As part the NFL’s punishment for the Deflategate scandal that has now dragged on for upwards of a year, the Patriots were without a first-round draft pick at this weekend’s 2016 NFL Draft, but still managed to pick up some promising names. All nine of their selections are below:
Round 2, 60th overall – Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
New England’s cornerback depth chart features one of the best cornerback tandems in the league with Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, but the selection of the 5-foot-9, 197-pound Jones gives the Patriots a solid number-three option. Returning four punts for touchdowns and totaling 530 punt return yards in 42 chances in his senior season with the Crimson Tide show that Jones is a special teams threat as well, and could get some reps as a Patriot as well. Not completely due to being New England’s first selection in the draft, many are calling this far and away the team’s best selection of the weekend.
Round 3, 78th overall – Joe Thuney, G, NC State
A 6-foot-5, 304-pound left guard in his final two seasons at NC State, the 2015 All-ACC First Team selection’s versatility and room for growth is what got the attention of NFL scouts. Having played at all five o-line positions in his college years, Thuney is expected to make a move outside to the tackle position in Foxborough, where the Patriots have a stronger need. A player that scouts note is more of an any-means-necessary rather than a by-the-books, technically-sound offensive lineman, Thuney, at first blush, appears to be a good fit for the Pats.
Round 3, 91st overall – Jacoby Brissett, QB, NC State
The Patriots seem to like what the Wolfpack had to offer over the weekend, choosing the 6-foot-4, 231-pound Brissett with their third selection. With starting quarterback Tom Brady suspended for the first four games of 2016, it was only a matter of time before the Patriots added a third quarterback to their roster, and this selection is one that some scouts say will compete with Jimmy Garoppolo for the second spot on the depth chart. As has become customary at the position in recent years, Brissett is a dual-threat quarterback with the ability to slip the pocket with his size and athleticism and pick up first downs with his feet. Equipped with NFL-ready arm strength, Brissett’s biggest weakness is his shoddy mechanics, which has given him issues in college with down-field accuracy. With time to grow under Brady, however, Brissett could become a very recognizable name to football fans a few years down the road.
Round 3, 96th overall – Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska
The release of Dominique Easley and Chris Jones earlier this offseason signaled that the Patriots may be looking for more size and strength on the defensive line, and the selection of the 6-foot-4, 329-pound Valentine seems to support that thesis. Valentine left Nebraska after his junior year to enter the draft, and a sprained ankle is thought to be part of the reason for a disappointing 2015 season that following a strong sophomore year. With a solid core on the New England depth chart already, Valentine likely won’t see a ton of action in his first season, but this will give him valuable time to grow into the New England system for the future.
Round 4, 113th overall – Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia
A lot of analysts liked this pick by the Patriots, and if he lives up to the comparisons to former Steelers great Hines Ward he’s drawn, they won’t be the only ones. The former Bulldog is best known for his strong route running and ability to pick up yards after the catch, but his speed and size, at 6-foot, 198 pounds, are average at best. It remains to be seen, of course, whether Mitchell will be what the Patriots are looking for at the wide receiver position, but early indications are that all the pieces are there.
Round 6, 208th overall – Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB, Eastern Illinois
An undersized linebacker at 6-foot-2, 215 pounds, Grugier-Hill garnered the attention of NFL scouts by putting up impressive numbers, including a 4.45 40-yard dash, at the Northwestern Pro Day. His quickness can be attributed to his strong, quick footwork and allow him to have great potential as a quality run-stopper. A weakness that many scouts have pointed out is that he plays to his size and tends to let a lot of ball carriers slip away from him. To truly be NFL-ready, Grugier-Hill will need to likely work on his strength and wrap-up ability, but this could well be name we hear again.
Round 6, 214th overall – Elandon Roberts, LB, Houston
Like Grugier-Hill, Roberts’ biggest strength is his ability to stop the run, which is reflected in his FBS-leading 88 solo tackles in 2015. Roberts has a strong nose for the ball and strong wrap-up ability, but is weaker against the aerial game. Coaches and scouts have raved about Roberts’ leadership abilities both on and off the field, which is a huge upside for any linebacker. At six feet, 235 pounds, there are question marks about the size and athleticism of Roberts, and analysts believe his special teams play will be his make or break.
Round 6, 221st overall – Ted Karras, G, Illinois
At the bottom of a talented offensive line depth chart, Karras has his work cut out for him if he wants to somehow unseat a starter. The seventh member of the Karras family to play in the Big Ten, four of which played in the NFL, it’s clear Ted has football in his blood, but many scouts think that he simply lacks the physical tools to crack any starting lineup. According to scouts, he will outwork just about anybody on the field, but lacks the quickness, range, mobility, and overall athleticism to be a stud in the NFL.
Round 7, 225th overall – Devin Lucien, WR, Arizona State
The Patriots’ final selection of 2016 is an average-sized wide-out with fairly decent speed, but lacking in any kind of flash or pizzazz. He has the ability to get free from defenders with his strong footwork and can sometimes turn medium-yardage plays into big plays with his ability to pick up yards after the catch, but scouts question the extent of his “it” factor.