COMMENTARY | The New England Patriots are officially in offseason mode, which means a big focus on the 2014 NFL Draft. Here's my second take:
First Round - Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota (6'6", 320 lbs)
Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are both getting old and coming off season-ending injuries. Whether either of them can bounce back next season or not, it's time to start thinking of the future.
Hageman is a modern-day defensive tackle. He's heavy with a long frame who offers interior pass-rushing ability.
Hageman displays rare burst off the line, plays with relentless effort and given his physical traits, has about as high of a ceiling as any defensive player in the draft.
He's a bit raw in some regards--as are all NFL draft prospects--but under the right tutelage could blossom into a star.
He reminds me a bit of Chandler Jones coming out of college; he never really dominated at the collegiate level but has the upside to do just that at the NFL level.
Second Round - Xavier Su'a Filo, OG, UCLA (6'3", 305 lbs)
The Patriots could use some youth and more importantly some talent on the interior of their offensive line.
Logan Mankins is still a beast at left guard, but right guard Dan Connolly and center Ryan Wendell really struggled at times in 2013.
Wendell is a free agent. The thought here is that the Pats may opt to let him walk, move Dan Connolly back to center where, in my opinion, he is more effective and then draft an offensive lineman.
Su'a Filo is a big man at 6'3'', 305 lbs, but he's still an impressively agile athlete who has experience at both guard and tackle. He's quick and has a lot of power at the point of attack. His technique isn't perfect, but he already looks like a fairly accomplished pass protector, and his size and athleticism bodes well for his NFL run blocking.
With right tackle Sebastian Vollmer returning from injury in 2014, Su'a Filo would undoubtedly be in a dogfight with fourth-year man Marcus Cannon (who took over at right tackle for Vollmer in 2013) for the starting gig at right guard. But even if he lost the fight, it would be nice to have a guy like Su'a Filo in the pipeline.
Previous pick: no change.
Third Round - C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE, Iowa (6'7", 265 lbs)
The Patriots need to address the depth behind Rob Gronkowski. Fiedorowicz makes a lot of sense here.
A standout at the Senior Bowl, he's an impressive blocker who has a lot of upside in the receiving department. He offers a huge catch radius and has displayed soft hands, not unlike Gronk.
He's not the "move" tight end the Patriots would get in a guy like Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro, but Fiedorowicz would give the Patriots another good blocking tight end and give Tom Brady another big target, particularly in the end zone (six touchdowns in 2013).
He also has countless connections to the Patriots coaching staff. His former head coach Kirk Ferentz coached under Bill Belichick in Cleveland and his former offensive line coach, Brian Ferentz, was the Patriots tight ends coach in 2011--just to name a few.
Previous pick: DaQuan Jones, DT, Penn State
Fourth Round - Craig Loston, S, LSU (6'1", 215 lbs)
It may seem strange for the Patriots to draft another safety after they drafted Duron Harmon in the third round last year and Tavon Wilson in the second round the year before, but Steve Gregory may be a cap casualty this offseason and Wilson looks unlikely to develop into a starter after barely playing in 2013.
If Gregory is gone, they'll need to bring in someone else, for depth if nothing else.
Loston is a big-framed safety who plays about as violently as any safety in the draft--a big hitter to say the least. In fact, his aggression can get the best of him at times, as he he'll often go for the big hit rather than focusing on stopping the ball carrier. But I think most Patriots fans are OK with a guy like that in their secondary.
Loston would be good competition for Harmon, who looks like he may be the frontrunner for the starting gig at strong safety alongside Devin McCourty next year.
Previous pick: Aaron Lynch, DE/OLB, South Florida
Sixth Round (via PHI) - Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana (6'3", 215 lbs)
Latimer is a physical receiver who has nice burst off the line--which bodes well for NFL press coverages.
He's a good route runner that consistently got seperation at the collegiate level. His main knock is his lack of elite speed, but I'm not sure that he really needs that second gear. He has other tools to separate: quick feet, agility, good hands and leaping ability.
If Latimer runs a good 40-yard dash at the combine, he's going to shoot up the boards, but if he runs in the 4.5-4.6 range, he'll likely be around in the sixth round.
Previous pick: Dontae Johnson, CB, N.C. State
Sixth Round - Caleb Lavey, ILB, Oklahoma State (6'3", 235 lbs)
The 2013 season likely was Brandon Spikes' last season in New England.
Though Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower and Jamie Collins are penciled in as starters in 2014, the Patriots could stand to build some depth behind them, especially considering Dane Fletcher is a free agent as well.
Lavey probably won't wow you with his athleticism but he's good against the run (12.5 tackles for a loss in 213) and excels in coverage (four interceptions).
He's an instinctive player who seems to have a firm understanding of the game.
Could be a steal late in the draft.
Previous pick: no change.
Seventh Round - Connor Shaw, QB, South Carolina (6'0", 210)
If the Patriots get the opportunity to trade backup quarterback Ryan Mallett this offseason, they'll do it.
Considering 2014 is Mallett's last season under his rookie deal, they need to start thinking about a contingency plan regardless.
With that said, Connor Shaw is an intriguing option. He's an efficient passer (only one interception in 2013) and can make plays with his legs (558 yards). If not for his size--or lack thereof--Shaw may be viewed more as a mid-round pick.
If not drafted, Shaw will definitely be signed by NFL team as a free agent. If the Patriots like him, using their 7th round pick to ensure he's a Patriot seems like good business.
Previous pick: no change.
James DiMaio is a Yahoo contributor who also covers the NFL and the New England Patriots for Bleacher Report.
- Sports & Recreation
- American Football
- New England Patriots