After A 2 Week Calm Down: Patriots Full Draft Grades

I get really emotional about the draft. Maybe it’s the fact that I do so much to get to know these players in the year leading up to the draft that I get attached to the ideas of certain players coming here to do certain things. Whatever it is, I get really worked up and angry about some picks right after their name drops. Sometimes I’ll take 10 minutes, or a day or two to come to my senses and realize it’s actually not so bad. I mean, Coach Belichick is only 151-57 in regular season games as a Patriot… it’s almost like he knows more about football than I do.

This time I took 2 weeks. Two weeks. Because it was just that kind of draft.

I hope my criticisms look stupid over time. I hope my optimism is rewarded. At the end of the day I’d rather have a 4th Super Bowl ring than have the “Told Ya So” crown of cool bloggers that no one reads or cares about. But until these guys hit the field, in my humble opinion, no one has the right to tell me that I’m wrong.

Jamie Collins – OLB/DE Southern Miss

Positives:
I don’t think Collins sucks. In fact I had him starred in my Combine notes and statistically he was great with 16.5 sacks in his last 2 seasons at Southern Miss. I was surprised to hear his name called so early, but I don’t think he sucks. His background is intriguing in a very Belichick kind of way. In high school he was 1st team All State as a quarterback/linebacker. When he went to Southern Miss he was actually originally was slated as a defensive back. He’s scheme diverse and has a lot of experience dropping into coverage. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’d trust him covering Percy Harvin, but he’s done it and that’s a lot more than most DE’s can say coming out of college. What I like the most about him is that he’s strong at the point of attack and has a violent disengage ability that a lot of pass rushers don’t have. Plus he managed an 11″7′ long jump which is incredible if it’s actually worth anything in football.

Negatives:
While he doesn’t suck I kind of don’t get where he fits in this defense. People who are raving about this pick don’t really seem to have an answer for that either. Another way of saying “scheme diverse” is “tweener.” I thought he looked like a textbook 3-4 OLB when I first starting watching him, and apparently the Patriots scouts thought the same. Rumor has it, from Draft Insider, that Belichick and the scouts disagreed on Collins who the scouts had marked as a 3rd day pick.

At Southern Miss he played a mix of four point and two point stance, a lot of times finding success lining up on a TE or wide of the LT. If you’re looking to twin tower him opposite Chandler Jones at the end of a base 4-3 front I think there’s going to be more of a learning curve that people want to admit. If you’re looking to put him at outside linebacker you have reason to be encouraged with his 4.64 40 time. Lateral movement isn’t really his strongpoint though. When asked to change direction on the fly he’s very flat footed and heavy. For an incredible athlete he can be made to look very un-athletic at times.

Grade: B-
I’m trying to stay optimistic with Collins. Truthfully he had almost identical statistical production to last year’s 3rd round pick Jake Bequette who did it against better competition and still wasn’t good enough to crack the roster as a rookie. Also the Bengals took the much higher rated Margus Hunt with the next pick making me think it’s going to be Carlos Dunlap all over again. I don’t think a 2nd round pick on Collins is too soon but I liked Hunt’s skillset better. For now I’m waiting to see him on the field in training camp.

Aaron Dobson – WR Marshall

Positives: I was honestly dreading this pick and it was a nightmare watching it happen in real life. But there are positives and the more I watch Dobson the more I want to see him succeed. One positive thing that jumps right out at me are that Dobson’s feet are fast. His transitions are maybe better than Cordarrelle Patterson or Justin Hunter or some of the guys ranked a lot higher than him. The way his feet move look like an NFL receiver. In fact his footwork reminds me of a talented former Patriot, but this certain illiterate wife beater will go unnamed as not to jinx our guy Dobson. He’s big and beefy for such a tall fast player. A lot of players his size have really narrow lower bodies that you’re just waiting to see snap. Not the case with Dobson. You could tell me he was an undersized outside linebacker and I’d maybe believe it. The Marshall product plays with some fire and has all the physical attributes of an X receiver.

