Tag Archives: 2016 Patriots Mock Drafts

New England Patriots News 4-24, AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 24, 2016 at 4:59 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s New England Patriots news 4-24, and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Patriots Add Depth, Insurance This Week with Steward, Yount Signings:
The Patriot made a couple of low-key moves this week as they continue to work free agency in building a roster. They signed LB/STs player Tony Steward who was released by the Buffalo Bills and long-snapper Christian Yount who played with Tampa and Cleveland but was out of the league last season.

It should be repeated that the roster now can reach up to 90 players. Not every player signed will make the final roster but in the team building phase, it is about building depth, allowing players to develop and allowing competition during training camp.

Steward is a prime example; drafted in the 6th round last season by Buffalo, he was a productive but oft-injured player at Clemson that stuck with the Bills due to his ability to contribute on special teams. That is an area that he’ll look to make his mark in again in 2016 with New England.

Yount is being brought in mainly as insurance. Patriots long-snapper Joe Cardona is in the Navy and as a naval officer, he serves at the whim of the government. Last year he was allowed to play and was assigned to the Naval Prep School in Newport, RI. If the Navy’s needs change (the troop levels are rising again in Iraq), he could find himself reassigned based on the needs of the Navy.

Mayock: “You Can Bet Your Butt” DT Falls to Pats at 60/61:
NFL Network Draft analyst Mike Mayock, who does a fantastic job covering the NFL Combine and Draft for the network held his pre-draft conference call with the media and shared his opinion on how he sees things playing out this coming week.

In regards to New England not having a first round draft pick and picking back-to-back at 60/61, “From 20 to 50 or 60 there are similar-type players,” Mayock said.

“[The Patriots are] picking back-to-back at 60 and 61 and then 91 and 96. Most personnel guys will tell you they love that kind of draft. You get two twos and two threes. Obviously, there’s a hole at the top, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You gotta hit on three out of these four or all four of these guys. That’s really, really important.”

“You can bet your butt at 60 or 61 . . . and obviously Malcom Brown is doing well, they signed [Terrance] Knighton, but there’s gotta be some defensive tackles I would imagine that are sitting there that look and smell like New England Patriots.

Some of the more popular names to come across the Patriots radar in that time of the draft have included Javon Hargrave from SC State, Sheldon Day from Notre Dame (a kind of Dominique Easley size and skillset), and Adolphus Washington from Ohio State. Don’t go to sleep on Brown’s former teammate, Hasan Ridgeway of Texas either.

Patriots Stay the Course, True to their Ideals When Approaching the Draft:
In his pre-draft presser this week, Pats Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio spoke about how the team will approach this season’s draft. And unsurprisingly, it won’t change. The Patriots under the Belichick watch are a team that won’t overpay for players based on need, and on the subject of the draft? They won’t try to force a square peg in a round hole based on need.

“You lose players, you sign players. We signed our share of players probably at a similar point to where we were last year,” Caserio told the media. “You make additions to your team but even when you make draft decisions I would say you sort of make them independent of one another.

“I think the most important thing is knowing the players, knowing who you’re talking about,” Caserio said. “And then if you are going to make a decision to [trade] up from where you are, who are you moving up for and what is the rationale?”

So while the team has needs, don’t expect them to overpay a team to move up and take a player that ultimately may not be worth the price. A case in point is the enormous draft capital the Eagles spent on moving up to the #2 position in the draft.

Eagles G.M. Howie Roseman told the media on Wednesday that while Bradford is the starter, the team will take a quarterback with the second pick in the draft. This is after the Eagles spent $57 million dollars in free agency on two QBs, Bradford, and backup Chase Daniel. And in all honesty, none of the top QBs in the draft this season, have can’t miss labels. For what Philly gave Cleveland to move up six spots to the #2 position, that is far too much.

Gronkowski Present at OTAs, Not Concerned with Contract: After much ado about nothing, Pats TE Rob Gronkowski was indeed at the team’s off-season, voluntary workouts this week.

Ever since Gronkowski posted a sarcastic tweet in early March that he was underpaid, the sewing circle, er…rumor mill has been running rampant that Gronkowski was upset with his contract and was going to hold out.

Speculation grew, even more, when a few photos snapped at the conditioning runs on the first day of workouts failed to include a photo of Gronk. It turns out he was there, and he issued a statement that should put this one to rest….at least for a while.

“No, that’s [contract] not on my mind at all. I started offseason workouts yesterday. It just feels great to be back with the team working out, getting back in football shape and getting prepared for the season.”

Of course, the fact that he has a $250,000 workout bonus should have been taken into consideration for anyone paying attention to those things.

Running Backs Should Be Available into Rounds 2-3:
The Patriots have a pair of picks in the second and third rounds of the draft this week, and there is plenty of reasons why they’ll address the running back position this year to seek a long-term fix for the position.

One is that both of last season’s top players, Dion Lewis, and LaGarrette Blount are coming off of serious injuries that landed both on IR in 2015. We’re not sure that Lewis will even be ready for the start of the season and may begin the 2016 season on the PUP list.

Secondly, the draft should have plenty of talent available into the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the draft for the Patriots to pick from. We wrote draft profiles on several prospects including Jonathan Williams, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Dixson and Devontae Booker and invite you to take a second look at them and how they fit.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins’ Jones Joins His ‘Favorite Team’ After Being Released by NE:
The Dolphins signed former Patriots DL Chris Jones after he was released by the Patriots last week. Jones missed all of 2015 with a calf injury but played in 22 games in 2013-2014.

Jones was born in Ohio, went to high school in Indiana but grew up rooting for the Dolphins.

“Absolutely,” he told the Dolphins.com this week. “My grandma, she grew up a Dolphins fan through the ’70s. She loved the years with Dan (Marino) and I kind of adapted that as well. My dad, too, for some reason. We all grew up in Ohio, but we all loved the Dolphins.”

Jets Contacted Tennessee About the #1 Pick, says GM:
Jets GM Mike Maccagnan told the media this week that the Jets did indeed contact the Tennessee Titans about moving up from the 20th spot in the draft to trade for the #1 overall pick.

Tennessee eventually traded the pick to the Los Angeles Rams for a large bevy of draft picks. Maccagnan wouldn’t go into specifics, just to say that they had contacted the Titans.

“The short answer is yes,” Maccagnan said. “The short answer is we inquired.”

