As we did last year, here’s our Patriots-only mock draft. Below you’ll find my favorite players that fill what I see as the biggest needs for the Pats. I don’t project trades though obviously there will be some, especially to round out their picks in the 5th/6th/7th rounds this year. Some of these guys might be reaches, but even with the trade downs I see them as fits.
The players I select are based on what I see as the biggest needs and the approximate value at the selection spot. I describe the immediate and specific role on the team in detail, and I believe each of the six players below would make the Patriots a better team.
While I might’ve been able to see potential for a trade up with last year’s class (Aldon Smith, JJ Watt), this year I just don’t see an available player in the 10-20 range that would be worth the cost of two first round selections. If anything I see them trading out of the first round completely before doing that, though a move from the late 20s to the early 20s cannot be completely ruled out, especially if the price tag is a first and a third.
Before we begin I must say that the biggest need for the Patriots overall is pass defense and all of the defenders I have selected would make an impact there. When was the last time the Patriots got grounded and pounded to a loss? 2009 against the Ravens maybe?
I’m no longer concerned with finding 5-techinique defensive ends who can two gap. It’s time to start upgrading the important positions of the modern NFL: the interior rush, the nickel and dime backs, the back end/over-the-top safety, and even a couple designated pass rushers. Unlike the old NFL, being able to play passing downs is paramount and far more definitive of a three-down player. In simple terms, give me aggressive guys who pose problems in the passing game first and foremost.
Our Patriots-only mock comes after the jump:
1/27: JEREL WORTHY, DL, MICHIGAN STATE (NFL.com Profile)
In years past I would’ve written off Worthy since he seems better suited for a 4-3 defense, but as I’ve written over the past couple months I’m done with just trying to fill out a 3-4 depth chart when projecting needs. In 2010 and 2011 the Patriots went through two seasons completely missing any kind of true interior rusher. Mike Wright and Myron Pryor were both absent most of both years and I believe that is the biggest cause of the pass rush problems rather than the lack of a outside linebacker.
Worthy flies off the ball, and is always a handful for opposing offensive lines and he has the size, strength and thickness to hold up inside in a variety of roles. But his bread and butter would be immediately of huge use to the Patriots. It would allow them to not have to use Vince Wilfork on passing downs as much as they have the past couple seasons as well. If Pryor returns along with the addition of Jonathan Fanene the Pats will have multiple disruptors inside that would make life difficult for quick passing teams like the Bills and Jets especially.
Worthy is also known to have great awareness, calling out hot receivers pre-snap like Wilfork does. With more coveted defensive linemen like Brockers and Cox likely long gone, Worthy should be available late in the first, and his impact on passing downs would be immediate.
Lower Round Value Option: Billy Winn, DL, Boise State
1/31: KEVIN ZEITLER, OG, WISCONSIN (NFL.com Profile)
Pretty much every Pats pundit out there has this pick getting traded away and I understand why, but I see the late-20s as an area to get a top ranked prospect who have been pushed down the board. I don’t see guard as a 1A (or even 1B) need, but tackle wasn’t either last year and now the selection of Nate Solder is a real life saver with Matt Light almost certainly retiring.
Between Logan Mankins’ ACL recovery and Brian Waters likely in his last year of service there’s no question a need for some more young talent along the interior line for Dante Scarneccia to work with.
Zeitler plays that mean and gritty style that we all love Mankins for, and described his biggest strength as his work off the field and in the film room. I’m intrigued by Wisconsin’s offensive linemen every year and it seems to me this might a good slot to finally nab one of them. Cordy Glenn is bigger and more athletic, but he’s probably long gone by 31, and after Zeitler there’s a big drop off. Who knows, it wouldn’t be entirely out of the question that he’s starting week one at left guard.
Lower Round Value Option: Lucas Nix, G, Pitt
2/48: VINNY CURRY, OLB, MARSHALL (NFL.com Profile)
While I feel Curry lacks the kind of agility in space I desire this year for an outside linebacker, I think he’s a perfect Pats pick outside of that factor. He has all the intangibles the Pats require, and also has the burst off the snap to contribute immediately in Mark Anderson’s early 2011 designated pass rusher role, as he had 23 sacks in his last two years of college.
He might not have the exact size measurables the 3-4 defense traditionally requires, but I see a guy who could make an impact on passing downs while also fitting in well from a team-building aspect as a player known for his leadership.
Higher Round Reach Option: Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State
2/62: DeQUAN MENZIE, DB, ALABAMA (NFL.com Profile)
Menzie gets my Patsy-sense tingling as an SEC guy who’s played a lot of games but is less heralded than the guy across from him due to a lack of flash. He has solid size, and is consistently around the ball. He has fluid hips and good strength and agility that give him a chance to get looks at outside corner, inside corner and even maybe safety where a lot of scouts are projecting him long term.
Ultimately Menzie is an experienced and versatile player who has played for a Belichick associate in the top conference in college football. You can never have enough guys like that especially when your pass defense looks like the Pats has the last couple years.
Alternate Option: Jayron Hosely, CB, Virginia Tech
3/93: JOE ADAMS, WR, ARKANSAS (NFL.com Profile)
Adams might be a bit of stretch here for a couple reasons. First, I’m not sure he’ll last this until 93rd overall, and second, I’m not convinced he has what the Pats want in a wide receiver, and also has some minor character concerns. However Adams is an explosive kick and punt returner, an underrated area of huge need for the Pats. In a perfect world Adams could handle return duties and be used occasionally as wide receiver as he gets familiar with what Brady wants him to do. Think Brandon Tate in 2010.
It also helps that Adams comes from a similar offensive system in Arkansas and that could help his transition as well. Even just as a returner Adams makes the Patriots a better team, but he has a lot of versatility as well that includes taking hand-offs.
Slightly Higher Round Reach Option: Mohamed Sanu, WR, Rutgers
4/126: TRAMAIN THOMAS, S, ARKANSAS (CBSSports.com Profile)
Thomas would need time to develop at safety, but he’s physical, instinctive, and forces turnovers (12 INTs, 6 FFs). He will need to most work in refining technique, but given the Pats coaching that is something that is manageable. What you can’t teach is physicality and Thomas has that.
When you look at the kind of presence the Pats sorely need on the back end Thomas looks like he could be an ideal fit down the road, while having the tenacity to play special teams early on in his career. Plus he wasn’t invited to the combine after making 31 starts in the SEC at various positions over the course of his career. Under-the-radar guys who have played a lot of football always seem to land with the Pats.
Alternative Option: Markelle Martin, S, Oklahoma St.