Above all Belichick trusts him to pick up the Erhardt-Perkins offense which can basically wipe half your potential WR’s off the board. In fact really wanted Cordarrelle Patterson until I heard him speak in an interview and didn’t think he had the brainpower to learn the McDaniels playbook. His former coaches have come forward since the draft to rave about his intelligence. If he can line up properly he’ll be miles ahead of a lot of big name veterans who have pretended to be Patriots.

Negatives:
The buzz on Dobson has been his potential, his amazing potential and how he still hasn’t lived up to it, and how everyone is just waiting for him to break through that wall and burst out. He had a bad quarterback. He had an ankle injury that cost him 2 games. Trust me he’s going to break out any second. Right? You can give me the potential speech until I die but I just can’t shake the feeling like 3 years from now we’ll all still be talking about Dobson’s potential and how he’s 1 season away from unlocking it. The same way Ben Watson was always a season away from breaking out, or Brandon Tate just needed a little more time to come into his own. No matter how many times I look at his 40 and listen to the singing praise from the internet about “thank god BB choose the obscure pick we all closed our eyes and agreed on at random” I can’t help but think this is Taylor Price (big fast underexposed WR who would have flourished with a better QB supposedly) re-packaged as a 2nd round pick.

The people gushing about his hands are the people who are watching Youtube highlight reels. When I look at Dobson as a whole I see a player that habitually catches with his body, struggles to make routine catches of on target passes, and is a potential liability in the possession game. He’s never cracked 700 yards in 4 years at Marshall and only registered over 5 touchdowns once (a 12 touchdown season in 2011). In 10 games his senior year Dobson managed only one 100+ yard game. And for everyone still raving about his Senior Bowl practice, I’ve seen that practice footage and I was less that blown away. Also do you know how many receptions Dobson had in the actual Senior Bowl. Check out the box score if you’re curious. If you don’t time for box scores it was ZERO. That also combines for zero yards.

If you’re sick of hearing negative feedback on Dobson then what do you want me to do? Ignore the Pats flaky history of developing wide receivers? Ignore the stats and the drops and the game tape? What do you want from me?

Grade: D
Belichick says he’s smart. If he can learn the playbook and be on the field long enough to make a difference I’ll be thrilled and I’ll shut up. Rest assured I will cheer this kid on harder and louder than everyone else and root for him to make an asshole out of me. I hope my negative assessment of him lives on in infamy and 10 years from now looks as dumb as Ron Borges opining on the Richard Seymour draft. But for now I have him pegged as someone else’s priority free agent washout in 2016 and the Pats will be back to drawing board looking for a wide receiver again. Welcome to the family Dobson, but I’ve got my doubts.

Logan Ryan – CB Rutgers

Pick number one of the Rutgers Graduate Physical Education Co-Op formerly known as the New England Patriots.

Positives: Ryan might not be McCourty but he’s got D-Mac’s physical style. He was a 2 year starter at Rutgers and produced right away: 7 interceptions 30 passes broken up in his 2 seasons as a starter. That’s not a typo: thirty, three zero. That’s really impressive considering there are 1st round corners that never even come close to double digit PBU’s. The Rutgers D had Ryan on an island a lot of the time so opposing QB’s were probably more apt to throw in his direction with no safety help over the top, so he saw plenty of action.

He’s a big lanky corner that makes the Ras-I Dowling waiting game a lot less suspenseful. Ryan is a formidable replacement for Dowling who basically got a whiff of the Foxboro grass and immediately tore every ligament in his lower body. Ryan played 26 straight games as a Scarlet Knights starter and has no sketchy injury history. If Dowling can’t pull it together this year then they’ve got another option.

Negatives: When the island approach went well, it went well. When it didn’t Ryan got burned for some deep touchdowns. He’s not as well composed as some of the other higher ranked corners in this year’s class. By that I mean he plays a lot of catchup and doesn’t show a consistent ability to get his eyes back to the quarterback. That’s something that has killed Patriots DB’s for years and years now and he absolutely has to make that his first priority. Otherwise he’s just a PI factory in the making.