That means the Jets were probably interested in QB Jared Goff from Cal as they’ve bogged down in the negotiations with incumbent starting QB Ryan Fitzpatrick. Rumors are, that the Jets dangled franchised DL Muhamad Wilkerson as bait as well, as Gang Green is cash strapped under the cap. Wilkerson is due to make $15.7 million this season under his franchise designation.

Bills’ Rex Ryan Introduces Donald Trump to Rally:
Republican front-runner for President Donald Trump now can add another NFL name to his supporters.

Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan who shares with Trump a tendency to be bombastic, not only introduced Trump to a large rally in Buffalo but endorsed him for President.

“One thing I really admire about [Trump] is he’ll say what’s on his mind,” Ryan said. “So many times, a lot of people want to say the same thing, but there’s a big difference: they don’t have the courage to say it. They all think it, but they don’t have the courage to say it. Donald Trump certainly has the courage to say it. That’s what I respect.”

Trump tried to buy the Bills in 2014 but the team was sold to Terry Pagula. Trump and Ryan would definitely had made an intriguing duo.

 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.

Patriots Mock Draft 4.0, Pats Head to La. Early, Late

Steve Balestrieri
April 18, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Team Needs Change Slightly with Release of Easley, Jones

With The Patriots making some moves in releasing three different defensive linemen and the NFL Draft less than two weeks away, it is time for our Mock Draft 4.0

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 fourth mock draft (conducted 4-16), I used the big board of CBS Sports.

With the continued moves the Patriots are conducting in free agency, they still have needs at OT, RB, CB and now at DT with the releases of Dominique Easley, Chris Jones, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen. It looks like the team is building towards bigger tackles to handle run stopping duties since the team spends most of their time in sub-packages. But they can still use a disrupting penetrator…or two.  The team could still use depth at WR and LB… Read on.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 4.0 – CBS Sports Big Board Edition:

Round 2, Pick #1 RB Kenneth Dixon, Louisiana Tech:
Dixon from La. Tech. would be a perfect fit for the Patriots offense and is a true dual-threat running back that can be equally effective running the ball as he is catching it out of the backfield.

Dixon is not the biggest back at 5’10, 215 but he’s not afraid to and is effective running between the tackles. In his four years at La. Tech he had a combined 87 touchdowns, (72 rushing and 15 receiving) and is very effective after first contact. He averaged 3.3 yards after contact.

Dixon rushed for 1070 yards averaging 5.4 yds per carry and caught 34 passes for 26 combined TDs (19 rushing, 7 receiving) in 2015. Read our draft profile here:

Round 2, Pick #2 CB Artie Burns, Miami: 

Burns is a corner with the size, (6’0, 190 lbs), that teams are looking for. Heis a playmaker who led the ACC with six interceptions in 2015. He’s still raw with his technique at times but with his long arms, he very effective at jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage. He has experience at corner as well as free safety.

He’s a very physical corner well-suited to play man coverage. He was a track star with outstanding athleticism and had experience as a kick returner while at the “U”. Burns is also a mature young man who is the kind of guy the coaches here would love. Read our draft profile here:

Artie Burns

Round 3, Pick #3 DT Sheldon Day, Notre Dame:
Day is a slightly undersized DT at 6’1, 293 pounds but plays with a relentless motor. Like the player he’d replace, Dominique Easley, Day has an explosive first step and is the first to fire off the ball and disrupt plays in the backfield. Also like Easley however, he does come with some injury concerns.

His quick feet allow him to slip by would-be blockers while his lateral quickness and good, aggressive hand movements make him a natural at rushing the quarterback. Played 3-technique and 5-technique at Notre Dame.

With the preponderance of big-bodied run stuffers at the Patriots defensive line, Day fulfills a need for a penetrating pass rusher in the interior.

Round 3, Pick #4 WR Leonte Carroo, Rutgers:
Carroo comes from the Rutgers player pipeline and possesses good size at 6’0, 212 pounds with a solid, muscular build while displaying very good athleticism despite not having breakaway speed.

He’s quick to catch the ball and turn north-south, averaging over 20 yards per catch in 2015. He runs crisp, effective routes and possesses excellent hands. He’s a very smart player and is adept at working the middle of the field with the occasional double move to go deep. The Patriots already conducted a visit with him.

He has great leaping ability and adjusts well to the ball in the air. Does come with some off-field issues as well. Read our draft profile here:

carroo

Round 6, Pick #5 OT John Theus, Georgia:
Theus kept sliding down in this mock draft and we gambled that he’d still be here. We were looking for Kyle Murphy or Le’Raven Clark in Round 2 but both were gone.

Theus has very good size for the tackle position at 6’6, 313 pounds. While he started at RT as a freshman, he really didn’t start to get his game together until 2014. He moved to the left side and really improved as both a run blocker and pass protector.

He needs to build up his strength but played against top echelon competition in the SEC. He’d be the RT of the future with some work by Dante Scarnecchia.

Round 6, Pick #6 DE Matt Judon, Grand Valley State:
Judon is an intriguing player with a nice blend of size, speed, and athleticism to garner a long look during the NFL Draft. At 6’3, 275 pounds he has the prototypical build for a DE but showcases a really nice bend on the edge that keeps tackles from engaging him effectively.

Was a truly dominant player albeit against lesser competition at D-II with 20 sacks in 2015. Posted good times in the 40-Yard Dash with 4.65 with a 7.67 time in the 3-Cone Drill. Also did a 35-inch vertical and 30 reps on the bench press.

His Pro-Day was attended by scouts from 26 NFL teams. Diamond in the rough.

Round 6, Pick #7 RB Keith Marshall Georgia:
Marshall is another intriguing prospect, at 5’11, 219 pounds he has good size but is an absolute burner, running a blistering 4.31 in the 40. He added 25 reps in the bench press. Stuck behind Todd Gurley, Marshall lost most of two seasons to injury.

He was used as a receiver a little bit as a freshman, something the Bulldogs didn’t do much of with him after that. As an open field runner, he doesn’t possess great moves but with his speed, he can literally run by anyone. Worth a Day 3 look? Sure thing.

Round 6, Pick #8 DT Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech:
Maddy is a second DT who is slightly undersized at 6’1, 295 pounds.  Like Day, he’s best suited to playing in a four-man front as a sub-package interior pass rusher.

