We are fast approaching the 2011 NFL Combine. Whether you put much stock in the combine or not, this event has the potential to shake things up dramatically in the eyes of NFL talent evaluators. Therefore, I thought before the chaos begins, I would take another stab at a Mock Draft for the Patriots. In my Patriots Mock Draft 1.0 I went through a simple mock for the Patriots, particularly avoiding trades, given the difficulty of projecting such deals. However, in this mock I thought I'd get creative and predict a more aggressive than usual draft for the Patriots...
17. Ryan Kerrigan, OLB/DE, Purdue
Put simply, Kerrigan is the awesome pass rusher the Patriots are sorely missing. He lives in opponent's backfields and is a constant nuisance to the rhythm of the offense, even on the plays when he doesn't reach the quarterback. He has amazing hands and has excellent bend at the knees when leveraging and going around the edge of lineman. He also possesses the brute force to bull rush opponents and sets a strong edge against the run. If there is any doubting his consistency, I present the following unbelievable stat line for Kerrigan's final three years at Purdue: 192 Tackles, 32 Sacks, 56 Tackles for Loss (almost 20 per year!) and 14 Forced Fumbles. If you're like me and consider the TFL as a statistic up there with a sack, Kerrigan has made 88 plays behind the line of scrimmage in three years, or almost 30 per season! It makes too much sense to not take Kerrigan in my opinion. He has a tireless work ethic and plays a high motor game. As a value pick, Kerrigan has the skill set to play all three downs either standing up or with his hand down as part of a four man line.
28. Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
I understand that the selection of another 1st round corner back will be questioned with more obvious needs to fill. Anyone questioning the move needs to consider the following: the Steelers, Jets, Ravens, Colts and Chargers all operate out of the 3 WR set and are generally the AFC competition to get to the Super Bowl. Furthermore, from the NFC the Packers, Saints and Falcons also operate from the 3 WR set. The need for 3 strong cornerbacks in the NFL has never been more apparent. To illustrate further, when the Patriots play nickel or dime on more than 50% of snaps, a slot corner is pretty much a starting player anyway. Following on from my first Mock Draft, Jimmy Smith was a name mentioned by a number of fans. I followed this up with watching any and all available video on the guy and came away extremely impressed. Smith is outstanding in man coverage, using his strength to produce an impressive jam at the line. He plays with poise and composure and never looks out of position, shutting down his receiver. Indeed he was only thrown at 20 times in total in 2010 due in part to his awesome blanket coverage. Due to the limited opportunity, he did not have an interception, which may cause him to fall in some scouts eyes. However, Devin McCourty was not considered a ball hawk out of college and a certain Mr Revis went without an interception in 2010. The top of the CB depth chart is clearly McCourty and Bodden, but beyond that, it's a little unclear. Kyle Arrington may indeed be more suited to the slot, but he is really a slightly above average corner. Who knows what direction Darius Butler's progress will go this season; in any event, he is a small corner who doesn't tackle or play the run particularly well. And of course, Jonathan Wilhite is Jonathan Wilhite! The Packers showed the way with 3 strong corners in their Super Bowl run, all contributing by making plays in the playoffs - the Patriots could learn the lesson.
33. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Despite Carimi's strong showing at the Senior Bowl, many scouts will have Carimi lower on their draft boards than other potential Tackles due to the observation by some that he will be limited to Right Tackle at the next level. Good news for the Patriots as he could easily be sitting there at 33 to address a need. With Matt Light out of contract and coming off a subpar season, its time the Patriots moved Sebastian Vollmer over to Left Tackle and draft Carimi (6'7", 315lbs) to give Tom Brady two monstrous blockers on the outside for the remainder of his career. Carimi has outstanding strength, which he uses to his advantage when punishing defensive linemen when run blocking. Last year, the Patriots ranked number 1 in the NFL in runs behind right tackle, so Carimi has a lot to live up to, but his work ethic and ability make him a great candidate to assume the mantle! He also has underrated footwork and technique as a pass protector, performing extremely well against highly touted competition, such as Adrian Clayborn and Cameron Heyward. Adding Carimi would bring an element of nastiness to the line that they lack, especially come playoff time.
