Category Archives: 2017 NFL Draft

Patriots Players Ready For the 2nd Year Jump in Performance

Steve Balestrieri
May 22, 2017 at 8:00 am ET

The Patriots begin the next phase of their 2017 offseason OTAs today at Gillette Stadium and they’ll be on the field for the first time doing football drills. And while many will be focusing on the new players such as Stephon Gilmore, Brandin Cooks, and Kony Ealy, the second-year players should be of equal importance. Bill Belichick always talks of the big jump that players experience between their rookie and sophomore seasons.

There are several players that will bear watching under that scenario but we’re going to focus on just three that could play very large roles in 2017.  Guard Joe Thuney, WR Malcolm Mitchell and CB/KR Cyrus Jones.

Thuney was a Day 1 starter at left guard and had the not-so-unexpected growing pains, Mitchell got hurt in training camp but came on in the second half of the season and was a key contributor in the Super Bowl win over the Falcons. Jones was the team’s top draft choice a year ago, a talented corner and kick returner who struggled mightily and was barely a blip on the radar in 2016.

Thuney was drafted by the Patriots in the 3rd round (78th overall) in the 2016 NFL Draft out of NC State. The 6’4, 305-pound tackle turned guard was a steady, dependable interior offensive lineman last year. He fought his way thru the competition at training camp to become the Day 1 starter at left guard. He showed good communication with LT Nate Solder and C David Andrews and they did a good job of keeping the Patriots QBs upright.


Joe Thuney wants to know “What are Pink Stripes?” (SBalestrieri photo)

He certainly got a good rookie report card from Bill Belichick. “Joe is smart. Joe works hard. He’s here every day. I don’t think he’s missed a day all spring, summer,” Belichick said. “He shows up every day [and] goes to work. A lunch-pail guy. He just grinds it out. And he’s smart. Takes coaching well. He understands what we’re doing.”

He needed to get stronger this offseason and that will bear some watching. But after spending a year with his demanding OL Coach Dante Scarnecchia, he should be ready for the Year 2 jump. His technique, communication, and strength should all be better. There will be no backsliding on Coach Scar’s crew.

The Patriots drafted Mitchell in the 4th round, (112th overall) in last season’s draft. His story was well known when he wasn’t a good reader and joined a ladies’ book club in Georgia. Now he’s an author of a children’s book and a Super Bowl champion.


Malcolm Mitchell puts a move on Darrell Roberts in 2016 TC. (SBalestrieri photo)

Mitchell suffered an injury in the team’s first preseason game and that definitely slowed his progress. He barely registered on the stat sheet thru the first half of the season. But after Tom Brady’s return from suspension, Mitchell gradually worked his way onto the field and earned his way into Brady’s circle of trust. He finished the season with a modest 32 catches for 401 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. But his Super Bowl was a game that showed that his future is bright with New England, catching six passes for 70 yards and again, Brady trusted him to come thru at crunch time late in the game.

The Patriots are stacked at wide receiver this season. With Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, newcomer Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola, Mitchell and newcomers Austin Carr, Cody Hollister and Devin Lucien. But while Mitchell’s numbers may not increase dramatically in 2017, he should be an integral part of the offensive plan this season.

No one could have predicted the struggles that Cyrus Jones suffered in 2016. Coming from the storied football of program of Nick Saban at Alabama, Jones was a talented corner who was thought to be in line for reps at least in the slot for 2016. He was also a dangerous, valuable kick returner, returning four for touchdowns in his final college season. None of it materialized. Right off the bat in Minicamp, he began to struggle with holding onto kicks and that carried over to the season. He never made an impression defensively and his season was about missed opportunity.


Cyrus Jones had ball security issues in 2016. (SBalestrieri photo)

Jones has a lot of work to do in 2017, the Patriots used a 2nd round draft pick (60th overall) last season on him and ball security should be at the top of his list. His judgment wasn’t great either, and that was the cause of his being inactive for five of the team’s final six games.

Bill Belichick needs to work with Jones early this year….OTAs is a prime spot and build up Jones’ confidence. That’s mainly what his problem was in 2016, a confidence issue and not an ability one. He knows how to play football and has been successful at the pinnacle of the college football world. Once his return issues are resolved, his play on defense should be markedly improved as well. He’s the guy we’re picking here as our selection as the most improved player in 2017.

Other second-year players include Elandon Roberts, Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton and Jacoby Brissett. In Brissett’s case, we may not see a big jump in play in Year 2 strictly because of logistics. With Tom Brady and Jimmy Garoppolo under center at QB this season, there are only so many snaps to go around. And Brissett may not get a ton of work.

The Patriots will have plenty of new faces to integrate into the system, beginning this week for the OTAs but we’ll be keeping focused on seeing how the 2nd year players perform this spring/summer. Getting off to a quick start is always a good sign for having a good regular season. For Thuney, Mitchell, and Jones that all begins today.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

An Early Projection for the Patriots Starting Lineup, Better, Stronger, Faster

Steve Balestrieri
May 8, 2017 at 9:08 am ET

The NFL Draft is in the books, free agency has been fruitful, and the Patriots have made a flurry of initial UDFA moves. Barring any late moves or last minute trades, the initial roster of the 2017 Patriots should now be set.

