Welcome to what we’ll call BSMW’s rolling mock draft. We’ve listed certain positions New England should address in the 2014 NFL draft, along with Pats-compatible players who fit each ranking. These mocks should continue for the next three months (Three months? And we thought the run-up to the Super Bowl felt stalactitic). We’ll edit positions and names as trades or signings happen, noting changes and the reasons for them.
As of this week, New England has no fifth-round pick (traded for Isaac Sopoaga) and an extra sixth-rounder. More on potential compensatory picks below.
Ready? Let’s get rolling.
Round One: The Versatile Defensive Lineman
Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame (6-6, 312). With New England’s defensive front ending up with more holes in it than the t-shirt I saved from the fifth and final Wopatula beach party in 1982 (long story), Tuitt has the size and athleticism to play tackle in a four-man front or end in a 3-4. The junior had 49 tackles including 7.5 for the Irish in 2013. As a bonus, Coach Bill Belichick has had Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly as a guest to training camp. Strong scout report potential there.
For highlights of Tuitt in the 2012 season, click here.
Round Two: The Long-limbed Cornerback
Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska, (6-3, 215). Most of the Patriots’ secondary tends to facilitate more receptions than a Marriott in June. With the success of their tallest cornerback, Aqib Talib, New England could do worse than to add another corner with some height. Jean-Baptiste had 41 tackles, a sack, four interceptions and 12 pass break-ups last season.
For highlights of this particular Husker – over 15 minutes of ‘em! – see here.
Round Three: The (Other) Big Tight End
C. J. Fiedorowicz, Iowa (6-6, 262). BRADY NEEDS WEAPONS. Got it. Fiedorowicz has size similar to a current, oft-wounded Patriots TE whose exit from the roster last season limited the offense. This Hawkeye was used as a blocker in both fullback and in-line tight end roles. He caught only 23 passes in 2013, scoring five TDs. Coach Belichick’s relationship with Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz won’t hurt in terms of getting the lowdown.
The young man can catch. For proof, see Fiedorowicz’s highlight reel.
Round Four: The Solid Interior Lineman
Tyler Larsen, Utah State (6-4, 317). Thought there’s no truth to the rumor that the Patriots’ interior O-line got pushed around so much they were nicknamed The Broom Squad, the group could use some youth and strength in that area. Larsen started 51 consecutive games for the Aggies and made the All-Mountain West Conference team three times.
You can see Larsen at work vs. Utah this past season here.
Round Six: Doubling Down On Round Four
Marcus Martin, USC (6-3, 310). Martin made All-Pac 12 First Team for his work with the Trojans in 2013. Declared early for the draft after his junior year, when he switched to center. Played guard as a freshman and sophomore, making the Freshman All-American Team in several publications.
For highlights of Martin (also vs. Utah – I sense a trend, here), see this video.
Round Six: The Complementary Receiver
Kevin Norwood, Alabama (6-2, 198). AGAIN: WEAPONS. Fine, fine. We noted Norwood’s performance in the Senior Bowl, as he showed quickness and awareness on his way to four receptions for 53 yards and one touchdown. For the Tide, Norwood had 38 catches for 568 yards (14.9 yards per) and seven TDs. As with all ‘Bama players, the Pats have a great scouting report in Coach Nick Saban.
No highlight reel that we can find, but an athletic catch shown here.
Round Seven: The Big Defensive Lineman With Potential
Zack Kerr, Delaware (6-2, 334). With last year’s starting defensive line only slightly younger and less worn than a couple of Sequoias on a beach, the Pats could look to bulk up here. Kerr, a transfer from Maryland, was an All-Colonial Athletic Association First-Teamer with 57 tackles, 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
For Kerr’s highlight reel (where, to his credit, he seems to dominate at that level), click here.
