The Patriots had a busy day on Saturday, and with the 2018 NFL Draft now in the books, here’s a complete look at what went down on day three.
1) Round 5 (143) – Ja’whaun Bentley – ILB – Purdue – 6’2″ 260lbs – Perdue – The Patriots addressed the linebacker position with their first pick of Day 3 and Bentley seems to be a good addition. He finished his collegiate career with 272 total tackles and in his final season even returned an interception 76-yards for a touchdown.
He’s a player who at 6’2″, 260lbs is sort of like Tedy Bruschi was because of his size as someone who was considered in-between being a defensive end and linebacker. On film, he seems to have pretty good quickness and great football instincts. He’s also strong and does a great job fighting through defenders, which makes him a good addition to New England’s run defense.
More importantly, Nick Caserio was really high on him when he spoke to the media, which obviously says a lot about how they viewed him.
“This guy is an awesome kid,” said Caserio. “Four-year starter, a three-time captain, which there’s not a lot of people that can say that. A pretty impressive kid, been through a lot on a personal level, but a good football player, very smart, signal caller, ran the defense there at Purdue, played for a couple of different coaches, a couple of different staffs. We brought him in here for a visit here to Foxboro. He was awesome. He was really, really impressive.”
Bentley told reporters during his conference call that he’s familiar with past and present Patriots linebackers and he’s looking forward to getting to work.
“Oh yes, for sure. I’ve definitely watched a lot of football, so I’ve seen a lot of guys from the Patriots, even back to Tedy Bruschi, Adalius Thomas days,” said Bentley. “Especially Rosevelt Colvin, like you said, Rob Ninkovich, guys like that – I definitely watched a lot of ball, watch some guys play, the history of backers. Dont’a Hightower is one of my favorites. It’s definitely a good system as far as the linebacker is concerned. I’m just excited to get to work.”
2) Round 6 (178) Christian Sam – ILB – Arizona State – 6’2″ 244lbs – Arizona State – Sam’s not a big player but he’s strong and very athletic, with terrific speed and acceleration in pursuit and he’s really good laterally attacking players in the flat. For a player who only ran a 4.75 40-yard dash, he looks quicker on film than the time he put up, which makes sense given that he started his football career as a defensive back before playing linebacker at Arizona State.
One other thing that stood out is the fact that he doesn’t shy away from contact, often lowering his shoulder to deliver the big hit. Belichick loves speed and toughness and Sam appears to possess both of those attributes. For a team in need of getting younger and faster at that position, it’s a smart addition if he can develop into a contributor in their defense.
After being able to also select Bentley, Caserio said they were glad to get both of these players in this year’s draft as both possess skills that are unique and ones he believes can help them.
“I’d say they’re a little bit different,” said Caserio. “They’re both off-the-ball linebackers. Bentley’s a little bit more of a ‘mike’ linebacker. Sam is probably a little bit more of a ‘will’ linebacker. His situation – a real successful high school program at Texas. He actually was a defensive back. He played safety in high school and then he got to Arizona State. He kind of was the spur, kind of the call it a ‘star walked-out will linebacker’ initially and then they moved him kind of to off-the-ball linebacker, a ‘will’ linebacker type.”
“[He’s] athletic, runs really well, played for Coach [Todd[ Graham, who we have a lot of respect for Todd and his program that he ran out there, a good relationship there. A smart kid, ran the defense, so between the two of them you’re talking about good mental capacity just in terms of handling volume, handling adjustments. Those are two players that we liked that we spent some time with and we were fortunate that we were able to acquire them.”
3) Round 6 (210) Braxton Berrios – WR – 5’9″ 184lbs – Miami – Berrios should be fun to watch in camp, because he’s extremely fast and a pretty dynamic player.
One of the things about Berrios is the fact that considering his small size, he managed to make up for his lack of height with his athleticism and toughness. He reportedly ran between a 4.3 and 4.4 40-yard dash on his Pro Day, and despite having played at the slot during his career, he’s confident he can play both inside and outside.
“Obviously, in college, especially this last year, I played primarily in slot,” Berrios told WQAM recently via the Miami Herald. “But I did line up at boundary. I did line up outside at Z, so I’ve done other things. …Naturally, I am a slot. But there’s nothing to say I can’t go play outside at some point in time.”
He was also impressive in the return game on punts, which there’s obviously an opening for after Danny Amendola’s departure to Miami.
Caserio praised his intelligence and gave him credit for making the most of his opportunities during his time in Miami.
“So, [he’s] an impressive kid. This guy’s really, really smart,” said Caserio. “He graduated in, I want to say three to three-and-a-half years, whatever it was. Played inside the formation at the University of Miami, really productive, really tough, good traits, smart, good quickness, was productive, had more opportunities here this season in Miami and he made the most of them.”
Needless to say, he should be fun to watch when fans get to see him hit the field in July.
Etling was the only quarterback selected by the Patriots Saturday.
