ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. held a two-hour conference call on Wednesday, and here were some of the things we learned:
1. Defensive tackle depth is impressive. Asked about the defensive tackle position, Kiper called it “flat-out loaded” in this draft. He said it was solid even before underclassmen declared, and then the influx of some impressive underclassmen made it that much stronger. “You can find defensive tackles well into the draft process,” he said.
2. Sweet spot at receiver comes from second-to-fifth round. Unlike past years when there was a Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green near the top of the draft, Kiper doesn’t see an “obvious top 15 pick” at the receiver position. If there is one receiver who might sneak into that range, Kiper believes it’s Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson. Kiper views the position as strongest in the second-to-fifth round range (it could be a situation where just 2 or 3 go in the first round, then as many as 6 to 7 come off the board in the next two rounds). For those hoping the Patriots might target a bigger receiver at No. 29, Cal's Keenan Allen (6-3, 210) was a prospect who came up as a possible option. Kiper touched on how Allen is somewhat of a tough projection because of some shaky quarterback play at Cal.
3. Barkley & trading into late first-round dynamic. Kiper shared his opinion that Southern Cal quarterback Matt Barkley would have been the No. 4 overall pick last year, to the Browns, but now he’s more of a second-round projection. If Barkley tests well, Kiper believes he could go in the late first-round and noted the dynamic of teams sometimes trading into the back end of the first round to draft a quarterback. With the Patriots at No. 29, and with a history of dealing on draft day, this dynamic could potentially come into play. Overall, Kiper doesn't have high first-round marks on any quarterbacks, and that reinforces what Kiper is hearing from NFL teams as well.
4. Tight end class saved by junior class. Kiper viewed the tight end class as "awful" before underclassmen declared. When adding the underclassmen to the mix, it's become a "pretty good group." This isn't a major area of need for the Patriots, but given Bill Belichick's affinity for the position, it can't simply be overlooked.