New England Patriots: 7 Round Mock Draft (v.6)

Hi everyone, welcome to the 6th edition of iSportsWeb’s New England Patriots Mock Draft aka Patriots Mock Draft VI: Song of Belichick.

Glad to have you.

That sound you hear is millions of sports nerds heavy breathing across the globe, because the draft is only 10 days away. I repeat, 10 days away. Spreadsheets are being printed out, arguments over top prospects are raging, and thousands of New England fans are making the pilgrimage to Rutgers University to figure out who the hell Bill Belichick will dig up from that roster this time.

But enough socializing, let’s get on with 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. Two mocks ago, I hypothesized a trade between the Pats and the Raiders in which New England hopped back to 36. Last mock, I had a similar trade with the Minnesota Vikings.

But neither was really exciting. Neither was crazy enough. So this time, I went for the big trade. Is it super realistic. Not really (though it did crack my top 4 most likely draft day trades). Was it super fun to mock? Hell yes.

The New England Patriots trade the 29th pick to San Francisco for the 56th, 77th, 129th, and 170th picks.

Boom! Here’s why the 49ers would do it: because they actually can’t fit all of their picks on their already packed roster. With needs in their secondary and wide receiver, San Fran now has two back-to-back picks in the bottom of the first, where they can happily satisfy both needs or even combine the two to jump to the top of the draft.

Why would New England do it? Because 11 draft picks! 11! Four in the Top 100! Three in the fourth round! So much fun! So much potential for zigzagging up and down the draft order! So many unknown prospects! There are downsides (I’ll explain below) but for a team with a handful of lesser needs and no single glaring one, this is a great move.

So, onward and upward:

(Also, because of these picks, this mock is hella long. I won’t hold it against you if you skim it. Just know you’re missing out on my questionable wealth of knowledge, my incessant quipping, and my ranting and raving about motor.)

 

Round 2 (56) – Dominique Easley, DT, Florida

Bad news out of the way: teams are concerned about Dominique Easley’s injury history. Easley tore his left ACL in November 2011, and his right ACL in September 2013. Even though Easley bounced back to a strong 2012 season, his durability will always be a concern, leading to his dropping from the Top 20 to the bottom of the second round.

Because let’s be clear, if Easley had finished his 2013 season healthy, he’d be a consensus first rounder, easily. Despite being on the smaller size (6’2, 288), Easley is perhaps the most explosive lineman in the class, with tremendous burst of the line and great leverage, disrupting the pocket immediately. He checks off three big Patriots bugaboos: 1) versatility (experience at d-end, 3-tech, 1-tech, nose), 2) super-high motor (just watch any tape of him), and 3) a team captain. Sure he’s said publicly that he’s never watched a football game on TV, but on the field he’s an animal and would be a great addition to this front seven.

 

Round 2 (62) – Marcus Smith, DE, Louisville

So the downside to this trade with the 49ers is that it leaves them without a pick until the end of the second round, and out of the conversation to nab one of the elite defensive end prospects in this draft (which are few and far between): Kony Ealy, Scott Crichton, Stephon Tuitt, and Dee Ford. That’s not to say that Marcus Smith wouldn’t be a great pickup for the Patriots. Quite the contrary.

The 6’3, 251 Louisville products can be a jack of all trades pass-rusher for the Patriots. He has the length and fluidity to be a great 4-3 end, but also has experience as a stand-up 3-4 OLB. He has tremendous speed and made his living getting to the quarterback, racking up 15 sacks in 2013. He’s a bit raw in his pass-rush moves, and too often relies on his blunt athleticism. The good news is he doesn’t have to be a star right away, and will be a major boon is spelling Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich for a few stretches and adding some versatility to the Patriots’ pass rush.

 

Round 3 (77) – Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington

I’m starting to get nervous about how rapidly Bishop Sankey is soaring up draft boards, and as such, I have the Patriots taking him sixteen picks earlier than last time. But he’s absolutely worth it. I understand why some Pats fans are asking for a big bowling ball back like Carlos Hyde or Jeremy Hill, dreaming of the glory days of Winnebago Blount.

