New England Patriots mock drafts are unique because no matter how wild and crazy your picks are, they are still likely to be less surprising than what Bill Belichick actually does on draft day.
But that doesn’t stop us from drawing them up.
This year looks like the deepest NFL draft in over a decade, so trading down seems like good business and also an inevitability considering Belichick’s tendency to do so. In this mock, the Patriots trade the No. 29 pick to Jacksonville in exchange for the No. 39 pick and the No. 70 pick.
Round 1, No. 29 – Traded to Jacksonville for No. 39 and No. 70.
Round 2, No. 39 – Stephon Tuitt, DE, Notre Dame
I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Patriots take Tuitt at No. 29 if they can’t find a trade partner, but there is a good chance he’s available 10 spots later. Given his rare size and athleticism, Tuitt gives the Patriots a versatile piece on the defensive line who can play multiple positions in a 3- or 4-man front.
Round 2, No. 62 – Deone Bucannon, SS, Washington State
I’m not one of those guys who thinks the Patriots NEED a big, hard-hitting safety like Kam Chancellor, but Buchanan (6’1″, 211 lbs) gives them just that. He won’t be ask to play deep often given some fluidity limitations, however as an in-the-box safety, Bucannon could shine as an tone setter. He’s as aggressive and physical as any safety in this draft class and has the size and enough short area quickness to cover tight ends underneath. He’d be a perfect complement to the rangy, coverage safety that Devin McCourty has become.
Round 3, No. 70 – A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
Ryan Mallet is a free agent after the 2014 season, which means the Patriots are going to draft a QB at some point in this draft. McCarron plays his best in the biggest games. He’s won two National Championships as the starting QB for the Crimson Tide. He’s a good decision maker who displays poise in the pocket. He seems to read defenses extremely well and gets the ball out quick. He may lack arm strength but a couple years in New England’s program could fix that. He’s a winner, a Nick Saban guy and would probably present great value in Bill Belichick’s eyes in the third round. McCarron has all the tools to be the eventual replacement for Tom Brady. Absolutely worth a third-round pick.
Round 3, No. 86 – (Trade No. 93 and No. 198 to Philadelphia) - C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, University of Iowa
The Patriots need to come out of this draft with a top tight end. If Gronk goes down again, they need someone that can alleviate the loss. While the Patriots could cross their fingers and hope he’s around at No. 93, trading up with some help from the Eagles to ensure they get their guy is a good idea–the drop off after Fiedorowicz is substantial. Fiedorowicz was a dominating blocker for Iowa and, though under utilized, looked like a natural pass catcher when given the opportunity. While he’ll never be the vertical threat Gronk is, he’s a good route runner underneath and will give Brady a huge target in the red zone if nothing else. He should immediately leap frog Michael Hoomanawanui as the No. 2 tight end of the roster.
Round 4, No. 130 – Travis Swanson, C, University of Arkansas
The Patriots re-signed Ryan Wendell, but Swanson could develop into a top-tier center down the road, and could probably play some guard if need be. He’s not a powerful run blocker just yet, but Swanson was one of the best pass protectors in college football in 2013, showing great technique and impressive athleticism. Wendell is a fine player, but he’s capped off as far as development goes, whereas Swanson’s ceiling is extremely high.
Round 4, No. 140 (Compensatory) - Christian Kirksey, LB, University of Iowa
Kirskey is an athletic and speedy linebacker who would provide depth at every LB position in New England’s defense. After letting the one-dimensional Brandon Spikes walk, the Patriots replace him with a potential every-down player. While a starting trio of Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins looks great, the Patriots severely lack quality LB depth behind them. Kirksey would fix that.
Round 6, No. 198 – Traded
Round 6, No. 206 - Tyler Gaffney, RB, Stanford
Both Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are set to be free agents in 2015. Chances are only one of them stays a Patriot beyond this season. Gaffney is a big back (5’11.5″, 220 lbs) who is a skilled and powerful inside runner. While he rushed for 1,709 yards in 2013–2nd most in Stanford history–he can also catch coming out of the backfield, so he provides an insurance policy for both Ridley and Vereen (who is more of a third-down, pass-catching back).
Round 7, No. 244 - Beau Allen, DT, University of Wisconsin
Allen may not have much upside, but he’s a huge DT (6’2.5″, 320 lbs) who could help spell Vince Wilfork and serve as a nice early-down option to take up space and stop the run.