By the end of the 2013 season, the Patriots roster looked more like the Bride’s kill list from Kill Bill. The Patriots ended the year with four pro bowlers on injured reserve. And with the NFL draft looming, the health of those returning plays may predict who the Patriots pick with the 29th selection.
Wilfork tore his achilles in Week Four and looks to be ready to go by regular season. But with Wilfork’s weight and age (33 in November) can the Patriots depend on his achilles? It’s clear that the Patriots want Wilfork, but are unsure what his 2014 production will be, which lead to a complicated contract. Wilfork’s reconstructed deal relies heavily on health and production and overall defense. Not to mention, Wilfork has a 4 million dollar roster bonus at the beginning of 2015 season, which makes many believe this could be Wilfork’s last year as Patriot. If so, here are some replacements that can be avaliable at the 29th pick.
Timmy Jernigan 6-1 299 pounds.
Pros: Light on his feet and has played multiple positions on the line. He was one of the defensive leaders for the Seminoles and finished the 2013 season with 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. The Patriots love players who can play different positions and Jernigan can be a steal at 29.
Cons: Jernigan’s conditioning has been question many times. He has the ability to take over games, but at times he disappears. This is a trait that Patriots have learned to avoid.
Ra’Shede Hageman 6-5 310 pounds
Pros: Ra’Shede is a big boy who is the closest to Wilforks body type. He has high potential and long arms. He was voted Team MVP and finished last year with 13 tackles for loss and two sacks and two blocked field goals. A year or two under Wilfork can really help Ra’Shede reach his immense potential.
Cons: Ra’Shede is seen as a project to many general managers which might deter the Patriots from investing the 29th pick for a player who is too inconsistent.
The Derrick Rose of the NFL. Undeniable talent, and undeniable risk for injury. The Patriots have learned to play without Gronk, but with him healthy the offense is nearly unstoppable. When Gronkowski returned from the PUP list the Patriots points per game jumped from 21 to 33, and their red zone touchdown efficiency went from 41 to 68 percent. With Gronk’s history of injury and recovering from a torn ACL and Aaron Hernandez’s history of...nevermind it wouldn’t be a surprise if New England selects a Tight End with the 29th pick.
Eric Ebron - 6-4 250 pounds
Pros: If Ebron is close to the 29th pick I can see the Patriots making a big jump for him. He is giant and runs with gliding grace. Quick acceleration with a giant catching radius. With his hands and agility he can easily line up as wide receiver and considering the lack of height in the Patriots receiving core he would be a welcomed addition.
Cons: The Patriots love tight ends who can block and Ebron’s blocking skills are untested. He is not the sharpest route runner and doesn’t play as physical as his size indicates. However, the idea of Gronk and Ebron can make those cons disappear.
Jace Amaro - 6-5 265 pounds
Pros: A massive fluid athlete that attacks the ball in the air. He’s a strong route runner who does damage after the catch. Often lined up in the slot in college, could help New England with size in the receiving core.
Cons: Even with his massive frame, Amaro lacks the muscle definition of an NFL player. He has issues with drops and getting knocked off his route. Amaro struggled with blocking and holding penalties. Amaro has also had some character issues. In Texas Tech’s 2012 Bowl Game he was ejected for punching an opponent. While later in that year, he was arrested for credit card fraud. The Patriots might not want to roll the dice on a tight end with character issues.