But what the Patriots are getting out of Sankey, and what they wouldn’t get out of either of those two, is a complete back, a necessity with both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen set to hit free agency. Sankey’s been compared to Giovani Bernard, which makes sense: he’s got impressive power for his size, tremendous vision and burst, and is a great pass-blocker/receiver out of the backfield. And with 327 rushing attempts in 2013 (good for Top 5 in college football, and enough to lead the NFL last season), Sankey will have absolutely no problem being a workhorse if called upon. Plus, his name is Bishop Sankey. No player named Bishop Sankey can ever be a bust. No way, no how.

 

Round 3 (93) – Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana

The triumphant return of Jordie Tripp to the Football Crush Pantheon! Welcome back buddy, we missed you. With Brandon Spikes in Buffalo being all beardless and passive aggressive, and Dane Fletcher moving on, the Patriots desperately need a fourth linebacker behind their stud trio of Mayo, Hightower, and Collins. And, wouldn’t you know, Tripp seems pretty much tailor-made for the Patriots.

Team captain? Check. Highly decorated at a small school? Check. Versatility? Tripp has the instincts, speed, and strength to play every linebacker position in a 4-3 defense. Special teams potential? You betcha. Good in coverage? Check. Run defense? Check. Pass rush? Sure. Good 3-cone time at the combine? 6.89, Top 5 in this year’s draft class. There are some “downsides” (lower-level competition, slightly undersized) which could see him available in the 3rd round, where the Patriots will happily add him to their front seven.

 

Round 4 (129) – Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia

With Rob Gronkowski not exactly a sure thing to stay healthy for a full season, and with the dearth of value move tight ends early in the draft, the Patriots could look to add a more traditional in-line tight end. With Troy Niklas and CJ Fiedorowicz off the board, Arthur Lynch makes a fine choice.

He has the size (6’5/258) and receiving skills to be a starting three-down tight end in the NFL. He’s an aggressive, strong in-line blocker, but also played out of the slot. He’ll never be dangerous after the catch, lacking the speed and flexibility to make defenders miss in the open field. But he’s a red-zone threat, a crisp route-runner, was a team captain, and built a reputation at Georgia as a QB’s best friend. Speaking of which….

 

Round 4 (130) – Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia

The Patriots are in a weird situation in terms of their quarterbacks. Ryan Mallett is nearing free agency, and it doesn’t seem like it’s in the Patriots’ plans to re-sign him. Tom Brady seems insistent (and rightfully so) on playing at least until he turns 40, and he’s a sure thing to retire in a Pats’ uniform. As such, the Patriots may still be looking more for a backup than Tom Brady’s immediate successor.

Which, of course, would make Aaron Murray one of the most overqualified backup QBs out there. People will look at his 6’0/207 frame and say he’ll never be a successful quarterback. Those people haven’t watched the tape of the SEC’s All-Time Passing Yardage and Touchdown Leader. Murray doesn’t have a cannon for the arm. What he does have is a tremendous game IQ, incredible accuracy to dominate the short/intermediate game, surprising athleticism that led to countless scrambling for first downs, and leadership skills and a competitive fire that can’t be taught. A few seasons under Josh McDaniels/Tom Brady’s tutelage will bring the best out of the QB, making him a more than dependable backup and sure-to-be cult figure in New England.

 

Round 4 (130) – Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama

Yeah, I know, the last thing the Pats need is another wide receiver. With the re-signing of Julian Edelman and the acquisition of Brandon LaFell, there’s not a whole lotta need for depth. But Norwood is another prospect seemingly tailor-made to succeed in New England, and Billy B. may not pass him up.

Norwood doesn’t have close to the ceiling as some of his fellow receivers, but his floor is also a lot higher. Despite not exactly setting the world on fire at Alabama, he’s got a lot of desirable measurables. His 6’2/198 frame would work just as well on the outside as in the slot. He’s got huge strong hands and tremendous coordination. He’s a great route-runner and an intelligent player. And while he doesn’t seem super athletic on tape, his surprising 4.48 40 may point to his being better there than expected. He’s the type of player that Tom Brady has come to love, and could contribute early in New England.

