The New England Patriots don’t have a pick in the first two rounds of the draft, but that doesn’t mean we can’t look to the mainstream mock drafts for potential takeaways. ESPN’s Mel Kiper and Todd McShay issued a dueling two-round mock draft and we can look at the players still on the board for potential options for the Patriots at their 72nd overall selection.
The first two rounds consist of 64 selections, so I cross referenced Kiper’s and McShay’s picks with the top prospects in the NFLDraftScout (NDS) rankings to see which top players remain on the board, and there are at least five that surprised me. McShay and Kiper shared 60 out of 64 prospects, albeit in different draft orders, with most of the differences coming in the final few picks of the second round.
Both draftniks used 52 of NDS’ top 64 prospects in their mocks, and they shared the same 10 exclusions: Auburn EDGE Carl Lawson (#39); Clemson CB Cordrea Tankersley (#47); Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillan (#49); Indiana OG Dan Feeney (#50); Penn State WR Chris Godwin (#52); Florida CB Teez Tabor (#56); Charlotte DT Larry Ogunjobi (#57); Iowa DB Desmond King (#58); Pittsburgh OG Dorian Johnson (#59), and Ohio EDGE Tarell Basham (#64).
There were just two other top 64 prospects still on the board that were unique to each Kiper and to McShay, and that’s what surprised me.
#25 Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
Kiper did not mock the Vanderbilt linebacker in the first two rounds, which is crazy to me. McShay had Cunningham going 44th overall, which is also extremely low, but it seems like neither draftnik believes that linebackers will be a hot commodity in this draft. This works to the Patriots benefit if they’re looking to find a player to pair with LB Dont’a Hightower.
Cunningham can stop the run, he can drop into coverage, and he can make plays in the backfield. He’s NFL-size, productive in the SEC, and has excellent athleticism. His big knock has been his ability to wrap up and tackle consistently- but to allow Cunningham to drop into the third round is wild.
#42 Ohio State ATH Curtis Samuel
McShay did not mock Samuel in his first two rounds, while Kiper had him going 43rd overall. Samuel recorded 771 rushing yards and 8 rushing touchdowns and 865 receiving yards and 7 receiving touchdowns in 2016. He’s an athlete in the NFL and it doesn’t matter where you line him up- you just have to get him the ball.
Dating back to 2000, there’s only one other draft prospect with 700+ rushing yards, 800+ receiving yards, and 10+ touchdowns while competing in a Power Five conference: Percy Harvin.
Both Harvin and Samuel at 5’11 and roughly 195 pounds. Harvin ran a 4.41s 40 yard dash; Samuel bested him with a 4.31s 40 yard dash at the combine. Harvin was more productive in college as he contributed in three seasons, while Samuel really only emerged in 2016.
Samuel seems like a player that could thrive in today’s flexible position league.
#61 N.C. State DB Josh Jones
Another super flexible player is the 6’1, 220 pound Jones, who owns a 4.41s 40 yard dash, 11’ broad jump, and 7.05s three cone. Jones played strong safety for two years, free safety for a year, and moonlighted in the slot and at linebacker. McShay has Jones going 60th overall. Kiper does not have him in the first two rounds.
At first glance, it’s not weird to see a player ranked #61 slip into the third round; that’s just a minor blip due to the draft board. But in an increasingly safety driven league, Jones is an athletic freak that can deliver on the field. How are teams going to let him slip into the third round?
#62 Eastern Washington WR Cooper Kupp
The 6’2, 204 pound Kupp holds records for receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns after putting up 428/6,464/73 over the course of his career. He’s also a punt returner. While Kupp doesn’t have blazing straight-line speed (4.62s 40 yard dash), he dominated the shuttle drill (4.08s) and three cone drill (6.75s) showing off his change of direction ability.
Kiper sent Kupp to the Green Bay Packers at 61st overall and McShay let him slip into the third round. Kupp is a slot receiver, which makes it difficult for teams to argue for a player with his production to go much earlier, but could be a solid Jordan Matthews-type in the NFL.
#68 Washington CB Sidney Jones
I’m going to list a fifth player for good measure. Kiper sent Jones to the Falcons at 63rd overall, while McShay didn’t mock Jones in the first two rounds. Jones tore his Achilles at his Pro Day, but it projected to return to the field early in his rookie season. The 6’0, 186 pound cornerback was projected as a top 15 pick prior to his injury and tied for 5th in the class with 29 disruptions (break-ups, interceptions, forced fumbles) alongside Tankersley.
Both Jones and Tankersley would be great fits for what the Patriots have in mind for their secondary and teams would be wrong to overlook Jones because he’ll need some time to get back on the field as a rookie.
The Patriots would love any of these five players at #72 and when you add in Lawson, Tankersley, McMillan, Tabor, King, and Basham, the odds are still very good that the Patriots could be looking at a player with a top grade still on the board at their first pick in the third round.