Hi everyone, welcome to the 7th and final edition of iSportsWeb’s New England Patriots Mock Draft aka Patriots Mock Draft VII: Mocks of Future Past. Or something.
Glad to have you.
Guys, we did it. We’re here. In three days Roger Goodell will pop up to the podium, we’ll all boo, and then he’ll announce who the brand new member of the New England Patriots is. Or most likely that the pick has been traded. Either way, this is the end of the line, after weeks, months of preparation, of mock drafts, of video watching, of debating (drunkenly, soberly, and always loudly).
We made it.
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. We’ve gone through a bunch of different trade scenarios in the last months, and, while common sense says to just go with the Pats’ actual picks, that didn’t seem fun. While there were many to choose from (you can find a breakdown here), I had an easy favorite.
The New England Patriots trade the 29th pick and a Future 4th round pick to Minnesota for the 40th and 72nd picks.
I adore Matt Cassel with all my heart. But you can’t tell me that an above-average quarterback on a team with as many weapons as the Vikings doesn’t make them legitimate playoff contenders. I think the Vikings will be smart and not take a QB with their 8th pick, instead springing for Justin Gilbert, Eric Ebron, maybe even Mike Evans. But I also think that when they see one of the Top 4 QBs fall to the end of the first (most likely: Bortles or Bridgewater), they’ll jump.
The Pats do it because four Top 100 picks. Nuff said.
I’m also adding a few things for this last mock. For each pick I’ll list two players that the Pats hope would fall there, and two whom they’d take just in case. Also for each pick, my dad, Pops, will be supplying some of his patented venerable fatherly wisdom about each player. Because we should be celebrating our generational unity as fans…or whatever.
Onward and upward.
Round 2 (40) – Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
First off, to address the gigantic elephant in the room: Dominique Easley tore both of his ACLs during his college career. The list of defensive tackles that relied on explosiveness (or any football player for that matter) that recovered fully is really short. That worry had Easley go as far as the third round in some experts’ minds, but a promising Pro Day has vaulted him back into the first round discussion, where he was pre-injury.
Because Easley, based purely on talent, is a sure-fire Top 25 pick, easily. Despite being on the smaller size (6’2, 288), Easily may be one of the most explosive linemen in this class, with tremendous burst off the line, and great leverage, disrupting the pocket immediately. He’s versatile (experience at DE, 3-tech, 1-tech, nose), plays like his butt’s on fire, and was a team captain, which makes him the prototypical Pats pick. Some experts, rightfully so, have the team taking him at 29, but it wouldn’t be hard to think he’d be around at 40. Boom/bust pick to be sure, but one worth taking.
The Best-Case: Louis Nix, DT, Notre Dame; Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri
If He’s Gone: Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon St., Jace Amaro, TE, Texas Tech
Pops’ Take: “Gets into the backfield well, but those injuries are frightening. We’ll get to call him Dom, which is fun.”
Round 2 (62) – Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Sad news about this draft: there isn’t a classic blue-chip “move” tight end in this class to replace Aaron Hernandez outside of Eric Ebron. Well, and Colt Lyerla, but it’s hard to think the Pats will spend a pick there. Instead, with Rob Gronkowski a pretty constant injury history, and a lack of depth besides Hooman, the team could spring for a more classic model. Enter Troy Niklas.
Niklas is raw as all hell, but he’s also brimming with upside. In his first starting season, Niklas collected 32 receptions for 498 yards and 5 TD. He’s already showing the tools to be a top blocking tight end and his 6-7, 270-pound frame screams red zone beast. He didn’t have an extensive route tree at Notre Dame and he lacks both speed and agility. He might not make the same Day 1 contribution as his classmates, but in a season or two, he could best them all.
The Best-Case: Carlos Hyde, RB, Ohio State; Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
If He’s Gone: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Wash.; Weston Richburg, C, Colorado St.
Pops’ Take: “Son of Gronk!” Word.
Round 3 (72) – Marcus Smith, DE/OLB, Louisville
One of the Patriots’ top needs is a third defensive end to help relieve the snap counts of Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones, and add a new element to what was at times a tepid pass rush. The bad news is this year’s 4-3 DE class is super-shallow. But, at 72, the Pats can still get an upside pick in Marcus Smith.
The 6-3, 251-pound Louisville product 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 got to the QB often in 2013, racking up 15 sacks. He’s raw in his pass-rush moves, too often relying on pure athleticism, which won’t fly at the pro level. But again, as someone who won’t have to start right away, Smith is the type of player who can help immensely in a limited role this year, before really flourishing in the future.
