Two-round mock draft: Patriots get physical at running back and corner
Two-round mock draft: Patriots get physical at running back and corner
By Phil Perry
This is the time of year on the NFL calendar when fans are fueled on hope. There are no games to obsess over, no weekly matchups to digest. The Super Bowl is two months in the rear view, and training camp is more than three months away. Even for the die-hards who study the offseason transaction wire, there isn't much left to get excited about. The splashiest free-agent signings are out of the way, meaning the majority of most rosters around the league are set.
All that's left for the football lovers is the hope that their teams can find contributors in the draft.
As far as the Patriots are concerned, there aren't all that many opportunities for players to come in via the NFL's annual crap shoot and make an immediate impact. Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio have been busy this offseason, filling needs both through free agency and trades, but there are some long-term and immediate needs that remain.
One could argue that the order of our Five Biggest Draft Needs piece, published just last week, could afford to see a bit of a shakeup after the Patriots signed free agent defensive lineman Terrance Knighton. But even taking that large addition into consideration, the Patriots could still use help at defensive tackle as well as offensive tackle, running back, corner, receiver and linebacker.
Pinning down where the Patriots will turn on draft weekend is always unpredictable. That they have 11 picks -- but none in the first, fourth or fifth rounds -- makes it even more difficult. But in order to have a sense of which players might be available when the Patriots are first on the clock late in the second round, we've opted to put together a full two-round mock draft.
Stick with us. Why? Because regardless of how it shakes out, there will be good players remaining at picks No. 60 and 61 overall, meaning even Patriots supporters -- still reeling from the Deflategate punishment -- have a right to be hopeful as the draft approaches.
First Round: 1-5
1. Titans: Laremy Tunsil, OT, Ole Miss
The definition of a "dancing bear," Tunsil combines prototypical size with rare foot quickness and coordination. For a team focused on keeping quarterback Marcus Mariota clean, there is no better option.
2. Browns: Carson Wentz, QB, North Dakota State
You didn't think the Browns were simply going to hand the starting job to Robert Griffin III, did you? Wentz's big arm, athleticism, and willingness to lay his body on the line to pick up hard yards will quickly make him a favorite of the people Cleveland.
3. Chargers: Jalen Ramsey, CB/S, Florida State
Some have Ramsey pegged as the top player in the draft, and he's certainly one of the most versatile. A potentially dynamic play-maker in the secondary for San Diego, he played at safety, in the slot and outside for the Seminoles.
4. Cowboys: Myles Jack, LB, UCLA
Another queen-on-the-chess-board type goes off the board when Dallas opts to pair Jack with veteran linebacker Sean Lee. Jack, who also played running back in college, is a freak athlete that can fill a variety of different roles in Jerry Jones' defense.
5. Jaguars: Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
A fit in coach Gus Bradley's defense as a "Leo" pass-rusher, Bosa gives Jacksonville a scary defensive front that includes Jared Odrick, Sen'Derrick Marks, fee-agent add Malik Jackson and last year's first-round pick Dante Fowler Jr.
First Round: 6-10
6. Ravens: DeForest Buckner, DE, Oregon
Baltimore will want to maintain its long-held, hard-nosed reputation on defense, but it desperately needs to get younger. With Buckner, the Ravens are able to do both.
7. 49ers: Jared Goff, QB, Cal
Niners coach Chip Kelly can start fresh at the quarterback position after dealing away Colin Kaepernick. Goff picks up his stuff at Berkeley, moves across the bay, and immediately becomes a franchise cornerstone.
8. Eagles: Ezekiel Elliot, RB, Ohio State
The running back position has been devalued over time in the NFL, but coach Doug Pederson can't pass up the opportunity to snag a player with Elliot's upside. The Buckeyes lead back is worthy of a top-10 choice.
9. Buccaneers: Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
General manager Jason Licht could be tempted to grab a tackle to protect quarterback Jameis Winston, but Hargraves is an instinctive defender who should start in Tampa's secondary for years to come.
10. Giants: Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame
The Giants have made a concerted effort over the last few years to add to add early-round talent to their offensive line. That trend continues with the selection of Stanley, who projects as a starting left tackle, which should allow last year's No. 9 overall pick Ereck Flowers to slide over to the right side.
First Round: 11-15
11. Bears: A'Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Chicago continues to load up on its defensive line with this 6-foot-4, 307-pounder. Alongside former Patriots defensive lineman Akiem Hicks and last year's second-round pick Eddie Goldman, Robinson has the traits to become a force.
12. Saints: Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville
New Orleans needs to build up what was an anemic defensive unit in 2015, and Rankins gives them a building block. This draft is loaded with talent on the interior of the defensive line so teams looking for help there won't panic at Robinson and Rankins going back-to-back.
