The Patriots organization and, in particular, Bill Belichick, love to draft versatile and low-risk, high-reward football players. It may sound self-explanatory, but Belichick has a knack for finding hidden talent. Take a look at arguably one of the best steals (aside from TB12) in Patriots history.
Julian Edelman, who was drafted as a quarterback-turned-wide receiver out of Kent State, is now one of the best slot receivers in the entire NFL. While he did not catch anyone's eye in the draft, Bill Belichick and company saw that he was a fierce competitor and a hell of an athlete. Edelman has a 100-reception season under his belt, as well as being labeled arguably the best slot receiver in the NFL.
Could the Patriots swing something similar in this draft, especially after losing a 1st Round Draft Pick because of Deflategate?
Well, yes, Pete. Yes they could.
There is no denying that the Patriots were derailed this season because of injuries. As I have mentioned in previous articles, the Patriots first priority this season is solidifying their offensive line. With the return of Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer being switched back to his natural position of right tackle, the Pats are already better without spending a dime. However, I would still feel more comfortable if they drafted or signed a backup tackle, and perhaps even a guard.
Nevertheless, the second need on the Patriots' wishlist has to be receiving help. With the almost-certain departure of Brandon LaFell, the Patriots will be without a true receiver that can spread the field outside the numbers. While there are a couple options on the free agent market (Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Alshon Jeffery), I would be surprised if the Patriots broke the bank to bring in a receiver that could haul in 70 receptions for 1,000 yards. That means the Patriots could be looking to draft a wide receiver.
Thank you for asking! Pleas enter, Braxton Miller.
The quarterback-turned-running back-turned-wide receiver will be looking to surprise teams with his, wait for it, versatility and grit. Similar to Julian Edelman, Braxton Miller was a quarterback to start his college career. However, after Cardale Jones and JT Barrett beat him out at the position, Miller platooned as a running back/ wide receiver for the 2015 Ohio State Buckeyes.
As a senior, Miller was able to amass 341 yards on 26 receptions for 3 TDs, while also rushing the ball for 260 yards and a touchdown. Those numbers may not be that flashy, but the Patriots don't need an Antonio Brown or Julio Jones for next season. They aren't looking for someone to completely change the offense. The only thing the Patriots need is a big wide receiver that can run 10-15 yards downfield, turn around and catch the football. It may be easier said than done, but when you are the 3rd or even 4th option in an offense, at least five out of ten times you are going to be open.
Miller has not been as highly touted as some of his teammates, such as defensive end Joey Bosa, defensive back Eli Apple, and running back Ezekiel Elliot, just to name a few. However, Miller could still go anywhere between the 2nd and 4th round, depending on how he performs at the Senior Bowl and NFL Draft Combine. After competing in his first workout, Miller gained high praise from scouts and could be souring up the draft board as we speak.
But one thing is for certain: this guy can be a difference maker.
By Pete Packowski