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The Patriots went into the 2013 Draft with just five picks, but raised that number to eight on Thursday by trading their first-rounder to the Minnesota Vikings in exchange for four later selections. Bill Belichick largely addressed his team’s needs by taking two wide receivers and two defensive backs, but drafted just one defensive lineman, instead bolstering the linebacking corps with two more picks.
On Saturday, the Patriots traded the seventh-rounder they’d received from Minnesota, along with Jeff Demps, to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for running back LeGarrette Blount. The pick in question (no. 229 overall) ended up going full circle, as the Bucs traded it back to the Vikings.
Let’s take a look at the seven rookies, and one veteran RB, that the Patriots added over the weekend:
The Patriots used the first of the four picks they received from the Vikings on Jamie Collins. Collins was considered one of the top outside linebackers in the Draft, despite playing for an otherwise dismal Golden Eagles team that went 0-12 under new head coach Ellis Johnson, ending a streak of 18 consecutive winning seasons. The previous season had been one of the best in team history, as they won the Conference USA championship and the Hawaii Bowl and finished at #20 in the AP ranking. Collins is seen as a very raw talent but, at 6’4″ and 240 lbs., is a superior athlete who ran a 4.7 40-yard dash at the Combine, and has the potential to be a game-changing pass rusher, something the Patriots have lacked in recent years.
In the 6’3″, 200-pound Aaron Dobson, the Patriots hope to have the big, tough wide receiver they’ve missed since Randy Moss left. In each of his last three years at Marshall, Dobson racked up more than 600 yards and finished his college career with a total of 24 touchdowns, despite playing with less-than-elite quarterbacks. He caught just three TDs last year after having 12 in his junior season, when his amazing one-handed catch against East Carolina went viral. He was also the MVP of the 2011 Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, with seven catches for 81 yards and two scores in the Thundering Herd’s 20-10 win over Florida International. Despite the lower TD totals in 2012, he still had career highs in receptions (57) and yards (679) as a senior, and could thrive in New England if he fulfils his promise and becomes Tom Brady‘s go-to deep threat.
Logan Ryan chose to leave Rutgers after just three seasons and, like Collins, is a raw player with great upside. Ryan was a Second-Team All-Big East as a sophomore in 2011 and made the First Team last year, likely prompting his decision to forgo his senior year. Standing 6 feet tall, he will need to add bulk to his 190-pound frame in order to hold his own against NFL receivers, and will probably not compete for a starting job as a rookie.
It wouldn’t really be a Belichick draft without a pick that comes completely out of left field and leaves experts scratching their heads, and this year that pick is 6’1″ safety Duron Harmon, Ryan’s best friend and roommate at Rutgers. Most analysts didn’t expect Harmon to be drafted at all, much less in the third round. He did start every game his last two seasons for the Scarlet Knights, recording 50 tackles as a senior, and scoring two touchdowns, one off a blocked field goal and another after a fumble recovery. He had five interceptions and was named to the All-Big East First Team in 2011. Even if Belichick saw something in Harmon that most scouts missed, using a third-round pick on him makes Harmon one of the reaches of this draft.
With another of the Vikings’ former picks, the Patriots took receiver Josh Boyce. At 6 feet, Boyce is small for an NFL wideout, but is an excellent route runner and a tough player who picks up plenty of yards after catch, giving him great potential as a slot receiver in the pros. He ended his college career a year early with 22 receiving TDs. He was a first-team All-Mountain West as a sophomore and received an honorable mention last year, TCU’s first season in the Big 12.
Michael Buchanan, formerly a defensive end for the Fighting Illini, may be better suited as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme in the NFL. At 6’6″ and 240 lbs, Buchanan has both the size and the athleticism to be a fearful pass rusher, but a common knock on him is his lack of intensity in games, the biggest factor in him dropping all the way to the seventh round.
For the third time, Belichick went to the Rutgers defense for the Patriots’ final pick of the draft. Inside linebacker Steve Beauharnais is a long shot to make the final roster due to a serious lack of athleticism, but his solid 6’2″, 230-pound frame does help him stuff the run effectively, which could prove useful in the Pats’ 3-4 package. A place on special teams could also be his ticket to the 53-man roster.
The acquisition of Blount may be the best move the Patriots made this weekend. All they had to give up was one of three seventh-round picks and running back Demps. The Olympic sprinter, who won a silver medal as part of the United States’ 4×100 relay team last summer in London, spent all of last season on injured reserve and announced this offseason that he wants to play football part-time while he continues to pursue his track career. There’s clearly no place on the Pats’ roster (or any NFL team’s, presumably) for a part-time player, so getting anything at all in return for him is a clear win.
While he was plagued by character issues during his time at Oregon, notably being suspended ten games for punching an opponent, Blount has been a productive back during his three years in Tampa. He reached the 1,000-yard mark as a rookie in 2010, but lost the starting job to Doug Martin last year, amassing just 151 yards and two TDs on 41 carries all year. Now in New England, Blount joins the running back trio of Brandon Bolden, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen.
Although he likely won’t threaten Ridley’s status as the Patriots’ feature back, Blount is bigger than any of the incumbents, and adds a new dimension to the platoon that Belichick deployed so successfully at times last year. Even if he doesn’t pan out, the price the Pats paid for him is negligible enough that it won’t really matter.