4) Round 7 (219) Danny Etling – QB – 6’3″ 222lbs – LSU: – Etling’s journey is an interesting one, with the college quarterback having dealt with some adversity on his way to being drafted on Sunday.
Etling originally started his career at Perdue as a four-star recruit, but his time as a Boilermaker was short-lived after his sophomore season saw him get overtaken by Austin Appleby after a 2-3 start. That led to him to transfer to LSU.
Given what he had just been through, he obviously had a fire lit under him and battled his way from the scout team in 2015 to become the starter, leading the team to a 7-3 record along with a victory in the Citrus Bowl.
From there, his senior season was impressive. He finished last year completing 60% of his throws while throwing for 2463 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions, one of which was a desperation throw at the end of their battle against Troy. That one didn’t sit well as it ended up being the first home loss for LSU in 49 games against non-league opponents and saw Etling temporarily knocked out of the game after getting shaken up in the first half.
But his toughness and gutsy play are big reasons he was able to win over fans at LSU, along with the fact he was smart with the football. Nick Caserio praised him for his ball security during his press conference Saturday night, saying Etling has attributes they can work with.
“Here’s a guy, a Purdue transfer, went down to LSU and the thing about him – he played for Coach [Cam] Cameron in kind of a pro-style offense,” said Caserio. “He had some experience. The one thing he didn’t do – he didn’t turn the ball over. You look at his career production and this guy didn’t turn the ball over. I think it was 16-2 this year, a low percentage.”
“He takes care of the ball, smart, pretty accurate thrower. There’s some good qualities and traits that we think we can work with and develop. He played against good people on a weekly basis, kind of like we talked about with Sony [Michel] and Isaiah [Wynn].
One knock on him came in 2016 where he lost sight of the clock in the critical moment against Auburn and had a game-winning play called back because of it (see below video). Considering who he’s playing behind and will likely be looking to take over for, those are hopefully things he’s learned from. But he’s seemingly a smart, athletic player with potential so we’ll have to see what kind of magic Josh McDaniels can pull off developing him.
5) Round 7 (243): Keion Crossen – CB – 5’10” l80lbs – West Carolina – Crossen finished with 165 tackles during his four years at West Carolina, including 106 solo and 5 for a loss along with three interceptions.
His story is interesting, with Crossen telling USA TODAY earlier this month that he’s always been underrated and it’s one of the things that’s driven him to excel. He even went so far as to cite Tom Brady’s journey, which ultimately is ironic given that he ended up here.
“I’m a motivated guy. I love reading Tom Brady’s draft profile. He had all these negative things said about him,” said Crossen. “He was too small, he didn’t have a strong arm. There’s always something. Us smaller-school guys always work just a little bit harder. I didn’t have the same resources that the bigger programs can provide. You have to work with what you have.”
“At Western for example, we didn’t have an indoor facility. Practicing in the snow wasn’t a big deal. Practicing in the rain wasn’t a big deal. I never let the outside factors determine who I am or what I can accomplish. I only control what I can control — things like my work ethic, my attitude, my passion for the game and my study habits. I make sure that I’m a coachable player. I make sure I respect my coaches and my teammates.”
At the end of the day, Crossen admitted that he just loves the game and despite his physical attribtutes, it’s his knowledge of the game that sets him apart.
“I just know football, period. Being athletic can only serve as your foundation. Your character and football IQ is what puts you over the top. Those are the attributes that I have. That’s where the diamond in the rough comes from.”
Crossen also said during that same interview that he previously worked out for both the Patriots and Bills, who each came down to Western Carolina to look at him.
The school posted a good video of him in a segment called “WCUINSPIRES”. Check it out below:
6) Round 7 (250): Ryan Izzo – TE- 6’5″ – 256lbs – Florida State – Izzo played in 35 games during his collegiate career at FSU, catching 45 passes for 602 yards and 5 touchdowns, averaging 13.4 yards per catch. 27 of his 45 receptions went for first downs.
Izzo has had an interesting road, with the FSU standout having originally started out in high school as a quarterback before switching to tight end during his sophomore season. He made the move after the team hired new head coach Brian Carlson, who believed he could play at the next level at that position.
He’s the oldest of three brothers and is a family man, including the fact that after losing his grandmother to breast cancer in 2015, he wears a pink bracelet on his wrist that, according to the Orlando Sentinal, has faded and turned white because he’s never taken off. He also has a cousin who has local ties here in New England, having played linebacker for three seasons at UMass.
While Izzo is a threat in the passing game, his blocking ability is his apparent claim to fame and if he’s anything like former FSU tight end Nick O’Leary (drafted by the Bills in 2015), he’ll have a work ethic that should make him a great addition to New England.
According to Caserio, he’s been on their radar for a while and now it will be interesting to see how he potentially factors into the mix.
“We’ve been kind of watching this guy here for the past couple of years and just a solid, strong, consistent football player,” said Caserio. “We’ll put him in the mix there at tight end.”
Posted Under: 2018 Patriots Draft