By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots used all four of the picks in the second and third rounds of the NFL Draft on Friday night which was a mild surprise. The not-so-surprising move was that the Patriots and Bill Belichick went for some players that weren’t on anyone’s radar.
NFL Draft Just a piece of Team Building
Bill Belichick typically eschews the sexy picks for players that fit the mold that the team envisions for them. In Belichick’s vision of team building, the draft is only one part of the equation and many things are factored in. Belichick believes that the draft is more of a crapshoot and that by targeting more players, it gives the team a better chance to hit on players that they bring in.
That is a big reason why the Patriots decided to trade the 29th pick in the first round for four picks in Rounds 2, 3, 4 and 7 on Thursday night. Belichick has never worried about “conventional wisdom” in relation to where individual prospects are rated elsewhere. Right or wrong if the Patriots feel that a particular prospect fits where they value him, he’s selected.
The Patriots did address the needs most analysts were stating as issues which were an outside the numbers wide receiver, a linebacker who can play in coverage, and cornerback depth. We’ll take a look at each of the picks.
Second Round Picks
The Patriots with the 52nd pick selected DE/OLB Jamie Collins of Southern Mississippi. Collins has good length and at 6’3, 250 has a muscular, athletic frame. Collins first went to Southern Miss as a safety, but they moved him to OLB and then to the “Bandit” DE position in the Golden Eagles 4-2-5 scheme.
Being a converted safety, he has good coverage skills and can blitz off the edge. He had 10 sacks as a senior and is versatile playing either as an OLB or a DE sub-rusher. Belichick said his versatility reminds him of Dont’a Hightower.
Pete Prisco of CBS Sports deserves big kudos here as he pegged Collins as the Patriots first selection. At the time, I thought he was way off, thinking Collins was more of a fit in a 3-4 defense.
Collins’ selection should help in coverage when the team goes into its sub-packages and in blitzes as he’s one of the more athletic linebackers in the draft. The Patriots spent over 57 percent of the time last season in sub-packages, so Collins may see some significant work.
With the 59th pick, the Patriots selected WR Aaron Dobson from Marshall who fulfills the need for an outside threat wide receiver.
Dobson who is 6’3, 205 has good size and good but not great speed and is a pure outside the numbers target. Dobson has a knack for making tough catches look easy. Dobson thrived at the Senior Bowl and wowed scouts with his athleticism.
While the knock on him was that he ran a limited route tree in Marshall, Belichick said his football IQ was very high and that was a selling point. Where many of the Patriots offensive play calls for receivers tend to be complex, don’t be surprised to see Dobson spending some quality time in the California coast with Tom Brady this spring.
Dobson, with Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Donald Jones, and Michael Jenkins will be a very different looking receiver core come training camp. And this group will definitely bear watching.
Third Round Picks
With the 83rd pick in the draft, the Patriots selected Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers who fulfills the need for depth at the cornerback position while playing a valuable special teams role. He joins Devin McCourty and Justin Francis as the Patriots newest player from Rutgers
Ryan has good size, 6’0 190 lbs and was rated by Pro Football Weekly as the best zone cornerback in the draft. Has better man coverage skills than advertised but lacks elite top-end speed. He is also aggressive and known as a strong tackler.
Belichick loves having as many corners on the roster as possible and has a thing for the Rutgers program in particular. Ryan will provide backup depth to both Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard on the outside and can play out of the slot as well. We had Ryan tagged for the Patriots in our first Mock Draft so his selection isn’t a surprise.
The Patriots nabbed Duron Harmon with the 91st pick in the draft. Harmon, a safety from Rutgers qualifies as this year’s head scratcher pick in 2013. I know of no one who had Harmon on the radar for the Patriots to select him.
Harmon a 6’1, 190lb safety played a valuable role for the Scarlet Knights in both the secondary as well as special teams. Harmon is the first player selected in the NFL draft who didn’t attend the NFL combine, similar to Tavon Wilson.
According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, Harmon was clocked at 4.65 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to Scouts Inc. and was the Scouts Inc.’s 26th-ranked safety.
We’ll keep up with the final four rounds of the NFL Draft here and provide any breaking news that comes out of New York.