The Patriots have lost some key contributors from their 2017 team in the early stages of the NFL offseason so far in players such as Nate Solder, Dion Lewis, Malcolm Butler and Danny Amendola; and could still lose several other contributors as the offseason goes on.
This seven round mock draft was conducted on FanSpeak.com using their mock draft simulator. Some players may be ranked higher in some rankings and projections then were taken in this mock draft.
Round 1 pick 31: Kolton Miller, Offensive Tackle, UCLA
Following the departure of left tackle Nate Solder tackle immediately becomes one of the biggest needs for the Patriots, as they could still also lose both LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming to free agency. Miller can step in right away and protect the blindside of quarterback Tom Brady. Miller has good size and arm length similar to Solder which will help him defend speed rushers off the edge. The Patriots added tackle Matt Tobin in free agency who as part of an abysmal Seattle Seahawks offensive line last season, and drafted Tony Garcia last year in the third round who missed his whole rookie season due to blood clots. Garcia’s status and health is currently unknown and Miller can step in and start right away.
Round 2 pick 43: Leighton Vander Esch, linebacker, Boise State
The Patriots linebacking core was terrible in 2017. The Patriots will benefit heavily from getting Dont’a Hightower back from injury in 2018, but is someone the Patriots can not rely on to stay healthy. Vander Esch has very good size at 6’4 250lbs which will allow him to play both inside and outside in the NFL, but projects best as in inside linebacker in the NFL. Vander Esch can be a great compliment to Hightower and also gives the Patriots insurance at linebacker if Hightower misses time again in the future and is a big improvement over guys like Elandon Roberts, Marquis Flowers and Kyle Van Noy.
Round 2 pick 62: Mark Andrews, tight end, Oklahoma
While I believe that Rob Gronkowski will return to the Patriots for 2018 his status is currently unknown. Even if Andrews returns he is an improvement from Jacob Hollister and Dwayne Allen, who still could be released from the Patriots and save the team $5 million in cap space, as well as be a nice compliment to Gronkowski in the passing game, Andrews has great size and was a big red zone threat during his time at Oklahoma. Andrews weakness is that he isn’t a great blocker and is primarily just a pass catcher on offense. Because of this the Patriots could look to keep Allen even if they draft Andrews, who is a great blocking tight end but was practically invisible in the passing game last season.
Round 3 pick 95: Lorenzo Carter, edge rusher, Georgia
Carter has great size at 6’6 250lbs for an edge rusher and had a very good showing at the NFL Combine running a 4.50 40 yard dash. Edge Rusher is a need for the Patriots but I don’t put it at the top of lists for things they need. Trey Flowers had a good season last year and rookie Deatrich Wise showed signs of promise. The Patriots will also get back Derek Rivers who missed his entire rookie season last year after tearing his ACL in training camp, and I expect the team to bring back James Harrison on a veterans minimum deal. The team has also signed defensive end Adrian Clayborne to a two-year deal. Carter will have time to learn and fill out his frame more as well as be able to contribute as a pass rusher on third downs for the Patriots and give the team another nice piece to have for the future.
Round 4 pick 136: Tarvarus McFadden, cornerback, Florida State
Cornerback looked to be a big need for the Patriots after Malcolm Butler signed with the Tennessee Titans and the Patriots missed out on top guys on the market such as Aqib Talib and Richard Sherman. The Patriots then made a call to their farm system the Cleveland Browns to acquire Jason McCourty before the team released him. McFadden has good size at 6’2 and has very good ball skills. McFadden could use more time to develop and cornerback isn’t a big need for the Patriots right now with Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones and Cyrus Jones on the roster but could look to add another corner in the draft.
Round 6 pick 185: Jaylen Samuels, North Carolina State
Samuels seems like a player that the Patriots would value and love. During his time at N.C. State Samuels spent time at running back, fullback, wide receiver and tight end. His versatility on offense is something that Bill Belichick would fall in love with. These rankings had him listed as a running back, but other rankings have him listed as a tight end so it’s tough to project what position he will play in the NFL, if he’d even have a true defined position. With the losses of Amendola and Lewis someone like Samuels could have value and step into numerous roles in the Patriots offense, or spend time on the practice squad and work on developing a defined position rather than being a Swiss army knife on offense.
Round 7 pick 219: Chase Litton, quarterback, Marshall
It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if the Patriots didn’t address the Quarterback position at all in this years draft. It also wouldn’t surprise me at all if they took someone they liked earlier on in the draft. Right now you have to think that Tom Brady has at least three more years left and Brian Hoyer is a more than capable backup QB. The Patriots met with Litton at the NFL Combine and seems to be someone they could have some interest in if they do want to address the quarterback position in the draft, but as of right now they have other holes and needs to fill.
