New England Patriots Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions, Post-Scouting Combine
The NFL Scouting Combine results are in, and though they only provide a small portion of the information from which scouts and front office people make their decisions, the combine results will be poured over and over-analyzed for the next two months.
When projecting a New England Patriots mock draft, the most important thing to understand is where the value is going to be.
What positions are the most stocked and most likely to have the best prospects fall to the later portions of the draft when the Pats are scheduled to pick?
At this point it seems likely that New England will trade down from No. 29 overall and pick up additional second-round picks. That is where the best value seems to be.
The team's needs remain the same from our post-Super Bowl mock, but this time around, we are looking at some new players who are more likely to be available when the Pats are picking.
Things will shift again once free agency begins in two weeks, but here is our latest Patriots mock draft, post-Combine edition.
All combine results courtesy of NFL.com.
1st Round (#29th Overall): Justin Hunter, WR, Tennesee
Justin Hunter was one player who stood out at the combine with an impressive performance, leaving some wondering if he had elevated himself into the first-round conversation. Hunter is looking more and more like the kind of outside threat that the Patriots offense needs.
At 6-foot-4 he has the height, and with the measurables he put up in Indy, it is clear that he has the explosion to challenge defenses on the perimeter and deep down the field.
His 40-yard-dash came in at a respectable 4.44 seconds, but it was his elite explosive performances in vertical jump (39.5 inches, tied-4th best) and combine-best broad jump (136 inches) that really stood out.
Hunter suffered a torn ACL in 2011, and though he returned the following season, he had a number of drops in 2012 that hurt his draft status. As we saw with Wes Welker in 2010, it is not uncommon for a receiver coming off an ACL injury to have an abnormally high number of dropped passes.
Hunter should be back to full strength in 2013.
For the Patriots to take him in the first round might be a reach, but Hunter represents the exact kind of weapon they need to play their X-receiver spot.
With Tom Brady's contract extension likely resulting in Welker's return to New England, and Brandon Lloyd's future in doubt, it may be time for the Pats to jump on a potential X-receiver even if the value at the spot isn't perfect.
2nd Round (#59 Overall): Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State
The hardest thing in this draft is finding the perfect fit for what I see as the Patriots' biggest need: a defensive tackle who can impact the passing game on early downs.
There are traditional three-techniques like Sylvester Williams or traditional two-gappers like Jesse Williams, but very few outside of Sharrif Floyd who show potential to do both.
With that in mind, I'm taking Brandon Williams with the Patriots' second-round pick. Williams had the combine's best performance in bench press, putting 225 pounds up 38 times. At 6'1" and 335 pounds, he certainly looks like a Vince Wilfork clone on paper.
But Williams has been noted for his ability to get push up the middle—the thing the Patriots defense needs most.
Williams is making a jump from Division 2 to the NFL, but his performance at the Senior Bowl showed how capable he is of immediate improvement. He will remain a project, but his strength and ability to bull rush and collapse the pocket could make him the perfect interior tool for Bill Belichick along the defensive line.
3rd Round (#91 Overall): Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
Logan Ryan excelled in a few of the events the Patriots like most. While his 4.56 40-yard-dash was average, he had the second-best defensive back time in the three cone drill and 60-yard shuttle, and the fourth-best defensive back time in the 20-yard shuttle.
Couple those standout stats with his physical play, intelligence and association with one of Bill Belichick's favorite college programs, and you have a prime Patriots draft target.
Ryan might be a little raw, but that is to be expected of a potential third-round pick.
However you can't teach the toughness, intelligence and competitiveness that Ryan has been praised for. With Aqib Talib's future still uncertain, and the Pats reportedly ready to roll with a Devin McCourty and Tavon Wilson starting-safety tandem at this point, corner remains one of the team's biggest overall needs.
Ryan's experience in both zone and man-to-man schemes, as well as playing in a demanding program like Schiano built before leaving for Tampa Bay, only improve his chances of being successful in New England.
He seems like a perfect fit, and in the third round, he would be a great value.
7th Round: Zaviar Gooden, LB, Missouri
It might be a stretch to think Zaviar Gooden will last until the seventh round after blowing up the combine with the best 40 time, three cone drill, 20-yard shuttle and 60-yard shuttle of all linebackers in Indianapolis, but he really embodies what the Patriots need to add to their linebacker corps.
Some think that he will be limited solely to the Will position in a 4-3 defense, but the Patriots could find a specialized way to use him.
He is undersized for the position Jerod Mayo traditionally plays at 6'2" and just 234 pounds, but with his quickness and agility, he could make an immediate impact covering the middle of the field—the place the Patriots struggled most the last two seasons.
Despite being slightly undersized for the Patriots' traditional prototype, he has the aggressiveness to contribute immediately on special teams.
Gooden would signify a departure of sorts for the Pats, but in the modern NFL, you need athletic linebacker/safety hybrids who can cover—and that is something New England has lacked lately.
7th Round: Eric Herman, G, Ohio
Eric Herman put up more reps of 225 than any other offensive lineman in Indy and has the kind of toughness the Patriots always like on the interior of their offensive line.
He played 51 straight games at Ohio so his durability is unquestionable, and he seems like an excellent applicant for the Dante Scarnecchia School for Offensive Linemen. The Patriots are always willing to take flyers on offensive linemen late in the draft, and given Scarnecchia's history of developing even undrafted players into starters, it is easy to see why.
It seems as though they are set with their line outside of Sebastian Vollmer at the moment, but late in the draft, it is far more about fit than need.
Herman has the strength, toughness and durability to blossom after a year or two of development in New England's system.
He would be a great late-round candidate for selection, but it is hard to say if he will last until the seventh round.