Curran: The Draft According to Me

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Curran: The Draft According to Me

"So who the Patriots picking?"

It's an innocent question posed by people who know what I do for work. Same as me asking a CPA on April 12, "So, you kinda busy with taxes?"

In both instances, the person posing the question knows the answer.

My answer: "Man, hard to say. Tell me who's there and I'll tell you who they'll take."

The CPA's: "Taxes are due in three days, what do you think, moron?"

It's with that in mind that I present to you my annual draft day treatise on what the Patriots should do and what they will do in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.

All rights to gloat if this particular blind squirrel finds a nut? Reserved.

No. 27
WILL DO
Last year, Bill Belichick raved about the front-seven talent in the draft, specifically the edge rushers. So I did everything but build a wooden altar to Cam Jordan and then the Patriots passed on him. This year, they don't pass, they take the edge rusher and his name is Shea McCellin from Boise State. Does it give me pause that Mike Mayock has the Patriots taking Nick Perry? Sure. And it gives me even more pause that Mike Lombardi has them taking Vinny Curry from Marshall. Any of the above will work. McClellin works best, though, and his smarts win out for a team that was burned by going for athleticism with Jermaine Cunningham in the second round two years ago.

SHOULD DO
I'm good with Shea McClellin as well. If, as Mayock says, this is a 10-year NFL starter Mayock will bang the table for, that's good enough for me.

No. 31

WILL DO
The Patriots trade back right here. They get a team in the 30s that's got an itchy trigger-finger to move up, the Patriots fall back to the spot in the 30s and take free safety Harrison Smith while adding a third in 2013.

SHOULD DO
It's too early for Harrison Smith who can be had by dealing back into the second round. It's probably too early for a wide receiver that the team has any reservations about as well. It's not too early to go safe on the offensive line, though, and 6-4, 314-pound Kevin Zeitler -- a guard from Wisconsin -- is the pick here. Kendall Reyes is also a recommendation here and that's even if they've taken McClellin.

No. 48
WILL DO
Having grabbed Smith and McClellin and still needing some late-draft picks so they aren't idle in Rounds 5-7, the Patriots trade again, dealing back and adding picks for Saturday. If they do not deal, look for them to take either Vinny Curry (Lombardi must know something) or watch out for a surprise pick with South Florida's Jeremiah Warren, a guardcenter.

SHOULD DO
Going by what they've done in the Draft According to Me, they've gotten a defensive end and an offensive lineman. Now it's time to get a young, strong, smart, productive wide receiver and that's Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers.

No. 62

WILL DO
Now we're deep into the Best Player Available portion of the program. There's good and varied depth at running back and wide receiver, though, and the Patriots are going to find the successor to BenJarvus Green-Ellis and grab Virginia Tech's David Wilson here because they are stunned -- stunned -- to see him still on the board.

SHOULD DOPatriots need to go Best Fatty Available here. Try and find the low-cost replacement to Vince Wilfork with a guy who's got some upside but question marks to conquer. Belichick loves to go risky in Round 2 and the pick in that case should be Alabama nose tackle Josh Chapman.

Patriots third-rounder Rivers takes winding road to Foxboro

Patriots third-rounder Rivers takes winding road to Foxboro

FOXBORO -- There was not much room for debate as far as this was concerned: Derek Rivers was among the most physically-impressive defensive ends in a draft class loaded at that position.

That begs the question, then, how did the Patriots have the opportunity to draft Rivers at No. 83 overall in the third round? 

The short answer is that he went to Youngstown State, an FCS school, and those players usually don't come off the board early.

But that answer only leads to more questions, as in, how did someone with the athleticism Rivers possesses end up at Youngstown in the first place? And why did he stay?

At 6-foot-4, 248 pounds Rivers was among the top defensive line performers at this year's combine. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.61 seconds, which was good for fourth at his position group. His 30 bench reps of 225 pounds were also fourth among defensive linemen, and tied him with Solomon Thomas (the No. 3 overall pick who weighed 273 pounds in Indy).

Rivers also checked in with the ninth-best broad jump for defensive linemen (123 inches), the fifth-best vertical (35 inches), and the third-best three-cone drill (6.94 seconds).

Those kinds of athletes don't typically end up at Youngstown State. They usually end up a couple hundred miles down the road in Columbus.

