Perfect Fits New England Patriots Can Find on Day 3 of Draft and Beyond
There is an awful lot of fuss about the New England Patriots' pick in Round 1 of the NFL draft—or lack thereof—each and every year. Many fans bemoan a pick at the "wrong" position or a trade out of the draft's first day.
The draft, however, isn't about winning on Day 1. It is about coming out of the three-day crucible with a better team—both immediately and in the future.
Here are five players likely available on Day 3—and beyond—who could be considered good fits for what New England is looking for.
Brandon Thomas (OL, Clemson)
Clemson offensive lineman Brandon Thomas was a likely selection on Day 2 of the draft until he tore his ACL during the predraft process, according to ESPN's Adam Caplan.
With his injury issues weighing him down, it wouldn't be inconceivable to find the talented former left tackle—he projects as an NFL guard—available in Round 5 or Round 6. The Patriots, with few gaping holes, can afford to take the risk that he won't be able to play at all in 2014. They made a similar move with Marcus Cannon in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL draft.
On the field, he excels moving his feet in the phone booth and out in space. Thomas isn't a "road grader," but he has enough pop to open up holes in the running game.
If the Patriots invest in Thomas this offseason, he could be groomed to take over for Logan Mankins in the near future.
Aaron Murray (QB, Georgia)
Day 3 quarterbacks have a knack for sticking on the Patriots roster. Tom Brady, Matt Cassel and Julian Edelman certainly have made the most of their opportunity.
The next quarterback in line could be former Georgia Bulldog Aaron Murray. A fringe-Day 2 prospect going into his senior season, a torn ACL derailed his hopes of propelling himself up draft boards. Instead, the value buzzards will likely be circling him on Day 3.
Murray has what it takes to be a very solid backup for the Patriots, with a possible starter role in the future. He can read a defense—a must in New England's system—and can deliver the ball accurately to the intermediate and short areas.
Vinnie Sunseri (SS, Alabama)
Vinnie Sunseri isn't Earl Thomas, Devin McCourty, Kam Chancellor or any other Pro Bowl safety. He is, however, a supremely talented special teams maven who has the football smarts to be an effective backup option.
He is a solid tackler—think the opposite of Brandon Meriweather—and would offer more in the base defense than incumbent special teams star Nate Ebner. If he has to play defense, he is much more comfortable in the box. He will struggle to play a deep half in the NFL—he doesn't have enough speed—but his instincts and quick reactions help mask some of his deficiencies.
Sunseri should be ready for the 2014 season following a torn ACL—sensing a theme here?—but Sunseri's inability to do much in the area of predraft preparation could make him available to New England late on Day 3.
Gator Hoskins (TE/FB, Marshall)
Don't worry, Marshall tight end/fullback Gator Hoskins isn't recovering from a torn ACL too. And unlike Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla, he doesn't have the issues away from the football field to worry about.
Hoskins isn't a traditional "Move" tight end in the mold of Aaron Hernandez, but he would be an upgrade—in the receiving department anyway—over fullback James Devlin, who saw snaps at the position last year. You wouldn't think that Hoskins would be much of a threat in the red zone, as he is only 6'2". His 25 touchdowns in the last two season would quickly make you rethink that.
If the Patriots are uncomfortable taking a pure Move tight end like Lyerla, they may find Hoskins to be a great value late on Day 3.
Crockett Gillmore (TE, Colorado State)
Colorado State tight end Crockett Gillmore—in addition to having one of the coolest names in the 2014 NFL draft—is one of the more overlooked "Y" tight ends in a class that features the likes of Notre Dame's Troy Niklas and Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz.
Gillmore is a developmental prospect with a ton of upside due to his impressive size. He is 6'6", 260 pounds and has long arms and monster hands. He doesn't have a great strength profile, but he has the frame to fill out with continued work in the weight room.
He has enough speed to become a nuisance down the field, but he won't blow by linebackers like a Rob Gronkowski does. His huge hands allow him to have a great catch radius, but his average route-running ability could use some polish.
If New England can't get its hands on a prospect like Niklas or Fiedorowicz, adding a guy who can develop into a starter gives it some insurance against a future Gronkowski injury down the road.