Mock Party Friday: Who will Patriots pick?

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Mock Party Friday: Who will Patriots pick?

Here are some of my favorite folks on who the Patriots will pick in the NFL Draft. Spoiler alert: People like UConn's Kendall Reyes. I won't tell you who the Patriots are drafting until later in the month.

On to the mocking. (We'll be updating this frequently between now and April 26.)

Evan Silva at Pro Football Talk

27. Michael Brockers, DT, LSUBrockers cant rush the passer, but has a bright future as a five-technique, 3-4 end.

31. Brian Quick, WR, Appalachian State.
Flying under the radar, Quick has tools to develop into a future No. 1 receiver.

Updated: 322

Wes Bunting, National Football Post
27. Devon Still, DT, Penn State.
He's not the most dynamic of pass rushers. However, he's a big, strong kid with a good get off, long set of arms and knows how to play the run. He's a potential anchor inside who can push the pocket and give the Patriots a lot of 3-4, 4-3 flexibility.
31. Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
New England has had to piece together their secondary this year, but in terms of talent they could certainly use an upgrade at a number of sports. Barron is a smart, instinctive safety with good ball skills, can play in the box and be effective bumping and running with tight ends underneath.

Updated: 44

Nolan Nawrocki, Pro Football Weekly
27. Kendall Reyes, DEDT, UConn
The Patriots are more than capable of stuffing the run with Vince Wilfork and Kyle Love, but they could benefit from more interior penetration, and Reyes has the traits and makeup to appeal to a coaching staff that is one of the best in the league in developing talent.
31. Stephen Hill, WR, Georgia Tech
Offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels took a shot on Demaryius Thomas in Denver, and with Chad Ochocinco failing to grasp the offense, the team is still in need of a legitimate vertical threat.

Updated: 326

Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
27. Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse.
Jones makes his initial appearance of the year in our first round, but he looks to be the kind of versatile talent who can play multiple spots on the Patriots defensive line. His best spot is probably as a five-technique defensive end in a 3-4 front, the formation that's expected to return to prominence in Foxboro this season.
31. Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn
It'd be just like the Patriots to deal out of this slot and turn it into future draft capital, but Reyes would be another versatile prospect who can handle more than one role in New England's defensive front.

Updated: 44

Rob Rang, NFLDraftScout.com

27. Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford.

The Patriots are in good position to handle the expected retirement of Pro Bowler Matt Light at left tackle because they drafted his likely replacement -- Nate Solder -- in the first round a year ago. Martin, who protected Andrew Luck's blindside his entire career, may lack the athleticism to remain at left tackle in the NFL but could switch sides and handle the heavy pass-blocking responsibilities that would come in blocking for the Patriots.

31. Nick Perry DE, USC
Some teams are hesitant to grade Perry as a first-round prospect due to the fact that he elected to leave USC after just one highly productive season. He led the Pac-12 with 9.5 sacks in a breakout junior campaign. There are scouts who do believe he's just scratching the surface of his potential and others who like him best as a defensive end rather than an outside linebacker in the 3-4. For Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Perry would likely be asked to play both positions.

Updated: 44

Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football.com

27. Courtney Upshaw, DEOLB, AlabamaIt's tough to figure out Courtney Upshaw. He's too short to be a 4-3 defensive end, and he can't cover well enough to be a 3-4 outside linebacker. As I mentioned before, I think he'll fall on Draft Day.

Maybe Bill Belichick will know what to do with him, as Upshaw projects as a good scheme fit in New England. He has the same frame as Adalius Thomas, whom the Patriots gave a big contract to once upon a time.
31. Devon Still, DEDT, Penn State.
Here's one of many front-seven upgrades the Patriots will need to make. With Albert Haynesworth gone, they need to address the front line. Devon Still could go as high as No. 15, so the Patriots are getting great value with this selection.

Updated: 44

Russ Lande, Sporting News
27. Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama
The Patriots' defense needs an infusion of young talent and Upshaw is the strong, physical outside linebacker who fits their scheme.
31. Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
The Patriots continue adding talent to their defense by drafting the powerful, versatile Worthy, who could line up all across their line.

Updated: 45

Mel Kiper, ESPN.com
27. Shea McClellin, OLB, Boise State

31. Derek Wolfe, DL, Cincinnati

Updated: 46

Todd McShay, ESPN.com
27. Chandler Jones, Syracuse DEOLB

31. Kendall Reyes, DEDT, UConn

Updated: 46

Ourlads
27. Mark Barron, SS, Alabama
Barron is a big time run enforcer. All opposing wide receivers know where hes at when going across the middle. Sudden to get downhill when supporting the run. Good instincts to read and react quickly. Did not workout at the Combine due to double hernia surgery.
31. Kendall Reyes, DEDT, UConn
Reyes is a big athletic defensive lineman. OLB Zach Brown is also a consideration. As is Peter Konz a OCOG Also a trade down is a real possibility.

