Patriots Mock Draft: Instant Contributors New England Can Find in Every RoundMarch 30, 2015
Patriots Mock Draft: Instant Contributors New England Can Find in Every Round
The NFL draft is all about finding players who will be the brick and mortar for the franchise for years to come.
But if a team can find players who can be contributors right away, why not?
The New England Patriots have more needs than you would expect for a team coming off a Super Bowl championship, but fortunately, there are players in every round who could immediately give the team a boost in those areas.
Whether it's a big-bodied cornerback to replace the departed Darrelle Revis or a versatile running back to replace Shane Vereen, there is someone who fits the bill for anything they want.
Here is a look at some of the players who could have an immediate impact.
The Patriots aren't going to replace Darrelle Revis immediately this year, but if they want someone who could develop into a shutdown cornerback, Washington's Marcus Peters would be a strong addition to the roster.
Peters has all the physical tools to be a No. 1 cornerback, with good size (6'0", 197 lbs) and speed (4.53-second 40-yard dash) to cover top NFL receivers. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compared him to a former Patriots cornerback, Aqib Talib, indicating that he has ball skills, press-man ability and, most importantly, confidence.
The Patriots may not be comfortable dealing with his disciplinary issues, as Zierlein indicates he was suspended for a game in 2014 for a "sideline tantrum" and that he was ultimately dismissed from the team due to a number of incidents where he butted heads with the coaching staff.
That being said, if the Patriots are willing to take a chance on his off-field issues, his physical tools give him the potential to contribute immediately in the NFL.
Yes, the Patriots have loaded up on running backs in their endeavor to address the losses of Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley. What they have not done, however, is found that jack-of-all-trades running back who can come in and do it all for them.
Miami running back Duke Johnson has the ability to do just about anything he'd be asked to do. He's not considered a dominant, between-the-tackles runner, but the Patriots already have LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray to carry the ball in that role.
What Johnson can do, however, is immediately contribute in the passing game, with the quickness to make defenders miss in the open field and the long speed to create big plays once he's made those defenders miss.
He didn't dazzle scouts at the scouting combine, running only a 4.54-second 40-yard dash, but NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compared him to New Orleans Saints running back C.J. Spiller for his "explosive quickness and elusiveness" as well as his "feel and courage as a one-cut runner."
Zierlein admits, however, that Johnson would be best in a committee situation, which would be perfect since that's exactly what he'd be stepping into in New England.
At this point, any guard the Patriots draft would be an instant contributor. The team still has not re-signed veteran Dan Connolly, meaning his spot at left guard remains unfilled.
Florida State guard Josue Matias has the tools to contribute in Week 1, as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein indicates he uses "technique over power" and that he has "high-end potential, but [he's] not a lock to reach that potential."
His strength is currently in pass protection, where his understanding of angles and his wide base help him stay in front of his man.
The Patriots' current options at guard consist of Ryan Wendell, Jordan Devey and Marcus Cannon. Considering their problems on the offensive line at the start of the 2014 season, it would be wise for them to continue to address their lack of depth up front.
The Patriots could also use a big, gap-plugging defensive tackle to help round out (no pun intended) their depth chart. Central Michigan's Leterrius Walton has exactly the frame one would hope for, at 6'5" and 319 pounds with 32.25" arms.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein described him as a "high-motor interior lineman who could become a five-technique in a 3-4 defense with more technique work." In a versatile Patriots' defense, he'll need to exhibit qualities becoming of both a 3-4 end and a 4-3 tackle.
Sealver Siliga and Dominique Easley form a good foundation at defensive tackle, but more depth is needed.
As we get further and further into the draft, it obviously becomes more and more difficult to find instant contributors. That's especially true for a Super Bowl team.
The Patriots have two picks in the fourth round, and if they want to find players ready to make an immediate impact, there are two positions they should be targeting: outside linebacker and wide receiver.
At outside linebacker, the Patriots could target a player like Texas' Jordan Hicks. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein describes Hicks as a high-character guy who loves the sport of football so much that he will "live in the film room," and Zierlein quotes an AFC area scout as saying, "He'll probably be a coach after he's done with football. He loves it that much."
He has the tools of a potential "Will" linebacker in the Patriots' defense, and while their linebacker core is already loaded with potential in the likes of Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, Hicks has the quickness and explosiveness the Patriots love in their linebackers.
As for the wide receiver spot, Georgia's Chris Conley could be a strong candidate for a fourth-round selection. The 6'2", 213-pound receiver put up monster numbers at the scouting combine, finishing in the top five in the 40-yard dash (4.35 seconds), bench press (18 reps), vertical jump (45") and broad jump (139").
The Patriots could use another big-bodied receiver in their offense to play on the outside, meaning Conley could come in and find himself an instant starter.
The Patriots could be looking for big-bodied defensive backs to help ease the pain of the losses of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. In the first round, we projected Marcus Peters as a potential fit. In the sixth round, Utah's Eric Rowe looks like a player who could fit the mold of what the Patriots need in their secondary.
The 6'1", 205-pound Rowe tested well at the scouting combine, finishing in the top five in every workout in which he participated. His straight-line speed and change of direction showed up well in Indianapolis, but they do not appear to be functional, as NFL.com's Lance Zierlein points out his lack of recovery speed and suggests he may be "limited as a man-cover corner."
Zierlein also describes him as a "scheme-specific player." That being said, Rowe's experience on special teams could help him contribute in the interim while he gets acclimated to the Patriots' scheme.
With their other sixth-round pick, the Patriots could be targeting a player like Oregon's Erick Dargan. The Patriots will love what an NFC scout describes as "off the charts" football intelligence, and they'll also love his ability to contribute on all of the core special teams groups.
He may not fit into the immediate plans on defense thanks to a lack of athleticism and speed, but Bill Belichick could surely find a role for him in the defensive backfield in run-stuffing packages.
The Patriots love their shifty, undersized receivers, and they could find another to add to the arsenal in the seventh round.
Baylor pass-catcher Antwan Goodley is 5'10" and 209 pounds, built similarly to current Patriots wide receiver Josh Boyce. His experience as a track star at Baylor is indication of his vertical speed and explosiveness, and his experience as a point guard is indication of his quick-twitch athleticism.
He didn't run a deep bag of routes in college, and he will need to polish that area of his game if he's ever going to contribute in a bigger-than-supplementary role in the Patriots offense. At the same time, the Patriots could find uses for him right out of the gate and could even help him develop into a consistent starter with time—hey, if they did it with a former quarterback in Julian Edelman, they can do it with just about anyone.
Another late-round option would be Auburn safety Jermaine Whitehead. The Patirots already have Devin McCourty at free safety, so Whitehead wouldn't be able to contribute on special teams (unless the Patriots were in a coverage heavy look) but Whitehead could immediately make an impact on special teams. He was only allowed to play on special teams for two games following his return from a team-imposed suspension in 2014.
The Patriots are in no way needing more help on special teams, but if they want to creat competition and think Whitehead could contribute early, he'd make a nice flier selection with a late-round pick.
Unless otherwise noted, all scouting combine information provided by NFL.com.