Will Keenan Allen fall to New England at 29?
With just more than two weeks until the NFL draft, the New England Patriots have been busy scouting players and scheduling visits in Foxboro. Tyrann Mathieu, Marcus Lattimore, Desmond Trufant and Dion Jordan are just a few of the names Patriots fans have been hearing whispers about in recent weeks.
The fact that New England is even talking with Jordan indicates the team is interested in making some trades on draft day, since he’s a consensus top-10 pick.
Their interest in Mathieu leads one to believe they won’t shy away from a perceived character risk if they think the talent is worth the gamble.
Lattimore is interesting because any team drafting him is taking a major gamble on his ability to produce despite two surgically repaired ACLs. Maybe the Patriots’ interest in him means they simply don’t want their current starters growing complacent and hope to bring in some competition.
Trufant makes a ton of sense and only reinforces the widely held belief that they’ll take a cornerback early.
Trading draft picks, taking character risks, drafting a player at a position they don’t need and, of course, drafting a cornerback would make for an exciting and, at times, perplexing draft for the Patriots and their fans.
Spoiler alert: I have them doing all of those things, although not necessarily in the ways you might expect.
Note: All combine stats courtesy of NFL.com/combine
In this eternally optimistic scenario, California WR Keenan Allen falls to New England thanks to injury concerns. With a clear need at the receiver position and Allen staring them in the face, the Patriots naturally trade the pick to move down and add another selection later.
I foresee the Bengals blowing up New England’s phone lines. Cincinnati was reportedly very impressed with Allen’s private workout on Tuesday and with the Ravens, 49ers and Jaguars all likely to consider Allen, the Bengals will need to move back into the first round if they hope to land the dynamic wideout.
Of course the Patriots sorely need a receiver themselves, so they won’t just give away the rights to draft Allen for nothing. The Bengals hold the 37th overall pick, which they acquired from Oakland as part of the Carson Palmer trade, as well as its own pick (53rd) in Round 2.
The Bengals can pay the price for Allen without “bungling” their whole draft, so in this scenario the Patriots trade the 29th pick and the seventh-rounder they acquired from Tampa Bay (226th overall) for the 37th pick and Cincinnati’s fourth-rounder (118th overall).
In typical Bill Belichick fashion, the Patriots forgo a “sexy” pick, stick to their guns and end up with the guy they wanted all along.
I actually think Taylor is their pick even if they stay put in the first round, so adding an additional pick to move down for him is just a bonus.
Taylor hasn’t generated the same pre-draft hype as Xavier Rhodes or Desmond Trufant, but that’s beginning to change after the former Bronco blew the doors off the NFL combine and followed up with an impressive pro day.
He officially ran the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds, so he certainly has the speed to shadow receivers downfield. He also showed off impressive agility with a 6.82 second three-cone drill. The three-cone drill in particular seems to draw the Patriots’ interest. Devin McCourty and Darius Butler were among the top performers in the event during their respective years before being drafted early by New England.
Taylor isn’t a one-trick pony by any means though. He complements his pure speed and agility with remarkable strength for his position. His 22 reps on the bench press tied Connecticut’s Dwayne Gratz for the most of any cornerback at the combine.
Those results—along with 51 tackles, 2.5 sacks, four interceptions, 13 passes defended and three forced fumbles as a senior—have Taylor skyrocketing up draft boards, possibly even into the bottom of the first round.
He further solidified his draft stock with an exceptional pro day. According to ArbiterOnline, Taylor ran a 10.91 second 60-yard shuttle, which would have been the best time of any defensive back at this year’s combine.
That’s right. The Patriots pull the ultimate party faux pas and double-dip. Two potentially great corners will make New England’s secondary twice as nice, especially with Alfonzo Dennard facing possible jail time for assaulting a police officer.
Besides, one can only imagine the wealth of “Slay” puns NFL announcers will come up with during Patriots games. Darius the Comeback Slayer? Slaying it in the secondary? The Slay-maker? Defensive Slay-vior?
Sure, why not.