As it stands now on paper, the roster for this season’s team looks better than the one that just won the Super Bowl. But as Bill Belichick has frequently said, you never really know what each season’s team will be like until Thanksgiving. Lots of things can and will change, injuries occur, and some players’ production will either rise or fall inside the system. Tweaks to the roster always occur during the season.

But what we see now should constitute the bulk of this year’s team. Confidence is high as always in New England. And for a team that has won 10 or more games for 14 straight seasons, why should there be any other feeling?

So here is a quick projection for the starting lineup for the 2017 Patriots

Offense:
Quarterback:

Tom Brady: Well duh? No change from last year or the 15 years prior. While the talk remains that eventually, his play is going to fall off a cliff due to his age, at this point, it is a lot of wishful thinking for a lot of non-Patriots supporters. His play, especially in the 2nd half of Super Bowl LI shows he’s still at the top of the heap in regard to NFL QBs.

His backups remain Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett. The rumor mill for Jimmy G. had him being traded this offseason but he’s still here, at least for 2017 and should any injury occur, he’ll be ready to step in.


James White is among a crowded Patriots backfield this season.

Running Back:

James White: After a Super Bowl where he could have easily been named the MVP, White has been given a nice raise and contract extension. And with the Patriots being a passing team first, White has proven to be a trusted, capable weapon in the offense.

But the Patriots are a matchup team that uses a rotation of running backs so their roster of backs doesn’t really have a starter per se, it will depend on how they match up against an opponent. Mike Gillislee will have a big role, taking over the big back i.e. LeGarrette Blount role. Something to consider, New England runs the ball on third down much more so than most fans would believe, so Gillislee will have a big role.

Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis, who should be completely healthy now round out the RB options. James Develin remains the fullback. Brandon Bolden, D.J. Foster, and LeShun Daniels are longshots for the roster at this point.

Wide Receiver:

Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks: The Patriots brought in the speedster Cooks who was very productive in New Orleans this offseason. He’ll move around from outside to the slot depending on the matchups. A look at the top three with Edelman, Hogan, and Cooks shows that all of them can do the same. That makes for a very difficult group to cover. The versatility factor makes this group even more dangerous.

Malcolm Mitchell and Danny Amendola are the primary backups and they’ve shown that they’ve earned Brady’s circle of trust. Mitchell came on in the second half of his rookie season and should be ready for more production in Year 2.

Devin Lucien, Devin Street, and Cody Hollister are longshots for the roster.


Rob Gronkowski is once again the Patriots top TE Option heading into 2017.

Tight End:

Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen: Gronkowski returns healthy for 2017 and Allen was brought over in a rare trade with the Colts, replacing Martellus Bennett who left in free agency. Gronk, when healthy remains the gold standard for NFL tight ends. Allen is an excellent blocker that can be very productive in the passing game who can attack the seams of the defense.

There is now plenty of depth behind them with James O’Shaughnessy, Matt Lengel, Rob Housler and Jacob Hollister fighting it out for a roster slot and repetitions. Training camp competition will be interesting to watch here.

Tackle:

Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon: No changes here from 2016. Solder returned from IR and played very solid in 2016. He’s in the last year of his contract and the Patriots must decide this year if they want him to return in 2018. Cannon was the biggest pleasant surprise of 2016. He parlayed a contract extension into a very solid campaign under the able tutelage of Dante Scarnecchia.

The team drafted a potential replacement for Solder in 2018 or beyond with Antonio Garcia. They added another tackle in the late rounds of the draft with Conor McDermott. He’ll be fighting backups Michael Williams, Cameron Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle for reps and a roster slot.

Guard:

Joe Thuney, Shaq Mason: No changes here from 2016. Thuney came in and started from Day 1 at left guard. As can be expected, he struggled a bit as a rookie and needs to come back stronger for his second season. Mason is a tough, road grader in the running game and will be looking to improve as well in 2017.

Primary backups should be Jamil Douglas who was brought over in midseason from Miami who was a 4th round draft pick in 2015 and Chris Barker.

Center:

David Andrews: No change here from 2016. Andrews is a bit undersized for the position but is smart and tough. He won over Tom Brady during training camp last year because of his ability to make the line calls and seeing the field much like Brady did.

His backup remains Ted Karras, the tough but less mobile version of Andrews. Karras can also play guard as well, the versatility that the coaching staff loves.


Flowers had a strong showing in 2016.

Defense:
Defensive End:

Trey Flowers, Kony Ealy: Lots of changes here. Gone are last season’s Week 1 starters Chris Long and Jabaal Sheard via free agency. But Flowers, who came on strong in the 2nd half of the season was the team’s best defensive lineman down the stretch and should be primed for a very solid 2017. Ealy was brought over from the Panthers as well as a 3rd round pick for the Patriots 2nd rounder.

Lots of good depth here now, Rob Ninkovich will play both DE and OLB and fill in where he’s needed and may still lobby for starting duties. Top draft choice Derek Rivers gives the team the speed and athleticism from the edge. Deatrich Wise is a bigger, edge setting end who can kick inside as an interior pass rusher. Lawrence Guy is another big man who can play inside as an interior tackle or on the edge. Geneo Grissom is on the outside looking in this year.

