The relationship between Patriots head coach Bill Belichick and the erstwhile Philadelphia Eagles coach led to deals in 11 straight drafts, including flip-flopping positions in 2011 as a joke to the over-analytical media.
New England enters this year’s draft with five selections. Only once during Belichick’s tenure did New England make only six selections. Expect the Pats to add to their selections starting with the 29th pick.
Because rookie salaries are slotted and the cost of trading up is down, teams are much more willing to wheel and deal to get a player they targeted. This should make it easier for New England to find a trade partner near the top of the second round.
That might be a quarterback-needy team that passed on West Virginia’s Geno Smith in the top 10 but want USC’s Matt Barkley or Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib in the bottom third. To ensure they get their man, a franchise will have to leapfrog back into the first round.
The Patriots will be very willing to slide several spots because positions of need are very deep this year. Quality cornerbacks and wide receivers are plentiful in this year’s class. And it’s possible as few as three at both positions will be selected in the first round.
That leaves a lot of players with comparable talent still available in the second round. It’s a situation New England likely is hoping for.
Who they want is speculation, but there are four players I hope the Patriots come away with in this draft.
Though the Patriots will have their top three corners back for another season, Aqib Talib is signed for just one season. Talib is gambling that he has a great 2013 season and can cash in as a free agent next year. That pay day won’t come from New England.
Planning ahead, the Patriots select Talib’s replacement and have the luxury to bring Taylor along slowly. It’s doubtful that Taylor will take it slow, though.
According to reports, the Patriots like Mississippi State’s Johnthan Banks. If the idea is to find Talib’s replacement, then Banks makes sense since he’s taller than Taylor (6’2” to 5’11”) and has the length to take on today’s big, physical receivers.
The problems with Banks were his disappointing 40-yard dash time (between 4.50 and 4.59) and his passive defensive play. In online videos, Taylor is the more physical player, more willing to defend the run.
Some question the quality of competition that Taylor faced in the Mountain West Conference, but he showed versatility by playing man and zone. He’s athletic enough to battle big receivers and has the speed to stay with them on deep routes (4.39 at the NFL Combine).
It wouldn’t be surprising if Taylor outplays slot corner Kyle Arrington and replaces the Hofstra product in the rotation at some point next season. Arrington will get his job back in 2014, after Taylor moves into the starting lineup.
For an offense that could start the season without TE Rob Gronkowski, a big target outside seems necessary.
New England’s projected top three receivers are Gronkowski, TE Aaron Hernandez and WR Danny Amendola. The three combined to miss 16 games last season.
If the Patriots offense is to flourish, they will need reliable players. Hernandez and Gronkowski seem destined to get nicked up because of their style of play. And while Amendola has the athleticism to be better than Welker, Amendola played 16 games just once in four seasons.
Dobson is big (6’3”, 210 pounds) and physical and some believe he has the best hands in this year’s receiver class. And any doubts whether he had deep speed were laid to rest after he ran a 4.42 40 during Marshall’s pro day.
The Patriots have a very good history with Thundering Herd receivers with Troy Brown and Moss. Maybe lightning will strike thrice with Dobson.
Jones should have played with the Swiss Army Knife logo on the side of his Alabama helmet instead of his No. 75. In his career with the Crimson Tide, Jones played tackle, guard and center. Belichick values versatility and collegiate offensive linemen don’t get more versatile than Jones.
New England found a replacement for free-agent departure OG Donald Thomas by signing Will Svitek, though he only received a one-year deal.
The Patriots love developing offensive linemen drafted with late selections, but Jones, after playing four years under Alabama coach Nick Saban, might be ready to play the moment he pulls on a Flying Elvis helmet.
Add toughness to his experience and intelligence (Jones injured his foot in the SEC Championship game but delayed surgery until after winning a third national championship) and Jones a Patriot-type player.
Whether Jones remains available long enough for the Patriots to draft him seemed doubtful. But after ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. projected Jones as a third-round selection in his mock draft (some project Jones even later), it’s no longer out of the question.
Hopefully Lattimore doesn’t have Drew Rosenhaus as his agent. Back in 2003, Rosenhaus made a cell phone call to Willis McGahee, who was sitting right next to him, on live television. It gave the impression that other teams were interested in the Miami product, even though McGahee wasn’t fully recovered from knee surgery. McGahee was drafted in the first round.
Why do the Patriots need a running back, especially one recovering from his second knee injury? On paper they don’t, but if Lattimore’s medical red flags keep him available late in the draft, he would be an excellent value pick.
Lattimore would be rated a lot higher if he weren’t recovering from a gruesome knee injury (torn ACL, detached LCL and PCL, dislocated knee). Personally, I like him more than Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, the top-rated running back in this year’s class. But the injuries can’t be erased from Lattimore’s medical report.
Lattimore fits the mold of a Belichick running back at 5’11”, 221 pounds. And with Stevan Ridley, Brandon Bolden, Shane Vereen and Leon Washington ahead of Lattimore on the depth chart, New England can wait for Lattimore to fully heal.
It sounds ironic, but Lattimore would be great insurance for New England’s backfield. Bolden, who was in Belichick’s dog house following his four-game suspension for a positive PED test, is under contract for one more season.
Of greater concern is Ridley. In the AFC Championship, he suffered a concussion that knocked him out cold. No telling if it was just a case of one bad hit, but what concussions did to the careers of New England DT Mike Wright and Detroit RB Jahvid Best stays fresh in my mind.
Every NFL team attended Lattimore’s pro day workout. It could be a sign of interest or the Patriots just doing their due diligence. Either way, New England knows where Lattimore is with his recovery.
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