Patriots reinforce defensive line on draft’s 3rd day
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick again traded down to get an extra pick Saturday, and the Pats bolstered their offensive and defensive lines by picking linemen with five of their first six picks.
New England, which had eight picks on the third day of the NFL draft, traded a fifth round pick (147th overall) to the Green Bay Packers for Packers’ picks in the fifth round (166) and seventh round (247th). On Friday, the Pats traded their third and seventh-round picks to the Cleveland Browns for the Browns’ fourth, fifth and sixth round picks.
The Patriots were expected to have an additional half-dozen free agents in the fold by sometime Sunday.
”This isn’t the final roster,” said Belichick after the draft was over. ”Not even close to it.”
The Patriots began the draft Thursday by picking Texas defensive lineman Malcom Brown at No. 32 in the first round, adding Stanford safety Jordan Richards in the second round and Oklahoma lineman Geneo Grissom in the third round.
The Pats’ first pick Saturday, the 101st pick in the fourth round, was 6-2, 266-pound defensive end Trey Flowers of Arkansas.
”I’m happy to be part of the Patriots family,” he said.
Flowers was projected to be a third-round pick in last year’s draft but decided to stay in school.
”I didn’t want to leave Arkansas on a losing note,” he said. ”I wanted to help turn the program around.”
The Razorbacks were 3-9 in 2013 but finished 7-6 last fall under Bret Bielema. Flowers, who said he also wanted to earn a degree, is smaller than most defensive ends but has an 84-inch wingspan.
He takes pride in stopping the run but is also versatile, playing linebacker as well as defensive end. ”I think it (the versatility) does me very well,” he said. ”I’m glad I put that on tape.”
”He’s a young player with a lot of good football in front of him,” said Belichick, who said Flowers showed leadership and toughness at Arkansas.
With their second fourth-round pick at No. 111, the Patriots selected 6-4, 330-pound guard Tre’ Jackson from Florida State. A three-year starter who earned unanimous All-America honors, he was named South Team MVP in the 2015 Senior Bowl and was a three-time All-ACC pick while protecting No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston.
He was a teammate of Bryan Stork, who started at center as a rookie for the Pats last season. He said Stork had given him some advice about succeeding in Foxborough.
”Just be a professional,” Jackson said Stork told him. ”The coaches there are going to put you in the best situation possible.”
The Pats picked another lineman with their third fourth-round pick at No. 131, 6-1, 300-pound guard Shaquille Mason of Georgia Tech, a three-year starter for the Yellow Jackets.
Shaquille Olajuwon Mason, who was named by his mother for former NBA stars Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon, said he was ”ecstatic” at being drafted by the Patriots. ”It’s a great organization and I couldn’t be in a better place.”
The Patriots drafted 6-3, 236-pound long-snapper Joe Cardona of Navy in the fifth round. He was the only long-snapper invited to the NFL combine and the first Navy player drafted in 20 years. Cardona will have to navigate a commitment to the Navy before beginning his NFL career.
”The decision’s out of my hands,” he said about his status. ”Right now I’m preparing to be the best role football player I can be for the New England Patriots and the best naval officer I can be, whatever duty I’m doing at the time I’m doing it.”
Bill Belichick’s late father Steve was a longtime coach at the Naval Academy.
Belichick said the Cardona selection ”was a need pick based on our situation,” with last year’s long-snapper Danny Aiken a free agent. ”We’ll work through the process.”
Sixth round selection Matthew Wells of Mississippi State, 6-2, 222-pound linebacker, ran a 4.41 40 at his school’s Pro Day and has overcome limited vision in one eye.
New England picked Arkansas tight end A.J. Derby in Round 6, and ended the day with two seventh-round selections: cornerback/kick returner Darryl Roberts of Marshall, 5-11, 187, and 6-3, 260-pound linebacker Xzavier Dickson of Alabama.
Belichick said all of the draftees are in the same boat. ”The biggest challenge is to get on our program. For the last six months, they’ve been a man without a country.”
Eventually, he said ”only the strong will survive.”
NOTES: Third-round pick Geneo Grissom, a defensive lineman from Oklahoma, No. 97 overall, spoke to the media for the first time Saturday mornimg. He played several positions in college, including D-line, linebacker and tight end. ”I’ve been blessed with a very athletic body,” he said. Grissom doesn’t have a favorite position. ”I just love to play the game.” … Cardona is the first player New England drafted from Navy since Max Lane in 1994. Navy’s Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino was drafted by the Pats in 1961.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL