Assigning Odds to Every Potential Patriots 1st-Round Pick
Assigning odds to what New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is going to do in the 2014 NFL draft seem likes a fool's errand. Trade up, trade down. Pick for need, pick for talent. Pigeonholing Belichick is an impossible task.
This year, the Patriots could move their pick or add an important piece on offense or defense. Defensive line and tight end stand out as need areas that should have some talent available late in the first round.
Here are the odds for who the Patriots will draft in Round 1 this coming May.
Louis Nix III (NT, Notre Dame)
Even with Vince Wilfork signed through the 2015 season—that contract could be revisited next offseason—adding another nose tackle or two-gap defensive tackle is of paramount importance. As Wilfork's playing time increases, his health and effectiveness dwindles.
Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix III would give the New England Patriots a space-eating presence inside that has the size and anchor to take on double-teams and hold the point of attack.
He isn't much of a pass-rusher, but he has the strength and burst to push the pocket. In tandem with Wilfork, Nix could play at a high level as a rookie.
Dominique Easley (DL, Florida)
Long have the New England Patriots lacked an effective inside pass-rusher that has the chops to stand up to the run. Chris Jones was adept at getting to the quarterback but got pushed around in the run game. Adding a (healthy) Dominique Easley (DL, Florida) would give you a dynamic rusher that is quick and strong enough to be disruptive against the run.
Without his injury history—torn ACL in each knee—Easley is likely selected in the first 15 picks of the 2014 NFL draft. If the Patriots are comfortable with him medically, they could be getting a steal late in the first round.
Troy Niklas (TE, Notre Dame)
The need to add a tight end—be it an inline or more mobile version—is easy to see on the New England Patriots roster, currently inhabited by only Rob Gronkowski and Michael Hoomanawanui.
Notre Dame tight end Troy Niklas might be seen as a reach here by many fans and pundits, but the fit is hard to argue with. Niklas—like Gronkowski—can block like a third offensive tackle and at 6'7" is a huge threat in the red zone.
With he and Gronkowski on the field, teams will have to pick their poison. Keep your base defense in and the Patriots will hit their monster targets down the seams. Sub in some extra corners and safeties and the big blockers will open up holes in the running game.
Bill Belichick has never been afraid to reach for a player that he likes. Don't expect him to gain the phobia now.
Xavier Su'a-Filo (OL, UCLA)
Another phobia that Bill Belichick doesn't have is making an un-sexy pick. Logan Mankins, Nate Solder and—to some degree—Richard Seymour and Vince Wilfork weren't picks greeted with ecstasy from the fans of the New England Patriots.
Versatile UCLA lineman Xavier Su'a-Filo would be another pick that might create some groans, but he would likely become a long-term starter at guard. He blocks well on the move and has shown at left tackle that he can handle quick pass-rushers.
This pick becomes much more likely if the Patriots decide to trade down—I'd put the odds of Belichick moving down at 3-1. Adding another pick in this loaded draft and getting an important cog on the offensive line might be too hard to pass up.
Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
The Green Bay Packers—like the New England Patriots—have never shied away from looking to the future. Their investment in Aaron Rodgers—with a healthy and productive Brett Favre still on the roster—paid off with another Lombardi Trophy in their display case.
The expectation that Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater will be available late in the first round—or even beyond—is starting to gain momentum. If he is available with pick No. 29, I can see Bill Belichick securing the future of the most important position on the field.
There are certainly more players that would help the Patriots win this year, but I see a roster that went to the AFC Championship Game that has already been upgraded significantly on defense and has a healthy Rob Gronkowski to look forward to.
It might be hard to stomach—as is the prospect of Bridgewater tumbling this far down the board—but delayed gratification often pays off.
In a draft as deep as 2014, betting on the field is good wagering.
Rather than risk it with Easley, Minnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman could still be available.
Instead of Nix and Niklas, the New England Patriots could go after fellow Notre Dame players Stephon Tuitt (DL) or Zack Martin (OL).
Should New England pass on Bridgewater, it could pick up Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Derek Carr (Fresno State) or Blake Bortles (Central Florida).
Or Bill Belichick could surprise us all and take the best player on Rutgers' roster. That would be receiver Brandon Coleman if you're keeping track.