Ok, it’s been a bit of an odd draft so far. With a 1st round pick of an impressive but undersized defensive tackle coming off an ACL injury who likely projects to defensive end in the NFL, and a QB who will likely not see the field for at least 2 years, maybe 3. And then having traded out of round 3.
While the offseason free agent additions to the defensive backfield promise a highly improved secondary, the draft so far has lacked an obvious impact player. And while it is not likely to get a pick in rounds 4+ that is instantly recognizable as impact pick, there are still some potential contributors out there, and the Pats have often been good at bargain hunting.
So, who’s left …
To start with, let’s look at what the Patriots have for picks.
Round 4: Picks 5 (From Jags), 30 & 40. (Compensatory pick)
Round 6: Picks 3 (From Jags), 22 (Eagles) & 30.
Round 7: Pick 29
I am going to focus on Round 4 picks, as it’s hard to predict who will be available by round 6, and even harder to judge who will make the team, much less have an impact.
Now, what do we need. Cornerback was addressed in Free Agency. Wide receiver was also to an extent, but a tall red zone target would still be useful. However, tight end is still a definite need and the offensive line would benefit from the infusion of some young talent. Lastly, while I would still say we have a decent stable of running backs (Ridley, Vereen, and Bolden) the departure of Blount opens the door for a possible addition for depth.
Let’s start by looking at tight ends. With the arrest of Hernandez and Gronk’s stream of injuries, an
area of strength for the Patriot has suddenly become one of need. Cue Marcel Jenson from Fresno state. Projected to go in the 5th or 6th rounds, the Patriots could possibly snag him with a late 4th round pick. At 6’6 and 259 lbs, physically he would be a great book end to Gronkowski.
Running a 4.85 40, he has good hands and long arms to go up and fight for the ball high and in the red zone, and is a good blocker in the run game. He still has some development to do, and was not featured in the receiver dominated offense he played in, but could be the “value pick” you are looking for in the 4th round. The versatility to have an impact in both the pass and run game is very valued by Belichick, and by Brady, who excels at changing plays at the line, as long as he has the right personnel in to do it. The more flexible the players in with him, the more dangerous he is.
Next, let’s consider the offensive line. While still a good unit, injuries reduced its effectiveness some last year. Enter Antonio Richardson from Tennessee. Projected as a 2nd or 3rd round pick, he is still available, though likely not for long. But with the 5th pick in the 4th round, the Patriots have a chance to land him still.
At 6’6 and 336 pounds, he passes the eye test. He has great strength and long arms, and is not easily moved. Some knocks on him are that he plays a bit to passively, and needs to develop more. Coming on as a back up to eventual starter with the Patriots would allow him the time he needs to develop, while providing emergency depth against injuries in the short run.
Lastly, let’s see who might be left at the RB position. From Florida state, let’s look at Devonta Freeman. Running a 4.58 40, with a compact frame and good lower body strength, he could be a good insurance policy against injury, as well as pushing our current RB though competition.
I believe he could legitimately challenge Bolden for the 3rd RB spot. He is a good pass catcher, and good in pass protection as well, his all-around skill set would make him a good back up for both Ridley or Vereen. He is not known as a between the tackles runner, but other than that, he would be an excellent pick up for the late 4th round.
With no 5th round picks, let’s hope the Patriots maximize the impact of their 3 fourth round picks. Go Pats!