Since 1996 the New England Patriots have only had one year when they didn’t finish with a winning record, in 2000 when they went 5-11. More impressive than that, the Patriots have only missed the playoffs four times in that time span.
The Patriots first Super Bowl didn’t come until 2001, when some 6th round draft pick, named Tom Brady comes out of seemingly nowhere and drives New England down the field in the last couple minutes, to kick the game winner and beat the favorite St. Louis Rams, by three points. Since then, the Patriots have been to four more Super Bowls, winning two out of four. Thirteen, years later the Patriots are still at the top of their game and really only a couple pieces away from bringing home another Lombardi trophy.
Where the Patriots have struggled most since they last won a Super Bowl and even just last year. Has been on defense. In 2013 the Patriots gave up a ridiculous 134 yards per game on the ground, 30th worst in the NFL. They were much better when it came to giving up passing yards, 18th overall. But, they also played the Jets, Dolphins and Bills twice. Two out of those three teams had a rookie quarterback starting, the other, had a quarterback in his sophomore year.
Defense is something the Patriots will need to address through the draft. While they’ve done a good amount through free agency, picking up cornerbacks Darelle Revis and Brandon Browner. Bringing back safety Patrick Chung and most recently signing defensive end Will Smith. With all the injuries the Patriots had last year, 20 in all, they will need to add some depth. Especially in the middle of their line, where the Patriots lost Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly in back to back weeks in 2013 to injured reserve.
Here we will go over the New England Patriots first three rounds, attempting to predict who they will select in the 2014 draft based off of needs.
1st round-29th pick overall- DT, Stephon Tuitt, Notre Dame:
Under Bill Belicheck, the Patriots are notorious for trading down and stacking draft picks in the latter rounds. I wouldn’t be surprised if they do trade down in this year’s draft either. But for the sake of this mock, I won’t be predicting any trades. Instead I think they take a defensive tackle here. I had them taking DT Timmy Jernigan in my last mock, but it came out yesterday that Jernigan had tested positive for drugs. Which will likely make Jernigan fall to the second round. Tuitt is still a great pick. He’s the big bodied, run stopping force up the middle, the Patriots need after Kelly and Wilfork suffered season ending injuries.
2nd Round, 62nd pick overall- TE, Troy Niklas, Norte Dame:
When New England had Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski, they played the most two tight end sets in the NFL. Last year, Gronkowski only caught 39 passes because of injuries he sustained and the next guy up, Michael Hoomanawanui, ended the season with only 12. With Gronk, the Patriots already have one of the best tight ends, but that’s when Gronk has been able to stay healthy. A concern since his days in college. So adding someone that can come in and produce either opposite Gronkowski or in place of him, would be smart. Niklas doesn’t have the health concerns Gronk did, he played in all 26 games during his final two seasons at Norte Dame and would probably be going higher, but he was unable to compete in the combine, due to a hernia.
3rd round, 93rd pick overall- FS, Marqueston Huff, Wyoming:
The Patriots need to add more depth here and get some healthy competition for safety Duron Harmon at the same time. Huff played corner back most of his career, converting to free safety as a senior. The kind of guy Belichick likes to have on his team, because of his versatility. Huff’s largest area he needs to improve on is his tackling, another thing Belichick loves to work on, fundamentals. Huff wouldn’t have to start, since the Patriots also brought back Patrick Chung. Likely only having to come in on nickel and dime packages and maybe on corner/safety blitzes. Allowing him to grow and learn from one of the best football minds of this generation.
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