The biggest story during and post Super Bowl 52 for the Patriots is why cornerback Malcolm Butler was not playing. There have been many rumors as to why Butler was not playing in the game such as missing curfew, being caught with weed, and being at a concert during Super Bowl week. Just after the Super Bowl I published an article claiming Belichick’s decision to sit Butler was due to his own pride and ego, and that his decision and the play of the defense cost the Patriots the game. An opinion which I still believe and even more so with Butler’s statement:
Butler states that he did not violate any curfew, or any other actions that have been rumored to have happened. This strengthens my argument and belief even more that Belichick made a personal decision to not play Butler other than one snap on the punt team. Belichick sat back and saw guys like Eric Rowe, Johnson Bademosi and Jordan Richards struggle, but Belichick wouldn’t put his pride or ego away for the betterment of the team, and played a huge factor in why the Patriots ultimately lost the game. Belichick is known for “not putting one player above the team” but this is exactly what he did, but with himself. He put himself and what he wanted to do over what was best for the team, which was playing Malcolm Butler. And the most notable person to like this post so far, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, which is notable especially following the Seth Wickersham ESPN article that came out stating that Brady and Belichick had problems with one another.
Butler put out this statement so that his name would not be damaged due to the rumors that have been coming out about him, and this statement makes me believe even more that this as a personal decision made by Bill Belichick and his decision is why the Patriots lost the Super Bowl.
I’m sure there will be more to come out with this story, as well as several others over the upcoming weeks, and this will be a Patriots offseason like one we have never seen before.
Listen to @WIckedLitRadio Super Bowl Reaction Podcast for a full recap and thoughts on the Malcolm Butler situation and the game itself.
Listen to Bill and Patrick discuss the Patriots vs. Dolphins game, the current state of the NFL and how the Celtics have been playing post win streak on http://wickedlitradio.fireside.fm/15
Just when the Patriots defense starts to take a step forward in their play, they just took two steps backwards with the news that linebacker Dont’a Hightower will miss the rest of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle. Hightower is not only the leader on defense, but also the team’s top player at their weakest position which is linebacker. The team will have some decisions to make on how they go about replacing their star linebacker, whether it be through inside the organization or outside of it through a trade or signing someone off the streets.
The productivity and level of play that Hightower gives, the Patriots likely won’t be able to replace with just one player and might have to make several roster moves going forward. One move that the team is almost certain to make is removing linebacker Shea McClellin off of the injured reserve list when he is eligible to be taken off. The first game McClellin would be eligible to play in is on November 12th against the Denver Broncos following the team’s bye week. McClellin’s presence should help the Patriots linebackers in coverage against backs and tight ends, an area where the team has struggled mightily this season. Given the lack of depth at the linebacker position McClellin should be able to step in and contribute right away.
One thing that might be overlooked with the Hightower injury is his pass rushing ability and how this affects the defensive line. The Patriots really only have two true defensive ends and pass rushers in Trey Flowers and Deatrich Wise Jr., as well as Cassius Marsh who has goes into the game in certain third down situations but is primarily a special team’s player. Kyle Van Noy has the ability to rush the passer but doesn’t quite have the consistency and skill of Hightower of getting after the quarterback. The Patriots could turn to a couple of familiar faces to help in this aspect of the defense including Rob Ninkovich, who announced his retirement this summer but didn’t 100 percent rule out a possible comeback, and free agent Akeem Ayers who was a member of the Patriots 2014 Super Bowl team and is someone the team worked out at the beginning of the season. It is unknown what either guy has left in the tank and what they would be able to contribute, but their knowledge of the defense would allow them to be able to step in and contribute right away.
While its unknown what players could be on the trade block, someone who the Patriots could be interested in is also another familiar face in Jonathan Casillas. Like Ayers, Casillas was acquired by the Patriots mid-season in 2014 and was part of the Super Bowl Champion team and has familiarity with the defense. Following the 2014 Casillas signed with the New York Giants, with whom he still plays for, but with their 1-6 record they could look to trade some players and rebuild in the offseason. If available Casillas is someone I would expect the Patriots to look into before the trade deadline October 31st.
The Patriots have had some injuries to some key players over the past few weeks, as well as having some guys perform better than expected let’s take a look at the second version of my 53-man roster projection after everything that’s transpired through the past few weeks of preseason.
