New England Patriots: Big Bargains at the Back-End of the 2015 NFL Draft


Jan 24, 2015; Mobile, AL, USA; South squad offensive guard Shaq Mason of Georgia Tech (70) enters the field during player introductions before the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The North won, 34-13. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 NFL Draft and the New England Patriots’ selections have been summed up in two words: “steal” and “reach”. First round draft pick Malcom Brown was expected to be a top twenty-five, if not top twenty, pick and with no on or off-field issues dropped to New England at #32 overall.  At #101 overall Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers was another player who inexplicably dropped from an early second round projection to the Patriots at the top of the fourth round. Almost unanimously the Patriots were lauded for landing the two young, athletic defensive players.


Oct 11, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns running back Malcolm Brown (28) runs the ball against Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Geneo Grissom (85) at the Cotton Bowl. Oklahoma beat Texas 31-26. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

However, second round draft pick Jordan Richards at #64 overall and third round pick Geneo Grissom at #97 overall were roundly criticized as being “overdrafted” by the Patriots. Both Grissom and Richards had mid-to-late round grades and no one expected either player off the board in the top 100 picks. Grissom is an intriguing athlete who dropped due to a knee injury last season limiting playing time. Richards–a strong safety–was shocking to the draft analysts who could not explain why the Patriots reached for a player not a position of need who could be available in the fifth round.


However, there was also a lot of value on day three of the draft which may have been overlooked. Guards Tre’ Jackson and Shaq Mason both could be starting in 2015. Dan Connolly is still a free agent and Ryan Wendell was at times overwhelmed at right guard. Playing tackles Cameron Fleming and Marcus Cannon at guard was a lost cause and the unathletic duo of Josh Kline and Jordan Devey were simply overmatched at the position. Getting two potential starters at guard which nearly derailed the team in the first four weeks of the season in the fourth round is great value.


Jan 24, 2015; Mobile, AL, USA; North squad long snapper Joe Cardona of Navy (93) enters the field during player introductions before the Senior Bowl at Ladd-Peebles Stadium. The North won, 34-13. Mandatory Credit: Glenn Andrews-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Cardona, the Navy long-snapper taken in round five–if he gets clearance to play in 2015–is “technically” as starting position on special teams. Round six netted linebacker Matthew Wells from Mississippi State and tight end A.J. Derby from Arkansas. Wells was rated as one of the best coverage linebackers in the draft allowing just a 48.8 catch rate of 21 receptions on 43 targets last season with six passes defended (per–subscription required). Wells could be a steal if he can carve out a coverage role in the nickel or dime defense as a coverage linebacker.


Derby is raw as he arrived in Arkansas as a quarterback and played linebacker as well and only has limited playing time as a tight end.  Derby is fast and tough and could fill a role similar to Tim Wright at tight end. He will need one if not two years of development on the practice squad. The athleticism and talent is there but he is clueless about blocking and needs serious refinement as a route runner. That said, like former college wrestler Stephen Neal at guard, if the player is motivated and coachable, there could be a role for him in the future.


Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots strong safety Malcolm Butler (21) intercepts a pass intended for Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette (83) in the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Patriots waited until the seventh round to draft a cornerback, but Marshall alum Daryl Roberts showcased off-the-charts athleticism with long arms, speed, and stop/start quickness. Roberts is not likely to contribute in 2015 but he could earn a spot on the roster helping on special teams as he learns to play cornerback in the NFL. Malcolm Butler was in the same role coming into 2014 and forced himself on the the roster with a fantastic preseason. Butler ended up coming off the bench in the Super Bowl to make the game-saving goal line interception. Roberts will definitely be a player to watch in training camp to see if he can parlay his athletic gifts into a roster spot.


The Patriots made some solid draft picks and some interesting selections in their first four picks in the 2015 NFL Draft. However, this group of players at the back-end of the draft are intriguing prospects and one or two could translate into a contributor in the near future. The Patriots have drafted contributors such as Tully Banta-Cain (7th round – 2003), Dan Koppen (5th round – 2003), Matt Cassel (7th round – 2005), Matt Slater (5th round – 2008), Julian Edelman (7th round – 2009), Marcus Cannon (5th round – 2011), Alfonzo Dennard (7th round – 2012), and some guy named Tom Brady (6th round – 2000) on the back end of the draft. Considering the value the Patriots have received in the past at the back end of the draft, this intriguing mix of athletes could bear more fruit in the near future.