Patriots add 4 more on last day of draft

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On the third and final day of the NFL draft the New England Patriots held 4 draft picks, one at the top of the 4th round and three in the 7th. While the Patriots did not pick 4 players on day 3, they did add 4 players that will be able to compete for a spot on the roster come training camp.

After a few trades to start of the 4th round, the Patriots came on the clock with the 5th pick (102nd overall). A lot of people speculated prior to the pick that the Patriots were planning on double-dipping into the wide receiver pool after picking Aaron Dobson in round 1. There were some great names still on the board at the time, Quinton Patton being one of them who I absolutely loved. Instead, however, the Patriots went with Josh Boyce out of Texas Christian.

Boyce is a 5’11’ receiver who has some good size but some elite speed. At the combine, Boyce ran a sub-4.4 in the forty, and that was on an injured foot. That injured foot is somewhat of a concern, but most accounts say that he should be ready to go by training camp. That is big, because the Patriots have had problems developing receivers when they have a late start acclimating to their system (see Price, Taylor).

Boyce described the injury as “day-to-day” in his conference call and says that he will “be ready to go.”

The Patriots did not have another pick for about 6 hours but the war room stayed busy during the lull. Just before 3 o’clock Eastern Time, Jeff Howe of the Boston Globe reported that a trade of RB Jeff Demps was “imminent.” Demps of course was the Olympic sprinter that the Patriots signed to a 3-year deal during last training camp before he injured himself in a pre-season game against the Buccaneers. A couple of months ago reports started coming to light that Demps was trying to split his time between football and sprinting, which obviously did not go over well with the coaching staff in Foxboro. Rumors soon started swirling that the Patriots had put him on the trading block.

Some time after the original report from Howe, it was announced that a trade including Demps did indeed happen. It was reported that the Patriots would ship Demps along with the second of their 7th round picks (229 overall) to Tampa Bay in exchange for RB LaGarrette Blount. Tampa is a logical spot for Demps as they were the only other team to see Demps during the their joint-practice with the Patriots after Demps signed with the team.

Blount lost a lot of playing time this past year after the meteoric rise of rookie sensation Doug Martin. Blount was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010 after falling out of the draft due to behavior issues at Oregon. He had a phenomenal rookie year, totaling over 1,000 yards, and a solid year in 2011.

Blount joins a running back room led by Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and Brandon Bolden. He will probably compete with Bolden for snaps behind Ridley and for a spot in some goalline situations. This may be my favorite move of the entire draft; the Patriots get rid of a player they didn’t want, and get someone that can bring a different edge to their running game.

“Excited to have him here, think he’s a good football player,” coach Bill Belichick said during his post-draft press conference of Blount, “He’s had a lot of production and I think he got in a situation last year where they obviously went with [Doug] Martin, but I think he’s a good football player and happy to add him to our team.”

When the 7th and final round came around, the Patriots were left with 2 selections. With the first, they opted to add a little more to the pass rush with Michael Buchanan, a DE out of Illinois. Buchanan was on some pre-season watchlists but had somewhat of a disappointing senior season for the Illini, totaling just 4.5 sacks and 7 tackles for loss. Buchanan is an impressive-looking human being at 6’6” and about 240 pounds. He has long arms as well, which I really like in my pass rushers.

Buchanan is a very interesting prospect who I can absolutely see competing for playing time as an edge rusher on passing downs. Buchanan seems like, at least right now, he is just happy to be in New England.

“This was a childhood dream of mine with an organization I always wanted to be with, so it’s definitely a great feeling. It’s truly a blessing,” Buchanan said during his conference call.

With the Patriots’ final pick, Belichick again used his pipeline in New Jersey and selected Steve Beauharnais, an inside linebacker from Rutgers. It was mostly agreed that this was a good value spot for Beauharnais as he was slated to go in the 6th round. Beauharnais was the team captain for the Scarlet Knights this past year and a finalist for the Butkus award, he also had a career high 83 tackles in 2012.

Most scouting reports praised him for his football smarts, saying his called all the signals for the Rutgers’ defensive unit. Aside from even the Rutgers connection, this screams a Belichick pick. He’s a team captain and a smart player that can line up a defense, everything Bill loves in his linebackers.

This marks the 2nd time since 2010 that the Patriots picked 3 players from the same school. That year the team picked Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham, and Aaron Hernandez from the University of Florida.

At the end of the day, this was a solid weekend for the Patriots. The team added some great players in the draft that can help this team immediately and got a player in a trade that adds some edge to their offense. The only question I still have is the Duron Harmon pick. That pick is just such a blatantly terrible value pick; it really does hurt the rest of the class. Final grade: C+

Patriots use all four picks on day 2

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 After a round 1 trade the Minnesota Vikings, the Patriots came in to day 2 of the NFL draft with 4 picks, 2 in both the 2nd and 3rd rounds. The team ended up using all of those picks, and in true Patriots fashion, some of those picks came with some question marks.

