New England begins this week with five draft picks: one each in the first, second and third rounds, plus two in the seventh.
No one can read Bill Belichick’s mind (we imagine it’s full of X’s, O’s, and secret fishing spots off of Nantucket). What we can do, however, is look at some of his past draft tendencies and try to plug in players like those taken at previous spots.
For a comprehensive review of the Patriots’ picks since 2000, our round-by-round rundown appeared on BSMW in February.
FIRST ROUND: TRADE DOWN
Last year the Patriots traded up twice in Round One, breaking a recent trend. With a solid amount of depth in the 2013 draft, we can see the coach returning to his old ways and trading down for picks.
We predict multiple trades, with New England moving down for more selections. Just for fun, let’s say the Pats end up with two more mid-rounders and a third Round Seven pick.
SECOND ROUND: REACH AND/OR SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION
Call this the “They know something you don’t know” round. New England often drafts a lesser-known (or at least lesser-valued) player here, or, more recently, someone who battled an injury in college.
In terms of assessing a different value, at least it’s entertaining watching TV draftniks rifling through notes to find these guys.
Generally speaking, the Pats seem to land on solid prospects with potential others might not appreciate. Sometimes, the hidden-gem/underrated strategy works (Sebastian Vollmer, 2009). Other times, not so much (Ron Brace, 2009). In terms of their most recent acquisition (Tavon Wilson, 2012), we just have to wait and see.
As for taking their chances on someone dealing with injury, they reaped rewards with Rob Gronkowski (2010), but are still waiting for Ras-I Dowling (2011) to prove he can stay on the field.
In the reach category, we like –
Hugh Thornton, Illinois OG (6-3, 320) Thornton has been graded a mid-round pick, but he has certain qualities that the Foxboro fiefdom covets. For one, flexibility: he played right tackle his freshman year, guard as a sophomore and junior, and left tackle his senior year.
For two, athleticism: In his senior year in high school, Thornton was the third-ranked heavyweight wrestler in Ohio. Shades of Stephen Neal, anyone?
Looking at recently injured prospects, we found:
Cornellius Carradine, Florida State DE (6-4, 276) Because Carradine tore his ACL at the end of November, he has yet to participate in any combine or pro day drills. The fearsome pass-rusher has been regarded as more or less a sure thing, having been named All-ACC First Team after tallying 80 tackles and 11 sacks. Still, the severity of his injury and the delay to his involvement in camp should scare off some teams.
THIRD ROUND: ADDRESS A NEED
Coincidence or no, during Round Three Coach Belichick seems to select players who can bolster a thin position. Again, sometimes the results prove positive (RB Stevan Ridley, 2011), sometimes not (WR Taylor Price, 2010).
For our part, we’re going the Ridley-type route, looking at a guy who produced in the SEC (the same team, even).
Tharold Simon, LSU DB (6-2, 202). Simon’s four interceptions led the Tigers in 2012. He also had eight pass break-ups. The big back ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine and had a 10-foot-8 broad jump. He has solid physical skills but could use some time to develop. Simon, who declared for the draft early, projects to get playing time as a special-teamer right away and as part of a dime defense rotation in New England.
FOURTH ROUND: TRADE OUT/NO PICK
The Patriots had no fourth-round picks in 2011 or 2012. Seeing as they lack one as of this writing, we expect that trend to continue.
FIFTH/SIXTH ROUNDS: SPECIAL TEAMERS/OFFENSIVE LINEMEN
No one knew what to think when New England drafted Matthew Slater in 2008. Was he a receiver? A returner?
Wait: they drafted a special teamer? In Round Five?
Yes and yes. Slater has worked his way up to Pro Bowl status in his role. Drafting Zoltan Mesko in 2010 solidified the punter position in Foxboro. Last year, New England picked up Nate Ebner in the sixth. That puts us into full-on special teams mode.
Caleb Schreibeis, DE Montana State (6-2, 255). While Ebner had a New England connection with Ohio State coach (and former Patriot) Mike Vrabel last year, we see a strong similarity between Schreibeis and fellow Montana State alum (and current Patriot) Dane Fletcher.
They have similar size. Both were fearsome pass-rushers as defensive ends for the Bobcats. While Fletcher was a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award (for best defensive player in the FCS), Schreibeis won it with 15 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, and eight forced fumbles. If the Pats believe he can make a similar transition to linebacker that Fletcher did, they will consider Schreibeis.
Now let’s discuss the other side of the ball. New England O-linemen taken in Round Five of the draft include Marcus Cannon in 2011, and you’d have to go back to Dan Koppen in 2003 to find another big body who stuck around. In the interim, the Pats took shots with Ryan O’Callaghan, a short-term starter (2006), Clint Oldenburg (2007), and George Bussey (2009). In Round Six, they got Corey Hilliard (2007).
So whom might they take a chance on this year?
Luke Marquardt, Azusa Pacific OT (6-9, 312) This may look like a reach, but some important details crop up here. For one, similar to Cannon (who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma after his combine checkup), the Pats would be taking a chance on Marquardt, who missed his 2012 season with a foot injury (hairline fracture).
Two – and this is really the kicker – Marquardt’s line coach at Azusa Pacific was none other than Jackie Slater, Matt Slater’s father and an All-Pro NFL tackle whom Belichick has lauded on multiple occasions.
SEVENTH ROUND: D-LINEMAN, D-BACK, WIDE RECEIVER, BACKUP QB
We’re going to name four positions here for two or three potential picks, mostly because the seventh round has been a Foxboro free-for-all. The Patriots have made 24 seventh-round picks in 13 drafts.
They’ve taken four defensive linemen since 2000; we believe this trend should continue.
Jared Smith, New Hampshire DL (6-3, 302) New England scouts showed up at UNH’s pro day; Smith had to be a big reason why. Literally. The Wildcat posted a 5.01-second 40 and hoisted 225 pounds 28 times on the bench press. He also had a 32.5-inch vertical leap, pretty remarkable for any person, much less a 300-pounder.
Last season, Smith had four sacks, 10 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
Kayvon Webster, South Florida CB (5-11, 195). We know Bill Belichick loves to visit the state of Florida (he lives in Massachusetts: it’s a state law). We also know that the Patriots worked out Webster this off-season. With a 4.41-second 40-yard dash and solid quickness numbers (4.17 20-yard shuttle, 6.89-second 3-cone drill), Webster could fill in right away as a special teams player and earn playing time on defense.
If New England takes a defensive back here in the seventh, it would make the third year in row that they did so (Malcolm Williams, 2011; Alfonso Dennard, 2012).
Mark Harrison, Rutgers WR (6-3, 231). Even though we ran a piece on four potential late-round receivers back in March (Searching For The Next David Givens), we decided to look at someone with a specific connection here. Belichick’s son Stephen attended Rutgers and played with Harrison, who also fits the bill as a bigger receiver.
Harrison ran a 4.46-second 40 and had a 38.5-inch vertical at the combine. At Rutgers, he caught 44 passes for 583 yards (13.2 avg) and scored six touchdowns.
Matt McGloin, Penn State QB (6-1, 203) McGloin may qualify as this year’s Matt Cassel (seventh round, 2005), though the former had a much more productive college career. McGloin walked on and became a starter for the Nittany Lions under new coach (and former Pats offensive coordinator) Bill O’Brien.
McGloin, running an offense comparable to New England’s, completed 61 percent of his passes for 3,266 yards, 24 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Thoughts? Mocks? Mock us? Let us know in the comment section below.
Chris Warner can be emailed at email@example.com or tweeted @cwarn89