ROOKIE FREE AGENTS
The following players caught our eye as potential contributors who could be brought to the team with an enticing phone call. As noted by several bloggers, including Miguel Benzan via Patsfans.com, the Patriots could receive two compensatory picks (possibly sixth-rounders) for free agents who went to other teams last season. We think these guys warrant consideration for a late Day Three pick, or at least a phone call after the draft.
The Productive Small-School Running Back
Branden Oliver, Buffalo (5-7, 208). Who doesn’t like to root for the little guy (besides Peyton Manning’s family, maybe)? Oliver had 310 carries for 1,535 yards (5.0 avg) and 15 TDs. Also tallied 25 catches for 173 yards and 1 TD.
Oliver has more than one highlight reel, but perhaps his most intriguing involves a diligent performance at Georgia in 2012. It starts out ugly, but by the 2:08 mark the mighty mite seems to find his stride, even scoring as a QB out of the Wildcat formation.
The Fiery, Overlooked Middle Linebacker
Greg Blair, Cincinnati (6-1, 252). New England could use more size and depth backing up the line, especially with the probability that Brandon Spikes will play elsewhere. Blair led the Bearcats with 106 tackles, including seven for loss (one sack). He also had three passes broken up and one forced fumble.
Highlights of Blair’s junior year can be seen here.
The Pass-catching Fullback/Tight End Hybrid
Gator Hoskins, Marshall (6-1, 244). We mentioned Hoskins in our Senior Bowl review, but his one reception in that game failed to demonstrate his potential. Hoskins, who led all tight ends nationwide snaring 13 TDs, would fill the Foxboro gap of a smaller, pass-catching tight end/fullback hybrid who can split out wide. In 2013, he had 44 catches and averaged almost 17 yards per grab.
Just watch these highlights to see whether this guy could or couldn’t catch a few passes at Gillette.
The Small-School ‘Tweener Defender
Jerry “BooBoo” Gates, Bowling Green (5-10, 227). From Tavon Wilson to Adrian Wilson, New England has tried to bring in a bigger safety/linebacker hybrid who could add some defensive muscle against the run and cover a tight end and/or running back. We could offer a line like, “They’ve made BooBoos in the past; why not bring one in on purpose?” At Bowling Green, Gates had 71 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, plus two interceptions and two forced fumbles. He also averaged 31 yards per kickoff return.
For some hard hits on defense and his kickoff return for a TD at the 1:15 mark, watch this video.
The Raw Receiver
Corey “Philly” Brown, Ohio State (5-11, 190). When does a track guy become a receiver? When he gets his hands on the ball. Brown – an all-state 200-meter sprinter from Pennsylvania – led the Buckeyes with 63 catches in 2013, picking up 771 yards and 10 TDs in the process. Coach Urban Meyer (a Belichick buddy, by the way) utilized Brown as a rusher (four for 42 yards) and returner (7.3-yard avg for punts, including one 65-yard pickup).
You can see a Philly Brown punt return TD from 2012 right here.
The Backup QB For Grooming
Tommy Rees, Notre Dame (6-1, 214). We return to South Bend and Coach Kelly for a look at Rees, who completed 224 out of 414 passes (54 percent) for 3,257 yards, 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. To be nice, no one’s eyes will pop out at those numbers, but let’s not forget the “For Grooming” aspect of this category.
Rees’ highlights from his junior year can be seen here.
The Rutgers Guy
Antwan Lowery, Offensive Guard (6-3, 310). There always has to be one, doesn’t there? An East-West Shrine Game participant, Lowery battled injuries this past year but in 2012 was honored as a First Team All-Big East offensive lineman. Switched from defensive lineman to offense his redshirt freshman year, when he also played a little bit of fullback in heavy running formations.
For an in-depth look at the Lowery brothers (older sib Antonio played D at Rutgers), watch this video.
Okay, dear reader, what’s your take? What changes do you foresee to this list post-combine? Let us know in the comments space below.
Chris Warner can be reached via email at chris. [email protected] or through Twitter at @cwarn89