I took the time to grade all three days of the 2013 NFL Draft for the New England Patriots separately, and you can read my “Day One” piece here, the second day here, and my day three grade here. Now, it is time to wrap things up and give an overall grade to the New England Patriots 2013 NFL Draft.
In the first round, the Patriots made a wise four-for-one deal with the Minnesota Vikings, and I think this deal worked out well for both teams. The Vikings got the explosive wideout they wanted, while the Patriots got the chance to fortify their roster as a whole by adding more picks in a deep draft.
What the Patriots need to be evaluated on, though, is how they used those picks. Their first choice in the draft was Southern Mississippi’s “Elephant” Jamie Collins, and Collins is a guy who was reportedly always high on the Patriots board. He is long, explosive, and athletic. Collins has the ability to make an impact dropping off in coverage, and his ability to help out the linebackers in coverage will be key. His ability to rush the passer behind Rob Ninkovich is also a big plus, and the athleticism and versatility that Collins brings to the table made him an ideal pick for the Pats.
Aaron Dobson was drafted in the late second round over more established receivers like Keenan Allen and Markus Wheaton, so he’s always going to be measured against those two. Dobson is a very talented player in his own right, and he has all the tools to be an “X” receiver in the Patriots offense. He did not drop a pass last season, is known for his character and intelligence, and he has the ability to stretch the field vertically with 4.4 speed. Several of you guys have reiterated in the comments section that you wanted a tall receiver, and Dobson is your man at 6’3″. He has the best chance of being the best selection in this draft for the Patriots, in my opinion.
The third round of the draft is the one that is met with the most criticism, and that’s because of the second Rutgers DB the Pats decided to take. The Rutgers pipeline was extremely strong in this draft, but there can be almost no qualms with the Pats selection of cornerback Logan Ryan. CB was one of the Pats biggest needs in this draft, and the talented players at the position (or just CBs in general) were flying off the board at a rapid pace. If the Pats didn’t decide to land Ryan, then they could have ended up empty-handed. Ryan has all the intangibles of a player Bill Belichick likes, and he also has the traits that BB looks for in a CB. Ryan is physical, has great short-area quickness, has good ball skills, and he is a monster in run defense. However, he lacks technique, can get beat due to being over-aggressive, doesn’t have the best long speed, and thus he does get burned.
The Patriots truly questionable pick in this draft was Duron Harmon, and I am hoping he ends up being a Tavon Wilson story with a successful rookie season. Harmon is also a smart safety with good leadership qualities, and he can also play at both strong and free safety. However, Harmon isn’t as assured in coverage, and he was actually a worse prospect than Wilson coming out of college. I still think the Patriots could have waited on Harmon, but remember that the San Diego Chargers were prepared to pull Wilson off the board in the second. There is no telling if another team would have been willing to take a jump on Harmon, so I am assuming that the Patriots have big things planned for Harmon. Nobody is going to take things out on Harmon, though, because he seems like a great person and is not at fault for a “reach”. I think Harmon has a great opportunity to prove the Patriots right, and the Pats could really pull an “F U” statement here with success from Harmon. I always have this feeling that Bill Belichick wants to prove people who don’t give teams the benefit of the doubt in draft analysis wrong.
I thought the Patriots made an excellent pick in the fourth round of the draft in nabbing Josh Boyce out of TCU, and most people agree that Boyce was a great pick. I’ve still heard some people grumble about the pick, and I don’t understand the hate on him. He ran a 4.38 forty at the Combine, averaged 15.7 yards per reception at TCU, and he weighs 206 pounds. He didn’t have the most productive year last season, but that’s because of an awful quarterback situation that was supposed to be a strength. Boyce has a chance to be a high-impact player for the Pats, and the Pats covet smart players like Boyce who also have the ability to play inside and outside.
The seventh round of the draft yielded a great value pick in Michael Buchanan, who is another hybrid defensive end and linebacker. He was supposed to be a star for Illinois last season, but Buchanan took a step back in a disappointing year. He does a good job of getting outside contain, has good length, has the speed to be an effective pass rusher, and he is pretty good in pass coverage. Buchanan should have been selected in the fourth or fifth round of the draft, so he was a steal in the seventh.
Ignoring the Jeff Demps for LeGarrette Blount deal that was a success for the Pats, the final seventh-rounder was used on Rutgers linebacker Steve Beauharnais. There isn’t much on him either, but he’s a fair pick in the seventh. Beauharnais is another high character Rutgers player with enough athleticism to be an asset in coverage and enough ability in run defense to stick on the roster and make an impact on special teams. Some, like Greg Bedard, believe Beaharnais could be Tracy White‘s successor on special teams and at LB.
I’ve seen people grade this year’s Patriots draft in the low Cs and in the low As, but I prefer to take a middle ground position. This draft was more than just “mediocre” or “average”, and it was clearly not a “great” draft. But it was a solid one, and I would actually give it a “B” overall. There were no excellent picks, but there were two very good ones in Buchanan and Boyce. Dobson and Collins were two solid picks in the second, Ryan made plenty of sense in the third, and only Harmon was a head-scratcher (I bank on one of those per year). Overall, you can’t ask for more than this- a solid draft that fills needs and adds a potential impact player or two at the top end. I’m usually pretty stingy with draft grades, so I consider a “B” to be a solid success. If you think this draft was terrible, then I think you are being too pessimistic. If you think this draft was great, then I think you need to tone it down a little bit. It was a rock solid draft, and I have to admit that I am pretty psyched about how the Pats use these new guys; it seems like Dobson, Boyce, and Collins will change the complexion of how the wide receiver position and front seven look.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.