Who could the Patriots draft? (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The New England Patriots are lucky enough to have six draft picks in the first 100 selections. For a team that finished 14-2 last season, I've talked a lot about what the Patriots need and some of it could be unfair. I know that I over-analyze a lot because of how much I focus on the team. In reality, the Patriots are really well off as a unit; the team is extremely young and they just gained a year of playing experience. Keep in mind that this teams game 21 first year starters/players extensive time on the field: Pat Chung, Sergio Brown, Kyle Arrington, Darius Butler, Devin McCourty, Jermaine Cunningham, Eric Moore, Rob Ninkovich, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, Ron Brace, Brandon Deaderick, Kyle Love, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Brandon Tate, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Zoltan Mesko. That's almost half of a game day roster. This team looks great for years to come.
That doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement! I have my top off-season needs for the Patriots as: Outside Linebacker, Interior Lineman, Defensive End, and Offensive Tackle. How can the Patriots address these needs? Well, here's my draft:
17. Ryan Kerrigan, OLB/DE, Purdue. 6-4, 255 lbs.
Strengths: Excellent at setting the edge and stopping the run. Relentless in his pass rush. Team captain. Huge playmaker. Stays in his lane and is a smart player. Multiple moves to reach the quarterback. Shows ability to drop into coverage and has dropped into coverage a couple times. Trimmed down in order to better convert to OLB.
Weaknesses: Might have a "slow" 40 time (projected is high 4.7, low 4.8). Raw in coverage. Will need to get stronger to guarantee he can force the running backs to the inside- or else he won't be able to catch them on the outside.
Patriots Comparison: A very improved Rob Ninkovich. Imagine a Ninkovich that could set the edge against the run and consistently put pressure on the quarterback, with an ability to sometimes drop into coverage. That's Kerrigan. Kerrigan can also be utilized on the Patriots 3-4 sub-defense when the put their OLBs at DE and drop 8 into coverage.
Read the rest of my draft after the jump!
28. Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin. 6-7, 315 lbs.
Strengths: Versatility to play LT, RT, LG and RG. Gives the Patriots ability to move Sebastian Vollmer to more natural LT position. Does not get out-muscled. Moves defenders when run blocking. Sets the edge. Played a game with swine flu (doesn't add to anything, but it's pretty sweet).
Weaknesses: Needs better technique while pass blocking. Plays with a lot of force, but sometimes can be pushed off-balance.
Patriots Comparison: A larger, less quick, Logan Mankins. While Mankins lacked the size to be a tackle in the league, Carimi has the prototypical size. Carimi could be the Logan Mankins of right tackles, which would be extremely valuable for the Patriots when they face pass rushers like Cameron Wake, Robert Mathis and Lamarr Woodley almost every season.
33. Phil Taylor, DE/DT/NT, Baylor. 6-4, 335 lbs.
Strengths: Plays like an animal. High motor, relentless player regardless of whether the team is winning or losing. Great at run recognition and is strong enough to move laterally to stop the run. Could be the next Haloti Ngata. Generates great penetration when rushing the quarterback. Holds the point of attack against double teams. Strong player who forces fumbles.
Weaknesses: Terrible off the field record- charged with aggravated assault, even though the charges were dropped. Transferred from Penn State after losing his starting job to Jared Odrick in his sophomore year. Might be better at the 3 or 4 technique spot, which means that he might need help on the outside- or that he'll need some time to learn the 3-4 5 technique position.
Patriots Comparison: Vince Wilfork. Taylor has the size and versatility to be the next Wilfork. He has the ferocity to be the next Ngata. He has the interior moves to be the next B.J. Raji. He just has to be groomed and mentored.
TRADE: Patriots package their 60th and 74th draft picks with Cleveland for the 37th overall selection. Cleveland is in full rebuilding mode in Mike Holmgren's second year and they could use more picks for more depth. The Patriots give them two quality picks to move up in the second round.
37. Stefen Wisniewski, OC/OG, Penn State. 6-3, 305 lbs.
Strengths: Start player from a strong family pedigree. Three year starter. Athletic player who can control pass rushers. Strong rush blocker who can push back defensive tackles. Holds his ground in pass blocking. Plays to the whistle. Versatile enough to play guard and center. Strong enough to fight off defensive tackles. Phenomenal technique.
Weaknesses: Needs to get stronger to play against nose tackles. Could use a season on the bench to gain power before starting.
Patriots Comparison: A superior Dan Connolly. Connolly can play all interior linemen positions, just like Wisniewski. However, Wisniewski looks to be the superior pass protector and run blocker. While Connolly can sometimes be lost and out of place, Wisniewski is a very smart player.
92. Shane Vereen, RB, California. 5-10, 205 lbs.
Strengths: Graduated early. Was the centerpiece/only piece of an offense and still produced at a high level. Has solid speed. Very able hands to catch balls out of the back field. Seems like a perfect change of pace back for a rotation and could evolve into a starter. Rarely fumbles. Comes from a school of moderately successful NFL running backs. Patient runner who does not dance in the backfield. Adds value as a returnman.
Weaknesses: May not possess breakaway speed. He has fumbled. Might need to gain some strength to play at the next level.
Patriots Comparison: A more running-oriented Kevin Faulk. Take Faulk's receiving ability and and add a little bit of size and you have Vereen. The biggest difference: Vereen can also run the ball.
4th Round Pick. John Moffitt, OG/C, Wisconsin. 6-4, 315 lbs.
Strengths: Great run blocker. Versatile to play center and guard. Able to block down field. Able to contain his assignment.
Weaknesses: Must get stronger.
Patriots Comparison: Stephen Neal. Both Neal and Moffitt are more able run blockers, but neither have elite strength to push around larger defensive linemen.
5th Round Pick. Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado. 6-0, 200 lbs.
Strengths: Four year player, three year starter. Great size and awareness. Great speed. Able and willing to help stop the run. Big special teams player. Has a knack for knocking the ball away.
Weaknesses: Must improve his technique and ball defense. Needs to improve his tackling. Was picked on while playing across from Jimmy Smith.
Patriots Comparison: Kyle Arrington. Special teams player that is a willing run stopper, has to improve his coverage technique, and was picked on due to a superior cornerback playing on the opposite side of the field. Sounds about right. Brown could eventually develop into a solid cornerback.
6th Round Pick. Steven Friday, DE/OLB, Virginia Tech. 6-4, 250 lbs.
Strengths: Has improved his ability to reach the quarterback. Very consistent performer his senior season. Able to drop into coverage. Has beaten top players (First round prospect Anthony Castonzo) to reach the quarterback. Constant threat to reach the quarterback.
Weaknesses: Might only be a pass rushing player. Needs to put on some additional weight to make up for lack of technique against the run.
Patriots Comparison: Tully Banta-Cain. Both players try to speed rush their way to the quarterback. Friday has some potential and could be a late round flier who has a big impact.
There you have it! What are your thoughts?