Patriots Have Major Void To Fill At Running Back In 2014 NFL Draft (Mailbag)


Apr 25, 2014

mailbagPrepare for a torturous two-week wait before the 2014 NFL draft.

The NFL either needs to push back free agency in 2015, or move the draft back to its rightful place in April. The dead space this season between the exciting days of free agency and the draft have been insufferable.

If it were a year ago, the first day of the NFL draft would have passed, and Patriots fans would know whether their team traded up, down or stayed put. But instead, they have two more weeks of pondering.

With that vent out of the way, let’s get into this week’s mailbag.

Ok for real though, I don’t think RB is a need for us in the draft/FA. Do you agree?I think DL, DT, OL, RG, and TE is priority

I think running back actually is a huge priority. The Patriots essentially lost their starting running back in free agency when LeGarrette Blount signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers. I think Stevan Ridley can start and regain what he had as a 1,200-yard back in 2012, but if he starts to fumble again, the Patriots need a workhorse back to play behind him.

I also think Shane Vereen can be a third-down back in the mold of Kevin Faulk or Danny Woodhead, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy through three years in the league. The Patriots need a capable back behind him. Vereen’s drops were concerning in 2013, as well, especially out of a safety-valve position for Tom Brady. Ridley and Vereen are entering contract years, as well.

I don’t think the Patriots would draft a running back in the first round — just because I can’t see a player worthy of the No. 29 overall pick — but I wouldn’t be shocked to see them select a player in a trade down or with the No. 62 overall pick. The Patriots even could double dip in the draft, taking a running back who can catch out of the backfield and one who can serve as a reserve workhorse. Ideally, they would find a player who can do both and keep around Brandon Bolden.

Chances the Patriots trade up in the draft?

I think the Patriots would have to feel like they’re drastically improving a starting position to trade up. The Patriots can’t improve their current starters at quarterback, running back, tight end, tackle, defensive end, defensive tackle (assuming Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are healthy), linebacker or cornerback with a first-round player. That leaves wide receiver, guard, center and safety, and I don’t think the Patriots would draft a right guard or center in the first round (though anything, and I stress anything, is possible).

If the right wide receiver starts to fall, the Patriots might consider trading up. If Ha Ha Clinton-Dix slides, and the right deal is available, I could see the Patriots trading up for the Alabama safety, as well. It’s unlikely Clinton-Dix falls, however, and while I personally wouldn’t trade up for Louisville safety Calvin Pryor, there’s no telling how the team feels about him, or whether they would be willing to trade up to take him.

The Patriots have a way of shocking in the draft, but logically, a wide receiver or safety would be the best positions to target in a trade up.

Do you think the Patriots could comfortably roll with Harmon starting beside McCourty this year?

That being said about Clinton-Dix and Pryor, I think the Patriots will be totally fine if Harmon is the starting safety in 2014.

The secondary obviously has improved with the additions of Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, which will lower the strain put on Harmon, who competed just fine as a rookie. I can’t see a major dropoff at strong safety going from Steve Gregory, who was released, to Harmon. Harmon was a better tackler than Gregory in 2013, and he has more speed and range at this point in the two players’ careers.

Harmon lacks Gregory’s experience and wisdom, but he’s a smart player who appeared to soak in what Devin McCourty and Gregory were teaching him in 2013. I don’t think the Patriots would have been willing to cut Gregory and Adrian Wilson if they didn’t have confidence in Harmon.

There also is the possibility of moving Logan Ryan from cornerback to safety, which seems like a fine idea. Ryan’s a player who needs to get snaps, and cornerback is a lot more crowded this year.

If we draft a starting caliber LB in the first round would you move Collins or Hightower to DE?

If the Patriots draft Alabama’s C.J. Mosley (doubtful he falls that far) or Ohio State’s Ryan Shazier (ditto), I think Jamie Collins would move into more of a pass-rushing role. Dont’a Hightower, Collins and the rookie likely would rotate in the starting defense.

If the Patriots select BYU’s Kyle Van Noy, he and Collins both could play a hybrid linebacker/pass rusher role. Both players are great pass rushers, and they’re strong in coverage. Having two players with those strengths would be a plus.

Five players not in the first round Patriots may take?

Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, South Carolina defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, Notre Dame cornerback Bennett Jackson, Iowa linebacker Christian Kirksey and Arizona State running back Marion Grice all are great fits.

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