He has got a quick first step and explodes into the backfield making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He’s at rushing the QB and a player that improved each year against the run. He too, should add some strength in the NFL.

Round 6, Pick #9 OLB Tyler Matakevich, Temple:
Too small, too slow and not athletic enough is what is commonly heard about the Owls’ linebacker. But all he does is make plays and is very productive.

A football film junkie, Matakevich is always very well prepared and plays with great instincts which counteract his lack of speed. He’s very physical and shows good timing on his blitzes. Non-stop motor and a madman mentality make him a natural STs player, a sure-fire way to earn a roster spot.

Round 7, Pick #10 OT Caleb Benenoch, UCLA:
Benenock was a three-year starter at RT for the Bruins and has the size at 6’5. 305 pounds. He’s athletic with good footwork in pass protection, with good knee bend. Plays at times with a nasty streak which is a positive.

He needs to build up his strength at the next level, especially with his lower body. But has good potential and worth the late round flyer as he fell throughout the draft.

Round 7, Pick #11 QB Jeff Driskell, Louisiana Tech:
Driskell has the pro-typical size of an NFL QB at 6’4, 230 pounds. He shows good scrambling ability and pocket awareness. He’s a tough kid and a competitor who makes good decisions under pressure. He passed for 4033 yards with 27 TDs and only 8 INTs in 2015.

Arm strength and velocity are only so-so. His release needs to speed up at the NFL level. Driskell is a good prospect to garner some reps in TC and to backup Jimmy Garappolo just in case Tom Brady’s suspension is put back into place.

Mock Draft 4.0 2016

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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.

Possible Patriots Draft Target, DL Javon Hargrave

Steve Balestrieri
April 16, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Small School Stud, an intriguing Day 3 Pocket-Pushing Prospect

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots have a need at defensive tackle following the release of Dominique Easley this week.  More specifically the team again has a need for an interior defensive lineman that is good against the run but can penetrate into the backfield as well as pressure the quarterback and collapse the pocket.

The team brought in a trio of big-bodied run stuffers in Frank Kearse, Terrance Knighton and Markus Kuhn which will help the run defense that suffered the loss of both Akiem Hicks and Sealver Siliga during the off-season. Now the team must try to replace the interior pocket push of Easley and Hicks.

The team used a nice rotation last year of rookie Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Hicks and Easley during 2015. With Chris Jones being released on Friday along with Ishmaa’ily Kitchen, don’t rule out his returning this season, he’s provided a bit of pocket push at times and Brown in his second season will be looked to, to add some production there as well. Jones’ contract will probably get re-done at a more team friendly cap hit. On the roster right now the team has DTs Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton, Markus Kuhn, Frank Kearse and Joe Vellano.

The Patriots will look to the draft to find some depth for a big man that can push the pocket, penetrate inside and provide run support as well.

Javon Hargrave from South Carolina State is a player who immediately comes to mind. One of the more under the radar defensive tackle prospects, he played against lesser opponents at the FCS level but there is no arguing with his domination and production.

In his final two seasons at SCS, in 23 games the 6’2, 310-pound Hargrave racked up an incredible 45.5 tackles for loss (TFL), 29.5 sacks, 19 QB hits, and five forced fumbles. He was the MEAC Defensive Player of the year two seasons in a row and was a two-time FCS All-American.

In his senior season despite having every team on their schedule, game-plan specifically for him, he produced some outstanding numbers and earned an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game. There, against solid, top competition, he played very well and looks quite at home facing NFL-level talent.

Javon Hargrave2

Pros:

– Has good first step explosion, keeps pad level low and drives thru the play

– Excellent short area quickness, will blow thru gaps to make the play

– Powerful lower body can fill up gaps in the running game

– Non-stop motor and good flexibility make him a disruptive influence inside

Cons

– Competition at FCS level wasn’t near the NFL level

– Stopped moving his feet at times when pushing the pocket

– Shorter arms (31½) could be an issue in disengaging from NFL linemen

What his Role Will Be:
His role is part of the rotation inside for the Patriots defensive line. He’d project initially as a sub-package pass rusher; he’s a guy who can shed blockers quickly and get after the quarterback.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some experience and some added strength

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He’ll push Kearse and veteran Chris Jones for a roster spot

What is his ST Value?
None

Conclusion:
Hargrave could fit in very well in the New England system. Big men who can play inside, stuff the run and push the pocket are always sought after in the NFL; regardless of where they played in college.

He moves very well for a 310-pound defensive lineman and has the ability to easily change direction due to very good flexibility in his lower body. That translates to short-area quickness where he can beat interior blockers and disrupt the running game and the timing of the passing game.

With a stout, strong lower body, he has the ability to anchor and stop the running game in its tracks. Hargrave has the first step explosion to get off the line quickly and get after the quarterback with excellent snap anticipation.

He is a disruptive, deceptively good athlete and his 10-yard split and 3-Cone Drill time was good for a big man, and with a non-stop motor, Hargrave could be a potential steal for the Patriots.

He projects in the Patriots system to be a solid Backup on Day 1, with the potential to be a starter in the future. He should fit in very well into the defensive line rotation.

Hargrave has been thought to be available on Day 3 of the draft. If he’s available in the later rounds he could be a very nice addition to the defense

Hargrave’s highlight film can be found here, courtesy of Wesley Lemon:

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.

Possible Patriots Target in the Draft, DE Carl Nassib

Steve Balestrieri
April 14, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Nassib is a High Upside Player That Can Provide More Edge Pressure

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots are deep at defensive end, even after trading away Chandler Jones to the Arizona Cardinals. Jabaal Sheard and Rob Ninkovich return and the team added Chris Long in a free agent signing. Also returning are last season’s draft picks Trey Flowers and Geneo Grissom, as well as Rufus Johnson who can also play linebacker.

But edge rushers are like cornerbacks, you can never have too many good ones and although the team is expecting both Flowers and Grissom to make that second year jump in production, that won’t stop the Pats from looking at any intriguing prospects that could be of interest either in 2016 or next year with a bit of seasoning.

Carl Nassib from Penn State was a former walk-on player who elevated his game on the edge to lead the country in sacks with 15.5 in 2015 and also had 19.5 tackles for loss (TFL) and six forced fumbles as well as an interception for the Nittany Lions.

Nassib has an NFL-ready frame at 6’7, 277 pounds and can easily add some extra muscle at the next level. With a quick burst off the line, he has good straight-line speed that allows him to beat his opponent to the edge.

