The New England Patriots have the advantage of flexibility in the 2014 NFL draft.
The Patriots’ biggest needs are at tight end, defensive tackle, offensive line and pass rusher. However, none of those needs are so dire that the Patriots will need to reach for a player in the first round of the draft. If the right wide receiver starts to fall, or if they feel that a running back is worthy of a first-round pick, they can jump to add more offensive playmakers. The Patriots even can select a quarterback in the first round if they fall in love with one during the predraft process.
For now, the Patriots most appealing option might be to trade down in the draft. That’s what NESN.com has the Patriots doing in our latest seven-round mock draft.
Round 1, pick No. 29: Trade with Minnesota Vikings
Trading up or down makes more sense than staying put at No. 29 for the Patriots. In this deal, the Patriots are trading their first- (No. 29) and fourth-round (No. 130) draft picks for the Vikings’ second- (No. 40), third- (No. 96) and fifth-round (No. 148) choices.
Round 2, pick No. 40 (from Vikings): Trent Murphy, defensive end, Stanford
Murphy might not have fans jumping out of their seats with excitement, but he fills an important need for the Patriots as another pass rusher who has experience dropping back in coverage. Murphy can give Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich much needed rest as a rotational pass rusher, and he will allow Jamie Collins to focus on coverage, where he excelled in the playoffs last season.
Murphy measured in at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, and he ran a 4.86-second 40-yard dash, 4.20-second short shuttle and 6.78-second three-cone drill. He had 15 sacks in 2013.
Round 2, pick No. 62: Bishop Sankey, running back, Washington
Running back became an underrated need for the Patriots when LeGarrette Blount left in free agency for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen are entering contract years, and the Patriots need another player who can serve as a “bell cow” on first- and second-down, and as a pass catcher on third down. Sankey proved he can play both roles during his last two years with the Huskies.
Bill Belichick benched Ridley last season when he had issues holding onto the football. The Patriots will need to turn to someone if that problem persists.
Round 3, pick No. 93: C.J. Fiedorowicz, tight end, Iowa
It’s logical to keep coming back to Fiedorowicz for the Patriots, since he was coached by Belichick disciples, and like Rob Gronkowski, he’s a player who can catch and block from the line of scrimmage.
Fiedorowicz athletically has untapped potential. He ran a 7.10-second three-cone drill and 4.26-second short shuttle at the combine.
Round 3, pick No. 96 (from Vikings): Trai Turner, guard, LSU
Even if the Patriots feel they’re set for 2014 with the same starting offensive line they trotted out in 2012 and 2013, they’ll need help in the future. Turner could be the Patriots’ future starting right guard.
Round 4, pick No. 130: Trade
Round 4, pick No. 140: Kelcy Quarles, defensive tackle, South Carolina
Quarles could drop after TMZ reported that police want to question the former Gamecocks interior defensive lineman for an alleged assault at a nightclub in New York.
Quarles is a great fit for the Patriots, and a potential steal, if they feel comfortable drafting someone who could be dealing with legal troubles.
Round 5, pick No. 148 (from Vikings): Terrance Mitchell, cornerback, Oregon
Cornerback might not even seem like a fifth-round need for the Patriots after they signed Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner this offseason. But the Patriots will need a No. 5 cornerback until Browner returns from a four-game suspension, and if reports are true that the team wants to move Logan Ryan to safety, they’ll need a reserve cornerback for the entire season.
Round 6, pick No. 198: Corey Linsley, center, Ohio State
The Patriots could choose to use last year’s undrafted free-agent interior lineman Josh Kline as the team’s backup center again in 2013, or they could turn to the draft and select someone like Linsley, who has great athleticism for the position.
Round 6, pick No. 206: Kenny Guiton, quarterback, Ohio State
Guiton might seem like a reach for the sixth round, but this is the same team that selected safety Nate Ebner, a college rugby player, in the same area of the draft. Guiton was an exceptional backup on the Buckeyes for quarterback Braxton Miller.
Round 7, pick No. 244: Rob Blanchflower, tight end, UMass
If Branchflower can ever get healthy, he has the same tools the Patriots typically look for in a tight end. Staying healthy was an issue for Blanchflower at UMass, however.