New England Patriots

Patriots Mock Draft: Fresh 7-Round Predictions Post-Week 1 of Free Agency

James ChristensenContributor IMarch 16, 2014

Patriots Mock Draft: Fresh 7-Round Predictions Post-Week 1 of Free Agency

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    Louis Nix III is a big man.
    Louis Nix III is a big man.Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

    After one crazy week of free agency, our mock draft for the New England Patriots has some fresh faces which reflect the different holes that have been filled and created with Bill Belichick's wheelings and dealings.

    Gone are the defensive backs. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner have filled those holes.

    No wide receivers to be seen here. The retention of Julian Edelman and addition of Brandon LaFell have restocked those shelves.

    That said, there is still work to be done in Foxboro. Here is one way that the Patriots could attack the 2014 NFL draft this May.

Round 1: Louis Nix III (DL, Notre Dame)

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    There might be a Vince Wilfork-sized hole on the New England Patriots' roster in the coming weeks. Greg Bedard of MMQB.si.com explains why Wilfork might be on his way out:

    We all know football is a tough business, but it’s still sad to see an impending divorce between the Patriots and nose tackle Vince Wilfork. 

    The NFL Network reported that the 10-year veteran has asked to be released. The plan always appeared to be that Wilfork would be fairly extended this offseason, before the final year of his deal, and that he would rightfully finish his career in New England.

    But Wilfork, who missed just six games in his first nine years, tore his Achilles last season and that changed things. The Patriots probably factored in an injury discount, and Wilfork decided he’d rather take less elsewhere than continue on with the Patriots.

    If Wilfork is released or traded—that is far from a fait accompli—Louis Nix III should rocket to the top of the Patriots' draft board.

    Nix has the size—6'2" and 331 pounds—and strength profile that is necessary to two-gap at the NFL level. He would be ideally utilized in an odd front that calls for him to eat up blockers and keep his linebackers clean.

    Don't expect Nix to pressure the quarterback with any sort of regularity. While he has the power and burst to push the pocket, he doesn't have the counter-moves to be an effective rusher.

    If Wilfork is retained and stopping the run isn't as high on the list of needs, Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman might be a better option due to his explosiveness and pass-rush ability.

Round 2: Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    The New England Patriots may have re-signed veteran tight end Michael Hoomanawanui, but don't let that fool you; they still have a glaring need for another tight end or two on the roster.

    Rob Gronkowski—if healthy—has one of the "Y" starter roles locked down. The Patriots need to add another to give their "12" personnel more punch and provide insurance if Gronkowski is involved in another freak injury.

    Troy Niklas—a 6'6" and 270-pound behemoth—is quickly becoming a fantastic blocker and has the length, catch-radius and enough athleticism to create mismatches like the aforementioned Gronkowski.

    After playing tight end for only two years, the converted DE/OLB prospect has a lot of room to grow at the next level. With Gronkowski and the Patriots' coaching staff there to help him out, the sky is the limit for Niklas.

    If they miss out on Niklas, a nice consolation prize would be Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz. He doesn't have the same upside—his frame and skill set are already developed—but he has the ability to come in and contribute as a blocker and red-zone receiver as a rookie.

Round 3: Scott Crichton (DE, Oregon State)

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    The New England Patriots have added some nice parts to their defensive backfield in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, but even they can't cover forever. Adding another pass-rusher to complement Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones is a necessity.

    At 6'3" and 273 pounds, Scott Crichton looks the part of a DE/OLB Bill Belichick would want.

    His long arms, ample strength and solid technique help him set the edge against the run. When rushing the quarterback, he shows a nice first step, a powerful bull rush and the ability to convert that into a speed move. He does need to diversify his repertoire of rush moves.

    While his defensive-end traits will impress 4-3 teams, teams looking at him as a 3-4 outside linebacker won't be impressed with his play in space. His stiffness is magnified in the open field.

    Crichton's versatility and strength profile make him an attractive target for New England's ever-changing defense. In Round 3, his value would be too good to pass up.

