Full 7-Round Mock Draft for the New England Patriots
With the start of the NFL draft today, the months of speculation as to which players the New England Patriots will select are nearly over. In just a few short days, the Pats will have their entire collection of rookies, and we can turn the page and begin to make sense of the full 2014 roster.
The Patriots have been the picture of success for the last decade-plus, and while they have a collection of needs, they are already in good shape and look primed for another season of dominance under Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.
After endless film study and analysis, here's our collection of the nine best fits for the Patriots who would reinforce points of weakness, add depth and prepare the Pats to continue their unprecedented run of winning.
It's our final mock draft of the 2014 draft season!
7th Round: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State
Reinforcing the depth along the interior offensive line should be a priority in the draft and in rookie free agency, and here in the seventh round, we have the Pats grabbing center Bryan Stork of Florida State.
Aside from the obvious beard that would help him fit right in with the likes of Logan Mankins, Stork has interior versatility and great size to handle big-bodied defensive tackles. That's something the Pats have struggled with in recent years with their collection of undersized technicians.
Stork would immediately improve the depth at center and guard and could also develop into a starter before long. Described by Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com as a "lunchpail worker," Stork has the demeanor and football smarts to be a Patriot.
6th Round: Jordan Tripp, LB, Montana
With the departures of Dane Fletcher and Brandon Spikes, the Pats' depth at linebacker took a couple hits this offseason. Second-year player Steve Beauharnais showed some promise in the 2013 preseason and could be in line for an increased workload this season, but the Pats still need to add more depth at the position.
Jordan Tripp has all the intangibles the Patriots look for, described as having "outstanding motor, intensity and effort" by Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com. He was also a top performer in the three-cone drill and the 20-yard shuttle at the combine.
Simply put, Tripp can run and would make an immediate impact on special teams while learning to play linebacker at the NFL level. In a pinch, he might even develop into a solid weak-side or middle linebacker.
He'd be a solid addition to the linebacker rotation right out of the gate.
6th Round: Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
With the departure of LeGarrette Blount, and with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen entering the final years of their rookie contracts, the Pats have both an immediate and long-term need at running back.
The Pats were one of the first NFL teams to move to a "by committee" approach. They liked to have physical runners like Corey Dillon, Antowain Smith and Sammy Morris, but also savvy pass-catchers like Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead.
With much uncertainty for each running back on the roster, including Brandon Bolden, the Pats could go with any kind of running back in this draft, and maybe even double up.
Our choice here is Tyler Gaffney, a tough and durable back out of Stanford who shined in the three-cone drill and 60-yard shuttle at the combine. Gaffney can do a little of everything and runs hard. He's in the mold of previous physical backs Bill Belichick has employed.
If the Patriots extend Ridley or Vereen, the best bet is Vereen, leaving Gaffney as a potential replacement for Ridley next season. He could even see goal-line carries in his rookie season, and if Ridley's fumbling problems continue, the door could be open for significant snaps immediately.
4th Round: Trey Burton, TE, Florida
The Patriots never had a chance to fill the "F" tight end position last season with the unexpected arrest of Aaron Hernandez. Filling it with a fellow Florida Gator like Trey Burton could be the perfect idea.
Though Burton doesn't have the same size as Hernandez at just 6'2", 224 pounds, he has rare measurables and versatility. Burton played multiple positions at Florida, including tight end and wide receiver. He also has the intangibles so necessary to being a part of the Patriots organization.
Described by Nolan Nawrocki of NFL.com as "tough and durable," Burton could be a potent chess piece in Josh McDaniels' offense, where he could be moved all over the place to create mismatches.
4th Round: Crockett Gilmore, TE, Colorado State
There's little question that the Patriots have a need at the tight end position with Rob Gronkowski's status for the start of the season still uncertain. But if Gronk returns and is able to put together a full season, the need at tight end—specifically, an in-line "Y"—is a bit lessened.
That's why we're waiting until the fourth round to take Crockett Gilmore instead of reaching in first two rounds for a player who could be nothing more than a long-term Gronkowski backup.
Gilmore has ideal size at 6'6", 260 pounds, has explosion and is competitive as a blocker. While many might be clamoring for a tight end who is a weapon, the first order of business is solidifying the position in the traditional sense—someone who can block and occasionally slip out to catch passes. Think Daniel Graham, not Aaron Hernandez.
That's what Gilmore is, and in the fourth round, he represents good value for what the Patriots will need him for. He might not be the next coming of Gronkowski, but he's a solid player who will solidify an important position.
3rd Round: Kareem Martin, DE, North Carolina
The depth at defensive end has been a popular Patriots topic this offseason, where the drop-off after starters Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones is considerable. Newly signed Will Smith adds much-needed depth.
Still, there's a need for a designated pass-rusher, but instead of projecting the Pats to reach on a player like Kony Ealy in the first round, we're going with Kareem Martin here in the third (which admittedly might be a little late).
Martin is a little raw, but he has what you can't teach—size. At 6'6", 272 pounds and 35" arms, Martin could develop into a three-down defensive end in the Patriots system. He also had the best broad jump for defensive linemen at the combine as well as a 35.5-inch vertical jump. Put those numbers all together, and Martin is an explosive player with ideal size.
His character and football smarts check out as well, and while he might need some time to fill out his frame, his potential is sky-high.
Martin could see time immediately in pass-rush situations and could develop into Rob Ninkovich's eventual replacement and a long-term bookend edge player with Chandler Jones.
2nd Round: David Yankey, G, Stanford
Possibly the most upgradeable position on the Patriots has to be along the interior of the offensive line, and this year's draft class features a number of talented prospects who could immediately come in and challenge for a starting spot at center or right guard.
Here we have the Pats taking David Yankey out of Stanford, a versatile offensive lineman (a Belichick hallmark). Yankey played both tackle and guard spots along with some time at tight end. If that doesn't scream "Patriots," I don't know what does.
But perhaps the best thing about Yankey is his size at 6'6", 315 pounds. That's just the kind of boost the interior of the Pats offensive line needs with undersized try-hards Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly.
With Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer the long-term bookends at tackle, adding a player like Yankey would give the Patriots a huge interior player who moves well to build around. And it would be a good bet he'd push to start immediately at right guard.
1st Round: Dominique Easley, DT, Florida
Dominque Easley has been a popular Pats' mock draft pick over the last month, and it makes too much sense to change it now. Yes, Easley is coming off a second ACL surgery, but if he was fully healthy, he'd be drafted in the top of the first round. That's called value.
Easley's just the kind of player the Pats have taken a chance on in the past. Granted, someone like Ras-I Dowling did not work out, but Easley is a game-changer. You can throw out all the other individual position needs; the biggest problem for the Patriots is their pass defense.
They are the worst defense in the NFL on third down and in 20-plus-yard passing plays over the last four seasons. Easley's explosive burst off the snap is just what the Pats need to remedy these lingering problems. Easley would also make Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich more effective on the edge due to the attention he'll draw on the interior.
There's no reason to think that Easley will not fully recover from ACL surgery, and he already was impressive at his pro day. At the bottom of the first round, he could end up being the steal of the draft and instantly make the Patriots defense better while taking some pressure off of Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly as they return from injury.
If paired with Chris Jones on the inside, the Pats would have a legitimate upfield 4-3 front, something they have not been able to fully morph into in recent years and a schematic necessity against pass-happy teams.
In a league where your defense lives or dies based on its pass rush, Easley is the perfect addition to the Pats, regardless of his injury history, and taking him in the first round is a no-brainer.