Tackle:

Malcom Brown, Alan Branch: No changes to the starting lineup. Brown played solidly in Year 2 but could stand to improve his pocket push in 2017. Branch was excellent against the run in 2016, eating up a ton of space. He returns with a new deal and has played the best football of his career since coming to New England.

Backups include Vincent Valentine, Woodrow Hamilton, Guy, Darius Kilgo, and UDFA Josh Augusta who is one of the players to watch in training camp. He’s a huge space eater who could be one of the surprise players to stick on the roster.

Linebacker:

Dont’a Hightower, Jonathan Freeny: Wait, what? People forget Freeny, a Bill Belichick favorite was a starter for the defense a year ago until landing on IR. Hightower got a new deal after testing free agency and not finding the market he envisioned out there. He’s the glue that holds the defense together for the Pats. He calls the defense and is the guy they need in the middle. He can do it all, stuff the run, cover in the flat and blitz up the A-gaps. Hightower’s starting slot is secure, Freeny will have to re-earn his spot this summer. But for now, he’s in.

Backups include sub-package third down players Shea McClellin and Kyle Van Noy, run-stuffer Elandon Roberts, Ninkovich, Trevor Bates and UDFA Harvey Langi. Langi is one of my players to watch this summer.

Since the Patriots spend so much time in sub-packages, we only include two starting linebackers, therefore…


Butler’s potential return solidifies a terrific secondary.

Cornerback:

Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe: The team gave Gilmore a big money contract this spring during free agency. And after a contentious period with Butler, he signed his free-agent tender and has been in for off-season workouts. Rowe is a big matchup corner and gives the Patriots a very solid starting three. Each has the versatility to be shifted around and play outside or in the slot depending on how Belichick and Matt Patricia choose to use them.

Backups include Cyrus Jones, Jonathan Coleman, Jonathan Jones, and intriguing UDFA D.J. Killings who for now, is a long shot for the roster.

Safety:

Devin McCourty, Pat Chung: No changes here from 2016. McCourty is the QB for the secondary and always ensures that the players in are in the right position. He plays the centerfield position in the base defense and can slide up to play in the slot in the “big nickel”. Chung is the guy in the box, he plays physical against the run and he’ll cover tight ends in the short to intermediate range.

Duron Harmon was brought back with a nice deal in free agency. He plays a lot of snaps and replaces McCourty as the center fielder in big nickel coverage. Jordan Richards has been disappointing thus far. Nate Ebner and Brandon King are special teamers.

Special Teams:

Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Joe Cardona, Matthew Slater: The team’s specialists remain the same. Gostkowski will have training camp competition for the first time in a while from Josh Gable, known more for his trick shots. Punter Ryan Allen and LS Joe Cardona face no competition. Slater is a perennial Pro-Bowl gunner.

So, with the additions made in the draft and free agency, the Patriots look …on paper in a prime position to compete for another Super Bowl bid. Of course, injuries and other factors always weigh in but there are no holes on the roster as it currently stands. They’ve addressed their needs across the board and look even better than the team that won 14 games in the regular season and three more in the playoffs in 2016.

Is it time for mini-camp yet?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

VIDEO: Fitzy’s Wicked Pissah Draftermath 2017

Robert Alvarez
May 7, 2017 at 7:58 pm ET

New England Patriots superfan Fitzy shares his thoughts and analysis on how the team performed at the 2017 NFL Draft.

WARNING, NSFW, Language.

Patriots’ Defense on the Edge Will Have a Different Look in 2017

Steve Balestrieri
May 3, 2017 at 10:50 am ET

 The Patriots didn’t have to make too many changes for a roster that had just won Super Bowl LI but one of the areas that underwent pretty dramatic change was at defensive end on the edge. With Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long leaving via free agency, it was considered the Patriots biggest area of need.

And the Patriots have addressed it, bringing in Kony Ealy in a trade with the Carolina Panthers and then drafting a pair of edge players Derek Rivers from Youngstown State and Deatrich Wise from Arkansas. Those three players will join Trey Flowers and Rob Ninkovich for the Patriots this season. The team signed UDFA linebacker Harvey Langi as well and he played the edge for BYU somewhat last year, but his best fit is at outside linebacker.

Flowers was arguably the best Patriots defensive lineman down the stretch last season. He’s guaranteed to be starting at RDE when the season starts. Ninkovich and Ealy will compete for the LDE spot. With Rivers and Wise providing rotational depth.

But this year’s unit has a much different feel to it because they have more versatility. Ealy is a bigger guy at 6’4, 275 pounds. He can set the edge in the running game, has the athleticism to get after the passer and is big and physical enough to kick inside as an interior pass rusher on third down. Flowers already does that frequently.

The Patriots brought in another free agent, Lawrence Guy who can be a sub-package interior pass rusher. That’s what they’ll get in Wise as well. He’s a big kid, at 6’5, 275 pounds with insanely long arms that he needs to learn to use better. When he extends his arms, with his upper body strength, he can push through tackles and get to the quarterback. He’s frequently been compared to Chandler Jones but isn’t nearly as athletic. He’s more of a big edge setter. But Wise can also kick inside and provide interior pass rush…Seeing a trend here?

