So, for the last week, I‘ve been breaking down the New England Patriots’ positional needs and possible replacements to be found during the draft (you can find them here: cornerback, wide receiver, o-line, d-tackle, and tight end).
And now that we have a veritable pool of players to choose from, and because last night’s beatdown of Peyton Manning and the Broncos made me temporarily giddy for next season, it seems only right to make a mock draft.
There are three rules to this mock:
1. No picking “In-Case-He-Slips” Prospects
So, as a reminder, that includes Eric Ebron, Louis Nix III, David Yankey, Kelvin Benjamin, and Justin Gilbert. It seems unfair to pick a player who is more than likely a Top-15 selection and for me to just say “Oh, in this draft world that I’ve created, Jadeveon Clowney slides all the way almost out of the first round, where Bill Belichick happily gobbled him up!” is a waste of time. But just know that Ebron and Nix III aren’t falling past the Patriots. Not a chance.
2. No guessing compensatory picks/no trades
As compensatory picks aren’t awarded until March, I’m not going to bother here. The Wes Welker and Danny Amendola signings cancel each other out, but the Patriots will probably receive three picks in the 6/7 zone for Danny Woodhead, Patty Chung, and Donald Thomas. There are some players in the round range who I would love to mock the Patriots taking (the more I watch of Jordan Najvar, the more I think he’s a Day Three steal), but until they’re set in stone, I’m not going to bother. Also no trades. That would be cheating.
3. I’m operating under the assumption that Aqib Talib will be resigned.
This is, of course, a dangerous assumption to make. But I think the Patriots (if they’re as smart as I think they are) will make Talib their No. 1 priority this offseason, and Talib has shown that he wants to come back. Julian Edelman I’m a lot less sure about.
So that’s that. Let’s get to drafting.
Round 1: With the 29th pick….Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech.
It comes down to Amaro and Ra’Shede Hageman, but I think the glaring need at tight end and Amaro’s potential stud upside will lead them in that direction. The 6-6, 260 Texas Tech product may slip down draft boards because he doesn’t have the blocking ability of a typical in-line end, playing most of his college career out of the slot. Luckily, the Patriots have an excellent blocker in Rob Gronkowski, needing more of a “move” tight end to complement their star. Amaro moves exceedingly well for a man his size, with great footwork, and would be a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Brady will love having him in the red zone as well as a potential big-play threat on every down.
Other Choices: Ra’Shede Hageman, DT; Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE
Round 2: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
With the Patriots defense, when healthy, in pretty good condition, the Patriots will go back-to-back on getting Brady as many weapons as he needs to get back to the Super Bowl. The 6’3, 210 former basketball player isn’t the most electrifying athlete, but he has great hands, an impressive vertical, and is strong over the middle. Robinson has the upside to be an Anquan Bolidin-like possession receiver, and you better bet those five words would have Brady drooling. After a year plagued by drops, and with Dobson, Gronk, and Amaro providing big targets down the field, Robinson could be a force underneath, while being another red-zone asset.
Other Choices: Troy Niklas, TE; Jason Verrett, CB
Round 3: DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
DaQuan Jones would be drafted to do one thing: protect against the run. Luckily, he should prove to do that one thing exceedingly well. Putting the 6’3, 318 Jones, who has immense strength and is a pest at the line of scrimmage, next to Vince Wilfork will make offenses think twice about running down the middle, while also necessitating double teams that would free up Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. While DaQuan Jones doesn’t excel in the pass rush, the Patriots have a trio of defensive tackles (Seaver Siliga, Chris Jones, Joe Vellano) who all got to the QB, while struggling against the run. Drafting a run-defense prospect fills the need quite well, adding another asset to a young and flourishing defense.
Other Choices: Jared Abbrederis, WR; Anthony Steen, OG
Round 4: Chris Watt, OG, Notre Dame
The Patriots could do with some upside on the interior of their offensive line, especially with Ryan Wendell a free agent and Dan Connolly’s salary looking a tad unfavorable. Chris Watt from Notre Dame could be a fine pickup in the later rounds for the Patriots, and has three years of starting experience on a good offensive line. The 6’3, 321 Watt is the type of heady lineman that the Patriots have coveted in the past, and has the right amount of veterans (Mankins, Vollmer, Solder) and a new coach already primed for the system (Dave DeGuglielmo) to usher him onto the line.
Other Choices: Caraun Reid, DT; Brandon Coleman, WR
Round 6 (traded from Philly): Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Okay, so going a little bit off script here. I do believe that Tom Brady could be an effective quarterback for at least three more seasons, and he should retire as a Patriot and a Patriot only (no Brett Favre/Peyton Manning moving around for Ares the God of War). That being said, a potential replacement for Tom Terrific should be drafted. Ryan Mallett is entering the final year of his contract and, with the Pats’ cap situation the way it is, he’ll most likely be traded or walk after this season. Aaron Murray is probably as far from Mallett as you can get. The 6’1 Georgia grad doesn’t have a cannon for an arm, but instead relies on his quick mechanics and accuracy in short/intermediate routes to flourish in a pro-style offense. He’s also a deceptively good athlete that can pick up yards on the ground. His height and recent injury will probably see him slip down draft boards, in which case the Pats should look into the record-breaking Bulldog, to groom him for a year before installing him as the backup in 2015.
Round 6: Deion Belue, CB, Alabama
Again, this is operating under the assumption that Aqib Talib will be in a Patriots’ uniform next season. The New England line has always been that they value dependability over flashy athleticism, and Deion Belue fits that to a T. Bill Belichick and Nick Saban will be talking constantly leading up to the draft, and Saban loves the graduating cornerback. The 5’11 Belue doesn’t have one standout skill, but is instead a solid all-around defensive back, who plays strong, heady coverage with good footwork, and is more than willing to go defend the run. Belue would provide depth at the corner position, and would immediately be an ace special teams contributor.
Other Choices: Jordan Najvar, TE; James White, RB
Round 7: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana
This may be wishful thinking, especially if Latimer can improve perceptions of his speed at the combine. But the 6’2 junior out of Indiana would be an intriguing late-round prospect with high upside on the right team. He doesn’t have top-line speed, but he is a good blocker, has some of the best hands in the draft, and has good size that projects to a solid possession receiver. If brought along slowly, and allowed to develop his route-running in an NFL-offense, Latimer could be a nice contributor for New England.
Other Choices: Glenn Carson, MLB; Beau Allen, DT
So what would you think of this haul for the New England Patriots? Direct your fury/jubilation at me on twitter @isportspeters or at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you have players to recommend, let me know there for the next mock!
Update (2/4): Hoping to do a Patriots draft mailbag kinda thing at the end of the week. So send ’em over on Twitter or email!