Patriots Draft Review Panel

We at Boston Sports Media Watch couldn’t do much without the actual Boston sports media, so we figured we’d get a few of our locals involved in a New England draft review.

Joining Bruce Allen and Chris Warner in the discussion are Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston’s Patriots blogChris Price of WEEI.com’s It Is What It Is blog, and Chad Finn of Boston.com’s Touching All The Bases.

A brief rundown of this past weekend’s picks/moves…

THE BIG TRADE

New England traded their first-round pick (29th overall) to Minnesota for a second (52), third (83), fourth (102) and seventh (229), setting in motion an array of selections that must have warmed the cockles of Bill Belichick’s heart.

THE SMALL TRADE

The Patriots traded running back/returner Jeff Demps and pick 229 to Tampa Bay for running back LaGarrette Blount.

THE PICKS

Round Two (52): Jamie Collins, Southern Mississippi DE/OLB

Round Two (59): Aaron Dobson, Marshall WR

Round Three (83): Logan Ryan, Rutgers DB

Round Three (91): Duron Harmon, Rutgers DB

Round Four (102): Josh Boyce, TCU WR

Round Seven (226): Michael Buchanan, Illinois DE

Round Seven (235): Steve Beauharnais, Rutgers LB

We’re going to avoid overall grades here, but we’ll stick with a school premise, rating the moves like we would the condition of a textbook. (Note to our younger readers: a textbook is like an analog website.)

Here’s what rates, and how:

EXCELLENT

Bruce Allen: Trading out of the first – If Ron Borges and Tony Massarotti hate something the Patriots do, I know they did the right thing. Also, the more I read and hear about Dobson, I’m going away from my initial impression, which was Taylor Price, and towards someone who might be able to actually get on the field and be a threat. Physically and skill-wise he fits the bill. Belichick raved about his smarts and recall, so that encourages me too.

Man, I also love the Boyce pick, maybe even more than Dobson. His profile seems to remind me of David Givens, a strong, physical, tough receiver with smarts. Sounds like he could even potentially pick up some of Aaron Hernandez’s routes should the TE go down during the season.

Chris Warner: After watching how the weekend shook out, I put the big trade in this category. Sometimes we roll our eyes when we hear the term “value” tossed around, but it’s difficult to imagine any one player having as much potential impact in Foxboro as Collins, Ryan, Boyce and Blount (via trade). Moving down surprised no one, mostly because it made a lot of sense.

Mike Reiss: The double-dip at receiver. We don’t know if Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce will pan out, but personally am intrigued by the “redo” at the position. Both have physical traits that can be cultivated, and while there has rightfully been talk about the team’s struggle to draft and develop receivers, now it’s up to the coaches and I think they are excellent (Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, Brian Daboll and Co.).

Chris Price: Josh Boyce. I love the choice of Boyce in the fourth round. I talked to his high school coach (Boyce was on the same high school team with RG3), and he said that if Boyce doesn’t become a star in the league, he’d buy me a steak. I’m used to talking to high school coaches who love to inject a little hyperbole when it comes to their players who make the league, but this is different. (He did add that if Boyce had some better quarterbacking play in 2012, he would have been a first- or second-rounder.) A physical combine freak who also graduated in three years? And in the fourth round? Why not? Only question with Boyce is that he might be too smart for his own good.

Aaron Dobson. Anyone who can make a catch like he did against East Carolina last year deserves some attention. A big physical receiver who has some positional versatility, he’s the tallest receiver ever drafted by Bill Belichick, which I think represents a traditional change in approach, at least when it comes to how the Patriots identify their wide receivers. (At 6-foot-3, technically, he’s the same size as P.K. Sam.) Belichick also raved about his smarts as soon as he came off the board. Based on the fact that the receiver position is in a state of flux right now, he’s going to get plenty of chances. In the short term, his best course of action might be to jump on a plane to California, take a cab to the USC campus and wait for Tom Brady to show up.

Chad Finn: Aaron Dobson wasn’t one of the wide receivers who was most often projected as a potential Patriot in this draft, at least in my recollection. But man, you read about his attributes – intelligence, the ability to stretch the field despite not being a true burner, dependable hands, disciplined route-running, a knack for the spectacular ­– and it’s easy to envision him as the receiver who will end the Patriots’ less than glorious recent history of drafting receivers in this round. And anyone who might make us forget about Chad Jackson works for me.