(TRADE: Patriots trade 2011 Draft picks no.60 & 92 and 2012 3rd Round Draft pick to the Cleveland Browns in return for 2011 Draft pick no.38)
38. Muhammad Wilkerson, DE, Temple
It's no secret the Browns are building a new team. They have already started cleaning house this offseason with some veteran releases, so would probably want the extra draft picks. Given the early run likely on Defensive Linemen in the 1st round from the weaker teams, its possible they won't be looking at defensive linemen again at the top of the 2nd, meaning Wilkerson is very likely to be available here. I have discussed Wilkerson's production in detail in my Mock Draft 1.0, but he is the real deal. A three down lineman who played the 5-technique DE role in college, Wilkerson eats up double teams and plays both the run and pass with great strength and technique. His final two years in college, he racked up stats including 131 tackles, 17 sacks and 23.5 TFL's, averaging out at over 20 plays behind the line of scrimmage per year! Other 2nd or even 3rd round prospects for the RDE spot could include Christian Ballard or Jarvis Jenkins, but Ballard would need to add some bulk and Jenkins is similar to Ron Brace and Ty Warren in style. I understand that giving up three draft choices for one will not be supported by all. However, given the abundence of draft picks for the Patriots, particularly in the '09, '10 and now the 2011 Draft, not all will be able to make the team so it makes sense at some stage to give up some pieces for a potential blue chip player. It is absolutely worth the trade to add such an all round talent as Wilkerson. He is the latest small school prospect Bill Belichick could make into a star at the Right Defensive End position for the Patriots. Furthermore, he would join Kerrigan, Smith and Carimi as likely starters for the Patriots...four starters from four picks, yes please!
74. John Moffitt, OG, Wisconsin
Following the trade of the 90th pick in the draft, this expedites the Patriot's move for John Moffitt, who in my Mock 1.0 went 90th overall to the Patriots. I think Moffitt has a real chance to go in the second round, but current analysts project him as a 3rd round pick. Adding to the nastiness Carimi brings, Moffitt would certainly bring his own punishing style similar to that of Logan Mankins. At 6'5" and 323lbs, Moffitt is ideally sized to play an interior line position in the NFL, where he can play all three very effectively. If the Patriots can agree a deal with Mankins, adding both Carimi and Moffitt (both from Wisconsin, the best run blocking team in the country last year) would give the Offensive Line some outstanding talent but also some much needed attitude, which would certainly be welcome in the playoffs.
4th Round DeLone Carter, RB, Syracuse
Another player I retained from my Mock 1.0, Carter, like all running backs before the combine, is seeing his stock stagnate somewhat. In the modern NFL, teams are recognising that drafting a RB early in the draft is no longer a necessity, so quality RB's like Carter will fall into the 4th round. Whether he falls this far is anyone's guess but if he does, the Patriots should not hesitate to pull the trigger. Carter has ideal size (5'10", 215lbs) and talent to be an every down back for a number of teams in this league. With the Patriots, he would be joining a committee where he could cultivate the energy and talent that guided him to consecutive 1,000 yard seasons with the Orange.
5th Round Greg Romeus, OLB/DE, Pitt
If the Patriots could find this value, this deep in the draft, then they will have had a very good draft indeed. With the addition of Kerrigan, the OLB spot would already be overstocked somewhat, considering the Patriots are likely to keep 4, maybe 5 OLBs for the season. However, a talent like Romeus would be difficult to pass up. His stock has plummeted due to the back surgery that caused him to miss all but one game in his senior season, so much so that he is currently projected as a 4th or 5th round pick. I'll admit, it is ambitious to expect Romeus to fall this far but stranger things have happened to a player's stock following injury. Production-wise, Romeus fits the bill perfectly. Coming from an excellent program, his first three seasons with Pitt, he racked up 17.5 sacks and 38.5 TFL's before suffering the back injury in his final year. He was partnered with Jabaal Sheard on one of the nation's best pass rushing lines, but in my opinion is the more talented pass rusher of the two. He is very fast off the line for his size (6'6", 270lbs) and he uses his hands very effectively to keep away blockers. His long arms not only aid him in his pass rush, but also his ability to bat down footballs at the line, which he was very successful at doing in college.
6th Round Graig Cooper, RB, Miami
Another addition to the running back mix, Cooper has significant talent. Despite being part of a committee of RBs at Miami, often not seeing the majority of carries, he led the team in rushing in each of his first three seasons, averaging over 5 yards per carry in two of those seasons. He has the ability and speed to take it to the house and is very difficult to bring down in the open field. Cooper has also been used out of the slot at times, in a Reggie Bush style x-factor capacity. Add to this his special teams ability in returning kicks and punts and all of a sudden you have a player with the versatility and solid attitude Belichick loves to coach. The knock on Cooper is that he is a little slight and has never carried the full load of a feature back. Furthermore, he has had an injury plagued senior season, partially tearing his ACL during the 2010 campaign, hence the fall in his stock. However, he would not be required to take on a heavy workload with the Patriots, but rather could sit nicely behind BJGE, Woodhead and DeLone Carter, contributing sparingly and in injury relief should anything happen to Woodhead. Furthermore, he would be able to add another significant dimension to the Patriot kick return units, trying to emulate another famous Hurricane in Devin Hester.
As usual, feedback is most appreciated and always heeded.