Updated: 43

Pat Kirwan, CBS Sports, SIRIUS NFL
27. Kendall Reyes, DEDT, UConn
As usual the Patriots have a lot of early picks. This is the first of four in the top 62. Reyes had a very good Senior Bowl and followed that up with impressive measurables. The Patriots need playmakers in the defensive line and Reyes is that kind of player. His quickness next to the bulk of Vince Wilfork will be a nice combination. Second round No. 48 -- Shea McClellan, OLB Boise State, No. 62 Antonio Allen, S South Carolina
31. Trade with Ravens for RFA CB LaDarius Webb

Updated: 43

NE Patriots Draft.com

13. (Acquired in trade with Arizona) Fletcher Cox, DL, Mississippi State
In exchange for picks 27 and 31, the Patriots receive this pick plus a 5th round selection from the Cardinals. A true junior, Cox is just scratching the surface of what he can do with his massive body and elite athleticism. The Patriots need some youth and talent on the defensive line and Cox is a guy that could play multiple positions for them.

Updated: 42

Brian Baldinger, NFL Network

27. Chandler Jones, DE Syracuse

The Pats lost 20 sacks from last season with the departures of Andre Carter and Mark Anderson. Jones is a rare athlete who can get after the QB.

31. Janoris Jenkins, CB North Alabama

His pure talent is too good to pass up at this point in the first round. He will learn the Patriot way and hopefully straighten out red-flag issues.

Updated: 44

Peter Schrager, Fox Sports

27. Zach Brown, LB North Carolina

I may be in the minority on this one, but I think Zach Brown is a first-round pick. Pop in the Wake Forest game, Patriots fans. Youll see a guy who goes sideline to sideline, is in on every play and can intercept the pass. Hes capable of playing LB in a 3-4 or a 4-3, and gets to the quarterback. Hes the type of versatile guy the Patriots could use in multiple schemes.

31. Kendall Reyes, DT

Reyes draft stock is rising after a strong combine performance and a solid pro day. Reyes won UConn's MVP and defensive player of the year awards for his play in 2011, when he accumulated 46 tackles, including 13.5 for loss. Hed make for a nice addition to an already solid defensive line.

Updated: 44

Curran: Outcome expected, Patriots can still build off win vs. Rams

Curran: Outcome expected, Patriots can still build off win vs. Rams

FOXBORO – So they did precisely what they were supposed to do. Poleaxed a bad team that had come cross-country to get its whipping and then return home.

It’s hard to downgrade the Patriots for that. Not this time. Even though they were facing a rookie quarterback making his third NFL start in Jared Goff, even though the Rams were without wide receiver Tavon Austin, the net the Patriots threw over the Rams offense was so stifling that those qualifiers don’t count.

The Rams went 1-for-9 on third down. They were 0-for-8 before the late conversion. They didn’t get over 100 total yards until their final drive of the game and that required a breakdown by Malcolm Butler on Kenny Britt. Britt, the Rams best offensive player this season, hadn’t had a catch before that.

So what if the Patriots used the Rams as their step stool to get to the next rung? So what if they were supposed to do exactly that? They’d had other matchups this season when they hadn’t choked out lesser opponents. This time they did.

And some of the players who figured prominently are precisely some of the players who’ve had their struggles.

Jabaal Sheard, benched two weeks ago, forced a pick and three passes defensed. Logan Ryan, who’s seen his role change and playing time dwindle, had a sack on a corner blitz and had two quarterback hits to go with five tackles. Kyle Van Noy, still fitting into the defense, had a pick, a pass defensed and four tackles. Alan Branch, who hasn’t struggled but had an NFL suspension hanging over his head until the league rescinded it Saturday, was his normal nuisance up front. Chris Long and Shea McClellin, both new to the team this year, had sacks.

“That happens around here,” explained Dont'a Hightower. “The next-man-up mentality has been here for a few years. Guys don’t play early then later in the season, they get right whatever it was that wasn’t right and they come back and we play well. It’s about us playing together.”

Hightower has steadily proclaimed that the defense has the talent and self-belief necessary to get where it needs to be on a consistent basis.  

“I feel like every week should be like this regardless of who we’re playing,” he said. “We had a great week of practice. Everyone was all in the same mindset, the same focus. (Defensive coordinator Matty Patricia) again did a great job of calling the game, mixing it up. We just went out there and executed.”

