The New England Patriots are on the clock. They aren’t actually yet, but they will be on May 8th. That is, unless Bill Belichick and co. trade down and out of the first round like they so often do.
While there’s no way in knowing what the Pats will do for sure when the 2014 NFL Draft kicks off, we do know their biggest needs and the top players they should hypothetically be interested in selecting.
With that information at hand, we’ll operate off of our analysis from the New England Patriots team needs and mock their picks through the first four rounds of this year’s draft:
Round 1 (Pick 29) – Louis Nix III, NT, Notre Dame
Tight end is the sexy pick, while the Pats have several other needs, but if Nix falls to them, it’s a no-brainer. Vince Wilfork is aging and can’t stay healthy, so with or without him they need to get help for the inside of their defensive line. Nix is an elite force in the middle and fits their system perfectly. There’s a very good chance he’s not here when they pick. If that’s the case, Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro does make a ton of sense.
Round 2 (Pick 62) – Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TE, Washington
This is obviously the best case scenario, and will the case with most of our team mock drafts. Rob Gronkowski is returning from a knee injury and the team really missed Aaron Hernandez’s athleticism in 2013. They need to make sure they’re protected from another Gronk injury, while ASF paired with a healthy Gronk could be just as deadly as Gronk and Hernandez. Seferian-Jenkins could easily slide into round one or go much earlier in round two, but he does have a foot issue, so it’s not impossible for him to see a significant slide to the bottom of round two.
Round 3 (Pick 93) – Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
The Pats still get a much-needed center to groom behind Ryan Wendell, while they don’t have to reach for an elite talent at the position in round two. Swanson has the size and strength to excel at the next level and would fit perfectly in the middle of New England’s o-line. The best part is, he won’t have to be forced to start right away and comes at terrific value. Again, Swanson is another perfect pick that may not last this long, but without a great need for top flight centers and Swanson arguably being the second best one on the board, it’s not crazy to think he gets here.
Round 4 (Pick 130) – Dri Archer, RB/WR, Kent State
Is anyone better at turning talent without a clear role into a weapon than the Patriots? Here they pluck the speedy and versatile Archer off the board from the same school they stole Julian Edelman from. Just imagine all the magic they can work with him as a receiver, runner and return man. He’s another guy that could go 1-2 rounds earlier, but he has major size and durability concerns, so he could easily slide to round four.
Round 4 (Pick 140) – A.J. McCarron, QB, Alabama
New England could go safety here, while another running back and pass rusher could also be available. However, Tom Brady is 36 and we don’t know for sure when the end is coming for him. Ryan Mallett is also a free agent after this year, so at the very worst the Pats get their next long-term backup.
Love or hate these picks? Let us hear why or who you’d prefer, as well as players later in the draft you think the Pats will target in the comments below!
*Photo credit – KeithAllisonPhoto.com