Patriots seven-round mock draft: Corner, tackle depth found in 3rd round
Patriots seven-round mock draft: Corner, tackle depth found in 3rd round
By Phil Perry
Last time we put one of these seven-round, Patriots-specific mock drafts together the Titans were still picking first, the Browns were picking second, and it was presumed that Tom Brady would be on the field to take on the Cardinals in Week 1.
Since then, the game has changed.
Well, OK. It has and it hasn't. When it comes to the Patriots and the draft, the news of the last month probably hasn't shaken things up all that much.
The Titans-Rams and Browns-Eagles trades will certainly have a domino effect on which players end up where, but the Patriots will still likely be choosing from the same pool of players they were looking at before those deals went down.
Even this week's news of Brady's four-game suspension won't necessarily shift New England's draft strategy, in my opinion. If the ban stands, the Patriots will need another quarterback to back up Jimmy Garoppolo during the first month of the regular season, and in this mock (as in the last seven-rounder) I have the Patriots taking one. But that player could come either via free agency or the draft, meaning that if the Patriots weren't planning on choosing a quarterback before the Second Circuit's decision, they still shouldn't feel obligated to.
As far as some of the other selections in this mock are concerned, I'll stick with the two second-round picks I made for the team in the two-round, league-wide mock posted on Tuesday. You can check that out here.
One other note on this mock: There will be no trades even though we'll probably see coach Bill Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio pull off a deal at some point in actuality. They have all kinds of draft capital with which to maneuver up and down the board, and Belichick has made a draft-day trade every year since 2000 except for one (2004). But here, to save you the headache, we'll play it out as though they stand pat on the selections they've been given.
On to the picks . . .
Second round, No. 60 overall: Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
Although both LeGarrette Blount and Dion Lewis will be back in the mix, the running back spot represents what looks like the team's most pressing need in this year's draft. Given the nature of the position, and given how last season ended for both halves of the Shake and Quake combination, adding a dynamic player who can spell either makes sense. That's Dixon. He's a sure-handed back who has experience running routes when split out wide, and he has the quickness to make defenders look foolish in open space. He also runs with a relentlessness that helps him churn out yards after contact, and he's bulked up to almost 220 pounds in order to be a greater threat between the tackles. He has had issues holding onto the football, but when it comes to his physical traits and his playing style, the good far outweighs the bad.
Second round, No. 61 overall: Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas
Yes, the Patriots went and grabbed a defensive tackle from Texas a year ago. And yes, the team has already added free-agent tackle Terrance Knighton to play alongside Malcom Brown and Alan Branch. But yes, this pick makes sense for the Patriots. Because this year's draft class of defensive tackles is so deep, players who may have threatened the first round in years past will now be pushed into the second. And if enough teams wait on that position, a talent like Ridgeway could land in New England. Some experts have touted the 6-foot-3, 303-pounder as more talented than Brown coming out of college. Like Brown, he played all over the defensive line for the Longhorns. And like Brown, he proved he could be a disruptive pass-rusher on the interior, grading out as the fifth-best rusher at his position in this class, per Pro Football Focus. Ridgeway dealt with injuries last season, and there are some concerns about his conditioning. But if he meshes with the program at One Patriot Place, he could quickly find himself working in a rotation with the team's other big bodies on the inside. He'll also give the Patriots some long-term insurance at the position with both Branch and Knighton going into contract years.
Third round, No. 91 overall: Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Mississippi
Reed has the physical traits to succeed as a versatile corner at the next level and the collegiate production to match. The 5-11, 199-pounder was not invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, but he ran an impressive 4.38-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. He also recorded a 41.5-inch vertical leap, which would've tied for the best mark at the combine regardless of position. At Southern Miss. -- where he was teammates with Patriots linebacker Jamie Collins for one season -- Reed set a school record for pass breakups with 19 last year. He knows how to attack the football in the air, he's unafraid to get up the field and play aggressively in the running game, and he knows the importance of taking good angles while in pursuit. If selected here, Reed would provide the Patriots with a well-rounded defensive back to compete with Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts for the role of No. 3 corner. Plus, with Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan nearing the ends of their deals, Reed gives the Patriots a bit of a parachute at that position if those players can't be retained for the long haul.
