After the three day event concluded just a couple hours ago, the Patriots walked away with nine new players to take into camp. Let us do a quick recap of the Patriots’ 2016 draft, because there are certainly some unknowns in this group.
2nd Round #60 Overall: CB Cyrus Jones (Alabama)
Jones came into Alabama as a WR/ST in 2012, but switched to the defensive side of the ball after his freshman year. In his three years on defense, Jones appeared in 40 games recording 108 tackles, 25 pass defends, and seven interceptions. Jones has plenty of strength, for jamming at the line, but what he lacks is recovery speed. For a guy who ran a 4.49 at the combine, he doesn’t show top speed on the field. I believe Jones will fight with Logan Ryan to be the number two CB on the roster this year, and their play will determine what happens at the end of Ryan’s contract, this year. He also returns kicks, so that will help him with Belichick.
3rd Round #78 Overall: OL Joe Thuney (NC State)
Thuney started three years at NC State, at multiple positions. He came in as a center and transitioned to play guard and tackle in his Junior and Senior seasons. Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the number five tackle and the number 18 guard. Thuney says he feels much more comfortable on the interior of the offensive line, because his height doesn’t transition well to the NFL, at the tackle position. He shows quickness, which helps him make the first contact with the defensive linemen. Thuney will likely compete with Cooper, Kline, Jackson, and Mason for the starting spots. I don’t believe any of those spots have been secured yet, but if he can move to the outside, this move also make Marcus Cannon expendable. (FINALLY)
3rd Round #91 Overall: QB Jacoby Brissett (NC State)
The Patriots went back to back on NC State prospects to grab Brissett. He was at Florida for two years before transferring to NC State in 2013. He was forced to sit out a year so his transfer could go through. He started 26 games for the Wolfpack, where he threw for 5,268 yards, 43 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, with a 59.85 completion percentage. Brissett also shows mobility, running for 899 yards and nine touchdowns at NC State. He has a solid arm and doesn’t go down easily, so he can extend plays more often than not. This pick leads me to think the Patriots will try to trade Jimmy Garoppolo at the end of this year, because the team never carries three QBs on the roster.
3rd Round #96 Overall: DT Vincent Valentine (Nebraska)
The interior defensive line lost depth with the release of Dominique Easley and Chris Jones, so it was only natural for New England to grab one in the first few rounds. Valentine played in 36 games in his three seasons at Nebraska, where he totaled 76 tackles, 16 tackles for a loss, and seven sacks. He has the ability to attack double teams in the middle and dominate centers, but if he lacks the kind of muscle that is needed to make him a starting caliber defensive tackle. This pick was confusing to me, because he was expected to go later in the draft, but Belichick does take risks in the second round. I expect him to battle for a rotational spot, and potentially help to replace Branch next year.
4th Round #112 Overall: WR Malcolm Mitchell (Georgia)
Losing Brandon Lafell, Brian Tyms, and Josh Boyce, put a hole in the end of the depth chart for the WR position. Belichick addressed this need by taking Mitchell in the fourth-round. In his four years at Georgia, Mitchell recorded 174 receptions for 2350 yards and 16 touchdowns. He able to work all areas of the field and get himself open easily. His pure speed also allows him to take advantage if he gets passed his defender. He also needs to work on his ability to recover after being jammed by physical backs. I like what I have seen from Mitchell, I think he can continue to work his way up on the depth chart and possibly be a consistent contributor in the future.
6th Round #208 Overall: CB Kamu Gruiger-Hill (E. Illinois)
Gruiger-Hill is, for the most part, an unknown prospect. He played in the Ohio Valley Conference of 1-AA at the University of Eastern Illinois. He was a teammate of QB Jimmy Garoppolo. He appeared in 48 games for the Panthers, receiving All-Conference honors in 2014 and 2015. His size and athletic ability make him a hybrid safety/linebacker and should be able to find a niche in a sub package. I think Gruiger-Hill will make the roster, but may be inactive most games, unless he finds a role on special teams.
6th Round #214 Overall: LB Elandon Roberts (Houston)
Roberts transferred to Houston from Morgan State after finishing his freshman season with 107 tackles and being named to the All-Conference second team. At Houston, Roberts appeared in 34 games accruing 175 tackles, 23.5 tackles for a loss, and seven sacks. His production was significantly increased his senior year, when he earned the starting job. He led the nation with 88 solo tackles and was just second in total tackles. He was named to the All-Conference first team this past year. I think Roberts has a chance to compete for the MLB job with Jon Bostic, Ramon Humber, and Jonathan Freeny. If he wins the MLB job, that doesn’t mean we will see him a lot, because of the amount of time the Patriots spend in sub.
6th Round #221 Overall: G Ted Karras (Illinois)
Karras has been around the game of football his whole life, as four of his family members have previously played in the NFL. He started 44 games at Illinois at the right guard position. He has been named to the All-Conference third team in 2015 and was an honorable mention in 2014. He has a lot of power, but his lack of mobility restricts what he can do, as a blocker. He will need to be able to change that if he wants to work out with Scarnecchia and the Patriots. I don’t see Karras making the team, unless he really outplays the other guards. There are just a lot of them on the roster right now, and Karras is starting at the bottom.
7th Round #225 Overall: WR Devin Lucien (Arizona St.)
Lucien transferred to Arizona State after playing three years at UCLA where he recorded 58 receptions for 752 yards and four touchdowns. When he arrived at Arizona State, he earned the respect of his teammates and his quarterback. With the improvement in play time, came an improvement in results. In his lone season at Arizona State, Lucien recorded 66 receptions for 1074 yards and eight touchdowns. At 6’2″ he has the height to fight for the ball, and he has a knack for finding space or breaking tackles after the catch. His cuts are not as smooth as desired, and that could be his downfall in the NFL. I like his overall talent, so if he can learn to improve his footwork, he could be a nice player in the future. I would expect to see Lucien make the practice squad this year.
Training Camp can not come fast enough!