Only a few days left until the 2019 NFL Draft. I have revised my prospect rankings, hopefully for the last time. It’s time to take a look at the Super Bowl champs, who have a plethora of Picks this year, with 12, and 6 of those Picks come within the Top 101. In reality, we know based on recent history that BELICHICK is very unlikely to use that many selections in one Draft, and will likely be moving around a bit. However, trying to project the exact transactions is beyond my psychic powers, so I will stick to my tradition of not allowing myself to project trades into the process. So away we go with New England’s bountiful 2019 Draft.
Round 1, Pick 32
MACK WILSON LB ALABAMA 6’1/240 PP#33
WILSON is yet another SABAN product who really didn’t “start” until his final season for the Tide, but if you look at him on tape, the athleticism is obvious, as well as the accountability within the defensive scheme. He looked good in just about everything they asked him to do, which was a lot. Look at his stat sheet for his one starting season: 71 T’s, 5 TFL, 1 Sack, 7 QBH’s, and 1 INT. His 4.69/40 time at the Combine confirms his ability to cover the field from his IB slot. He shows fundamentally sound tackling technique and explosiveness on the ball. He earned his keep early in his career as a Special Teams ace. He’s versatile, and looks like the heir apparent to HIGHTOWER’s job in that New England D.
Round 2, Pick 56
L.J. COLLIER DE TCU 6’2/283 PP#60
On my rankings chart, I would expect a lot of fans to be clamoring for JAYLON FERGUSON, the D1 career sack leader, but I think COLLIER fits their schemes and needs better. COLLIER will provide a lot more help against the run, and is much more willing to mix it up in a crowd. At TCU, BEN BANOGU got most of the press, but COLLIER was the more productive player. His stats: 42 T’s, 11.5 TFL, 6 Sacks, 4 PBU’s, 5 QBH’s. He reminds me some of ELVIS DUMERVIL with 34″ long arms, despite being barely over 6’2. He also uses natural knee bend to play very low off the edge.
Round 2, Pick 64
KHALEN SAUNDERS DT WESTERN ILLINOIS 6’1/320 PP#65
This young man was one of the stars of post season work, back in January/February. He was absolutely dominating during Senior Bowl week, and he also flashed nicely at the Combine. Remember, the PATS let their DL VFA guys pretty much walk after the season was over. SHELTON/BROWN/FLOWERS, and CLAYBORN were all allowed to walk away. SAUNDERS is a stout, low to the ground NT type player, who gets push up the middle. At his size and body type, his 5.03/40-time at the Combine was very impressive. He started, and dominated, for 4 seasons at the FCS level of competition. His 2018 stats: 72 T’s, 13 TFL, 6.5 S’s, 5 QBH’s, 1 FF, and 1 PBU. He should provide instant help in their DL rotation.
Round 3 Pick 73
JARRETT STIDHAM QB AUBURN 6’2/215 PP#75
And here we go, this time probably for real, with a back-up and likely heir apparent for Mr. BRADY. STIDHAM is a better QB than you probably think, given the system that held him back at Auburn. He’s a decent athlete, (better than BRADY), and has an adequate arm for the pro game. His compact delivery and release will fit right in with what BRADY does, and what McDANIELS wants to do. He needs pro development to refine his fundamentals, and where better to do that than under JOSH and Mr. BRADY. His 2018 stats, in a run based offense without a stellar RB: 60.7% comp, 18/5 TD/INT. He is athletic enough to extend plays. The PATS QB of the future.
Round 3, Pick 97c
DAWSON KNOX TE OLE MISS 6’4/254 PP#98
Let’s not even get caught up in the verbiage of replacing GRONK. GRONK was unique in many ways, but they do need to rebuild the TE group, and upgrade the current talent level. KNOX should do that. He’s big enough to do some blocking, but needs work there. However he is clearly a receiving weapon on a college team loaded with wideouts, thus limiting the throws to the TE group. His 4.65/40 at the Combine is impressive at his weight. He has large hands, (9 3/4″), and long arms, (33 1/4″), which gives him a very large catch radius. He has talent and a strong desire to achieve. He should be able to contribute to their receiving corps as a Rookie.
Round 3, Pick 101c
TERRY McLAURIN WR OHIO STATE 6’0/205 PP#105
The team is not as desperate as you might, at first, imagine in their WR group, but clearly help is needed there. McLAURIN was immersed in a super talented WR group for the Buckeyes, and he really caught talent evaluators eyes in Mobile. His 4.32/40 at the Combine confirmed the speed we all saw at the Senior Bowl. Ourlads had him ranked as the 4th best WR athletically, out of 42 wideouts at the Combine. Even though he only caught 35 balls for the Buckeyes last season, he averaged 20.0 ypc, and scored 11 TD’s. Best of all, for a BELICHICK team, he was a star on Special Teams. He needs to get more physical to replace CHRIS HOGAN.
Round 6, PICK 205c
IOSUA OPETA OG WEBER STATE 6’4/301 PP#202
He is another small school guy who will need some time to develop as a pro, but has the size and strength to play in the NFL. OPETA got my attention when he hoisted 39 reps in the Bench Press at the Combine, and that is with 33 1/4″ long arms. His 5.09/40 was pretty impressive for an Interior OL, and you always like to add a Team Captain to your locker room. He plays with strength, and has an aggressive attitude. He is a nice value as a projection pick. Could start in time.
Round 7, Pick 239
MONTRE HARTAGE DB NORTHWESTERN 5’11/187 PP#240
He is not a great athlete, but a savvy, dependable DB who started 3 years for PAT FITZGERALD, for the Wildcats. If he had top end speed, he’d be a 3rd Rounder. He should fit nicely in a PATS secondary that relies on smarts and assignment accountability. He should also make an excellent Special Teams contributor.
Round 7, Pick 243
ALBERT HUGGINS DT CLEMSON 6’3/305 PP#235
This is a 7th Round project player, who was caught in a DL rotation of ridiculous talent and depth, but has shown some talent when given playing time. He has decent size and can move a bit. He ran a 5.09/40 at the Combine, and has fairly long arms at 33 1/2″ and has 10 5/8″ hands. He might end up on a Practice Squad as a Rookie, but could make a roster in the near future.
Round 7, Pick 246
ANDREW VAN GINKEL OB WISCONSIN 6’4/241 PP#249
A nice sized, smart player with an aggressive attitude and high energy. He shows natural pass-rush instincts, and has a good feel in zone coverage. His 4.75/40-time causes him to be this far down the prospect rankings, but he is highly productive, and moves well in game action. 2018 production: 60 T’s, 9.5 TFL, 5.5 S’s, 7 QBH’s, 2 FF’s, and 3 PBU’s. I think it is safe to say that he is a disruptive force out on the field.
Round 7, Pick 252c
MATHIEU BETTS DE LAVAL 6’3/258 PP#NR
The only reason that I do NOT have him ranked is because I’m not sure about his intentions to play in the US, or his native Canada. What I do know, is that he showed athleticism and high energy at the Shrine venue. He also showed that he can bend the edge as a pass rusher. My gut tells me that some team will actually have him rated as a 5th Round guy, but for now, I will let the PATS experiment with him.
Count on BELICHICK packaging one or two later Picks to a team for a 5th Rounder in 2020. He might also trade something earlier to move up, or grab another extra Pick for next year. Remember, that this is almost like a double draft for the PATS. 5 of their 9 Picks from 2018 ended up on IR last year. All of them should be back if they pass their Training Camp physicals.