With his long arms and good hand movement, he’s able to shed blockers when rushing the passer and keeps his pad level low. Nassib is a powerful, punishing tackler with a non-stop motor.

carl nassib2

Pros:

– Excellent pass rusher led the nation in sacks despite missing two games

– Quick first step and good straight-line speed off the edge

– Smart instinctive player can diagnose plays quickly

– Violent hitter will punish ball carriers

Cons

– Needs to build up lower body, has somewhat thin legs

– Still raw and needs to develop refined pass-rush moves

– Over-aggressive at times and will overrun the play

What his Role Will Be:
Nassib’s role would be to be a part of the rotation outside for the Patriots defensive line. He’d project initially as a sub-package pass rusher to add depth and fresh legs to the Patriots pressure on the QB.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with some added muscle on his frame and increased ability to set the edge, Nassib could become a three-down starter for the team.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
He’ll challenge Flowers and Grissom for reps and with a strong camp showing could push one of the interior players off the roster.

What is his ST Value?
None

Conclusion:
Nassib would fit in well with the Patriots defensive system as he is a natural 4-3 defensive end. He comes from a football family and is a very dedicated, hard worker that is possibly just scratching his potential as a football player. He was told by former Penn State and Patriots coach Bill O’Brien to forget about playing in the NFL. Six months later, O’Brien awarded him a scholarship.

While he’s still raw as a pass-rusher, his production in his senior year makes him an intriguing option. Still the question remains, is he a one-year wonder or a legitimate emerging prospect? With the length, power and production he’s shown as well as his dedication to his craft, it certainly looks like the latter.

Nassib is a player who doesn’t jump off the screen athletically at one watching his film. But he’s got speed, and continually makes plays. He’s got the desire and drive as an underdog that will play well with Bill Belichick and the coaching staff.

He projects in the Patriots system to be a Potential Starter for the Patriots. He should fit in very well into the NE defense as a member of the defensive end rotation.

Nassib is thought to be available in the 3rd to 4th round of the draft. He’d a nice addition if he’s available in that time frame.

Nassib’s highlight film can be found here, courtesy of illinoisaaron:

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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.

Possible Patriots Draft Target, LB Su’a Cravens

Steve Balestrieri
April 13, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Cravens, An Undersized, Playmaking LB an Intriguing Option

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots have a pair of outstanding linebackers in Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins. They picked up Shea McClellin from the Bears this spring. And he, Jon Bostic, Jonathan Freeny, Eric Martin, Rufus Johnson, James Vaughters and Kevin Snyder will be looking to round out the depth for the team this season.

The team will still be looking to add some younger depth thru the draft in a few weeks. With Jerod Mayo retired, the team will miss his leadership both on and off the field. The Patriots normally like their linebackers on the bigger side and versatile. And there are plenty of them to pick from. Looking at the middle rounds is probably where the Patriots will look to select.

Su’a Cravens from USC is a player that doesn’t fit the mold for the typical Patriots linebacker. But Cravens is anything but typical. A converted safety turned outside linebacker, he is considered small for the OLB position at 6’1, 226 pounds. But he doesn’t play that way…Cravens is an athletic, instinctive playmaker with outstanding explosion.

Cravens can be expected to be able to beef up in the pros to 230 pounds+ and play the WILL linebacker position. He’d also be an outstanding candidate to play the “Big Nickel” position the Patriots like to use a big safety/LB in sub-packages.

Cravens can go from zero-to-top-speed in the flash of an eye. He can be a sideline to sideline presence and is an extremely smart player that can be a ball-hawk. He’s very good in coverage and an outstanding blitzer off the edge.

Cravens finished his college career with 33.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 16 pass breakups, nine interceptions and two forced fumbles. For those who say he’s too small to play LB in the pros, he’s about the same size as Ryan Shazier (6’1,230), for the Steelers.

Sep 26, 2015; Tempe, AZ, USA; Arizona State Sun Devils wide receiver D.J. Foster (left) is tackled by Southern California Trojans linebacker Su'a Cravens at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Pros:

– Outstanding explosion at the snap

– Excellent football I.Q.

– Good in coverage with the ability to take the ball away (9 INTs)

– Very good Special Teams contributor

Cons

– Will have issues setting the edge in the running game

– Sometimes loses focus in coverage

– Lack of length could be a concern

What his Role Will Be:
His role will be competing for one of the outside linebacker roles. His best fit would be as a ‘WILL’ or the weak side linebacker. The team could opt to play him at safety where the position is already packed with depth.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with an added year under his belt and learning some better pass rush moves, he could push for more reps and possibly as a starter in the base defense.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
His roster slot would be in competition with guys like Martin, Johnson and Snyder.

What is his ST Value?
Very Good, he would immediately find himself on coverage units given his athleticism

Conclusion:
Cravens is an interesting player in that how will teams look at him as an NFL player. Some will look at him as an oversized box safety in the Deone Buchanon, Mark Barron mode or as an undersized, instinctive WILL linebacker in the Shazier type.

If the Patriots view him as the latter, he’d be an interesting addition to the defense. With the uber-athletic Jamie Collins and Dont’a Hightower already in place, Cravens would provide the team with another attacking, aggressive piece of the puzzle. He’s a versatile player who is at his best closer to the line of scrimmage and with the league in sub-packages nearly 60-65 percent of the time, he’d be an outstanding fit as the “Big Nickel” LB/S hybrid.

The only caveat is that the Patriots already use Pat Chung in that role and could be grooming LB/S Brandon King for a larger piece in the same role. But there is no doubting his ability to fit in to the right defense and be a very productive player.

He projects in the Patriots system to be a Potential Starter on Day 1. He should fit in very well into the NE defense. Cravens is slotted to go somewhere around the 2nd Round of the NFL Draft. If the Patriots are interested in him, they’ll probably have to move with one of their 2nd round picks.

Cravens’ highlight film can be found here, courtesy of Just Bombs Productions:

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.

Possible Patriots Draft Target, RB Devontae Booker

Steve Balestrieri
April 12, 2016 at 6:00 am ET

Booker is a Three-down Back That Can Do It All

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar. Some of these players have already been linked to New England as possible targets others, we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots may still target a running back in the 2016 NFL Draft, although they have signed former Colt and Charger Donald Brown, they don’t really have a reliable three-down back at least until Dion Lewis is fully healthy from his ACL tear. Brown has had some degree of success in the passing game, as had Lewis and James White but the Pats need a consistent ground gainer between the tackles. Brandon Bolden is mainly a special teams’ maven and Tyler Gaffney is still looking to get on the field in Year 3.

