Hi everyone, welcome to the 3rd edition of iSportsWeb’s 7-Round New England Patriots Mock Draft aka Patriots Mock Draft: Re-mock of the Jedi.
Glad to have you.
And then immediately ignore. Because times have changed.
In fact really quickly: here’s an updated list of the Patriots draft needs after a frenetic first week of free agency:
Updated Draft Needs
- Defensive Tackle – No longer a luxury pick. The FA Market was long decided before Wilfork declared he wanted to move on. Should Wilfork not be in a Patriots uniform in 2015, let alone this season, the Patriots need to pick a blue-chipper with upside to replace him in the long term.
- Interior O-Lineman – Preferably a center, as Dan Connolly vs. Marcus Cannon at guard is at least something. Ryan Wendell performed poorly last season, and will only be resigned at the vet’s minimum, if at all.
- Tight End – Either an athletic Aaron Hernandez “joker” type to plug in right away, or a bigger, more traditional tight end to back up Rob Gronkowski. As Eric Ebron is really the best conceivable fit for the former (outside of Colt Lyerla, who may not be a team fit), and looks to be long gone by #29, look for the Pats to lean towards the latter.
- Edge Rusher DE/OLB – A lot of people will say that this should be a much higher need, pointing at the decreased sack numbers, especially by Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones. But the lack of pass-rushing had little to do with a lack of talent, than it did with a banged-up personnel. Plug in their starting DTs, have the faith in their revamped secondary, and Nink, Jones, and the LBs will be let loose a lot more. Still, a need, but not drastic.
That settled, let’s move onward:
The Rules of the Mock
- No predicting crazy slides for prospects
As much as I’d love to write about how in my perfect world, Jadeveon Clowney plummeted all the way down to #29, where the sly Bill Belichick picked him up, spurring Clowney, with a new chip on his shoulder, to go on a league-terrorizing sack rampage, that’s not exactly fair. (Though that does sound nice…)
2. No guessing compensatory picks/no trades
Half of this will be decided next week, as the Patriots are expected are to at least win another 6th round pick, which, if anything, could be used to trade up a few spots. Speaking of trading, this mock won’t have it, though Fanspeak’s Draft Simulator’s new feature includes it (utilizing the Draft Value Chart). So the next one probably will, but until then
3. Speaking of Fanspeak’s Draft Simulator
For all clarity’s sake: Using the Simulator and the Fanspeak Big Board, I came up with this mock which I love. I figured it’d be fair to post it if I could draft the same exact group five out of ten times, which I did (just barely). It’s a fun tool to use if you want to play GM and I can’t recommend trying it out more.
But that’s enough of that, let’s get to it…
Round 1: Louis Nix III, DT, Notre Dame
That scurrying sound you heard the moment Vince Wilfork announced his release request? Thousands of Patriots fans rushing to the Internet to track down as much Louis Nix game tape as they could find. And if they were like me, they loved what they saw. It’s reductive to call Nix the next Wilfork, but you can see why people make that jump.
At 6-2, 331, Nix was a dominant force on the line, swallowing up running backs that dare to cross his path. He’s quicker than his build might suggest, and his pass-rushing skills could improve when he’s not facing constant double-teams as he did at Notre Dame. Plus, the man they call “Irish Chocolate” has an immensely magnetic personality, and will be quickly loved by Pats fans (seriously, watch that YouTube clip). Before Wilfork’s announcement, you could make arguments for the Pats reaching for Ra’Shede Hageman or Jace Amaro, but now Nix might be tops on their big board.
Other Picks: Jace Amaro, TE; Ra’Shede Hageman, DT; Calvin Pryor, S
Round 2: Weston Richburg, C, Colorado St.
The Patriots jump across the line and take one of the best interior linemen in the draft. The one slight against Richburg is that, at Colorado St., he didn’t face a high level of competition, leading some foolish experts to put him below bigger-school prospects like Travis Swanson or Marcus Martin. But Richburg not only has the best upside at the center position in the draft, but he’s NFL-ready right now.
At 6-4, 300, he’s an incredible athlete, was a team leader, and plays with a mean streak comparable to his would-be line neighbor, Logan Mankins. He’s equally good in run defense and pass defense, having the strength for a man scheme, and the quickness for zone. Plugging in Richburg would allow the Patriots to have Connolly as a backup center and guard, putting Marcus Cannon at right guard, where he should flourish. Instantly, the Patriots would have one of the best offensive lines in the league, giving Dave DeGuglielmo an easy time in his first season. Also, Weston Richburg is one of the all-time greatest names. Seriously.
Other Picks: Austin Seferian Jenkins, TE; Dominique Easley, DT; Scott Crichton, DE
Round 3: CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
After passing on Amaro, Seferian-Jenkins, and Troy Niklas, the Pats can’t wait until the 4th round to take a tight end, and here they end up with the last top-tier one in the draft. CJ Fiedorowicz isn’t the sexiest pick, but he makes the most sense. Fans clamoring for a Hernandez-clone may be disappointed, but Fiedo is more than just a big dude.
