Hi everyone, welcome to the 4th edition of iSportsWeb’s 7-Round New England Patriots Mock Draft aka Patriots Mock Draft IV: The Voyage Home.
Glad to have you.
We are one month away from the draft which means two things:
1) Every New England fan will be getting giddier and giddier with anticipation like it’s Christmas, until they hop out of bed on May 8th in their Patriots-themed onesies and sit happily in front of their televisions surrounded by stacks and stacks of spreadsheets.
2) Things are gonna get crazy with Draft experts. There’ll be rampant arguing, players will plummet down draft boards because they have allergies, and we’ll all fall in love with a Division III punter because of his intangibles. It’s gonna be great.
But things have actually gotten a lot clearer in terms of next year’s roster. Vince Wilfork will be back this year (uber-giddy), and so will Ryan Wendell (pleasantly surprised). Let’s quickly re-rank the team’s needs.
Updated Draft Needs
- Defensive End/Edge Rusher – Best defenses in the league have rotations at defensive line, and Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich desperately need to lower their snap counts.
- Tight End – Either an athletic Aaron Hernandez “joker” type to plug in right away, or a bigger, more traditional tight end to back up Rob Gronkowski…or both. I’ll explain later.
- Defensive Tackle – Wilfork’s back, but the two starters are getting up there in years. The Patriots could go for a blue chipper early in the draft to pair with Seaver Siliga as their defensive tackles of the future.
- Coverage Linebacker – This is becoming more and more a passing league, and having a Swiss-Army-LB is always a plus. Jamie Collins was huge in this regard, Jerod Mayo’s return will help, but a fourth linebacker is still a need.
- Running Back – A fond farewell to Winnebago Blount means the Patriots need another back for their committee, especially with Ridley and Vereen nearing free agency.
- Interior O-Lineman – Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly will be back, but the Patriots could still do with some upside there. This does mean that the team could go for a rawer prospect rather than an immediate starter.
That settled, let’s move onward:
Mock Draft Rules
As usual, this mock draft was made using Fanspeak’s Draft Simulator, and then tested to make sure it had at least a 50% success rate. Also, this is my first mock draft with compensatory picks and one big trade.
Patriots trade their 1st round pick for Oakland’s 2nd (36), 4th (107), and 7th (219)
The Patriots will, as is their custom, trade out of the first, especially since there isn’t a super-pressing need anymore. The Raiders need all the help they can get, especially at QB, WR, and OT. I can see them trading out of that 5-spot, but also using some of those extra picks to get back into the 1st, and grab another blue-chipper.
But that’s enough of that, let’s get to it…
(Also this article is super long. I swear it’s worth it, but still…)
Round 2 (36) – Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
With Aaron Donald’s stock soaring, and Timmy Jernigan and Louis Nix III looking like strong, dependable nose tackle options, Hageman has seemed to have slipped in teams’ opinion of late. He’s still raw, and his effort/motor doesn’t consistently match up with his physical ability. The rap on Hageman is that he takes plays off and will need a strong coach to manage him.
Bill Belichick is such a coach. And the Patriots locker room being what it is, containing blue-collar, all-effort leaders like Wilfork, McCourty, Ninkovich, and Mayo, the 6’6, 310 Minnesota product will be able to tap into his considerable athletic talents consistently. He’s also got a ton of scheme versatility because of his formidable combination of size and speed. Hageman has some bust potential. But if he even nears his upside, we’ll look back at this as one of Belichick’s all time great picks.
Round 2 (62) – Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame
Speaking of upside….yeesh. Niklas is incredibly raw, but still impressed in his first starting season as a tight end, with 32 receptions for 498 yards and 5 TD. He’s already one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft, and his 6-7, 270 lb frame should translate to his being a nuisance to defenses in the red zone.
There are some issues. Niklas didn’t have the most extensive route tree at Notre Dame, and transitioning to New England’s more complex offense could lead to some bumps as a receiver. He also lacks both straight-line speed and agility, and no one will ever mistake him for a “move” tight end. But the Patriots are drafting Niklas for three reasons: 1) To be a party buddy for Gronk 2) to be a physical bully in the blocking/short game, and 3) because his upside is higher than any tight end in the draft. He won’t have to (and also won’t) be a main contributor right away, but could be a steal at this part of the draft.