The Patriots haven’t drafted many running backs in the Belichick era (8), but with the need apparent, especially late in the season with the injuries piling up, this may be a time to strike earlier in the draft.

Devontae Booker from Utah would be a perfect fit for the Patriots offense and a great possible target in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft. After coming out of JUCO Booker took over the starting back role for the Utes and rushed for 1512 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2014. He added 43 receptions for 306 yards and two more scores. His final season was cut short due to injury at just 10 games but still rushed for 1261 yards, 11 touchdowns while adding 37 catches out of the backfield for 318 yards.

Booker is a smart, savvy runner who shows patience in waiting for the holes to open and then knowing when to hit the gas and accelerate. The 5’11, 219-pound Booker has the size and bulk to handle every-down back duties and comes from a pro-style system that should make his learning curve small if he’s targeted.

While he doesn’t have breakaway speed, his vision and footwork allow himself to find creases in the defense that can be exploited. Booker is the type of back that gets better the more work he gets.

devontae booker

Pros:

– Can cut and change direction while maintaining top speed

– Great hands and vision for catching the ball out of the backfield

– Versatile can be a three-down back

– Good in short-yardage as well as pass protection

Cons

– Has good but not breakaway speed

– Ball security was an issue at times

– Had a knee injury (torn meniscus), not serious but may give teams pause

What his Role Will Be:
His role in the New England offense would be as a three-down back. He is a very effective runner between the tackles and gets better as the game wears on. He’s also a very good pass receiver with 80 receptions the past two seasons.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, as he becomes more acclimated to the pro game, he’ll get even more work and possibly become the featured back in the Patriots system.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
Booker would replace free agent LeGarrette Blount as the lead running back in the ground game.

What is his ST Value?
Minimal

Conclusion:
Booker would be a tremendous upgrade for the running back position. He fulfills a need for a back who can not only run the ball effectively between the tackles but catch it out of the backfield as well.

He would be a perfect complement to the New England offense. He gives them a big, reliable back who can not only get them the tough yardage inside and keep defenses honest, but will provide Tom Brady another target in the passing game while providing solid pass protection.

Booker is tough and productive and will be a very good short-yardage and goal-line back with his vision and footwork.

With the qualities of being a three-down back and coupled with the Patriots pass-first system, Booker can be a Starter on Day 1. He’s slotted to go between Rounds 1-2 in the upcoming NFL Draft. If he’s still around in Round 2, they’d possibly have to make a move up to pick him up.

Booker’s junior season highlight film can be found here, courtesy of Highlight Genius:

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.

Possible Patriots Draft Target, WR Tyler Boyd

Steve Balestrieri
April 11, 2016 at 9:00 am ET

Boyd a Talented Playmaker, a Perfect Fit for NE’s Offense

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.

With free agency slowing down and the 2016 NFL Draft quickly approaching the Patriots can still use some depth at the wide receiver position. They suffered a rash of injuries in 2015 and too many were Tom Brady’s targets in the passing game. Brandon Gibson and Brian Tyms went down early in training camp. Then Aaron Dobson went on IR, and Julian Edelman missed two months with a broken foot.  Danny Amendola trudged on like a good soldier, but the team was forced to rely on Keshawn Martin and rookie Chris Harper to provide too many snaps for the offense. Tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Scott Chandler were also banged up during the season.

With Tyms and Gibson both gone this spring, the team brought in WR Chris Hogan from the Buffalo Bills and Nate Washington from the Texans. With a healthy Edelman and Amendola and an additional year in the system for Martin and Harper, things are looking up. No one knows what to expect from Dobson at this point of his career. So the Patriots could still use another wide receiver to round out the depth in 2016.

The team could use a bigger, faster wide receiver who can stretch the field both vertically and horizontally, which is more in line with the Patriots system. We wrote about Keyarris Garrett earlier in the draft, and now we have another good fit.

Tyler Boyd from Pitt is a very productive, ultra-competitive wide receiver who broke all the Pitt receiving records despite having some very uneven QB play while playing for the Panthers. He finished his final college season with 91 catches for 926 yards and six scores with career numbers of 254 catches for 3361 yards (both school records) and 21 touchdowns.

He runs very crisp routes, sinking into his cuts and changing direction at top speed. Times his leaps perfectly and snatches the ball out of the air with outstanding hands. He consistently is able the stretch the field horizontally and gets separation quickly when running crossing routes.

Boyd is very physical and tough after the catch and can make people miss with added yards after the catch (YAC). He’s a very smart play and will win the majority of jump ball situations.

Tyler boyd

Pros:

– Has the measurable at height, weight (6’1,197) that teams look for

– Has outstanding, vice-like grip hands

– Runs crisp routes and comes out of his breaks at top speed

– Elusive in space, can make people miss and get all-important YAC

– Versatile, has experience as a kick and punt returner

Cons

– Doesn’t have breakaway speed

– Needs to use his body better in contested areas and not just his hands

– Ball security while on special teams was an issue

What his Role Will Be:
His role will be competing for one of the outside the numbers wide receiver spots on the team and being an immediate impact player.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with a year in the system he will be looked to, to be the primary “X”- receiver on the team.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
His roster slot will be in direct competition with guys like Dobson, Martin and Washington.

What is his ST Value?
Very good, could be used as a return man in either punts or kickoffs

Conclusion:
Boyd is a player that would immediately mesh with the Patriots offense. His ability to run crisp routes, get immediate separation and stretch the field horizontally will make him a quick favorite of both QB Tom Brady and Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels.

He isn’t a burner in the classic sense but the things he does well fits in perfectly what the Patriots like to do. With the big tight ends and Julian Edelman working underneath, Boyd would fit in perfectly in the intermediate range to keep the chains moving. Occasionally when the defense bites on a double move he can stretch the field vertically as well, much like Edelman does now.

He has good size at 6’1, 197-pounds and adds the versatility of being able to fill in in the punt and kick return units where his excellent vision will serve him well.

He projects in the Patriots system to be a Starter. He should fit in very well into the NE offense. He’s slotted to go between Rounds 1-2 in the upcoming NFL Draft. The Patriots will probably have to move up to select him early in Round 2.

