By Chris Warner
As the draft approaches (not ’til April 25, but hey, it’s happening, people), we’ll take periodic looks at Coach Bill Belichick’s possible drafting methods and the potential players available.
As of this week, the Patriots have five picks in the 2013 draft: Rounds One (29th overall), Two (59), Three (91) and Round Seven (two picks TBD).
This gives New England some leeway to make some moves, but not as much as in the past. (Speaking of the past, click here for a round-by-round breakdown of all New England drafts under Coach Belichick). By its nature, drafting involves gambling. Hence, the scenarios listed below.
PLAY IT STRAIGHT
In this scenario, the Pats take what’s coming to them. We see needs at defensive line, cornerback, offensive line, wide receiver and safety. Our picks for these spots:
FIRST ROUND: John Jenkins, Georgia DL (6-4, 359). Jenkins might get called unmotivated, as he flunked off the team and missed the Bulldogs’ final game. His 40-yard dash might be timed by the growth of a stalagmite. Seriously, though, it’s tough to care about such things given his size, relative quickness, and production. Jenkins would add immediate depth to the Foxboro front four and give stalwart Vince Wilfork some rest.
Watch this video of Jenkins facing Missouri. Not too shabby.
SECOND ROUND: Robert Alford, SE Louisiana CB (5-11, 188). Some FCS players get the ol’ fish eye, but Alford did what he should have at that level, earning a reputation as a shutdown corner and dangerous returner. Not the bulkiest of DBs, but the Pats could sacrifice run support for a cover guy who can make opposing quarterbacks look in the other direction.
Some of Alford’s highlights from the past season can be seen here.
THIRD ROUND: Brian Schwenke, California OL (6-3, 307). As mentioned in our Senior Bowl column, Schwenke has the versatility that the Patriots covet, playing center and left guard in that game. He was named First Team All-Pac-12 this season, having switched to center after playing both guard positions the previous two years.
SEVENTH ROUND (a): Devonte Christopher, Utah WR (6-1, 192). Some mock drafts have the Patriots taking a receiver early, but ever since taking Deion Branch with a second-round pick in 2002, such selections haven’t worked out all that well. (Chad Jackson? Anyone?)
With Christopher, the Patriots get a solid pass-catcher and kick returner who averaged 13.7 yards per reception in 2012. Here’s a highlight reel of his 136-yard day against USC in 2011.
SEVENTH ROUND (b): Rashard Hall, Clemson S (6-1, 213). Hall earned second-team All-ACC honors with 75 tackles and four interceptions. He started 39 games for the Tigers and would contribute on special teams right away.
For a review of Hall’s work vs. BC and Miami (I know, I know, but still), watch this video.
Plausibility of Scenario: Pretty low. Coach B. likes to move up and down the board more than an ’80’s keytar player.
Likeability of Scenario: Though it seems unlikely, we kind of dig it. Not a bad idea to add some top talent to the defense and shore up a couple of other positions.
But no, Coach. Don’t mind us. We’re just talking to ourselves, apparently.
BET THE FARM
Let’s consider the following three truths: one, New England’s roster was good enough to make it to the AFC Championship this past season. Two, they have young guys coming back from injury (like running back Jeff Demps) and through free agency (like pass rusher Armand Armstead). Three, they get contributions from undrafted rookies every year (like running back Brandon Bolden and pass-rusher Justin Francis).
Let’s say they use only two picks, a first- and a second-rounder, using other picks to move up in each round (from 29 and 59, respectively). That gives them a better chance to improve two positions, much like they did with defensive end Chandler Jones and linebacker Dont’a Hightower last year.
As long as we’re daydreaming…
FIRST ROUND: Sharrif Floyd, Florida DL (6-3, 303). A tremendous athlete who has excelled as both defensive end and an interior rusher, Floyd declared early for the draft after his junior season. He accumulated 13 tackles for loss, three sacks and two blocked kicks in 2012.
To watch film of Floyd, go to YouTube, type “Sharrif Floyd vs,” and take your pick. Here’s one vs. Texas A&M.
SECOND ROUND: Jamar Taylor, Boise State CB (5-11, 192). Taylor made the All-Mountain West First Team after compiling 47 tackles (including 2.5 sacks), three interceptions and eight passes broken up. Taylor has the size and strength to match up with larger receivers; plus, he has been lauded for his work in zone coverage.
For video of someone’s TV showing Taylor return an INT 100 yards, click here. (Hey, we can’t be too picky: it’s free.)
With this strategy, the Pats would bring in two rookies with the potential to contribute immediately. They will also have to bring in a TON of undrafted free agents, which we love: it’s like watching a dozen simultaneous versions of Rudy. You’ve got to root for the little guy.