13. Dolphins: William Jackson III, CB, Houston
Miami is in need of help on the outside after parting ways with Brent Grimes and gets it here in one of the most intriguing athletes in this year's draft class. With good size (6-feet, 182 pounds) and quality ball skills, Jackson's characteristics could make him a top half of the first round selection.
14. Raiders: Eli Apple, CB, Ohio State
Another mini-run on a positional group here in the middle of the first round. Oakland will be more than happy to snag Apple, who has speed, toughness and experience against top-flight competition.
15. Rams: Paxton Lynch, QB, Memphis
After a move west, the Rams could use a co-face of the franchise behind center to go along with running back Todd Gurley. At 6-foot-7, and with good speed for a long-limbed signal-caller, Lynch has plenty to offer Los Angeles.
First Round: 16-20
16. Lions: Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
New general manager Bob Quinn knows a good edge defender when he sees one. Though Dodd wasn't a longtime star for the Tigers, he showed plenty in his final season to be worthy of the first pick of the new front office regime.
17. Falcons: Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson
One pick after watching his teammate head to Detroit, Lawson makes his way to Atlanta to join coach Dan Quinn's defense. Dodd may have shown more upside late in the season, but the Falcons front office will value Lawson's effort on tape and long-term production.
18. Colts: Jack Conklin, OT, Michigan State
Colts owner Jim Irsay has been hinting that an absolutely massive new contract for Andrew Luck is in the works. If they want to keep their crowned jewel upright, they'll need to upgrade his offensive line.
19. Bills: Jarran Reed, DT, Alabama
Rex Ryan may want an edge defender here to replace Mario Williams, but in Reed he gets a space-eating tackle who can push the pocket. He's not quite as big as Damon "Snacks" Harrison, who Ryan coached in New York, but he may be able to fill a similar role.
20. Jets: Leonard Floyd, OLB, Georgia
Already one of the best defensive fronts in football, the Jets get a little more athletic by selecting a true edge rusher. Should the team move Mohammad Wilkerson in a trade, they could use this pick to take Louisiana Tech's Vernon Butler or the next player in our mock...
First Round: 21-25
21. Redskins: Chris Jones, DT, Mississippi State
The 6-foot-6 mountain of a man didn't necessarily have the best track record of production in college, but his size and quickness off the ball give him a tantalizing ceiling. With Knighton out of the picture in Washington, Jones could come in and take over that role immediately.
22. Texans: Laquon Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Treadwell has drawn comparisons to Houston's No. 1 wideout DeAndre Hopkins, but coach Bill O'Brien won't be worried about positional redundancy when he has what may be the best receiver in this draft class on his roster.
23. Vikings: Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor
Minnesota's offense could see a little boost in productivity as it moves inside to its new domed stadium. That little boost could be a big one if the Vikings give quarterback Teddy Bridgewater an explosive pass-catcher like Coleman.
24. Bengals: Josh Doctson, WR, TCU
The run on receivers continues. Adding Brandon LaFell won't be enough to make up for what Cincinnati lost at the position -- Marvin Jones (to the Lions), Mohamed Sanu (to the Falcons) in free agency. Doctson will quickly become a dependable option for Andy Dalton and take some pressure off of stud wideout AJ Green.
25. Steelers: Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson
Pittsburgh is able to put 30 points on board on an almost-weekly basis, but their secondary was a mess in 2015. Alexander gives coach Mike Tomlin a corner who thrives in man coverage and won't be intimidated by his competition at the next level.
First Round: 26-31
26. Seahawks: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss
Seattle could use some help in the trenches on the offensive side of the football, but coach Pete Carroll won't want his team to pass on a potential top-10 talent on the defensive line. His collegiate numbers leave much to be desired, and he has off-field issues that need to be vetted, but Nkemdiche is a physical specimen who could be a steal late in the first round.
27. Packers: Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor
Now that BJ Raji is no longer factoring into the equation on the Packers defense, Billings gives them the plug-and-play nose tackle that they need. Only 21 years old, the 311-pounder has the potential to be special.
28. Chiefs: Noah Spence, DE, Eastern Kentucky
Justin Houston is dealing with a knee injury that could keep him out for the entire 2016 campaign. Tamba Hali is 32 years old and will turn 33 during the season. Spence comes with red flags galore -- the former Ohio State pass-rusher was banned from the Big Ten after failing multiple drug tests -- but his talent is undeniable and he fills a need. He and Dee Ford could be the pass-rushers of the future in Kansas City.
29. Cardinals: Artie Burns, CB, Miami
A track athlete with length (6-feet, 33.25-inch arms), Burns could help solidify a secondary in Arizona that already has plenty of talent in Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson.
