So the 2017 NFL Draft is tomorrow and there is still a lot of uncertainty surrounding the entire first round. The Cleveland Browns are supposedly really interested in Myles Garrett, the former Texas A&M defensive end, but the front office really wants Mitch Trubisky. While there is no clear second overall pick, there are about 10-15 players who would be considered great value at picks 5-15. A few teams picking in the top ten are supposedly interested in a quarterback, but there isn’t really a good value to be had at the position that early on. Same for offensive line; there are no safe bets this year at what is usually considered to be the safest position to draft.
The New England Patriots, for their part, supposedly only have 50 to 75 players on their draft board, while most teams usually have around 150. The Patriots generally look for versatile players with a high football IQ, great work ethic, and who will generally buy into the system. This sometimes results in picks such as Trey Flowers, Duron Harmon, Jerod Mayo, and Devin McCourty, but also yields Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom, and Tavon Wilson. Year in and year out, it is nearly impossible to know who the Patriots will draft because the traits they look for aren’t generally available to the public. One thing is for sure, though, Coach/GM Bill Belichick likes to draft from programs he is familiar with. He drafted McCourty, Harmon, and Logan Ryan from Rutgers while his son was an assistant to the team. He also has a tendency to draft players who get recommendations from former colleagues Nick Saban and Urban Meyer. Even though predicting who the Patriots will draft is a fool’s errand, here is who I would if I were in the GM’s seat.
Round 3, Pick 72: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
Jones was once considered a sure-fire first round pick before tearing his Achilles tendon at his pro day. And in a deep cornerback draft class, it is entirely possible that the Patriots are able to scoop up this talented player in the third round. Jones is undersized for a corner, but has great ball skills and competes hard on every play. With Malcolm Butler likely landing a huge contract outside of New England after this season, Jones could spend his first year as essentially a medical redshirt and would be able to join a rotation consisting of Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe in 2018. There is no guarantee that Jones will be the same player after his injury, but his upside is worth the risk.
Alternate Picks: Tyus Bowser, EDGE/LB; Tarell Basham, EDGE
Round 3, Pick 96: Demarcus Walker, EDGE/DL, Florida State
Walker is an interesting prospect, as at 6’4″, 280 lbs, he is generally considered to be too big and too slow to be a base 4-3 end, and not powerful enough to be a 3-4 end or a 3-technique. However, as former Patriot captain Jerod Mayo articulated on CSNNE’s Quick Slants program, Bill Belichick covets guys who are physical enough to set the edge, rather than blow past it to get the passer. The Patriots are more of a coverage-based pass defense, and Walker’s frame and skill set would be useful in setting the edge on run downs and containing the quarterback in passing situations. Teams are generally wary of “tweener” prospects who don’t have a natural position, but Bill Belichick thrives on putting those kinds of players in places they will succeed.
Alternate Picks: Jake Butt, TE; Trey Hendrickson, EDGE
Round 4, Pick 131: Alex Anzalone, LB, Florida
This probably a bit of wishful thinking on my part, as this likely on the very low end of where Anzalone will actually end up going. The former Florida Gator has first round talent, but will likely fall to the mid-rounds due to durability concerns. Anzalone has experience and considerable skill in defending the run, rushing the passer, and in coverage, and would provide the Patriots with another 3-down linebacker to pair with Dont’a Hightower. If he can stay healthy, this pick will be a steal.
Alternate Picks: Daeshon Hall, EDGE; Dawuane Smoot, EDGE
Round 5, Pick 183: Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
Roberts had a rough childhood but paved his own way forward to college and now to the NFL. The former Toledo Rocket, at 6’4″, 270 lbs, has good hands and is a capable blocker. While he will have to work on his technique at the next level, he provides a good developmental third option in the event the injury-prone Rob Gronkowski and/or Dwayne Allen go down.
Alternate Picks: Deatrich Wise, EDGE; Carroll Phillips, EDGE
Round 6, Pick 200: Bryan Cox Jr., EDGE, Florida
With Rob Ninkovich entering the last year of his contract, the Patriots may be looking to double-dip at the edge rusher position. The son of former Patriot Bryan Cox, this other Florida Gator has experience in both a 3-4 and 4-3 front and has some developmental upside.
Alternate Picks: Avery Gennesy, OT; Fish Smithson, S
Round 7, Pick 239: Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova
The Patriots have been linked to Seaton over the past month, and it makes sense for them to take a developmental tackle as starter Nate Solder and backup Cameron Fleming both enter contract years. The Patriots have historically drafted tackles a year or two early to have them develop, so I would still expect them to take one even if they plan on extending Solder.
Alternate Picks: Aviante Collins, OT; Montae Nicholson, S
Bonus First Round (No Trades):
- Cleveland Browns – Myles Garrett, EDGE
- San Francisco 49ers – Solomon Thomas, DL
- Chicago Bears – Jamal Adams, S
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Cam Robinson, OT
- Tennessee Titans – Marshon Lattimore, CB
- New York Jets – Mitchell Trubisky, QB
- Los Angeles Chargers – Malik Hooker, S
- Carolina Panthers – Christian McCaffrey, RB
- Cincinnati Bengals – Derek Barnett, EDGE
- Buffalo Bills – Corey Davis, WR
- New Orleans Saints – Taco Charlton, EDGE
- Cleveland Browns – Jonathan Allen, DL
- Arizona Cardinals – Mike Williams, WR
- Philadelphia Eagles – Leonard Fournette, RB
- Indianapolis Colts – Charles Harris, EDGE
- Baltimore Ravens – Forrest Lamp, OG
- Washington Redskins – Haason Reddick, LB
- Tennessee Titans – OJ Howard, TE
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Budda Baker, S
- Denver Broncos – Garret Bolles, OT
- Detroit Lions – T.J. Watt, EDGE
- Miami Dolphins – Reuben Foster, LB
- New York Giants – Ryan Ramczyk, OT
- Oakland Raiders – Jarrad Davis, LB
- Houston Texans – Deshaun Watson, QB
- Seattle Seahawks – Kevin King, CB
- Kansas City Chiefs – Zach Cunningham, LB
- Dallas Cowboys – Quincy Wilson, CB
- Green Bay Packers – Chidobe Awuzie, CB
- Pittsburgh Steelers – Tre’Davious White, CB
- Atlanta Falcons – Carl Lawson, EDGE
- New Orleans Saints – Gareon Conley, CB