The New England Patriots have a few holes to fill on their roster before the season, and the 2013 NFL Draft gives them five opportunities to do so. The Patriots have approached the draft different ways in the past: from letting the board fall to them by trading down to moving up for a player they really like. Five picks is not as many as the Patriots are used to having, so the former may be in order.
It's impossible to guess what coach Bill Belichick is going to do, though, so why bother?
Instead, this is one man's opinion on the best-case scenario for the Patriots in the draft, assuming they stay at all of their current draft slots. Next
1st round, 29th overall
Patriots should pick: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
With Julian Edelman still unsigned, Matthew Slater is the only wide receiver who returns to the Patriots from the 2012 season. The Patriots already addressed the departure of Wes Welker by adding Danny Amendola.
At 6-1 and 214 pounds, Hopkins would provide the big-bodied deep threat on the outside to address the departure of Brandon Lloyd. He averaged 17.1 yards per reception as a senior, proof of his ability to stretch the field. He was also a big-time scoring threat for Clemson last year, registering 18 touchdowns – twice as many as he had in his first two seasons combined.
His foot speed isn't elite, but his size and strong hands make him a great jump-ball receiver, and he has great quickness to get open. Comparisons to the likes of Falcons receiver Roddy White and Colts receiver Reggie Wayne are fair from a skill-set standpoint. Next
2nd round, 59th overall
Patriots should pick: Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State
In bringing back both Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington, the Patriots have shown they would like their secondary to function similar to the way it did at the end of the 2012 season when they were running mostly man coverage. Taylor fits that scheme to a T with his physical style of play. He consistently gets solid jams at the line of scrimmage, and although his size isn't ideal at 5-11 and 192 pounds, he has considerable speed for the position and ran a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at the combine, one of the top five at his position.
Taylor helped the Broncos defense rank fourth in the nation against the pass. Boise State's stingy pass defense also allowed just three passing touchdowns all season.
With Talib brought back on a one-year deal, and with Dennard facing possible jail time, there are still short- and long-term questions at cornerback. The Patriots could groom him to fill the spot that could potentially be vacated by Talib after 2013. Next
3rd round, 91st overall
Patriots should pick: Kiko Alonso, LB Oregon
Picks that make you go, "Who?!"
Yes, the Patriots have invested heavily in their SEC linebacking corps of Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower, but there's still a certain level of athleticism that's missing from the group. Alonso brings that athleticism as well as the versatility Bill Belichick loves in his linebackers, with the ability to line up inside in a 3-4, or in any spot in a 4-3.
There were some concerns with Alonso early in his career, as he had two alcohol-related incidents and suffered a torn ACL all within his first two seasons, but he got past that to be a productive player in Oregon's defense.
He's not ideal in run defense, lacking the strong base to hold the point of attack, but he has the instincts to make plays in the backfield, logging 14 tackles for loss as a senior. He has the speed, size and athleticism to stay with tight ends over the middle and running backs out of the backfield. He has great ball skills, as well, with six interceptions and nine pass break-ups over the past two years. The Patriots could really use a nickel linebacker with Alonso's skill set. Next
7th round, 226th overall
Patriots should pick: Everett Dawkins, DT Florida State
The need for a backup defensive tackle isn't exactly paramount, given the recent addition of CFL defensive tackle Armond Armstead, but the Patriots still lack a solid pass-rushing defensive tackle to pair with Vince Wilfork.
His 6-2, 292-pound frame along with less-than-ideal strength makes him less attractive against the run, but he has a quick first step and a solid motor to continue the play even when he is initially walled off. He also boasts an array of pass-rush moves, which will help him remain unpredictable to offensive linemen trying to block him.
He didn't put up monster numbers as a result of a constant rotation on the Seminoles defensive line, maxing out at six tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks as a sophomore. That being said, he could be part of a similar rotation in New England, and his pass-rush skills would be a good asset on the inside in nickel packages. Next
7th round, 235th overall
Patriots should pick: Marquess Wilson, WR Washington State
The importance of the combine is debatable, but the Patriots have classically drafted receivers who have performed well in the three-cone drill. Marquess Wilson finished among the top five receivers in that drill. He isn't lacking for long speed, either, having run a 4.51-second 40-yard dash. That's not burner speed, but he's not going to lose to a linebacker in a footrace.
At 6-3, he's tough to cover on the perimeter and especially in the red zone, but he could do well to add some bulk to his frame. That being said, he doesn't let his wiry frame become an issue when it comes to making contested catches and shielding defenders with his body.
Wilson's biggest question mark revolves around off-field issues, namely a conflict with Washington State head coach Mike Leach, which led to Wilson being suspended from the team for poor work ethic. It's possible those concerns are overblown, given Leach's less-than-sterling reputation with regard to people skills. Either way, for a seventh-round pick, this is a typical low-risk, high-reward Patriots pick. Back to the beginning
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