The Best Case: Marcus Martin, C, USC; Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU
If He’s Gone: Jeremy Hill, RB, LSU; Kareem Martin, DE, UNC
Pops’ Take: “Why is no-one blocking him?? He’s quick.” Correct.
Round 3 (93) – Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana
In the final OLBs-I-can’t-stop-obsessing-over battle, Jordan Tripp narrowly edges out Telvin Smith because he has a better chance to available this late. And if he is available this late, he’s the steal of the draft. The Pats desperately need a 4th linebacker after the departures of Brandon Spikes and Dane Fletcher. And Jordie Tripp is tailor-made for the Pats.
Team captain? Check. Highly decorated at a small school? Check. Versatility? Tripp has the instincts, speed, and strength to play ever LB spot in a 4-3. Special teams potential? You betcha. Good in coverage? Check. Run defense? Check. Pass rush? Check. Good 3-cone time? 6.89, top 5 in the class. Tripp would also allow Jamie Collins or Dont’a Hightower to rush from the line on 3rd down without the D missing a step. His lower-level competition and lack of elite build will scare off some teams, but the Patriots will more than happily add the last high-level OLB if he’s around at 93.
The Best Case: Telvin Smith, OLB, FSU; Bishop Sankey, RB, Wash.
If He’s Gone: DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn St.; CJ Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa
Pops’ Take: “Good balance, quick feet, potential for some terrible facial hair.”
Round 4 (130) – Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
Quick admission: I’ve seen Caraun Reid play in person more than any other NFL Draft Prospect. And I’ve personally seen him dismantle offensive lines singlehandedly. The problem for most NFL teams? Those offensive lines were in the Ivy League. And that’s the rub with Reid, it’s hard to analyze his game tape knowing his opposition’s level of play. The good news is, Reid had an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl and his workouts have teams’ heads turning.
The 6-2, 302-pound Reid has long arms and a big frame that make him just as much a threat in pass and rush defense. He’s already developed a variety of pass-rush plays, that, matched with his quickness, make him a hard man to stop. He was a team captain, and is an incredibly intelligent player. Plus he can do this. Reid acts as a bit of insurance until Easley’s fully healthy, and a d-line rotation of Wilfork, Kelly, Easley, Reid, and Siliga is set for the present and the future. There’s a chance he’d be taken earlier than 130, but, if not, he’s an easy choice for New England to make.
The Best-Case: Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota; Christian Kirksey, OLB, Iowa
If He’s Gone: Arthur Lynch, TE, Georgia; Kevin Norwood, WR, Alabama
Pops’ Take: “You had to send me the clip of him humiliating Brown???”
Round 4 (140) – Devonta Freeman, RB, Florida St.
Because of the first four picks in this mock, the Patriots will probably miss out on Bishop Sankey, my favorite RB in the draft, as well as Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill, and Tre Mason. Choosing a running back out of the next group is a bit tricky, as all have their flaws. Andre Williams, while an ultra-productive bowling ball back, offers nothing in pass protection or as a receiver. Charles Sims, with the hands of a wide-receiver, played entirely in a spread offense and lacks the frame to succeed between the tackles. Storm Johnson, while certainly a sleeper pick, was seriously fumble-prone in college (cue Pats fans cringing).
It came down to Florida State’s Devonta Freeman and Baylor’s Lache Seastrunk, and I eventually went with Freeman. On a team jam-packed with offensive talent, Freeman still stood out, becoming the first FSU RB to rush for over 1,000 yards since Warrick Dunn, and piling on 30 career TDs. Freeman looks and plays a lot bigger than his 5-8/206 frame, and runs low and hard, with a great combination of quickness and power. He’s a great receiver, who had an extensive route tree in college. Most impressive is his game IQ, as his instincts lead him to find holes in the line and make sudden cuts to fool defenders. He’s an all-around back who could shape out a formidable backfield trio with Ridley and Vereen.
The Best Case: Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia; David Yankey, G, Stanford
If He’s Gone: Storm Johnson, RB, UCF; Vinnie Sunseri, S, Alabama
Pops’ Take: “Welcome to the new junior partner at the law firm of Ben, Jarvus, Green, and Ellis!” I’m mad he made that joke before me.
(Quick note: Another reason the Pats may not spend a Day 1/2 pick on a RB this week is because next year’s class is stacked. Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, TJ Yeldon, Mike Davis, Ameer Abdullah, Duke Johnson, Jay Ajayi, Jeremy Langford, Buck Allen, and Byron Marshall are all top talents who could be taken early, not to mention whichever RB makes a surprise leap this season. Seeing the Patriots’ reluctance to re-sign free agent backs, any of them might be in play. So start watching film and getting pumped now.)
