Patriots seven-round mock: Depth added at receiver, tackle in the third
THE PICKS ARE IN . . .
In our first mock draft of the season, published last week, we highlighted the fact that the Patriots have left us hints over the years as to the characteristics they're looking for in certain positions. Generally speaking.
Big linebackers. Athletic corners. Fast safeties who can tackle. Physical specimens at tight end.
In this week's mock we'll stick with players who fit the Patriots mold . . . or at least come close . . . but instead of making selections that fill immediate needs, we'll focus our picks on positions that might need help a little further down the line.
It's something the Patriots have done for years -- drafting Nate Solder when Matt Light and Sebastian Vollmer were on the roster, drafting James White when Shane Vereen was established, drafting Duron Harmon the year after Devin McCourty made the move to safety -- and seems to be one of the reasons they're near the top of the league on an annual basis. Contingency plans.
The following are draftees we could see falling under that same category in New England.
THIRD ROUND, NO. 72 OVERALL (FROM CAROLINA): COOPER KUPP, WR, EASTERN WASHINGTON
It's looking like it'll be hard for any rookie receiver to crack the game-day roster in 2017, but with this pick the Patriots are planning ahead. Both Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman are now into their 30s, and it's imperative that the team keeps its options open in the slot. Versatile wideouts Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell may be able to take over those duties at some point, but all three provide good value on the outside. Kupp has the size (6-foot-2, 204 pounds) to body-up corners near the boundary, but he looks like he has full-time slot duties in his future. His long speed is lacking (4.62-second 40 at the combine, 4.56 at his pro day), but he ran a ridiculous 6.53-second three-cone drill at his pro day and had a top-10 20-yard shuttle time at the combine, showing he can start-and-stop with the best athletes in the class. He is the most productive FCS receiver of all-time -- setting the record for career receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns -- and when given an opportunity against better competition, he still thrived due to his route-running ability and dependable hands. Just ask the defensive backs from Washington (8 catches, 145 yards, 3 touchdowns in 2014), Oregon (15 catches, 246 yards, 3 touchdowns in 2015) and at this year's Senior Bowl how good Kupp can be underneath. If NFL front offices are worried about his ability to create separation and let him fall to the third round, as some experts are predicting, the Patriots could have a future star fall into their laps on Day 2.
THIRD ROUND, NO. 96 OVERALL: ANTONIO GARCIA, OT, TROY
Here's another for the "year-too-early-rather-than-
FOURTH ROUND, NO. 131 OVERALL (FROM SEATTLE): DEATRICH WISE, DE, ARKANSAS
If the Patriots are looking for length on the edge, there are few longer than this 6-foot-5, 274 pounder. His height, weight, arms (almost 36 inches) and hands (10.5 inches) all actually stack up pretty well with Chandler Jones (6-5, 266, 35.5-inch arms, 9.75-inch hands) when Jones was coming out of Syracuse in 2012. Wise isn't quite the same athlete (4.92-second 40-yard dash, 33-inch vertical), but he's plenty athletic in his own right and could be a steal in the fourth round. General managers may be worried about the fact that he wasn't a full-time player in either of the last two seasons for coach Bret Bielema, but if you cram Wise's final two years together then you'll find that in about a full season's worth of snaps he had 15 sacks, 23 quarterback hits and 44 hurries in 227 pass-rush plays, per Pro Football Focus. That's outstanding production in the country's top conference, and it serves as a sign that there's a chance Wise could quickly work himself into the rotation at end in New England alongside his college teammate Trey Flowers. Even if he needs a year of seasoning, he'd be in line to play a critical role in 2018 if either Rob Ninkovich or Kony Ealy (both in contract years) aren't back.
FIFTH ROUND, NO. 163 OVERALL (FROM DENVER): BRENDAN LANGLEY, CB, LAMAR
The former Georgia corner transferred to Lamar for his final two collegiate seasons so that he could get more playing time. It seemed to pay off when last year he was voted first-team All-Southland Conference after he picked off six passes, broke up seven more, and returned two punts for touchdowns. At 6-feet, 201 pounds, he has coveted size and strength (22 reps of 225 pounds) for the position and the athleticism (4.43-second 40, 11.19-second 60-yard shuttle) to hang with receivers much more talented than the ones he saw playing his college ball in Beaumont, Texas. Maybe after a year in New England's system, as he gets some of his technique cleaned up with cornerbacks coach Josh Boyer, Langley will be seen as trusted depth behind Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe. Like Garcia, he also visited New England late in the pre-draft process.
FIFTH ROUND, NO. 183 OVERALL (COMPENSATORY): BRANDON WILSON, CB/RB/KR, HOUSTON
This is another prospect who made his way to Gillette Stadium recently for a visit, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. No surprise there. Why? Not to steal Kordell Stewart's thing, but just look at the number of slashes next to his name above. He was a three-way player for the Cougars, and some experts believe he's such a good athlete that he has the ability to contribute at any or all of those spots at the next level. He had one of the more impressive pro-day workouts in the nation this year, running a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, jumping 41 inches in the vertical, 133 inches in the broad jump and benching 225 pounds 24 times -- eye-popping numbers for a 5-foot-10, 198-pound human being. Even if he never cracks the top of the depth chart at any of the positions listed here, he's so explosive he would seem to be a natural covering kicks. The Patriots may be even more focused than usual on the kicking game in this year's draft as both Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner hit contract years in 2017.
SIXTH ROUND, NO. 200 OVERALL (FROM INDIANAPOLIS): JOSH AUGUSTA, DT, MISSOURI
"Guys that weigh 350 pounds and are athletic and long like [Alan Branch] is, I mean they don’t grow on trees. They’re hard to find." Belichick wasn't kidding when he dropped that quote last season. Those kinds of guys are very hard to find. But Augusta might be one. And he might be available late. He weighed closer to 400 pounds last fall, but according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch he was diagnosed with a thyroid issue in January and has shed some serious weight since. Slimming down may have made the big man's already quick feet even quicker as he posted a 5.12-second 40 time (which some had clocked as a sub-5.0 time), a 28.5-inch vertical, a 108-inch broad jump and a 7.9-second three-cone at his pro day. All very solid numbers for a man of his stature. Though Augusta only played about 50 percent of his team's snaps the last two seasons, and though he may not be as physically gifted as Branch (who starred at running back in high school), he could be worthy of a sixth-round selection.
SEVENTH ROUND, NO. 239 OVERALL (FROM DETROIT): BROOKS ELLIS, LB, ARKANSAS
Another Razorback? Another Razorback. But not just any Razorback. How about a pre-med student, the program's first-ever two-time Academic All-American, a two-time captain and the team's leading tackler for two consecutive years? Ellis' speed (4.79 40-yard dash) may make him no more than a priority free agent in the eyes of some clubs, but he's one of the most agile linebackers in the class (6.80-second three-cone, 11.28-second 60-yard shuttle), and he comes very close to hitting the height/weight profile that the Patriots typically like (6-foot-2, 240 pounds) at that position. If both Ellis and Wise land in New England this year, we can officially dub Arkansas the Rutgers of the South.