CHAMPIONCENTRIC DRAFT PREVIEW

The moment we’ve all been waiting for is almost upon us. Months of film reviews, speculation, drama, heartache, and Strange happenings, and it all comes to its conclusion this weekend.

But while the world will be filling movie theatres to watch Avengers: End Game, the sports world will turn its eyes to the 2019 NFL Draft. A multitude of tweets, and articles have shot forth from You’re Ducking Right regarding the festivities in Nashville, but lets take a few minutes and give a state of the union address regarding the current, pre-draft state, of the SuperBowl champion New England Patriots.

As it stands the team has 70 players ready to roll once pre-season rolls around this summer. With 12 draft picks in their back pocket going into the weekend, they have plenty of ammunition to maneuver as they see fit. The team traditionally has had a strong number of undrafted rookie free agents to review and choose from. Should the team use all 12 picks, they’d be looking at only 8 available roster spots. Not that churning the roster over continually isn’t a past time as popular in Foxborough as it is with your fantasy football friend with ADHD.

Lets take a look at the positional groups, the personnel as it stands now, potential targets in the draft, how the Pats did in our DEFINITIVE 7 ROUND MOCK NFL DRAFT that came out last week, and what a reasonable A++ type draft may look like for Bob Kraft at the end of the day, and we all know he’s a fan of a happy ending (like you aren’t also).

Danny Etling

QUARTERBACK

There are currently 3 signal callers under contract for 2019.

  1. Tom Brady
  2. Brian Hoyer
  3. Danny Etling

For about 10 years now pundits have been clamoring for the Patriots to draft Tom Brady’s heir apparent. This year is no different. The cliff that Max Kellerman predicted Brady would fall off of after 40 crumbled like a giant ice dragon knocked that shit down. (Spoiler alert. Step yo G.O.T. game up) And this year I am entirely in favor of drafting a QB to replace an aging member of the Patriots position group. Brian Hoyer is only 33, but feels so much older. I don’t know why, he just does. Danny Etling was chosen in the 7th round last year, but just doesn’t feel like he has staying power. If he did I don’t think Belichick would have chanced him spending last year on the practice squad. I’ve felt for more than a year now that the End Game for the Pats is to parlay 2019 picks into 2020 picks to be in a position to move up for Jake Fromm of Georgia. That being said, who are some QBs that you could see drafted this weekend?

Day 1 Prospect: Will Grier – West Virginia

Day 2 Prospect: Jarrett Stidham – Auburn

Day 3 Prospect: Kyle Shumar – Vanderbilt

Sony Michel 2

RUNNING BACKS

The team currently has 6 running backs on the roster, including full backs

  1. Sony Michel
  2. James White
  3. Rex Burkhead
  4. Brandon Bolden
  5. James Develin
  6. Jakob Johnson

A group with some well defined roles. Michel, the 2018 first rounder, is the go to on first and second downs. White is the clutch third down back who could catch a cold while living in a sealed bubble. Burkhead is a pretty good runner, and pretty good receiver, which makes him a very nice depth piece. He and Bolden also offer excellent value as special team contributors. Develin is the long time fullback, while Johnson is an international prospect who is elgible for an 11th practice squad roster spot, which he’ll likely use to develop this year behind Develin. The need level here isn’t high, but the life span of an NFL running back isn’t typically very high, so any time you can identify quality and value in the later rounds, its a consideration.

Day 1 Prospect: None, if they take a running back in the first round I’ll buy a Nick Chubb jersey and dog mask

Day 2 Prospect: Bryce Love – Stanford (a stud coming off major injury who could benefit from being on IR all year)

Day 3 Prospect: Myles Gaskin – Washington (Think Dave Meggett)

Braxton Berrios

WIDE RECEIVER: 

The team has 8* receivers currently on the roster

  1. Julian Edelman
  2. Philip Dorsett
  3. Demaryius Thomas
  4. Maurice Harris
  5. Bruce Ellington
  6. Braxton Berrios
  7. Damoun Patterson
  8. Matthew Slater

Having Edelman as the #1 isn’t anything new. A year removed from injury now, he’ll continue to be Tom Brady’s security blanket. Philip Dorsett flashed a little last year, but really should be the #4 receiver. Demaryius Thomas is coming off injury, and has to learn the system. This is a low risk, high reward move. If he can be healthy come December, then he can be a nice compliment to Edelman. If he can’t, the Pats didn’t invest too heavily in him financially. Maurice Harris and Bruce Ellington were signed during the 3rd wave of free agency, and have the feel of depth signings. As constituted though, Ellington has a chance to make a real impact. As currently constructed, he is the player most likely to take the reigns on kick off return duties. Additionally his last 2 stops have been under former Belichick disciples Bill O’Brien, and Matt Patricia, meaning he SHOULD have some passing familiarity with the system. Call me a cock eyed optimist, but I think he has a chance to have a David Patten like impact this year. The * is for Matthew Slater, who is a wide receiver for clerical purposes only, and is really a special teams maven.

