2017 NFL Draft: New England Patriots Pre-Combine 7-Round Mock Draft
The New England Patriots will look to fill out their Super Bowl-winning roster with a strong 2017 NFL Draft class. Which players should they target?
Fresh off the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl LI win, it is time for the team to start transitioning into NFL Draft mode. Bill Belichick already noted how the team is five weeks behind, meaning there is a lot of makeup work for the Patriots.
The Patriots have the luxury of having one of the more complete rosters in the NFL, and a ton of cap space to work with in Free Agency – but they have done extremely well in the draft in recent years. Expect the 2017 NFL Draft to be a great opportunity for the Patriots to fill some of the few holes on their roster.
Both offense and defense are addressed, and this class could be the one that helps Tom Brady and Bill Belichick get their sixth Super Bowl rings.
Round 1, Pick 32: Haason Reddick, LB – Temple
The New England Patriots have still not locked up Dont’a Hightower, even after a stellar Super Bowl LI performance. Even if they bring Hightower back, they need to solidify the depth at the linebacker position with one of the fastest rising names in the NFL Draft: Haason Reddick.
Reddick is not your prototypical Bill Belichick linebacker. The 6-2, 237-pound linebacker is smaller, quicker and more agile than many linebackers in the Patriots system, but he is still a tough, aggressive player that should catch Belichick’s eye. After a productive career at Temple, Reddick opened eyes at the Senior Bowl, turning in an extremely strong week against some of the best in college football.
He does a great job diagnosing plays and getting downhill where he uses his sure tackling to consistently make plays in the backfield. Reddick’s most impressive trait is his ability to cover. The Patriots struggled, at times, to cover tight ends and running backs with linebackers (see Elandon Roberts in coverage against Devonta Freeman in the Super Bowl) and Reddick would immediately step in and be their best coverage linebacker. He has fluid hips, consistent footwork and the speed to stick with backs and move tight ends.
He does need to bulk up, especially to withstand the rigors and demands of being a three-down linebacker on the Patriots. He also has major injury red flags, and has seen a lot of questions around his ability to stand up to a full season.
The pick is not your typical Belichick pick, but he has the coverage skills and dynamic playmaking ability to flourish next to Hightower, or help replace some of what Hightower does if he leaves.
Round 2, Pick 64: Pat Elflein, C – Ohio State
The Patriots interior line was a problem for them late in their Super Bowl run. That may sound foolish, but Joe Thuney, David Andrews and Shaq Mason all struggled at varying points of the playoffs. The easiest solution here is to upgrade the middle of the line and have the new voice and skill set work out.
More from NFL Spin Zone
- Dallas Cowboys: Desmond King Could Fit In Defensive Backfield17m ago
- New York Giants Release Rashad Jennings, What To Do At Running Back?1 h ago
- 2017 NFL Draft: Ranking the Miami Dolphins 5 Biggest Needs2h ago
- Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy Call Writers ‘Nerds’ Over Rankings Snub3h ago
- Victor Cruz: 5 Possible Landing Spots for Former Giants Receiver5h ago
The best solution available is Pat Elflein. The experienced center is an immediate upgrade in size, quickness and pass blocking ability against top interior rushers. He has been a reliable, consistent performer while leading a high-powered offense at Ohio State. He has the size, length and quickness off the snap to excel in the NFL.
Elflein also brings a nasty demeanor to the Patriots line, something that appeared to be lacking through a majority of 2016. He is a strong finisher who toes the line when it comes to his attitude and when he finishes the play.
He is also a multi-time “Iron Buckeye” award winner, proving he is a well-respected leader among his peers. Adding him to an offensive line that helped get the Patriots to a Super Bowl would be a big upgrade and could help extend the career of Tom Brady to his goal of 45 years old.
Round 3, Pick 96: Jordan Leggett, TE – Clemson
After winning the Super Bowl, Martellus Bennett mentioned how champions are always overpaid (paraphrasing)—this is a likely indicator that he will be hitting the free agent market in pursuit of a big contract after one season in New England. Even with Rob Gronkowski back to near full health, the Patriots are going to need more depth than Matt Lengel if they want to continue to utilize the tight end position to the fullest in 2017.
Enter Jordan Leggett. He is a pure move tight end with tremendous athleticism and nearly unlimited upside, but inconsistent production and effort move him way down the board.
