With Emmanuel Sanders safely tucked away in Pittsburgh and the 91st overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft folded neatly back into Bill Belichick’s wallet, the obvious question looms:
Well, Plan A was sounding pretty good before the whole Sanders thing popped up a couple of weeks ago, so not much has changed on the big board. The “Sanders thing” was a calculated risk, but not much of one, as the only thing that New England gave away was the knowledge that they were willing to take a receiver with a 3rd round pick….
…but it’s really more like a second rounder, or even a first, though the smart money has Belichick trading down to acquire one more pick in rounds two through four – but the uncertainty and supposed fluidity of the situation makes it difficult to nail down a cut line – the line that separates the players that will be available at the point where New England will use it’s selections.
Which is as capricious a line as you will ever see in a “Depth Draft” year. Void of a sure-fire, can’t miss prospect, this draft is instead a treasure trove of depth chart fillers…which is a very good thing if you’re the Patriots and have addressed most of your needs through both deft free agency acquisitions and by retention….
…and what Bill Belichick will be looking for is not necessarily the big name, immediate impact type that would be a game-changer, rather, he’s seeking the big rangy versatile player to come into camp with the opportunity to make the starting lineup. Belichick has had major success bringing in guys just like this throughout his tenure, and most of them are starters on the team now.
No? Name one player that the Patriots have drafted in the past 13 years that had the “can’t miss, starter from day 1″ tag on them coming out of college. The closest they come is in the draft of 2010, when they took Devin McCourty at 27th overall, Rob Gronkowski in the 2nd round at 42 with Jermaine Cunningham at 53 and Brandon Spikes at 62, Taylor Price at 90 in the third round and Aaron Hernandez at an astounding 113th overall in the fourth round.
McCourty wasn’t a huge shocker in the 1st round, but Gronkowski in the 2nd round – after missing the previous year’s college season due to back issues raised some eyebrows, as did selecting Florida bad boys, eye-gouger Spikes in the 2nd round as well as pot smoking Hernandez in the 4th. The only “normal” pick, Price, caught all of three passes for the Patriots before being axed.
That encapsulates the Patriots’ draft thinking. Hit a solid kid in the 1st round with a good shot to make the starting lineup, then the best value picks that they can find on down the line
…and right down the line in 2013 means the 29th, 56th and 91st overall, and though banking on 29 would normally be poor business in anticipation of Trader Bill living up to his moniker, 56 is a relatively certain bet and it wouldn’t be the worst odds in thinking that an additional second rounder lies somewhere between the two when considering trade compensation for the Patriots first rounder.
But…who will be the trade partner? It’s well and fine to think that Bill probably wants more draft picks, but there has to be a willing participant, and it looks as if the pickings are slim for teams that may want to trade back up into the 1st round. Jacksonville at 33, Philadelphia at 35, Arizona at 38 and Buffalo at 42 will presumably be looking for value at the quarterback position, with the Bills being the only threat to take a signal caller in the first round.
Tampa may be the best opportunity at 44, as they may look to move into the first round after trading thier original #13 to the New York Jets in exchange for Darrelle Revis, and are in need of help all over the defense – Revis helps that, of course, but another corner, a defensive end and an impactful defensive tackle should be on their agenda, as well as a quarterback…
…and there have been reports that the Buccaneers are interested in Patriots’ backup Ryan Mallett, but now do not have the ammunition – reportedly a first rounder – to trade for Big Tex…or do they?
A little reorganizing of draft picks could help each team immensely. Let’s say that New England agrees to send their 1st rounder and one of their 3rd day selections to Tampa for the Buccaneers’ 2nd rounder (43 overall), their fourth rounder (122) and New England’s original fourth round selection that they sent to Tampa in exchange for Aqib Talib (136).
There are a few other potential trade partners, and the fact remains that if the Patriots want impact in this draft, they are going to have to be fluid and flexible and use every once of leverage that is available to them.
That being said, my big board is in flux. There’s no need in including players who are certain to be gone by 29, though excluding the possibilities limits the imagination, and makes any such list a fraud by omission – but there seems to be little need for targeting the defensive line at this point, and they should stand pat on the offensive line as well unless someone like Barrett Jones falls to them in the late second or early third rounds.
What they should target is a speedy, tough receiver, a hybrid linebacker/Safety, a big cornerback and a Tight End to back up the oft-injured duo of Gronkowski and Hernandez.