Grade: B-

I cursed out loud when this pick first came in but I’ve opted to chill out and look at it in perspective. The next corner off the board was USF’s Kayvon Webster who I judged as a zone specific corner with a 5th round grade at highest. Miami got a decent value on Jamar Taylor at 54, and I’d compare Ryan’s skillset to his so logically Ryan is a good value at 83. We needed another corner somewhere in this draft and I went on record saying I didn’t like any of the 2nd round graded corners (Banks, Slay, Wilson, etc). I can’t sit here and say we need to draft a corner but they need to get a first rounder in the 3rd round. It doesn’t work like that. So they needed the best available corner and I do believe they got him.

Duron Harmon – Safety Rutgers

Positives – In 2009 Belichick used a 2nd round pick on a German offensive lineman from the University of Houston that most people had never heard of, and most agreed he could have gotten him in the 5th round. In 2010 he used a first round pick on a corner from Rutgers who wasn’t the highest ranked corner available and was slated as a late 2nd rounder. In 2011 he used a third round pick on an underexposed back from LSU that most thought was a 5th or 6th round pick. In 2012 he threw a 2nd round pick away on the 9th ranked FS on the board.

The results: a 2nd team All-Pro RT, an AFC Defensive ROY, a 1,200+ yard double digit TD running back, and a pretty good safety in the making.

I will give Belichick the full benefit of the doubt on Harmon despite knowing almost nothing about him when he was picked. From the little I’ve seen of him he actually looks like he has decent instincts, tackles well and does what he’s supposed to do. He ran a 4.51 which is a pretty good time for an unknown safety.

Negatives: This is another pick that Draft Insider said Belichick chose to override his scouts on, and apparently it didn’t go over too well. 91st overall for a player on absolutely no one’s radar. That’s the negative here and that’s what still burns me up about this pick. The next player taken was Stedman Bailey. I’ll talk about Bailey more in a minute and how that will probably come back to haunt us.

Also: In 2009 Belichick spent a 2nd round pick on a DT from Boston College that was graded as a 4th round pick. In 2010 he spent a 3rd round pick on an under performing WR from the University of Ohio. In 2011 he used up a 5th round pick on a TE from Marshall that most people thought couldn’t catch. In 2012 he blew a 3rd round pick on a DE from Arkansas that was graded as a 6th rounder.

The Results: Gone, Out of the NFL, Cut before week 1, practice squad.

Grade: A++++
Sometimes I think Belichick drafts players that he could have just as easily found as an UDFA just to give them something to live up to. Sometimes it works out and other times you’re sitting there wondering why he even drafted a DB from TCU that never played a single down in coverage in his incredibly short FBS career who everyone knew has NO CHANCE to make the roster. I figure I might as well like a random draft strategy like this since I can’t do anything about it. A-Quadruple-Plus it is because I want to be on the ground floor of this one when it all works out.

Josh Boyce – WR TCU

Positive – He’s really really ridiculously fast.

Negative – As far as build and style of play I considered Boyce to be similar to WVU’s Stedman Bailey. You could put either on the outside or in the slot and trust them with a variety of routes. Boyce is bigger heavier but still faster in a straight line. But I thought Bailey’s ability to transition was noticeably superior, and he definitely came off as the tougher and more physical of the two. Basically I thought Bailey was a born fit for the Patriots and I stupidly fell in love with the idea of drafting him. You could argue Boyce was the value pick but was he really? Bailey went one pick after Duron Harmon in the 3rd who, realistically, would have probably been on the board for quite some time.

Maybe the Pats saw Bailey’s BFF Geno Smith going to the Jets and didn’t think he’d fit here. Maybe they looked at Bailey and thought he couldn’t learn the offense. That’s the kind of X factor that those of us outside of Belichick and the scouts will never know. But TCU runs a notoriously silly read-option offense that isn’t anything like the Patriots either. In fact if you look at the list of active TCU alums in the NFL you’ll see almost exclusively linebackers and DBs with only 5 offensive players (including OL Marcus Cannon and QB Andy Dalton) and 1 lone receiver: the Jets Jeremy Kerley.