As the Patriots head into the final four games of their schedule, the caliber of their competition will rise. The next opponent, Baltimore, has won four of five including a 38-6 demolition of the Dolphins on Sunday.

The Broncos are up after the Ravens and that game will be in Denver, never an easy spot for the Patriots to say the least.

The Patriots close at home with the always-annoying Jets and then have to go to South Florida to play Miami in the New Year’s Day finale.  

“We’re just one week at a time,” said Ryan. “You can’t break this season off a couple weeks. Next week, we see what Baltimore [Ravens] just did, they’re a real good team. We know how that’s been in the past so it should be a nice game, a competitive game, competitive atmosphere. We’re just one week at a time, we’re happy we got this game and we’re on to the next one.”

It’s hard to point to this game and say, “All’s fixed.”

It was the outcome expected and there was no letdown. Part of the process.

“It’s December, time to play our best football,” said Devin McCourty. "We’ve been at it for a while now dating back to the beginning of training camp. Things we’ve talked about working on and things we’ve talked about improving, it’s time to start improving on those things and getting them done. Bill [Belichick] said it over and over that who we play each week is not going to matter if we don’t come and fix the things we need to fix and play the way we need to play. I think the whole team understands that and it starts with him, but [also] us echoing it as captains and as leaders. Today I think showed that when we do those things, we go out there and play well.”

The principals in this win – players like Sheard and Ryan – signaled that concerns over buy-in and locker room fissures appearing after playing time was shifted and personnel was shipped out were probably unfounded.

It’s a tough place to play because performance matters and there’s not a lot of, “That’s ok, you’ll get ‘em next time…” with this coaching staff.

It’s mentally challenging.

“That might be an understatement,” laughed Hightower. “But that’s part of the process, that’s part of the Patriot way and we try to adapt to it.”

Branch carries on with productive season after suspension is overturned

Branch carries on with productive season after suspension is overturned

FOXBORO – The first snap of the game for the Los Angeles Rams offense was an inside handoff to running back Todd Gurley. He was summarily stuffed by Patriots defensive lineman Alan Branch for a 1-yard loss.

It was happenstance, of course, that the Rams chose to run right at Branch. But it was no coincidence that the Branch was there to envelop Gurley like an upright sofa. The 6-foot-6, 350-pound, 31-year-old has been doing that all season. And on Saturday, word broke that he will be able to continue doing so, uninterrupted by NFL discipline.

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

Branch, who was set to be suspended by the NFL for testing positive for marijuana, had his suspension rescinded by the league. The league did so without hearing the appeal Branch filed. Apparently, they decided they just got it wrong. The Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe reports that the traces of marijuana in Branch’s system were from a previously failed test and did not constitute a separate incident.

It’s been a strange season for Branch, a quirky, goofy, good-natured guy who dances during practices, stretching, on the sidelines and in between plays more than any other Patriot. That’s if any other Patriot actually dances. Branch was suspended by the team for a week during training camp. Reason unknown.

Regardless, his play’s been very good.

“This has definitely been the most productive year I’ve had so far,” he said. “Is it my best? When it comes to numbers it probably would be but there’s a lot of plays and a lot of games I could have done better. I’m kinda my own worst critic.”

Why has he been so productive?

“It’s a good defense for me,” he explained. “The playcalls and way we play goes to my strength to allow me to make plays and I’m making them.”

Branch has 40 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble this season. He had just that lone tackle on the stat sheet on Sunday, but he was a factor even if the stats don’t say so. During one first-half rush, Branch worked upfield with a bull rush, then spun back to his right to get in the face of Rams quarterback Jared Goff, forcing an incompletion.  

“That’s all reaction,” said Branch. “That was a hard day’s work on that play because I kept reacting and reacting and then I was right there. I just get out there and try to cause some ruckus.”

Meanwhile, the would-be suspension caused a ruckus for Branch prior to Saturday.

“I was upset because I knew I didn’t do anything wrong,” he said. “Having my name out there for my family and friends and my kids family and friends to see, you never want to have that on you. But I just wanted to go out there and take it one day at a time and play my best ball because I felt pretty confident that I was going to win the appeal or whatever was going to happen. I expected it because I didn’t see how it could go any other way when I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Asked if the league reached out to apologize for getting it wrong, Branch said, “I haven’t gotten anything yet. I haven’t read any emails yet, I haven’t opened my emails.”

Asked if he cares to hear an apology, Branch said, “I do care. I don’t know if it’s an apology or what (that he’s seeking) but the position I was put in was something else.”