The New England Patriots had four picks in the second and third rounds of the 2013 NFL Draft, and they decided to take a pass rusher, a safety, a wide receiver, and cornerback with those four picks. They first chose Southern Mississippi defensive end and outside linebacker Jamie Collins with the 52nd pick, used their second second-round pick on Marshall Thunder Herd standout Aaron Dobson, scooped up Rutgers alumn Logan Ryan in the third, and then they capped off the second day of the draft by nabbing Ryan’s teammate and fellow All-Big East DB Duron Harmon.
The Patriots first three selections were a tad bit surprising when they were announced, by day-after analysis reveals that all three were solid picks, especially when given context. However, the decision to take Duron Harmon off the board with the 91st pick in the 2013 NFL Draft is one that I am not as keen on. It’s not that I don’t trust the Patriots, and I don’t think Harmon is a terrible player either. My issue is that the Patriots almost certainly could have drafted him later on, and even taking him in the fourth round would seem more salient than taking him in the third.
But the Patriots know Rutgers inside and out, and they could certainly be vindicated by taking Harmon. I mean, the Patriots had to have liked Harmon a lot to take him off the board, but I really hope another team in between the Patriots third and fourth round picks was jockeying to take Harmon. Otherwise, it’s tough to call the selection of Harmon anything other than a “reach” at this point, but I am certainly hoping that this “reach” ends up being one of the draft’s success stories. As always, time will tell.
Jamie Collins was a good way to start off the actual drafting by the Patriots in 2013, and he is a scheme-versatile, hyper-athletic player who will immediately contribute as a sub-package pass rusher. Although he is undersized and struggles in run defense, Collins has ridiculous athleticism, great explosiveness, very good speed in the 4.6s, and he is one of the longest pass rushers in this draft class. Collins can play at defensive end or at outside linebacker even in the 4-3, because he played at both safety and linebacker in college. His effort has been criticized before, but Greg Bedard and others have stated that it was due to a poor coaching staff at Southern Miss. The team was 0-12 and Collins was a star on an 0-12 team with 20 tackles for loss and ten sacks, so that definitely holds true.
Aaron Dobson was another pick that is tough to dislike, and the mediocre production at Marshall doesn’t do justice to his ability. Dobson has great intangibles, and he is an intelligent player who should be able to quickly grasp the Patriots playbook. He has an excellent opportunity at contributing immediately to the Patriots, and he has all the tools to be an impact wide receiver in this league. I honestly think he has a good chance at being the Pats No. 2 receiver, and I think that’s what the Patriots are envisioning him as. Dobson has sure hands, great body control, the ability to make amazing circus-style catches, low 4.4 speed, the ability to stretch defenses vertically, great size at 6’3″, and it just seems more and more like Dobson can be the solution for the Patriots. I’ve really warmed up to this pick- as have many other Patriots fans.
I already touched on Harmon, so let me briefly discuss his more celebrated teammate (for good reason, too). Logan Ryan fits the mold of a Patriots cornerback, because he is excellent against the run, is a leader with good intangibles, is physical, and he has good ball skills after picking off seven passes for Rutgers last season. Ryan looks more like a slot corner and will start the season as a No. 4 CB, but I think he has the ability to start on the outside if things can click for him. The Patriots will need to work on his technique, though, and Ryan isn’t the most disciplined player either. He can be too aggressive at times and is prone to pass interference calls. Ryan’s lack of long speed (he has great short-area quickness and is more quick than fast), subpar technique, and aggressive playing style make him burn-prone at times. But overall, Ryan is a solid pick and was clearly the best CB available after a big run on the position in this draft.
Overall, the Patriot nabbed three solid picks in this draft, and they came away with one reach. That constitutes a quality draft in my eyes, but it does hinge on the development of all four guys. You can say that about every draft, but I get the feeling that it is difficult to judge these players. Dobson, to me, is the guy who has the best chance of being the best player in this draft, and I am quickly falling in love with his ability. This draft isn’t going to get any high marks, but it scores a solid B- in my eyes. If the Patriots took Quinton Patton or Stedman Bailey instead of Harmon (and elected to take Harmon later on), then I would give this draft a higher grade. This was a solid draft, and that’s really all you can ask for- I hope nobody thinks I am slighting the Pats by giving a B-. I gave them an A in the first round for the trade, and I’m sure they will receive high marks in the later rounds (the Pats are the best team at finding unheralded talent, which is why I still have plenty of hope for Harmon). But I’m not going to sugar-coat things too much here, I don’t think this draft should be getting any high marks at this point in time- just decent-to-solid ones.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.