Round 6 (198) – Wesley Johnson, OL, Vanderbilt
So a few weeks ago, Bill Belichick went home to Nashville, TN to run a half-marathon, and, while there worked out Vanderbilt offensive lineman Wesley Johnson. Which brings up two thoughts. One: if you were running a half-marathon and you looked next to you only to see Bill Belichick picking up steam, what would you do? Run faster? Slow down out of deference? Soil yourself? I’d do the latter, though that may admittedly have more to do with the running a half-marathon.
The second: though he hasn’t been a standout prospect, Bill B. obviously saw something in the offensive lineman. And to be fair, he fits a lot of criteria. Highly intelligent, two time captain, athletic, versatile (LT, LG, C), film-room junkie, and super-aware in games, Johnson would help out an offensive line that just added Ryan Wendell back, and could do with a multi-purpose backup. Johnson needs to add some weight and power to his game, but he’s got the tools to be a productive member of the Pats’ line.
The Best Case: Jake Murphy, TE, Utah; Michael Sam, DE, Missouri
If He’s Gone: Kevin Pierre-Louis, OLB, Boston College; Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Pops’ Take: “He looks small, right?”
Round 6 (204) – Trey Millard, FB/RB/TE, Oklahoma
If next year Trey Millard is being all hyper-versatile and dangerous on a team that’s not the New England Patriots, I may never forgive Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio. Because the traditional fullback isn’t exactly en vogue in the NFL right now, and because Millard tore his ACL this past October, he may slip way far down draft boards. The good news for the team that does take the 6’2/247 Millard? He’s way more than just a fullback.
Originally recruited as a tight end/linebacker, Millard stormed into Bob Stoops’ offense, starting for four straight years. The two-year captain saw time in-line, at single back, h-back, and in the slot, and was a leader on special teams. Over 38 games, Millard accumulated 538 rushing yards on 98 attempts, and 70 catches for 707 yards. He catches like a tight end, blocks like a fullback, and runs like a running back, moving north-south with great power. And he has the athleticism to make plays like this one or the one posted above. He’s a tremendously intelligent player with great game IQ and leadership. On the Patriots he could ease the need for a move tight end, be a masterful goal line runner, and a more athletic counterpart to James Develin. Josh McDaniels will adore him.
The Best Case: Trey Millard
If He’s Gone: I Shudder To Think
Pops’ Take: “Great open field running for a big guy. And it’s good that he knows that Space Jam means that Michael Jordan will always be better than Lebron.”
Round 7 (244) – Dexter McDougle, CB, Maryland
I swear, Dexter McDougle was made in a laboratory that churns out players for the sole purpose of being drafted by Bill Belichick. With the high number of iffy secondary picks recently (Ras-I Dowling, Patty Chung, Terrence Wheatley, etc.) and the superb find in Alfonzo Dennard in the 7th round, the team may follow suit and draft a corner late in the draft. And, if so, McDougle would be an awesome choice.
McDougle has some durability concerns after a season-ending injury to his shoulder after only three games. But otherwise, he’s prime Patriot material. He’s a hyper-intelligent player with a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He has a sturdy build, and can hit violently when needed to. But it’s his intangibles which are so damn untouchable: even after his injury, McDougle attended all team meetings, traveled with the team, sat in the coaches booth, and helped out other corners in practice. He was a beloved teammate 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.
The Best Case: Jay Bromley, DT, Syracuse; Alden Darby, FS, Arizona St.
If He’s Gone: Quincy Enunwa, WR, Nebraska; Garrett Gilbert, QB, SMU
Pops’ Take: “Looks good on tape, but isn’t this the classic great in college/sucks with the Pats’ cornerback?” Yeah….but he has an award named after him!!
So there you go, the final mock. To recap, the Pats add four key pieces to their front seven (Easley, Smith, Tripp, Reid), a tight end to play with/learn from Gronk (Troy Niklas), two new offensive weapons for Brady (Millard, Freeman), and key depth (Johnson, McDougle).
Let me know what you think in the comments, or you can find me on Twitter @isportspeters or send me stuff at firstname.lastname@example.org! On Thursday through Saturday I’ll be glued to my laptop, so if you want to chat during the draft, I’ll be around, and I’m hoping to do a Fan Reaction piece after the draft with your help! So email me your thoughts on the picks: what went wrong, right, and weird.
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