Trading the No. 29 pick for four selections – including second-, third-, and fourth-round selections – was a no-brainer, even if it meant we’d have to spend Friday morning listening to a cacophony of sports radio callers caterwaul about Belichick’s (exaggerated) willingness to trade down in the draft. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but a word of warning: I remember every single one of you who complained when he passed up Sergio Kindle to take Rob Gronkowski three years ago. Every single one.

Jeff Demps is this year’s winner of the Michael Bishop Award as the player whose hype-to-contribution ratio is the most out of whack. Had to figure once he revealed that football wasn’t entirely his priority over track that he might be sent on his way. To get LaGarrette Blount, a big back who has had NFL success, in exchange seems like a worthwhile lottery ticket at worst and a coup at best.

GOOD

Chris Warner: Though it took me by surprise, I appreciate the Collins pick. The Pats needed to grow more athletic at linebacker and he fits that description, running a 4.59-second 40 and leaping a ridiculous 41.5 inches at the combine. The Pats should be able to utilize his versatility. Also, as much as I liked Markus Wheaton (and I know I’m not the only one), taking Dobson makes a lot of sense. A speedy, lanky outside receiver who happens to hail from Marshall? Why not? While I have some questions about Boyce’s consistency, his eye-popping athleticism gets him here, as well as the Pats going all out to address the outside receiver position. Finally, Beauharnais and Buchanan seem like better-than-average seventh-round defense/special teams pickups.

Bruce Allen: I too was a bit surprised by the Collins pick, though I shouldn’t have been, and have no right to be. I purposely stayed away from really getting immersed in this draft, simply because we never can predict what the team is going to do. That said, after hearing Lou Merloni mutter angrily for months about getting a “damn coverage linebacker” – even though Matt Chatham has said there is no such animal – this looks like a pick somewhat in that vein. Physically, Collins reminds me a bit of Gary Guyton, but Guyton, for all his speed, could not cover anyone. Collins has experience in the secondary, and his speed and athleticism both as a pass rusher and a pass defender has me intrigued. Buchanan seems like exactly the type of player you use a seventh-round pick on. Good potential, needs work, some trouble in the background, but has promise.

Mike Reiss: Logan Ryan. While I had them pegged for an interior offensive lineman at that point (83rd) – and thought Tennessee’s Dallas Thomas would have been a good fit before he was nabbed by the Dolphins – Ryan is a tough player who adds depth at a critical position. Can never have enough cornerbacks, Aqib Talib is a free agent after the season, and there should be immediate special teams contributions.

Chris Price: Steve Beauharnais. Talk to people associated with the Rutgers program, and while they acknowledge he’s not blessed with the greatest physical tools, they all praise his leadership, his character and his approach to the game. He’s certainly not going to take reps away from Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes or Dont’a Hightower. But he could provide depth at the spot and find a role on special teams, potentially battling with someone like Tracy White for playing time, while working into the mix as a possible option as an occasional option as a coverage linebacker.

Chad Finn: The Patriots drafted 27.3 percent of last season’s starting Rutgers defense. Of their three new Scarlet Knights, the one with the most potential to contribute immediately is the first one selected, No. 83 overall choice Logan Ryan, a bright, instinctive cornerback with 4.45 speed.

Loved this comment from No. 103 overall pick Josh Boyce, a wide receiver from TCU: “I’m really smart so I think I can pick up things pretty quick.” The confidence is encouraging. But I’m going to wait Tom Brady tells us he’s smart and is picking things up pretty quick before believing we’ll see much of him on Sundays this year.

Steve Beauharnais doesn’t have the ideal measurables, but he was the unquestioned leader of the Rutgers defense, and at the very least the 235th overall pick should fill the Tracy White role on special teams, with his intelligence and instincts giving him a chance to be something more.