Which brings us to the team’s first draft pick Derek Rivers. If there was one element the Patriots front seven lacked on the edge last season was speed. Rivers will bring that speed to the pass rush with an athleticism that should serve the team very well.

Rivers isn’t as big at 6’4, 250 pounds at the defensive end position but ran a 4:61 in the 40-Yard Dash, with a 1:61 10-Yard Split. His time in the 3-Cone Drill was third best at the position with 6:94. That shows he has the quick twitch athleticism, loose hips and the ability to change direction as well as bend off the edge to get to the QB. He showed his strength with 30 reps at the Bench Press.

He may need some time to find his feet in the NFL, similar to how Flowers progressed in his first campaign, but he has the potential to be a very good player in the league. The good part is, with the depth of the team, he won’t be pushed too hard too soon. They can let him develop and learn the nuances of the position at the NFL level.

With the added depth, the Patriots can move Ninkovich around and possibly let him take some snaps at OLB with Shea McClellin, Kyle Van Noy, and Langhi.

However, the edge will look quite different in 2017. How effective will it be? No one knows right now but I’d bet on Belichick having it figured out as the season winds along.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

With Patriots Selection of Wise Jr., Two Razorbacks Now Reunited

Ian Logue
April 30, 2017 at 1:13 pm ET

If the Patriots are hoping their new draft picks will hit the ground running when they get to work building a foundation with their new team, at least one player already has someone he can feel comfortable being around.

Fourth-round selection Deatrich Wise Jr, a defensive end out of Arkansas, is also a former teammate of Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers after the two played together at Arkansas.  While it’s typically hard enough for a new player to take the next step from the college ranks into the NFL, having a familiar face already in the locker room for Wise Jr. should certainly make that a little easier.

The two certainly share some similarities. Both were highly talented prospects coming out of college and looking back at their combine numbers, the two are comparable players in terms of how they each performed during their respective years.  Flowers was even the top performer in his class in three categories, including the vertical jump (36.5 inches), broad jump (121 inches) and 60-yard shuttle (12.03 seconds).

However, Wise Jr. actually out-performed him this year in a few categories.  He had a faster 40 time (4.92 vs 4.93), longer broad jump (125 inches vs 121 inches), and a faster 3 cone drill (7.07 seconds vs 7.34).

Flowers was a player who Wise Jr. told reporters during his conference call Saturday that he looked up to during their time together, and he’s looking forward to the opportunity to play with him at the next level.

“It was a great relationship, an older brother-type relationship,” said Wise Jr..  “He was a mentor to me throughout his last two years, my first two years. He taught me how to do certain things, taught me how to watch film, taught me how to play certain positions, and on top of all that, just the mindset to play and the mindset you have to have to go into a game, go into a practice, go into life. I have a good relationship with Trey and looking forward to meeting up there and working with him.”


Wise finished his college career with 16.5 sacks and 23 tackles for a loss.

He’s definitely a disruptive player, having finished his college career with 112 tackles, including 23 for a loss along with 16.5 sacks.  He also had six passes defensed, as well as four forced fumbles including one recovery.

One of the things that’s somewhat fascinating about Wise is the fact that he might be a talented player with first-round ability who fell to New England after injuries caused his stock to drop.  As Jason Kersey of SEC Country points out, Wise Jr. was once considered to be a first-round prospect after a 2015 season that saw him finish with 8 sacks and 10.5 tackles for a loss.  But he broke his hand in the 2016 season opener and later separated his shoulder, which saw him play the rest of the season primarily as a third-down pass-rusher. He battled through it, finishing the year with just 3.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for a loss.

“I came into the season with a hand injury and then four or five weeks into the season, I had that shoulder injury,” said Wise Jr. of last season. “It was difficult. It was tough to play with those injuries, but I persevered through them and that’s what happened.”

Wise Jr. also has an NFL bloodline, with his father having played for Seattle and New Orleans.  He said in an interview with SEC Sports that his dad always reminded him to believe in himself and give it his best each time he stepped out there.

“Well, one, he talked about my mentality and how every time you get on the field, just give it your all,” said Wise Jr.  “As many times I didn’t start this whole season where I wasn’t the starter, but every time I stepped on the field, I believed in myself to make plays and I said, ‘I’m going to give my all’, that’s what happened.”

And now he joins his father as another member of his family to play in the NFL, which will see him begin the journey to try and create his own legacy here in New England in the coming months.

PHOTO: Tom Brady Provides Inspiration For Final Round Of NFL Draft

Robert Alvarez
at 12:10 pm ET

Ahead of Saturday’s fourth to seventh rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady shared an inspirational message over his Instagram account reminding players selected today just how many lower round selections contributed to his teams Super Bowl 51 championship.

Brady, a noted 2000 sixth rounder, posted a picture of himself hugging 2009 seventh rounder wide reciever Julian Edelman following the victory in Houston with the caption “#199 + #232 + 5 undrafted in the huddle = 51.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTeWjb0Be4W/?taken-by=tombrady&hl=en

New England Patriots News 4-30, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are your Sunday’s Patriots news 4-30, & AFC East Notes.

