The draft is a little more than a week away and one of the biggest events on the NFL off-season calendar is nearly upon us.
The New England Patriots have 11 selections in this year’s draft including 4 in the first 100 picks despite not having a first rounder because of the deflate-gate penalties.
There is a fascinating tool to use for doing a mock draft made possible by the guys over at Fanspeak.com that we touted last year and is more fun to use in 2016.
In their “On the Clock” simulator, you are the GM for any NFL team. You can choose how many rounds you’d like to draft for (1-7), and pick one of nine different big boards to choose from.
All of the big boards differ quite a bit and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based on the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated. For this mock I used Matt Miller’s Bleacher Report draft board.
Here’s what I came away with in my first Patriots mock draft. —
Round 2, Pick 60: Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
This would be somewhat of a surprise for two reasons. For one, a running back would be the first team selection of the 2016 draft. For two, Dixon is not the typical tailback Bill Belichick selects.
Dixon is a tough runner that doesn’t shy away from contact. While he’s had trouble with ball security and needs work in pass protection in order to see the field early, he’s a terrific fit in New England’s offense.
Dixon can run between the tackles and catch passes out of the backfield. With a committee approach, Dixon could work his way into the mix and add some much-needed youth to the Pats backfield.
Round 2, Pick 61: Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
As Nate Solder has struggled with health and Sebastian Vollmer gets up there in age, it’s important New England keeps an eye on the future. The team has invested at the interior positions, but the tackle pipeline must be re-filled.
Spriggs is a terrific prospect that could take a year to develop before stepping in. At 6’6, 301, the four-year starter has shown pro-potential. While he’s not necessarily NFL ready, his outstanding athletic ability and talent project him to be a quality starter down the road.
Round 3, Pick 91: Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
Jones is a tough defensive back that proved himself in a Nick Saban defense. His ties to Alabama make him appealing to Belichick and could project as a starter in a nickel defense from day one.
While he’s on the smaller side, 5’10 197, his willingness in run support and abilities on special teams make him a solid selection in the third round for New England.
As an aside, it won’t surprise me if New England moves this selection. The team can’t trade the no.96 pick as it is a compensatory pick, so we’ll see if they move back into the fourth, fifth round or potentially into next year’s draft. We’ll find out next week, but I won’t project trades in this mock.
Round 3, Pick 96: Scooby Wright III, LB, Arizona
Wright battled an injury plagued 2015 season, but has a lot of upside at the NFL level. His collegiate production, instincts and competitiveness will draw a lot of attention by teams around this spot.
Belichick would love a player like Wright in his system. His versatility and blue-collar mentality make him appealing to a young Patriots defense. While his test numbers don’t jump off the page, if you out on the tape, he flashes tremendous ability.
Round 6, Pick 196: Michael Thomas, WR, Southern Miss
Many Patriots fans deem wide receiver as a top need for the team, but as the roster is currently constructed, New England can afford to wait and take a project later in the process. Southern Mississippi’s Mike Thomas is an intriguing prospect that is appealing at this juncture.
The team seems set with players capable of underneath routes and slot capabilities, so Thomas is a change of pace (so to speak), as his talents lean more down the field. He’s a savy route runner with deep threat ability. He’s a project, but one that could pay dividends in a few years.
Round 6, Pick 204: D.J. Reader, DT, Clemson
With New England releasing three interior defensive lineman in the last week, most notably former first-round pick Dominique Easley, it’s clear they are moving in a different direction. The team still has a solid top of the depth chart, but could use some youth to develop.
Reader is a stout interior lineman that projects as a push-the-pocket player at the next level. He might be limited by his physical ability, but could have the talent to develop behind Alan Branch and Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton.
Round 6, Pick 208: Keenan Reynolds, RB/WR, Navy
One of the many Belichick-type players in this class. He’s a decorated athlete and team leader. There’s no clear-cut position for Reynolds at the NFL level, but I could see a team like the Patriots bringing him in and working him out at wide receiver or running back.
Reynolds finished his career at Navy with a FBS record 88 touchdowns and switched to the running back position at the East-West shrine game. His 4,559 rushing yards at QB, also a FBS record, make him even more intriguing as teams look to his NFL future. Ball security was an issue that must be addressed.
Round 6, Pick 214: Jake Coker, QB, Alabama
NFL teams can’t develop quarterbacks enough. The Patriots currently have two QBs on their roster: Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Coker is a player that’s noticeably improved throughout his collegiate career. He stands at 6’5, 236 and has all the physical ability teams look for in prospects. His experience in a pro-style offense is intriguing.
Coker’s tight spiral, arm strength and post-season success is worth taking a chance on in this spot. Bring him in, see what he’s got and have a training camp body at the very least. At this point in the draft, there’s really no downside. I’d be surprised if the team did not select a QB somewhere in the draft.
Round 6, Pick 221: Dan Vitale, RB/FB/TE, NorthWestern
Another Belichick-type player that screams patriot. A versatile player that lined up all over the field. Team leader, tough, high football IQ, that runs great routes and puts the team first.
His work-ethic and special teams ability make him appealing. A player like James Develin may take his roster spot this year, but Vitale could work his way onto the 53-man roster in the next two years.
Round 7, Pick 243: Keyarris Garrett, WR, Tulsa
Garrett possesses NFL size, but there are several reason he’s still available at this point. Injuries, average speed and inability to finish contested catches on a consistent basis have team’s questioning his potential.
What Garrett has going for him is his unique catch radius, big play ability and production at Tulsa that make him worthwhile prospect. Take a shot here as the wide receiver position can use some more youth.
Round 7, Pick 250: Keith Lumpkin, OT, Rutgers
What would a Patriots mock draft be without a Rutgers prospect? Let’s be honest, the team can take a few flyers late and Lumpkin plays at a position the team needs. Just like Spriggs earlier, the Pats may double-dip and inject him into the mix going into off-season activities.
At 6’7, 315, teams will be intrigued with his frame and long arms. The question will be is he athletic enough to work at the next level? Whether he’s able to bend and move with elite level pass rushers could determine his fate, but at this point it’s worth taking a shot in hopes to develop him.
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