Some players to watch after the draft, with the Pats in mind:
Taimi Tutogi, Arizona FB/DE (6-1, 269) With his size, this takes liberties with the concept of rooting for the “little guy.” Apparently, when Tutogi stands on the corner wearing his blue-and-red Arizona gear, postal workers check him for mail. He plays fullback, special teams, and even rushed the passer for the Wildcats.
Mike Hermann, Renssalaer Polytech QB (6-5, 254). Hey, the dude went to RPI; he can’t be a dummy. Passed for 2,366 yards and 23 TDs (in nine games) with only eight INTs. Also led the team in rushing (510 yards, seven TDs), averaging 319 yards of total offense per game. Projects to a tight end in the NFL, and could provide depth at different roster spots.
Brandon McManus, Temple K (6-3, 198, but really, who cares?). An All-Big-East First Team selection, McManus set the school record for field goal accuracy (82 percent) and also averaged 45 yards per punt. After a less-consistent-than-usual season from Stephen Gostkowski in 2012, New England could bring in another leg for a peek.
Plausibility of Scenario: After hitting on both First Round picks in 2012, this method could prove tempting. With only five selections to start, why not move up and give yourself a couple of shots in the arm?
Likeability of Scenario: Considering we enjoy the rookie free agent frenzy almost as much as the draft itself, this looks like our favorite way to go. Also depends on any veteran signings and what roster needs get addressed heading into the draft.
HEDGE YOUR BETS
The coach could trade down as he has in the recent past. The Patriots’ front office has contended that the difference in talent between a late first-round pick and second-rounder is minimal, or at least not as large as the disparity between salaries.
They seem to have backed off of that mindset in recent years. We can see why:
In 2009, the Pats traded out of Round One twice (Ravens got Michael Oher, Packers got Clay Matthews). With picks 34, 40 and 41, respectively, they ended up with Patrick Chung, Ron Brace and Darius Butler. Only Chung is still with the team and is used as a backup safety.
In 2010, they traded down from 22 (where the Broncos got Demaryius Thomas) and again from 24 (Cowboys, Dez Bryant) to pick Devin McCourty. McCourty had a wonderful rookie season and then plummeted back to Earth. He’s one reason why Chung no longer sees the field as often because as he’s been shifted to safety.
Still, if they choose to go in the multiple-lower-picks direction, they have some decent choices. Let’s say the Pats turn their current picks into two second-rounders, two fourths, one fifth, a seventh, and future picks.
SECOND ROUND: Kawann Short, Purdue DT (6-3, 308). The Second-Team AP All-American had 14.5 tackles for loss this year (including six sacks) and four blocked kicks. Could excel in the New England’s 4-3 defense. Had a great Senior Bowl week.
To watch Short rip up the Iowa offensive line, watch here.
SECOND ROUND: We’ll stick with the aforementioned Alford.
FOURTH ROUND: Tavarres King, Georgia WR (6-0, 192). Led his team with 42 receptions for 950 yards (22.6 ypc) and nine touchdowns. Showed good quickness at the Senior Bowl and has the ability to turn short receptions into big gains.
For an exciting highlight reel of King, check out the Bulldog in action.
FOURTH ROUND: Alvin Bailey, Arkansas OL (6-5, 315). Bailey decided to declare early for the draft after starting 38 straight games for the Razorbacks. Helped the Hogs compile over 3,500 yards passing and 1,400 yards rushing. Not exactly small.
FIFTH ROUND: David Bass, Missouri Western DE (6-4, 262). Bass dominated Division II with 40 sacks over his career, but that didn’t mean much to scouts until he had a productive practice week before the East-West Shrine Game. Has required size and speed (a reported 4.7-range 40) of a pass-rusher.
To watch this man amongst boys (to the strains of Johnny Cash, no less!) check out his highlights.
SEVENTH ROUND: Tommy Bohanon, Wake Forest FB/TE (6-1, 245). Our favorite stat for this potential hybrid? Two rushes in 12 games. Bohanon, who played tight end as well as fullback, had 23 catches for 208 yards and five touchdowns.
Plus, he can apparently bench press 550 pounds. So, there’s that.
Plausibility of Scenario: Somewhat low due to recent first-round successes and a roster with fewer needs than most.
Likeability of Scenario: This remains our least favorite way to draft. Quantity can’t beat quality, especially when most positions on this roster have solid depth.
We plan to update this column after the NFL scouting combine (Feb. 23-26).
Favorite scenario? Favorite player? Favorite Arena Football team? Let us know below.
You can email Chris Warner at [email protected]