30. Panthers: Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State
The winner of the Defensive Lineman of the Year award in the Big 12, Ogbah will provide Carolina's championship-level defense with some much-needed pass-rush. While he served primarily as a powerful presence on the outside in college, he played all along the Cowboys defensive line.
31. Broncos: Darron Lee, OLB, Ohio State
John Elway has a difficult decision to make when two of the draft's best linebackers fall all the way to the bottom of the first round. He ends up taking the more athletic Lee to replace Danny Trevathan as opposed to going with the run-thumping Reggie Raglund from Alabama.
Second Round: 32-36
32. Browns: Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
With its second pick in the draft, Cleveland goes after a legitimate deep threat to pair with its new strong-armed quarterback. If Fuller can figure out his drops, he has a chance to be an immediate big-play threat. He ran a 4.32 40-yard dash at this year's combine.
33. Titans: Reggie Raglund, LB, Alabama
Tennessee may have other more pressing needs than inside linebacker, but they simply need as many good players as they can get their hands on. Raglund is too talented to continue to fall down the board. The Titans will be happy to scoop him up and pair him with Wesley Woodyard.
34. Cowboys: Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
The Dallas offense never quite found its footing after Tony Romo suffered a season-ending injury. Cook gives the Cowboys a viable backup and a potential future starter, who played for four years in the Spartans pro-style attack.
35. Chargers: Taylor Decker, OT, Ohio State
Here's another first-round talent who has tumbled all the way into San Diego's lap. General manager Tom Telesco has to feel good after adding two franchise players -- one on either side of the ball -- with his first two picks.
36. Ravens: LeRaven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
Baltimore could go for a running back here; Alabama's Heisman winner Derek Henry is still available. Instead, they go for a beefy tackle with insane length -- 36-inch arms, 12-inch hands -- and the perfect name.
Second Round: 37-41
37. 49ers: Cody Whitehair, OL, Kansas State
An athletic and versatile offensive lineman, Whitehair should be a long-term stabilizing force in the middle of the offensive line that protects San Francisco's first-round quarterback. For the Wildcats, Whitehair played both tackle spots as well as guard, and he could be considered as a center at the next level.
38. Jaguars: Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
Blake Bortles has plenty of skill players to work with on the offensive side of the ball, but he could use a mauling center that clears space in the running game and more than holds his own in pass protection. Kelly is considered by many to be the best center in the draft.
39. Buccaneers: Germain Ifedi, OL, Texas A&M
Remember when the Bucs were worried about eschewing an offensive lineman for Hargreaves in the first round? That decision pays off here. Ifedi's game could use some refining, but he may figure into the mix as either a tackle or a guard. A Logan Mankins replacement, perhaps?
40. Giants: Vonn Bell, S, Ohio State
Landon Collins came in last season as a rookie and gave the Giants a physical box safety. Bell's skill set complements the 'Bama product perfectly, providing new coach Ben McAdoo a play-making center fielder.
41. Bears: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
Another trenches pick for coach John Fox's club, this time on the offensive side of the ball. Spriggs is a good athlete, who should help keep Jay Cutler protected long enough to find Alshon Jeffrey and last year's No. 7 overall pick Kevin White down the field.
Second Round: 42-46
42. Dolphins: Devontae Booker, RB, Utah
Booker would have been a nice fit in New England, but his versatile skill set was too attractive for the Patriots rivals in Miami to pass on. Together with hard-charging back Jay Ajayi, the Dolphins have talented backs to turn to in any situation.
43. Rams: Hunter Henry, TE, Arkansas
The top tight end in this year's class won't be clearing much in the way of running room as a blocker, but as a security blanket for Lynch? He's ready to make an impact right away.
44. Raiders: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
Perhaps the best safety in the draft, Joseph may slide a bit due to an ACL injury suffered last season. He'll have big shoes to fill after Charles Woodson's retirement, but that won't keep him from taking an aggressive mindset to the back end of the Raiders defense.
45. Rams: Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech
This is what people are talking about when they say this year's draft is oozing with talent on the interior of the defensive line. Any other year, Butler would be a first-rounder. And, in reality, he may be. But here he slides to the second, replaces Nick Fairley, and gives the Rams a physical beast to play alongside arguably the game's best defensive tackle in Aaron Donald.
46. Lions: Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
Quinn takes a Belichickian approach to the second round here, taking a no-doubter of a first-round talent who has significant question marks surrounding his health. It worked for the Patriots in 2010 with Rob Gronkowski. Quinn will hope his gamble pays off anywhere near as well.
Second Round: 47-51
47. Saints: Kamalei Correa, DE, Boise State
As the Saints rebuild their defense, they decide to do it from front to back. They got their interior presence in the first round, and Correa gives them a rare athlete who could be molded into a hard-to-handler pass-rusher.
