Hi everyone, welcome to the 5th edition of iSportsWeb’s New England Patriots Mock Draft aka Patriots Mock Draft V: The Face of Draft.
Glad to have you.
Guys, the draft is almost here. Like three weeks away. Things are getting serious. The last free agents are being sifted through, players are starting to work out, but for now it’s all about May 8th.
I won’t keep you, let’s get to it.
Rules of the Mock
As usual, this mock draft was made using Fanspeak’s Draft Simulator, and then tested to make sure it had at least a 50% success rate. Last time, I hypothesized a trade between the Pats and the Raiders in which the Pats traded back to the 36th pick. This time, I’m going to try something different.
Patriots trade the 29th pick and a Future 4th Round Pick to the Minnesota Vikings for their second (40) and third (72) round picks.
I love Matt Cassel to death, but when one of the top 4 QBs falls to the bottom of the second, or if Zach Mettenberger/AJ McCarron are threatening to be taken before 40, the Vikings may just jump back up to take him, much like they did last year with Cordarelle Patterson.
It is out of character for the Pats to trade a future pick, and they could very well trade the 130th instead, but the Vikings would rather take the chance of a better pick down the line, and, most importantly, this is a deep draft class the best value for New England’s needs sits in that Round 2-3 range. If the Pats somehow end up with 4 picks in that 30-100 range, it would be a monumental win.
Here we go:
Round 2 (40) – Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon St.
One of the top needs for this Patriots team is to help out Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. As well as they’ve played, their absolutely bonkers snap count last season (Ninkovich with 96% and Jones 97.9% of all possible snaps). That pace is downright unsustainable, and the team needs an end to play in a rotation and help ease that load. Enter Scott Crichton.
The 6’3, 273 lb Oregon State product isn’t the most athletic guy. But he overcompensates with massive strength and a high-motor, relentless playing style that leads to plenty of tackles and forced fumbles in the backfield. That sound like Rob Ninkovich to you? You’re not alone. Like Nink, Crichton can be a 4-3 end, while also standing up in some packages or even kick inside at tackle if needed. He’s a strong tackler, has great closing speed, as well as short-distance agility (shown by his 4.29 20yd shuttle). His blue-collar, no-quit attitude will fit in perfectly with Bill Belichick and the rest of the Patriots’ front seven.
Round 2 (62) – Dominique Easley, Florida, DT
Seven out of the ten times I tested this mock, it came down to Easley and Notre Dame lineman Stephon Tuitt. Both have their issues (Easley’s health, Tuitt’s motor), but the Patriots will take the Easley’s risks over Tuitt’s any day. So, the bad news out of the way: Easley tore his left ACL in November 2011, and then his right ACL in September 2013. Even though Easley bounced back to a strong 2012 season, his durability will always be a concern to teams, leading him to drop from the Top 20 to the bottom of the second round.
The good news: If Easley can stay healthy, he is the steal of the draft. Despite being a bit undersized (6’2, 288), Easley is perhaps the most explosive lineman in the class, with a tremendous first snap and great leverage, disrupting the pocket immediately. He also checks off three big Patriots bugaboos: 1) versatility (while he’s most effective penetrating from the interior, he’s played DE for long stretches), 2) super-high motor (watch the tape) and 3) was a team captain. As a former recruit of Belichick compatriot Urban Meyer, Easley has been linked to the Patriots several times, and for good reason. His explosiveness would not only do some damage himself, but open up opportunities for his teammates on the line.
Round 3 (72) – Telvin Smith, Florida State, OLB
And so ends the long reign of Jordie Tripp as Outside-Linebacker-I-Have-A-Huge-Football-Crush on. It’s been a good two months, buddy, but it’s Telvin Smith’s turn. Some scouts will look at Smith’s 6’3/220 frame, and worry that he can’t do any one thing, not a natural fit at OLB or at SS. That’s the glass half-empty approach.
Here’s the glass half-full, and correct, approach: Smith can do everything. He has the experience and tenacity to play weak-side linebacker permanently at the NFL-level, and the unbelievable athleticism and solid coverage skills to rule in the box as a safety. In the Patriots, he would be an incredible asset as a SPUR linebacker, a sort of hybrid that will terrorize offenses. He has blazing sideline-to-sideline speed, running a 4.52 at the combine, and his tape shows bursting acceleration into the backfield. Also, fans will adore Smith. There are some leaders who quietly lead by example, and there are some leaders who are all fire and energy, infecting his teammates with his confident and brash style of play. Smith, a FSU captain, is the latter, who will add back some of the nasty lost with Brandon Spikes’ departure. Again, he’s not a perfect fit in New England’s 4-3 base, especially with a stud linebacking trio, but think of Smith as somewhere between Wesley Woodyard and Kam Chancellor, who have overcome their lack of perfect fit to become defensive game-changers.
Round 3 (93) – Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Sankey is being recognized more and more by teams as the most complete back in the draft class, and, as such, I’ve shifted him up a spot since the last mock. And he’s totally worth it. The comparison to Cincinnati’s Giovanni Bernard are quite valid, as he’s got impressive power for his size, tremendous vision and burst, and is a great pass-blocker/receiver out of the backfield.