Giving Leggett a spot next to Rob Gronkowski should up his motivation to make consistent plays, especially when given more opportunities to face single coverage on linebackers. He is supremely athletically talented for a tight end, moving more like a receiver. He has good hands, but needs to work on consistently plucking the ball.
Leggett is a non-factor in the run blocking game, but his offensive prowess should make him a favorite target in the open field for Tom Brady. If Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels can get through to him, Leggett could quickly become an extremely dangerous target.
Round 4, Pick 135: Ahkello Witherspoon, CB – Colorado
The Patriots are going to need to rework the defensive backfield in 2017. They need to lock up Malcolm Butler in the near future, and that could lead to them letting Logan Ryan walk. They have Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and others, but still need to strengthen the position.
They can get some depth for the future in Ahkello Witherspoon. He is a bigger, longer cornerback than many are used to seeing in New England, but his ability to cover both speed and size receivers makes him very intriguing. Witherspoon shows quickness at the line of scrimmage, using this to make up for some hip stiffness when he tries to turn and run.
He does not jam particularly well at the line of scrimmage, but good recovery speed and tremendous length allow him to make up for that. He has good ball skills when needed, and could make plays as a role player in 2017. He is not the consistent tackler that Bill Belichick generally looks for, but as a role piece in 2017 that can improve tackling on special teams, he would serve as a great value pick for the Patriots.
Round 5, Pick 177: Jamaal Williams, RB – BYU
LeGarrette Blount put up eye-popping stats in 2016, but struggled down the stretch. What’s more, his yards per carry numbers weren’t particularly impressive upon further inspection. The Patriots would be best served to get a younger, more aggressive player for running between the tackles. This is where Jamaal Williams can step in and immediately fill a role.
- 2/13 – Dallas Cowboys: Desmond King Could Fit In Defensive Backfield
- 2/13 – New York Giants Release Rashad Jennings, What To Do At Running Back?
- 2/13 – 2017 NFL Draft: Ranking the Miami Dolphins 5 Biggest Needs
- 2/13 – Buffalo Bills: LeSean McCoy Call Writers ‘Nerds’ Over Rankings Snub
- 2/13 – Victor Cruz: 5 Possible Landing Spots for Former Giants Receiver
He is one of the toughest runners in the draft class, consistently driving through contact and finishing runs. Williams is a decisive runner, getting to the hole quickly and hitting it hard. He plays with good balance, showing the ability to break tackles and get some extra yardage out of it. The BYU standout is not going to wow anyone with his speed, but that is not what he will be needed for.
Williams is all but a non-factor in the pass game, but again, the Patriots need a run-first back to get them to James White and Dion Lewis. He does need to learn how to follow blocks a little better, as he can get too aggressive at times and run past his block. Williams could catch the eye of a lot of teams, but would be a great value fit in New England.
Round 6, Pick 218: Sam Tevi, OT – Utah
Marcus Cannon had a career resurgence under Dante Scarnecchia. Nate Solder, unfortunately, did not. He struggled mightily in the Super Bowl against an aging Dwight Freeney. Combine this with Sebastian Vollmer continuing to struggle with injuries and it might be time for the New England Patriots to start grooming a tackle other than Cam Fleming and LaAdrian Waddle to eventually take over.
Sam Tevi is not a finished product yet, but the building blocks are there for a good tackle. He has the build of an NFL tackle—long arms, huge lower half and well-distributed weight. He is also an aggressive player that is a nasty finisher and could bring some attitude to the line. The Utah product is not the quickest player out of his stance, but he does generate good power in both the run and pass game.
Tevi’s biggest problem is that he is a waist bender and a lunger. He does not play with great balance, finding himself on the ground too often when taking on better defenders. He would need a year or two of learning correct form to really excel, something Scarnecchia could easily change. He would be a project, but could provide quality depth and a possible future starter for the Patriots.
Round 7, Pick 255: D.J. Jones, DL – Ole Miss
The Patriots got decent contributions out of Woodrow Hamilton in 2016, and can go back to the Ole Miss well with the selection of D.J. Jones at the end of the draft. Jones is a plugger, and not much more than that. He has the size and strength to hold up against double teams, and can fill a role if the Patriots end up losing Alan Branch.
It is unlikely for a later round pick to make the defending Super Bowl champions roster, but Jones could fill a need on goal-line formations and against run-heavy teams. If there was a perfect landing spot for him, it would be with the Patriots late in the draft.