For the longest time I looked at the Patriots five draft picks like they were litter of jack rabbits – give them a few months and you’ve got rabbits everywhere.
That being said, I do believe that Bill Belichick will trade down from the 1st round to collect more draft picks. The draft is so deep in need areas for the Patriots that good value and potential day one starters can be found in the second and perhaps the third rounds.
What would prevent Belichick from doing so? Well, a name like Ogletree being available with the 29th pick would do it.
Many believe that the Patriots woes last season were due to poor secondary play – and that was part of it- but in reality, tight ends and running backs absolutely killed New England on underneath routes. Dont’a Hightower became better at coverage as the season progressed, but is nowhere near the coverage backer that Ogletree is.
There’s still a long way to go before the NFL draft in late April, but for now, here’s 17-32:
17. Pittsburgh Steelers – Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia (6’2″-240)
Rare athlete with prototypical talent and a non-stop motor, explosive and coordinated, incredibly strong and violent hands to both shed blockers and rip ball few from quarterbacks and running backs – one of those guys that you just have to watch play to appreciate. Words really do not do him justice.
Patriots’ perspective: Jones suffers from an affliction called spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column caused by injury that causes pressure on the nerve roots or the spinal cord, such as a slipped or herniated disk. Jones says he knows how to protect himself from injury, but no one can guarantee that.
Should be a contestant on Dancing with the Stars with his light feet, but there would be a real fear among his dance partner that they’d get pancaked. Eliminates folks in the running game and has a devastating initial punch to counter bull rushers. Not a better interior lineman in the draft – not by a long shot.
Patriots’ perspective: Would Belichick take a guard in the first round, provided Warmack fell that far? First of all, he may not even make it out of the top 10, so posting him going to Dallas is a bit of a stretch. If he did happen to fall to 29, it would be tough to pass on him – interior linemen with his athleticism and nastiness are a once-in-a-generation find…and given Mankins injury issues, not a bad fall back option.
19. New York Giants – Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame (6’6″-250)
Works in-line, out of the slot and lined up wide, with the speed and foot work to gain separation. Is a versatile athlete who attacks the ball in the air and will come down with it more times than not. Is a very good blocker who can pancake, particularly on wham blocks pulling from outside of the tackle.
Patriots’ perspective: In the Patriots’ offense, he’s just a guy. His upside isn’t as great as some other tight ends in the draft because he’s not going to be able to hold much more weight on his frame and fits best as a Hernandez type but without the precise route running.
20. Chicago Bears – D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama (6’5″-355)
The Bears would have to decide where to use Fluker, whether at Right Tackle or Guard, but either way he is perfect for their power running game, and is a capable pass blocker though his forte is being an enormous road grader. A big, powerful man that could help protect Cutler, who tends to roll to his right when stepping out of the pocket.
Patriots’ perspective: A perfect replacement for Sebastian Vollmer should the Patriots not be able to resign him. Has the feet and nastiness to plow the road in the running game and moves well laterally to provide one-on-one protection in the passing game.
21. Cincinnati Bengals – Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (5’9″-175)
Many needs on offense if the Bengals are ever going to get out of the first round of the playoffs. We could definitely see an Eddy Lacy taken here as well, but the feeling is that Andy Dalton needs a home run hitter opposite A.J. Green to really open up the offense, and Austin has home run hitter written all over him, whether in the slot or lined up wide or even out of the backfield.
Patriots perspective: If Austin lasted until the 29th pick, the Patriots would be tempted to pick up this jitterbug…doubt he’ll fall that far…Besides, redshirted speedster Jeff Demps is already on the roster and if used properly will provide the same style impact.
22. St. Louis Rams – Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina (6’2″-310)
Can play all three interior line positions with equal grace and agility. Has a history of being an outstanding wrestler and understands leverage well, which is key to interior blocking. Is short and can be pushed around a bit, but fits very well in a scheme where tandem blocking is the norm.
Patriots perspective: His name has been connected with the Patriots in passing, solely due to what is deemed an ambiguous situation along the Patriots line – which is a fabrication of sorts. Patriots would have to really be reaching to select Cooper, however – but stranger things have happened.
23. Minnesota Vikings - DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson (6’1″-200)
Skill set favors comparisons to Reggie Wayne, attacks the ball in the air and looks to create yards after the catch. Isn’t real tough and can be taken down easily – if the defenders can catch him. Very illusive after the catch as if he had a schematic for the defense…a legitimate threat for Christian to Ponder.
Patriots perspective: An OK fit for a Patriots’ passing game that thrives on yards after the catch, though seems to have a little Brandon Lloyd in him, where if he doesn’t see an opening to slide through will sit down to avoid contact.
Bloodlines are NFL quality, but Desmond is his own man…equally effective in either man or zone coverages and loves him a little contact, particularly in run defense. Times his leaps well and fights for the ball and shows competitiveness. The Colts have other holes to fill, but won’t be able to resist this athlete in their secondary.
Patriots perspective: What’s not to like? However, as it appears that the Patriots will be able to resign Aqib Talib and most likely will have Alfonzo Dennard back after his brush with the law, and there are other needs. His name has been connected to the Patriots by many draft experts and is a wonderful fit should the Talib/Dennard scenario not come to fruition.
