For the most part, the big moves of free agency have passed, meaning the next big influx of talent comes in April, when the NFL draft gets underway. At this point, it’s a good time to take advantage of FanSpeaks excellent mock draft simulator to take a look at a potential outcome for the Patriots in a couple weeks.
Of course, for Patriots fans, there is still one big matter left unattended. After trading for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy, New England is left without any picks in the first two rounds. Separately, Malcolm Butler is a restricted free agent with a first round tender who is negotiating with other teams, namely the Saints.
As outlined in the link, if Butler signs an offer sheet with New Orleans, the Patriots would get the 11th overall pick if they choose not to match. They could also get Butler to sign the tender and work out a trade with New Orleans, for something that would probably include getting pick 32 back at least.
It is worth noting that Mike Lombardi thinks Butler will be playing for New England next year, and for now that is the assumption operated upon when running this mock draft. With that said, the draft this year is extremely deep and valuable day 1 contributors can be found, even if the Patriots don’t make a pick until the second half of day 2.
Note: The draft was set up picking as the Patriots, using the most recently updated big board (in this case Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s), and drafted on the “difficult” setting for a more realistic outcome, and there were no trades performed with New England’s picks.
Round 3, Pick 8
Pick: Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin
Analysis: The Patriots have been busy attending pro days, and a theme among the ones they’ve attended involves schools with talented linebackers to display. Biegel played on the edge at Wisconsin, but as the Pulpit’s own Ethan Hammerman has pointed out, Biegel is an ideal candidate to follow in the steps of Tedy Bruschi and make the switch to off-ball linebacker.
Vince Biegel strikes me as a Tedy Bruschi ILB convert type. I think NE will love his versatility, intelligence, and burst.— Ethan Hammerman (@Ethanhamm) March 5, 2017
His athleticism plays much more favorably at off-ball linebacker, and can provide depth with Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy, and/or immediate impact alongside Dont’a Hightower.
Round 3, Pick 32
Pick: Derek Rivers, EDGE, Youngstown State
Analysis: This is probably an unrealistic scenario, as Rivers hype has him on the verge of breaking into the first round. If he manages to slip here, however, New England should be sprinting to the podium. Rivers is an athletic freak who checks all the boxes of what the Patriots look for at the position. He has the technique needed to impact the passing game immediately, and the strength and fundamental understanding to help in the run game. His main concern is the level of competition played against, but by nearly all accounts he was the best EDGE at the Senior Bowl, and translating to the NFL shouldn’t be too much of a concern.
Round 4, Pick 11
Pick: Jamaal Williams, RB, BYU
Analysis: As I outlined here, the Patriots should turn to the draft to find LeGarrette Blount’s replacement instead of bringing him back on another contract. Williams is another steal if he makes it to this point in the draft, although this is more likely than Rivers making it to 3.32. Williams is a power runner who never stop his feet and is a beast to take down. Like Blount, he has decent athleticism for his size, but wins inside and running people over instead of around them. They’ve filled out their front seven with the first couple picks, and this pick solidifies the last big hole on a roster that includes Malcolm Butler.
Round 5, Pick 19
Pick: Delano Hill, S, Michigan
Analysis: In a world where Malcolm Butler remains on the Patriots, safety overtakes cornerback in terms of bigger “need” on the team. Patrick Chung played poorly last year, and if he doesn’t bounce back this year it could be time to find his replacement. Duron Harmon was brought back on an excellent deal, but the Patriots love to run big nickel, with 2 corners and 3 safeties. Hill primarily played free safety at Michigan, but he has the size needed to play closer to the box if needed as well. Jordan Richards hasn’t panned out on defense, so it’s time to try and find the next guy to groom into the third safety role for a year or two from now.
Round 5, Pick 39
Pick: Eric Saubert, TE, Drake
Analysis: Even after trading for Dwayne Allen and resigning Matt Lengel, the health concerns of Allen and Rob Gronkowski should lead New England to dip their toes into a deep tight end class. Saubert is a relatively unknown prospect who has some in the community intrigued, with the size/athleticism combination that is coveted at the position. He is nearly all projection coming from such a small school, but New England has proven to be adept at getting talent out of their tight ends, so he’s worth a flier on day 3.
Round 6, Pick 14
Pick: Ardarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
Analysis: In the article linked under Biegels, section, it also mentions the Patriots are keeping a close eye on slot receivers as well. While it is hard to imagine why, with Julian Edelman, Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell, and Danny Amendola already on the roster just at wide receiver, the value here makes sense to add one. Bill Belichick has an obvious connection with Nick Saban and Alabama, and Stewart fits the bill of what they look for at slot receiver.
Round 7, Pick 21
Pick: Isaac Asiata, OG, Utah
Analysis: Asiata will in all likelihood be gone before the seventh round, but if he’s here he’s worth the pick. Long arms, big hands, functional strength and an explosive burst fits the bill of everything the Patriots look for. While the guard spots are seemingly locked up for the future with Joe Thuney and Shaq Mason, some aren’t sold on David Andrews as the center of the future, and if the Patriots feel that way, one of Mason or Asiata could slide in at center and theoretically lock up the interior for the forseeable future.
Who would you like to see the Patriots get in the draft? Head to the comment section and let me know!