November 17, 2012; Gainesville FL, USA; Florida Gators defensive back Matt Elam (22) rushes during the second quarter against the Jacksonville State Gamecocks at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
The NFL Draft will have a different look and feel for Patriot fans this year. This is mostly due to the fact that , as of today, New England is heading into the event with five picks instead of the double-digit totals that are usually the norm for the franchise.
Barring any trades before or during the draft (because that never happens); Bill Belichick is going to have to make the most of what he has early on. The Patriots have one pick in each of the first three rounds. After that, they won’t pick again until the No. 12 slot in the seventh round.
The Patriots do have needs that can be filled with these picks. With any luck, they’ll be able to snag a steal or two as they did with Alfonzo Dennard in 2012.
Let’s take a look at how the draft could unfold for New England and how exactly those five picks might very well be spent.
Round One, Pick 29 – A lot of people seem to like West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin at this spot, but I can’t see Belichick pulling the trigger on a wideout in round one. The Patriots need help in the secondary. Belichick likes SEC guys. Florida safety Matt Elam (pictured) makes too much sense here. If he’s available, I think Belichick snags him.
Round Two, Pick 59 – New England needs youth and depth on the offensive line. I like Syracuse’s Justin Pugh here. Doug Marrone earned a reputation of churning out polished products while at Syracuse and I think Pugh is just that. He has the ability to play guard and tackle and would be a tremendous asset to New England’s line.
Round Three, Pick 91 – Somewhere in here is where Belichick likes to reach for a guy from a big named school who may be off a lot of radars. I like Belichick to grab another SEC defensive back with this pick. Look for him to take LSU’s Tharold Simon, a big physical corner who can play the run well and perhaps has a future at strong safety.
Round Seven, Pick 202 – It’s reach time. With rumors about Ryan Mallet leaving to become a starter somewhere, that QB depth chart is starting to look a little thin. I would not at all be surprised to see New England take a flyer on Kansas quarterback Dayne Crist here. Crist has experience working in former New England offensive coordinator Charlie Weis’ system, both at Notre Dame and Kansas. He’s a guy who has all of the tools to be a solid NFL quarterback, but a pedestrian collegiate career has devalued him.
Round Seven, Pick 219 – Time to get what you can while the gettin’ is good. There should still be some decent depth available at the wide receiver position. I like Missouri’s T.J. Moe here as a project with the potential to become a fan favorite in Foxboro. He can be a traditional slot guy or a solid No. 2 possession receiver. Either way, if he’s available here, it could be two 7th round steals in consecutive years for the Patriots.