The NFL world has officially hit the homestretch of draft season. You’ve heard all about the coverage that we have been doing since January. Weekly podcasts and draft profiles have tried to give you in-depth looks at individual prospects, while Ryan Spagnoli and Keagan Stiefel’s draft spreadsheet has assaulted you guys with information on over 150 different prospects.
In an effort to make all of this info a little more palatable, we have now got something new for you: A New England Patriots-specific big board with 50 players represented across all seven rounds of the draft. Today we continue with Round 4.
For more information about each prospect listed, please make sure to check out this spreadsheet.
1. EDGE Hamilcar Rashed Jr, Oregon State
Why the Patriots? The signing of Matthew Judon signaled that the Patriots are looking to deploy longer and more athletic edge defenders in (what is expected to be) a new 3-4 base defense. Hamilcar Rashed Jr. was exactly that in his time as an Oregon State Beaver.
Drafting Rashed early on Day 3 would give New England another guy with great pass rushing tools who also shows up in the run game, specifically on the backside — an extremely important trait that the team is looking for. At the very least, Rashed would provide a solid number two option behind Judon who will be entering a new system for the first time in his career. A cheap yet solid insurance piece.
2. RB/WR Demetric Felton, UCLA
Why the Patriots? The Patriots’ running back situation looks great on paper. Damien Harris and Sony Michel both performed well in 2020 as part of a three-headed monster on early downs with Cam Newton in the backfield.
James White is returning for his seventh season in New England, just 63 catches away from breaking Kevin Faulk’s franchise mark for a running back. Brandon Bolden is back for his eighth year reprising his role as a core special teamer and emergency back. J.J. Taylor will also be returning in Year 2, hoping to carve out a bigger role for himself.
As soon as the 2021 season ends however, the Patriots will be caught in no man’s land as the only two backs signed on for 2022 are Harris and Taylor.
Even in a best-case scenario where Harris emerges as a bell cow and Taylor can fit into a change-of-pace role, the Patriots will need to find someone to catch the ball out of the backfield, and Felton fits that mold perfectly. Having worked out at both running back and wide receiver prior to the draft, it’s been well documented that the best place for him to end up is somewhere like New England, where he can perfect his craft as a receiver out of the backfield.
3. WR Cornell Powell, Clemson
Why the Patriots? Though his teammate Amari Rodgers has grabbed the headlines this offseason as a potential Patriots fit, Cornell Powell is actually the better fit for what the Patriots seem to be looking for out of newly acquired wide receivers. Exploding onto the scene as a redshirt senior, Powell found a role as a productive vertical threat while working at or inside the numbers. With Julian Edelman’s retirement as well as Nelson Agholor and N’Keal Harry expected to hold an outside role, Powell could be used as a vertical target closer to the formation.
4. EDGE Patrick Jones II, Pittsburgh
Why the Patriots? The easiest position to plug and play a rookie is pass rusher, because they would just be asked to pin back their ears and attack in passing situations. Jones would immediately contribute from that aspect, while the team would work on figuring out the best role to use him on early downs. His best position is playing the right defensive end role (usually the quarterback’s blind-side), whether that’s a hand in the dirt or a standup alignment.
5. RB Kenneth Gainwell, Memphis
Why the Patriots? All of the things said under the Felton tab remain true for Kenneth Gainwell. The team needs to set themselves up for the future at that position and Gainwell is just as good an option as Felton.
His 2019 season was a record-breaker, as he led his Memphis Tigers in all-purpose yards (2,069) and touchdowns (16) as a freshman. Though that production was limited to one season, with a redshirt coming before it and an opt-out coming after, Gainwell’s explosive playmaking ability and pension for finding soft spots as a route runner make him a perfect fit in New England.
6. S Caden Sterns, Texas
Why the Patriots? The short-term future of the safety position looks really strong in New England. Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, and Jalen Mills are all extremely versatile players who can play all over the formation, while Adrian Phillips will likely carry over his role as an in the box linebacker/safety hybrid. What they don’t have is a centerfield robber, though.
While McCourty can and will likely play that role, it is extremely important to the defense that he play within 12 yards and work as a coach on the field. Having a rookie plug into that spot as a potential replacement for McCourty down the line would be a smart move. Sterns can not only play that role, but he’s a physical player who can work in multiple systems as a man or zone coverage player. A common comparison for him has been Duron Harmon, a guy who played that role very well in New England.
7. DT Tyler Shelvin, LSU
Why the Patriots? Talk about a BIG boy. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 350 pounds, there is no mistaking what position Tyler Shelvin plays. That’s a nose tackle right there. Although the Patriots signed a few defensive tackles this offseason — Davon Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Montravius Adams — none of them play a true 0-technique quite like Shelvin, meaning they don’t line up head up with the center on a play-to-play basis.
Shelvin makes his money off doing just that.
The expectation is that New England will be exploring more three-man fronts on the defensive line this season, and in doing so they would need a true nose tackle to fill up the middle gaps on rushing downs. Being able to get a guy to fill such an important role in the fourth round would be an absolute slam dunk of a pick.
8. S Jevon Holland, Oregon
Why the Patriots? Much like Caden Sterns, the Patriots’ selection of Jevon Holland would be predicated on the fact that they believe he could fill that ball hawk role following the future departure of Devin McCourty. Holland is young (21), has great size (6-foot-1, 200 pounds), and athleticism (4.48 forty, 126 inch broad jump, and 4.14 shuttle) as well as some eye popping numbers (nine interceptions in 27 games). The kid can play and will be had for cheap. The Patriots should be in on him.
9. OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa
Why the Patriots? Picking an offensive tackle in Round 4 this season would admittedly be a curious move. Both of the expected starting tackles on the current roster are only under contract for this upcoming season, making it likely that the team looks to build for the future a little bit earlier than the fourth round.
If they do however plan on locking up both Isaiah Wynn and Trent Brown for the long haul, Spencer Brown is a tremendous developmental option. Standing at 6-foot-8, he’s got the length and frame to build himself into a tremendous tackle at the next level. I’d call this a lock of a pick if Dante Scarnecchia didn’t retire...
10. IOL Ben Cleveland, Georgia
Why the Patriots? The last time New England picked an absolute unit of an interior offensive lineman it worked out pretty well with the selection of Michael Onwenu in the sixth round in 2020. Ben Cleveland is a very similar player. Excelling in the run game, Cleveland uses his 6-foot-6, 346-pound frame to his advantage by bulldozing his opponents. Athletically he won’t test very well but that won’t matter if he ever had to line up next to Trent Brown.
Depth is a small question along the interior offensive line, and Cleveland would put an end to it by making for a good second reserve option.