Third round, No. 96 overall (compensatory): Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford
Caserio pointed out in a press conference last week that because the way the college game has changed, linemen are having as hard a time as ever in adjusting to life in the NFL. There are some linemen who come into the NFL without ever having set up in a three-point stance, Caserio explained. Murphy isn't one of them. At Stanford, he played in a pro-style offense that asked him to clear space in the running game as well as protect quarterback Kevin Hogan's blindside in the passing game. At 6-foot-6 and 305 pounds with 33.5-inch arms, Murphy has the length the Patriots typically covet at the position. Though he may need a season to get stronger, that would make Murphy an ideal fit for the Patriots, who have starters Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer back in the fold for 2016. If Murphy takes to offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia's teaching quickly, he could find himself competing for the primary backup role as a swing tackle in his rookie season. Beyond that? Both Vollmer and Marcus Cannon's contracts run out after this year so he could potentially start as soon as 2017.
Sixth round, No. 196 overall (from Houston): Keenan Reynolds, ATH, Navy
This is the lone repeat pick I've included from the last seven-round mock simply because the links here are so obvious. Though Reynolds doesn't have a set position at the next level, his versatility would be enticing for a team that embraces that trait like few others. Multiple members of the Patriots coaching staff have seen him in person, and his arrival in New England seems like such a fait accompli that I could see the Patriots taking him in the second or third rounds. If he's still available in the sixth, this match is a no-brainer.
Sixth round, No. 204 overall (reacquired from Chicago): Devon Cajuste, WR, Stanford
Three rounds later, another Stanford product comes off the board to the Patriots. A fascinating prospect at 6-4, 234 pounds, some consider Cajuste's best position in the NFL to be at H-back or tight end. Why might the Patriots be interested? He doesn't have blazing speed -- he ran a 4.55-second 40-yard dash at Stanford's pro day -- but he's a willing blocker and his combination of size and speed is rare. He ran the fastest three-cone time at this year's combine (6.49 seconds).
Sixth round, No. 208 overall (compensatory): De'Vondre Campbell, LB, Minnesota
Another height-weight-speed prospect lands in New England with the second of its four compensatory picks, which can't be traded. Campbell checks in at 6-4, 232 pounds and he ran a 4.58-second 40-yard dash at the combine. He's a sudden athlete who has played both on the inside and outside. Though his technique needs some work, he could step in and use his eye-opening athleticism to contribute as a special teamer.
Sixth round, No. 214 overall (compensatory): Nate Sudfeld, QB, Indiana
The Patriots have had a Sudfeld in their midst once before. They signed tight end Zach Sudfeld as an undrafted free agent back in 2013, released him, then watched him sign with the Jets. Zach's younger brother Nate was a three-year starter at Indiana and possesses prototypical arm strength and size (6-6, 234 pounds) for the position. Though he set records for the Hoosiers, he struggled at times to find consistency (perhaps due to his throwing mechanics), which will knock him down plenty of draft boards. Perhaps after spending a year behind both Brady and Garoppolo, he'll be ready to be the backup.
Sixth round, No. 221 overall (compensatory): Spencer Drango, OL, Baylor
Always open to quality depth, the Patriots pick up an accomplished position-flexible lineman late. Drango started for four years in Baylor and was named an All-American in each of the last two seasons. A finalist for the Campbell Trophy (also known as the Academic Heisman) with a 3.71 GPA in Finance, he may be able to pick up on Scarnecchia's lessons relatively quickly. He's not a elite-level talent athletically, but the 6-foot-6, 313-pound lineman could potentially play guard or tackle.
Seventh round, No. 243 overall (from Houston): Justin Zimmer, DL, Ferris State
Every so often, the Patriots will select a player in the later rounds that forces fans to learn about a college that they perhaps wouldn't have otherwise heard of. Zimmer could be that player this year. At 6-2, 302 pounds, he was dominant at the Division 2 level and posted some seriously attention-grabbing numbers at Michigan's pro day: 4.85-second 40-yard dash, 7.01-second three-cone drill and a whopping 44 reps on the 225-pound bench press. The Patriots know first-hand that it's possible to find NFL talent at the Division 2 level, and Zimmer may be worth a flier in the seventh round.
Seventh round, No. 250 overall: Glenn Gronkowski, FB, Kansas State
The Patriots will know exactly what they're getting if they select tight end Rob Gronkowski's younger brother: A hard-working player who likes to have fun off the field but whose enthusiasm is unquestioned when it's time to go to work. Glenn doesn't possess nearly the same physical characteristics that his brother does -- he's 6-2, 239 pounds -- but he's an athletic player who is willing to contribute as a pass-catcher or run-blocker. While the Patriots don't have much in the way of need for another player of this ilk, particularly if Cajuste becomes a tight end, the goofy one-liners in the tight end meetings alone (which also include the fullbacks) might make this selection worthwhile.