New England Patriots Mock Draft: Projecting All 7 Rounds
Projecting a mock draft for the New England Patriots can be a difficult task. Things like conventional wisdom, short-term roster needs, and the desires of their fans and reporters don't hold a lot of weight for the decision-makers in Foxborough, Mass.
On draft day, head coach Bill Belichick is going to do what he feels is best for the New England Patriots—not the Patriots in 2014—the New England Patriots for the rest of their existence.
As I zip up my hooded sweatshirt, here are my projections for New England in all seven rounds of the 2014 NFL draft.
Round 1: Teddy Bridgewater (QB, Louisville)
Life on the New England Patriots roster is like being on the set of Game of Thrones. No matter how popular you are, the author—Bill Belichick in this case—may kill you off to further the plot. While bringing in Teddy Bridgewater wouldn't immediately spell Tom Brady's doom, it would put the writing on the wall.
If the talented Louisville quarterback is available with pick No. 29, opening the next championship window—like the Green Bay Packers with Aaron Rodgers—should be a priority, no matter the impact on 2014's championship chances.
This is a team that went to the AFC Championship Game without four of its best players on offense and defense: Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork, Rob Gronkowski and Sebastian Vollmer. With those players poised to contribute in 2014—plus the high-profile additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner—the Patriots can afford a luxury pick.
If you ever find yourself needing to draft a franchise quarterback, you've waited too long to address the position.
Round 2 (Trade): Dominique Easley (DL, Florida)
The New England Patriots have addressed the defensive secondary this offseason, but even Darrelle Revis can't cover receivers forever. New pass-rushers—preferably from the interior—need to emerge to give Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich some help.
Florida defensive lineman Dominique Easley has a sudden first step and lives in the offensive backfield. His main concern is the fact that he has torn an ACL in each of his knees.
If he checks out medically, Easley would be a great value early in the second round. While he will likely be gone before the Patriots' second-round pick, a trade-up involving New England's fourth-round pick in 2014 should be able to secure his rights.
Round 3: C.J. Fiedorowicz (TE, Iowa)
It is no surprise that the New England Patriots have a need at the tight end position behind Rob Gronkowski. Michael Hoomanawanui is the only returning backup, and while he is a solid player, he doesn't give the offense the second big threat it needs.
Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz is no Rob Gronkowski—he certainly doesn't have the same speed—but he is very good at what he does. He runs effective intermediate routes, has good hands and is adept at getting open in the red zone. His blocking—for a "Y" tight end—is also well above average.
He might not have the explosive upside of Notre Dame's Troy Niklas—who could be a Day 1 pick—but Fiedorowicz is much more refined. What you see is what you will get with the Kirk and Brian Ferentz—two former Belichick assistants—product.
Round 4 (Compensatory): Christian Kirksey (LB, Iowa)
With Brandon Spikes a Buffalo Bill, the New England Patriots may choose to replace him with a player only half his size.
While Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey (6'2", 233 lbs) might be a little bit bigger than that, his size and power is not his strong suit. Instead, he relies on his speed, vision and agility to get to the ball-carrier. Where Spikes was adept at clogging up running lanes and intimidating the offense, Kirksey is more adept in coverage and pursuit.
As a probable fourth linebacker behind Jamie Collins, Dont'a Hightower and Jerod Mayo, Kirksey will need his special-teams prowess to see the field beyond passing downs as a rookie.
Round 6 (via Philadelphia): Marion Grice (RB, Arizona State)
Marion Grice looks to be the polar opposite of Stevan Ridley. Where Ridley has fumbled eight times over the last two seasons, Grice has only put the ball on the ground twice while at Arizona State.
Grice doesn't break tackles like Ridley—who will be in his contract year in 2014—instead relying on his vision and grace to weave his way around and between defenders. He sees cutback lanes, makes decisive cuts—no Laurence Maroney here—and is tough to bring down in open space.
If Grice could lower his pad level between the tackles and refine his route-running, he may have been a likely Day 2 pick.
Round 6: Wade Keliikipi (DL, Oregon)
If the New England Patriots pass on Notre Dame defensive lineman Louis Nix III in the first round, finding an eventual replacement for Vince Wilfork should be a priority later in the draft.
Oregon nose tackle Wade Keliikipi, who wasn't even invited to the combine, would fit what Bill Belichick likes to do on defense. He isn't the biggest nose tackle—6'2" and 303 pounds—but plays much bigger. He holds up well against double-teams and has enough quickness to get to ball-carriers as they skirt by.
He isn't much of a pass-rusher, but Keliikipi could be an effective two-down lineman in an odd front.
Round 7: Trey Burton (TE, Florida)
With Oregon "move" tight end Colt Lyerla likely off the New England Patriots' board, their scouts will be scouring college football for an eventual replacement for Aaron Hernandez. They might just find one in Hernandez' backyard.
Florida quarterback, wide receiver, running back and tight end Trey Burton has the speed and elusiveness to be an effective threat in the slot and out of the backfield. He doesn't have the size—just 6'2" and 225 pounds— that Hernandez had, though, so a seventh-round pick should be all it takes to secure his rights.
With Josh McDaniels as offensive coordinator, Burton could have a lot of opportunities to touch the ball.
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