48. Colts: Joshua Garnett, OG, Stanford
Indy doubles up on the offensive line in the first two rounds of the draft, hoping that Garnett and Conkin can grow together to become reliable protectors of their franchise quarterback.
49. Bills: Jonathan Bullard, DL, Florida
With the potential to play both inside and out, the Bills defense looks to continue to build "a bully" on defense. Bullard is relatively raw, but Ryan may see traits here that he can shape.
50. Falcons: Keanu Neal, S, Florida
Back-to-back Gators come off the board in the second round. In Neal, Atlanta gets a physical safety with good instincts. He may not be what Earl Thomas was to Quinn's defense when Quinn was defensive coordinator in Seattle, but he'll be a thought in the backs of receivers minds when they're at the line of scrimmage knowing they're supposed to run a deep in-cut.
51. Jets: Austin Johnson, DT, Penn State
At 6-foot-4, 314 pounds Johnson is a high-motor earth-mover. With Damon Harrison gone (to the Giants via free agency) and Wilkerson potentially on the move, coach Todd Bowles reloads on the interior here.
Second Round: 52-56
52. Texans: Christian Westerman, OL, Arizona State
With a new quarterback to protect in Brock Osweiler, the Texans would be well-served to replace center Ben Jones, who landed with the Titans this offseason. Westerman gives Houston a ready-made interior offensive lineman with athleticism.
53. Redskins: Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
A torn meniscus he suffered before last season won't be enough to allow Fuller to fall out of the second-round discussion. He made eight picks combined in 2013 and 2014 and should continue to be a ball hawk as a pro.
54. Vikings: Shon Coleman, OT, Auburn
Minnesota gave their quarterback an explosive weapon in the first round. In the second, they make a move to keep him healthy. At 6-foot-5, 307 pounds, Coleman has the physical tools to compete, and the mental toughness to match. In 2010 he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and in 2013 he restarted his playing career.
55. Bengals: Kenny Clark, DT, UCLA
A former wrestler, Clark has surprising quickness for his 314-pound frame. Still only 20 years old, he may need a year of seasoning, but he could be a game-changer lined up next to Geno Atkins for the next few years.
56. Seahawks: Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
Henry's long wait is over as he finally comes off the board at No. 56. The Seahawks will be thrilled if they can get their Marshawn Lynch replacement here.
Second Round: 57-63
57. Packers: Scooby Wright, LB, Arizona
A true inside linebacker and a tackling machine, the benefits of Wright's selection would be two-fold. Not only would they have their defensive quarterback of the future, they'll also be afforded the opportunity to move Clay Matthews back to his spot at outside linebacker where he can be more disruptive.
58. Steelers: Miles Killebrew, S, Southern Utah
Pittsburgh knows that it's on the verge of competing for a Super Bowl in the AFC. It just needs to build up its defense. With back-to-back picks in the secondary -- including a 6-foot-2 wrecking ball in Killebrew -- they hope to make the necessary improvements as quickly as possible.
59. Chiefs: Sterling Shephard, WR, Oklahoma
The groans in New England will be audible all the way to the Chiefs war room. An electric slot who runs clean routes and catches everything could have been a star in the Patriots offense. Instead, he'll provide coach Andy Reid with a inside complement to outside receiver Jeremy Maclin.
60. Patriots: Jordan Howard, RB, Indiana
Though Henry slid in this mock, he was never truly an option for the Patriots. Here, Belichick and Caserio get the next best thing in Howard. A 6-foot, 230-pound "big back," he'll fill the role vacated by LeGarrette Blount nicely. A strong athlete who did a good job of protecting the football in college despite his physical style, Howard has the potential to be a three-down player.
61. Patriots: Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
The Patriots could use some depth at corner with Malcolm Butler (restricted free agent after 2016) and Logan Ryan (unrestricted free agent after 2016) not guaranteed to return after this season. Jones is a physical, competitive corner who has competed against upper-echelon opponents and isn't afraid to contribute in run support. He's also an accomplished return man, who has brought back four punts for touchdowns. He was arrested last year after a dispute with an ex-girlfriend but charges were dropped days later. If Jones looks like a good fit character-wise -- Belichick will surely get what he deems a trustworthy report from Alabama coach Nick Saban -- the Patriots could make him their choice. An offensive tackle could be the choice here, but there are long, intelligent players who could be had in the third round. Based on this mock, at least.
62. Panthers: Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Quarterback Cam Newton will have better options in the passing game next season with Kelvin Benjamin back in the mix, but the Panthers could use a second option to run their short-to-intermediate routes. Miller is still relatively raw, but he has all the physical traits to become a weapon.
63. Broncos: Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas
Malik Jackson out. Ridgeway in. The 6-foot-3, 303 pound tackle won't replace Jackson's production right away, but he has the ability to become a three-down player on the interior of Wade Phillips' defense.