What the Patriots should do in 2016 NFL Draft, rounds 2-3
What the Patriots should do in 2016 NFL Draft, rounds 2-3
By Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry
Who gave you Geneo Grissom? Who told you they should take Tyler Lockett? It wasn’t the Senator Phil Perry. It was me. The grizzled veteran. Phil’s got his chance at redemption though. We are back at it again telling you what the Patriots should do with their first four selections in this draft. I’m gonna be candid: Phil’s been grinding on this draft. Thirty-seven different mocks, permutations and calculations on what a nickel corner from Utah State’s three-cone time really means, he’s got his sweat equity invested. Hate to break his heart by vulturing information and pinning down the Patriots draft board with barely a minute’s prep work but savants are gonna savant.
ROUND 2, SELECTION 60 - Tom E. Curran's pick
Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma, 5-10, 194 pounds
So the Patriots haven’t had a mountain of success drafting wide receivers. I don’t carrrrrreeeeeee. I said the Patriots should have taken Lockett in Round 3 last season. The Seahawks beat the Patriots to him and Lockett ended up being one of the NFL’s most impactful rookies. Shepard is this year’s Lockett. A high-character player with an incredible backstory, Shepard is possibly the best route-runner in the draft. Great strength (20 reps on the bench) and explosiveness (41-inch vertical), he had 86 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Sooners in 2015. Julian Edelman has years left and Chris Hogan was a smart import, but the Patriots shouldn’t pass on a player with Shepard’s rare talent-production-character combo. He’s not a dice roll like Aaron Dobson, Josh Boyce or Taylor Price. There is no projection. To snap their WR cold streak, the Patriots have to have him.
ROUND 2, SELECTION 60 - Phil Perry's pick
Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State, 6-4, 314 pounds
First of all, I have to say it: Way to go, Tom. Really good work with that Geneo Grissom pick last year. We're all very proud. But, please, don't dislocate your shoulder patting yourself on the back for Tyler Lockett. He was drafted near the top of the third round at pick No. 69. You had him pegged at pick No. 97. I don't think you can take credit for that one. Let's remember this next year when Sterling Shepard -- who in my opinion almost certainly will not last to No. 60 -- gets some Offensive Rookie of the Year votes after going to a team picking in the 30s. You will not be thrown a party, Draftradamus.
Austin Johnson, on the other hand, is a realistic choice at the bottom of the second. In any other year, he may have been worth a shot in the first, but the depth at tackle will push him down draft boards. A versatile lineman who plays with non-stop energy, he'll work well alongside Malcom Brown for years to come. Plus, with Alan Branch and Terrance Knighton going into contract years, Johnson will provide the Patriots with some long-term insurance on the interior of their defensive front.
ROUND 2, SELECTION 61 - Tom E. Curran's pick
Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford, 6-6, 305 pounds
Played right tackle as a junior, played left tackle as a senior. The Patriots like their Stanford guys – Cameron Fleming, Jordan Richards, Tyler Gaffney and James Vaughters are all in the program currently. They also are going to be looking for the successor to Sebastian Vollmer in the not-too-distant future. There’s concern about foot-speed and playing strength and ultimate upside but as Pro Football Focus stated, the floor is quite high. Meaning that Murphy may not be an All-Pro but he will be an NFL starter. Bring him in as the depth tackle behind Vollmer and Nate Solder and let him fight it out with Fleming and Marcus Cannon to see who survives and advances to 2017.
ROUND 2, SELECTION 61 - Phil Perry's pick
Joshua Perry, LB, Ohio State, 6-4, 254 pounds
If you look at Bill Belichick's last 10 drafts, you notice a trend: He likes to draft defense in the top two rounds. With 28 first and second-round picks in that span, Belichick has gone with 20 defensive players. This year, I think the Patriots should go heavy on that side of the ball yet again. Don't overreach for an offensive tackle because it's a need. Invest in a running back late. Grab a smart but not-so-flashy receiver for depth on Day 3. A Perry at No. 61? Now that's good value.
Some consider the Buckeyes middle linebacker a two-down player, but experts said the same of Dont'a Hightower when he left Alabama. The first team All-Big Ten honoree may not be the polished player Hightower was coming out of college, but he had similar combine testing numbers, and he fits the size profile that the Patriots like in their off-the-line guys. A sure tackler with strong leadership qualities, Perry could be part of the future for a linebacker group in New England. Hightower, Jamie Collins and Jonathan Freeny are all scheduled to hit free agency after this season.
ROUND 3, SELECTION 91 - Tom E. Curran's pick
Carl Nassib, DE, Penn State, 6-7, 277 pounds
A project and a projection. He had one year of outstanding production at Penn State after remaking his body from lean to semi-jacked. Won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, Lombardi and Ted Hendricks Awards after forcing six fumbles, coming up with 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. Brother of Giants quarterback Ryan Nassib, the question will become how well he’ll play against tackles and tight ends who are every bit as fast and powerful as he is. Can he adapt and add to his repertoire? The Patriots are currently in a good spot at defensive end with Jabaal Sheard, Rob Ninkovich, Chris Long, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers in the fold. They can afford to roll the dice on a late-blooming player who may just be beginning to scratch the surface of his talents.
ROUND 3, SELECTION 91 - Phil Perry's pick
Jordan Jenkins, EDGE, Georgia, 6-3, 259 pounds
Linebacker and defensive tackle aren't the only spots in the Patriots front seven that need some long-term depth. Their defensive end spot could see three players depart as free agents after the 2016 campaign: Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long. Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio went and grabbed Grissom and Trey Flowers last year, but they could use more capable bodies on the edge. To me, Jenkins fits the Ninkovich (6-2, 260 pounds) mold. He's strong at the point of attack and may be one of the best edge-setters available in this class. He has long arms (34 inches) and massive hands (11 inches) that helped him control top-tier tight ends and tackles in the SEC. He won't wow fans with a litany of pass-rush moves, but he's thought to have a very high football IQ and could develop as a pass-rusher at the next level. A team captain who plays with toughness and fanatical effort, Jenkins would be a steal at this point in the draft.
ROUND 3, SELECTION 96 - Tom E. Curran's pick
Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana, 6-0, 230 pounds
So many great running back options will still be on the board for the Patriots into the third round. All kinds of decent fits. I was torn between Howard and Kenyan Drake from Alabama at this spot. Let’s go Howard because of the size factor that makes him a possible plowhorse between the tackles and in the red zone. Howard had 1,213 rush yards, 6.2 yards per rush, nine touchdowns for the Hoosiers last season. LeGarrette Blount’s run in New England is probably nearing its end. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen were the last “early” picks spent on the position. It’s time to get the complement to Dion Lewis and Howard is it.
ROUND 3, SELECTION 96 - Phil Perry's pick
Kalan Reed, CB, Southern Miss, 5-11, 199 pounds
That's right. Another defender. If (when?) my scenario plays out, it will be the second time in as many years that the Patriots spent their top four draft choices on the defensive side of the ball. Reed is a ball-hawking corner who didn't get much attention -- he wasn't invited to the combine -- perhaps because he played in Conference USA, but his physical traits and college production are certainly worthy of the third round, if not the second. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the sixth-best corner in this year's class and says he either broke up or intercepted over 20 percent of the targets sent his way last season. After recording a 4.38-second 40-yard dash and a 41.5-inch vertical at his pro day, it's clear he has the athleticism to match his impressive instincts. With Malcolm Butler (restricted free agent after 2016) and Logan Ryan (unrestricted) nearing the ends of their deals, Reed will give the Patriots a No. 3 candidate for this season and someone I think will be a starting-caliber player in 2017 and beyond.