Boyd’s highlight film can be found here, courtesy of ST11:

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.

Patriots Mock Draft 3.0 – Offense Addressed Early

Steve Balestrieri
at 6:00 am ET

Team Addresses Needs While Taking Best Available with Top 4 Picks

With free agency slowing down somewhat, the Patriots continue to be active and with the draft less than 3 weeks away, it is time for our Mock Draft 3.0

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 2015.
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 third mock draft (4-9), I used the big board of Drafttek.

With the continued moves the Patriots are conducting in free agency, they still have needs at OT, RB, CB with depth needed at WR and LB. This mock draft found so good quality playmakers available that not only filled their needs but were the best players available when it was time to pick… Read on.

Here is our Patriots Mock Draft 3.0 – Drafttek Big Board Edition:

Round 2, Pick #1 WR Tyler Boyd, Pittsburgh: A surprise here, Boyd wasn’t on the board in the earlier mock drafts we conducted. Boyd has good size at 6’1, 200-pounds, and can change direction at top speed.

Boyd is very competitive and wins most 50/50 situations. He runs very crisp routes and has elite ball skills, timing his jumps perfectly. Very physical and tough after the catch. He also has outstanding hands and although isn’t a burner, has had success at returning both kicks and punts. Would be a great fit in the Patriots offense.

Round 2, Pick #2 RB Devontae Booker, Utah: Another surprise, Booker was long gone in our earlier mocks. Booker has good size at 5’11, 219-pounds for the position and would be an outstanding addition to the Patriots offense as he excels between the tackles, can handle a full load of carries and is an every-down threat as a receiver out of the backfield as well.

Booker is a patient runner but with proper urgency once he sees an opening. He has very good vision and awareness. Doesn’t possess great speed, but shifts well, forcing defenders to miss. A willing and effective pass blocker. A true three-down running back.

Round 3, Pick #3 OT Joe Haeg, NDSU: Haeg was a 4-year starter at NDSU and is versatile, playing both tackle spots. Athletic at 6’6, 304 pounds, he could use some bulking up at the NFL level as well as building up his core strength.

Haeg uses his length to his advantage in pass protection and has good agility and lateral quickness to get to the edge in the running game. His run blocking needs to improve a bit.

With the NFL strength and conditioning program and being coached up by Dante Scarnecchia, Haeg could be a nice pickup. Read our scouting profile here:

Joe Haeg

Round 3, Pick #4 CB Cyrus Jones, Alabama: We selected Jones in an earlier mock and wouldn’t hesitate to strike again. Jones is a thick, powerfully built athlete that while he doesn’t have the height preferred (5’10), he makes up for by playing big and with a chip on his shoulder.

A converted wide receiver, Jones can change direction quickly and gets his hands on a lot of passes. He’s a reliable, violent tackler in the open field and has good ability to stick with receivers in man coverage. He’s an outstanding kick returner.
Read our scouting profile here:

Cyrus Jones2

Round 6, Pick #5 DE Aziz Shittu, Stanford: Shittu is a versatile DL that has played a variety of techniques from the “0” to the “5” for the Cardinals. Although undersized for an interior defensive lineman at 6’3, 280-pounds, Shittu plays very fast and is a very good disruptor who can blow plays up in the backfield.

He’s a tough physical player whose best football is in front of him. He can play outside as a defensive end or be an interior sub-package penetrator. He’s shown some ability to stand up to double teams in the running game. His final college game in the Rose Bowl was a tremendous effort, 8 tackles, 3.5 for loss and 1.5 sacks against Iowa.

Round 6, Pick #6 OLB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin: Schobert is a classic high-motor guy that gets overlooked because he’s not the most athletic guy but always seems to make the big play.

He’s versatile and can play at either outside or inside linebacker. He’s quick off the snap, gets off of his blocks, keeps his feet moving and is a relentless sideline to sideline player.

At 6’2, 244-pounds, he’s not the biggest guy out there and has decent coverage skills. He’s also a standout special teams’ player on the coverage teams.

Round 6, Pick #7 WR Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa: Garrett is a big-bodied WR (6’4, 221 pounds) who had a tremendous 2015 in the high-flying Tulsa offense. He grabbed 96 passes for 1588 yards and eight touchdowns.

He’s a huge target that can go up and catch contested balls in space. Dropped only 3 of 99 catchable balls in 2015. Once he gets his hands on the ball, he can make opponents miss and forced 21 missed tackles last year.

He ran a limited route tree at Tulsa and his route running needs to get crisper but he has all kinds of potential and the Patriots have the offensive personnel now that they can take their time with him to develop him into a big target for the offense. Read our scouting profile here:

Round 6, Pick #8 RB Daniel Lasco, California: Lasco is an undersized (6’0, 205), running back from Cal that plays and runs hard but due to his style of play has had some injury concerns.

Runs inside excellently with a very aggressive, downhill slant, falling forward for the extra yards. He’s a very effective pass blocker and was productive as a junior out of the backfield (33 receptions, 356 yards and 2 TDs).

Round 6, Pick #9 OT Dominic Jackson, Alabama: Jackson was a starter for only 1 year for the Tide after coming over from JUCO. A 6’6, 315-pound mauler in the running game, his pass blocking skills took some time to develop at Alabama but he set to work on it this season and was beaten for only two sacks in 2015.

He was credited by the Alabama coaches with 43 knockdowns in the running game and comes with a bit of versatility as he could play right tackle or kick inside to guard.

Round 7, Pick #10 CB LeShaun Sims, Southern Utah: Sims comes from a small school at Southern Utah but has the measurable (6’0, 203) to play big in the NFL. He has packed on 20 pounds of muscle since coming to the Thunderbirds and ran a 4.41 last spring.

Was an effective press-man corner, albeit against lesser competition but turned some heads at the Shrine Game. He’s an under-the-radar prospect that the Patriots always seem to find every spring.

Round 7, Pick #11 QB Cody Kessler, USC: Kessler was a three-year starter and finished with 88 TDs and only 19 INTs. Despite lacking in size (6’1, 224), and only average arm strength, he has the competitive fire and mental toughness to battle his way thru adversity. Played for five different coaches in college.

Will step up in the pocket and deliver the ball to whomever is open. Was very accurate, never finishing with under a 65 percent completion percentage. Ended his career with a 67.5 completion rate. Gets thru his progressions quickly and will take what the defense is giving.