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett
It’ll be a tough decision whether the Patriots hold onto a third quarterback with Brissett, but I think the team will hold onto him after investing a third round pick in him just a year ago as well as using their IR-designated to return spot on him last year and kept him around the team. Another reason is that it’s extremely unlikely that the Patriots keep both Brady and Garoppolo on the roster next year, in that case the team will still be looking for a backup quarterback and I believe the team would feel more comfortable with Brissett than possibly going after a veteran or using another draft pick on a backup next year. Brissett hasn’t looked good this preseason but I think the team likes Brissett and thinks he can fit with the team in the long-term.
Running Back: James White, Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
Dion Lewis and Brandon Bolden have both seen a lot of action so far in the preseason and could be fighting for a roster spot against one another, if that is the case the roster spot has to go to Dion Lewis. Lewis offers the Patriots so much more from an offensive standpoint that Bolden does, who has been used primarily as a special teamer throughout his career. Someone who is on the bubble and a name to watch for is second-year back D.J. Foster, who can make contributions on offense out of the backfield and lined up as a wide receiver, which he played in college. Foster has looked good so far in preseason and training camp and offers the team versatility on offense.
Wide Receiver: Julian Edelman (IR), Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Malcolm Mitchell, Austin Carr
I don’t expect the Patriots to place Edelman on the Injured Reserve until after final roster cut downs, this will give them a chance to evaluate a few more roster bubble guys and also learn the full extent of Edelman’s injury and timetable he is out for, which will likely be the whole season. One of the most known and used phrases in New England “Next Man Up” strikes again and that man could be Austin Carr, who makes my 53-man roster projection after just missing the cut in my first version a few weeks ago. One man can’t just step in and replace a Julian Edelman, it will take everyone on offense to contribute a little more to try replicating Brady’s favorite and most dependable target in Julian Edelman.
Tight End: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
The tight end spot is one that could go a few different ways for the Patriots. Gronk is the best tight end in football and an obvious lock, but there is a lot to be questioned with the tight end position. Gronk and ofseason acquisition Dwayne Allen have had injury problems throughout their careers, as well as Allen having a very inconsistent training camp and preseason even he is not a lock to make the team.I believed that Matt Lengel would have won out the third tight end spot over James O’Shaughnessy and undrafted rookie Jacob Hollister, and then he was released yesterday (August 27th). Hollister provides the most upside at tight end outside of Gronk, even as just a vertical threat and not a traditional two-way tight end.
Offensive Line: Nate Solder, Joe Thuney, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, Tony Garcia, Ted Karras, Cameron Fleming
The starting five from last year are locks to make the roster, as well as Joe Thuney who was the top backup interior lineman last season and rookie Tony Garcia who will be the teams primary backup tackle. The last offensive lineman spot goes to Cameron Fleming, who was last year’s top backup tackle and has proven to be inconsistent throughout his career in New England. Nate Solder has been out for the past several weeks now and is a very important piece to get back as Fleming and La’Adrian Waddle have both struggled at left tackle in his absence.
Defensive Line: Trey Flowers, Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Lawrence Guy, Deatrich Wise Jr., Derek Rivers (IR), Vincent Valentine, Geneo Grissom, Adam Butler
The Patriots just released offseason acquisition disappointment Kony Ealy after unsuccessfully finding a trade partner for the third year defensive end. Derek Rivers is believed to have torn his ACL during joint practices with the Houston Texans, but there has not been much reported since the injury occurred. If his ACL is in fact torn the team will place him on Injured Reserve, ending his rookie campaign before it even started. (Rivers is not being counted towards the 53 number but being listed until placed on Injured Reserve.) Undrafted free agent Adam Butler has played great in the preseason so far and has been a real surprise with how well he has looked so far. With the loss of Rivers and release of Ealy, it seems more and more likely that Butler will make the Patriots 53-man roster that is struggling for depth at defensive line.
Linebacker: Dont’a Hightower, David Harris, Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, Elandon Roberts, Harvey Langi
No changes from my first projection here at linebacker. Harvey Langi has continued to perform well for the Patriots and shown ability to both as a coverage linebacker and as an edge player and get after the quarterback, which the team desperately needs. Dont’a Hightower was taken off the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list last week and began practicing with the team. I expect the team to move Hightower more to the outside this year with the lack of pass rushers that the team has and see newcomer David Harris play majority of first and second downs as the inside linebacker.
