In 2013 the Patriots yet again tasted the AFC Championship game. Although unable to make the trip to the Superbowl, the injuries and setbacks the team endured through out the season still left an impressive mark in the AFC East.
During the offseason, the New England Patriots where more aggressive than normal signing the likes of Brandon Browner and Brandon LaFell before landing the coveted corner of the East, Darrelle Revis. Now with a a bolstered roster the Patriots and Bill Belichick will do what they do best and build quality depth through the upcoming 2014 NFL Draft. Their selection slot puts them in a position to select the best player available or whomever Belichick sees as a perfect fit.
Being that this years draft is one of the deepest, it would not be out of the blue to see the Patriots trade away their 29th pick overall, but the possibility also exists that they might just move up as well. But with out trades involved, how would those selections go? This is my view on how the draft will pan out for the AFC East champions.
Rd 1. – Pick 29th, Dee Ford
One of the issues the Patriots found themselves in last season was the lack of pass rush and quality depth along the defensive line. Dee Ford will provide help in both those areas with one pick. Ford comes with good size and although he comes in light to play defensive end in the NFL at 252 lbs, his frame is built to add some more weight and should not be a problem for him.
His athleticism and great burst of the line of scrimmage will add to a defensive line that had Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich play almost 95% of the time. Having Ford in the rotation will not only add rest time to the line but also aid in keeping the line healthy in the long run.
Ford does come with a couple of drawback that might eliminate him from contention. The first is his agility as he is not the most mobile of the draft group, but has shown good improvement in his drop back ability when in coverage throughout the pre-draft process. The other and one that most likely concerns Belichick the most, will be his injuries, but he has been very proactive in addressing that issue.
Rnd 2. – Pick 62, Telvin Smith
The largest depth issue the Patriots have is at the linebacker position. Currently Jerod mayo, Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower have a hold on the starting positions, as a rotational player Smith would be ideal. Maybe a bit undersized when compared to the rest of the NFL at 6’3″ 218 lbs, Smith has managed to quiet the doubters with his speed and ability to make plays at the next level.
Telvin Smith showed some very good positional versatility his senior season while playing inside and outside and making plays in the pass and run games. Versatility is something that Bill Belichick really looks for in his players and Smith’s abilities only furthers his case to join the team come the 2014 season.
Rd. 3 – Pick 93, Weston Richburg
One thing the Patriots like to do is improve every time they get a chance and even though Ryan Wendell signed a two year extension, the interior offensive line is a place they could use improvement. Quick of the snap and with good measures, Richburgh fits that bill. He is very mobile and has shown he can reach blocks as well as blocks on the second level.
Rd. – 4 Pick 130, Andre Williams
With rookie contracts coming to the final year for Shanne Vereen and Stevan Ridley, having a third option is at running back is a no brainer. The local favorite, Andre williams will be a good way to address the depth at the position.
Williams comes in as a powerful back who does his best when running for contact. With a powerful lower body he is almost certain to get the extra yards as he drives through contact plays. He does however come in with limitations as a pass catcher but in short yardage situations there is none better after the 1st round.
Rd. 4 – Pick 140, Christian Kirksey
In the 4th round the Patriots get a chance to cover for the offense and defense. Inside linebacker Christian Kirksey was a productive Big 10 player that made plays all over the field for Iowa. Athletic and fluid, Kirksey comes in with very good range. Just like Belichick likes in his players, Kirksey is another versatile addition that can add depth to the linebacker corps as well as contribute on special teams. Kirsey is also know for being a player with high character and a natural to lead. He is familiar with there Patriots as Iowa coach Brian Frentz is a known associate of Bill Belichick as well as an ex-coach for the Patriots.
Rd. 6 – Pick 198, Shamar Stephen
A relatively unknown in this years draft, Stephen is a former U-conn product with the size and athletic ability for the NFL. He can anchor the line of scrimmage and can push the pocket when needed, although consistency might be a question. Stephen plays both the 4-3 and 3-4 schemes on defense and is another versatile player that can very well be an intriguing project pick behind Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly and others.
Rd. 6 – Pick 206, Antone Exum
At 6’1″ 220 lbs Exum brings with his size a certain aggressiveness to the corner back position. Another extremely versatile prospect, he played the safety position for three years before moving into the corner spot. His ability to cover tight ends over the middle as well as receivers on the outside makes him a very attractive selection as a late pick.
Good speed and his hard hitting style makes him an immediate asset to special teams. When looking at Bill Belichick’s history of late round draftees, Exum is a near perfect fit in the late rounds.
Rd. 7 – Pick 244, Rob Blanchflower
With the tight end position being tenuous at best for the Patriots, a little “Gronk insurance” would be a good thing. Blanchflower has a great size and very good hands. He can dominate blockers and with his athletic ability he enters the middle of the field with confidence. Blanchflower might never yeah the heights of Gronkowski but he is very capable to step into the role and make an immediate impact for the Patriots.