So in the film review coupled with intelligence gathering and interpretation, this Patriots’ need board is comprised of the athletes whom I have convinced myself are the proper players for the Patriots to select at their positions, regardless of where the experts have them rated…
…and the projections are based on my old-school, circa 1976 view of how football should be played, with power and speed – and plenty of both – and all are selected according to the thought that Bill Belichick has done enough in free agency that, with the exception of the receiver corps, he can select with impunity the best athlete available at a need position:
The shorter than desired Wheaton is very fast and may be the best pure deep receiver in the draft. He is linked to the Patriots by more than a couple of mock drafts and should be available at 29 or even into the mid second round.
Big, strong, fast and tough, catches the ball well and has little regard for his own body not that of the defender. Was interviewed extensively at the combine, but hasn’t been linked to the Patriots at all, but if he remains as projected in the third round, he would be the steal of the draft.
The same size as Rogers, but nearly a full tenth of a second faster, Dobson is perhaps the best receiving threat to emerge from Marshall since that Randy Moss guy. He is also a third round projection and would represent real value in that round.
At 6′ 1″ and 230 pounds, Harper is built like a linebacker or a squatty tight end, but the 4.50 speed and purposeful running after the catch is appealing. Another 3rd round projection. Maybe the Patriots ought to trade off their entire draft to pool all their resources in the 2nd and 3rd rounds…
Another big, tough kid – though shorter than all of the others on this board, he carries a Rogers type mentality regarding toughness and yards after the catch. Blazing fast at 4.28, his third round projection has more to do with alligator arms on underneath routes than of skill set…another 3rd round projection.
NFL ready corner, but works best in zone and off-man coverages. If selected by the Patriots, he would need some tutoring in press schemes, but is otherwise a top shelf product with amazing closing and make up speed. Projected as a late first round pick.
Press corner that just needs to be a bit more physical with receivers off the line and he will be an excellent #1 corner. Projected as a mid to late first rounder, so may not be available at 29, but then again, maybe he will be…
Perhaps the best press/man corner in the draft, big kid and could use a little more weight and is not the fastest guy in the world, but has an ingrained talent of being able to stick to receivers with aggressive fight – perhaps his all out effort is why he tends to wear down late in games? Solid 2nd round selection is available at 56.
Speedy Amerson projects best in an attacking scheme where the corners press down on the receivers but his best fit may be in more of a Devin McCourty type hybrid role and could provide solid depth at corner and free safety. Should be available at 56, perhaps even at 91 but that may be a long shot.
If the Patriots are thinking fluid, athletic safety, Reid is the best of the bunch and could be had late first round, early second round. Big and physical, could be a fit at Big Nickle under the watchful eye of Adrian Wilson.
The wildcard of the draft – Greene is a legitimate 3-tool, 3 down linebacker who could be an X factor. Aggressively sets the edge, explodes to the ball, is an accomplished and non-stop rusher off the edge and is as fluid in underneath coverage as you will find. Projected for late second or early third rounds, and this is a kid that should be a priority for Belichick.
The mentality and attitude of Brandon Spikes but with plenty of speed and coverage ability and is a legitimate 3 down linebacker. A former safety like Khaseem Greene, Ogletree has prototypical size for the position and bring s nasty disposition. With Spikes’ contact up after this season, Ogletree provides insurance in more ways than one and may be available up to and including the first 10 picks of the second round.
Amazing athlete and the perfect person to back up both Gronkowski and Hernandez…and perhaps even Tom Brady. Recruited to the Bearcats as a quarterback, he switched to Tight End and has all the making of a complete tight end, with hybrid qualities that have to be intriguing. A late second round, early third round projection, he played some quarterback in college and would be a nice emergency quarterback in the right system.
A Hernandez clone? Film shows many of the same moves, the same speed, same instincts…and it’s no wonder as he has been tutored by Hernandez in the past and was recruited to Florida from the same town as Hernandez. Injury concerns have him limited to late third round, early fourth round projection, but the tape doesn’t like. The kid could be a star if healthy.
A slower than expected time in the 40 at the combine dropped him off a few boards, but if still available in the fourth round, has the size and athleticism to project as a solid backup with the Patriots.
If Belichick does indeed trade down out of the 1st round, it’s safe to assume that he should get at least a 2nd and 4th round selection from a quarterback needy team desperate to leapfrog the other teams to get the signal caller that they covet…
…and three of the players listed above should take up three of the four picks the Patriots will be left with.
Of course if Tavon Austin miraculously falls to the Patriots at 29 in the first round, it changes the dynamic of this theory, but that’s hardly a safe bet.
And neither is anyone thinking that they know what Bill Belichick is going to do in the draft. Hell, he moved up twice last year to get players that he wanted, so we know from experience that he’s not afraid to pull that trigger. The only thing that we think we know is that New England has some clearly defined needs and there’s a lot of talent to be had for a patient coach.