Your Patriots Mock Draft (Way-Wicked-Early Edition)

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

  • bsmfan

    Chris,

    Do you think Fiedorowicz will be there in the 3rd? I know he’s not rated as one of the top3 but he seems to be right below this. I have a feeling that TEs will go quickly.

    Any thoughts on the SEC QBs, Mettenberger, McCarron and Murray? If I had to pick, I’d go Murray. However, one interesting twist: McCarron skipped the Senior Bowl, blaming it on injury. He also is doing the same with the Combine, for the same reason. I wonder if this will scare off teams? Here’s my conspiracy theory: BB’s good friend, Saban, has told McCarron to not participate so he mysteriously falls to the 6th round.. your minds can take it from here.

    • Trip McNeely

      I would love to see that scenario happen. I don’t think it will though. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a team like Cinci pull the trigger on him in the third round. McCarron is a game manager who lulls you to sleep with the run game and short intermediate passes, the catches you sleeping by hitting the home run ball. He would be ideal to either push Dalton to the next level or be his replacement in case Cinci decides to move on from him.

      But I would much rather see him fall to the Pats to be groomed than Rees. As someone who watched a lot on ND games over the last few years I think that kid stinks. I feel like the talent that ND is able to attract covered up for a lot of his deficiencies.

      I do like Tuitt and agree he could probably play either 3 or 5 technique, but a lot of “way too early” mocks have the Pats taking Jace Amaro a TE out of Texas Tech. I will be the first to admit that I did not see a lot of Big 12 games this year, so I can only go by what I read, but he could be the Hernandez replacement that the Pats offense sorely needs. Not to mention former Pats QB Kliff Kingsbury can give a valued scouting report.

      • bsmfan

        I was never a fan of Rees. I saw him vs. legit competition (2012 BCS NCG) and he pooped his pants.

        McCarron, yeah he’s a game manager, but what was Russel Wilson before last weekend? Also, people underrate his mobility. He’s not a runner like Manziel or what you think with Kapernick or Newton, but he can move if needed.

        I think one of the biggest questions that will be answered in the next 1-2 years is the style of QB you have: elite pocket passer (Manning/Brady) or mobile guy (Wilson). Part of it has to do with how good (athletic) defenses are. Having to account for an additional player adds so much more challenge.

        • Trip McNeely

          Agreed, at some point people will look back at QB’s like Rodgers and Brees and say they changed the way the position is played. In today’s game the most successful QB’s, IMO, are the ones who ALWAYS look to pass first but can run when necessary. I think that was a major development in Cam Newton’s game this year. He went from a running QB to a QB who can run, and it paid off for both him and his team.

        • bsmfan

          That was my precise feeling on Cam and Manziel before this year. If he could learn to throw, as Manziel did last year, you have an even greater weapon. I think this is why Manziel went from a “1st round” to “Top 10″ pick. (How he pans out is to be seen.)

        • tiki

          So you didn’t like the way Tommy Rees held the clipboard and signaled in plays during the BCS NCG – he really stunk it up in that role? Cuz he didn’t play QB that night – Everett Golston did.
          #Credibility Gap

      • Chris W.

        Agree with everyone here that Rees may not be the answer; wonder if there’s a late-round QB who could fill in passably (so to speak).

        While Amaro looks like the real deal, I haven’t seized on the idea of O over D in this draft, just because so many productive Pats should get healthy. If they do draft a TE early, Amaro’s the guy. Don’t see many of those other 260-pounders as much of an upgrade over Hoo-man.

    • Chris Warner

      BSMFan, that’s why I’m keeping this mock flexible: if Fiedorowicz runs well at the combine, he’s moving up.

      As far as QBs, I’d give any of those guys a look, but I wonder about the value of a mid-round QB if there’s a hidden gem somewhere in the later rounds. Are the Pats drafting for the future in 2014, a third-stringer, or a decent backup should Mallett get traded? Fun to watch.

      • bsmfan

        Regardless if we go O or D in this draft, you have to wonder what will happen with the (assume they don’t trade up or down) 2nd and 3rd picks. What if Murray is sitting there at 58? Take him over, say, a 2nd/3rd round CB (like you mention?) or basically the entire plan is to just ride this thing until we assume Brady hangs it up, knowing he’s done, and then.. hope for someone like Rodgers sitting at 24? Tank for a top10? (Who could ever see a BB team tanking, though? He’d coach up even a team like the Jags to six wins, putting them around the 14th pick)

  • daver

    The perpetual wild card in every draft: how the various positions play out in the draft. Namely, these are (I think) reasonable spots to expect these players to be all things being equal. But if there’s an early run on corners, for example, maybe Jean-Baptiste isn’t there because someone grabbed him as the best available remaining option earlier in the 2nd. And if Fiedorowicz is really the Pats’ guy at TE, maybe they go ahead and take him in the 2nd round even if he’s still projecting to go late 3rd-early 4th. Etc.

    Having said that, I can totally get behind a pick of anyone named Boo Boo, regardless of whether he can actually play or not.

    • Chris W.

      Daver, I was just thinking about potential runs on positions regarding Fiedorowicz – could be a late third-rounder, could be a mid-2nd.

      Gator, Boo Boo and even Philly would be welcome at training camp. Though the undrafted pool’s not as deep as last year, I’ll be the Pats still manage to find a contributor. (I’m way out on a limb, I know.)

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