1. Dominique Easley, DT Florida 1. Dominique Easley, DT Florida 1. Dominique Easley, DT Florida

2014 NFL Draft Review: New England Patriots


Oct 27, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; A New England Patriots logo is seen on a helmet during the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

1. Dominique Easley, DT Florida
2. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB Eastern Illinois
4. Bryan Stork, C Florida State
4. James White, RB Wisconsin
6. Jon Halapio, G Florida
6. Zach Moore, DE Concordia St. Paul
6. Jemea Thomas, S Georgia Tech

The New England Patriots are one of the most confusing teams to watch in how they operate the NFL Draft.  They generally get a pass because they have so many picks that getting half of the better ones right is enough to sustain them that the true head scratching picks are largely ignored.  This year was more confusing than most.  The Patriots and Bill Belichick made a couple of early picks for the future before then making picks for the present.  Tom Brady does not have much interest in the future and the team goes as far as he and the defense can carry them.  Beyond that, how long does Belichick plan to coach?

The pick of Dominque Easley makes a ton of sense from a talent standpoint.  Healthy, Easley is an impact 3-tech defensive tackle that can also play 5-tech end.  If last year is any guide, the Patriots may not be able to use Easley at all this year.

Tank Carradine suffered an injury with a similar timeline of recovery and while was able to work out before the draft, he was ultimately placed on injured reserve by the San Francisco 49ers.  Perhaps the 49ers were more cautious and Easley can produce this year, but it stands to reason he will at least spend time on the PUP list.  So, the Patriots used the first pick of the draft on a player with two major knee injuries (both ACLs) and it is uncertain if he can help their team this year?  Curious to say the least.

They followed that up by a more puzzling pick when they selected Jimmy Garoppolo from Eastern Illinois.  Considering how much the team liked Brian Hoyer before ultimately letting him go due to Ryan Mallett, it is not a huge surprise they liked a younger, stronger version.  The pick would have made more sense if the Patriots dealt Mallett to the Houston Texans as had been rumored, but since that has not happened (not yet anyway), Garoppolo is a third string quarterback and a long term project behind both Brady and Mallett in the last year of his contract.  In the long run, this move could prove brilliant if they can go from Brady to Garoppolo without any dip in team’s performance, but in the short term, the question is whether or not they could have gotten Brady another weapon on a team that desperately needs them.

It was not until round four that the Patriots got a player that could help them now and even then, it is questionable if they can.  I am actually a bigger fan of Bryan Stork than most and do think he can evolve into their center in the long run.  He brings a tough mentality and loves to run the football.  The Patriots have been outstanding when it comes to using day three picks on finding interior linemen.

I am not as high on James White as some, but he is a terrific athlete that can catch the football and will block.  My main issue is he does not tend to get much in terms of yards after contact, so unless he wins with agility, he goes as far as his offensive line creates for him.  White could be beneficial as a rookie and the overall rotation of the Patriots.  Perhaps, as importantly as anything for that team, he holds onto the football and will not fumble it.

Like with Stork, the selections of Cameron Fleming and Jon Halapio are smart and fit the way the Patriots have been building depth and grooming replacements in cases of injuries or free agent losses.  Halapio could prove to be a terrific value at right guard as he played all of last year with a torn pec and still showed remarkable power.  Fleming could potentially fit in as a swing tackle.

They took an intriguing project pass rusher in Zach Moore from Concordia that has some of the same measurables as Chandler Jones.  Not to be outdone, they took another really intriguing athlete in Jemea Thomas.  Thomas is coming from a much bigger school in Georgia Tech, but he really never had a true position.  He played safety, corner and some in the slot.  While that might be a problem for some teams as Thomas is the definition of a tweener, the Patriots love to move guys around and he could end up playing a few different spots, though their tendency is to have that type of athlete play on the back end and on special teams.

Lastly, the Patriots took tiny Jeremy Gallon from Michigan.  Gallon at just 5’7” was able to produce quite a bit for the Wolverines and there is an interesting dynamic with how the Patriots are sort of being applauded for the move.  For most teams, Gallon would be looked at as a returner and probably called a waste of a pick, but the Patriots and their track record with players like Wes Welker and Julian Edelman, they get an interesting benefit of the doubt.  The Patriots cannot hit on a wide receiver in the first two rounds to save their lives, but their way of finding these gems late has people at least intrigued.

The Patriots are routinely a team in the NFL Draft that is extremely difficult to predict.  To their credit, they did not take a player like Tavon Wilson from Illinois in round two or simply had a bus go to the Rutgers campus and pick up everyone they could find, but how good or bad this draft will be is largely unknown.  So much is going to depend on how much and when Easley can contribute as well as what happens with Garoppolo.  The Patriots made a lot of reasonable and smart moves with their picks on day three of the draft that could really improve the value of the draft in the long run, but history may be a harsh judge if Brady spends much of the first half of the season looking agitated trying to find someone to throw the football.  On its face, the rest of the AFC East may have been able to close some distance on the Patriots in this draft, but the Patriots may have the last laugh in a few years with this draft.