamesThe 6’5″ 298 lb. Williams, who is from Chestnut Hill, MA, is a very good prospect with clear NFL talent. Probably the premier lineman in the Ivy League, he has started every game at left tackle since he was a Sophomore and was All-Ivy League every year since then as well. He has quick feet, a good frame with long arms, is obviously smart and dominates at his level. Right now he projects as a mid-round choice but his athleticism could put him higher once he tests in the post-season. His ability to get out in space could interest the Patriots, though they will want to be sure football is his number one priority before they invest a draft pick in him. Here is an interesting fact you don’t see from many potential NFL offensive linemen draft picks…..Williams sang in his high school’s glee club. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In any event, Williams has a ton of talent and is a sure fire NFL pick who’ll just have to adjust to the higher level of play in the NFL. It could take a season or two, but whatever team gets him could have a gem once that occurs.

Yale S Larry Abare (#32):

Abare is a 6’1″ 210 lb. solidly built strong safety from Acton, MA. Has been Second Team All-Ivy League twice in his career, in 2006 and 2008. Was injured in 2007 and redshirted. A Boston Globe All-Scholastic player from Acton-Boxboro in both 2003 and 2004. Abare’s father played football at the University of Connecticut. Abare’s twin brother, Bobby, was an All-Ivy League linebacker who graduated last year. He had a tryout with the Chiefs but did not make it. Larry plays a different position but like his brother he is a hard hitter, very aggressive and smart. His speed might be the question, but there is little doubt he can play special teams as he has done that throughout his career at Yale. This may help him at least get a look from the NFL. Abare has had some nagging injuries this year and has missed 3 games with a broken forearm but does have 30 tackles for the Bulldogs and he will be suiting up against Harvard. If he gets a chance in the NFL, it’ll be as an undrafted free agent but a team could do worse than giving a hard-hitting, well-built, smart, productive special teams demon and defensive playmaker like Abare a shot in their camp.

Yale P Tom Mante (#8):

The first punter we’ve profiled this year, Mante has an NFL caliber leg and has been one of the better kickers in the Ivy since he was a freshman. Also kicks field goals and conversions for the Bulldogs. Gets good height on his punts. Made 5 tackles in punt coverage last season. Mante has potential as he has a strong leg and gets good hang time. He is averaging about 41 yards per punt this year and hasn’t had a kick blocked. He also kicks off for Yale which is a plus for his NFL potential. He won’t be drafted, but if he can get a bit stronger physically he has a chance to stick around or eventually kick in the NFL.

Kansas State at Nebraska (7:45 PM EST ESPN):

Nebraska comes in 7-3 and still with a shot a top tier bowl. Kansas State comes in 6-5 and looking to guarantee themselves a bowl game and winning season. We have looked at in the past Nebraska defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh who is as dominating a defensive player as you’ll see in college football and possible number one overall pick, so we won’t look at him again today, but there are other good prospects in the game.

Kansas State RB Daniel Thomas (#8):

Thomas came to KSU as a JUCO player who is in his first year with the Wildcats but is a Junior already. He has lit up the playing fields of the midwest so much, he just may jump to the NFL after this season. Originally there was some thought KSU might play Thomas as their starting QB as that is where he played in high school. However, they have made him just a running back instead and the results have been spectacular. They do use him as a “wildcat” formation QB quite a bit, however. Thomas is a powerful 6’2″ 227 lb. back that can run over people, but also has excellent quickness and elusiveness. For the season, he has run for 1,166 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 5.1 per carry. He also has completed 3 of 4 passes out of the wildcat, including one for a touchdown. Considering KSU doesn’t throw the ball too much, he also has shown good ability in the passing game with 21 catches and nearly 10 yards per catch. Thomas is a raw talent who has only played one year of major college football. Still, if he did go into the draft he would be among the most talented in it and a possible first round pick.

Kansas State WR Brandon Banks (#83):

Another JUCO player who is now a senior for the Wildcats. Last year, his first in major college football, he caught 67 passes for 1,049 yards and 9 touchdowns in establishing himself as among the best receivers in the Big 12. The problem with Banks is his size. He is a little waterbug at 5’7″ 150 lbs. but he is absolutely fearless and a lot of fun to watch with the football. He does have explosive abilities when he carries the pigskin and that translates well to the return game as well. Despite his size, on offense he isn’t afraid to catch any ball, anywhere. Despite his size, he carries some power in his small frame and does break tackles. This season Banks has caught 51 balls for 657 yards but just one touchdown.He is averaging 30 yards per kickoff return and has brought an electrifying 4 kicks back to the house for touchdowns. Given his size, Banks is probably a late round pick at best. But if nothing else, a late round pick will buy a team a speedy, elusive and game breaking kick returner who may even be able to fill in occasionally as a fearless slot receiver with great open field running ability.

Nebraska LB Phillip Dillard (#52):

An injury-riddled player early in his career who never lived up to the hype as a highly regarded recruit coming to Nebraska, Dillard finally has made his mark this season. He didn’t play in the first two games due to injury and then was a backup in game three, but since that time he switched to Will linebacker and has become a productive, if not excellent, starter. The 6’1″ 240 lb. Dillard has NFL size and everyone always knew he had a lot of ability. For the season, he has racked up 48 tackles including 2 sacks and 8 tackles for losses in 7 games. He had started 8 games in previous seasons with the Cornhuskers, but had been dogged by injuries, including a serious knee injury in 2006. Dillard has struggled also at times with his weight and being in shape. But this season, he really has seemed to turn the corner, losing a lot of excess poundage and getting himself into great shape. He has been rewarded with playing time and is really producing huge results in Bo Pelini’s defense. He’ll need to be thoroughly checked out in terms of his injury history and his lackluster physical shape of the past, but if the NFL believes he has truly turned the corner he has the talent to be a diamond in the rough for some team.