 

Round 5 (170) – Vinnie Sunseri, Safety, Alabama 

Back to back Alabama products, as Bill Belichick cashes in on his friendship with Nick Saban. It’s possible that the Patriots take a safety earlier in the draft, but Duron Harmon was pretty impressive in his starts last year, and the team may want to give him another year to show his stuff. As such, New England can spend a Day 3 pick on a backup/special teams stud.

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. And all concerns about his knee injury disappeared after his pro day, in which he, amongst other things, ran a downright shocking 4.48 40. At the very least, Sunseri could be extremely useful in sub packages, and would immediately be a tremendous special teams player.

 

Round 6 (198) – Wesley Johnson, OL, Vanderbilt

By re-signing Ryan Wendell and keeping Dan Connolly in the fold, it would seem that the Patriots are content with their starting offensive line at least in the short term. However, they could do with some depth.

Wesley Johnson would be a terrific backup for the Patriots. The two-time Vanderbilt captain played all three positions on the left side of the line, and seems to have the body type best suited to play guard or center at the pro level. He’s an extremely intelligent blocker and has a lot of athletic potential. With some more time to develop his power and learn under the vets on the line, Johnson could be a lade-round steal.

 

Round 6 (206) – Trey Millard, FB/RB/TE, Oklahoma

Yup, another mock, another Trey Millard selection. At this point, I’m basically holding my fanship ransom unless the Pats take Millard. Because the league doesn’t often use traditional fullbacks, and because he tore his ACL in October, Millard has slipped down draft boards. The good news for the team that does take the 6’2/247 Millard is that he’s way more than just a fullback.

The two-year captain saw time in-line, at single back, h-back, and in the slot, as well as being a consistently great special teams player. Over 38 games, Millard accumulated 538 rushing yards on 98 attempts (5.49 ypc) and 70 rec. for 707 yards (10.1 ypc). He has great hands and is a solid pass-blocker. He’s a powerful north-south runner who would be a force on the goal line. Most importantly he’s a team leader on and off the field, with tremendous character and intelligence. He could be a Swiss Army type who will fill a lot of needs for the Pats, seeing time 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) – Dexter McDougle, CB, Maryland

Every year, there’s one. Every year, Bill Belichick takes a player you haven’t heard of, TV analysts haven’t heard of, and most scouts in the NFL haven’t heard of. Just by my picking him here, he may already be out of the running to be the mystery pick. But boy oh boy does Dexter McDougle seem like that pick.

McDougle has some durability concerns after a season-ending injury to his shoulder, and he doesn’t have elite speed. But McDougle pretty much checks off every other box on the Bill-Belichick-Will-Pick-Me chart. He’s an intelligent player who has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He has a sturdy build, can hit violently when needed to. Most importantly: this dude is 100% motor. Even after his injury, McDougle attended all team meetings, traveled with the team, sat in the coaching booth, and helped the other corners on the team. He was beloved by teammates and head coach Randy Edsall adored him so much he created the “Dexter McDougle Ultimate Team Player Award” in his honor. Let me repeat that. HE HAS AN AWARD NAMED AFTER HIM BECAUSE HE WAS SUCH A GOOD TEAMMATE. Dexter McDougle is like Belichick catnip.

 

So there you go, clap yourself on the back for making it through this behemoth of a mock, but see how fun this trade was! To recap, the Pats come away with three huge additions to their front seven (Easley, Smith, Tripp), a plethora of weapons for Brady to play with (Sankey, Lynch, Norwood, Millard), a new backup QB (Murray) and key depth (Sunseri, Johnson, McDougle). Plus we get a Bishop, a Jordie, a Vinnie, a Trey, a Dexter, and another who we’ll call 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 isportspeters@gmail.com! Also look out for my last mock draft next week!

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