This is certainly a position of need in the draft. The issue is that the Patriots have traditionally not done well using high value draft picks on receivers. Aaron Dobson, Bethel Johnson, and Chad Jackson all come immediately to mind. They’ve had more success with late round picks like Julian Edelman or David Givens. Players that generally take a little developing.

Day 1 Prospect: Deebo Samuel – South Carolina

Day 2 Propect: Riley Ridley – Georgia

Day 3 Prospect: Stanley Morgan Jr – Nebraska

Jacob Hollister

TIGHT END

There are currently 5 tight ends on the roster, none of which are Gronk 😦

  1. Austin Seferian Jenkins
  2. Matt Lacosse
  3. Jacob Hollister
  4. Ryan Izzo
  5. Stephen Anderson

This is a position in need of quality multi dimensional contributors. The signing of Austin Seferian Jenkins and Matt LaCosse have put the team in a position where they can draft without a gun to their heads. ASF in particular has upside, but its also an upside that 3 teams have tried, and failed, to properly tap into. LaCosse has the looks of a classic case of the Patriots buying low on a player other teams have spent time developing. Hollister has been on the cusp of being a player people think can make an impact for what feels like years now. If he doesn’t flash in spring camps, he may be in real danger of being a pre-camp cut. I’m a fan of Izzo’s potential, and feels like a possible replacement for Dwayne Allen. That being said, he was a 7th rounder in last year’s draft. A draft not as deep at the tight end position as this year’s draft is. And he missed all of last year while on the IR, so we’re not certain what to expect from him. Anderson came over from the Texans and has some decent 3rd tight end type potential.

Day 1 Prospect: Irv Smith Jr. – Alabama

Day 2 Prospect: Jace Sternberger – Texas A&M

Day 3 Prospect: Isaac Nauta – Georgia

Joe Thuney

OFFENSIVE LINE

There are currently 13 offensive lineman under contract

  1. David Andrews
  2. Shaq Mason
  3. Joe Thuney
  4. Marcus Cannon
  5. Isaiah Wynn
  6. Ted Karras
  7. James Ferentz
  8. Cole Croston
  9. Jake Eldrenkamp
  10. Ryker Matthews
  11. Dan Skipper
  12. Brian Schwenke
  13. Cedric Lang

The loss of the behemoth Trent Brown doesn’t help. But they do have 2018 first round pick Isaiah Wynn, hopefully ready to step in. Not as big as Brown (not many on the planet are), Wynn is more nimble. With Wynn in place the starting unit is in place. The bench could use some upgrades though. Especially knowing that Thuney’s free agency is coming up. Grabbing an interior lineman to develop this year would be nice. And drafting a replacement for LaAdrian Waddle as the 3rd swing tackle is essential. As it stands now that job would fall to Cole Croston. It’d be nice if they had a tackle in the pipeline to be a swing tackle in 2019, and possibly replace Cannon in 2020.

Day 1 Prospect: Kaleb McGary – Washington

Day 2 Prospect: Michael Jordan – Ohio State

Day 3 Prospect: Hjate Froholdt – Arkansas

Lawrence Guy

DEFENSIVE LINE: 

There are currently 12 defensive lineman on the roster

  1. Michael Bennett
  2. Adam Butler
  3. Lawrence Guy
  4. Mike Pennell
  5. Deitrich Wise
  6. John Simon
  7. Derek Rivers
  8. Keionta Davis
  9. David Parry
  10. Ufomba Kamalu
  11. Trent Harris
  12. Frank Harron

The “need” headline goes to the defensive ends as Trey Flowers and Adrian Clayborn are gone. And for sure rush ends are a need. But not drawing the attention is the lack of big boys in the middle. Lawrence Guy is an extremely underrated contributor to the defense, but he is an end/tackle hybrid, not a giant space eater. Butler is also a penetrating tackle. They signed Mike Pennel, but he just feels like insurance, not someone you can count on. I would not be surprised at all if they Pats double dipped at the defensive tackle position to replace Malcolm Brown and Danny Shelton. On the edge, as it stands you should look for an increased role for John Simon, and pray that Derek Rivers is the player the Pats thought he was coming out of Youngstown State 2 years ago.