Not that anyone really cares but on Saturday, Deflategate actually ended. The Patriots had to cede their 4th round draft pick. But if the NFL’s arbitrary enforcement of an equipment violation’s intent was to punish New England, think about this. During the timeline of Deflategate, New England was 31-7 with two Super Bowl wins…. Back to the drawing board guys.

With the draft complete, the Patriots were so deep at so many positions, they drafted only OL and DL. That is a good problem to have.

We mentioned this before here, but nobody does a better job of evaluating talent than the NFL Network’s Mike Mayock. Between his work on the Combine and then the Draft, he’s head and shoulders above everyone else. I’d be surprised if someone doesn’t try to bring him on board a franchise soon as a talent evaluator.

Draft Had the Future in Mind: The Patriots added some depth and potential impact players in the 2017 NFL Draft but this seemed to be a draft with the focus clearly on 2018 and beyond. While players such as top pick Derek Rivers will be looked at to contribute this season, he and OT Antonio Garcia were selected clearly with the future in mind. Deatrich Wise will be looked to be a sub-package player initially.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. With a roster as loaded as New England’s is and fresh off another Super Bowl victory, there aren’t a ton of open starting positions available. And they used some of their draft capital on free agent player, which will segue right into this…

Belichick, Patriots Go for Known Commodity, Value over Draft Picks:
We’ve repeated this time and again but it bears repeating. While many fans and some of the talking heads in the media lament the lack of draft picks for the Patriots, Bill Belichick doesn’t

“Obviously, we’ve been watching a lot of picks go by, but I feel like overall our opportunity in this draft started a couple of months ago, Belichick said.

“The four players that we acquired already are also part of the draft process, Belichick added.”

“Hopefully we’ve been able to improve our team, become more competitive. That’s the ultimate goal, he said.”

One needn’t have to read the tea leaves to see that Belichick considers the players traded for draft picks in free agency as draft capital. So, he deems Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy as the team’s first and second-round picks. Dwayne Allen as a fourth rounder and Mike Gillislee as a fifth-round pick.

In trading for established pro players, Belichick has a known commodity in making the deals. Cooks, for example, has been a very productive receiver in the NFL and there’s no reason to believe that at just 23 years old, he won’t continue to grow as a player.

The draft is a crap shoot because no one really knows how a player will turn out once he turns professional. How many “can’t miss” prospects end up busting? It is an inexact science, something Belichick has said numerous times. They know Cooks, Ealy, Allen, and Gillislee can produce in the NFL because they already have. Albeit, some at different levels than the others but with Belichick, he will place these players in a position to succeed, knowing that they are professionals already.

Now take a second look at the Patriots ‘draft’ haul and it looks much different.
1st Round – Brandon Cooks, WR, Trade with New Orleans
2nd Round – Kony Ealy, DE, Trade with Carolina
3rd Round – Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
3rd Round – Antonio Garcia, T, Troy
4th Round – Dwayne Allen, TE, Trade with Indy
4th Round – Deatrich Wise, DE, Arkansas
5th Round – Mike Gillislee, RB, RFA Buffalo
5th Round – James O’Shaughnessy, TE, Trade KC
6th Round – Connor McDermott T, UCLA

Now courtesy of another lookover of the haul and it seems like a much deeper draft class, doesn’t it?

Garoppolo and Butler Stay Put, Despite All the Trade Rumors:
After much talk dedicated to the “what if” category of New England trading QB Jimmy Garoppolo and CB Malcolm Butler this offseason, both remain here and likely will for at least the 2014 season.

There were rumors that the Patriots rebuffed a Cleveland Browns trade offer on Thursday night. Whether the Browns didn’t offer enough compensation or not remains unseen but supposedly New England told the Browns that Garoppolo was not up for grabs.

Cleveland eventually took a QB in the draft, DeShone Kizer from Notre Dame with the 52nd pick, so that should put the Jimmy G. rumors to rest now.

Butler too was subject to many trade rumors to New Orleans. Although the Saints said they were impressed with him, they didn’t swing a deal for him since they would have had to give the Patriots compensation of a first-round pick and then some and subsequently signed him to a long-term contract.

Both remain on the roster and should remain there for at least the 2017 season. With no CB taken, Butler, Stephon Gilmore, and Eric Rowe seem to be the top three CBs in the rotation. Butler may see some time in the slot depending on the matchups. Cyrus Jones is in the mix too.

Rivers on Meeting Belichick on Pre-Draft Meeting, “It was Awesome”:
Top Patriots draft pick Derek Rivers

“It was awesome, man,” Rivers said to the media via conference call. “I mean, we talked ball. I love coach Belichick. I love everything he is and what he stands for and how he coaches his demeanor. I mean, he’s an awesome dude. I could learn a lot from him.”

“Man, it’s awesome,” he said when asked about coming to New England. “I’m super excited. I mean, there’s just so much I can learn from those guys that were there, as far as just the commitment that those guys have, the type of coaching that’s in that locker room.”

“I’m just ready to learn from those guys and get better with those guys.”