In fact, at the combine he proved he’s a lot more athletic than previously thought. His 4.76 40 wasn’t fantastic (though better than expected), but his 7.10 three-cone drill and 4.26 short shuttle were. Already proven to be one of the best blockers in the class, those two drills prove that he has the mobility to separate from defenders in short to intermediate routes, and be a nuisance in the red zone. He’ll never be a burner, but he could be dangerous down the seam, and would be a good counter to Gronkowski’s more explosive style. With the Patriots seemingly transitioning away from the Gronk-Hernandez model towards a power-running game, Fiedo would be a permanent fixture as the No. 2 TE and insurance should Gronk’s injury concerns continue.
Other Picks: Christian Kirksey, OLB (who I really like, by the way); DaQuan Jones, DT
Round 4: Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
Yes, I’m cheating and taking Jordan Tripp in the same spot for the second mock in a row. But the last month has done nothing to lessen my football crush on the Montana product. In fact, it’s only made things worse. The Patriots lost both Dane Fletcher and Brandon Spikes this offseason, leaving the LB depth pretty thin after the starting trio of Mayo-Hightower-Collins. Tripp would step in and be the versatile, coachable player that Belichick loves.
The 6’3, 237 linebacker has the athleticism and agility to get up in the face of the quarterback, the instincts to protect the run in the middle, the team-first attitude to be a special teams ace, and won’t be an embarrassment in coverage. Tripp doesn’t have the shining upside of some of his counterparts, but he’s a hard-working, high-motor player who could be a dependable starter one day.
Other Picks: Kevin Norwood, WR; Aaron Murray, QB; Michael Sam, DE
Round 6: Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama
A quick note: The Patriots secondary is pretty set. Outside of Calvin Pryor/Ha-Ha Clinton Dix plummeting down the board (oh if only, if only), I don’t see the Patriots spending a high draft pick on a safety, as Devin McCourty/Duron Harmon is a really solid duo.
With that in mind, Vinnie Sunseri would be an easy pick should he be available this late in the draft. The 5’11, 210 Alabama product has gotten past his average build and athleticism by being the classic coach’s kid: tremendous instincts, intangibles, and a vocal team leader. That’s not to say that Sunseri can’t play football: he absolutely can. He’s a strong presence at the line of scrimmage, a sound tackler (he played linebacker in high school), and has great body control defending the pass. Sunseri could be extremely useful in sub packages, and would immediately be a tremendous special teams player.
Round 6: Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida
Well, after five straight high character team leaders, we come to our first question mark in the mock. As a freshman at Notre Dame, Lynch was one of the most buzzed-about players in college football, racking up 7 TFL and 5.5 sacks next to Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt. He was agreed upon as a Top-20 pick whenever he came out. Then, Lynch transferred to South Florida, sitting out a year, before having a disappointing season last year for the 2-10 Bulls and jumping into the draft pool.
The two versions of Lynch we saw could not be more different: South Florida Lynch’s effort and technique was up and down, calling into question his motor and attitude. Teams considering Lynch are counting on his being the Lynch we all saw at Notre Dame, and if he’s around this late on the draft, the Patriots should take that chance. Lynch has a ton of upside, is an unbelievable athlete, and has great size, speed, and power. The Patriots seem like the right team to flip that motor switch, and he could be a huge backup to Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich as a superb sub-rusher.
Other Picks: Colt Lyerla, TE (more here); Jay Bromley, DT; Aaron Colvin, CB
Round 7: Trey Millard, FB/TE, Oklahoma
The seventh round is for taking chances, and personally I’d be thrilled if the Patriots spent their last pick on the Oklahoma grad. The league-wide move away from the traditional fullback, and an ACL injury suffered in October, have allowed Millard slip outside of the Top 100, where he should belong. The good news for the team that does pick him is the 6-2, 247 Millard is way more than just a fullback.
The two-year captain saw time at tight end, single back, h-back and in the slot in his time at Oklahoma, as well as being one of their best special teams players. Over 48 games, Millard accumulated 538 rushing yards on 98 attempts (5.49 ypc) and 70 rec. for 707 yards (10.1 ypc). He has good hands and is a passable pass-protector. He’s a powerful north-south runner and a good lead blocker. Most importantly, he’s a leader with tremendous character and game IQ. The Patriots already have James Develin as a more traditional fullback, but if any team can find a way to use the multi-talented Millard, it’s Josh McDaniels and Bill Belichick.
Other Picks: Trey Burton, QB/RB/WR/TE; Tom Savage, QB; Larry Webster, DE
So that’s that. The truth is, when healthy, the Patriots roster is in really good shape, especially with the additions so far in free agency. In this mock, the Patriots add crucial starters at defensive tackle and center, key depth at linebacker and DE, a second TE, and two players who, while not explosive game-changers, are pretty much sure things to fall right into the Patriot Way. With those seven picks, the New England Patriots would be right back as a Super Bowl Contender.
And if you have players of your own to recommend, let me know for the next mock, coming in two weeks!