Day 1 Prospect: Dexter Lawrence – Clemson

Day 2 Prospect: Chris Winovich – Michigan

Day 3 Prospect: Chris Slayton – Syracuse

Ja'Whaun Bentley

LINE BACKERS

The team currently has 7 linebackers on the roster

  1.  Donta’ Hightower
  2. Kyle Van Noy
  3. Ja’Whaun Bentley
  4. Elandon Roberts
  5. Christian Sam
  6. Brandon King
  7. Calvin Munson

The top end of this group is pretty good as Hightower and Van Noy are just solid, versatile football players. Bentley was a surprise last year. An unheralded draft pick out of Purdue he proved to be more than just a slow thumper during the early part of the year before injuries de-railed him. Every year it feels like the Pats should upgrade from Roberts, and every year he’s there making plays in the Superbowl.

Brandon King is a special teamer, in a safety’s body, who occasionally lines up at linebacker. Christian Sam showed some signs of life in the pre-season before spending the year on IR. Immediate help isn’t needed here, unless we’re talking about a stand up edge rusher, but the depth could certainly use a boost, especially considering Hightower’s propensity for injury.

Day 1 Prospect: Jachai Polite – Florida

Day 2 Prospect: Christian Miller – Alabama

Day 3 Prospect: Te’Von Conley – Notre Dame

JC Jackson

SECONDARY

The team currently has 13 players under contract who play defensive back

  1. Stephon Gilmore
  2. Devin McCourty
  3. Patrick Chung
  4. J.C. Jackson
  5. Keion Crossen
  6. Duke Dawson
  7. Nate Ebner
  8. Obi Melifonwu
  9. Duron Harmon
  10. Jason McCourty
  11. Jonathan Jones
  12. A.J. Howard
  13. Terrance Brooks

A deep and talented group. The safety threesome of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Duron Harmon have been meshed together for what feels like a decade. McCourty and Chung are much closer to the end then the beginning of their careers. The question is, does New England feel like they already have in house replacements? Former 2nd rounders Obi Melifonwu, and Duke Dawson could just be those guys. When training camp was drawing to a close last year it looked like the Patriots had 3 rookie corners ready to contribute. 2nd rounder Duke Dawson, 7th rounder Keion Crossen, and undrafted rookie J.C. Jackson. But the end of the year, Jackson was a Superbowl starter, Crossen was contributing on special teams, and by mimicking Tyreek Hill’s speed in practice, and Duke Dawson hadn’t played a down all year. There was talk pre-draft of whether Dawson was a slot corner or safety (and honestly in the modern NFL, is there a difference?) However the youngsters fall, there is still slot corner Jonathan Jones, another in the long line of successful undrafted corners for the Patriots, veteran Jason McCourty, and Stephon Gilmore who has quietly ascended to the top of the NFL’s corner food chain. This is not an area of need, but with 12 picks, if the value is there, the Patriots won’t shy from landing another piece.

Day 1 Prospect: Greedy Williams – LSU

Day 2 Prospect: Jonathan Abram – Mississippi State

Day 3 Prospect: David Long – Michigan

Stephen Gostkowski.png

SPECIALISTS

The team has 3 specialists listed on the roster

  1. Stephen Gostkowski
  2. Ryan Allen
  3. Joe Cardona

With Allen and Gostkowski being re-signed it doesn’t seem likely they’ll use a pick here. It wouldn’t be shocking if training camp invites were extended to foster some competition though. I’m still befuddled that a team like the Chicago Bears didn’t back up the Brinks truck for Gostkowski. Whats amazing is that Gostkowski was drafted to replace an aging Adam Vinatieri, and that Gostkowski is now 35 and Vinatieri is still going strong.

When our DEFINITIVE 7 ROUND MOCK NFL DRAFT was published, no trades were introduced, even though I expect plenty of wheeling and dealing in this draft. Where the talent level of the prospects between player #20 and player #80 isn’t huge, it’ll all be about fit and preference of these teams, which always leads to movement.

