By Levan Reid, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — Trying to get Patriots fans ready for this year’s draft is sort of a difficult process. The Pats never pick traditionally, and then when they do pick, pretty much everyone says they made the right move.
But after taking in the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis back in February and March, I’ll give it a whirl.
– Looking at the Patriots, they’ve lost Chandler Jones, Chris Long, Jabaal Sheard and Jamie Collins over the last couple of seasons. I love Rob Ninkovich, but the wear and tear of the NFL is starting to catch up with him. I expect the Pats to focus on defensive ends and linebackers in this draft.
If Alabama outside linebacker Tim Williams is available late, the Pats could take a flyer on him. He’s smart player who already plays the techniques that they are looking for. I’ll also mention Zach Cunningham, a linebacker out of Vanderbilt projected to go in the first two rounds. He’s not a big name but there’s very strong potential.
Although they acquired Dwayne Allen this offseason, don’t be surprised if New England grabs a tight end in the later rounds. Michigan tight end Jake Butt is a big, strong and fast tight end who was probably going to go on the first day until he hurt his knee in the Wolverine’s Bowl game. If he falls to Saturday, the Pats may move up to get him. He’d be a perfect Patriots pick.
– So will the Pats make any of those “scratch your head” picks? I don’t see it happening, but it would create buzz if they drafted a placekicker. I know they love Stephen Gostkowski, but he had a tough year in 2016. It would be one of those moves that would really put a lot of pressure on Gostkowski to perform in the preseason.
If they go after another quarterback, the Jimmy Garoppolo trade talks will heat up once again. All reports say they’re keeping Jimmy G., but we’ll see what happens this weekend.
– Myles Garrett was the definite winner at the Combine. The Texas A&M defensive end is big and strong. Then when you add his 4.64 forty time, and you are looking at an impact player. He’s long, can get after the quarterback and he should be without question the top pick in the draft by the Cleveland Browns. Forget all that noise about him being lazy: He’s been a stud on the field, and played this past season with a knee injury.
– LSU running back Leonard Fournette was another winner at the Combine, and again at his pro day. He’s seriously a hammer of a back. It will be interesting to see how he performs behind an NFL offensive line.
– Overall, all the Alabama players I saw at the Combine are NFL ready. They are trained to excel in the 3-cone drill and they all understand how to take direction and execute. Nick Saban is building machines in Tuscaloosa. Not to mention, they all have this edge to them that many pro scouts and coaches love.
– It was interesting to see how much these college players understand the business of the game. That understanding is much greater than it has been in the past. They are all prepared to answer questions and, maybe because of the Pats and other teams, they are all so versatile. No one plays one position anymore.
– One thing everyone gets excited for is quarterbacks in the draft.
North Carolina’s Mitchell Trubisky seemed to be the one that everyone was falling in love with. I personally did not see it. He was 8-5 as a starter, and that shouldn’t make you the first quarterback taken. I keep hearing about his upside but I see no performance. The NFL isn’t going to wait; QB’s taken in the first round are expected to play. Trubisky is not ready.
Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson has lived on the college football big stage and excelled. He’s a National Champ and was the ACC Player of the Year. He will have to get used to a pro style offense but he’s worth that wait. Plus, football wasn’t his only task. He’s graduating with a degree in communication after three years.
– The local kid that everyone got a chance to see on display at the Combine was Obi Melifonwu, a safety out of Connecticut. This young man played at Grafton High School and he is a workout freak. He’s 6-foot-4, 225 pounds and he ran a 4.40 forty. He has a crazy broad jump and a serious vertical. Obi is a climber and he will not make it to the weekend; he’ll be on a team on Thursday or Friday.
– Finally, if you ever get to Indianapolis, please hit St. Elmo’s Steak House and try the shrimp cocktail. It’s the best I’ve ever had and it’s considered the best in the country. It’s always a surprise when I tell that to people. Then they go, try it and thank me. The cocktail sauce has fresh shaved horseradish and the burn is unreal. This is a fork and knife cocktail sauce where you cut each huge shrimp in half. YOU WILL LOVE IT.
Enjoy the draft folks!