Patriots Address Major Needs In Draft

The Patriots spent three days addressing their needs in the 2015 NFL Draft, selecting players that will fill needs this upcoming season and beyond. Today we take a look at the selected players, their backgrounds, and what they may bring to the team from a talent perspective.

The Patriots needed to add to their depth in the front seven and the interior of the offensive line. Adding secondary help was a need too, but the Patriots only selected one cornerback. With 11 picks, these needs and others have been addressed, but as we know, the Patriots are never truly done. Let's take a look at the picks and what they bring to New England.

1st Round Pick, #32- Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

The Patriots didn't expect Malcom Brown to be on the board when they made their selection, so they made a trade with Houston contingent on Brown's availability. If Brown was taken, which he should have been by the CLUELESS Colts, the Patriots would trade the pick to the Texans. Fortunately for the Pats, the Colts took a wide receiver (seriously?) and Brown was available. People wonder why the Patriots have been great for so long, but it isn't rocket science. Belichick understands that his offensive and defensive lines need to be strong to win, and he addresses it. Other teams are foolish and reach for skill position guys too early when they clearly can't block or stop the run. Until teams stop being ignorant, the Patriots will continue to be good. Brown is 6'2, 320 pounds and he can play anywhere on the defensive line. Brown is a great athlete for his size but sometimes doesn't use his strength as much as he should. That is something NFL coaching should fix. Here is a link to Brown's profile from March.

2nd Round Pick, #64- Jordan Richards, SS, Stanford

Bill Belichick and Nick Caserio continued their Draft Day tradition of reaching for a safety in the early rounds. Yes, Richards was going to be drafted regardless, but most expected him to go in the 6th or 7th Round. Richards did have a slow 40 time at the combine, but he improved from 4.64 to 4.59, which may not seem like a lot, but when you're talking about tenths of seconds, it's a strong improvement. Richards played his high school football at Folsom High School in Folsom, California. At the time, Richards was a standout receiver, ranking in the Top 75. He also excelled on defense, being named the Delta River League All Purpose MVP and First Team All Defense. Richards also put up strong numbers in his days at Stanford; his senior year was his best- 79 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, three interceptions, and five passes broken up. Richards needs to improve in deep coverage and also needs to do a better job of not using his hands so much. He could get away with it in college, but pass interference and illegal contact are called much tighter in the NFL.

3rd Round Pick, 97th Overall- Geneo Grissom, DE, Oklahoma

With the issues New England has with the pass rush, it was only a matter of time before they drafted a defensive end or an outside linebacker. The Patriots may have reached again, but Belichick knows the type of players he likes and Grissom fits into that category. Grissom not only has long arms, he's also extremely strong, although he may have reached his physical peak. Grissom attended Hutchinson High School in Hutchinson, Kansas. Grissom dominated his senior year in high school, totaling 76 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hits, 7.5 sacks, eight pass breakups, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery. He was rated the number three prospect in Kansas by and Grissom only started 11 of 39 possible games with the Sooners, but when he did finally get his opportunity to play, he excelled. Grissom finished his senior year at Oklahoma with 39 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and four passes broken up. Grissom does lack flexibility, but he makes up for it with his quickness. Grisssom is 6'3, 262 pounds, a good size for a player that can play outside linebacker and defensive end.

4th Round Pick, 101st Overall- Trey Flowers, DE, Arkansas

Flowers was considered a second round prospect by many, so this is a nice pick for the Patriots. The 6'3, 270 pound Flowers is a stout run stopper, making 15.5 tackles for loss in 2014; he also finished with six sacks. Flowers attended Columbia High School in Southern Alabama, a hotbed for Division One college talent. Flowers was named Alabama All-State in 2009 and 2010. Flowers played in all 13 games as a freshman at Arkansas, being named SEC All-Freshman. He started every game his sophomore year, compiling 50 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, and six sacks. Flowers dealt with a knee injury his junior year, but he still started 11 out of 12 games and totaled 44 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks; not bad for a guy with a banged up knee. Flowers senior year was impressive- 68 tackles, 15.5 for loss, and six sacks; just more consistent, high-motor football out of Flowers. Flowers is considered to be on the unathletic side, but he's a gamer and has a chance to shine in the Patriots defensive line rotation.

