The Patriots spent the free agent period adding depth to the defensive line and running back positions while retaining key free agents in Alan Branch, Dont’a Hightower, and Duron Harmon. In addition they traded for a young, up-and-coming receiver in Brandin Cooks and TE Dwayne Allen, whose injury history caused him to fall out of favor with the Colts new regime. For 2017, there aren’t very many pressing needs, which allows the Patriots to draft the best players they can. When it comes to a long term needs on the roster, this is what the Patriots should address:
- Edge rusher to replace Rob Ninkovich, contribute as a 3rd/4th DE in the rotation
- 3-Down Linebacker to replace Kyle Van Noy/Elandon Roberts tandem
- Left Tackle that may be asked to replace Nate Solder at LT
- A CB who can play in the slot, but also versatile enough to handle the boundary if needed there
- Box safety to replace Patrick Chung
The Patriots will have chances to fill those needs, although trading Malcolm Butler may allow them to add more talent at the top of the draft if the Patriots find the right deal.
72. Trey Hendrickson, EDGE, FAU
Hendrickson led the NCAA in pass rush productivity and set the FAU school record in sacks and TFL. Hendrickson is a better player on 3rd downs than 1st and 2nd down. Hendrickson is natural dropping into coverage and can rush from a 2-point stance. Hendrickson struggles to get off blocks when engaged in the run game against power/gap runs, but disrupts zone runs to the edge with his quickness. His 4.20 shuttle led all defensive lineman and his 7.03 3-cone at 6’4” 266 was one of the best for this year’s edge rusher class. Hendrickson figures to replace Ninkovich at the 2nd defensive end spot in 2018 after spending the first year as a situational player and special teamer.
Also considering: EDGE Dawaune Smoot, CB Howard Wilson, OT Taylor Moton, EDGE Vince Biegel
96. Harvey Langi, LB, BYU
Langi was misused as a defensive end in BYU’s 3-4 scheme and struggled. He had a stronger 2015 when used as both an inside and outside linebacker where his athleticism plays better. Tackling is still an issue, as Langi will let players slip out of his grasp more frequently than you’d like. His 4.62 40 plus 7.00 3-cone is a nice blend of speed and agility. I don’t think he displaces Roberts and Van Noy at the LB position in Year 1, but could be a solid player for them in Years 2-4.
Also considered: CB Desmond King, S Nate Gerry, OT Taylor Moton, RB James Conner, WR Ryan Switzer, CB Howard Wilson, EDGE Vince Biegel
131. Nate Gerry, S, Nebraska
Gerry is one of the draft’s biggest sleepers at the safety position. While not as rangy as guys ranked ahead of him, Gerry did not disappoint in terms of production. Gerry has 3 years of solid production at Nebraska, intercepting 13 passes and averaging 70 tackles a season. Gerry isn’t the best athlete at the position with a 4.58 40, 30 1⁄2 vertical, and 10’2” broad jump, but plays above his athleticism. While he isn’t going to make any Pro Bowls, he should be a solid contributor for many years like James Sanders.
Also considered: S Delano Hill, EDGE Carroll Phillips, RB James Conner, WR Trent Taylor, CB Desmond King
163. Forfeited to Buffalo Bills to sign RFA Mike Gillislee
183. Julie’n Davenport, OT, Bucknell
Davenport is a big tackle at 6’7” 310 and has solid length to keep pass rushers off. His technique needs improvement, but he doesn’t need to play right away. The Patriots have Solder, Cannon, and Fleming who can play right away and let Davenport develop behind the scenes. A long and athletic OL, some work with Dante Scarnecchia could eventually turn those traits into production.
Also considered: EDGE Carroll Phillips, RB James Conner, CB Cameron Sutton, OL Will Holden
200. Channing Stribling, CB, Michigan
The Patriots are in need of a CB who can handle the slot when there is a need to use it. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Malcolm Butler, and Stephon Gilmore have prior experience playing in the slot, but don’t have more than a handful of snaps there. Stribling’s athletic numbers profile him more towards the slot, where he can handle quicker receivers who aren’t necessarily fast. Stribling would compete with both Jonathan and Cyrus Jones for the starting slot role.
Also considered: RB Jamaal Williams, WR Noel Thomas, WR Austin Carr, TE Eric Saubert
239. Austin Carr, WR, Northwestern
With the need to develop a slot WR to eventually take over for Danny Amendola after the season, Carr makes the most sense. Leading the Big 10 in catches, yards, and touchdowns, Carr has the production you’re looking for in a slot receiver. On his Pro Day he tested well with a 1.6 10, 4.07 shuttle, and 6.70 3-cone, which all barely fit in my slot WR criteria. While the WR position is crowded early on, Carr may have to start the season on the practice squad and wait his turn. His roster spot could be dependent on if he can return punts.