Cornerback: Malcolm Butler, Stephen Gilmore, Eric Rowe, Jonathan Jones, Cyrus Jones, Justin Coleman
Butler has struggled so far in the preseason though I’m not concerned as he is one of the best cornerbacks in the entire league. The real question when it comes to cornerback is Cyrus Jones and if he is going to make the team. I don’t see them getting rid of Jones after just one season, even though that one season couldn’t have gone much worse. Six cornerbacks could be considered a lot to carry but with questions really outside of your top three corners I think the Patriots take the risk of carrying six corners.
Safety: Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Nate Ebner, Brandon King
With the Patriots carrying six corners it’s time to say goodbye to Jordan Richards. The third year safety has been awful this preseason and hasn’t shown much during his time in New England as a former second-round pick.
Special Teams: Stephen Gostkowski, Ryan Allen, Matthew Slater, Joe Cardona
No surprises here and not much to say.
The Patriots have one preseason game left remaining to play and it will be interesting to see which guys make one final push in an attempt to crack a spot on the Patriots 53-man roster.
The Super Bowl champion New England Patriots kicked off training camp today in front of a massive crowd of fans that showed up to welcome back their beloved team. Quarterback and Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady was one of the first on the field for the Patriots and was welcomed by a loud uproar of screams and chants from the fans. Fans were also excited to see the return of tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the second half of the regular season and the playoffs after undergoing back surgery during the season.
With the first few days of camp being non-contact the team went through a lot of individual position drills, as well as 7-on-7s, 11-on-11s and special teams drills. The team started off with kickoff and kickoff returns, where Danny Amendola, Dion Lewis, and Cyrus Jones were fielding and receiving kicks. Cyrus Jones picked up the same spot he ended last season, dropping one of his first few attempts catching the kickoff and then fielded everyone cleanly after that. If Jones continues to have issues on special teams his job and roster spot could be in jeopardy.
All three quarterbacks participated in 7-on7 and 11-on-11 drills with Tom Brady primarily working with the first team offense, Jimmy Garoppolo working with all three units and Jacoby Brissett working with the third team offense and some snaps with the second team offense. Brady looked like his normal self; spreading the ball around to his many offensive weapons, connecting with offseason addition Brandin Cooks several times deep down the sideline. During these drills Rob Gronkowski looked like he was completely healthy and happy to be back on the field and was even trying to create contact with defenders and did his famous “Gronk Spike” after catching a pass in the end zone from Brady. Jimmy Garoppolo was inconsistent during these scrimmages, making some good passes including a deep ball to tight end Dwayne Allen. Garoppolo also made some bad passes and decisions, including back to back interceptions in the end zone by Eric Rowe and Jordan Richards. Jacoby Brissett looked good with the third team offense and had a good chemistry with second year receiver Devin Lucien, who made a great catch on a back shoulder fade in the back of the end zone, and undrafted rookie Austin Carr. Brissett showed improvement on the quickness of his decision making and getting rid of the ball, both of which were areas he struggled in last year.
Austin Carr is someone who stood out to me and had a great practice working as a slot receiver with the third team offense and was constantly finding a way to get open. Carr was a Biletnikoff award finalist during his senior season in 2016 and led the Big Ten in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns before going undrafted in the 2017 NFL Draft. With the Patriots depth at receiver it will be tough for him to earn a spot on the final 53-man roster and would be a great addition to the teams practice squad and continue to learn from slot receivers like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, if he is not signed by another team.
Defensively the cornerback duo of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore looked very sharp. Early on in the beginning of drills Butler had played great coverage on Brandin Cooks and had a pass breakup in the end zone on cooks. One area of question this offseason was who is going to be the Patriots slot and nickel corner, and on the first day of camp that went to Jonathan Jones. Jones was a primary special teams player last season who played some slot corner on defense and appears as of now to be the team’s starting slot corner, with Butler and Gilmore on the outside, as well as Eric Rowe who can line up on the outside or on the inside against some tight ends because of his size.
There were several players who did not attend of participate in todays practice including; Dont’a Hightower and Alan Branch who were both placed on the PUP list earlier this week, as well as Rob Ninkovich, Kony Ealy and Joe Cardona. According to Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston Cardona’s absence is due to a commitment that Cardona has with the Navy. The absences of Ealy and Ninkovich have yet to be given a reason for. Ninkovich has been a name that has been discussed this offseason as a potential surprise cut or someone who will not make the final 53-man roster and his absence could be related to possible thoughts of retirement as he is set to enter his 12th year in the league.
The Patriots will continue to practice over the weekend with only partial contact before moving to full padded practices next week. Patriots football is back and ready to defend their title and be on the quest for their sixth Super Bowl championship.