April 17, 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]

 

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.