3 Reach Picks the New England Patriots Should Avoid in the 2013 NFL Draft
The Pats must look beyond the combine and pro day darlings, and past the upper echelons of Mel Kiper's Big Board if they hope to emerge with a talented rookie class.
Most importantly, they'll have to avoid reach picks with high bust potential, as one bad pick could kill their draft class.
Let's take a look at a few players the Pats should steer clear of until the later rounds.
CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU
There are a number of potential shutdown corners in the draft. The Honey Badger just isn't one of them.
Mathieu has made his name as a flashy player with electric return skills, but his upside in coverage is as a decent NFL slot corner. As a leggy 5'9" CB, Mathieu simply doesn't have the fluidity or stride length to stay with NFL receivers along the outside.
Mathieu's performance against elite college competition backs up this assertion. Consider this excerpt from an ESPN the Magazine article by Kevin Van Valkenburg:
[Football analyst KC] Joyner studied film of LSU this offseason, focusing on the seven best offensive teams the Tigers faced in 2011. In those games, Joyner found that Mathieu was targeted 25 times and allowed 14 completions for 221 yards, an average of 8.8 yards per attempt. By comparison, Mathieu's teammate, Tharold Simon, was targeted 30 times and surrendered just 12 completions for 108 yards, an average of 3.6 yards per attempt.
Otherwise, Mathieu isn't worth a selection in the first few rounds, and since the Pats have zero picks between Round 4 and Round 6, don't expect to see the Honey Badger in New England blue and silver next season.
DE Margus Hunt, SMU
There's nothing wrong with Margus Hunt's measurables (6'8", 275 lbs). The guy makes Thor look like Kate Moss.
The problem with drafting Hunt with the 29th pick is that he's a project, and a 26-year-old project at that. He's raw, and as fellow Bleacher Report writer Eric Stoner lays out, he's prone to playing with a high pad level—a tendency which, when paired with his freakish height, lessens his ability to gain upfield leverage on linemen.
Until Hunt can improve the fluidity of his rush and lower his pad level off the snap, his short-term potential is fairly limited. He might serve as an improvement over Jermaine Cunningham and Justin Francis in the sub/interior rush role, but given the Pats' needs (including a starting DT for their 4-3 base defense) and the crowded defensive line class, Hunt would be a reach with the 29th pick.
The Pats have enough immediate needs to address with their limited draft resources. They shouldn't invest a premium pick on a long-term project with high bust potential.
LB/DE Sam Montgomery
Sorry to pick on LSU, Tigers fans. Just know I loved Glen Davis in his time with the Celtics.
The concern with Mathieu largely came as a result of his physical limitations. That's not the case with Montgomery, a rangy, versatile player who is an excellent run defender with upside as a pass-rusher.
The issue here primarily lies with Montgomery's motor—an issue brought up by Montgomery himself. Fellow Bleacher Report featured columnist Oliver Thomas directed me to Montgomery's recent admission that he took not just plays, but entire games off when the competition wasn't up to snuff:
Definitely some weeks that we didn't have to play the harder teams, there were some times that effort wasn't needed. But it was different when we had the big boys and everything coming in — the 'Bamas (Alabama) or a South Carolina — and I'd grab real close to those guys and go all out for them.
That's not a sentiment you'll find in any Patriots team meeting.
Efforts issues manifest themselves in Montgomery's technique—CBS analyst Rob Rang described him as "slow off the ball," and Mel Kiper noted that he "doesn't always get his hands up" to disrupt passing lanes.
Doesn't sound like a Pats player to me.