Hey everyone, I recently took part in a 7 round live mock draft over at fellow SB Nation blog Mocking The Draft. I had the fortunate pleasure of being the designated New England Patriots GM and thought I'd post the results here at Pats Pulpit for everyone to critique. I had a great time participating and thought I gave it a pretty good effort, I'll let you guys decide how I did.
See the results after the jump.
To see every pick from the draft just click the link. Draft Tracker
Pick 27 - OLB Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
After exploring a couple of trades to move up (either the asking price was too high or the prospect I was looking at went earlier than expected) I decided to stay put at 27 and see how the draft played out. My ideal choice at 27 was DE Michael Brockers out of LSU, Unfortunately Philadelphia traded back into the 1st round and snagged Brockers at 21. Fortunately though when 27 finally did roll around a top 20 talent in Whitney Mercilus was still on the board. With the loss of Mark Anderson and the uncertainty of guys like Jermaine Cunningham and Andre Carter I jumped at the chance to draft Mercilus. The top rated outside linebacker on my board (ahead of guys like Melvin Ingram, Nick Perry and Courtney Upshaw) Mercilus is an explosive pass rusher who led the nation in sacks this past season with 16 and forced fumbles with 9. At 6'4 and 261lbs Mercilus has the size and athleticism to play outside linebacker in a 3-4 and the the strength and speed to play end in a 4-3, this is exactly the type of versatility the Patriots look for and with the previously mentioned uncertainty at pass rush this was an easy pick
Pick 31 - Traded to Pittsburgh for 2.24, 3.24 and a 2013 2nd round pick
Unless a prospect I loved fell to 31 I was always leaning towards a trade at this pick. CB Janoris Jenkins out of North Alabama was the only guy left on the board who I considered eschewing a trade for but after negotiations with Pittsburgh I pulled the trigger on a deal. After back and forth offers we eventually agreed to a trade to send the 31st pick to Pittsburgh in exchange for Pittsburghs 2nd and 3rd round picks this year and their 2nd round pick in 2013. With plenty of good prospects still left on board I was confident I could still pick up quality talent in the 2nd round while adding picks both this year and next.
Pick 16 - DE Kendall Reyes, Connecticut
After trade negotiations with both San Francisco and St. Louis fell through I eventually decided on Kendall Reyes with this pick. With Reyes at 31 on my big board this was another easy pick. You can never have enough talented players on the defensive line and with plenty of good but not great players the Patriots need more talent. Reyes is another versatile player who can operate in both the 3-4 and 4-3. After a terrific Senior Bowl and Combine Reyes' stock is on the rise, he has great strength and surprising speed for a guy who stands at 6'4 and 299lbs and is effective at putting pressure on the quarterback and stopping the run. He had 4.5 sacks as a senior to go along with 13.5 tackles for loss. Reyes has the potential to be an immediate starter as a 5 tech in the Patriots 3-4 but could also start at 3 tech in a 4-3.
Pick 24 - WR Marvin Jones, California
Receivers were flying off the board at this point. After 4 had gone in the 1st round another 4 had already been taken in the 2nd round. I decided it was time to take the highest receiver left on my board in Marvin Jones. Despite the plethora of signings the Patriots have made at receiver this offseason we still need to add more youth at the position. Jones seems like the perfect prospect for the Patriots at the wide receiver position. He has size at 6'2 and 199lbs and is a terrific route runner, he also has great hands, rarely dropping a pass and posted a solid 40 time at 4.46. He is one of the more complete prospects at the position in this draft in my opinion and has all the potential to be a future star. With the Patriots he could play sparingly in 2012 and take over a starting position in 2013 with guys like Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco unlikely to still be around.
Pick 31 - CB Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska
This was a pure best player available pick. I have an early 2nd round grade on Dennard so to see him fall this far was a pleasant surprise. With the struggles the Patriots had in the secondary last season it's hard to imagine Belichick won't address the position in the draft. Dennard was a top 15 prospect at one point but fell off some after a rough Bowl game vs South Carolina. Alshon Jeffery got the better of Dennard in that contest before both players were ejected after an altercation. Despite this Dennard is still a very talented player who excels in press coverage. Dennard could start at slot corner straight away for the Patriots and would also provide insurance should Ras-I Dowling find himself on the sidelines once again.