25. Seattle Seahawks – Terrence Williams, WR, Baylor (6’2″-200)
The Seahawks have it all and don’t have a true hole to fill anywhere…so, what to do? Simple, get Wilson a big wide out who wants the ball. Ask him, he’ll tell you. Not explosive speed, but adjusts route to flow underneath the ball and catch it in stride, and with a guy like Wilson who loves to air it out? Sounds like NFC favorites to me.
Patriots perspective: The Boldin type presence that the Patriots would need to replace Brandon Lloyd should New England release him as expected. Seattle is a wild card here because they have no significant holes and are looking for gems as eventual starters, but depth for now.
26. Green Bay Packers – Eric Reid, FS, LSU (6’1″-215)
Incredible fit in the Packers secondary with the release of the aging Woodson. Has LaRon Landry type intangibles and may be the most violent hitter in the draft. If he plays under control and within the system he could fill a huge need for Green Bay.
Patriots perspective: If the Patriots truly are seeking a safety with nasty intentions, this is the dude – though he has a propensity to take high shots which will earn him both penalties and fines and perhaps injuries in the NFL. The right team will be able to make him a team player and cause him to play within the system.
27. Houston Texans – Kevin Minter, ILB, LSU (6’1″-245)
He’s a instinctive inside defender, very intelligent and his leadership value is through the roof and works best in a front seven that allows him to roam inside in space. Gives up his body but isn’t the biggest hitter. His value is in chasing down the play and moving laterally along the line of scrimmage which makes him perfect for Houston’s scheme. Is efficient in pass coverage and a good blitzer as well.
Patriots’ perspective: New England is pretty much set as far as inside backers are concerned, though he is a decent Mike prospect. I believe the Patriots would pass on him.
28. Denver Broncos - Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State (6’3″-320)
The kind of player that causes a play to stop in it’s tracks, and what he can’t get to, he redirects just by presence. A big bully that truly doesn’t like his opponent. So why isn’t he the first player taken? A knee issue for one…and has a habit of making poor decisions on the field, leading to penalties and being occasionally out of position. Is durable nonetheless, but conditioning is a bit worrisome as he tends to wear down. When he’s on his game, he demands double and triple teams.
Patriots perspective: A big body that would fit in a tackle rotation, though not as conditioned as the position would require. Not as consistently disruptive as the Patriots are used to with Vince Wilfork and has been that way since coming to Ohio State as the next big thing out of high school. A project that may or may not respond to motivation.
Perhaps the most exciting linebacker prospect in the draft – but has some legitimate red flags as well. Makes plays all over the field, is quick around the edge and arrives at the quarterback and running back in a bad mood. He’s a former safety which speaks to his athleticism, and also tells a story of decent coverage skills. He’s not doing himself any favors, however, but getting nailed for DUI this past weekend. Add that to his suspension for violation of the school’s substance abuse policy and you wonder about his decision making abilities…
Patriots’ perspective: In light of the increased opportunity for Belichick to re-sign Talib and Dennard reportedly getting off soft from slugging a cop, my previous pick of cornerback Jonathan Banks has been replaced by the one player that could alleviate New England’s coverage struggles with Tight Ends and running backs. If he is not there at 29, look for the Patriots to trade down, which they may do anyway.
30. Atlanta Falcons – Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama (5’10″-220)
Michael Turner is wearing down, so why not bring in a clone to replace him? Not as fast as Turner, but has the leg drive, tenacity and violent finishing move that will served him well as a load-carrying feature back with the Falcons. They also have eyes on Tight End Zach Ertz out of Stanford as an option in the event Tony Gonzalez is gone.
Patriots perspective: How many running backs do the Patriots need with this size? He would compliment the running game as a finisher and short yardage back, but can’t see this as an area of need for New England.
31. Kansas City Chiefs (via trade w/ San Francisco) – Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas Pine Bluff (6’5″-305)
Intelligent athlete with excellent mirroring capabilities, but less than overpowering run blocking capacities. Has Gronkowski speed and is a prime candidate to be a Tackle eligible playmaker if Andy Reid so desires. Tremendous upside despite lack of elite competition in college.
Patriots’ perspective: If he were more of a capable run blocker, this would be an excellent need pick if Vollmer is not resigned. A bit of a reach for a Chiefs team with many needs, but a trade down with the 49ers puts them in a “best athlete available” scenario, and Armstead could turn into a surprise gem.
32. Baltimore Ravens – Manti Te’o, ILB, Notre Dame (6’2″-255)
Football smart and as loyal as they come, Te’o possesses the same build as departed Ray Lewis, though no one can match Lewis’ intangibles. That being said, why not bring in a guy who has weathered his share of controversy, head held high? A good athlete who is instinctive and delivers a pop, is a decent open field tackler and is usually in the right place at the right time. Remains to be seen if his man of integrity and team leader attributes translate to the pros, but he’s got big enough shoulders to carry the weight of filling some very heavy shoes.
Patriots perspective: No. As with Minter, the Patriots have plenty of inside linebackers and decent depth. Would be a wasteful pick for a team that has bigger needs.
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