By: Steve Balestrieri
After a very eventful first week of free agency the NFL 2014 season is off and running. New England was quiet during the initial phase and lost Aqib Talib who signed a 6-year, $57 million dollar contract with the Denver Broncos.
The Patriots made a couple of big impact signings at the cornerback position bringing in Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner soon after as well as bringing back WR Julian Edelman and inking former Carolina Panther Brandon Lafell. In the process the team lost LBs Brandon Spikes who signed with Buffalo and Dane Fletcher who signed with Tampa Bay.
Now with the initial frenzy of signings in the books, the picture becomes just a tad clearer on what New England needs to address in terms of team building in 2014. With that thought in mind, here is Mock Draft 1.0 for the 2014 season.
This mock is using an ingenious idea by FanSpeak in which you get to play the GM of any team and using the big boards supplied by different scouting bureaus, FanSpeak, Walter Football or Optimum Scouting. All of these have different ratings for individual players so the automatic generation of picks for other teams differs depending upon ones’ selection.
Round 1, Pick 29 — Dee Ford, DE/OLB Auburn:
Ford turned a lot of heads at the Senior Bowl and at 6’2, 252 is not the proto-typical edge rusher that the Patriots have targeted in the past. But there is no over-looking his motor, and burst off the perimeter. With broad shoulders and long arms, Ford possesses great burst at the point of attack and while isn’t great at setting the edge in the running game, is a bit underrated in that aspect, showing better than average strength.
This is a position of need with the Patriots as both Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich were overworked last year, playing in 98 and 95 percent of the snaps in 2013. It showed down the stretch as each was worn out and ineffective when they were needed most.
Primarily a defensive end with his hand in the dirt, Ford has played some in coverage which means he could become a hybrid DE/OLB or “Tweener” with New England. Strong with an outstanding burst, he would immediately make the pass rush better. His versatility could make him a valuable commodity in New England.
Round 2 Pick 62 — Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE Washington:
With Rob Gronkowski on the mend from tearing his ACL in 2013, the Patriots have a need at TE and while most pressing is a need at the “Move” or “Joker” TE that Aaron Hernandez played, Jenkins is too good a prospect to pass up.
Big at 6’5, 265 Jenkins has the size but not quite the athleticism of Gronkowski and lacks that deep threat ability to stretch the field. He would be a tremendous red-zone target due his size, concentration and soft hands.
Jenkins has the ability to easily shed arm tackles and is emerging as a blocker.
Round 3, Pick 93 — Weston Richburg, C Colorado State:
Richburg is perhaps the most NFL ready center in the draft and with Ryan Wendell a free agent could immediately be thrust in the role of a starter with New England.
Possessing decent size at 6’3, 300, Richburg started 49 games at Colorado State as a center and guard and is considered a highly intelligent, instinctive player who will thrive at the next level. More of a technician than a mauler, Richburg can easily handle players much larger than himself.
Want a ringing endorsement, former Cowboys’ GM Gil Brandt said this, “If a team is looking for the next Alex Mack, Richburg is that guy. He’ll be your starting center for the next 10 years.”
While the team could still move Dan Connolly to center and slide Marcus Cannon to guard, Richburg would instantly ugrade the position with an influx of youth.
Round 4, Pick 126 — Kelcy Quarles, DT South Carolina:
Quarles is a big interior DL at 6’4, 300 that has the versatility to line up inside at DT or slide outside as a 5-technique. While much of the focus in SC was on his heralded teammate Jadevon Clowney, Quarles was very productive for the Gamecocks putting up 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks.
Quarles uses a combination of quickness to shoot gaps and strength to bull-rush past blockers. Keeps his pad level low for a big man and can take on blockers at the point of attack.Bill Belichick loves his players to be versatile and Quarles would be a nice addition to the Patriots DL, given that Tommy Kelly is returning from injury as well as Vince Wilfork who may be released prior to the season beginning.
Quarles also has Patriots DNA in his background as his uncle is former Patriots TE Ben Coates.
Round 6, Pick 182 —Connor Shaw, QB South Carolina:
Lacking the proto-typical size of a NFL QB at 6’1, 206, Shaw like Johnny Manziel is very athletic, mobile and a winner. He led SC to 27 victories in his time at Columbia.
Coach Steve Spurrier compares Shaw to Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson, and is tough with a solid but not great arm and the ability to make plays in or outside the pocket.
If the Patriots are looking for a QB who can be very mobile with excellent leadership and intangibles, Shaw may be an intriguing developmental prospect.
Round 6, Pick 190 — Colt Lyerla, TE Oregon:
With good size at 6’5, 246 Lyerla has the potential to replace Aaron Hernandez in the Patriots offense. Given his numerous off-field issues, Lyerla would otherwise be a much higher pick than his place here.
Lyerla can line up all over the field, in-line, in the slot, outside, as an H-back and is an excellent receiver with soft hands who can attack the seams of the defense. He has the speed to go vertical and the lateral quickness to work the flat and is strong enough to overpower smaller defensive backs to gain separation. Lyerla can turn a short pass into a long gain and has tremendous YAC (yards after catch) potential.
The question will be if he’s available, will the Patriots just a year removed from the Hernandez fiasco, roll the dice again on a troubled athlete, albeit with superior athletic upside? One NFL scout described him as a Pro-Bowl talent with the upside coaches drool over, but the character concerns leaving one wondering if he can handle all the trappings of an NFL environment.
Round 7, Pick 221 — Keon Lyn, CB Syracuse:
Lyn is a big cornerback at 6’1, 205 and depending upon one’s point of view will be either a corner or a safety at the next level.
Originally planning on coming out after the 2012 season, Lyn returned to the ‘Cuse for his senior season but then fractured his knee-cap during the eighth game against Clemson.
Lyn if he’s healthy has the combination of size and speed to work his way on to an NFL roster. While the Patriots are chocked full of corners right now, Lyn could work his way into the mix as a safety.
While there is still plenty of work to be done for the Patriots roster wise, free agency is still only less than a week old and one can expect the team to remain active in it as well as dip into the UDFA market
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