 With the 52nd pick, the Patriots selected a player that was probably not on many people’s radars (although Pete Prisco did have the Patriots taking him in the first round) with Jamie Collins from Southern Mississippi. Collins is a 6’4” 240 pound linebacker that projects outside in the Patriots’ defense. Not only did Collins have double-digit sacks in 2012 on a team that did not win any games, he also led his conference (Conference USA) in tackles for loss with 20. According to Jeff Howe of the Boston Globe, there has been a lot of talk that Southern Mississippi tanked it last year after coach Larry Fedora left for UNC. When you consider that, Collins’ numbers are pretty impressive.

 Collins was actually originally recruited to play defensive back for the Golden Eagles but converted to outside linebacker. That gives a little more credibility to the pick when you consider the Patriots’ need for a coverage linebacker; Collins should be able to cover some receivers with his history as a defensive back. Collins has a long resume of being a great athlete. He actually won a state championship in high school as a quarterback in the state of Mississippi.

 In the end, Collins just screams a Belichick pick. He’s the kind of player that will be interesting to see how the coach uses him. He is a versatile, smart, hard working defensive player in a position of need for the Patriots. The question then becomes where he was taken.  Taking him at #52 could be a dangerous thing, especially if Collins doesn’t work out. There is even more pressure put on Collins as he is the first pick for the Patriots in this year’s class.

 Collins does seem ready to come in and contribute, in a conference call with reporters Collins said, “No matter what team you’re on – I’m going to play my heart out.”

 Next up for the Patriots was pick #59 and it was time for the team to recognize a position of big need, wide receiver. More specifically, a big receiver. Enter Aaron Dobson from Marshall. Dobson didn’t have mind-blowing numbers in his final season for the Thundering Herd when he was hindered by injury, but he does have some of the best hands that I have seen on film. The play that will be talked about the most is the catch against East Carolina. There are a very select few amount of people that can make a one-handed, back-handed grab like Dobson did in that game.

 While Dobson’s bread and butter is getting deep, taking the top off the defense, going up and fighting for the ball (all of which he does well by the way) it isn’t all he does. He absolutely ran some intermediate routes and screen passes for Marshall. I expect Dobson to start right away for the Patriots, if not for his sheer ability, for the lack of bodies the Patriots currently have at the position. The problem then becomes whether or not Dobson will be able to do what so few other receivers have been able to do in New England, create a good rapport with Tom Brady. Dobson does seem ready to go though.

  “It’s an exciting time, man. Just to have the opportunity to play in the NFL and play for a great team like the Patriots is just a blessing from the man above. I’m just excited to hit the ground running,” Dobson said in a conference call with reporters.

 Next, at pick #83 in the 3rd round, came the only player that I had mentioned as a potential target for the Patriots, Logan Ryan of Rutgers. As I mentioned in my latest mock draft, Ryan took over Devin McCourty’s spot when the Patriots drafted him in the first round in 2010. With that, Ryan seems ready to come in to the system and fit right in.

 Ryan is a good tackler, even in the open field. He, like McCourty is pretty strong in the run game. In the passing game he seems to be able to adjust well and has some fair ball skills. He worked well with his hands in the film that I watched.

 Before the draft, Ryan had some idea that the Patriots might be the team to call him on day 2.

 “The Patriots were one of the teams that worked me out and I knew they needed a corner and I felt like I was the guy for them all along. They have great Rutgers connections, but beyond that I felt like I’m a smart, versatile player and I can do well in that organization and I feel like that is a perfect fit,” Ryan said during his conference call.

 The biggest surprise though came with the Patriots’ last pick of the day at #91. The Patriots’ opted to double dip with the players from Rutgers with safety Duron Harmon. Similarly to the Tavon Wilson pick last year, Harmon was not invited to the NFL combine, so he was not on man people’s radars. In the small amount of film that is available of him, he seems like he is very hard-hitter. Honestly there isn’t much more I can say of him on the field. I can say he was a 2-time all-conference player.

 This might be one of the most curious picks in the history of the Patriots. While there was some thought last year that Wilson could have been had later, there was also a little bit of talk that he was rising late on draft boards. Harmon was not. No one knew who he was. He could have easily been had after the draft as a free agent. If Harmon was really the best player available on the Patriots’ board, then there is a major problem with the Patriots’ board.

 “We thought it was good value when we took him. I don’t know what other teams, how they have their boards stacked or anything else. There’s no way to predict that – 31 other teams. I think you have to take the players you feel like can help your team. That’s what we did,” said Bill Belichick about Harmon in a press conference after day 2 of the draft.

 In the end, this was a solid day for the Patriots. I honestly believe that their first 3 picks could be immediate impact players for the team. But I would have to give them a C overall for day 2, that’s how bad I feel about the Harmon pick. If they picked a player like Barrett Jones or Quinton Patton or maybe someone who was supposed to be drafted, I might have given them an A for day 2.