Pick 24 - Traded to Tennessee along with 4.31 for a 2013 1st round pick
Tennessee simply offered me a trade I couldn't refuse. 3rd and 4th round picks for a 2013 1st? Yes please. Not much else to say about this really, I realise this trade likely won't happen in real life but if some GM offered Belichick this deal he'd take it too.
Pick 31 - Traded to Green Bay for 4.11 and 5.28
There will still a ton of prospects I would have been thrilled to take at this point. C Ben Jones, OT Bobby Massie, C David Molk, OT Nate Potter, DE Derek Wolfe, DE Billy Winn, FS Brandon Taylor and quite a few others were all still there. With this being the case I decided to trade back into the 4th round and pick up a late round pick also. The Patriots come into the draft without a single 5th, 6th or 7th round pick so I made it a priority to pick up at least a couple. I was confident that at least a few prospects I liked would still be there in the 4th so trading back and picking up another pick seemed liked the smart move.
Pick 11 - Traded to Philadelphia for 4.19 and 6.31
Again there were several prospects still available that I would have been very happy with. Billy Winn, Brandon Taylor, C Phillip Blake and G Senio Kelemente were all still there so trading back was again the choice. I was able to trade back just 8 spots and pick up a late 6th round pick (the same pick we gave up for Tracy White). Once again I was confident at least a couple of the above prospects would still be there when I picked so picking up a 6th round pick seemed like a no brainer.
Pick 19 - DE Billy Winn, Bosie State
Another easy pick. I have a late 2nd/early 3rd round grade on Winn so to see him here in the 4th was very surprising. Winn is a very strong run stopper who can also provide some pressure on the quarterback. He had 34 tackles, 8 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks as a senior but was much better than his stats illustrate. A former high school wrestler Winn is strong and athletic and with the right coaching could be a formiddable force along the defensive line. As stated in the Kendall Reyes pick earlier the Patriots need more talent across the line, With Reyes and Winn drafted, Vince Wilfork entrenched at nose tackle and players like Deaderick, Love, Pryor, Fanene and Brace the Patriots would be set along along the defensive line for the next several years.
Pick 28 - FS Brandon Taylor, LSU
This was the steal of the entire draft in my opinion. Taylor is an early 3rd round prospect and the top free safety in this class so to be able to snag him in the 5th, I was like a kid at christmas. I considered Taylor in both the 3rd and 4th rounds. The Patriots biggest area of weakness to many is safety, with only Patrick Chung a proven commodity there we have to make upgrades. The Steve Gregory signing was nice but it hardly seems like a long term solution, Brandon Taylor would be just that. Taylor is vastly underrated, he is a physical hitter and solid tackler who is also very good in pass coverage. His awareness and instincts are second to none among safeties in this draft in my opinion. As a senior Taylor recorded 71 tackles, 5 passes broken up, 2 interceptions and 1 sack. He can also play very effectively at strong safety (some have him listed as a strong safety which I disagree with) which is an added bonus as Patrick Chung has struggled with injuries.
Pick 31 - C Quentin Saulsberry, Mississippi State
Quentin Saulsberry is the definition of versatile. As a redshirt freshman Saulsberry started every game for the Bulldogs at right tackle before starting every game his sophomore year at left guard. As a junior Saulsberry once again started every game this time splitting starts between right guard and center. In his senior year he once again started every game with 9 starts at right guard and 4 at center. Standing at 6'3, 302lbs Saulsberry doesn't have ideal size but more than makes up for it with his play on the field, he's by no means the finished article and still has lots of work to do but with time to learn the system and the coaching of Dante Scarneccia, Saulsberry has the potential to be the long term answer the Patriots are looking for at center. Despite starting the majority of his collegiate career at left and right guard Saulsberry projects better as a center in the NFL.
So there it is. Please let me know how I did in the comments and vote in the poll, whether your feedback is good or bad both are welcome. I almost always went with my board and went with value over need (the Marvin Jones pick was the only time I strayed from this). Overall I was pretty thrilled with how this turned out, I felt I addressed needs while also getting great value and also got a couple of high picks for 2013.
OLB Whitney Mercilus
DE Kendall Reyes
WR Marvin Jones
CB Alfonzo Dennard
DE Billy Winn
FS Brandon Taylor
C Quentin Saulsberry
2013 1st (TEN) and 2nd round (PIT) picks