The first round of the 2016 NFL Draft is in the books.
With 31 players off the board, it’s time to reset and evaluate what New England can do on Friday night to improve the team. The Patriots currently have selections at 60, 61, 91 and 96 for day two of the draft.
Here’s 10 players the Patriots could target when they’re on the clock:
*No particular order*
– A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Alabama
Robinson was an intrical part of the Alabama defense and imposed his will on opposing offensive lines throughout his collegiate career. His nickname, “man child”, describes his on the field power. His two-gapping ability and interior disruption would be appealing to New England. Consistency is an issue.
– Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
A big, bruising runner with a north-south style. His patience, balance and nose for the line to gain would seem to be a terrific long-term replacement for LeGarrette Blount. Coming from a pro-style offense, Henry should make a smooth transition to the NFL.
– Kenneth Dixon, RB, Louisiana Tech
A totally different player than Henry, but Dixon is an intriguing prospect. His agility, hands, explosive playmaking ability and hungry running style draws similarities to Dion Lewis. The concerns are ball security and pass protection. But when you put on the tape there’s little doubt Dixon has the tools that could excel in the Pats offense.
– Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas
A former teammate of current Patriots defensive lineman, Malcom Butler. Ridgeway should fit into an NFL d-line rotation from day one. A powerful player with terrific instincts. Technique needs work in order to reach full potential.
– Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Some peg wide receiver as a big need for the Patriots and even though I don’t see it above cornerback, running back, offensive tackle and defensive line, it could still be addressed. If so, Thomas would be a solid addition. While not a burner, the 6’3, 210 pound Thomas has terrific footwork, hands, body control and posses the route running ability New England covets.
– Su’a Cravens, DB/LB, USC
A terrific athlete with supreme versatility. Cravens did everything for the Trojans defense at his time in Southern Cal. Great range, coverage skills like a defensive back, but also the tackling and physicality of a linebacker. In this new age NFL, he fits the mold of Patrick Chung and Arizona’s Deone Bucannon.
– Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
A potential day one nickel cornerback with special teams abilities. His punt return accolades put him on NFL draft boards, along with his improvement in coverage throughout his time at Alabama. A willing tackler and despite a smaller frame, can get physical against opposing wide outs.
– Sterling Shepard, WR, Oklahoma
Similar to Thomas, receiver isn’t a pressing need for New England. On top of that, Shepard seems like a player the Patriots have a few of already. With that being said, he would dominate in this offense. One of the most pro-ready receivers in this draft. I love what he brings to the table. Route running, hands, quickness and versatility all strengths.
– Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana
A tall, converted tight end that started four years in college is always a good start when discussing prospects the Patriots would be interested in at tackle. His size and athleticism stand out, but needs more time in the weight room to be a legitimate NFL player. If New England takes him, he could replace Sebastian Vollmer in 2017.
– Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame
A talent like this is tough to ignore. I thought about UCLA’s Myles Jack, but I put him in my honorable mentions because Smith is more likely to be around when New England is on the clock. The Pats need depth at linebacker and have the ability to take a chance on a player that possesses top-10 talent that comes with inherent risk. When healthy, Smith is a phenomenal athlete with incredible instincts and ability. When all is said and done, here’s hoping his knee fully recovers, which is uncertain to this point.
Honorable mentions: Myles Jack (LB, UCLA); Jarren Reed (DL, Alabama): Mackensie Alexander (CB, Clemson); Tyler Boyd (WR, Pittsburgh); Chris Jones (DL, Mississippi); Xavien Howard (CB, Baylor); Sheldon Day (DL, Notre Dame); Kyle Murphy (OT, Stanford); Kendall Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech); Devontae Booker (RB, Utah).
Final Note: It won’t be a surprise if the Patriots make a trade on day two. Bill Belichick could package later round picks to secure a player that slips. Perhaps moving no.91 overall further back into the fourth or fifth rounds — when the team does not have a selection — and don’t rule out adding selections to the 2017 draft, where the team only has five picks.
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