In what will undoubtedly go down as “The Deflategate Draft,” the Patriots, without a first round pick thanks to Roger Goodell’s questionable tactics, spent Thursday night on the sidelines assessing what they would do in the later rounds. In total, New England left Chicago with a 2016 draft class that includes one defensive back, two offensive linemen, one quarterback, two linebackers, one wide receiver, and one defensive tackle:
Cyrus Jones, CB, Alabama
I’m almost positive that Bill Belichick spent hours talking to Nick Saban about Cyrus Jones before he decided to select him with the 60th pick in the second round. Belichick and Saban have been friends for years and are cut from the same cloth in regard to how they view the game and how they build their teams.
Looking at Jones, I think he has the potential to be the defensive back of the future and someone who can replace the versatile, but quickly aging Devin McCourty. While he wasn’t the strongest defensive back in the draft, Jones’ speed and quickness (Jones had the best time in the 3-cone drill) is something that Belichick can work with in the coming years. Also, it helps that Jones can return kicks as the Patriots ran into this problem in Denver last season when back-up Chris Harper muffed a punt that cost the Patriots the game and potentially the season.
Joe Thuney, G, North Carolina State
The AFC Championship game is clearly still stuck in the brains of many members of the Patriots organization. The Patriots did not have quality depth on the offensive line. The Patriots did not even have serviceable depth on the offensive line. Reports on Thuney is that he is “more concerned with production than appearance.” That screams Patriots and the Patriot Way.
Joe Thuney proves to be a versatile lineman who offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia will work with to become someone Belichick can plug into any position on the front-five if injuries start to dismantle the offensive line again this year. Look for Thuney to start the year on the bench, but don’t be surprised to see his name called mid-season when guys start going down.
Jacoby Brissett, QB, North Carolina State
Jacoby Brissett is a name that will be found in newspaper articles and mentioned on the sports talk airwaves around Boston for much of the upcoming season as Tom Brady’s 4-game suspension looms.
Former Patriots head coach and Hall of Famer Bill Parcells called Brissett “a Curtis Martin, Willie McGinest, Troy Brown type player” in an interview with the Boston Herald. He went on to compare Brissett’s personal life to the aforementioned players as well as former Patriot captain Tedy Bruschi. That’s some great company.
Reports claim that Brissett is definitely a project, but who knows how quickly that project will progress if Jimmy Garoppolo tosses three interceptions in the first quarter on opening night in Phoenix.
Vincent Valentine, DT, Nebraska
After cutting Dominique Easley only two years after drafting him in the first round, the Patriots needed to add some defensive tackle depth. New England signed the 355-pound Terrance “Pot Roast” Knighton in free agency and also took Valentine in the third round of the draft. Knighton looks to fit right into a starting role, as Valentine learns the system.
Malcolm Mitchell, WR, Georgia
Malcolm Mitchell is the quintessential Patriots player. His story is heart-warming and inspirational. He is someone you want to see succeed. He is someone who is dedicated to giving back to the community and helping disadvantaged children. He was a highly touted recruit coming out of high school and a big name on Georgia’s campus. His character is unmatched.
His playmaking ability is quite a spectacle too as the Patriots can use his downfield speed to mix up their already potent offense. Patriots fans should be rooting for this guy.
Finals week, a Celtics season-ending loss, Red Sox-Yankees weekend series, Senior Week events. Life comes at you fast, so I didn’t have the time to look into many of these other guys, especially since most of them (going off Belichick’s tendencies) won’t even make the team. So here’s Mike Reiss’ assessment for your reading and viewing pleasure.