By Chris Warner
Over the past week we’ve been studying potential players available throughout the NFL draft who fit New England’s needs. After much debating, head-scratching, and coffee-drinking (America runs on it, after all), we’ve decided on the following to best aid the Foxboro Footballers.
As of right now, the Patriots have two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), two in the second (48, 62), one in the third (93) and one in the fourth (126). They traded their fifth-, sixth- and seventh-round picks.
Round One (a) – Defensive lineman. Our suggestion: Michael Brockers, LSU (6-6, 332). A prototypical 3-4 end who could solidify the position and stabilize New England’s overall defense for years to come. If Brockers somehow lasts until the Patriots pick at 27, they have to pick him up.
If Coach Bill Belichick and his crew feel that Brockers won’t stick around, they have a lot of incentive to cash in one of their many picks (details for this scenario below).
Back-up Plan: Kendall Reyes, UConn (6-4, 299). Though he’s not the monster Brockers is, Reyes is a strong, athletic end with experience at tackle who can get after the passer. Definitely worth a look in the first round.
Round One (b) – Defensive back. Our suggestion: Mark Barron, Alabama (6-1, 213). Seen as the best safety in the draft, Barron would shore up a Patriots unit that spent much of 2011 looking, shall we say, outmatched. If New England can tend to these two positions this early in the draft, fans will sleep soundly Thursday night.
Back-up Plan: Harrison Smith, Notre Dame (6-2, 214). Smith has great size and athleticism and has shown the ability to lead a defense (albeit on that has shown some shakiness over the past few years). Would be a solid addition to any club, especially one that needs to add talent on defense.
Round Two (a) – Outside Linebacker. Our suggestion: Shea McClellin, Boise State (6-3, 260). Ever since jumping on the Connor Barwin bandwagon in Spring 2009 (aka the Connor Barwagon), New England fans have been searching each draft for the Next Mike Vrabel. McClellin has the size, speed and versatility to have an immediate impact on Coach Belichick’s defense.
Back-up Plan: Vinny Curry, Marshall (6-3, 266). Teams have kept Curry low on draft boards due to a slow 40 (4.98 seconds), but his foot speed, strength and on-field production make him worthy of an early Day Two selection.
Round Two (b) – As we hope for the best, we also acknowledge the reality that the Patriots might have to trade this pick to help them get Brockers, Barron or McClellin. We also took the liberty of acquiring a late-round pick in the process (see below).
Round Three – Offensive lineman. Our suggestion: Brooks Brandon, Miami of Ohio (6-5, 346). Massive. Strong (36 bench reps). Fast (4.99-second 40). Though he started at guard his senior year, Brandon has the athleticism to play almost anywhere along the line, increasing his value, especially for a team that covets versatility as much as New England does.
Back-up Plan: Michael Brewster, Ohio State (6-4, 312). If experience counts, count on Brewster – the center started 49 straight games for the Buckeyes. With the future of many vets in limbo, Brewster would add depth to the interior of the Patriots’ line.
Round Four – Outside Linebacker. Our suggestion: Jake Bequette, Arkansas (6-4, 272). Why pick just one? Bequette has great size for the position, with plenty of speed. Played defensive end for the Razorbacks but also dropped back into coverage on occasion. Satisfied scouts by going through linebacker drills, to solid reviews.
Back-up Plan: Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy (6-2, 264). So raw he makes steak tartare seem overdone, but tremendous athleticism and production – albeit at a lower collegiate level – make this Massaquoi a tantalizing pick. Worth a shot, especially on Day Three of the draft.
Late-round pick – Wide receiver. Our suggestion: Tony Clemons, Colorado (6-2, 210). With this hypothetical pick we take Clemons, who caught our eye with a strong pro day that included a 4.40-second 40. We’ve mentioned Day Three picks like Cal’s Marvin Jones and Florida International’s dynamo T. Y. Hilton and would welcome either to the team; however, if those two have already been plucked, Clemons is the type of player who could come to Foxboro and add a youthful contribution to the receiving corps.
Back-up Plan: Dale Moss, South Dakota State (6-3, 213). Why waste a pick on a basketball player who only spent one season on the football field for the Jackrabbits? Because Moss’ pro day numbers put him at an elite level. He complemented a 4.51-second 40-yard dash with a 41.5-inch vertical leap and a semi-possible 6.35-second 3-cone drill (just for comparison, quickster Julian Edelman registered a 6.62).
Undrafted Rookie Free Agent – Running Back. Our suggestion: Jonas Gray, Notre Dame (5-10, 223). New England has a virtual Cerberus in Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen. The team has already added two (count ’em, two!) fullbacks and – considering the depth of this draft – could add another big back on Sunday. In our previous column we also looked at South Florida’s Darrell Scott, but we choose Gray here due to his nose for the goal line and experience in Charlie Weis’ system with the Irish. Gray is recovering from a knee injury but could prove a smart long-term investment.
Not sure what it is about knee injuries, but we’re sensing a theme here…
Back-up Plan: Foswhitt Whittaker, Texas (5-9, 195). An ACL tear suffered in November has prevented Whittaker from testing for scouts, but if he ever plays like his healthy self again, nabbing him as a free agent rookie would become a major coup. “Fozzy” (best nickname of the draft – and yes, we’re Muppets fans) averaged 5.8 yards per rush, 9.1 yards per reception and 42.4 yards per kickoff return. That’s right: Whittaker had 10 runbacks for 424 yards, including two 100-yard tallies for TDs.
That, dear readers, would put the capper on a wonderful draft weekend.
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