It's become tradition. As we approach the draft, as we sift through all the various mock permutations dotting the internet, we put one mock in the hands of the people.
Fire up the mock-draft simulator. Log into Twitter. Post polls to give folks the opportunity to make picks on behalf of the Patriots. Trudge through all seven rounds. Spit out the results.
It's fun. It's an opportunity to familiarize ourselves with a boatload of prospects. And it gives us some perspective on how the fanbase -- a few thousand or so, at least -- hopes the Patriots will attack the draft next week.
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Here it is. "The People's Mock."
No. 24 overall: Dawand Jones, OT, Ohio State
New England Patriots
The people, believe it or not, voted to trade down from No. 14 overall based on the options available to them (Maryland corner Deonte Banks, Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid, Ohio State tackle Dawand Jones). Clearly, they've watched their share of Bill Belichick drafts. Now they're imitating him.
By moving down 10 slots, the Patriots pick up an extra second-rounder, and they still have a crack at one of the top tackles in the draft. Jones is a monster size-wise (6-foot-8, 374 pounds) and looks like an immediate starter at right tackle. Most fascinating thing about this pick? It highlights, to me, the dangers of trading down.
Boston College receiver Zay Flowers, Tennessee tackle Darnell Wright and Penn State Joey Porter were all gone between picks No. 14 and 24. With a trade down, the Patriots will want to be comfortable with the range of player available to them at their new slot. With fans playing the role of general manager, I'm not sure that happened here. Jones felt like a bit of a reach.
No. 46 overall: Darnell Washington, TE, Georgia
The people have a type, apparently! After getting the biggest tackle in the draft, they take the biggest tight end in the draft with their first second-rounder. Washington is a specimen. At 6-foot-7, 264 pounds, he somehow clocked a blazing 4.08-second short-shuttle time and a 4.64-second 40-yard dash. Mind-boggling numbers.
He'll block in the running game -- imagine the double-teams with Jones? -- and provide a gargantuan target as a receiver. Between the position Washington plays, his rare size, his eye-opening athleticism and the position he plays? Feels like a Belichickian pick.
No. 56 overall: Julius Brents, CB, Kansas State
Talk about Belichickian. A second-round corner with next-level quickness and one-of-a-kind physical traits? Brents has Cyrus Jones quicks and Joejuan Williams-ish size. Of course the Patriots and their fans will hope Brents ends up contributing more than either of those Patriots second-round corners.
At 6-foot-3, 198 pounds, Brents doesn't have blazing long speed. But he is explosive (41.5-inch vertical) and quick (6.63-second three-cone drill). He'll provide the corner room in New England with the size it needs. The fans almost went with big-bodied receiver Jonathan Mingo from Ole Miss -- someone we identified as a Patriots type after he impressed in interviews at the combine -- but they'll have to look for some wideout help later...
No. 76 overall: Tyler Scott, WR, Cincinnati
That didn't take long. With a choice between another good-sized wideout in Wake Forest's A.T. Perry and an undersized dynamo in Scott, the people went with the speed demon. Scott is a former running back with all kinds of yards-after-catch skills. His average touchdown reception in college was a whopping 44.6 yards. If Belichick wants someone who can change the game whenever the ball is in his hands, Scott fits.
Sub back Tyjae Spears out of Tulane -- the practice player of the week at the Senior Bowl -- would've been a joy to watch in the James White role, but perhaps there's a back later in the draft who has some of the same characteristics.
No. 107 overall: Isaiah McGuire, ED, Mizzouri
Belichick isn't afraid of going after sturdy edges even as the game gets smaller and faster at just about every position. Patriots fans apparently feel the same way. McGuire (6-foot-4, 268 pounds) isn't the most dynamic pass-rusher in the class, but he has powerful mitts and 34-inch arms that should help him excel on early downs at the next level.
Eric Gray, the sub back out of Oklahoma, would've made some sense here. He's a pass-protector with soft hands, exactly what the Patriots want on third down. But, y'know, maybe there's another receiving back later in the draft who has some of the same characteristics. Is there an echo in here?
No. 117 overall: Jon Gaines, OL, UCLA
Just 10 picks later, fans were back on the clock and made what looks like an anti-fan pick. A versatile lineman? From a varied run scheme? With great athleticism? That's the kind of fourth-round move a cold-blooded football-smart general manager would make.
Clearly, our Twitter followers are attuned to the importance of protecting the quarterback and dominating in the trenches on early downs. So much so that they were willing to pass on two intriguing talents to play in the sub back role and one toolsy pass-rusher. The Patriots have found many talented interior linemen in the middle rounds -- Joe Thuney (third round), Shaq Mason (fourth), Ted Karras (sixth) -- and Gaines looks like another.
No. 135 overall: Deuce Vaughn, RB, Kansas State
There's that third-down back you've been waiting for. Vaughn is electric with the ball in his hands. He's one of three K-Staters to go over 5,000 all-purpose yards (Darren Sproles, Tyler Lockett). He caught 116 passes in three years. He's just... small. As in 5-foot-5, 179 pounds. Not many runners with that frame to compare him to, but he could have issues in pass protection against NFL rushers. He'll compete in that regard, but he'll have to have impeccable technique if he wants to have a chance to succeed consistently in those scenarios.
No. 184 overall: Jake Moody, K, Michigan
Now it's really looking like a Belichickian draft weekend. Specialist on Day 3? It's happening. Just a question of when. And at which position. The Patriots may want a punter after moving on from Jake Bailey this offseason.
No. 187 overall: Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR, West Virginia
Even after taking Scott in the third round, it still felt as though -- with the athletic options remaining -- the Patriots would dip into the boundary-receiver pool at some point. Fans do that here. (They really had no choice since the choices presented to them were all freaky athletes at receiver.)
Ford-Wheaton was a Shrine Bowl participant. He's a don't-grow-on-trees kind of athlete (4.38 40, 41-inch vertical). He'll compete on special teams. Ideal late-round selection.
No. 192 overall: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, QB, UCLA
Time for a quarterback, right? The Patriots already signed veteran journeyman signal-caller Trace McSorley, but that won't keep them from taking another here. They got to know "DTR" well at the Shrine Bowl. He's improved consistently over the course of his career. He's seen a ton of football. He played for Belichick pal Chip Kelly. He has a lot going for him that makes him feel like a possible Patriots passer. The people obviously feel the same way.
No. 210 overall: Isaiah Moore, LB, NC State
He doesn't have the size the Patriots are often looking for at linebacker (6-foot-2, 233 pounds), but at this stage of the draft special teams comes first. Moore hasn't done a ton of that at the collegiate level, but he has the kind of demeanor and football IQ to excel there as a pro. A three-time captain, he has every intangible you could want. And at the Shrine Bowl, he had a chance to show off just how useful he could be at the next level. If he develops into the type of rangy linebacker Patriots fans have been clamoring for for ages -- the reason I assume he was chosen here over a promising pass-rush specialist in Jose Ramirez -- all the better.