New England Patriots: Bold Predictions for the NFL Draft – 3 of 5


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) hands the ball off to running back LeGarrette Blount (29) against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2015 NFL Draft just around the corner, the New England Patriots front office is deep into the preparation of collaborating with scouts  and coming up with a solid strategy for the draft. One thing for certain about Bill Belichick and the New England front office is that they will keep the NFL Draft analysts guessing.


With a tough free agency period seeing the secondary revamped as veteran cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner as well as defensive tackle Vince Wilfork and running back Shane Vereen being allowed to leave, New England needs reinforcements on both sides of the ball. However, Bill Belichick is one of the few head coaches with the luxury of having a long-term plan for team-building due to being in full control of the operations in Foxboro. With Belichick in charge, he can draft players and “red-shirt” them while coaches and executives on the hot seat in other organizations need immediate impact from their draft picks.


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots center Bryan Stork (66) reacts against the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Last year the Patriots received immediate contributions from fourth round draft pick Florida State center Bryan Stork and his contributions to the interior offensive line helped turnaround a lethargic offense after the first four weeks of the 2014 NFL season. Fourth round draft pick Cameron Fleming also contributed at times in 2014 as the massive Stanford tackle was able to help on the offensive line when not slowed by injury.


However, first round draft pick and Florida defensive tackle Dominique Easley was a minor contributor on defense as he got back into football shape after two knee surgeries in college. Second round draft pick and former Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo shined in the preseason but was relegated to holding the clipboard on the sidelines. Fourth round draft pick and former Wisconsin Badgers running back James White only appeared in the two blowouts and the meaningless regular season finale.


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots guard Cameron Fleming (71) during the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

With Stork expected to start at center next year, Fleming may be tried at guard in training camp after showing strong skills as a run blocker as the tackle-eligible/tight end role on the end of the offensive line last year. What roles Easley, White, and Garoppolo will play remains to be seen. Also, do not count out the potential contribution of sixth round draft pick defensive end Zach Moore out of tiny Concordia-St. Paul. Moore flashed raw athleticism and the small school project could help out as a designated pass rusher in 2015.


What can one expect from the 2015 NFL Draft from the Patriots? Based on their recent draft history there are tea leaves to be read. Initially, the bold predictions began with “Expect the Patriots to Move Down and Accumulate Future Draft Picks”. The second of five bold predictions was “Vince Wilfork’s Replacement is not Coming From this Draft”. Now, here is the third predictions about what the New England Patriots will (or won’t do) in the 2015 NFL Draft:


Three: New England Will NOT Take a Running Back in the Draft

Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen (34) makes a one handed catch in Super Bowl XLIX against the Seattle Seahawks at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

There have been numerous mock drafts linking the New England Patriots with a running back after the first round. Todd McShay at, however, mentions potential first round draft pick running back Melvin Gordon out of Wisconsin as “an intriguing option for the Patriots”. In addition,’s Mike Giardi has recently reported that Georgia’s Todd Gurley–another running back potentially landing in the first round–will visit the Patriots before the draft. Both running backs are expected to go at some point in the first or early second round at the latest.


Bill Belichick invested a second and third round pick in 2011 at the running back position and spent a first round pick in 2006 on Laurence Maroney. In Belichick’s first draft in New England he nabbed running back J.R. Redmond in the third round and fullback Patrick Pass in the seventh round. Redmond played a key role on the 2001 Super Bowl team while Pass was a valuable blocker and receiver for a number of years in New England.


Nov 16, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; New England Patriots running back Jonas Gray (35) celebrates a first half score against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Currently at running back the Patriots have LeGarrette Blount and Jonas Gray as the top two ball carriers. Blount returned after being released by Pittsburgh during the season and immediately stepped in as the top back rushing for 78, 58, and 66 yards in his first three games in New England (all stats from unless otherwise noted). Blount established himself as the lead back heading into the off-season as he rushed 30 times for 148 yards and scored three touchdowns in the AFC Championship game against Indianapolis.


Gray may very well be the starting running back in week one as Blount will be suspended for the first game of the season due to his off-field activities while in Pittsburgh. Gray spent 2012 in Miami on injured reserve and 2013 on Baltimore’s practice squad before landing in New England. A strong preseason saw Gray on the practice squad before being activated after Stevan Ridley blew his knee out in week six.


Gray rushed for 131 yards on 32 carries in his first three games in New England before he exploded on the national scene rushing 37 times for 201 yards and four touchdowns against Indianapolis. Gray was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and then was benched after being late for practice. Fore the rest of the season Gray had just 20 carries 80 yards and a touchdown. A solid preseason from Gray could have him lock-down the role as top back-up to Blount in 2015.


Oct 5, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints running back Travaris Cadet (39) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the first quarter of a game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

To offset the loss of Shane Vereen in free agency the Patriots have a two-headed approach for their receiving back. First, they drafted James White in the fourth round last year and then signed former New Orleans Saints receiving threat out of the backfield, Travaris Cadet. Cadet was primarily a special teams player his first two season in New Orleans but with Darren Sproles gone he got his chance and was productive catching 38 passes for 296 yards.


Behind Cadet is White–who was very productive in college–now has a year of learning the offense behind him after a year on the sidelines. White played just 31 snaps last year and had just 9 rushes for 38 yards and 5 receptions for 23 yards. However, he has the potential to be the top back in New England stepping in for Vereen. With little track record as a pro–like Vereen in his first two seasons as a Patriot–White is going to have to show his worth on the practice fields and in the preseason.


Jan 18, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) celebrates with running back Brandon Bolden (38) after throwing a touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Behind their top four backs the Patriots have some interesting players already on the roster. Special teams ace and backup running back Brandon Bolden will likely earn a spot on the 53-man roster. Bolden can fill in the backfield in a pinch and is a solid blocker. He filled in for Vereen in 2013 as the receiving back.


Tyler Gaffney was a sixth round draft pick by Carolina who was snagged by the Patriots and later stashed on injured reserve. Gaffney will get every chance to compete with Blount and Gray for carries in the running back rotation. In addition to Gaffney the Patriots have Dion Lewis who was signed to a futures contract.


Last year the Patriots had just six running backs (counting fullback James Develin) on their 53-man roster. With Blount, Gray, Bolden, Cadet, and White likely to make the roster that leaves little room for a high draft pick. Although the loss of Vereen is a big one for the offense, the Patriots do have Cadet and White ready to contribute in 2015. Expect New England to ignore the running back position in the 2015 NFL Draft.