Grade: C+
I’m extremely curious/excited to see what Boyce looks like on the field with Brady and what they have planned for him. I’m skeptical of his ability to play on the perimeter. If you’re the kind of person who looks at 40 times and starts screaming “Deep threat! Deep threat!” like you tried to Ouija board Al Davis and got possessed by a poor drafting lunatic there’s a lot more to playing on the outside than just running fast. I’m puzzled at how they’re going to use him, and I think opposing DCs are as well.

Michael Buchanan DE – Illinois

Positive: Buchanan was a player I heard quite a few mentions of as a mid-round pick throughout the draft process. I think he was definitely the most intriguing player on the board at the time so by in large I was pleased with the pick. He was a 4 star recruit out of high school, and part of a well recruited group by Ron Zook that somehow still couldn’t keep him from losing his job. Like Collins he’s another guy who fits that prototypical 3-4 OLB mold. Maybe this means they’re adding another layer to their improving defense? He’s a good run defender who has a nice developing assortment of pass rush techniques.

In 2011 he was the counterpart to Texans 1st round pick Whitney Mercilus. The two of the combined for 23 sacks (7 of them belonging to Buchanan). If he had kept up that pace some say he might have been considered a first round pick. He didn’t, and dropped his sack total to 4.5 in a weak senior year prompting a big slide in draft stock. Still if he performs strongly in training camp then he immediately makes Jake Bequette obsolete and not a moment too soon IMO. If he needs a dominant pass rusher opposite him to succeed then he might end up being used like Mark Anderson a few years back as a passing situation specialist opposite the emerging Chandler Jones.

Negative: There are other reasons Buchanan slid down the board besides just missing Mercilus. His first step isn’t anything special. He posted a 4.78 at 255 lbs which is decent but less than stunning as well. His junior year, when he did his best work, he was playing in the 240’s. He put on extra bulk and it has maybe slowed him down a little. Still, there was once a DE from Purdue named Rob Ninkovich who ran a 4.80 40 and he ended up making a few plays for us.

Grade: B+

The Patriots have great D-line coaches who, contrary to popular belief, have been getting solid production out of much less talented players than Buchanan (Tully Banta-Cain anyone?). If he’s coachable and works hard I don’t see how he doesn’t turn out to be a steal if not marginally productive.

Steve Beauharnais – LB Rutgers

Positives: Another Rutgers player and another former highschool QB/Linebacker (and also played RB). That’s not a bad trend at all. I guess the Rutgers thing makes sense: shaky draft class so Belichick drafts the guys he has the most intel on.

Beauharnais was originally slotted as a mid round pick but was overlooked for reasons I’ll discuss in a minute. The Pats linebacker group is strong but not necessarily deep. He’ll be competing to take a spot away from either Jeff Tarpinian or Mike Rivera both of which contributed well on special teams but were obvious liabilities anytime they were asked to actually make plays. Mel Kiper raved about his ability to tackle. He wasn’t crazy productive at anything at Rutgers but he’s a decent enough fundamental football player to make me optimistic.

Negatives: I’m typically very weary of guys with big differences between their Combine and Pro Day 40’s. He ran a 4.84 in Indianapolis and a 4.67 at the Rutgers pro day. Maybe he had an injury that wasn’t disclosed. A little more worrisome was the fact that he weighed in 6 pounds lighter at his Pro Day than at the Combine (240 vs 234). He’s reportedly had big fluctuations in his weight over the years and was about 225 coming out of high school. I was really hoping to get a linebacker that could cover the middle of the field and be insurance on Dane Fletcher. If that guy who ran a 4.84 shows up on week 1 that just isn’t going to happen.

Grade: B-
I’ve raved about him before and I’ll do it again: Harold Nash is the best S&C coach in the league. If anyone is going to get this weight issue under control it’s him. Much like Buchanan there wasn’t anyone especially exciting on the boards besides maybe that British triathlete guy who had never even played football before. We all knew that would never happen. I don’t mind this pick at all even if he does finalize the New England Scarlet Knights formerly known as the Rutgers Graduate Physical Educational Co-Op formerly known as the New England Patriots.

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