Special shoutout to freemantor and those who were in the War Room yesterday, who represented us and the New England Patriots in the SB Nation mock draft. I would also like to extend a thank you to our Tennessee Titans counterpart, Music City Miracles, for hosting the Mock Draft Forum. Armed with the 32nd, 64th, 96th, and 97th pick, the Patriots were looking to bolster their roster from the trenches, the secondary, and the receiving corps. For those who were there, you already know who the Patriots took with their picks and for those who weren't there, here's a recap.
1st (32)- The Patriots attempted to trade up to the #27 pick to the Dallas Cowboys to land Wake Forest CB Kevin Johnson, but the Cowboys elected to take the CB themselves. The Patriots then subsequently traded down from 32, landing the 43rd, 77th, and 229th picks in the draft and using the 96th pick in the process. In terms of the established value guidelines, the Patriots traded 706 points of value for 684 points of value in return. An immeasurable value from the trade is the Patriots already owned the 97th pick of the draft, so it doesn't affect their draft board too much.
2nd (43)- Eric Rowe, CB, Utah
Rowe was initially a three year starter at the free safety position until the Utes CB depth was decimated with Keith McGill declaring early for the draft and being selected by the Oakland Raiders. That forced them to move the 6'1" 200 Rowe to the CB position, where he found a home and had an impressive season despite having to learn the position on the fly. In terms of overall athleticism, Rowe clocked in a 4.45 40 with 10 and 20 splits of 1.56 and 2.61 respectively. In addition to the 40, he posted a 3.97 5-10-5 shuttle and 6.70 3-cone. Belichick loves his CBs to have sub 6.8 3-cone times if possible. Rowe still has a lot to learn about playing CB, but the physical gifts are there. Rowe is a player who I project to be the #4 CB on the depth chart and a core special teamer at the start of the season with the opportunity to phase into a larger role by the end of the season.
2nd (64)- Carl Davis, DT, Iowa
Carl Davis is a two year starter at defensive tackle, and is known more as a penetrator than a gap controller. At 6'5" 320 with 34 5/8" arms, Davis has the length to disrupt both the run and pass game from the interior. Davis posted a 10 split of 1.73 with a shuttle of 4.44. At 320 lbs, that's very impressive athletically and his athletic prowess may be unrivaled by any other defensive tackle prospect on a per pound basis. What keeps Davis from being a top 20 pick is questions about his motor when he's not in the play and showing less effort when playing more snaps. The Patriots could form a rotation with Dominique Easley and Carl Davis at the 3-tech position in order to maximize the productivity of both players. Davis' coach at Iowa, Kirk Ferentz, was a former assistant of Bill Belichick when BB was in Cleveland, so naturally Davis will be linked to the Patriots on Draft Day.
3rd (77)- Xavier Cooper, DT, Washington State
The Patriots didn't plan on double-dipping at the position, but after Minnesota took Cedric Ogbuehi with the 76th pick the Patriots opted for best value available. Cooper is much quicker than Davis as a penetrator, but he sacrifices a lot of length relative to Davis. Boasting a 1.68 10-split (you're getting into LB territory) and a 4.37 shuttle, Cooper is much more athletic than most interior offensive lineman. It's unlikely that both Cooper and Davis will be active the same week if Dominique Easley is healthy, because the Patriots typically only use 4 DTs on Game Day barring a very special Game Plan. In 2016, the Patriots could utilize a rotation of Cooper, Easley, and Davis inside and draft a space eater late in the draft this year or next year.
3rd (97)- Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
While the Patriots have two pass catching RBs already on the roster, the value for taking Abdullah at the end of the third round was too much to ignore. His shiftiness and elusiveness is deadly in the open field and is a candidate for return duty as both a kick and punt returner. There are concerns about his size and ability to pass protect, but that is not a very large concern for the Patriots. Over the years the Patriots have utilized multiple 3rd down backs, but the one constant that remains is Coach Ivan Fears. Fears should be able to help Abdullah develop his pass protection skills and a season in an NFL strength and conditioning program will help him become better fit for the pro game. Abdullah boasts a 3.95 shuttle and 6.79 3-cone, which is Julian Edelman territory. Once Abdullah figures out the playbook, he will become a big time weapon out of the backfield for Tom Brady (and perhaps Jimmy Garoppolo?) to torment defenses with.
End result is the Patriots taken a potential future #1 CB, two of the draft's most athletic defensive tackle prospects, and arguably the draft's best 3rd down back. None of these guys should be expected to be major contributors early on unless injuries or accelerated development puts them in the lineup. Three of the four can be major factors on special teams, even if they don't get in the regular lineup. The Patriots still have IOL issues to work out, but the Patriots historically address that need in the 4th round or later.