July 30, 2014

Pats Draft Review: No Rush To Judgment

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

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

ROUND ONE: (17) Nate Solder, Colorado OT

Second Round Pick Ras-I Dowling (#19)

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

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

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

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

ROUND SEVEN: (219) Malcolm Williams, TCU DB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HELLO? IS THIS THING ON?

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

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

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

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

And there lies the problem.

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

By doing so, they raised questions about 2011.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

 

 

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 – Quarterbacks

By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

Hello Patriots Daily readers and welcome to another year of College Scout.

This year we’re going to vary the format a bit. Each week College Scout will bring you our ranking of different positions. Towards the end of the year, we’ll update those rankings and see how the players have done through the year and into the post-season All-Star Games. This year we’ll profile both juniors and seniors throughout the season. We’ll still highlight games many of the ranked prospects will be on TV and we hope it helps you watch the best players when you tune in. And, as always, we’ll try to occasionally rate the prospects as to how they’d fit with the Patriots organization and the current state of the team. So, lets start this week with the quarterbacks.

QUARTERBACKS:

Washington QB Jake Locker

1.) Jake Locker (#10) Washington: The undisputed top QB prospect in the draft, Locker really is one terrific athlete. A big kid at 6’3″ 226, he is known for his mobility and pure athleticism. He also has a rocket arm. If he needs to work on anything, its his accuracy which has yet to hit 60% in any year of his career. However, that did improve significantly last year, his first year under Head Coach Steve Sarkisian and should continue to. His play is sometimes in the reckless abandon mode and that has led to some injuries. Locker is also a big baseball prospect with a 95 MPH fastball, but his NFL stock has improved to the point it looks like he is headed for a football career. Because he will be drafted so high, its unlikely the Pats will have any shot at him. Still, he is fun to watch and quite a competitor. A great game to catch him in would be when the tough Nebraska defense visits on September 18th at 3:30 PM EST. The game will be shown on either ESPN2 or ABC depending on the network choice that week.

2.) Christian Ponder (#7) Florida State: Ponder really came into his own last year after ordinary performances as a freshman and sophomore. Last year, however, he blossomed with a excellent 68.8% completion percentage and a 2-1 (14-7) TD/INT ratio. He was hurt in the 9th game and did not return. This year he is healthy again and ready for a big senior year that could secure his spot as a first round pick. He stands 6’3″ and 227 but does have surprising mobility. The September 11th matchup should be telling when he goes on the road to Oklahoma and how he handles that pressure cooker could be a good test how he’ll adapt to the NFL. The game will be on ABC locally at 3:30 PM.

3.) Andrew Luck (#12) Stanford: Luck was somewhat of a game manager last year as Stanford’s powerful running game led the way. For the year, he only threw 4 INTs. A smart kid who avoids mistakes, there is throwing talent there. He needs more experience, but he has only played one year after redshirting freshman year. He could theoretically come out after this year, but will have two years of eligibility left and is unlikely to do so. Still, watch for him to possibly progress into Stanford’s biggest quarterback prospect since John Elway.

4.) Terrelle Pryor (#2) Ohio State: Pryor is a junior who has been as hyped a quarterback prospect as college football has seen in some time. He has actually caught some grief from Ohio State fans for not being an immediately dominating player. People forget he didn’t start until very late his freshman year, so last year was really his first year as a full-time player. Still, he put up solid numbers with a 56.6% completion rate and 18-11 TD/INT ratio. He also ran for 779 yards and his huge 6’6″ 235 lb. frame is very difficult to bring down as he combines that size with elusiveness, power and speed. He is a definite Heisman Trophy candidate and if he can develop a bit more touch on his throws, could be the #1 NFL draft pick at some point. Miami comes to town in a good matchup at 3:40 PM EST on ESPN September 11th. Watch to see how he performs versus their fast defense.

5.) Case Keenum (#7) Houston: Keenum is a slightly undersized QB who has put up phenomenal numbers in the Cougars all-out air attack offense. He’s thrown for 102 touchdowns in his career so far, including 44 last year. He plays exclusively from the spread and needs to bulk up. His arm strength is decent, but the question will be how much the system accounts for his stats. He probably won’t be a first round pick and will need coaching to a NFL offense. Watch him light up the scoreboard on a Friday night game, September 10th at 10:15 PM EST on ESPN when UTEP comes to town.

