Could Derrick Henry slip to the Patriots at No. 60? (Matt Kartozian/USA Today Sports)
The first round of the 2016 NFL draft is in the books and now there are only 28 picks until the Patriots finally get their turn as they didn’t have a first-round selection because of Deflategate. The first round saw a good amount of offensive lineman go early, but perhaps not as many defensive tackles as projected, which may help the Patriots when they are on the clock at pick No. 60.
There is always the chance the Patriots trade up in the second round, but as it stands now, expect the team to stay put at No. 60 and then pick immediately following that with pick No. 61.
Here are 10 players (in no particular order) the Patriots could select with their two second-round picks Friday night:
Jonathan Bullard, defensive line, Florida — It seems hard to see Bullard falling all the way down to No. 60, but if he’s available it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Patriots take him. The defensive lineman has been connected with the Patriots as they were at his pro day and then worked him out privately. The fit only seems natural for another Florida defensive lineman to replace another, as the Patriots are looking to replace Dominique Easley, who they released earlier this month.
Jason Spriggs, offensive tackle, Indiana — Spriggs is another player that it seems unlikely will be available, but if he’s still around it would be a no-brainer for the Patriots as he had a very solid college career. From this viewpoint, offensive tackle isn’t as big of a need as some think, but with Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer not getting any younger, it isn’t too early to start thinking about their replacements. The past few years have been focused on the interior line through the draft, so if the Indiana product is still on the board, New England could come calling.
Emmanuel Ogbah, defensive end, Oklahoma State — Ogbah seems like the perfect Patriots defensive end, hybrid-type player — similar to Rob Ninkovich and Jabaal Sheard. He was the AP’s Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year led the conference in sacks and tackles for loss and set a school record with 19 quarterback hurries. With Ninkovich on the back-nine of his career and Sheard being a free agent after this season, the team should be looking for their replacements and Ogbah could be that player. He was also born in Nigeria, which also adds to his intrigue for Bill Belichick.
Derrick Henry, running back, Alabama — With only one running back going in the first round, it doesn’t seem likely Henry will be available when it is the Patriots’ turn, but if he is, it would not be a surprise to see New England select him. Any time a Heisman Trophy winner is still around late in the second round, it’s hard to pass up the chance to take him. Belichick also is very close to Alabama coach Nick Saban, so he may have more information on Henry than anyone. He would also be a good complement to Dion Lewis, as Henry is more of a power back and Lewis prefers the outside and catching passes out of the backfield.
Chris Jones, defensive line, Mississippi State — The Patriots just lost a defensive lineman named Chris Jones on waivers to the Dolphins, so why not replace him with a player with the exact same name. Jones could be one of the talented defensive linemen who slip into the Patriots’ hands at No. 60. He declared after his junior season, finishing his career with 102 total tackles, including 18 for a loss and eight sacks. He confirmed at the combine he had met with the Patriots.
Sterling Shepard, wide receiver, Oklahoma — At the combine, many compared Shepard to Julian Edelman. If he were to be drafted by New England, he would be viewed as a potential Edelman or Danny Amendola replacement. He stands 5-foot-10, 193 pounds and ran a 4.5-second 40-time at the combine. In his senior year at Oklahoma, he caught 86 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Patriots may like Tyler Boyd more than Shepard, but if Boyd is gone and they want to select a receiver, Shepard wouldn’t be a bad option.
Kentrell Brothers, linebacker, Missouri — Brothers could be gone by the time the Patriots select at No. 60, but he would be a nice addition to the defense. The linebacker led the nation in tackles in 2015 and spoke highly of the Patriots at the combine. “What I love about the Patriots is they don’t take any B.S.,” Brothers said. “You need to be able to act well. You can’t be getting in trouble and stuff like that. When I do watch film, I do watch the Patriots and they have two physical linebackers in the middle. Their defense in general is physical. I wouldn’t mind playing for them at all. They have a great scheme.”
Justin Simmons, safety, Boston College — The Boston College product has seen his stock rise possibly more than any other player in the entire draft because of his numbers at the combine, which showed his athleticism. Simmons does have some connections to the Patriots as the team brought him into Gillette Stadium for a work out two weeks ago. The team will likely see Duron Harmon depart via free agency after this year seeking a full-time gig and this could be the perfect fit for Simmons, who projects to be a solid man-to-man safety. He could still be around in the third round, but if the Patriots really like him, they could take him in the second round to make sure he doesn’t get away.
Kenneth Dixon, running back, Louisiana Tech — Dixon is a bit of a wild card and it comes down to just how much the Patriots like him. He’s very similar to Lewis as he is just two inches and 15 pounds heavier. Dixon was only one of three running backs at the combine to register a three-cone time under seven seconds with a 6.97 mark. The biggest knock against Dixon is he fumbled 13 times in college, which seems too much for a New England back. If the Patriots feel like they need to select a running back high in the draft, then Dixon might be a decent pick, but otherwise they may opt to pass on him.
Braxton Miller, wide receiver, Ohio State — Miller is one of the more intriguing prospects in the entire draft, as not many people know exactly what he will be as a receiver. It’s also hard to predict where he will go in the draft even at this point given his athletic ability. Belichick’s connection with Urban Meyer could help him decide whether or not Miller is worth a pick if he’s available late in the second round because if he’s still on the board early in the third, it would seem another team would be willing to take a chance on him.