I see why some are calling out for the Pats to find a big bowling ball back a la Winnebago Blount to come in as a third back, such as Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill, or Tyler Gaffney. But in the long term, with both Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley set to hit free agency, a well-rounded back who can do everything well fits the bill equally (plus we’re going to solve the goal-line problems later in this draft). He’s a hard worker, dynamic character, and was voted a team captain his junior year. Plus, when you have the opportunity to draft a player named Bishop Sankey, you draft him. No questions. You can’t fail with that name.
Round 4 (130) – Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia
The one sacrifice that the Patriots would be making, in this draft, is passing up on the five top-tier tight ends (Ebron, Amaro, ASJ, Niklas, and Fiedo). Here, they take the best tight end in the tier below, Georgia’s Arthur Lynch.
Arthur Lynch has the size (6’5/258) and hands to be a starting three-down tight end in the NFL. He’s an aggressive, strong in-line blocker, who’s also played out of the slot and as an H-back, excelling in both. He’s a crisp route-runner, especially on short routes, and has developed a reputation as a QB’s best friend. The downside: Lynch is never going to be dangerous after the catch, lacking the speed and flexibility to avoid would-be tacklers. But as a red-zone threat and block-first TE, he’ll find success, especially as a backup/linemate with Rob Gronkowski. He’s also got strong intangibles, was a team captain at Georgia, and has the reputation of being a leader on and off the field. He’s not the exciting prospect, but he’s durable as they come.
Round 4 (140) – Jon Halapio, Florida, Guard
With the re-signing of Ryan Wendell, the need for the Patriots to find an interior lineman has decreased, at least for the time being. Still, the Pats, with a new O-line coach in Dave DeGuglielmo, could look to add more of a project to develop over the year, before instilling as a starter a year or two down the road. Florida’s Jon Halapio fits that description well.
The 6’3/323 lb Halapio is already a bulldozing run-blocker when put in the right scheme, using his massive frame and low center of gravity to violently make room for running backs. Where he needs work is his pass-protecting, where his need to improve his footwork and technique really shows. He’ll have time to work on it though, showing the motor and blue-collar attitude to improve readily. The two-time team captain’s mixture of intelligence and bruising strength will be a real asset when focused into proper technique.
Round 6 (198) – Brett Smith, QB, Wyoming
With the rise of Jimmy Garoppolo, Aaron Murray, David Fales, and Tom Savage into Day 2 territory, it appears that Brett Smith may be the player left behind a little bit. Which of course would only add to the Goodyear Blimp size chip on his shoulder, already developed after being ignored by major programs coming out of high school and then being shunned by the Combine.
This is all to say that Brett Smith would be one hell of a steal in the 6th round. Smith has the tools to be a more than successful quarterback at the pro level. He’s a great athlete with terrific mobility and footwork, which makes him slippery in the pocket and able to scramble at a moment’s notice. He’s quick in his reads and was a high-accuracy in his time at Wyoming, which made up for his less than elite arm strength. Where Smith does need work is in his decision-making and mechanics. Luckily he’ll have as good a pair of mentors as you can find in Tom Brady and Josh McDaniels, who can untap the immense well of potential in the fiery QB.
Round 6 (206) – Trey Millard, Oklahoma, RB/FB/TE
That’s right, three mocks in a row I have the Patriots taking Trey Millard. The league-wide move away from the traditional fullback, and a season-ending ACL injury suffered in October have allowed the Oklahoma product to slip outside of the Top 100, where he absolutely belongs. The good news for the team that does end up picking the 6’2, 247 lb Millard is that he’s 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-blocker. He’s a powerful north-south runner who would be a force on the goal line, and a good lead blocker. Most importantly, he’s a team leader on and off the field, with tremendous character and game IQ. He could be a Swiss Army type who will fill a lot of needs for the Pats, filling in as a power back, a move TE, and as a dynamic option on passing downs as an H-back. Josh McDaniels will love him.
Round 7 (244) – Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota
Boring stuff out of the way: Vereen is a good athlete with terrific balance, speed, and quickness. He’s got tremendous game IQ that helps him to diagnose plays instantly, and was a team leader in his time at Minnesota, showing himself to be very coachable and professional. He’s also wildly versatile, spending time at cornerback, nickelback, and safety in his time at Minnesota. He doesn’t have great hands or super-long arms. But he’d be a great backup to Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty and would immediately step in as a special teams stud.
But he’s Shane Vereen’s brother!!! Seriously! We were robbed of a Jones brother reunion, but this may be even better. Because they’ll actually be playing against each other in practice. I demand that someone in the Pats media department make this a webseries. The Vereen brothers wake up in their bunk beds, eat their Wheaties, and then pummel each other in practices. Awesome.
So there you have it. In this mock, the Patriots add two studs to their defensive line (Crichton and Easley), a developmental QB to replace Ryan Mallett (B. Smith), three Swiss Army knives who can do a little bit of everything (T. Smith, Millard, and Sankey), a second TE (Lynch), and an interior lineman DeGuglielmo can groom (Halapio). Plus, if you’re playing this game, 8 out of the 9 players were team captains, and Scott Crichton was, by all accounts, a leader on and off the field. Also the Pats end up with one player named Brock, one named Bishop, and another who we’ll shorten to Dom. Huge win.
But because this is the draft, and because we’re Pats fans, I’m sure you’ll disagree. Let me know how you feel about these players, or who you’d rather see taken, by getting at me on Twitter @isportspeters or sending me stuff at firstname.lastname@example.org!