By: Jake Mackey
The New England Patriots do not have a first-round pick this year due to the deflated ball incident that happened 15-months ago that is still taking over our lives as sports fans. However, that should not take away all the excitement of draft time. So without further a due, here is this year’s Patriots specific mock draft:
Round Two, pick 60: Le’Raven Clark, OT Texas Tech: The most glaring need for the Patriots coming out of last season was without a doubt depth along the offensive line. More specifically offensive tackle. Once Nate Solder went down in week five, the line went to shambles. Le’Raven Clark would be a perfect fit coming out of Texas Tech. At 6-5, 316 pounds, Clark is a bit smaller for a tackle but has shown the ability to play at both right and left tackle, as well as experience at guard. He is a three-time All-Big 12 player as well as a second-team All-American in 2015.
Round Two, pick 61: Devontae Booker, RB Utah: The Patriots are in desperate need of a running back who can consistently run the football. Devontae Booker is Stevan Ridley 2.0 in more ways than one. At 5-11, 219 pounds he is almost identical in frame to Ridley, and he runs down hill with reckless abandon as well. However, his fumble issue is also there. He put the ball on the turf nine times over his last two seasons, but he did cut those fumbles in half his senior year. He also had 80 receptions over the last two seasons. In addition, he torn his meniscus his senior season which could make him a solid project for the 2016 season while LeGarrette Blount takes over the majority of the snaps in what is probably his final year as a Patriot.
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Round Three, pick 91: Hassan Ridgeway, DT Texas: Very often Bill Belichick dips into the same college pipeline in succeeding years. Florida and Rutgers are two schools Belichick has shown particular interest in, but now it could be Texas. Hassan Ridgeway played along Malcom Brown in Austin, and he is considered to be one of the biggest sleepers in this year’s draft. At 6-3, 303 pounds Ridgeway is a physical presence in the middle of a defense and he can provide some much needed interior pass rush for the Patriots. When his motor gets going he is a force to be reckoned with. His hands and burst off the line are his biggest strengths. Getting the motor going can sometimes be an issue. An NFL general manager told NFL.com about Ridgeway, “He’s more talented than Malcom Brown was coming out but his conditioning and injuries worry you. With time and money will his weight balloon? Will he be motivated to work in the offseason? He would have benefited by going back to school.”
Round Three, pick 96: Cyrus Jones, CB Alabama: A serious, and under talked about need for the Patriots is the nickel back position. Cyrus Jones out of Alabama is a versatile and very physical player from a great program in Alabama. At 5-10, 197 pounds Jones certainly is small for an NFL player, and for sure does not match up well with outside receivers. He was a receiver during his freshmen year, and then switched to corner playing on both the outside and inside. He would match up better with slot receivers at the pro level seeing how he is identical in size to most of them. In addition, he returned four punts for touchdowns in 2015.
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Round Six, pick 196: Joe Haeg, OT North Dakota State: The Patriots have such a need for depth at offensive tackle, they may very well take two players at that position in this draft. Joe Haeg is a perfect fit for the Patriots. He is a small school player from a powerhouse FCS program. Furthermore, he played at both right and left tackle in his time at Fargo and at 6-6, 304 pounds he is more of the athletic type of tackle that the Patriots like to use, especially in recent years. The transition from FCS-level football to the speed of NFL edge rushers will be a tough one for Haeg.
Round Six, pick 204: Tajae Sharpe, WR Umass: The Patriots are in great need of a solid X-receiver. It is tough to find anything solid in the sixth round, but Tajae Sharpe from Umass can certainly challenge Aaron Dobson for a spot on the roster. At 6-2, 194 pounds Sharpe is extremely lanky and lacks strength for an NFL wide out. However, he is quick in his route running and when he gets into the open field he is a big target for any quarterback to throw to. The main question will be how well he can get off jams from pro-level corners.
Round Six, pick 214: Keenan Reynolds, Athlete Navy: Every Patriot fan knows the affinity that Bill Belichick has for the Naval Academy, seeing how he grew up there. We saw that in the draft last year when Bill Belichick drafted Joe Cardona in the fifth round, the highest any long snapper has ever been drafted. Now Keenan Reynolds is the star athlete coming out of Annapolis. The college quarterback set FBS records in both touchdowns and rushing yards during his career. He made the switch to running back in the East-West Shrine game. The Patriots also have reportedly worked out and visited with Reynolds multiple times this offseason. What position will he play in Foxborough? Bill Belichick is giddy just trying to think about the possibilities.
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Round Six, pick 221: Cole Toner, OT Harvard: The Patriots need to take as many flyers as they can on offensive tackles this offseason. Cole Toner out of Harvard certainly would be a work-in-progress coming out of the Ivy League. However, this draft is expected to be deep in the trenches therefore talent could still be lurking in the late rounds.
Round Seven, pick 243: Cody Kessler, QB USC: Quarterback suddenly has become more of a need for the Patriots with Tom Brady being suspended for the first month of play. At 6-1, 220 pounds Kessler is similar to that of Jimmy Garoppolo but played in a more pro-ready system in college, in a very pass heavy Pac-12. If the Patriots do draft a quarterback it won’t be because they are getting ready to trade Jimmy Garoppolo, it is because they always like to go into camp with three bodies at the position.
Round Seven, pick 250: Spencer Drango. OG Baylor: The Patriots also could use some depth at guard currently. Drango has already met with the Patriots this offseason, and comes from a very pass oriented Baylor offense. The guard position is one that also has featured a lot of bodies in Foxborough in years past.