ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay got us thinking about the future by posting his first 2014 mock draft today. His pick for the Patriots is Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard, the cousin of Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard.
A few thoughts:
1. Cornerback position always good to have well-stocked. No. 1 corner Aqib Talib is scheduled for unrestricted free agency and there is no guarantee he'll be back. Alfonzo Dennard, Kyle Arrington and Logan Ryan -- Nos. 2-3-4 on the depth chart -- are under contract. As coach Bill Belichick once said, a team can never have enough corners. McShay nailed the pick of Chandler Jones for the Patriots in 2012, so we'll circle Dennard this year as a player on the radar.
2. Looking for more big bodies. If all things were equal, it makes sense to think the Patriots would like to bolster the line of scrimmage, particularly on defense. So I looked closer at McShay's mock for players with physical traits that might appeal to New England, and Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix III qualified. Sounds like McShay has doubts he'd be around later in the first round. Didn't see a lot of big-bodied linemen in McShay's mock. Meanwhile, along the offensive line, it looks like a surplus at tackle, which wouldn't be a top need if Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer are healthy and back in the mix.
3. Mallett against the top QBs. McShay's initial projection has four quarterbacks going within the first six picks, which sparked this thought: How does Patriots backup Ryan Mallett compare with those prospects? None of the prospects appear to be in the "Andrew Luck-sure thing" category. So thinking along the lines of personnel decision-makers of those teams, a case could be made to trade a draft pick (second or third-rounder) for someone like Mallett or Washington's Kirk Cousins and build that way. Mallett enters the final year of his contract and the possibility of a trade market for him -- which at this point is pure media speculation -- will be something to monitor. Had Mallett lit things up in the 2013 preseason, it would be easier to be more decisive with this thought.