Round 4: Christian Kirksey (LB, Iowa)

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    Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    After losing linebacker Dane Fletcher to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald.comthe New England Patriots will likely bump the coverage and special teams linebacker position up a notch or two on their list of holes to fill this offseason.

    Christian Kirksey—at 6'2" and 233 pounds—would be one of the smaller linebackers employed by the New England under Belichick. Kirksey has some traits, however, that more than make up for his size.

    Kirksey is incredibly athletic and adept at moving in space. He runs well and has a knack for working his way through trash to get to the ball-carrier. Coverage is a strong suit for Kirksey, and he has found success working in zone and in man.

    Two other factors that will help him win over Patriots coaches are his leadership and special teams ability.

    Kirksey's speed and agility would help him earn a spot on the four core special teams squads, a big factor in earning a 53-man roster position. Fletcher has some big shoes to fill here, but Kirksey will be up to the task.

    As a captain for the past two years, Kirksey has demonstrated the sort of leadership—under a former Bill Belichick assistant in Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz—that New England has craved since Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi hung up their cleats.

Round 6: Matt Patchan (OL, Boston College)

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    Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    With center Ryan Wendell a free agent and guard/center Dan Connolly a potential cap casualty, the New England Patriots will likely address the interior offensive line at some point in the draft.

    Boston College left tackle Matt Patchan has been a name that has popped up in connection with the Patriots over and over the last two months. That didn't change at Boston College's pro day.

    Doug Kyed from NESN.com was on the scene:

    Patchan said he spent some time with the Patriots at the Senior Bowl and the combine. Patchan played left tackle at Boston College, but he has been asked by scouts about playing right tackle and guard. Patchan ran a blazing 4.97-second 40-yard dash at the combine at 6-foot-6, 302 pounds.

    The beared, long-haired Patchan joked that NFL teams would be looking to draft him because he’s the most handsome player in the draft. He also said his experience with five different offensive coordinators, five position coaches and three head coaches through his six years in college can only help him prepare for a new offense in the pros.

    If the beard didn't win Patriots coaches over, his potential as a multiple-position player—think Marcus Cannon and Logan Mankins—might seal the deal.

Round 6: Gator Hoskins (FB/TE, Marshall)

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    Aaron Hernandez was a rare player. That sort of athleticism, vision and receiving talent doesn't come together all too often. There isn't a Hernandez in the 2014 NFL draft for the Patriots to plug in at their "move" tight end position. Therefore, they'll have to get a bit creative.

    A player who can fill multiple roles like James Develin last year—fullback and tight end—proved to be quite valuable in the New England offense. While Develin performed well in the role, the Patriots could possibly upgrade in the receiving department by adding Marshall FB/TE Gator Hoskins.

    Hoskins isn't as physical as Develin as a blocker, but he has very good hands and the ability to get down the field and make plays.

    As a late-round pick, Hoskins is a player who could challenge for a spot on nearly any 53-man roster.

Round 7: Kenny Guiton (QB, Ohio State)

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    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    The New England Patriots aren't shy about spending picks on quarterbacks that don't fit traditional profiles. They have had success with former Kent State quarterback Julian Edelman—now a wide receiver—and former USC backup Matt Cassel who led the Patriots to an 11-5 season.

    Ohio State backup Kenny Guiton—who sat behind the supremely talented Braxton Miller—could be the next one for New England. Doug Kyed from NESN.com had news on a Patriots connection with Guiton.

    Ohio State’s Kenny Guiton told the media Friday at his pro day that he has a meeting scheduled with the Patriots on March 26.

    Guiton has more college experience than Cassel had coming out of USC. Guiton played in 21 games and earned two starts. He threw for 893 yards with 16 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 66.4 completion percentage.

    Guiton also ran for 383 yards on 53 attempts with six touchdowns. Guiton played under head coach Urban Meyer during his final two seasons.

    Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has a history of drafting Meyer-coached players.

    If New England is able to trade current backup Ryan Mallett, look for them to take care of the quarterback position before Round 7.

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