FAIR

Chris Warner: In terms of Ryan, I understand the coach’s love of Rutgers players – after all, he helped raise one. Still, do they need another Scarlet Knight corner who’s primed to convert to safety next year? New England gave up more long passes than most other teams; seems like a speedier backfield defender would be in order. I’d also use the word “fair” – meaning both so-so and reasonable – to describe the Demps/Blount trade. Once Demps started favoring track, he became Dead Man Sprinting. Would have been interesting to see a pick at 229, but at least the Pats get a past producer in Blount.

Bruce Allen: I guess I’ll lump the Rutgers duo in here together, though I like adding depth to the secondary. With Harmon, the first thing I heard from several media was that they had nothing on him, he wasn’t even in their draft books. Well, rather than saying the Patriots are reaching, I think it illustrates the point about what an inexact science the draft is. Every year undrafted players come in, make rosters, and some become huge stars. Simply put, it’s impossible to put a definite evaluation on every player eligible for the draft. The Patriots do their own evaluation, and obviously don’t subscribe to the outside draft publications. So when I hear a borderline media type state with 100% certainty that this was an awful pick, and that even if he turns out to be a good player it was poor pick, I just have to laugh. I also heard the question about why is Greg Schiano passing on all his former players, but Belichick is gobbling them up. Something that occurred to me was that perhaps Harmon was taken where he was because Tampa was up before the Patriots’ next pick. Who knows? Maybe Beauharnais was taken in the seventh so that the Patriots wouldn’t have to compete with Tampa for him as an UDFA? If they’re taking someone where they are, I’m guessing they have a reason for it.

Mike Reiss: Trading for LeGarrette Blount. As a player, there’s plenty to like, and the value of the trade was more than reasonable. The “concern” is the non-football stuff with Blount. In one breath, we can praise some of the Patriots’ picks because they are players who do things the right way (Duron Harmon), but if we’re going to do that, we have to be consistent and mention that Blount has been at the opposite end of the spectrum. Building a team is complicated and it’s never black and white, and maybe a fresh start helps Blount. Just some trepidation in adding that type of complete package – specifically with his on- and off-the-field altercations – to the mix.

Chris Price: Cornerback Logan Ryan and defensive back Duron Harmon. Regardless of whether or not one or both were a reach – and Harmon may have been one, at least initially – in my mind, the biggest advantage you get with the pickup of both Ryan and Harmon is that they have already have an extensive working relationship with each other, and by extension, with Devin McCourty. I honestly don’t know how much they’ll be able to contribute this season beyond special teams, but I imagine the best possible scenario for the two of them would be for Ryan to challenge Ras-I Dowling for work as a backup outside corner, while Harmon could battle with last year’s second-round pickup Tavon Wilson as an additional defensive back in dime packages. I will say that Greg Cosell of NFL Films – a man who has forgotten more about the game than I’ll ever know – really likes the selection of Harmon, tweeting, “Harmon smart with excellent play recognition + awareness” shortly after the Patriots made the pick.

Linebacker Jamie Collins. Collins is an intriguing pickup, one that’s probably a little raw. At least right now, the thing that sticks out the most about him is his positional versatility – he’s done multiple things on the defensive side of the ball, so it was no surprise to hear Belichick praise that part of his game up and down on Saturday night. I suppose the best possible template for his rookie season would be follow in the footsteps of Dont’a Hightower, another similarly versatile linebacker who had a pretty good rookie season last year with the Patriots. Hightower was slowed at times by a nagging hamstring – if the same problem arises in 2013, Collins could be the next man up. He’s athletic and can run – if it all comes together for him, he could be that coverage linebacker the Patriots have been seeking.

Chad Finn: Their first choice in this draft, linebacker Jamie Collins from Southern Miss, draws comparisons to Jermaine Cunningham. As far as I can tell, one Jermaine Cunningham should more than suffice. Collins does reportedly have decent coverage skills, and the holdover Patriots linebackers collectively do not, so there is an opportunity for him to play a role as a rookie. I’ll perk up should reputable sources start telling us they’ve finally found another Roman Phifer.

Michael Buchanan (226th overall, linebacker, Illinois) is said to physically resemble Willie McGinest. Given that McGinest is the most physically imposing Patriots player (non-fat division) I’ve ever run into, at least we know he looks the part. But Buchanan arrives with baggage, including a DUI conviction.

