FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots rounded out the NFL draft by making five selections in rounds four through seven on Saturday.
With their first pick of the day, Bill Belichick and company took Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell at 112 overall. An elite high school cornerback before coming to Georigia, Mitchell played well in 2012 before missing all of 2013 due to a torn ACL in the season opener. He returned to put up big numbers in 2014 and 2015. He had 174 catches overall at Georgia for 2350 yards and 16 touchdowns. He has the potential to be a legitimate second option in the Patriots’ offense behind Julian Edelman. He has good size to play outside at 6’0” and 198 pounds, but also can play inside.
“It’s exciting, an opportunity that you would pray and hope for,” Mitchell said. “For me to get that opportunity I am truly thankful. I thank the organization for believing in me and it’s my job to come up there and work as hard as I can to show that they made a good decision.”
He also doesn’t have any concerns learning the Patriots complex offense, noting a pre-draft meeting with the Patriots that helped both sides get comfortable.
“To be completely honest, I’m pretty confident in my ability to learn. I took a visit with the Patriots, we went over several different things to see if I would be a good fit for the system so for them to pick me up, I know that they have confidence in me to learn what I need to learn and make that adjustment.”
After trades with both the Dolphins and Seahawks, the Patriots next picked at 208th overall in the sixth round. With that selection, they took Kamu Grugier-Hill out of Eastern Illinois. The linebacker stands at 6’2” and 210 pounds. He had an impressive pro day, running a 4.45 40-yard dash. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Grugier-Hill got his shot with Eastern Illinois and established himself as a potential hybrid safety/ linebacker, which are increasing in NFL popularity. He missed the final two regular season games due to injury but returned for the team’s FCS playoff game. Grugier-Hill was also named a 1st Team All-Ohio Valley Conference player in 2014 and 2015. He had 6.5 sacks in 2015.
Six picks later, the Patriots took Houston linebacker Elandon Roberts out at 214th overall. Roberts was a playmaker for Houston in 2015, totaling 19 tackles for loss and six sacks. His 88 solo tackles in 2015 were the most in all of FBS. Standing at 6’0” and 235 pounds, Roberts was lauded for his work ethic and leadership by both his coaches and teammates. He does have trouble at times with his speed or change of direction, which will require improvement in the NFL. According to NFL.com, Roberts has already begun work on those areas prior to the draft.
Bill Belichick spoke after the draft and praised Roberts college production.
“He’s very instinctive, very productive, around the ball (in college). We’ll see how he translates to our level.
A busy sixth round concluded with New England selecting Illinois guard Ted Karras at 221 overall. Karras started all 12 games for Illinois in 2015. He’s a big guard at 6’3” and 307 pounds. He has had four family members play in the NFL and seven play in the Big Ten. He did 32 reps on the bench press at the combine and uses that strength to push defenders back in the run game and hold his own while pass blocking. He is also a disciplined player, being flagged only twice in the last two seasons.
Their final pick of the draft was another wide receiver: Devin Lucien out of Arizona State. Lucien was named at a “top sleeper” by Pro Football Focus after piling up 1,074 yards and eight touchdowns in his only season with Arizona State. Prior to playing there, he spent time at UCLA before transferring. He never put up great numbers at UCLA, but broke-out when given the chance at Arizona State. He’s 6’2” and 194 pounds. Lucien also only dropped three passes in 2015, despite being targeted 98 times and gained 365 of his receiving yards after the catch in 2015, according to PFF. He will have to battle for a roster spot in training camp, but has a real shot to make the team.
Saturday saw the Patriots add five players, all of which have a chance to make the team. They did not address offensive tackle or running back, two areas that were thought to be in need prior to the draft. Lucien is the wild card, if he replicates what he did late in the season for Arizona State, he could prove to be very valuable in New England. Roberts could also provide some splash, but the level of competition he faced at Houston was not as consistently high as players from other schools.
Overall, Belichick was pleased with the draft haul.
“I’m looking forward to working with them,” he said, before later adding “They don’t know what they’re getting into.”