4th Round Pick, 111st Overall- Tre' Jackson, G, Florida State

New England went into this draft with two huge needs- a defensive tackle and a couple guards. The first domino fell when Malcom Brown was available, so when the Patriots were on the board again in the 4th, Tre' Jackson was the smart selection. Jackson was rated as a three-star prospect by when he attended Wayne County High School in Jesup, Georgia. Jackson was highly coveted coming out of Wayne County, picking Florida State over Georgia, Alabama, Miami, N.C. State, Florida, Rutgers, Middle Tennessee State, Georgia Southern, and Southern. Not only did Jackson dominate on both sides of the ball at Wayne County, he was also a standout on the track team. Jackson took some time to crack the lineup, but once he did versus Notre Dame in his final game of freshman year, he didn't miss another start for three years, anchoring one of the best lines in the country. The Florida State guard has been a big part of what Florida State accomplished in 2013 and 2014 (2014 All-American), and his familiarity of playing with Bryan Stork should help ease his transition into the NFL.

4th Round Pick, 131st Overall- Shaq Mason, G, Georgia Tech

Shaquille Olajuwan Mason is a guard/center who, needless to say, comes from a family of basketball fans. Mason played for Georgia Tech, which is one of the reasons he was available in the fourth round. GT runs the triple option, and most talent evaluators are scared off because they don't know if a player like Mason can succeed in a pro system. The Patriots, a team that developed a Greco-Roman wrestler into a Pro Bowl guard in Stephen Neal, have no such trepidations when it comes to thinking outside the box, and due to this, they may have landed the best run blocker in the entire draft. Mason was an All-American in 2014 and showed the ability to dominate, making pancake blocks regularly and showing great agility and quickness when he was pulling to block on sweeps or the option. With Dan Connelly still unsigned, their is a chance for the aforementioned Tre' Jackson or Mason to earn a starting position.

5th Round Pick, 166th Overall- Joe Cardona, LS, Navy

Why would the Patriots draft a long snapper in the 5th round? Well, there are many reasons. It's important to remember that long snappers play up to ten snaps per game and they hold an important position on the special teams unit. When long snappers make mistakes, all hell breaks loose, and one mistake could be the difference between home field advantage and the wild card round. Cardona, who attended the Naval Academy, was taught how to snap by his dad because he knew it gave his son the best chance to make a football team. Cardona is small, but he has improved his strength over the last year and now he needs to work on his coverage skills. One major issue the Patriots could be facing is Cardona's five-year Naval commitment that may delay his NFL career. If that is resolved, the Patriots just filled an important role for at least the next decade.

6th Round Pick, 177th Overall- Matthew Wells, LB, Mississippi State

The Patriots lost out on Shaq Thompson, a player they coveted but was off the board before 32, so they decided to target another athletic outside linebacker/safety that should excel on special teams. Wells ran a 4.43 40 yard dash at the Mississippi State Pro Day, and he also did well in the three-cone-drill, finishing the drill in 7.10 seconds. The Patriots covet players with that type of quickness, speed and agility and if he does well on special teams, he'll eventually make his way onto the field. Wells appeared in 52 games at MSU, starting in 33. He finished his career with 165 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, and six sacks (it's important to note that four of those sacks came his senior season.) Wells attended Lawrence County High School in Mississippi, and he was named as the number four prospect in the state his senior year. Wells, again showing similarities to Thompson, starred on both sides of the ball, offensively as a running back and defensively as an outside linebacker.

