The Patriots are one of the best teams in the AFC, but they showed last year that they still had some work to do. They needed to strengthen and get some depth on both of their lines, as well as their receivers and defensive backs. The Patriots have to keep pace with what the Broncos have done this offseason. Let us take a look at the NFL draft grades for the New England Patriots.
1. Dominique Easley, Defensive Tackle, Florida – B+
Before Easley tore his ACL for a second time, he was a top 15 pick. This is a typical Patriots pick where they get an extremely talented player at a great value. Easley can give the Patriots a pass rush from the line whether that is from the defensive tackle spot when they go with 4 up front or defensive end when they go 3 up front.
2. Jimmy Garoppolo, Quarterback, Eastern Illinois – C-
This is a strange pick when you have Tom Brady at quarterback and Ryan Mallett as your backup. On top of that this was a bit of a reach for Garoppolo. I get Brady is aging and Mallett’s contract is unsure, but I felt the Patriots had much bigger needs they could have targeted like a wide receiver for Brady. However, if Garoppolo ends up taking over for Brady, this pick looks like genius.
4. Bryan Stork, Center, Florida State – B+
Stork was the Rimington Award winner from this past year. He is a versatile player who can play both guard spots and center. Stork is a strong pass blocker, but he can’t get much movement at the point of attack and also isn’t a great blocker on the move. He will provide the Patriots with great depth inside and will push for a starting spot at either center or guard.
4. James White, Running Back, Wisconsin – D+
The Patriots already have two talented running backs in Steven Ridley and Shane Vereen. James White is a back that ran well behind the always good Wisconsin line, but doesn’t look to be anything better than a rotational back in the NFL. There were many other backs available that were more talented than White and would have been a much better value than White.
4. Cameron Fleming, Offensive Tackle, Stanford – B+
Cameron Fleming was a fantastic value at the end of the fourth round. Fleming won’t be a starter right now, but he provides great depth if Sebastian Vollmer or Marcus Cannon were to get hurt. Fleming might even be able to slide inside and play at guard if they need him too. This wasn’t their biggest need but it certainly is a great value at this point.
6. Jon Halapio, Offensive Guard, Florida – B+
Another great value pick by Belicheck and the Patriots. The Patriots already grabbed depth at tackle and center, not they got more depth at guard. Halapio was very good in 2011 and 2012, but his 2013 season was ruined by injuries all year. Halapio is tough as nails and extremely strong, but his technique need some work and his long-term durability is a concern.
6. Zach Moore, Defensive End, Concordia – B
The Patriots needed depth on their defensive line and Moore helps in that regard. Moore left Concordia with 33 sacks in his career, including 14 in 2012. Moore is a height/weight/speed player who has some upside to him. Moore is a high energy player who gives his all on every play. Moore will be a 24 year old rookie for the Patriots.
6. Jemea Thomas, Cornerback/Safety, Georgia Tech – A-
The Patriots need some defensive back depth and Thomas can play both cornerback and safety for them. Thomas is a fluid athlete who can cover a lot of ground in coverage. He is an aggressive and tough player despite his size. Thomas shows some strength in the run game and isn’t a liability in that department. Thomas may have some durability concerns at the next level but was great value here.
7. Jeremy Gallon, Wide Receiver, Michigan – B+
Gallon is a good receiver with good athleticism, but his small size is a definite worry. Gallon is a good route runner who has extremely quick feet and gets in and out of breaks extremely well. Gallon catches the ball well and is elusive in the open field. If Gallon was just a little bit bigger he would have been picked much higher. He can be a good weapon for the Patriots.
Overall Grade: B+
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The Patriots had a couple picks that just didn’t make much sense to me, but overall they have a very good draft. They got a lot of depth on their offensive line and on their defensive line. Winning up front is something you have to do in the NFL and the Patriots are working on doing that. They would have been better served getting Tom Brady some weapons early, but decided to go in another direction. If they had taken a receiver or a tight end in the second instead of Jimmy Garoppolo this would be an A draft.