Round 1 (32nd overall) – Shaq Thompson, LB, Washington
Ht: 6’ Wt: 228 lbs
Linebacker is more of a need for the Patriots than most draft analysts are stating. Hightower, while he had an all-pro level 2014, is coming off serious surgery on a torn labrum. Mayo is on a massive contract and coming off 2 straight seasons that ended on IR after 6 games. Past that, there is no depth on the roster at LB. Enter Shaq Thompson who has a nose for the ball and extreme versatility that will allow Belichick to use very creative packages on passing downs. Shaq played significant time at safety as well, where the Patriots also have poor depth after Devin McCourty.
What I actually think will happen: The Patriots will trade up in the 1st round and select the top guard as evaluated by Dante Scarnecchia. Scar has been scouring the country for OG prospects the last month or two and I don’t expect that body of work to go unused.
Round 2 (64th overall) – Clive Walford, TE, Miami
Ht: 6’4” Wt: 251 lbs
I believe that Walford is the top tight end in the 2015 draft class. He has the size and speed that is prototypical for today’s NFL tight ends and has the blocking ability that so few of the pass-catching tight ends in the NFL have these days. Pass blocking for the Patriots is extremely important with their short passing and screen based offense. Some fill-in blockers have been able to make their way onto the roster but have never had any impact in the passing game. Walford can be that guy. In addition, while the Patriots have the best TE in the NFL in Rob Gronkowski, he has not been the picture of health and without him the offense is entirely different. There needs to be a backup plan.
Round 3 (96th overall) – Max Garcia, OL, Florida
Ht: 6’4” Wt: 309 lbs
We couldn’t have a Patriots draft without a player for Florida right? Max Garcia has played everywhere on the offensive line, which given the health history of everyone on the current OL depth chart, could be a huge benefit. He started out at tackle at Maryland (a known Patriots visit) and then started at left guard after a transfer to Florida. In 2014, he converted once again, to play center. This versatility is a sought after trait by the Patriots. In addition to the versatility, he was a team captain even after transferring in and is a powerful OG, something that the Patriots interior certainly lacked in 2014 with Mankins gone.
Round 3 (97th overall – compensatory pick) – Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, CB, Oregon
Ht: 5’9” Wt: 192 lbs
Ifo has very high-end talent and if not for getting injured during practice late in the season we would likely have heard his name called on Day 1 of the draft. The Patriots need defensive back help pretty badly with the departures of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner. However, Belichick is not a strong CB drafter and I would rather he take a mid-round risk on high talent than try and find the diamond in the rough with little talent out of Rutgers. Ifo could play early on in nickel packages with the potential of having a big impact toward the end of the season.
Round 4 (101st overall via Tampa Bay) – Chris Conley, WR, Georgia
Ht: 6’2” Wt: 213 lbs
Conley is a fast riser up draft boards since his combine performance for the ages. Conley ran a 4.35 40, had a 45” vertical and 139” broad jump. Although it isn’t his combine that has me intrigued, for me it is his hard work ethic and intelligence. The Patriots have needed a downfield threat since Moss left and Conley could be that guy, with the potential to be a threat over the middle as well. Conley’s college stats at run-first Georgia were less than eye-popping but it will surprise few if he garners success at the pro-level.
Round 4 (131st overall) – Mitch Morse, OL, Missouri
Ht: 6’5” Wt: 305 lbs
Here the Patriots double up at OG as they try and find their future starting guards next to Bryan Stork. Morse is the opposite of Garcia in many ways as he is more of a finesse player who played mostly tackle throught his college career. His style is a good fit for the short passing, screen offense of the Patriots as he get out in front of plays. He would likely be an apt replacement for the mediocre aging Ryan Wendell, who could find himself on the outside looking in this year, despite adequate play the last couple of years.
Round 6 (177th overall via Tampa Bay) – John “Taz” Crockett, RB, North Dakota St.
Ht: 6’ Wt: 217 lbs
I hadn’t really heard of this guy at all until last week, he was on a draft special and he seemed like an intriguing late round pick. He’s a hit the hole type of back with good hands that could possibly help fill the void left by both Ridley and Vereen. The Patriots have a lot of bodies at RB on the roster, but there is really no sure thing on the roster.
Round 7 (219th overall via Tennessee) – Nick Marshall, CB, Auburn
Ht: 6’1” Wt: 207 lbs
There is a good chance that Marshall doesn’t last until the 219th pick, he is an accomplished college QB at Auburn that is converting to CB as an attempt to make it in the NFL. Because of his TV time at Auburn he is better known that most 7th round picks normally are prior to the draft. Marshall has the prototypical size and speed along with superior overall athleticism for the outside cornerback position in the NFL, but obviously is a project who hasn’t played the position for a few years. This will be reminiscent of the Patriots selection of Julian Edelman, former college QB, in the 7th round of the 2009 NFL draft.
Round 7 (253rd overall – compensatory pick) – Ellis McCarthy, DT, UCLA
Ht: 6’5” Wt: 338 lbs
This man is large. I think that the loss of Vince Wilfork is a little overstated. Wilfork is one of the best Patriots in the entire Bill Belichick era and his locker room presence is going to be the biggest loss. Other than Wilfork though, everyone on the DL is back for 2015, including 2014 first round pick Dominique Easley. This allows the Patriot to wait until the 7th round for a DT and pick someone with a high upside that has had a disappointing career since being a 5-star recruit out of high school. McCarthy is a high risk, high reward day 3 pick that given some good coaching could prove a dominant force up the middle of rushing downs.