New England Patriots Rookies Forecast

By Charlie Campbell – @draftcampbell

Solid Starter

Joe Thuney, G, N.C. State – Round 3
Obviously at the end of last season, the Patriots’ offensive line was in shambles. Tom Brady took a beating late in the year and in the playoffs as New England’s front wasn’t up to the task of protecting its franchise quarterback. Along the offensive line, the Patriots especially needed help on the interior, and in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft, they were able to land a competitor who could help them quickly.

Thuney (6-5, 304) is a versatile offensive lineman who has played every position on the line during his collegiate career. He has functional size for the NFL but would fit best as a guard. Thuney doesn’t have the athleticism or the length to play tackle as a starter, but could be an emergency tackle. Thuney’s run blocking is ahead of his pass protection. He could develop into a starting guard before too long.

The Patriots could use some guards to emerge. They also added former top-10 pick Jonathan Cooper this offseason, but Cooper was a huge bust in Arizona. Second-year pro Tre Jackson will provide some competition along with other veterans. I think that Thuney will earn playing time and eventually turn into a solid starter for New England.

Most Likely To Bust

Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama – Round 2
The Patriots have made a lot of reaches during drafts on Day 2 and in the mid-rounds in recent years. New England continued that trend by taking Jones in the second round – with its first selection of the 2016 NFL Draft. In speaking with other teams, they had Jones graded deep into Day 3 of the 2016 NFL Draft and didn’t view Jones as an early round talent.

At Alabama, Jones (5-9, 196) had some serious struggles in coverage. He allowed separation and receivers consistently made catches over him because of his height. Current Buccaneers wide receiver and former Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans absolutely dominated Jones in college. Big receivers give Jones a lot of problems, and I don’t think there is any reason why that will change with better players in the pro game. In the NFL, Jones will probably be limited to just being a slot corner. Jones doesn’t have the size to compete on the outside. Even in the slot, I think good wideouts are going to get separation from Jones. Plus, some teams are lining up big receivers in the slot now, so teams will target Jones for mismatches.

The Patriots could use cornerback help, so taking one was understandable. However there were a lot better corners available, like Kendall Fuller, Will Redmond, KeiVarae Russell and Daryl Worley. I think that Jones could end up being just a special teams contributor, which is a bust for a second-round pick.

Potential Boom Pick

Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia – Round 4
The Patriots have been good at turning retread or mid-round wide receivers into productive players, and I think that Mitchell could continue that trend. A big part of the reason why the Patriots have had that kind of success is because they have a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady. It wouldn’t shock me if Mitchell is the next receiver who ends up being a surprising producer for New England.

As a senior, Mitchell totaled 58 catches for 865 yards and five touchdowns with weak quarterback play. While those numbers are nothing special, Mitchell showed some serious play-making ability early in his career at Georgia before injuries caused him to miss almost all of the 2013 season and a quarter of 2014. Mitchell showed his athletic skill set at the combine though with an electric 40 time of 4.45 seconds. Mitchell (5-11, 198) plays bigger than his listed numbers and has a lot of upside to develop.

One might not think so, but the Patriots could end up playing Mitchell sooner than expected. New England doesn’t have a lot of receiving talent beyond Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. Amendola also gets hurt all the time. Mitchell is nearly identical in size to those wideouts, and all three have quickness to get open. I think Mitchell could end up being a steal and a boom pick for the Patriots.

Future Depth Player

Jacoby Brissett, QB, N.C. State – Round 3
I think the Patriots were wise to take Brissett with a mid-round selection. Brady will start the season with a four-game suspension and backup Jimmy Garoppolo is unproven. Brissett gives New England another option in case Garoppolo crashes and burns or gets injured. Brissett (6-4, 231) has good size, a quality arm, and some athleticism. In the long term, he also is good competition for Garoppolo as the heir apparent to Brady. Brissett may never be a starter, but I think he will at least be a quality backup quarterback in the NFL.

Walt’s 2016 NFL Draft Grades:

60. Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama: C Grade
We’ve reported that Bill Belichick has given up on drafts he dislikes, #yoloing his picks and taking seventh-rounders way earlier than they should be chosen. This isn’t a crazy reach like Jordan Richards, but the Patriots took Jones about a round earlier than he should’ve gone. New England has two corners with expiring contracts after this season, so Jones makes sense from that perspective, but there were better players available at the position.

Follow @walterfootball for updates.

78. Joe Thuney, G/OT, N.C. State B- Grade
The guy who announced the Patriots’ pick was so angry about Tom Brady that he called Joe Thuney a linebacker. Thuney is an offensive lineman for sure, and he is the sort of blocker that Bill Belichick looks for. Thuney is versatile, as he can play both guard and tackle. I imagine he might compete for a spot this year, but he’ll probably be starting in 2017 and beyond. I had him in the fourth round, but this is not a blatant reach.

91. Jacoby Brissett, QB, N.C. State D Grade
Ugh. Why? The Patriots needed a third quarterback in the wake of Tom Brady’s suspension, but with Brady entering the twilight of his career, New England needed to obtain as much help for him as possible. This is the second day-two choice spent on a quarterback in the past few years, which is a big mistake. I don’t hate Brissett as a prospect – he probably should’ve gone in the fourth round – but I just hate New England for effectively wasting a pick.

96. Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska HEART-SHAPED KIELBASA MILLEN Grade
I was urged to give this a Millen grade, so here it is. And I don’t feel bad about it because Bill Belichick apparently has given up. Much like a drunken fantasy football drafter who takes kickers and names that stand out in the double-digit rounds, Belichick has now resorted to picking random players like he did last year. Vincent Valentine – sounds like a fake name to me – is a sixth-round prospect, so picking him here seems a bit silly. Also, I have to say that when I hear his name, I’m reminded of Vicky Valencourt from the Water Boy. That’s not a good thing as far as draft grades are concerned.

112. Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia B+ Grade
This pick makes more sense than some of the selections the Patriots made during the second day. Malcolm Mitchell easily could’ve been chosen a round earlier than this. He was a highly productive receiver at Georgia with very good athleticism. The problem is that there are some knee concerns. If those aren’t an issue going forward, Mitchell should be a good player for the Patriots.

208. Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB, Eastern Illinois C+ Grade
Kamu Grugier-Hill was one of the more-athletic linebacker prospects in this class. However, he’s just a project at this point and wasn’t expected to be drafted. He could’ve been obtained as a UDFA.

214. Elandon Roberts, LB, Houston B Grade
Elandon Roberts is a solid athlete who played extremely well at Houston. It seems like he’s a Bill Belichick-type player who can provide depth at linebacker – which was sorely needed – and excel on special teams.

221. Ted Karras, G/C, Illinois C+ Grade
This is only the second offensive lineman for the Patriots thus far – an area that was expected to be addressed early and often in the 2016 NFL Draft (at least based on the comments I had received.) However, Ted Karras was seen as just a borderline draftable prospect. He can be a backup at both guard and center.

225. Devin Lucien, WR, Arizona State B Grade
Bill Belichick has spent a lot of time drafting players off many radars in this draft thus far. Devin Lucien is not a name known to many, but he played well for Arizona State this past season, thanks to his quality route-running. Lucien, who has tested as an average athlete, definitely has a chance of contributing at some point.

2016 NFL Draft Team Grade: D . Follow Walter @walterfootball for updates.

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