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2015 NFL Draft Primer: New England Patriots

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Team needs: Offensive line, Wide Receiver, Defensive line, Cornerback

Patriots’ selections

Round 1- 32nd overall

Round 2- 64th overall

Round 3- 96th overall

Round 3- 97th overall

Round 4- 101st overall

Round 4- 131st overall

Round 6- 178th overall

Round 7- 219th overall

Round 7- 253rd overall

Good fits early:

Byron Jones: UCONN’s Byron Jones is a football player. He can play outside at corner and inside at safety, and he’s one of the best athletes in this entire draft. Jones’ versatility is exactly what Bill Belichick looks for in a football player, and his unique athletic abilities which enabled him to set a world record in the broad jump, is exactly what every football coach is looking for in a young athlete. While some may have worried that missing time with an injury in 2014 could have hurt his draft stock, his phenomenal workouts leading up to the draft are helping him climb boards around the NFL.

Andrus Peat: It seems that just about everyone you talk to has a different favorite tackle in this draft, and for that reason, the Patriots could find themselves looking at a player like Stanford’s Andrus Peat, LSU’s La’el Collins or Florida’s DJ Humphries late in Round 1.  It’s certainly possible, perhaps even likely that there’s a run on tackles and none of these guys are available, but with no clear cut top left tackle prospect in this draft, you could see one sliding into the Patriots lap. Peat is a smart young man who has performed better in pass protection than he has in the run game, and that makes him a good fit for New England. The Patriots have been very successful at turning mid-round draft picks into good NFL offensive lineman, but if they see a tackle prospect they can’t pass up in Round 1, that could be the pick.

Dorial Green-Beckham: If nobody takes the Dorial Green-Beckham plunge before the Patriots are on the clock at 32, you’d have to expect New England would have to consider bringing the talented receiver into the fold. The Patriots have a history of bringing in former headaches and getting them to assimilate into the Patriot way. For Green-Beckham this would be an absolutely perfect scenario. A player of Green-Beckham’s abilities would likely be expected to come in and be a major part of most NFL offenses in his rookie year. New England doesn’t do anything based on your expectations, and they might provide the least amount of pressure for a young rookie receiver to perform immediately of any team in the league. While becoming a Patriot may not make Green-Beckham or any first round receiver a star as quickly as they’d like, it would provide a player like DGB the opportunity to get comfortable with the playbook and the NFL game without the expectations typically surrounding a first-round pick.

Don’t be surprised if the Patriots trade some picks next weekend. They may trade up, they’ll probably trade down, and they’ll run their draft unlike any other team in football. They don’t care what you or their fans think about the picks they make, nor do they care about the draft grades those of us in the media will be handing out five minutes after the draft ends on Saturday. It’s the Patriot way.

Be surprised if the Patriots select anyone from this article or any of the mock drafts you read leading into the draft. The Patriots rarely select the players or even the positions you expect, and that’s what makes them unconventional. The Patriots probably select the best player available over need more than any team in recent history. However, they’re not going to select the player you or any NFL analyst thinks is the best player on the board, they’re going to select the player they think is the best player on the board, and that player will often surprise you.

It seems every year at some point in the draft New England takes a player that leaves you scratching your head, and it’s almost as certain that that player will have an enormous impact on the team for years to come.

Potential late-round targets:

Darren Waller: If the Patriots decide to go receiver late in this draft, Georgia Tech’s Darren Waller could be the kind of project that Bill Belichick would love to get his hands on. At 6-foot-6 and 238 pounds, Waller runs a sub-4.5 40, but some say he doesn’t play as fast as his 40-time. Waller doesn’t have the skill set to walk into the NFL and make an impact, but the Patriots don’t need him to. If the Patriots want to take a late round flyer on a monster of a young man that they could potentially mold into a monster of a football player, Waller’s size and speed might make him the perfect project to stash on the bench for a while.

Josh Shaw: It won’t be a surprise if the Patriots go cornerback early and late after losing both Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner this offseason. It also won’t be a surprise if the off the field issues cause talented USC cornerback Josh Shaw to slide down the draft. It’s almost certain that Shaw will be drafted later than he would have if he hadn’t gone through the bizarre situation at USC. Shaw is likely a second-round pick if not for those off the field issues, and as we’ve addressed, the Patriots don’t shy away from players with a checkered past. For Shaw, the Patriots would offer the perfect opportunity to move on from the past and contribute for one of the league’s better teams immediately. This could be a perfect marriage if Shaw lasts into the fourth or fifth round.

Terry Williams: While there was more value lost when Revis decided to go back to the Jets, the loss of Vince Wilfork was much tougher emotionally for Patriots fans. On the football field, the Patriots need to replace a monster of a man. While a likely sixth or seventh-round draft pick like East Carolina’s Terry Williams won’t replace Wilfork, he could provide some depth at the position if the Patriots look to fill that position late in the draft. Williams is 6-foot-1 and 353 pounds, and was a force at ECU during his time with the Pirates.

Unlike most teams, the Patriots draft doesn’t have to be an immediate success, to be a success. They do things that differently in New England. This season however, the Patriots do have some major holes to fill with some of the recent departures, like those of Wilfork and Revis.  Come next weekend when the lights begin to flash In Chicago, Belichick and his brain trust will begin selecting players none of us expect, and we’ll react as usual by criticizing the picks and the Patriots plan.  Of course, in the end, they’ll probably be right again, and we all know that, whether we like it or not.


About Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan

Pat Donovan has covered the NFL for almost a decade and is a host and producer for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers radio flagship 620WDAE/95.3FM. Pat covers the NFC South and NFC East for Football Insiders. Follow him on Twitter, @PatDonovanNFL.