The difficult part about creating a mock draft is that not everyone will be a fan. If you play the draft board, no team will ever get the hypothetical ideal since teams will all be jockeying after the same players. So when ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper released his latest three-round mock draft, he did his best to ensure every team was taking the best players at the highest positions of need.
He did a great job with almost every single team. Except, in my opinion, the Patriots. Let's break it down step by step.
Top needs: DL, WR, CB, RB
Money Quote: "I think the needs are pretty clear."
Right out of the gate, we can note that 1) this list isn't alphabetical, so it's based on his opinion of biggest need to smallest need; 2) there isn't an offensive line position here.
The Patriots currently do not have a left guard. It is the only actual legitimate hole on the roster in the sense that there's no player to fill it. Guard is undeniably the most glaring need, even if cornerback is the more important position.
Round 1 (32) DT Eddie Goldman, Florida St. We need to add a big body on the interior of the defensive line -- we can't "replace" Vince Wilfork, but we better not pretend he wasn't a crucial component to our success. Goldman isn't going to be chasing QBs around, but he does have some ability to hold gaps, and I think he can deepen the rotation up front. He's also a player who I believe is still scratching the surface and can reach another level.
Someone please try to convince me that Goldman isn't Colts defensive tackle Montori Hughes. You do not take a space eating defensive tackle in the first round, unless they offer additional value in the passing game. You don't use a first round pick on a defensive lineman to "deepen the rotation."
The Patriots have shown that they can find players like Sealver Siliga and Alan Branch on the open market for cheap. They've also been working out other "space eating defensive tackles" who could and should be available on Day 3.
There are defensive tackles that could possibly work in the first round. Texas' Malcom Brown is one. Washington State's Xavier Cooper might be a stretch, but offers value in all phases on defense. Iowa's Carl Davis. Clemson's Grady Jarrett. There are players who are forces against the run, who also add top level disruption against the pass.
Goldman is not one of these players.
Round 2 (64) WR Chris Conley, Georgia. And I want to add another pass-catcher, as well as upside in the run game. Conley's combine times are better than the tape, but at No. 64 overall, he's a reasonable bet on upside, and he's been more productive than people who just gawk at the 40 time realize.
Wide receiver isn't a main need for the Patriots, who will be featuring Julian Edelman, Brandon LaFell, and Danny Amendola. A rookie receiver won't be getting a lot of playing time. A rookie receiver won't develop without seeing snaps. A rookie wide receiver might be a waste, especially in the second round.
Of course, I do think the Patriots take a receiver, but it will be one who pushes both Brian Tyms and Aaron Dobson- two players on the roster bubble. But Conley is a Stephen Hill, or a Justin Hunter. An athletic marvel with the need for a lot of polish- polish that he might get on another team, but likely won't get in New England due to how the coaching staff awards playing time.
If the Patriots want to take a successful prospect at wide receiver, they need a player who can win now. They need a player who has the skills to win playing time now and can grow in the offense since the Patriots. Receivers like USC's Nelson Agohlor, Kansas State's Tyler Lockett, or Nebraska's Kenny Bell can step in and contribute on day 1, and then continue to further develop.
Round 3 (96) RB David Johnson, Northern Iowa. Johnson is a versatile back with good size and the ability to turn a short catch into big yardage.
I like Johnson as a player, but the Patriots brought in Travaris Cadet, they signed Mike Lombardi's favorite Dion Lewis, they have Brandon Bolden and James White already in the system. Johnson is not a strong runner, despite his size. He's an amazing receiver, but he doesn't add an element that New England doesn't already have on their roster.
There are a surprising number of running backs that are three-tool players out of the gate: runners, receivers, and blockers. They're Todd Gurley, Jay Ajayi, Tevin Coleman, T.J. Yeldon, Mike Davis, David Cobb, and Josh Robinson. Even Ameer Abdullah and Duke Johnson add value as blockers and receivers, even if their interior running might not translate to the next level.
There are too many versatile running backs to take one who has one, albeit great, ability.
Round 3 (97) CB Alex Carter, Stanford. We need to add a versatile body in the secondary. Carter is a versatile cornerback who might end up better at safety, but I trust this coaching staff to maximize his strengths.
Alex Carter is a pretty good prospect. He's pretty fast, pretty reactive, pretty active against the run. He's a player that teams would love to have as a special teamer who can be a second cornerback, or an above average depth player. Based on visits, the Patriots are actually a possible candidate for another Logan Ryan-type cornerback/safety hybrid.
But that's the issue. They already have Logan Ryan. When the Patriots construct their draft board, they ask themselves, who is this player going to beat out for a roster spot?
Is Carter going to beat out Logan Ryan? Probably not. Malcolm Butler, Kyle Arrington, and Bradley Fletcher seem to be likely locks, too, and through my review, I don't see Carter ready to beat any of them for a starting spot. Maybe Carter can beat out Alfonzo Dennard- but when we're looking at the 5th cornerback on the roster, it doesn't seem like reasonable value.
Pretty good isn't good enough when it comes to fleshing out this position, that's already filled with pretty good players. It needs a great prospect, or else any other addition is just another drop in the ocean of pretty good.
Conclusion: When you're drafting at 32, you don't expect immediate impact, but this group can help keep the title window wide open.
This is a fair point, though. Planning for the future and developing a full roster is important. A team that just won the Super Bowl isn't likely to have many holes that need a rookie to step up with an immediate impact.
Unless of course, the team's biggest need is at guard and that's not even considered as a position to fill.
Maybe next time, Mel. Maybe next time.