But without trades we prognosticated the 12 Patriot draft picks, found below:

  1. Dexter Lawrence – DT – Clemson 1st Round
  2. Deebo Samuel – WR – South Carolina 2nd Round
  3. Chase Winovich – DE – Michigan 2nd Round
  4. Jace Sternberger – TE – Texas A&M 3rd Round
  5. Michael Jordan – OL – Ohio State 3rd Round
  6. Chris Slayton – DT – Syracuse 3rd Round
  7. Isaac Nauta – TE – Georgia – 4th Round
  8. John Cominskey – DE – College of Charleston 6th Round
  9. Hunter Renfrow – WR – Clemson 7th Round
  10. Calvin Henderson – OT – Texas – 7th Round
  11. Tyler Newsome – P – Notre Dame – 7th Round
  12. Jahlani Tavai – LB – Hawaii – 7th Round

With the exodus of assistant coaches, I expect that Belichick will lean towards players from major programs that he has experience with. The scouting staff remains in place, but with fewer voices, fewer eyes, and with the super bowl run, a shorter evaluation period, the inclination will be to go with known entities.

That’s what we had projected without trades. But as I said, I fully expect to see some wheeling and dealing. So what would the Patriots “perfect” draft look like?

First round pick: TRADE, All the smoke signals indicate that teams have an interest in Daniel Jones. I expect there to either be a run on QB’s, making Will Grier valuable at the end of the first round, or Daniel Jones to fall. Either way, it wouldn’t shock if a team like the Giants or Broncos don’t select a QB early, and try to move back into the end of the first for a QB, similar to when Teddy Bridgewater or Lamar Jackson were drafted. The price being a 2020 first rounder. For the Patriots, its worth the gamble. Whats the worst case, they end up with the 32nd pick in the 2020 draft? Its not like they can go lower.

Second round pick: Draft Deebo Samuel. Samuel could be excellent in the Patriots system. He has the traits of Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, and Wes Welker, while having more explosiveness than any of them.

Second round pick: TRADE, look to grab a 2020 2nd rounder, and 2019 5th rounder. More ammunition for the 2020 draft when they’ll be QB hunting.

Third round pick: Draft Jace Sternberger, an intriguing, if still somewhat raw Tight End prospect who has the potential to be seem stretcher. Something that will be greatly missed next year.

Third round pick: TRADE, ideally they’d nab a 2020 2nd rounder for their 2019 third. Worst case though, look to grab a 2020 3rd, and maybe a 6th

Third round pick: Draft defensive tackle Chris Slayton. The Pats NEED a hole plugger in the middle, and Slayton is a big big boy.

Fourth round pick: Draft Georgia’s Isaac Nauta. An intriguing prospect who never lived up to his immense billing at Georgia. But with Wynn and Michel already in town, may as well add another bull dog. He and Sternberger could form a nice duo.

Sixth round pick: Draft Georgia’s Jonathan Ledbetter. It may not have been lost on you at this point, but Georgia has some talent. If Ledbetter makes it to the 6th round, which while it isn’t likely, isn’t all together far fetched either, he’d be an excellent compliment to Wise.

Seventh round pick: Draft John Cominsky from the College of Charleston. A developmental defensive end with intriguing tools. In the 7th, you’re looking for one thing to latch onto

Seventh round pick: you want me to say Hunter Renfrow. I WANT to say Hunter Renfrow. Hunter Renfrow was born to be a Patriot wide receiver. But I’m going to say draft the wide receiver out of Georgia State, Penny Hart, the small school start who showed out at the Senior Bowl.

Seventh round pick: TRADE for a 2020 7th rounder. With 12 draft picks, and Ryan Izzo, Duke Dawson, Christian Sam, Braxton Berrios, and Isaiah Wynn, all returning after playing a combined ZERO downs of real NFL football, its not an awful idea to push as many picks into future years as you can.

Seventh round pick: draft a developmental lineman in the form of Texas tackle Calvin Henderson. What can I say, I’m hooked on them horns.

This scenario would see the Patriots walking away with 2 new wide receivers, 2 new tight ends, 3 defensive lineman, and a new tackle into the Dante Scharnecchia pipeline. All the while now looking at the 2020 draft, a draft that could see Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Washington’s Jacob Eason, Michigan’s Shea Patterson, and Iowa’s Nate Stanley all jockeying for first round position. And lets not forget about Jalen Hurt. A power conference school transfer QB going into Lincoln Riley’s Oklahoma system? When has that ever produced a top NFL pick?

To be able to head into Vegas for the 2020 draft and gamble on taking Tom Brady’s heir, all while being bank rolled with 2 firsts, 2 seconds, and 3 thirds (assuming, fairly, that 2 third round compensation picks will be awarded for losing Trent Brown and Trey Flowers), is a position that would be the envy of many. That’d be a perfect 2019 draft.

So gear up ladies and gentlemen, its about to be a wild ride, starting at 8 PM (EST) this Thursday!

  • Written by Jason Sullivan
  • Find us on Twitter at @TopDucker or on Facebook at You’re Ducking Right

 

 

 

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