Predicting the New England Patriots’ Draft
Wednesday, May 07, 2014
The New England Patriots enter the 2014 NFL Draft with 8 picks and few weaknesses to address.
The AFC runners up from a year ago have used free agency to rebuild their secondary, signing Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner to match up better against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.
The Pats also signed wide reciever Brandon LaFell, pass rusher Will Smith, and brought back breakout star Julian Edelman as they gear up for another run at the Super Bowl.
Without many “needs” to address, the Patriots are a bit of a wildcard in the 2014 draft. Throw in their propensity for trading picks on draft day and annual tradition of selecting at least 1 player that no one has ever heard of, and the Pats are downright unpredictable this year.
But how about a little educated guessing?
In addition to the Patriots' habit of drafting players from programs run by coaches in Bill Belichick's coaching tree (Belichick also has close friendships with current and former college coaches Chip Kelly, Greg Schiano, and Urban Meyer, among others) the team also has some measurable trends at certain positions in terms of what the value in a draft prospect.
Taking a look back at the past 5 drafts (every one since Scott Pioli left and Bill Belichick assumed almost total control over personnel decisions) and looked for trends and patterns in the Patriots’ draft selections.
Some positions have clear measurable guidelines in the Patriots’ eyes.
The Pats have selected dissimilar quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Zac Robinson in the last 5 years, so there isn’t much of a trend here. There isn’t much of a need either, with #12 still suiting up on Sundays, although there is a chance the front office could look for a developmental QB to groom behind Brady for a few years. A pair of QBs the Patriots might be interested in (mostly due to ties to the coaching staff) are Tom Savage of Pittsburgh and A.J. McCarron of Alabama.
At running back, the Patriots tend to value the 3-cone time (showing change of direction ability and agility) over the 40-yard dash, but the sample size is limited to Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. A couple of potential fits for the Patriotsare Carlos Hyde of Ohio State and Tyler Gaffney of Stanford.
For wide receivers, the Patriots target prospects of all shapes and sizes, but the 3-cone test is again the key measurable pattern. The Pats like their receivers to be able to get open quickly, so a 3-cone in the 6.8 second neighborhood is ideal. Brandin Cooks of Oregon State, Davante Adams of Fresno State, Bruce Ellington of South Carolina, Robert Herron of Wyoming, Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin, Kevin Norwood of Alabama, T.J. Jones of Notre Dame, Ryan Grant of Tulane, Damian Copeland of Louisville, and Walt Powell of Murray State all make sense for New England.
For tight ends, the Patriots have shown no preferences based on size, but they used picks on receiving tight ends that ran sub-4.7 second 40 yard dash times (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez). They’ve also drafted bigger, slower, blocking tight ends throughout the Belichick era, so the fit all depends on the role the Patriots envision the player in. For receiving tight ends, Jace Amaro of Texas Tech makes sense for the Patriots, while Austin Seferian-Jenkins of Washington, Troy Niklas of Notre Dame, C.J. Fiedorowicz of Iowa, and Marcel Jensen of Fresno State are fits if the Pats look for a more balanced tight end.
As far as offensive linemen are concerned, the Patriots prefer tall, long offensive tackles that are at least 300 pounds. For interior linemen, versatility is important, so players that can play center AND guard are good fits for New England. For offensive tackles, look for Antonio Richardson of Tennessee and Justin Britt of Missouri. For interior O-Line prospects, keep an eye on Weston Richburg of Colorado State, Xavier Su'a-Filo of UCLA, Wesley Johnson of Vanderbilt, and John Urschel of Penn State.
Defensive Linemen are tough to project because the Patriots transitioned from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 defense in the midst of the 5-year span. Generally speaking, however, they prefer taller players at both end and tackle, with ends needing to be over 250 pounds. For tackles, Ra'Shede Hageman of Minnesota, Louis Nixx III and Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame, DaQuan Jones of Penn State, and Shamar Stephen of UConn make sense for the Patriots. For ends, Kony Ealy of Missouri, Kareem Martin of North Carolina, Will Clarke of West Virginia, Adrian Hubbard of Alabama, and Aaron Lynch of South Florida could all be given strong consideration.
It’s similar for linebackers, as the scheme transition has affected what the Patriots need out of the position. However, their linebacker picks are always over 240 pounds and generally have great 3-cone times. Shayne Skov of Stanford, Yawin Smallwood of UConn, Khairi Fortt of Penn State, and Max Bullough of Michigan State make the most sense given the Patriots' recent history at the position.
The Patriots are notorious for drafting so-so cornerbacks high in the draft, but with Revis and Browner joining Logan Ryan, Kyle Arrington, and Alphonso Dennard in the secondary there isn’t a huge need to take one this season.
The Pats usually target cornerbacks with outstanding 3-cone times and a height of 5’11” or taller. Some cornersbacks in this year's draft that could interest them are Phillip Gaines of Rice, Pierre Desir of Lindenwood, Bennett Jackson of Notre Dame, Dontae Johnson of North Carolina State, Rashaad Reynolds of Oregon State, Terrance Mitchell of Oregon, and Demetri Goodson of Baylor.
As for Safeties, the Patriots again stick to the 3-cone test as the key, while also paying attention to 40-yard dash time (usually 4.55 or better) and burst in the lower body (shown with good vertical leap and broad jump measurements). A few Safeties in this year's class who fit the mold are Deonne Bucannon of Washington State, Vinnie Sunseri of Alabama, Mo Alexander of Utah State, and Brock Vereen (Shane's brother) out of Minnesota.
The draft starts Thursday night with the first round kicking off at 8 p.m. Rounds 2 and 3 are Friday night (starting at 7 p.m.) and rounds 4-7 take place Saturday afternoon (starting at 12 p.m.).
Keep up with the draft and the Patriots all weekend by following and interacting on Twitter with GoLocal’s Jack Andrade (@RealJackAndrade) and Matt LaPan (@Matt_LaPan), both of whom will be at Gillette Stadium. Be a part of the conversation using the hashtag #GoLocalDraft
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