Patriots Mock Draft: Fresh Predictions After the Super Bowl
Predicting a New England Patriots draft is like trying to predict what the weather will on a certain day three months from now. You can look at trends and needs and make a rough guesstimate for what Bill Belichick might do, but ultimately it's a fairly futile exercise.
Of course that doesn't stop us from trying to find the perfect Patriots fits, the handful of players that can put the team over the top and set them up for long term success.
But it's especially hard to project before free agency happens.
Will the Pats re-sign Wes Welker, Aqib Talib or Sebastian Vollmer? Any of those moves would significantly impact their needs and what direction they might go.
Ultimately the Patriots will not enter the draft with any glaring needs. That's just how they operate. If you need to get a starter or fill a significant hole on draft weekend, you're in trouble.
So based on that it frees us up to make some projections based on where the Pats most need some young talent. Over the last few years they've added promising players in the draft, and this year will be another chance to add to that base of players who can become long-term building blocks for sustained success.
Here's our first Patriots-only mock draft of the offseason!
1st Round (#29 Overall): Sharrif Floyd, DT, Florida
Regardless of what happens in free agency, I believe that defensive tackle is the most important long-term position of need on the Patriots roster. There are a collection of talented tackles in this year's class so depending on how the picks fall, the Patriots should have a shot at a talented player.
The type of defensive tackle they select should tell us a lot about the direction of their defense. If they took more of a two-gap type like Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins it would show they'd like to continue running their style of "Double Nose" 4-3 defense.
But I believe this offseason will trigger a departure from that line of thinking, and that's why I went with Florida's Sharrif Floyd. Floyd definitely has versatility, he lined up all over the line at Florida, but his ability to shoot gaps is better than his ability to hold his ground.
With some NFL seasoning he should improve at two-gapping, but he already has the size, quickness and versatility to fill a current void for the Patriots. Couple him with recent addition Armand Armstead and the Patriots would finally have some talent behind Vince Wilfork, including two young players who could be instant factors in the passing game.
The Patriots must shift the defensive tackle spot next to Vince Wilfork to someone who can shoot gaps, and someone like Floyd fits the bill.
2nd Round (#59 Overall): Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
It's pretty much a Patriots fan consensus that the team needs to find a downfield receiver that they've been missing since Randy Moss departed, so we're going for that with the best receiving prospect to come out of Marshall since Moss: Aaron Dobson.
At 6'3" and 204 pounds, Dobson has prototypical size for an X-receiver, and also, according to Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com has "explosive athleticism and fluid ankles in his routes, showing burst in-and-out of his breaks to create separation."
He was also team captain in 2012, a sign that bodes well for the Patriots' interest.
On paper, Dobson seems to be the wide receiver the Patriots have been missing for both his ability to take the top off a defense as well as his size. The question remains whether he has the football intelligence to gain Tom Brady's trust. The Patriots require their receivers to make a number of pre-snap reads, then run the correct route based on what they see.
If Dobson can prove to have a good understanding of the game he could just what the Patriots offense needs, and the Patriots will not hesitate to spend a high draft pick on receiver despite their recent history of misses.
3rd Round (#91 Overall): Bacarri Rambo, FS, Georgia
For those who agreed with Rodney Harrison's assessment that the Pats need an enforcer in the secondary this pick is sure to please you. Rambo comes with some baggage; he was suspended multiple times in his career at Georgia for failed drug tests, but he's just the kind of player that would bring an attitude to the New England defensive backs.
Some may say that the Patriots avoid players with character problems, but marijuana is not something that will always scare them off. Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Tate had similar issues and that did not stop the Patriots from taking them.
If you look at just the kind of player Rambo is he certainly fits the prototype for the style of play Bill Belichick likes from his safeties. His characteristics certainly seem similar to Brandon Meriweather coming out of college.
Possesses the combination of overall strength and agility to fill multiple roles on defense. Consistently reads routes and the quarterback’s eyes well, flows with plays from the deep half and breaks on the ball quickly.
I don't view safety as the need that many Pats pundits do, but I think Rambo is the kind of player that would make a difference and potentially make Steve Gregory expendable. The combination of Rambo, Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson could be a strong and diverse group of safeties to build on.
7th Round: Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
Projecting a seventh-round pick can be kind of silly but here we're sticking with an overall philosophy that the Patriots are going to throw a bunch of wide receivers at the wall this offseason and see who sticks.
We won't limit them to just outside, X-receiver types either—hence our choice of a slot receiver-type in Josh Boyce. If the Patriots let Wes Welker walk they should likely bring back Julian Edelman for the slot receiver role, but with his injury history it would be smart to have some insurance for him.
Boyce is a quick and physical wide receiver, and unlike Edelman or Welker, weighs over 200 pounds, so he should have the frame to hold up.
Again, the biggest thing with the Patriots and receivers is whether or not they're smart enough to play in the system, but Boyce is described as "competitive and a savvy route runner." He'd have as good a shot as anybody.
7th Round: Nick Becton, OT, Virginia Tech
You can always count on the Patriots to pick up an offensive lineman late in the draft so we grabbed Nick Becton from Virginia Tech. Becton has the size and movement skills that make him an excellent prospect for the Dante Scarnecchia School of Offensive Linemen.
If Sebastian Vollmer does not re-sign with the Patriots, right tackle will actually be a sizable need, and one that would likely have to be filled, at least temporarily, via free agency. Many think Marcus Cannon fits better at guard anyway, and Vollmer's ability to also be the primary left tackle backup would leave the Pats with multiple needs along the line.
The biggest thing to like about Becton is his athleticism, and while he might be a better fit at left tackle, he certainly has the size to play on the right. The Patriots love the quick screens, so tackles who can move like Becton are high on their want list.
The Patriots should continue to stock the offensive line with some rookie free agents as well, as Dante Scarnecchia has molded plenty of starters from undrafted players like Stephen Neal, Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly.