2016 NFL Draft: Reaction to FanSided’s Patriots Selection


Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Over at FanSided headquarters, the guys are putting together weekly mocks for the 2016 NFL Draft. After all, it’s never too early to start thinking about the next draft. Noting that the New England Patriots don’t actually have a first-round selection next spring as a result of DeflateGate sanctions, FanSided clarified their Patriots’ selection by saying that if the Patriots did have a choice at No. 32, they would select Baylor defensive tackle Andrew Billings.

You can head on over to the article to read the entire entry, but here’s the initial reasoning:

"When the New England Patriots had big ol’ Vince Wilfork stuffing the middle of their defensive line, the unit operated on a much more dangerous level than it exists on right now. With Wilfork gone, the defense has taken a hit a little, and it has Bill Belichick looking for another big body to plug the middle with.That could end up being Baylor’s 315-pound monster Andrew Billings."

My reaction: thumbs down. That is not the direction the Patriots should go.

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While it’s true that Vince Wilfork was very useful to have in the interior, the Patriots have been surviving. As evidenced by their holding of Chris Ivory and Zac Stacy to 60 yards on Sunday, the Patriots’ defensive line is having success by employing a committee approach.

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According to Football Outsiders, Sealver Siliga leads interior linemen with 152 defensive snaps. Malcolm Brown (150), Alan Branch (136) and Dominique Easley (116) round-out the group. These players are doing a fine job plugging-up the interior, which has allowed the pass rush to rack-up 21 sacks, the fourth-best total in the league.

Alan Branch and the Patriots’ defensive line are actually performing quite well.

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Additionally, FanSided argues that Billings’ size at 315 pounds would provide a presence resembling that of Wilfork, yet all of those players except Easley are recorded at a heavier weight than Billings; Brown is 320 pounds, Siliga 324 pounds and Branch 325. FanSided contradicts its argument of more beef in the middle being needed because just about all of the current defensive tackles have, well, more beef than Billings.

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The Patriots are well on their way to replacing Wilfork with the group they already have now. Furthermore, they’ve already used first-round picks in consecutive drafts (Easley in 2014, Brown in 2015) to address the defensive line position. The wheels are in motion; no need to use another high draft pick on the interior of the defensive line when there are plenty of other pressing needs.

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And there are plenty. Cornerback must be the primary focus of the Patriots’ 2016 draft plans considering how thin they are at the position at the time of this writing. You can also never go wrong when it comes to offensive line investment, as the Patriots’ current rash of injuries in that realm indicates.

Stayed tune next week for a reaction to FanSided’s Week 9 mock draft.

Next: Week 8 stock watch