Mock Draft 3.0 2016

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.

New England Patriots News 4-10, and AFC East Notes

Steve Balestrieri
April 10, 2016 at 5:00 am ET

Good morning, here are Sunday’s Patriots news 4-10 notes and what’s happening around the AFC East.

Belichick Calls Brady, “the Greatest Ever”:
Bill Belichick was the guest speaker this week at the 2016 Salesforce World Tour in Boston and shared his thoughts on QB Tom Brady as the “greatest QB of all time” during a question and answer session.

“He’s been just a tremendous leader and tremendous player for our organization,” Belichick said.

The duo, who have been together for the past 16 seasons, bring out the best in one another and share the same philosophies about football which has made their relationship one of the strongest in the sport.

Belichick spoke about the mindset in New England and what the team looks for in its players.

“If you like football, and you like to come in and work on football, then the New England Patriots is a great place to be,” Belichick said. “If you don’t, if it’s a job, if you’d rather be doing something else, honestly you’d be better off with another team.

“I think it starts there — a love of the game, the passion for the game, a passion to be part of a team, be part of a group, be part of a commitment to perform at a high level, and be unselfish and to give up some of your own personal goals and desires for the good of the team for the opportunity to be part of something special in a team environment. I think those are the things that help us.”

Belichick spoke about being an ‘outlier’ in the sport stating that when he arrived as Patriots coach in 2000, only the Patriots and Steelers were running the 3-4 defense. But by 2005, after the Patriots had won three Super Bowls and the Steelers one, half the league was playing the 3-4 defense, making it much more difficult to find the players to fit in the system.

And while Belichick rarely is one to mince words, look for the Patriots to buck the system again…and soon. A look at the team that is just in the infancy stages of development here in early April looks like the Patriots are getting away from the smaller faster teams that everyone is building and going to a bigger, more physical unit. Stay tuned.

Kuhn Signing and the ‘German connection’, a Third Perhaps:
The Patriots signed former Giants DT Markus Kuhn to a contract this week adding depth and size to the interior defensive line.

The 6’4, 303-pound defensive tackle was a 7th round draft pick from North Carolina State for the Giants in 2012. He has notched 48 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two fumble recoveries in his NFL career.

His signing brings the second German-born player to the roster, the other being OT Sebastian Vollmer which could bring some interesting trash talking in training camp when the two face off against one another. “Du darfst nicht passieren!“

Kuhn is slotted to be another big-bodied run stuffer for early downs and goal line situations. He joins a now crowded and eclectic group of interior defensive line run stuffers and pass rushers of Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton, Dominique Easley, Frank Kearse, Chris Jones, Ishmaa’ily Kitchen and Joe Vellano.

One has to wonder now if the Patriots could be the landing spot for a third German-born player, wide receiver Moritz Boehringer, a 6-foot-4, 227-pound wide receiver from Florida Atlantic University running a 40-yard dash time (on grass) at 4.38.

Boehringer also posted a vertical jump of 39 inches, a broad jump of 10 feet, 11 inches and a three-cone time of 6.65 seconds. While his level of competition in the German league isn’t up to US college standards, his measurable are outstanding. “Wie geht’s?”

Preseason Schedule Brings Familiar Foes, Joint Practice?
With the Patriots preseason schedule being released the team will face four teams from the NFC, with two of their opponents being familiar foes in the preseason.

The Patriots open up with the New Orleans Saints and the chances are excellent that the two teams that have conducted joint practices in the past will do so again. There is a lot of respect between the two teams and head coaches and we look forward to seeing the Saints once again joining the Pats for a couple of practices prior to the preseason kicking off.

The Bears will visit for the second home preseason game and with the teams doing a lot of player swapping the past few years it promises to be an interesting matchup with Martellus Bennett, Shane McClellin, Jon Bostic and Brock Vereen facing their old teams.

The Pats finish up on the road in Weeks 3-4 with away games in Carolina and New Jersey to take on the New York Giants. This will be the 12th season in a row facing the G-men in the preseason finale, but the first in many years with Tom Coughlin at the helm.

Brandon-King2

Brandon King Signing Solidifying Solid STs:
The Patriots announced this week that S/LB/ST 2nd year player Brandon King had signed his free agent tender and will be re-joining the team in 2016.

Although the signing was merely a formality and it was expected, it was good news as King stepped up big for the team after being signed to the active roster from the practice squad in Week 4. He played in 12 games and was second on the team in STs tackles with 12, finishing behind only Matthew Slater with 17.

We watched King all through training camp last year and he continually got a lot of 1-on-1 work with STs’ coach Joe Judge and liked his chances of making the team despite being a long shot.

Knighton, Cannon, Branch Face Weigh-ins:
Newly signed DL Terrance Knighton has a weight clause in his contract and according to the veteran, he isn’t worried about making weight.

Knighton who weighed a reported 354 pounds for the Redskins in 2015 has already met with Patriots team nutritionist Ted Harper and he and the team plan on monitoring his playing weight in 2016.

Knighton appeared with former Pat Vince Wilfork at Aqib Talib’s wedding recently and looked a lot slimmer than a year ago. The Patriots also have DL Alan Branch and OL Marcus Cannon on similar programs where they must monitor their weight as well.

Looking Like the Patriots will target OT, RB first in the Draft:
With the NFL Draft approaching, perhaps one of the harder things to do is to predict who the Patriots will target in the draft. The Patriots two greatest areas of need entering the draft at running back and offensive tackle.

Having been using the Mock Draft simulator of Fanspeak.com s couple of time this spring, the one thing that keeps coming up, many of the best players in each category will be gone by the time the Patriots pick at #60.

However, there do seem to be more top tier running backs still available at the bottom of the 2nd round than tackles as the pool for them seems to be drying up quicker. So if they want one of the better tackles in the market, they may be looking to move up earlier in the 2nd round.

East Bound and Down…AFC East Notes:

Dolphins Claim Ekpre-Olomu On Waivers from Cleveland:
The Dolphins claimed cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu via waivers this week after he was cut by the Cleveland Browns, who drafted him in the seventh round in the 2015 NFL Draft.

The 5-foot-9, 195-pound Ekpre Olomu was projected to be a first-round pick before he injured his knee with Oregon just prior to the national championship game against Ohio State.