UDFA Signings By the Patriots:
As soon as the draft was complete, the undrafted players immediately began getting interest from teams. The Patriots have already either signed or are bringing in several players on a tryout basis. Those already linked to New England include:
DT Josh Augusta, Missouri
LB Harvey Langi, BYU
WR Austin Carr, Northwestern
S Jason Thompson, Utah
G Jason King, Purdue
TE Jacob Hollister, Wyoming
CB Kenny Moore, Valdosta State
DE Corey Vereen, Tennessee
S David Jones, Richmond
DT Adam Butler, Vanderbilt
RB Leshun Daniels Jr., Iowa
OT Cole Croston, Iowa
OT Max Rich, Harvard
S Damarius Travis, Minnesota
CB D.J. Killings, Central Florida
DE Adam Butler, Vanderbilt

There will be plenty of comings and goings on this list, so stay tuned…

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Bills Address Needs and Move up and Down the Board:
The Buffalo Bills had needs at CB, and WR with the loss of Stephon Gilmore and Robert Woods. Their first two picks in the draft definitely met those.

LSU CB Tre’Davious White is a perfect fit for the Bills zone defense and he’s considered a solid locker room presence as well as a player. He will compete for an immediate role as a starter.

Zay Jones, the WR from East Carolina gives Buffalo a solid #2 WR that will provide the receptions to move the chains. He was an incredibly productive receiver with 399 career receptions in college.

I loved the pick of BC LB Matt Milano, who flies all over the field and will play special teams. But moving up for RT Dion Dawkins? Seemed like a reach and there wasn’t really a need to move up. Time will tell. The pick of QB Nathan Peterman from Pittsburgh was another nice move. He’ll push Cardale Jones for a roster spot.

Miami Grabs Nice Edge Rusher in Harris:
The Miami Dolphins first pick in the draft was Missouri DE Charles Harris, who we really liked in the pre-draft process. He fits an obvious need and should fit right in with the Dolphins defense.

Another excellent pick in Round 2 was Ohio State LB Raekwon McMillian. He filled a position of need at ILB where the team will eventually decide to replace Koa Misi. He’s solid, and an excellent player against the run.

Round 3 CB Cordrea Tankersley from Clemson gives them the length they needed at the position. He should compete for reps on Day 1. Isaac Assiata was another good pick. The OL was a place the Dolphins needed to upgrade and he’s a good choice. An excellent run blocker, he’ll need to work on his pass protection. A very good draft for the Dolphins.

Jets Snag Two Safeties Early:
The New York Jets double-dipped at the safety position with two good selections who fell right into their lap at the #6 and #39 positions respectively with Jamal Adams from LSU and Marcus Maye from Florida. The Jets had an obvious need there and those two should step right in and compete.

They then double-dipped at WR with Ar’Darrius Stewart and Chad Hansen but their sleeper pick is Jordan Leggett, TE from Clemson who has the tools to be a very good one in the NFL. But the biggest question still isn’t answered. Who is going to be the QB?

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and myself from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

 

Patriots Make Trades, Select DE and OT Friday Night

Ian Logue
April 28, 2017 at 11:34 pm ET

It was quite a wait for anyone watching Friday night’s coverage of Rounds Two and Three of the 2017 NFL Draft, with fans in New England forced to wait a little longer after Bill Belichick did Belicick-like things on draft night.

The Patriots didn’t have a second round pick and just as it seemed the they were poised to make their first selection of the night, Belichick traded out of the 72nd overall spot with Tennessee, shipping off a 6th-round pick along with their selection while picking up a 4th-round pick.  They essentially moved back 11 spots with the trade with the Titans, who selected Western Kentucky receiver Tawaun Taylor with New England’s #72 pick.

When the Patriots did finally get back on the clock at 10:25pm ET Friday night, former Patriot Andre Tippett came out and announced the selection, with New England going with Youngstown State defensive end Derek Rivers with their first pick of 2017.  Prior to the selection, Mike Reiss predicted a “line of scrimmage” pick, and Rivers certainly looks like one who will make some noise up front.

Here’s a look at Tippet announcing Rivers’ selection:

Rivers finished with 16 sacks in 2016, which was second most in the nation for the 6’4″, 248-pound player.

Overall, Rivers is a solid addition and another young player who should hopefully develop well along with fellow Patriot, Trey Flowers.  He was also just named 2017 Youngstown Scholar-Athletes of the Year Thursday Night along with track and field standout Jaynee Corbett.

The Patriots then traded up with the Lions from the #96 overall spot to #85 and grabbed offensive tackle Antonio Garcia out of Troy.


Garcia adds talent to New England’s offensive line.

In Garcia, New England added a key player to their offensive line, filling a need at the tackle position after the team released Sebastian Vollmer last month following an incredible tenure by Vollmer with the club. The 6’6″, 302 pound tackle finished his career having played in 44 games over his collegiate career, including 13 in his final season in 2016.

His former school Tweeted out the fact that the rookie is the highest pick ever drafted out of his university.

His school also pointed out that after 900 snaps, he never gave up a sack.

It appears to be a great move by the Patriots who obviously wanted him, giving up their 96th and 124th overall selection in the move.

