Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New England Patriots Mock Draft 3.0: Minimal Picks Doesn't Necessarily Mean Minimal Talent

The New England Patriots have no real needs when it comes to starting talent, so projecting their 2017 draft has become somewhat of a effort to find projects to provide decent depth in the present and with enough upside to displace incumbent depth on the 53 man roster - and with a depth chart as loaded as the Patriots' is, that is no small task.

"Draft and stash" is the the term most often used for what New England looking for, and while that process is not as sexy as Patriots' fans would like to hear, It would be a challenge for anyone to name a position on the roster that is an immediate need - as any perceived weaknesses coming into the 2017 offseason were addressed in free agency and through trades.
Utah's Isaac Asiata

Of course, that doesn't mean that General Manager Bill Belichick is just going to throw darts and hope one sticks, as his mantra has always been to find a player with a distinctive skill set that can be incorporated into the system that helps to unlock as much as the playbook as possible, given the needs from week to week.

That said, Patriots' fans shouldn't be looking for any players with immediate starting "Wow" factors, but they should be prepared to see Belichick select solid projects to task his talented staff to coach up...

3rd Round (72nd overall) - Derek Rivers, DE/OLB, Youngstown State
6' 4", 245 lbs

At 6' 4" and 245 pounds, Rivers is more suited for an off-the-line role, and there are some that even liken him to a Jamie Collins-like talent.  The precursors are all there, freakish athletic ability, able to bend the corner either from a standing position or with his hand in the dirt.

What makes Rivers unique is a rare second gear after making initial contact with the right tackle, giving him the speed-to-power ability to blow past most bookends, and has the natural body placement to make it easy for him to shed and disengage from his mirror to force an outside rush or screen to the sidelines - though not bulky enough to set a steadfast edge, he can hold the fort until help arrives.

3rd Round (96th Overall) - Isaac Asiata, G, Utah
6' 3", 325 lbs

Nasty-tempered intimidator on the interior that wants to mix it up.  Jarring puncher who finishes blocks, then lets his opponent know about it.  Absolutely filthy run blocker.

A bowling ball with legs, Asiata is more athletic than his frame would suggest and is an accomplished pass protector and wins with sheer strength and determination.  Would be perfect to man up along side center David Andrews as his wide base and experience in pass pro would free up the undersized Andrews to concentrate on his own assignment rather than in helping out on the left.

4th Round (131 Overall) - Tarell Basham, DE, Ohio
6' 4", 270 lbs

A different talent from Rivers, Basham is a straight up edge defender that loves mixing it up with tackles and tight ends in the running game.  As a pass rusher, Basham is still a work in progress - which is fine in the Patriots' rotational system where he would be an early-down edge-setter with a decided mean streak.

Has the developmental skill set to be a three-down end, 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.

5th Round (183rd Overall) - Julie'n Davenport, OT, Bucknell
6' 7", 325 lbs

A Division II project with all of the measurables and who dominated lower levels of competition in college. Davenport has huge hands to shove into a defensive end's chest and a massive wingspan to hold speed rushers at bay.  Footwork will need some refinement, but with his size (6' 7", 325) and athleticism, he gives Dante Scarnecchia a lot more to work with than most projects.

Could contribute right away as a swing tackle, and may have the natural ability to step in if injury besets either tackle position.

6th Round (200th Overall) - Jonnu Smith, TE, Florida International
6' 3", 245 lbs

Neither solely an in-line tight end nor a move tight end, but a combination of both, which makes him a rare commodity that many teams wouldn't know what to do with.

Jumps off the line and into the pattern like a jack-in-the-box and possessing electric moves and functional speed to gain separation and to challenge the seam, Smith is a body catcher that seems unwilling to trust his massive hands, as evidenced by his penchant for double clutching balls that are challenged by safeties - needs work with hands but is already an effective zone blocker who likes mixing it up.

7th Round (239th Overall) - Howard Wilson, CB, Houston
6' 1", 190 lbs

His lack of experience and skinny frame have caused Wilson to slide down draft boards, but he has two things that just can't be gained by experience: size and speed. Of course, players can be coached to properly utilize their God-given intangibles and Wilson has tremendous upside and all reports verify his coachability.

Has a proven track record as a ball hawk, but needs a professional strength and conditioning program to add some mass before he can be reasonably expected to hold his own as a press corner against the growing trend of larger receivers in the NFL, but has all of the intangibles to become an effective starter in time.

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