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Draft Day Mixed Bag: What to look for from the Patriots in the 2018 NFL Draft

It all begins tonight. Let’s go.

AFC Championship - Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

It’s NFL Draft day folks! Unlike 2016, when I snuck into the VIP section of the draft in Chicago and compared Roger Goodell to Adolf Hitler, I’ll be watching from the comfort of my apartment tonight, eagerly waiting for the Patriots to add new talent to the roster. Having the most draft capital since the 2012 draft that saw them select Chandler Jones and Donta’ Hightower, Patriots Nation is understandably buzzing.

To me, the three weeks or so after Pro Days are the most excruciating and pointless time of the draft season. It’s that time where there are nothing but smokescreens and reports of top 30 visits. And as we’ve seen, top 30 visits don’t always indicate that the Patriots are going to pick the player. Over the last 3 drafts, the Patriots have drafted 7 of the players they hosted on top 30 visits, but the majority of them were later round prospects. The highest player selected was Antonio Garcia, number 85 overall in the 2017 draft.

So with that being said, this column is going to be a mixed bag of my thoughts over the last few weeks. A mix of film, hot takes, and opinion. Everything you might need before the next 3 days of chaos. Let’s roll.

I would not draft these players in the 1st round if I were the Patriots

Lamar Jackson or Mason Rudolph

I have disliked both of these guys as prospects for quite some time. While I do like Lamar’s potential, and wouldn’t be livid if the Patriots took him at #31 if he fell that far, I don’t think I would take Mason Rudolph before day three.

Starting off with Lamar Jackson, who is a favorite of many, and has been the only quarterback in 1st round consideration that has been linked to the Patriots. There’s a lot to like about Lamar, including arm strength, mobility, and familiarity with a pro-style offense. He’s a play maker, often making the kind of plays that only people with his unique combination of arm talent and athleticism can make. However, his accuracy was a problem, and it was mainly a footwork issue. I actually love his throwing motion itself, but his footwork is inconsistent at best. And when his footwork is bad, it’s among the worst footwork I’ve ever seen out of a quarterback in first round consideration.

Why can’t Lamar Jackson just keep that form?! I mean – c'mon! – that’s textbook and a fantastic throw. If I saw that kind of throw 90% of the time in his tape, I’d be all on board with him in the 1st. But then there’s this stuff...

Like these plays display the footwork of a high school duel threat quarterback ranked 8th in the state on Rivals. You see it in every game with Lamar, he doesn’t spread his feet enough and he throws off his back foot, trusting his arm, not his whole body.

When scouting film, what I like to do is take the film from the guy’s best game and try to find flaws, and then take film from his worst game and try to find positives. For Lamar, his best game on film was him vs North Carolina, and this kind of footwork was prevalent throughout. He sometimes still made plays in spite of it, but in a the NFL, where the margin for error is small, that’s not going to cut it.

That’s a lazily thrown ball that Jackson doesn’t put enough on as the back leaks out. This is a footwork issue if you look closely. More velocity on the ball sets up the back with much greater YAC, he had to slow down a bit to catch the pass.

This is one of those WTF kind of throws. Rolling to his left, throwing off of the wrong foot on 3rd down? Gross.

And this is the worst of all. Throw the ball out of bounds dude! Live to see another day. That’s a backbreaking interception in the NFL.

These 3 clips were all from Lamar Jackson’s best game of probably his entire college career and that’s 3 awful plays in the first 18 minutes of the game.

Mason Rudolph is like if you took Lamar Jackson, improved his footwork a little bit, but removed his athleticism, arm strength, and his familiarity with a pro-style offense. Seriously, I think Rudolph is a serviceable backup in the NFL in his best case scenario. I won’t go that deep into his film, but I’ll leave you with a few clips that demonstrate just how bad Rudolph’s arm is. Don’t confuse this with his deep ball, which is actually one of his few strengths. He has the distance and touch on those throws, but poor velocity. He’s going to struggle to complete simple sideline throws in the NFL.

Mason Rudolph has the anti-Josh Allen arm. Poor velocity + no pro-style + below average athlete = 4th round grade for me. I like Lauletta and Mike White significantly more than Rudolph in that 2nd/3rd round range.

Leighton Vander Esch

Not even taking into consideration the recent reports that several teams have medically taken him off their boards due to spine/neck injury concerns, I would not take Vander Esch in the first round, an opinion I’ve held for a while. My concern with him primarily comes from his lack of experience in a poor conference, often wild technique, and the fact that he became a better football player in scout’s eyes after he stopped playing football.

In my write up about LVE after the combine I gave him a Jamie Collins comparison. After all, he had an amazing combine as one of the heaviest players in his position groups. The only issue is that he shares a lot of the same flaws as Collins and Elandon Roberts on film. Freelancing and hitting the wrong gaps against the run. LVE at times is almost too reliant on his athleticism. The same guy that made these kind of freak plays...

Also made these kind of plays...

LVE is still a very raw player with only one year of starting experience in the Mountain West Conference. And he was never thought of as a first rounder until after the combine... eerily similar to fellow Boise State draft riser Shea McClellin back in 2012. Like LVE, McClellin was thought of as a raw 2nd/3rd rounder before impressing in workouts and being selected 19th overall before Chandler Jones and Whitney Mercilus.

Players that I would trade up for using both 1st round picks

Inspired by Brian Phillips’ exercise yesterday, here is the list of marquee prospects that I would trade both first rounders for.