Round 3 (93) – Jordan Tripp, OLB, Montana
Yes! Three straight mocks! My football-crush has not subsided! Tripp’s stock has risen, and, accordingly, I have the Patriots taking him a round earlier than I did before. There’s a lot to love about the 6’3, 237 lb Montana Product. He can move quickly into rushing lanes and make plays in the backfield, but he also performs well in coverage. He has the athleticism and agility to play outside, but he has the instincts and patients to play middle linebacker. He’s an on-the-field leader, will be a special teams ace, and is exactly the type of player Belichick loves.
With Brandon Spikes and his hilarious Twitter account now in Buffalo, and former scrapper Dane Fletcher also departed, the Patriots desperately need a fourth linebacker. Tripp may not get drafted as high because he’s not bursting with athleticism or because he didn’t play against as high a level of competition. But he’s an NFL-ready, work-first player who will be a great fit in New England.
Round 4 (107) – Bishop Sankey, RB, Washington
Alright, let’s get the boring stuff out of the way. The 5’9, 209 Sankey broke practically every Washington rushing record in his three years there, including a bonkers 327 carry, 1870 yard, 20 TD 2013 season. He put on a show at the Combine (running a 4.49, with a 10’6 broad, and a 35.5 vert), and was a noted leader both on and off the field in Washington. He doesn’t have the same razzle-dazzle speed as some other backs, but he’s dependable, is a great pass-blocker, and a way-above-average receiver out of the backfield, essentially making him a healthy medium between Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen, both of whom will be free agents after this season.
The important part: Bishop Sankey is one of the all time greatest football names. Seriously. No one named Bishop Sankey is going to be a failure at the NFL level. It’s the same reason I’m convinced Odell Beckham Jr. and Weston Richburg will be Hall of Famers. It’s the same reason I was so broken up about the Patriots cutting TJ Moe. And it’s same reason why Brandon Weeden didn’t pan out. Trust me on this one.
Round 4 (130) – Will Clarke, DE, West Virginia
With the Patriots taking Hageman, a natural pass-rusher who can switch out to end, the team can wait until Day 3 to take more of a project as a situational defensive end. Will Clarke needs to clean up some issues: he doesn’t use his hands as well as you’d like, and needs to learn to finish plays better. He can also be stiff when trying to turn a corner around a tackle, which limits some of his speed.
But those problems can be easily fixed through coaching. What you can’t teach is Clarke’s 6-6, 271 frame and immense strength. The West Virginia product has great length and quickness, and bullied interior offensive linemen consistently in his college career, despite being the focus of a lot of double teams. He’s a gym rat (winning the “Iron Mountaineer” award for weight room excellence three times), and high character player who will benefit immensely not just from the guidance of the talented vets on the line with him, but the attention given to them and away from him. Another high upside pick, and an easy one to make.
Round 4 (140) – Russell Bodine, C, North Carolina
The Patriots now have Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, Josh Kline, and Marcus Cannon vying for two starting spots at center and right guard. All are dependable veteran types, but none seem like long-term answers. Also, all are Dante Scarnecchia men (still crying), and Dave DeGuglielmo may want to bring in a rookie to teach next to the vets on the line, and groom for a few years down the line. Enter Russell Bodine.
The 6-3, 310 Bodine plays like an animal. The North Carolina product is incredibly strong, leading the pack at the Combine with 42 bench presses. He has good initial quickness, is bursting with athleticism, and plays with a mean streak, looking to hit someone on every single play. That being said, Bodine can sometimes play a bit out of control, and can sometimes lose his balance when trying to adjust to rushers. The Patriots wouldn’t need Bodine to start right away: the key is to harness his incredible athleticism and fire and give him a few years to learn how to play in the New England system.
Round 6 (198) – Jake Murphy, TE, Utah
I went back and forth between Jake Murphy and Colt Lyerla at this spot about two dozen times. In a vacuum, Lyerla would be the easy choice, since he’s a first round talent without question. But the longer the offseason goes without any public word about teams’ meetings with Lyerla, the more I worry. With the Aaron Hernandez debacle, and the recent flare-up over DeSean Jackson’s alleged off-the-field issues, Lyerla’s troubles may take him off the Patriots’ big board for good.
