Rating the Patriots Rookies
For the first time since 2009, New England did not make a first round selection. Last year, the team took Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower in the first round. Tavon Wilson, taken in the second round with the 48th pick overall, was selected before the Patriots first pick this year, Jamie Collins (52nd overall).
Entering their rookie years, Jones and Hightower were expected to contribute to the team immediately. Both players delivered on that promise and become full-time starters.
This year’s class looks like it will be a little different. Many of the players selected project to be further down the depth chart. There isn’t as much expected from this group due to the majority of starters returning. Let’s take a look at the projected roles of all the drafted players.
Jamie Collins - LB - Second round, 52nd overall
One of the biggest needs for the Patriots was a speedy linebacker who could cover well, especially on third down. Collins might be able to provide that to the team. While not a polished player, Collins is athletic and should be able to contribute on special teams right away. The team probably envisions him playing on passing downs next to Mayo in the nickel package. While Collins is versatile, having lined up as defensive end, linebacker, and safety in his career, the Patriots will keep him at linebacker for now.
Aaron Dobson - WR - Second round, 59th overall
The 6-foot-3-inch Dobson is a speedy, athletic, field-stretcher who could see the most time of any of the Patriots rookies. With the wide receiver group completely revamped this offseason, Dobson will have every opportunity to earn the other starting job opposite Danny Amendola. If he can get on the same page with Brady, Dobson could open the field up in the middle for Amendola, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez.
Logan Ryan - CB - Third round, 83rd overall
A solid corner, Ryan will most likely see a lot of time on special teams early in his career. Ryan, in a best-case scenario, is the teams fourth cornerback, behind Aqib Talib, Alfonzo Dennard, and Kyle Arrington. Ras-I Dowling and Marquice Cole will also compete with Ryan for that fourth spot. Ryan does have the makeup to be an ideal slot-corner, so he could potentially be Arrington’s pure backup and/or eventual replacement.
Duron Harmon - S - Third round, 91st overall
The head-scratcher of the draft class, Harmon’s role is a bit of an unknown at this point. According to Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston, the Patriots had a trade offer for the 91st pick but decided to take Harmon instead. Either the offer wasn’t very good, or the Patriots really like Harmon. With Devin McCourty locked down in one safety spot, Harmon could battle with Steve Gregory, Adrian Wilson, and Tavon Wilson for the other spot. Look for Harmon to contribute on special teams as he has the flexibility to play on all four special teams.
Josh Boyce - WR - Fourth round, 102nd overall
The Patriots decided to double-dip at receiver, making Boyce their second receiver taken. Boyce’s physical makeup is very similar to Emmanuel Sanders, who the Patriots signed an offer sheet to before the Pittsburgh Steelers matched it. Boyce is an ideal number three receiver as he could effectively lineup in the slot or on the outside. Look for him to primarily battle with free-agent pickup Donald Jones for the third receiver spot.
Michael Buchanan - DE - Seventh round, 226th overall
In today’s NFL, you can never have enough pass-rushers. Buchanan is a strong, fast guy that could be similar to Justin Francis. He’ll have an uphill battle making the roster, so look for him to start out on the practice squad with a possible late-season call-up in the case of injury.
Steve Beauharnais - LB - Seventh round, 235th overall
Beauharnais is another speedy linebacker who could earn a spot on the 53-man roster. The Patriots clearly want to upgrade their pass coverage in the middle of the field, and Beauharnais could help in that area. If he can contribute on special teams, he could find his way onto the roster over Buchanan and any undrafted rookie free-agents.
Many of the Patriot rookies will have to contribute on special teams in their first year. If they can’t, look for them to either be inactive or on the practice squad. A lot of the players have an upside, but it would be a surprise if any of them are major contributors in their rookie year.