Josh Rosen

To me, this one is a no-brainer. If he is still available at around #10, I would give up both firsts and more to acquire Rosen, who I believe is the best quarterback in the draft. It would be a hefty price that would likely cost an additional future 1st, but that’s the price you have to pay for a franchise quarterback. It’s worth noting that San Francisco at #9 and Oakland at #10 are both trade-down candidates.

Tremaine Edmunds

I mentioned Leighton Vander Esch as a possible Jamie Collins type player. Well, Edmunds is closest thing to Jamie that I’ve seen out of any player, right down to the occasional mental lapses.

Edmunds is an insane athlete for his size

Edmunds will be drafted at 19 years old tonight, and he will certainly be able to put on more bulk. He isn’t even close to his physical prime. I believe that in a draft full of talented defensive players like Bradley Chubb, Derwin James, Roquan Smith and others, Edmunds has the highest ceiling and it isn’t particularly close.

Derwin James

James is a versatile play maker that could conceivably play either safety position or slot cornerback in the NFL. He’s excellent as a box safety in everything from man coverage to blitzing and playing the run, and he profiles as a long-term Patrick Chung replacement. He would still be able to contribute his rookie year by taking Jordan Richards’ snaps and probably a handful of Chung’s.

Josh Allen

This opinion is sure to bring some alarm to many, but I firmly believe in Josh Allen as my number two quarterback just based on ceiling alone. In my eyes, he’s the perfect long-term backup for Brady. Allen has all of the physical attributes you want in a pocket passer and working behind Brady for a couple years to improve his accuracy before starting is the best situation he could be in.

Using my criteria of trying to find the worst game of a player’s career and find good things, Allen was much better than his stat line indicated against Iowa. And he was downright amazing in his bowl game against Central Michigan.

This is all probably a moot point: Allen is almost a lock to be picked top three and may very well go number one overall tonight. But if he falls like Rosen is rumored to, I wouldn’t hesitate to go all in on Allen as the quarterback of the future. He has a first ballot Hall of Fame ceiling and the Patriots will never get the opportunity to pick a guy with that kind of talent ever again if they pass on the opportunity. On other teams (*cough* Bills *cough*), I think Josh Allen would fail spectacularly. But on a structured team with a mentor like the Patriots, I can see him much more likely to reach his potential.

Day 1 draft strategy primer

Who should the Patriots target with a trade up?

With two 1st round picks, the Patriots have a lot of options and flexibility tonight. The last time they had two 1st rounders, they traded up both times, at the cost of a 3rd and 4th rounder.

Looking at the NFL draft order, I think there are several spots that the Patriots could think about trading up to, specifically at #9, #10, #17, and #19.

I mentioned San Francisco and Oakland earlier. Both are teams that have established quarterbacks and could look to sell their pick to a team that wants to jump ahead for a QB over need teams like Miami (11), Buffalo (12), or Arizona (15). The cost will be hefty: the 1300 value the 10th pick has on the Jimmy Johnson draft chart is worth a little less than both 1st rounders that the Patriots own (1360) but when factoring in the QB tax, the Patriots are likely looking at trading those two picks and #43 at the minimum, and would probably cost a future 1st or 2nd as well.

#17, a pick currently held by the Chargers is important because it lies right before another tackle starved team, the Seahawks at #18. If McGlinchey falls to #17, I pick up the phone immediately to prevent Seattle from picking him. According to the chart, trading up from #23 to #18 would cost the equivalent value of the 80th overall pick. Example trade: #23 and #63 for #18, #119 and #191.

#19 is owned by the Cowboys and trading for their pick would enable the Patriots to be able to leap Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia’s Lions for an inside linebacker. To trade up from #23 to #20 would not cost too much, the value equivalent of the #103 pick.

Who should the Patriots target with a trade down?

I believe (and a number of other people share this opinion) that the Patriots will trade up from #23 and trade down from #31. The Patriots have a huge hole in the middle of their draft from #95 to #198 and I would be shocked if they didn’t try to replenish picks in that range. A number of teams make sense from this angle, including the Colts and Browns.

From the Colts perspective, I can see them falling in love with Frank Ragnow or one of the 2nd tier running backs like Guice, Jones or Nick Chubb. Possessing an extra 2nd round pick from their trade down with the Jets, they have the extra draft capital to make a trade work.

The Browns are a team with a bunch of holes but they almost have too much draft capital. It’s in their best interest to use some of that excess to get back in the 1st to land a slightly better talent with a 5th year option attached. The Brown did this last year, trading into the 1st using picks #33 and #108 to take David Njoku at #29. And this year, they have 2nd round picks at #33, #35, and #64 to use.

Patriots draft hot takes/predictions

I’m at 2,000 words right now without even realizing it so I’ll wind this down. I won’t go into intense detail with any of these thoughts but I’ll address any of these in the comments. The internet is forever and I’m locking these takes in for eternity. Like Harvey Dent once said, you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

  • The Patriots trade up from #23 and down from #31
  • They double dip at DT and Malcom Brown is traded before OTAs
  • They don’t take a defensive back on the draft’s first two days
  • They don’t take an inside linebacker in the 1st round
  • They take 1 of Lauletta/White/Falk in back half of the 2nd round
  • If they miss on McGlinchey, they take Connor Williams in the 2nd
  • Maurice Hurst falls out of the 1st round due to health concerns and the Pats take him in the 2nd.
  • They draft a tight end in the 2nd or 3rd
  • They draft 1 wide receiver, and it’s either Dylan Cantrell, Trey Quinn, Braxton Berrios or Keke Coutee

And with that, that’s the end of my 2018 NFL draft primer. One of my favorite weekends of the year is upon us and I can’t wait. Get ready for the rodeo everyone.