It began with the challenge facing the team. We hold the 29th, 59th, and 91st picks in the draft. With a potential-doubledip need at WR, CB depth, and pass-rush help we didn't have enough picks. So we made a decision to get as creative as possible.
New England kept its head down for the first day of pre-mock trades and watched as some crazy moves were made. We took a look at our own roster and identified players that may not be in New England's long-term goals. Kyle Love is an okay NT. Rob Ninkovich is a versatile LB and DE that has hadback-to-back 10 sack seasons. Brandon Spikes is an A+ run defender and C- pass defender. Ryan Mallett is backup to Tom Brady. Except for Mallett, all of those guys are impending FAs next year that we thought would walk next year to get more money elsewhere. We also tried trading Steve Gregory but had no luck even as a package deal.
Arizona needed a LB and wanted Mallett behind Palmer. We shipped them Spikes and Mallett along with our 29th pick and 91st pick in exchange for an early-4th round pick and the 10th overall pick. Oh, and our choice of Drew Stanton or Tim Tebow. We went Tebow. With the 10th overall pick we were going to position ourselves to grab a star DT.
Minnesota got Darrell Revis and therefore couldn't afford Jared Allen. We traded Rob Ninkovich and Kyle Love to them, acquiring another 4th round pick, a couple of 7th round picks, and Jared Allen. Allen may be starting to get long in the tooth but he's still a tremendous upgrade. While he's unproven as a OLB he's got good enough instincts to play 34ROLB. To get this trade to work we had to ship out our 2014 4th rounder, but would mitigate this loss later by trading Tebow and a 7th rounder for their 2014 6th rounder.
We went from having the 29th, 59th, 91st, and two seventh rounders to having 10th overall, 59th overall, 102nd, 113th, and three 7th rounders. And Jared Allen. We now had holes at DL and LB that had to be addressed and we would.
Then a technical issue occurred during the live mock and we couldn't get our pick in in time. Sucks, right? Yup it certainly did! Our big-board handed us Dee Milliner instead of a DT. While CB was a need it was almost impossible to imagine a top-10 pick being used on a team's 4th CB. So we bit the bullet for first day. When the second round came we had a choice between WR Quinton Patton and WR Da'Rick Rodgers. The 1st-round prospects, Woods and Dobson were both gone. We decided to go with "the Julio Jones clone".
Next we formulated our strategy to deal with what just happened in the top-10. Dee Milliner, Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Kyle Arrington. Well, I had a deal all set to go with Oakland that I knew I couldn't let Jack'saxe find out about because he would have known of the robbery I was about to commit against his other team. I got them to agree to a 4th round pick and their 2014-1st rounder for Aqib Talib. However they got wind that it was a bad deal just after agreeing in principal(personally I thought it was very Raider-esque) so the 2014-1st rounder became a 2nd rounder. I agreed and we went to enter the deal, only to find out that they decided to end player trades. I talked them into at least running the trade through as an exception given what happened in the top-10. The guy that approved trades scoffed at what Oakland was giving it up and rejected it.
We were able to secure a 1-hour window to trade guys that were already drafted. Kansas City signaled they were ready to deal and then openly started to put Milliner back on the trading block before we even finished the deal. They did us a favor by leading us towards Atlanta, who were able to agree to a trade with us at the last minute. We got 43SAM/34LOLB Jamie Collins and CB Logan Ryan in a trade for Milliner. This helps us address rebuilding the front-7 and giving us that 4th CB we definitely want for depth. I'm high on both guys so I thought it was an okay deal and would help us achieve our aim.
We started off last year with Chandler Jones at RDE, Wilfork at RDT, Love at LDT, Ninkovich at LDE, then Mayo/Spikes/Hightower as the front-7. Now it would be Jared Allen at RDE, Tommy Kelly/Armstead at RDT, Wilfork at LDT, and Chandler Jones at LDE with Mayo/Hightower/Collins as the LBers. Plus we already got a WR that we're big on in Rodgers.
Day two of the live mock began. Because we got the Milliner for Collins/Ryan deal done we weren't stuck considering which LB(Xavier Gooden, Trevado Williams, Chase Thomas) to draft. We saw 43DT/34DE Akeem Spence(Illinois) was still there and decided why not?
"CBS Sports NFL analyst Pat Kirwan is one expert particularly impressed with Spence, listing the Fort Walton Beach native as one of the top 10 most explosive players in the draft."
"Spence, meanwhile, looks like a virtual lock to get drafted. Slotted by most experts as a mid-round selection, Spence's name most often appears in the third and fourth rounds of mock drafts, with teams like the Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys mentioned as possible landing spots. But according to NationalFootballPost.com, Spence is seeing a surge in his draft stock recently, as the website lists Spence as one of five players surging as the draft nears, projecting the former Viking to possibly sneak into the second round."
We took a chance on him at 102, seeing him as potentially a 4th-round steal. This party made up for not getting either Star Lotutulei or Sheldon Richardson at 10th overall. We made the most of an unfortunate situation.
The depth of this draft truly showed as 113 approached. WR Chris Harper of Kansas State was the best WR on the board and he looked too good to pass up. We established the double-dip at WR that so many are discussing. The depth of this class is great so we left feeling like we accomplished our mission for WR.
In the 7th round we pounced on the Olympian DT/DE Lawrence Okoye. Sure he's the ultimate project, sure he already picked up Spence/Armstead/Kelly, but why not take a chance? He needs a year of development anyways so we can play STs his first year. Too much of a freak athlete with upside to pass up here. We also added Eric Martin out of Nebraska as depth for OLB and then Alex Hurst out of LSU to make up for the loss of our backup-OG.
Our UDFAs were as follows;
Jeff Tuel, QB, Washington State
D.J. Harper, RB, Boise State
Blaize Foltz, OG, TCU
Marcus Cromartie, CB, Wisconsin
Mark Harrison, WR, Rutgers