Mike Reiss breaks down the New England Patriots 2016 draft class.
My take: Part of the reason the "favorite five" series is put together before the draft is to be accountable when a team picks a player who is identified before the draft as a good fit. The 5-foot-9, 197-pound Jones was one of my favorite five prospects at cornerback for the Patriots because of a combination of four-down value, quickness, toughness and high intangibles. Jones was one of Nick Saban's favorite players at Alabama, and Bill Belichick's respect for Saban, his former assistant with the Cleveland Browns in the 1990s, is well documented. Every draft pick is a projection, but Jones is about as safe and solid as can be at No. 60.
CB depth chart: Butler and Ryan will be tough to unseat as starters, but Jones has a chance to be the No. 3 option. Second-year players Justin Coleman and Darryl Roberts are also in the mix, along with eight-year veteran E.J. Biggers and longshots Rashaan Melvin and Brock Vereen. With the Patriots' defense in sub about 70 percent of the time, a player such as Jones could be viewed as a starter in the No. 3 spot if he wins that job. But I wouldn't pigeonhole him as just a slot cornerback; there is potential to play outside as well.
Round 3, pick No. 78: Joe Thuney, G, North Carolina State | Highlights
My take: Thuney wasn't on my radar entering the draft, as I had projected him more to an interior position and thought the Patriots' greater need was at tackle. But with this pick, my strong sense is that while the Patriots will value his versatility, they likely project him primarily to be a tackle. If he was more of an interior player, this pick wouldn't have the same level of value to me. A hat tip to draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki, who wrote this of Thuney before the draft: "Smart, tough, versatile and more concerned about production than appearance, Thuney looks destined for a role with a zone-blocking team such as the Patriots."
OT depth chart: For now, let's slot Thuney into the offensive tackle mix. His presence would seem to most directly affect swing tackle Cannon, who is on the books to earn a $3.4 million base salary, which might be viewed as too rich by the team's brass. Starters Nate Solder (left) and Sebastian Vollmer (right) return, while LaAdrian Waddle, Cameron Fleming and Keavon Milton round out the depth chart.
My take: The question wasn't "if" the Patriots would add a third quarterback to their roster, it was a matter of "when" -- the draft or free agency. In March, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he thought this year's quarterback class was one of the strongest he has seen in recent years, and the Patriots agreed that this was the better avenue to fill the void. A player such as the 6-foot-3, 231-pound Brissett is naturally going to take some time to develop, but with Tom Brady currently out for the first four games of the season, he'll likely open the year as the No. 2 before sliding back to No. 3 in Week 5.
Part of post-Brady planning: Brady turns 39 on Aug. 3 and is signed through 2019. He'd like to play into his 40s and the Patriots certainly hope he will do so at a high level. But the team has to be prepared for the possibility that Father Time catches up with Brady in a similar way it did to Peyton Manning in 2015, and Brissett adds another layer to the depth chart behind No. 2 Jimmy Garoppolo, who is signed through 2017. Brissett will sign a four-year contract through 2019.
My take: In releasing Dominique Easley and Chris Jones, the Patriots signaled they might be going away from more of the pure 3-technique defensive tackle in favor of more size, length, physicality and girth inside, and the selection of Valentine further solidifies that line of thinking. He is 6-foot-3 and 329 pounds, and left school after his junior season, which surprised some because he didn't follow up a solid sophomore season with the same type of performance in 2015 (a sprained ankle might be part of the reason).
Where he fits: Valentine shouldn't be pressed into action right away, working behind Malcom Brown, Alan Branch, Terrance Knighton and possibly Markus Kuhn/Frank Kearse. This gives Valentine the luxury of developing behind the scenes and in the team's strength and weight program.
Round 4, Pick No. 113: Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia | Highlights
My take: What's not to like? Whenever a pick matches up with the pre-draft "favorite five" series, in which Mitchell was dubbed a personal favorite player in the draft, the decision is naturally met with a positive response. Draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki drew a comparison to longtime Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward. Between Mitchell's hard-nosed playing style on the field and his inspirational story off the field, this is a slam dunk.
Can Patriots buck the trend?: The Patriots' history in drafting and developing receivers is spotty, and the 5-foot-11 5/8, 198-pound Mitchell becomes the next in the pipeline in hopes of changing that history. The last receiver the Patriots developed to the potential they envisioned was Julian Edelman (2009, seventh round, 232nd overall). Mitchell's 1.51 10-yard split at the combine reflects his short-area burst, and that's a trait the Patriots generally look for in their receivers. Mitchell's addition also serves as a reminder that Amendola's contract situation ($5 million base salary, $6.8 million cap charge) could still be an issue for the sides to address in the future.
Round 6, pick No.208:Kamu Grugier-Hill, LB, Eastern Illinois| Highlights
My take: In the days before the NFL draft, I was speaking with an NFL executive from another team and asked about safety/linebacker types who might factor into the mix on special teams later in the draft, and that's when Grugier-Hill first showed up on the radar as one of my "five favorites" in the wild-card category for the Patriots. The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Grugier-Hill ran well at Northwestern's pro day (4.4) and is a high-intangibles prospect who was teammates with third-year quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo at Eastern Illinois. Teams were aware of him and the value of this pick is consistent with what I heard entering the draft.
Round 6, pick No.214: Elandon Roberts, LB, Houston| Highlights
My take: Roberts' 88 solo tackles led FBS in 2015, which reflects a nose for the football. He was viewed as one of the Cougars' leaders on and off the field, and is projected by some as a traditional first- and second-down type linebacker who is better against the run than in the passing game. His performance on special teams will play a big factor in his chances of making the Patriots, but he appears to have the type of intangibles that make him worthy of competing for a spot.
Where does he fit: The top part of the Patriots' linebacker depth chart is locked in with Dont'a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin, so Roberts will be competing against players such as Jonathan Freeny, Jonathan Bostic, Ramon Humber, Tony Steward, James Vaughters and Kevin Snyder.
Round 6, pick No.221: Ted Karras, G, Illinois| Highlights
My take: A four-year starter at right guard, the 6-foot-4, 307-pound Karras is the seventh member of his family to play football in the Big Ten. His great-uncle, the late Alex Karras, was named to the Pro Bowl four times with the Detroit Lions before going into acting, including a starring role in the 1980s sitcom "Webster." Ted Karras was a team captain for the Fighting Illini in 2015, fitting the profile of leader and intelligent hard worker the Patriots generally like. He started 43 games at Illinois.
Where does he fit: The Patriots are loaded on the interior of the offensive line, especially if that's where third-round pick Joe Thuney ends up fitting best. The three players who rotated as starters at guard last season -- Shaq Mason, Josh Kline and Tre' Jackson -- return in 2016. Meanwhile, 2013 first-round pick Jonathan Cooper was acquired in a trade from the Cardinals, and there's also Chris Barker and centers Bryan Stork and David Andrews.
Round 7, pick No.225: Devin Lucien, WR, Arizona State| Highlights
My take: After transferring from UCLA, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Lucien finished the 2015 season strong, with 534 receiving yards and five touchdowns over three games, which was a reflection of his potential when fully healthy. He had been nagged by a hamstring injury before that final stretch. Lucien is worth a flier to see if it works like it did with Givens, who made a full-fledged commitment to special teams to earn his initial spot on the 53-man roster.
Where does he fit: The Patriots are stocked at receiver, with Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Malcolm Mitchell locks to make the roster, and Danny Amendola also a lock (assuming the sides work out any contract-related issues). Keshawn Martin and Nate Washington are next on the depth chart, which means Lucien is competing with them, as well as DeAndre Carter, Aaron Dobson and Chris Harper.