6.) John Brantley (#12) Florida: Brantley has the unenviable tasks of following perhaps the most celebrated, legendary college quarterbacks of all-time. Additionally, he follows one of the most successful quarterbacks of all time. Of course we’re talking about Tim Tebow. So what of Brantley? Well first of all he was very, very highly recruited out of high school himself. And he is much more conventional with excellent size, ability, touch and mechanics. The arm is very strong. When he has had a chance to play, he has put up a 10-1 TD/INT ratio in two years of spot duty. Just a junior, its unlikely he’ll come out this year, but it should be fun to watch him start to get his chance. Florida will be on TV a lot this year, but their first big game without Tebow comes on September 18th when they travel to Tennessee to take on the Vols. The game will be shown on CBS at 3:30 PM EST.

7.) Greg McElroy (#12) Alabama: McElroy is a workman-like quarterback who doesn’t do anything flashy and gets too little credit for what he does do. And that includes leading Alabama to a national championship last year in his first year as a starter. That makes his career record 30-0 as a starter including high school. That’s right folks, he has never lost a game as a starting quarterback in high school or college. He didn’t start in high school until his senior year as he was behind Chase Daniel, who is trying to make it as a rookie into the NFL this year out of the University of Missouri. With their terrific running game and dominating defense, McElroy isn’t called on to do a ton. But he makes plays when needed and avoids mistake, only throwing 4 INTs last season. There is a ton to like about his game, including leadership and smarts. These are the kind of traits the Patriots love, so if they’re going to start to look for the eventual successor to Tom Brady somewhere down the road, this would be a good guy. McElroy’s father works for the Dallas Cowboys. Greg and The Tide have a huge game when they travel to Arkansas on September 25th at 3:30 PM EST on CBS. Check him out then.

8.) Ryan Mallett (#15) Arkansas: If you watch that game, you can also check out this guy. A huge 6’7″ 238 lb. kid, he was the #1 high school quarterback recruit a few years back and went to Michigan. After starting 3 games as a freshman, he transferred out to Arkansas when new coach Rich Rodriguez brought in an offense in that didn’t really fit Mallett’s game. After sitting out a year, Mallett started last year for Arkansas and tossed 30 TD passes. He may have the best arm of any quarterback in college football, including Locker. His problem is he is a bit unrefined and not real elusive in the pocket. He is a statuesque pocket QB who throws a great ball and can rifle it into traffic when needed. He still has two years of eligibility left so whether he comes out depends on how much he improves this season.

9.) Jerrod Johnson (#1) Texas A+M: A big, scrambling QB with good speed and a 6’5″ 243 frame, Johnson can really throw it too. He also tossed 30 touchdowns last year and added over 500 running. He is now playing in a pro-style offense so that is positive experience for him. He needs to get a bit more accurate, but he improved a lot last year. Watch him take on Oklahoma State on the road in an ESPN Thursday night game September 30th at 7:30 PM EST.

10.) Adam Weber (#8) Minnesota: Weber’s game took a big a step back last season as he was taken out of the spread and moved to a more conventional offense in ‘09. While that could be good for his NFL prospects, his game and stats suffered tremendously. After compiling a 39-27 TD/INT ratio as a freshman and sophomore, Weber slipped to 13/15 last season. And he only completed a very poor 52% of his passes. Still, there is a lot to like about this 6’3″ 221 four year starter who throws very well on the move. He is a leader, tough, strong armed and experienced. If he makes strides this season and shows he finally has grasped the pro-style offense, it could send him climbing up the draft charts. Watch this sleeper on September 18th at 3:30 PM on ESPN when Minnesota has a huge challenge in USC visiting them in Minneapolis. If Weber can perform well against that competition, it’ll show he’s finally on his way to being a sure fire NFL quarterback. Its unlikely he’ll be a first round pick, but given his positive aspects, he could be the type of project the Patriots like. They do seem to like Big 10 quarterbacks.