POOR/INCOMPLETE (PAGES MISSING)

Mike Reiss: The lack of value at pick 91 with Rutgers safety Duron Harmon. By all accounts, Harmon is the type of player you want in your locker room, and a great example to follow. But this isn’t about Harmon personally as much as what the Patriots conceded in selecting him. There were other intriguing options who I think could have helped more. For example: would have loved to see them select RB Marcus Lattimore here with an eye on a power back for 2014 and beyond. Those are the type of forward-thinking moves where the Patriots, at least in my mind, had previously been steps ahead of the competition in the past.

Chris Warner: In a previous column I placed certain Patriots picks in the “They Know Something You Don’t Know” category. With Harmon, I think the Pats’ front office may have outsmarted themselves. Didn’t they go through this “unheralded safety” thing last year with Tavon Wilson? Especially with safety-to-be Ryan on board, this pick made the least amount of sense to me on Day Two.

Chris Price: The LeGarrette Blount-for-Jeff Demps swap. This is not so much an indictment of an individual or the trade, but the whole Demps era. He was placed on season-ending IR before last year began because of an injury that would have embarrassed Al Czervik. (In retrospect, New England probably would have preferred to send Visanthe Shiancoe to season-ending IR and keep the possibility of Demps contributing in 2012 alive.) Then, Demps started talking out of school about possibly splitting time between football and track, which likely sealed his fate. Ultimately, Demps spent the year in New England as a redshirt and earned $211,000 in guaranteed money (the second-most for an undrafted free agent last season), only to decide that he was going to treat the game as a hobby. If Blount gives them anything, it’ll represent value (maybe he’s Brandon Bolden insurance?), but I’m not holding my breath.

Chad Finn: It’s always amusing when the Patriots choose a player who doesn’t have the consensus endorsement of the Kipers, Mayocks, McShays, etc. Sometimes they’ve hit on those types (Logan Mankins in the first round, Sebastian Vollmer in the second, fringe college players such as Matt Slater and Matt Cassel). But lately it feels like they’ve reached a little too far sometimes. Tavon Wilson was such a shocker in the second round last year that one couldn’t help believe they could have chosen him later. The same goes for Rutgers safety Duron Harmon this year. He’s a player they clearly liked, but it certainly seems like they could have gotten him a round or two later.

Who/what was your favorite aspect of the 2013 draft in New England? Comment below.

  • bsmfan

    Wait, Patriots draft? No Tebow? We’re not going to spend any time not covering the Jets releasing Tim Tebow? Bristol, CT went DEFCON1. Every station in the country is discussing a 3rd-string, backup quarterback being released. ESPN even went live this morning and I expect the entire day to be devoted to this.

    Marshall generally has had little attention on their football. Moss did help to change this but generally C-USA gets little attention. However, Dobson’s catch must have been SCTopPlay for weeks after it happened. With this, I think that the school/competition is something that hurt him (it would be nice) and I’m hoping that Dobson can be an “Aaron Hernandez”-like steal for us and reverse the bad WR trend.

    For the Patriots, the “barometer” of this draft is Matt Elam, who the Ravens took. If he winds up being another Ed Reed or working out really well, that will be one big/huge knock on us. He was there for us at 29 and had first-round projections all over, so we had to know he’d be gone even if we got a higher 2nd round pick.

    What Reiss said about Latti is precisely what SF did: Forward thinking. They know that Frank Gore is not going to last forever. Also, if you did not watch any Gamecocks football, Latti would have been a Top10 pick if he had not blown up his other knee. Still, if he comes back to do what he did, he was a highlight-reel guy who had no problem playing against SEC (NFL-caliber defenses).

  • ben

    Has it ever come out whether it was Josh McDaniel who wanted Tebow in the 1st round or someone else above him?

  • http://twitter.com/NextOnTheTwit NextOnTheTwit

    Nice work men… LOVED the , “If Ron Borges and Tony Massarotti hate something the Patriots do, I know they did the right thing” comment from Bruce

  • Jay

    Just wanted to say thanks to BSMW for pulling this together and for everyone devoting the time. Great read.

  • alex

    Awesome work.

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