Garcia said back in March that he was looking forward to the draft, and he was excited for the next step.

“You hear some of everything from everybody,” Garcia said of the whispers of potential teams via USA TODAY. “Anything can happen on draft day, so I’m just taking it one day at a time and just making sure I’m in shape.”

And now he’s a Patriot.

Final Mock Draft 4.0 – Patriots Snag a Big Surprise at #72

Steve Balestrieri
April 26, 2017 at 9:14 am ET

The Patriots got their man with Mike Gillislee, signing the restricted free agent running back to a two-year deal and in the process, lost their 5th round draft pick to Buffalo. That effectively means that they won’t be drafting a back, we looked toward a bigger one this weekend.

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, even more, fun to use in 2017.
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.

The big boards for each site differ 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 until it is your time to pick.

For this final Mock Draft before tomorrow (4-25), I used the big board of CBS

Right now, the Patriots don’t pick until Round 3, #72 due to some of the trades that they’ve swung for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. Talk is still swirling that the Pats may swing a deal involving either Malcolm Butler or Jimmy Garoppolo. I don’t see either of them going anywhere in 2017. And if they were to trade Butler, then they’d be in the market for a cornerback. And with Belichick, he prefers the known commodity. The defense with Butler, Stephon Gillmore and Eric Rowe at corner is stacked.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 4.0:

Round 3, Pick #72 SS Obi Melifonwu, UConn:
Bill Belichick loves to draft safeties early in the draft and after the disappointing performance by Jordan Richards, they’ll be looking for a long-term replacement for Pat Chung at the strong safety position. Melifonwu is an athletic freak at 6’4, 225. He ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine, with a 44-inch vertical.

Frankly, we doubted that Melifonwu would be around in the 3rd. But the big board of CBS Sports has him falling all the way to New England at #72. He won’t be a free safety, he’ll be best in the box, where he has the size and athleticism to run with tight ends or step up in run support. The Patriots “big nickel”? He’s a perfect fit.

He has the speed and athleticism to run with the big wide receivers in certain situations as well. Huge steal for NE in the 3rd round.

Round 3, Pick #96 Edge, Tarrell Basham, Ohio:
The Patriots have scouted Basham and reportedly have a high level of interest. This would be a quintessential Belichick pick. In a draft chock full of talented edge players, taking a guy who has totally flown under the radar playing at Ohio.

He has an NFL-ready frame at 6’4, 269-pounds with long arms and big, strong hands. Basham was the Mid-American Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year 50 tackle including 16 for a loss, 11.5 sacks, 2 passes defensed, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.

He’s got the explosion off the ball with short area burst to get to the quarterback. He’s strong and sets the edge well. He’d project to be a third down sub-package player in his rookie year and a potential starter in Year 2.

Round 4, Pick #131 TE George Kittle, Iowa:
No change from Mock 3.0. Kittle is a 6’4, 247-pound tight end that will help build the depth they need at the position. Kittle was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last season, in 11 starts, he produced 22 catches for 314 yards and four TDs.

He’s got good size, has very good speed with a 4:52 time in the 40-yard dash with excellent hands. He had only one drop with 48 career receptions. He’s a good and willing blocker inside. Kittle has the speed to be a vertical threat down the seam, although his route-running needs polishing.

Round 5, Pick #183 OT Erik Magnuson, Michigan:
Magnuson is a 37-game starter for the Wolverines and is a solid run blocker who can get to the second level, has very good pass protection skills. He uses his hands well and can mirror pass rushers. He’s strong, physical and tough with good athleticism at the position.

He’s 6’4, 303-pounds, he’s never played left tackle but right tackle and guard while at Michigan. He’s a versatile kid with upside but like Joe Thuney before him, the Patriots may decide to kick him inside at center.

Round 6, Pick #200 LB Connor Harris, Lindenwood:
Harris is a throwback, an extremely versatile kid who can play linebacker, running back and punt in an emergency. A three-time captain his stats speak of an era when players played for 60 minutes. In 2016, he made an incredible 138 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss, two INT, one for a TD. During his career, Harris also contributed as a running back with 50 carries for 328 yards and seven TDs. As a punter, he had a 38.8-yard average, with six downed inside the 20-yard line in 2016.

While he doesn’t have the length, you’d like at linebacker at 5’11, 242-pounds, he is a film junkie who is extremely well prepared and has tremendous production. He’s an inspirational leader on and off the field (3-year captain), who can play all three downs. Non-stop motor, and the ability to make plays all over the field.

Round 7, Pick #231 Edge Keionta Davis, Chattanooga:
Davis had his second straight FCS All-American season in 2016, tallying 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. At 6’3, 274-pounds he has the length and strength to take on offensive linemen in the trenches.

He plays low to the ground and sets the edge very well in the running game. However, he’s a bit stiff in the hips and doesn’t have the bend on the edge that you’d like to see in an edge rusher. The strength and conditioning coaches may have him bulk up another 10-15 pounds and kick him inside as a sub-package interior rusher.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcasts on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.

