New England Patriots Mock Draft Roundup
With the 2014 NFL draft taking place in May this year, an extra two weeks of mock drafts are available for your viewing pleasure.
Each year, many of the draft experts reach a consensus for a player or position—defensive line in 2012, cornerback in 2013—that the New England Patriots need to select. No such consensus has developed so far.
The lack of true roster holes contributes to the confusion among experts. Of the four expert mocks that I perused—plus my own—there were five different positions represented.
Miller: Brandon Thomas (OL, Clemson)
Easterling: Louis Nix III (DL, Notre Dame)
Rang: Kony Ealy (DE, Missouri)
Loyko: Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
My Pick: Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)
With the exception of Thomas—who was injured after Miller's latest mock—the other picks are hard to argue against.
Adding talented defensive linemen and linebackers would take a lot of pressure off some of the players—Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, for example—who were asked to play a ton of snaps in 2013.
However, the depth of defensive linemen and linebackers in this draft class far outweighs that of the tight ends.
With the questions surrounding the tight end position—Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui are the only true threats on the roster—New England can ill afford to let a run happen on tight ends without them starting it.
Niklas is a prototypical "Y" tight end in New England's system, as he is able to block as well as catch the football. He doesn't have the speed of Gronkowski, but his size (6'7", 270 lbs) gives him a large catch radius and makes him a nightmare to defend in the red zone.
Miller: Dominique Easley (DL, Florida)
Easterling: Jarvis Landry (WR, LSU)
Rang: Jace Amaro (TE, Texas Tech)
My Pick: Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State)
I like Miller's thinking with Easley—a top talent in the draft if you take away his ACL tears—but Landry and Amaro are two non-starters for me. Landry—at 5'11"—offers a lot of what the Patriots already have in Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, while Amaro's injury history and lack of versatility concern me.
After reaching a bit for a tight end in Round 1, Bill Belichick will take advantage of some of the depth in this defensive line class and add a solid pass-rusher in Crichton.
His raw ability and some of his awkward movements when dropping in coverage or playing in space remind me of Chandler Jones coming out of college.
If he keeps his pad level down, Crichton should be able to thrive with his excellent first step. There will be some growing pains, but he could come in and register five to eight sacks as a rookie.
Miller: C.J. Fiedorowicz (TE, Iowa)
Easterling: Dakota Dozier (OG, Furman)
My Pick: Christian Kirksey (LB, Iowa)
Fiedorowicz is a solid—if unspectacular—backup plan that the Patriots could take a look at if Niklas is picked in Round 1 or 2. He is also a very good blocker and red-zone threat, but doesn't have the skills that Niklas and Gronkowski have with the ball in their hands.
Dozier is an intriguing prospect on the interior line. He has some Logan Mankins-esque nastiness, but doesn't have the technique to come in and thrive as a rookie.
As a developmental prospect, the sky is the limit.
Kirksey, however, can come in and immediately contribute as a coverage linebacker and core special teams player. He has sideline-to-sideline speed and a knack for weaving through the trash to locate the ball-carrier.
He can cover tight ends and slot receivers in man—the Hawkeyes rarely went to sub-packages—and has good awareness when dropping into zone.
Miller: Josh Huff (WR, Oregon)
Easterling: Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia)
My Pick: Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Murray and Huff are both intriguing picks here. I've long been a proponent of drafting a quarterback early and Murray has the mental ability to be successful in New England. Huff is a fine receiver, but I don't see him offering anything that New England doesn't already have on the roster.
Coleman, however, has the size (6'6", 225 lbs) and deep-ball ability that the Patriots are looking for. Aaron Dobson has shown that ability as well, but he is the only true "X" receiver on the roster.
Adding Coleman would give Brady a second outside receiver that can stretch the field vertically and compete for jump balls in the red zone.
If Coleman came from a competent college system—the Rutgers offense was awful last year—his stock would likely be much higher.
Round 4 (Compensatory)
Miller: Tom Savage (QB, Pitt)
Easterling: Colt Lyerla (TE, Oregon)
My Pick: Terrance West (RB, Towson)
Savage has similar physical tools to incumbent backup quarterback Ryan Mallet, but is a riser as opposed to a faller come draft day.
If he is available on Day 3, he presents some value. Otherwise, you're paying a heavy price for a quarterback that needs a lot of development.
Lyerla is an obviously talented player that is likely off the Patriots' draft board due to myriad problems away from football.
West has the physicality and running style needed to back up Stevan Ridley as a rookie and step in as a full-time replacement once Ridley's contract runs out.
With the current collective bargaining agreement, look for New England to continue to use cheap labor at the running back position and not splurge on veterans.
West's power, decisive cuts—no Laurence Maroney dance steps here—and receiving ability will fit in well in New England.
Round 6 (via Philadelphia)
Miller: De'Anthony Thomas (RB, Oregon)
My Pick: Matt Patchan (OL, Boston College)
Thomas is as fast and slippery as they come, but I'm not sure the 5'9", 174-pound prospect is up to the NFL grind.
As a returner only, this pick makes sense. If New England is looking for its next Danny Woodhead, though, I don't think this is the guy.
Patchan will be 24 as a rookie and has a laundry list of injuries—including bullet wounds and ligament tears—that will concern NFL teams. However, his explosiveness and technique are quite intriguing. A year in an NFL weight program could turn him into a starter.
Patchan might garner some looks earlier in the draft, but I'd caution using anything but a late-round pick on this risky prospect.
Miller: Tyler Gaffney (RB, Stanford)
My Pick: Aaron Colvin (CB, Oklahoma)
If the New England Patriots pass or miss out on Terrance West, Gaffney would be a nice consolation prize. He is a tough inside runner with minimal upside, but a very high floor.
Aaron Colvin has a much lower floor—he is coming off an ACL tear—but his ceiling is quite high as an NFL cornerback. With Darrelle Revis' future in New England anything but certain after 2014, it would be smart to stockpile another young cornerback.
Colvin would likely spend 2014 out of football, but has the athleticism and ball skills to compete for a starting spot in 2015.
Miller: Larry Webster (DE, Bloomsburg)
My Pick: Connor Shaw (QB, South Carolina)
Getting value out of seventh-round selections is one of Bill Belichick's specialties. Webster and Shaw both present the upside needed to make a loaded roster as a late-round pick.
Webster is a former basketball player who recorded 13.5 sacks in his lone season on the gridiron. At 6'6" and 252 pounds, he has the size to become a pass-rusher or pass-catcher in the NFL. A year or two down the road, he could be a dynamic tight end.
Other than size—he measures in at 6'0" and 206 pounds—Shaw possesses all the necessary traits to be a successful quarterback for the Patriots. He is tough, accurate, athletic and has shown the ability to win with his mind.
If Josh McDaniels loved Tim Tebow, he'll surely be intrigued by Shaw.