New England Patriots Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Tre Jackson, G, Florida – Round 4
I had Jackson mocked to the Patriots for a long time because they had showed a lot of interest in him, plus he was a great fit for them. Sources said that while Jackson isn’t flashy, you know what you are going to get from him as he is a very steady blocker at the point of attack. New England needed some young talent at the guard position and landing Jackson in the fourth round was a nice value for the team as he easily could have gone on the second day.

As a player, Jackson is a strong run-blocker who can get movement at the point of attack. The 6-foot-4, 330-pounder is a tough right guard to help lead a power ground game. Florida State had a lot of success running behind Jackson, and Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount should enjoy the holes provided by this power blocker.

It might take a little time for Jackson to earn a starting role. The Patriots have veterans ahead of him, and Jackson has to improve his pass protection. He needs to get better at handling speed rushers specifically. Jackson landed with a team that can develop him and shouldn’t have to force him onto the field. In time, I believe that Jackson could emerge as a solid starter at right guard for New England.

Most Likely To Bust

Jordan Richards, S, Stanford – Round 2
This was an easy choice. Richards had no business being drafted on Day 2. Even with the terrible safety class, he was projected to go deep on the third day of the 2015 NFL Draft, and knows multiple teams that had him graded well into Day 3.

Sources told that the Patriots only had 15-20 players in their draft pool for all seven rounds. The reason is with a talented veteran roster, they felt there were only 15-20 players who New England felt could actually compete with their veterans for playing time. By the time of their second-round pick, all of them were gone and Bill Belichick started to “wing it.” That explains why the Patriots picks on Day 2 were huge reaches and surprises.

In 2014, Richards performed poorly for Stanford. He was not a good pass defender and really didn’t make an impact in the ground game. Richards was beaten a number of times by receivers downfield. He had no business going on the second day of the 2015 NFL Draft, and this pick could easily go bust for New England.

Potential Boom Pick

Malcom Brown, DT, Texas – Round 1
It was surprising that Brown made it to the Patriots selection at No. 32 in the first round. Brown was generally viewed as likely to be selected in the late teens or 20s. Falling to the end of the first round was unexpected, but New England sure wasn’t complaining as it got a value pick and a player who could help the team immediately. With the Patriots’ talented veteran roster, it can be hard to find the right fit with a talented prospect at a position of need, but the Patriots were able to do it with Brown.

Brown is an interesting prospect because he is extremely versatile. The 6-foot-2, 319-pounder is big and strong while still being fast at the point of attack. Because of his skill set, he can do a variety of things on the defensive line. Brown has the size to play nose tackle in a 3-4, yet is fast enough to execute the three-technique in a 4-3. He showed his pass-rush ability in 2014 with 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss. The junior defended the run well with 71 tackles on the season. Brown also has upside to develop in the NFL.

The Patriots had to move on from franchise great Vince Wilfork this offseason, which leaves a big hole on their defensive line. Landing Brown was great luck for New England as he can stuff the run or rush the passer like Wilfork did for so many years. Bill Belichick likes to run variety in his defensive scheme, so Brown’s ability to play in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense should be very valuable to Belichick. With edge defenders like Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins, it wouldn’t surprise me if Brown racks up some sacks with quarterbacks stepping up and into him in the pocket. Brown could end up being a massive steal for the Patriots.

Future Depth Player

Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas
While the Patriots clearly made some reach picks on Day 2, they regrouped and took some quality prospects in the fourth round with Jackson and Flowers. In 2014, Flowers was a tough run-defender for Arkansas and also had six sacks. He may never be a starting edge rusher in the NFL, but he could be valuable role player. Flowers probably won’t become a double-digit sacker, but he is a blue-collar player who stuffs the run and can contribute some pass rush. I think Flowers will be a good backup and rotational player for New England.

Walt’s 2015 NFL Draft Grades:

32. Malcom Brown, DT, Texas: A- Grade
I’m not as crazy about Malcom Brown as the ESPN analysts are, but there’s no denying that he’s at least a slight steal at No. 32. He was projected to go as high as No. 23 to the Lions, yet he dropped to the Patriots. Bill Belichick won’t mind, as he’ll be able to use Brown as a replacement for Vince Wilfork, who left for Houston this offseason.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

64. Jordan Richards, S, Stanford: C Grade
Leave it to Bill Belichick to select a fifth-round defensive back in the second round. He’ll probably make it work too. I guess I’m stubborn, so I’ll need to see it happen again. Jordan Richards was seen as a third-day prospect, so this is definitely a reach. Belichick does have a good track record though, so I’ll give him the slight benefit of the doubt.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

97. Geneo Grissom, DE/OLB, Oklahoma: C- Grade
If the Browns were making these picks, I would be bashing them more. I’m hesitant to do that with Bill Belichick pulling the trigger, but I don’t understand them. Much like Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom is a reach. He’s an average athlete and football player who probably should’ve gone in the sixth round. He doesn’t satisfy a glaring need either, so I just don’t get it.

101. Trey Flowers, DE/OLB, Arkansas: A- Grade
Bill Belichick reached on some picks in Day 2. This selection would’ve made much more sense then. Trey Flowers was seen as a third-round prospect, so he provides some value for New England. The Patriots already added a pass-rusher, but Flowers was probably too good to pass up.

111. Tre’ Jackson, G, Florida State: A- Grade
An often-wrong NFL Draft analyst said Tre’ Jackson would go undrafted because of his medical. So much for that. The Patriots showed interest in Jackson throughout the pre-draft process, so no surprise that they would take another Florida State lineman. Jackson can play multiple spots up front, so he has the versatility that Bill Belichick likes.

131. Shaq Mason, G/C, Georgia Tech: B+ Grade
It’s hardly a surprise that the Patriots have now spent multiple picks on offensive linemen. With the interior in shambles, they need to shore up Tom Brady’s pass protection as the future Hall of Famer nears 40. Shaq Mason, a Combine snub, can play both guard and center. Definitely not a shocker that Bill Belichick added another versatile blocker.

166. Joe Cardona, LS, Navy: D Grade
It’s great that a Navy player was drafted for the first time in 20 years, but this is likely a wasted pick. A long-snapper can be obtained anywhere, which is why a player at the position hasn’t been chosen in six years. Joe Cardona might not even be available because of service requirements.

178. Chris Wells, S/LB, Mississippi State: C Grade
Chris Wells is one of those safety-linebacker hybrids Bill Belichick likes. Unfortunately, despite his impressive 4.4 40, he’s not a great prospect. I didn’t have him getting drafted.

201. A.J. Derby, TE, Arkansas: C Grade
Chris Wells is one of those safety-linebacker hybrids Bill Belichick likes. Unfortunately, despite his impressive 4.4 40, he’s not a great prospect. I didn’t have him getting drafted.

247. Darryl Roberts, CB, Marshall: B+ Grade
Ten more picks to go! A potential late-round steal, Darryl Roberts is very athletic, owning a 4.36 40 time. He was also productive at Marshall, so he could’ve gone a bit earlier than this.

253. Xzavier Dixon, DE/OLB, Alabama: B Grade
I had Xzavier Dixon in the seventh round, so the range here makes sense. Dixon would have gone higher had he performed better at the Combine, but that won’t matter now because he’ll get a chance to prove himself to the Patriots. The problem is that New England already obtained a couple of edge rushers in this draft, so Dixon has an uphill battle in training camp.

2015 NFL Draft Team Grade: C+ . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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