"Out of high school, I was a non-qualifier, so I didn’t get my SATs, and then I was just a late bloomer," said Rivers, who was 182 pounds near the end of his sophomore year in high school, according to Vindy.com. "I wasn’t very heavily recruited so I went to Fork Union [Military Academy] and then Youngstown came and they offered me. I was just ready to play ball."

Rivers may have been able to head to a bigger program after emerging for Youngstown as a sophomore with 14 sacks (fifth in FCS that year) and 17 tackles for a loss. But he stayed, and he continued to dominate. As a junior he had eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss. As a senior he had 14 sacks and a whopping 19.5 tackles for loss.

Feeling devoted to the program that gave him a chance, Rivers remained and had the opportunity to work under coach Bo Pelini for each of the last two seasons. 

Pelini, a former Nebraska head coach and former Patriots linebackers coach under Pete Carroll (1997-99), may have in a roundabout way helped Rivers land in New England. Pelini and Bill Belichick seem to have a good relationship -- Belichick is now coaching two of Pelini's former players in Vincent Valentine and Rex Burkhead -- and Belichick referenced the coaching Rivers received under Pelini as one of the reasons why Rivers is ready for the NFL. 

When asked about Pelini during his conference call with Patriots reporters, Rivers seemed to agree. 

"Bo was awesome, man. He was like another father to me as far as when he came to Youngstown," Rivers said. "I mean, he took our team to another level. Just the little things that he focused on as far as accountability, doing all the little things right. I mean, those were the things that Bo emphasized, and those were the things that Bo instilled in me."

Rivers added: "The first thing that Coach Bo said in his first meeting with us when he got to Youngstown was that he was like, ‘What you do off the field is going to reflect on how you play on the field.’

"I was a non-qualifier in high school. At Youngstown, I’m probably going to graduate with a 3.0, and it makes sense. If you’re lazy off the field, you’re going to be lazy on the field. If you miss assignments in class, you may miss assignments on the field, so they translate."

Even though even though he's not coming from Alabama or Florida State, even though he took a bit of a circuitous route to get there, in his first night with the team Rivers sure sounded like someone who's been on the fast track to Foxboro for years.

Belichick not concerned about competition level Rivers faced at Youngstown

Belichick not concerned about competition level Rivers faced at Youngstown

FOXBORO -- Derek Rivers dominated the FBS competition he went up against at Youngstown State, but Bill Belichick didn't seem overly concerned about the jump in competition the 6-foot-4, 248-pounder will face at the NFL level.

Taken with the No. 83 overall selection in the third round of the NFL Draft on Friday night, Rivers was a first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection each of the past three years. He recorded 14 sacks and 19.5 tackles for a loss last season for the Penguins.

After making two third-round selections on Friday -- the Patriots also took Troy offensive tackle Antonio Garcia -- Belichick told reporters that Rivers had success at this year's Senior Bowl, where he recorded one sack, one quarterback hit and one hurry in 14 pass-rush snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

PFF, which had exclusive access to Senior Bowl practice film, did not consider Rivers to be a standout performer during the week of one-on-ones at practices. His strong showing in the game, however, may have given him a bump in the eyes of league evaluators.

"[He] played competitively in the all-star games and in a good program there with Coach [Bo] Pelini, who we know very well," Belichick said of Rivers. "Bo does a great job with his players and his team. Derek’s been in a good system, has been well-coached. Even though he’s from a smaller school we’ll see what he can do for himself here, as well, when all is said and done."

Belichick added: "I mean he’s been in a good program. Coach Pelini has been an NFL coach, been a Division 1 head coach. They were in a championship game there at Youngstown. He does a great job. Visiting with Derek last week, or two weeks ago – whenever it was when he was in here – he’s obviously been in a good program. He’s been well-coached, and sure, it’s a big adjustment for him or anybody else moving to the National Football League. I think he’s been in a solid program. We’ll see how it goes."

Pelini was the head coach at Nebraska from 2008-14 and overlapped there with a handful of current and former Patriots, including Vincent Valentine, Rex Burkhead and Alfonzo Dennard.

The athleticism Rivers showed at this year's combine should also help him make the transition from FCS to the NFL. He was among the top defensive linemen in this year's class when it came to his results in the 40-yard dash (4.61 seconds), bench press (30 reps), vertical (35 inches) and three-cone (6.94 seconds).