Over the course of the next few weeks, Sportsnaut will be providing readers with team-specific mocks for the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.
This is unlike other mocks you see around the football world. Instead of assuming specific players will fall to a team, we will be using the Fanspeak mock draft simulator. It simulates every pick for the teams we’re not drafting for. We then make our pick based on Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s big board and our own understanding of team needs.
The series starts out with your defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, who have no selections in the first two rounds after acquiring wide receiver Brandin Cooks and defensive end Kony Ealy in two separate trades earlier in the offseason.
Third round, 72nd pick: Tim Williams, EDGE, Alabama
Tim Williams' 16.2 pass-rushing productivity ranked eighth among all edge defenders in 2016.https://t.co/8DjgcMvoT6
— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 24, 2017
The addition of Ealy surely helps New England overcome what have to be considered massive recent losses from the pass-rush standpoint. Though, he simply isn’t enough to make up for this mass exodus. In just over the past 13 months, the Patriots have lost Chandler Jones, Jabaal Sheard and Chris Long to other teams.
Here, New England picks up a high-upside EDGE pass rusher with tremendous athleticism. A first-round talent, Williams will fall out of the top round due to off-field concerns following gun charges and multiple failed drug tests during his time with Bama. But make no mistake about it, Williams has 10-sack potential. In fact, he racked up 18.5 sacks over his past two seasons with the Crimson Tide.
Third round, 96th pick: Josh Jones, safety, North Carolina State
Currently relying on Patrick Chung or Duron Harmon to be their starter next to Pro Bowl free safety Devin McCourty, look for the Patriots to target the strong safety position with one of their first picks.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Jones is a wrecking-ball in the defensive secondary. He’s one of those in-the-box safeties that will help out a great deal in the run game.
“This guy would just as soon hit you as look at you on the football field. Hey, it’s fun to watch his tape because he’s already got that NFL mentality to him, but he gets way out of control too,” an AFC coach said about the NC State product, via NFL.com.
While not great in coverage, this is surely the type of physicality New England could use in the defensive secondary. He just seems too logical at this point.
Fourth round, 131st pick: Josh Reynolds, wide receiver, Texas A&M
Even after adding Brandin Cooks to the mix in a trade with New Orleans, the Patriots are surely lacking that big possession receiver. Cooks, Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan are all 6-foot-1 or under. Simply put, Tom Brady would love to get that big-bodied receiver into the mix. It’s something he has not had in quite some time.
At 6-foot-3, Reynolds would surely fit the bill here. The former Aggie provides a large catch radius and can make a play when contested on the outside. Again, that’s something New England has been missing for some time. In this specific mock, he falls to the fourth round — providing New England with a tremendous amount of value.
Fifth round, 163rd pick: James Conner, running back, Pittsburgh
LeGarrette Blount remains a free agent and is unlikely to return to New England. After that, the Pats really don’t have a whole heck of a lot here. Both James White and Dion Lewis have to be considered nothing more than change-of-pace backs. The same can pretty much be said for free-agent acquisition Rex Burkhead. Needless to say, New England will be looking for a running back in the draft.
Conner is an amazing story. The former Pittsburgh star announced in December of 2015 that he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. This came after he tore his MCL during the 2015 season. Battling through both of these serious medical issues, Conner would go on to record nearly 1,400 total yards and 20 touchdowns last season. He’s said to have three-down capability, something New England could surely use with its current cast of running backs.
Fifth round, 183rd pick: Steven Taylor, linebacker, Houston
— Emanuel80s (@emanueleaddondi) March 22, 2017
At this point, it seems like New England will be relying on former Chicago Bears first-round bust Shea McClellin to man its strong-side linebacker position. While he did play well in limited action last season, the Patriots would be well served picking up another young option.
That’s where Taylor comes into play. A four-year starter at Houston, Taylor recorded 331 tackles, 50 tackles for loss and 26.5 sacks from the linebacker position. He has the experience to step in immediately and is as well-rounded of a mid-round linebacker prospect that there is in this draft.
Sixth round, 200th pick: DeAngelo Brown, defensive tackle, Louisville
Later rounds is where contending teams attempt to find depth and training camp competition. In general, these squads are deeper than others. This enables them to go outside the box and pick up high-upside prospects. That doesn’t change here.
At 6-foot-1 and 317 pounds, Brown has the frame to hold up along the interior of the defensive line in the NFL. He’s also coming off an extremely productive senior season with Louisville, putting up 13 tackles for loss and three sacks. With Alan Branch set to start at one defensive tackle position, Brown would add depth and young talent to that area of the field.
Seventh round, 239th pick: Jonah Pirsig, offensive tackle, Minnesota
Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder are solid starting tackles. But after that, the Patriots don’t have a whole lot here. They could surely use a developmental swing tackle. A three-year starter at Minnesota, Pirsig definitely fits that mold.
Simulation provided by Fanspeak with Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller’s big board.