But back to Murphy, who’s impressing more and more as the offseason progresses. The 6-4, 252 lb junior has the body of an in-line blocker, but shows the most promise as a receiver out of the slot, where he played quite a bit in 2013. Murphy had 58 rec. for 766 yards and 9 TDs since 2012, and showed off his soft hands (that measured at 10”) and strong hand-eye coordination. While there were questions about his athleticism, they have all faded away after the combine. Murphy had the fourth best 3 Cone time (7.18), the second best 20-yard shuttle (4.27), and the fifth best vertical (33.0) amongst tight ends. Again, he’s a great fit for the Patriots offense, and reminds some scouts of a Dennis Pitta type player, who’ll be great next to Gronk and Niklas.
Round 6 (206) – Trey Millard, FB/RB/TE, Oklahoma
My other repeat from last draft, I love the Patriots taking Millard the more I think about it. The league-wide move away from the traditional fullback, and a season-ending ACL injury suffered in October have allowed the Oklahoma product to slip outside of the Top 100, where he absolutely belongs. The good news for the team that does end up picking the 6’2, 247 lb Millard is that he’s way more than just a fullback.
The two-year captain saw time at tight end, single back, h-back, and in the slot in his time at Oklahoma, as well as being one of their best special teams players. Over 48 games, Millard accumulated 538 rushing yards on 98 attempts (5.49 ypc) and 70 rec. for 707 yards (10.1 ypc). He has good hands and is a passable pass-blocker. He’s a powerful north-south runner and a good lead blocker. And omst importantly, he’s a team leader on and off the field, with tremendous character and game IQ. He’d be an interesting counter to the more traditional Develin, could be another “move” tight end option, and would help replace some of the big, bruising runs that Blount supplied. Millard is a true Swiss Army Knife and Josh McDaniels will love playing with him.
Round 7 (219) – Matt Patchan, OT, Boston College
The Patriots take a local boy in the last round of the draft to add depth behind Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer. Patchan has broad shoulders, long arms, and good strength and flexibility. He also has super-surprising speed, with tremendous combine times, and great lateral agility. He also has tremendous hair.
The reason Patchan will be available at this point is because he has a freakish injury history. In May 2008, he was shot in the left shoulder as a bystander in a park. He injured his left knee later that year in the first of two scooter accidents. He missed most of 2009 with a torn ACL. He missed all of 2010 with a fractured right wrist. He missed all of 2012 with a torn pectoral. Now, does that mean Patchan will be an injury concern his entire career? No, and he’d be a smart pick to add depth to the Patriots’ offensive line. They just need to take his scooter away from him.
Round 7 (244) – Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota
Boring stuff out of the way: Vereen is a good athlete with terrific balance, speed, and quickness. He’s got tremendous game IQ that helps him to diagnose plays instantly, and was a team leader in his time at Minnesota, showing himself to be very coachable and professional. He’s also got terrific positional versatility, spending time at cornerback, nickelback, and safety in his time at Minnesota. He doesn’t have great hands (explaining his 4 career interceptions) and doesn’t have super-long arms. But he’d be a great backup to Duron Harmon and Devin McCourty and would immediately step in as a special teams stud.
But he’s Shane Vereen’s brother!!! Seriously! We were robbed of the opportunity to see Chandler and Arthur Jones to play together in New England, but this may be even better. Because they’ll actually be playing against each other in practice. I demand that someone in the Pats media department make this a webseries. The Vereen brothers wake up in their bunk beds, eat their Wheaties, and then pummel each other in practices. Awesome.
So there you have it. In short, the Patriots add two pass-rushers (Ra’Shede Hageman, Will Clarke), a few more weapons for Tom Brady (Trey Millard, Troy Niklas, Jake Murphy), critical backups who could start right away (Jordan Tripp, Bishop Sankey), and high-quality depth at already strong positions (Brock Vereen, Russell Bodine, Matt Patchan). Not too shabby.
But because this is the draft, and because we’re Patriots fans, I’m sure you’ll disagree! Let me know how you feel about this mock, and who you’d rather see the team take, by getting at me on Twitter @isportspeters or sending me stuff at [email protected]!