Mock Draft 3.0 – Patriots Get Depth, Fill Needs

Steve Balestrieri
April 21, 2017 at 8:13 am ET

After the flurry of activity this week, the Patriots are primed to enter the season with all the pieces they need for a serious bid to repeat in the Super Bowl. Malcolm Butler has signed his tender, Danny Amendola has re-done his deal for the third year in a row and the team made an offer for free agent RB Mike Gillislee who would be a great fit.

Of course, if the Bills decline to match the Patriots offer, New England will have to turn over their 5th round draft pick to Buffalo. But for now, until that is settled, we’re moving on under the assumption that they’ll choose in Round 5.

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 it is even more, fun to use in 2017.
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.

The big boards for each site differ and the site has a random selection process that picks for the other 31 teams based upon the best player available and team needs that are constantly updated until it is your time to pick.

For this second mock draft (4-20), I used the big board of Composite Big Board

Right now, the Patriots don’t pick until Round 3, #72 due to some of the trades that they’ve swung for Brandin Cooks and Kony Ealy. While they may still swing a deal to move up into the first two rounds, right now we’re going with what they have. In this mock, we’re going under the assumption that Malcolm Butler’s signing of his tender means that he will play in NE for at least the 2017 season so that changes our outlook considerably.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 3.0:

Round 3, Pick #72 Linebacker/Edge Tim Williams, Alabama:
Williams is a steal at #72. He’s a 6’4, 250-pound edge player with the frame to get bigger. He can play OLB or DE and fell in this mock down to the 3rd round over character concerns. He’s an outstanding athlete, with excellent explosion, long arms and a very consistent playmaker.

Williams played for Nick Saban at Alabama so Bill Belichick will have all the info he’d need on him. He’s a tremendous pass-rusher with excellent counter moves to get to the QB. The Patriots would use him as a DE primarily

Round 3, Pick #96 Tackle, Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell:
The Patriots have scouted Davenport and worked him out, so Dante Scarnecchia would have the final say if they can work with him. He has great size at 6’7, 318 pounds and a four-year starter. He was a team captain his final two years at Bucknell.

Has tremendous arm length and strength in his hands where he can disrupt pass rushers, has enough athleticism to get out to the second level in the running game. His balance and foot placement.

Davenport will be a developmental prospect that could be the long-term replacement for Nate Solder

Round 4, Pick #141 TE George Kittle, Iowa:
Kittle is a 6’4, 247-pound tight end that will help build the depth they need at the position. Kittle was an honorable mention All-Big Ten pick last season, in 11 starts, he produced 22 catches for 314 yards and four TDs.

He’s got good size, has very good speed with a 4:52 time in the 40-yard dash with excellent hands. He had only one drop with 48 career receptions. He’s a good and willing blocker inside. Kittle has the speed to be a vertical threat down the seam, although his route-running needs polishing.

Round 5, Pick #163 S Josh Harvey-Clemons, Louisville:
Clemons has tremendous size at 6’4, 217-pounds and would be the heir apparent to Pat Chung as the box safety. He has rare size, length, and athleticism for a man his dimensions. He’s a physical, tough tackler and will be the in-the-box safety and be able to play the hybrid linebacker role, the “Big Nickel” for the Patriots.

He’s not a deep cover safety and at times takes poor angles to the runner. Was dismissed from Georgia after three failed tests for marijuana.

Round 5, Pick #183 LB Matt Milano, Boston College:
Boston College has been churning out very good linebackers from their program from Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly and now Milano, who stepped up big for the Eagles the past two seasons. He turned in a very solid 2016 season with 58 tackles, 11 for a loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception, and a blocked punt.

The undersized (6’0, 233-pounds) Milano plays “like a heat-seeking missile” on the defensive side of the ball, flying around the field looking for contact. He played 94 percent of the Eagles snaps in 2016 and has speed toughness with very good instincts in pass coverage as a converted safety.

Special teams’ standout in Chestnut Hill with three blocked punts and 24 STs tackles. We took him in our Mock 1.0 draft and he’s here again in the third and will be a great value pickup

Round 6, Pick #200 Edge Keionta Davis, Chattanooga:
Davis had his second straight FCS All-American season in 2016, tallying 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. At 6’3, 274-pounds he has the length and strength to take on offensive linemen in the trenches.

He plays low to the ground and sets the edge very well in the running game. However, he’s a bit stiff in the hips and doesn’t have the bend on the edge that you’d like to see in an edge rusher. The strength and conditioning coaches may have him bulk up another 10-15 pounds and kick him inside as a sub-package interior rusher.

Round 7, Pick #231 LB Riley Bullough, Michigan State:
Bullough comes from a football family devoted to the Spartans. His father (Rose Bowl 1982), uncle and brother all played at Michigan State. He’s very athletic, plays downhill and flies all over the field. He was named the team’s “Most Inspirational Player” for the past two seasons.

But at 6’2, 226, he’s not big enough to stand up to the physicality of the NFL as an inside linebacker. His path to the league will be as a special teams’ standout and his mentality, and athleticism will be a perfect fit.

Follow me on Twitter @SteveB7SFG or email me at [email protected]

Listen to our Patriots 4th and 2 podcast on blog talk radio as the writers Russ Goldman, Derek Havens and I from PatsFans.com discuss the latest Patriots news Wednesdays at 12 noon.