Setting Expectations for Each Member of New England Patriots' 2013 Draft Class
As usual, the Patriots found a group of players in the draft with both skill and intelligence on the field. Even though they did not pick up a first-round draftee, the Pats still brought in some players who will make an impact now, as well as others who will have to wait their turn.
Even if some of the seven draftees taken by the Pats barely see action this season, expectations still remain high for every single member of this team, one of the best NFL franchises of this century.
Here are the career expectations for each member of the Patriots' 2013 draft class.
Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi
Collins will definitely get his share of opportunities this season but will need to be ready to compete from the get-go. The Patriots are stacked at linebacker next season with Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower.
Most likely, Collins will serve as the backup to Rob Ninkovich as a hybrid linebacker and defensive end. He will have to compete with Jermaine Cunningham, a player very similar to Collins, for playing time.
One of the best features that Collins brings is his versatility. He began as a safety with Southern Miss, then moved to outside linebacker as a sophomore before playing mostly as a defensive end in his senior season.
Bill Belichick could also put Collins at linebacker as a primary backup possibly to Brandon Spikes. In fact, Spikes is entering the final year of his contract. Collins will get opportunities early to showcase his skills at both defensive end and linebacker.
He probably won't put up huge numbers this season, but Collins could definitely become a starter after this season. Collins does most of his damage in the backfield and can play in coverage effectively as well. Within a year or two, he could potentially become the Pats' best pass-rusher after Chandler Jones.
Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall
The biggest need for the Patriots entering the draft was wide receiver. The Pats got what they needed, Aaron Dobson, with the No. 59 overall pick.
Dobson will immediately get an opportunity to be a starter on this team. Danny Amendola is the only receiver with a secured spot, in the slot, but with a wide-open competition at outside receiver, Dobson is the best choice.
He has tremendous hands and great size at 6'3" and 210 pounds. The Patriots will want to spread the field more often this season, and Dobson gives them the opportunity to do so.
With the Marshall Thundering Herd, the big wideout made spectacular catches like the one-handed catch shown above. He has big-play potential and will likely be Tom Brady's primary deep threat this season and beyond.
Dobson will be given the opportunity to become the next great receiver for the Patriots, following in the footsteps of Randy Moss and Troy Brown, both also from Marshall.
Expect this receiver to haul in his fair share of touchdowns and big catches this season. Dobson has tremendous potential and could very well become a stud wideout over the next few seasons.
Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers
The Patriots addressed the secondary with their two picks in Round 3 and started by taking cornerback Logan Ryan of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Cornerback was indeed a position that the Pats definitely needed to add some depth at. Ryan is a very solid tackler, plays well in man-to-man coverage and has solid size and strength.
Ryan played with fellow Patriot Devin McCourty for a season and was mentored by the Pats' starting safety with the Scarlet Knights. His relationship with McCourty may help his development within the Patriots' system.
He will not be relied on too heavily this season, as Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard and Kyle Arrington expect to be the top three corners. Still, Ryan will likely compete with Ras-I Dowling for the No. 4 spot on the depth chart.
With Talib sitting on a one-year contract, Ryan could be given an even bigger opportunity in his second season if the Pats do not re-sign Talib. Down the road, this cornerback could become a starter with his mentor playing right behind him.
Duron Harmon, S, Rutgers
The most surprising pick by the Patriots came with their final third-round selection. The Pats caught many people off guard by selecting safety Duron Harmon with the No. 91 overall pick.
This was the second Scarlet Knight selected by N.E. in a row. Harmon was ranked as the No. 413 best player by CBS Sports, making the pick seem like a huge reach.
Harmon will ideally be a regular on special teams for the Patriots for the next few seasons, much like Matthew Slater. He was a first-team All-Big East selection last year and continued to play on special teams.
The pick was quite a surprise, but the Patriots like to pick up guys who can be used in more ways than one. After two or three seasons, Harmon will probably get an opportunity to compete for the starting strong safety spot.
Josh Boyce, WR, TCU
The Patriots made a very smart choice by taking wide receiver Josh Boyce of the TCU Horned Frogs. Boyce surprisingly slipped into Round 4, and the Patriots were able to grab him just before the Miami Dolphins could.
Like Dobson, Boyce will get an opportunity to play a significant part in the Patriots' passing game as a rookie. His strength and speed make him ready to compete at the NFL level right away.
He will compete with Dobson for the starting spot on the outside but will likely be the No. 3 wideout. Boyce is very quick and can be used in the slot as well.
Boyce will be a prominent part of the Pats offense for years to come. He will be used in many different ways by the Patriots in the passing game and as an aggressive run blocker.
His quickness, on-field intelligence and strong hands will make him a great option for Tom Brady.
Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
Surprisingly, the Patriots also got some solid value in Round 7 with defensive end Michael Buchanan of the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Buchanan is a pretty good prospect with his towering 6'6" frame. He is fairly athletic for his size and has a great first step as a pass-rusher off the edge.
His numbers slipped in 2012 due in large part to the all-liquid diet he had to go on after breaking his jaw. Buchanan could still very much get stronger and become a good NFL player.
It is likely that he will be a backup defensive end this season as the No. 2 or 3 option behind Chandler Jones on the depth chart. If Buchanan can get bigger and gain some more strength, he could eventually become a great pass-rusher.
Steve Beauharnais, ILB, Rutgers
Shockingly, three players from the Rutgers Scarlet Knights were taken by the Patriots in this year's draft. The third, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, came with the No. 235 pick.
Beauharnais adds some needed depth to the linebacking core. He will need to work on his coverage skills but is a very solid run-stopper.
Although he does not have great straight-line speed, Beauharnais has pretty good size for an inside linebacker and decent quickness.
He probably won't see a whole lot of action this season, but if he continues to improve, Beauharnais could be used much more as an inside linebacker in his second and third seasons.