New England Patriots Draft Forecast
The Patriots finished the 2015 season with a 12-4 record, losing to the eventual Super Bowl-winning Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship. The end of the season came prematurely to the Pats’ fans, due in part to New England’s overworked and injured offensive line who allowed their QB Tom Brady to be hit 23 times in the game.
The Patriots have been one of the most active teams this offseason trying to shore up the problems that ended their season on such a sour note. They fired their offensive line coach, traded around, and ended up signing multiple former first-round picks to make up for this year’s first-round pick that was taken away during Deflategate. Some of the big names they have acquired include TE Martellus Bennett, DE Chris Long, OG Jon Cooper, RB Donald Brown, WR Chris Hogan, and LB Shea McClellin. They also brought back their former OL coach Dante Scarnecchia and LeGarrette Blount.
With all of this Free Agency success and their typically unconventional drafting process nobody knows for sure what the Patriots’ game plan will be during the NFL Draft other than Bill Belichick. Here are all 11 of the Patriots’ picks, and how their draft could go down:
Pick 1: Second Round (60): Landon Turner, OL, UNC
The Patriot’s biggest problem all year in 2015 was the amount of time Brady spent on his back. At the age of 39, Brady is one of the oldest current NFL players, he can’t take as many hits as he used to be able to. Even if it was the early 2000s again, not even Tom Terrific could be expected to win very often with the bruised and confused OL from last year. Even if you ignore the fact that Jimmy Garoppolo will likely start the first four games of this season with Tom Brady’s Deflategate suspension reinstated, drafting Turner and a couple of other offensive linemen will be a big part of the Patriots Draft this year.
Pick 2: Second Round (61): Braxton Miller, WR, Ohio State
Along with their inability to protect their quarterback, the Patriots didn’t have many reliable targets to throw to. Julian Edelman has been known to miss a game or two in a given year, same as Rob Gronkowski. Miller, a former QB, is an explosive and athletic player and exactly what the Patriots need in their wideout core. The Patriots, as any football fan knows, love to play around with players and find the best fit for them. As a player who is doing just that, there is no better landing spot for both parties.
Pick 3: Third Round (91): Zack Sanchez, CB, Oklahoma
Zack Sanchez, at first glance, doesn’t look like a third round player. He is a little on the small side for an NFL player and he has been known to be inconsistent at times. The Patriots, however, are low on cornerbacks and Sanchez has experience covering current and future NFL receivers. His downsides can be coached out of him and his instincts are impressive.
Pick 4: Third Round (96): LeRaven Clark, OL, Texas Tech
Clark has potential to be a good lineman in the NFL, and as I explained before, the Patriots really need that this year. LeRaven started 51 straight games in college meaning he won’t be as injury prone as some of the current New England linemen. He would be a nice addition to the struggling front line.
Pick 5: Sixth Round (196): Victor Ochi, OLB, Stony Brook
What Ochi lacks in size, being only 6-1, 246 pounds, he makes up for with his long, powerful arms and excellent quickness. Ochi has a motor that never stops running and can track down the quarterback with the best of them, he had 32 career sacks in college. Ochi was voted a team captain for the East-West Shrine game and stood out from the rest of the group.
Pick 6: Sixth Round (204): Keenan Reynolds, QB, Navy
Reynolds is the same kind of player as Braxton Miller. He has impeccable athleticism and has the ability to play almost anywhere on the field. That plus Coach Belichick’s history with the Naval Academy (his father coached there for 34 years) makes the Patriots a very likely landing place. If he is meant to play in the NFL the Patriots know that they would be the best at finding him a place.
Pick 7: Sixth Round (208): Glenn Gronkowski, FB, Kansas State
This pick is pretty obvious, it’s another Gronkowski. The Pats have had private workouts with “Baby-Gronk” and Rob has expressed excitement to possibly play with his younger brother. The Patriots will try to find a spot for him, whether it be at running back, tight end, or elsewhere.
Pick 8: Sixth Round (214): Stephane Nembot, OL, Colorado
Stephane Nembot is a giant. The 6-foot-6, 322-pound behemoth is in no way a starter at the moment. If given time to continue growing into his size and working on his technique he could be a good backup. Nembot has a lot of problems at the moment, he didn’t start playing football until midway through high school, but his physical size alone will lead to a team to take a chance on him. The Patriots are as good a landing spot as any for a player with a lot to work on.
Pick 9: Sixth Round (221): Chris Swain, FB, Navy
“Swain Train” is the nickname aptly given to this 6-foot, 247-pound runaway locomotive. Swain can block and run with the power to knock defenders into next week whether he has the ball or not. He would be a great fit for the Patriots in their running back battle, both to run in front of and as a good replacement for LeGarrette Blount, when the aging bulldozer decides to call it quits.
Pick 10: Seventh Round (243): Ivan Seau, OLB, Nevada
Ivan is the nephew of the late Patriots Legend, Junior Seau. Ivan is a heat seeking missile off the edge. The 6-3, 250-pound linebacker plays with speed, smarts, and relentlessness. He can hit like a wrecking ball with his muscular frame, toughness and competitive nature. He had 18.5 tackles for loss of which 10 were sacks in his senior year, and seven career forced fumbles. He could be a good future player and would be a fan favorite for the Pats.
Pick 11: Seventh Round (250): Jihad Ward, DT, Illinois
The Patriots could use some depth in their defensive line core. A player like Jihad Ward would be a good fit. Ward has good athleticism for a 6-5, 297-pound man. He also puts in a lot of effort that should help him continue to improve areas where he has trouble. It may be difficult to get Ward himself in the seventh round, but the Patriots are known for the occasional draft steal, and anything could happen.
Tommy Butler is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.