6th Round Pick, 202nd Overall- AJ Derby, TE, Arkansas

One position you can guarantee the Patriots will select is tight end, and 2015 was no different. This time, the Patriots selected A.J. Derby, a converted quarterback out of the University of Arkansas. Derby, who is listed at 6'4, 255 pounds, attended Iowa City High School in Iowa City, Iowa. Derby led City to the State Championship his senior year and was first team all-state in his junior and senior seasons. Derby attended the University of Iowa in 2010 and 2011, but he left Iowa to attend Coffeyville Community College in 2012. In 2013, Derby transferred to Arkansas where he continued playing quarterback, but after his junior year, it was decided that transitioning to tight end was best for the Arkansas team and gave Derby the best chance to get to the next level. Derby played in 11 games in 2014, totaling 22 catches for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Those numbers didn't exactly put him on the map, but for a player to convert from quarterback to tight end and put up decent numbers in the SEC, it was an impressive season. Of the 22 catches made by Derby, 20 of them came against SEC foes. Derby is dealing with an injury and a ton of competition in camp, but he would have a great shot to make the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers.

7th Round Pick, 247th Overall- Daryl Roberts, CB, Marshall

Roberts, a cornerback out of Marshall, didn't get an invite to the 2015 NFL Combine, which was a surprise. At the Marshall Pro Day, Roberts opened eyes and showed that he has the physical abilities to play in the NFL. Roberts posted 40-times of 4.36 and 4.39 seconds, a 39 inch vertical leap, and he bench pressed 225 pounds 23 times, an impressive amount for a cornerback. Roberts also stands at 6'0, 182, so he isn't just a small speed demon, he is a corner with good size and excellent speed. Roberts attended Lakeland High School in Lakeland Florida, where he excelled as a cornerback. Roberts compiled quite the resume his senior year, finishing the season with 59 tackles and two interceptions while earning second team all-county honors. Roberts was also heavily recruited by Purdue, Texas Tech, Temple, Kansas State, and North Carolina. It didn't take Roberts long to acclimate to D-1 football as he appeared in 10 games as a true freshman. In 2011, he appeared in 13 games and was an integral part of the secondary and overall defense. In 2012, Roberts was injured and received a medical redshirt to give him an extra year of eligibility. Roberts junior and senior years were impressive. He only missed one start, due to injury, and he was nationally recognized as one of the better cornerbacks in the country. His senior year, he finished with 18 passes broken up, an impressive number when one considers that most offenses stayed away from him. Roberts may have been a late round pick, but he has a chance to play in the NFL.

7th Round Pick, 253rd Overall- Xzavier Dickson, DE/LB, Alabama

Xzavier Dickson, a 6'3, 268 pound outside linebacker out of the University of Alabama, was the Patriots 11th and final pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. Dickson attended Griffin High School in Griffin, Georgia, where he dominated. Dickson was ranked number 22 in the ESPNU 150 and was also ranked 80th in the Top 100. After selecting Alabama over Georgia, Florida, and Notre Dame, Dickson made his way to Tuscaloosa and immediately made an impact on the field. Dickson appeared in seven games, making 3 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and 0.5 sacks. His sophomore year was considerably better; Dickson started six of 14 games, totaling 33 tackles, five tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, one pass broken up, four quarterback hurries, and one forced fumble. As a junior, Dickson didn't start, but he did play in 12 games, totaling 12 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, and two quarterback hurries. His senior year was much better than his junior year and was actually very similar to his sophomore year in 2012. Dickson finished 2014 with 42 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, nine sacks, two passes broken up, and ten quarterback hurries. Dickson is considered a tweener and many believe that he will struggle in the NFL, but his sophomore and senior year proved that if he is given an opportunity to play, he will produce solid numbers. Dickson was the victim of playing for Alabama, a school that lands the top recruits every year but occasionally makes the mistake of sitting productive upperclassmen. If Dickson has any ability, the Patriots will find it.

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