Saturday, April 22, 2017

New England Patriots' Mock Draft 2.0: Provisional Gillislee Impact Edition

The New England Patriots are loaded, just in case anyone was wondering - but it doesn't mean that they have achieved their goal of complete depth saturation.

This is particularly true along the offensive line - and even more so when considering that left tackle Nate Solder is coming up for re-enlistment, and probably at a number that the team would prefer to have on the books, given his injury history, as well as the fact that left guard Joe Thuney was one of the lowest rated guards in the NFL last season, so far as pass protection is concerned...

...and while it's too early to give up on the second-year guard, the depth behind him is inadequate with the recent release of Tre' Jackson, who landed with the Rams on a bad knee (and subsequently released with a failed physical), leaving just fellow sophomore Ted Karras and a trio of practice squad players.

Karras is ideally suited for the center position anyway, so releasing Jackson has triggered an immediate need for quality depth.

Another shift in draft needs occurred when the Patriots signed Buffalo Bills restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislee to an offer sheet - the dollar amount thought to be in excess of what the Bills should be able to match, given their cap situation and enormous needs elsewhere.  Gillislee's offer coupled with the three-year contract extension signed by Super Bowl hero James White has the potential to put to rest a glaring need for a long-term running back through the draft.
Houston's Tyus Bowser

Should the Bills not match the offer to Gillislee, the Patriots will lose a fifth-round selection but will have four quality backs on board, plus a fullback in James Develin.  If they do match the offer, there is still Rex Burkehead, White and Dion Lewis to form a quality three-headed monster, though White is the only back on the roster under a long-term deal...

...which means that Wyoming running back Brian Hill will be in play for the Patriots for one of their third-round selections, most likely at 72nd overall.

The good thing for the Patriots is that the Bills must decide by Monday afternoon whether to match their offer not, then New England can begin to answer questions of depth for the defensive side of the ball, mainly at defensive end but also with a need for some forward thinking at outside linebacker and at box safety.

That said, here is our 2.0 mock draft:

3rd Round (72nd Overall ) -  Tyus Bowser, OLB, Houston

Played in the same linebacking corps with current Patriots' inside load Elandon Roberts and is just as explosive setting the edge and rushing the passer as Roberts is going downhill to plug running lanes.

Has the ability to pattern match tight ends in the passing game or to drop into a crossing zone to impeded the progress of running backs and slot receivers in the flat, and seems natural in sniffing out screens, as he stacks and sheds to get to the ball carrier.

3rd Round (103rd Overall) - Taylor Moton, G, Western Michigan

Drafting a guard is rarely the aesthetic or sexy move that fans like to see, but this is one of the very few need picks for a New England team loaded everywhere else on offense.

At 6' 5" and 325 pounds, Moton is a steam shovel that manhandles defensive tackles in both the power running game and in pass protection.  Moton played tackle his senior season at Western Michigan and had some difficulty with speed rushers around the edge, but played guard every season before that and dominated the opposition, no matter the skill level.  He is a natural on the right side, but is also a zone scheme fit on the left.

4th Round (131st Overall)  - Josh Harvey-Clemons, SS, Louisville

It was no secret that both Jordan Richards and starting strong safety Patrick Chung declined in production last season, so the Patriots should be prioritizing box safeties.  But Harvey-Clemons is no ordinary box safety.

Of course, he checks all the boxes as a strong safety, but he is also a natural at diagnosing plays from the box, taking on tight ends and using his huge wingspan to shield them from the ball, and plays downhill with violent intent in run support.

5th Round (163rd Overall) - Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio

A three-down defensive end that is a better edge-setter than pass rusher, but his high-motor and relentlessness as a pass rusher will do exactly what Belichick likes from his rush ends, and that is to collapse the pocket and get the quarterback off his mark.

In the running game, he is a stack-and-shed edge-setter with the lateral agility to get to the sidelines, if need be - and seems to genuinely dislike tackles and tight ends, and makes sure they know it on the field.

6th Round (200th Overall) - Jylan Ware, OT, Alabama State

Huge, powerful hands and excellent placement define Ware.  Has a decent slide step to mirror speedy defensive ends but will struggle with elite ends that can convert speed to power - but then again, who doesn't?

Possesses the height that the Patriots prefer in their bookends at 6' 8", but played in college at less than 300 pounds and needs some time in the weight room under the tutelage of a professional strength coach - that said, Ware is a natural left tackle and could work his way into being a major contributor as a draft-and-stash project for Dante Scharnecchia.

7th - 239th -  Weston Steelhammer, FS, Air Force

Belichick is a sucker for military academy guys and for safeties over all, so he should love Steelhammer.

Known as a route-breaker, Steelhammer's game is cutting off receivers routes by reading the quarterback's eyes and getting to the point of the reception before the receiver.  Not particularly fast, and relatively skinny (6' 2", 200), he nevertheless is worth a seventh-round flyer, particularly because he has a four-year commitment to the Air Force, and with proper weight room instruction could become a stashed force.

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