After matriculating from the junior college ranks, Slay teamed with Johnthan Banks to give Mississippi State a formidable cornerback tandem. As the “other” cornerback, he recorded five interceptions and added six passes defended.
Slay can flat out fly as his 4.36 second 40-yard dash—the fastest of any defensive back at the combine—indicates. His 6.90 second three-cone time wasn’t half-bad either.
He isn’t a freakish athlete but has put up respectable numbers in all his combine drills and has prototypical size at 6’0”, 192 pounds. His top-flight speed will help compensate for rookie mistakes as he adjusts to the rigors of the NFL under Belichick’s watchful eye.
Rogers may not be available at this point but in a true best-case scenario, his character concerns will drop him far enough for the Patriots to land a first-round talent right in their laps. I mocked Rogers to the Patriots in a previous edition, although I had him going at 59.
I haven’t cooled on Rogers but other receivers like Aaron Dobson and Quinton Patton have risen up the draft board, so he might fall even farther than I originally thought.
At 6’3”, 217 pounds, Rogers has the size to dominate opposing defensive backs and his physical style of play will complement Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Danny Amendola very nicely.
He led the SEC with 67 catches, and was second in yards with 1,040 and touchdowns with nine as a sophomore at Tennessee in 2011.
He never played for the Volunteers again due to multiple failed drug tests and his subsequent dismissal from the team. He transferred to Tennessee Tech and posted 61 catches for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Rogers is a physical beast who put up astounding numbers at the NFL combine. With the exception of the 40-yard dash and bench press—he plays faster and stronger than his mediocre scores suggest—Rogers finished among the top-five receivers in every single event. He has extraordinary leaping ability, agility, explosiveness and toughness.
He seems to thrive on making plays in traffic and, according to NFLDraftScout.com, never once dropped a pass because of a hit while at Tennessee.
The Patriots have had some notable dropped passes recently. It will be nice to breathe a little easier knowing Rogers won’t add to the list.
* since this writing, the team signed Emanuel Sanders to an offer sheet, in which case they would forfeit this pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for the wide receiver.
In case you forgot, this is the pick the Bengals gave up in that imaginary first-round trade.
Nothing fancy here, just good old-fashioned depth and versatility.
Holmes began his career at USC as a guard, starting 13 games on the right side in 2010. He moved to center in 2011 and earned Second-Team All Pac-12 honors. He kept rolling right along in 2012, earning a First-Team All Pac-12 selection.
Holmes has quick feet, quick hands and long arms to help generate leverage in the run game and keep rushers off his body in pass protection.
His technique needs some work as he tends to play with a high pad level, which makes him susceptible to a good bull rush and overextension. But he has all the physical tools to eventually be a starter at the next level, although his blend of size and quickness may suit him better as a guard.
At either position, his versatility will be a welcome addition as he bolsters the Patriots’ offensive line behind Dan Connolly, Logan Mankins and Ryan Wendell.
Okoye has never played competitive football in his life but he seems ready to embrace the challenge. Why, you ask, would a team like the Patriots waste a draft pick on a player with exactly zero experience?
Because the man is a beast. He's a chiseled, 6'6", 304-pound specimen.
Okoye is British and has spent most of his sporting life playing rugby. The X’s and O’s of football are just as foreign to him as he is to us, but with such a late pick the reward vastly outweighs the risk.
Hoping to warrant draft consideration as a defensive lineman, Okoye ran 40-yard dash times of 4.78 and 4.88 seconds and wowed scouts with a 35” vertical leap and 10’5” standing broad jump.
I haven’t found any official results of his bench reps at the event, but considering you can find him on YouTube benching 495 pounds, I don’t think the 225 pound combine standard posed much of an obstacle for him.
In all his interviews he seems very realistic about his chances of being drafted but is also highly motivated to be successful in the NFL.
He likens himself to Ziggy Ansah and Margus Hunt, both of whom have limited experience yet still figure to be high picks. In Okoye’s case, he has absolutely no experience but welcomes the challenge of learning on the job and working his way through somebody’s practice squad.
If Okoye takes to the game as naturally as Ansah and Hunt have, he may turn out to be the steal of the draft a few years from now.