Miami is looking for CB help after releasing former Pro-Bowl corner Brent Grimes this spring. They did trade for Eagles CB Byron Maxwell but are expected to look to this season’s draft to augment the position and are rumored to looking at Houston CB William Jackson III with the 13th pick.

In a Surprise Move, Jets LT Ferguson Retires:
Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson, a former Pro Bowl player known for his remarkable durability, and consistency retired Friday at age 32. The move was unexpected and caught the Jets by surprise with the draft just around the corner.

“As I considered the words I would say to you, I recognize a simple truth: It just isn’t easy saying goodbye,” Ferguson said in a note on the team’s website. “Today we celebrate a different type of moment, one that marks the completion of a journey versus the start of one. Today marks my retirement from the NFL as a professional football player.”

Drafted by the Jets in the 1st round with the No. 4 overall pick in 2006 NFL Draft, Ferguson didn’t miss a game in 10 NFL seasons, with 167 consecutive starts, including the playoffs. His durability was such that he never missed a practice and never appeared on an injury report.

Ferguson’s retirement frees up around $9 million dollars in cap room for the cash-starved Jets who prior to this had less than a million in salary cap space. The Jets approached Ferguson last week about taking a pay cut from what was supposed to be $14.9 million-dollar cap hit in 2016.

The Jets reportedly will explore options in the draft but are also looking at a possible trade with Denver for tackle Ryan Clady as well.
**Update**  On Saturday evening according to Adam Schefter from ESPN, the Jets completed a trade for Clady and Denver’s 7th Round pick for the Jets 5th Round pick.

Bills LB A.J. Tarpley Retires After 1 Season:
In another surprise move, the Bills 1st year linebacker A.J. Tarpley announced his retirement from the NFL this week citing concussion woes.

“After months of introspection, I am retiring from football,” Tarpley, wrote on his Instagram account on Wednesday.

“I suffered the 3rd and 4th concussions of my career this past season and I am walking away from the game I love to preserve my future health.”

Tarpley appeared in 14 games with two starts after signing as an UDFA from Stanford, recording five tackles, two interceptions, one sack and a forced fumble.

The 6’0, 233-pound linebacker is just 23-years old. “This decision is the hardest I’ve made yet but after much research and contemplation I believe it’s what is best for me going forward.”

 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.

Possible Patriots Draft Target, OT Le’Raven Clark

Steve Balestrieri
April 8, 2016 at 9:45 am ET

Patriots May Have to Move up Early in Day 2 For Clark

As the 2016 NFL Draft draws closer we’ll profile some of the players that may be on the Patriots radar that we feel would be a great fit.

The Patriots suffered a ton of injuries in 2015 and none of them were felt as badly as in the offensive line. There was a never-ending carousel of players in and out of the Patriots OL that eventually took its toll in the second half of the season and down the stretch. The Patriots used 37 different OL combinations last year and the QB, Tom Brady was the guy who paid the price as he was hit more than he has been in any year in his career.

Left tackle Nate Solder was lost for the year after Week 4 with a torn bicep. 2014’s starting center Bryan Stork missed the first seven weeks with concussion symptoms. Sebastian Vollmer, Josh Kline, Tre’ Jackson, Shaq Mason all missed significant time with injuries.

It got ridiculous down the stretch as the Patriots have used five left tackles, five left guards, two centers, seven right guards and five right tackles. Two things happened, their strength and conditioning coach and the offensive line coach’s contracts were not renewed. Solder and Vollmer are back but the team can use an influx of youth at the tackle position, preferably a young man that can come in and vie for snaps if not immediately, by year two in 2017.

Le’Raven Clark from Texas Tech is a player that would not only fit into the Patriots system but would push for reps at right tackle immediately. Clark was a three-year starter for the Red Raiders after moving over from guard and made 51 consecutive starts. He was an All Big-12 Selection for the past three years.

Possessing the size needed to play tackle in the NFL at 6’5, 316-pounds; he also has the agility to slide outside to protect the quarterback in a pass-first scheme. Texas Tech liked to air it out and the Patriots are very much the same. But he also has the versatility and strength to move inside at guard if needed and be a mauler in the running game.

Clark is athletic with a 30-inch vertical jump with a 9.1-foot broad jump to go along with outstanding foot speed and athleticism to get to the edge in the running game.

leraven clark

Pros:

– Elite level footwork and quickness, can react to speed rushers on the edge

– Exceptional length enables him to disrupt and seal inside moves

– Very good agility and quickness in the running game

– His strength and thickness allow him to anchor against bull rushers

Cons

– Technique needs some refining with hand and footwork

– Must adapt to the NFL Pro-style offense

– Needs to keep his pad level down in pass protection

What his Role Will Be:
His role will be competing for the swing tackle offensive line role in training camp but there is no reason that he can’t and won’t compete for starting reps at right tackle in 2016.

Will his Role Change from Year 1-2?
Yes, with a little technique work and adaption to the pro-style offense, he should be the starting right tackle in 2017. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility to Clark to move to LT in the foreseeable future.

How Many Downs Can He Play?
Three

What Current Player on the Roster Will He Replace?
His roster slot will be in direct competition with reserve offensive linemen Cameron Fleming and Marcus Cannon.

What is his ST Value?
None

Conclusion:
Clark is the right tackle of the near future, possibly even the left if the Patriots can land him in the draft. He comes from a military family, something that always resonates well with Bill Belichick. He has elite, size, length and quickness as well as being a very smart player.

His transition to a pro-style offense may take a bit of time getting used to but once he adapts, he should become a dominant tackle in the NFL. Not a serviceable one, not a good one….a dominant one.

This kid needs only to put in the time and effort and if he’s selected by New England, he’ll have Dante Scarnecchia to push him to his fullest potential. Guys with his size, smarts and athleticism won’t last long in the NFL Draft.  He’s an outstanding protector in the passing game and one has to only remember how bad the Patriots struggled down the stretch and in the playoffs to see how seamless a fit he’d be with New England.

He has the versatility and experience at playing guard as well, something that always resonates well with the coaching staff.

He projects in the Patriots system to be a Starter. He should fit in very well into the NE offense. He’s slotted to go early in the 2nd round, if the Patriots find themselves in the position, they’d be well-served by sliding up in the round and taking Clark.

Clark’s highlight film against Oklahoma State can be found here, courtesy of CFB Film Room:

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.