The Patriots entered the final four rounds of the 2014 NFL Draft with seven draft choices, and exited with seven new players. New England kept all of its picks on Saturday, electing not to deal any away in trades, and surprised many draft observers by not taking any players at two positions that were thought to be of particular need: safety and tight end.
In the fourth round, New England had three choices and focused on the offensive line with their first and third picks. Center/guard Bryan Stork from national champion Florida State (105th overall) and tackle/guard Cameron Fleming of Stanford (140th) were the selections, sandwiching Wisconsin running back James White (130th) in the middle.
Stork didn't do much at the Combine this past February because of lingering injuries, but he downplayed those when speaking to reporters via conference call Saturday afternoon, saying his meetings with the Patriots prior to the draft helped his prospects.
"Yeah, I'm fine. It's not a big deal. I'm a ball player. I met with them for interviews and just worked out. I wasn't worried about it. When you get me on the board that's when I shine. I'm a ball player. I'm a smart guy and that's what I pride myself on. I wasn't worried about the things that could possibly hold you back because they didn't."
Fleming, meanwhile, will have an uphill battle fighting for a backup tackle spot behind starters Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer.
"I'm going to go there and play wherever they put me and learn from these guys," said Fleming in his post-draft remarks to reporters. "You said they have two great tackles. I know they do. Just to get a chance to learn from them and see what the NFL is all about."
White's selection may have come a bit earlier than many observers were expecting. He didn't have much starting experience until his senior year with the Badgers, and he's seen as a smaller bodied player for the position, but one who might be able to handle the more traditional role of a running back.
"I was in contact with [New England] the throughout the process. I felt that they were interested, but you never know what is going to happen on draft day. I'm excited to be a part of the organization. Anything the coach asks me to do, I'm going to try to do it to the best of my ability."
The Patriots continued their o-line theme at the start of Round 6 when they took Florida guard Jon Halapio (179th). Then it was back to the defensive side of the ball with d-end Zach Moore (198th) from Division II Concordia-St. Paul (Minnesota), who average a sack per game in college and was experienced in both the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. At the end of the sixth round, New England added Georgia Tech cornerback Jemea Thomas (206th). New England concluded its 2014 draft class by taking Michigan's Jeremy Gallon, an undersized (5-7, 185) slot receiver, with the 244th overall pick.
"I feel like we improved our team today," Belichick told media at the conclusion of the draft. "We took some players that'll be able to compete. We'll see how it all goes."
With the draft now over, New England's front office will turn its attention to signing several undrafted rookies to help fill out its 90-man roster. Organized team activity (OTA) and mini-camp practices will take place later this month and next.
Because the draft took place two weeks later than normal this year, there won't be a traditional rookie mini-camp for the new players because of the need to fit OTAs and mini-camp into the regular mid-June end-of-offseason practice calendar.
"They'll come in tomorrow… Sunday," Belichick told reporters. "They're going to have to come in and get oriented to living in a new area, finding their way around, kind of get acclimated to New England along with the football part of it."
The new rookie class is also expected to be made available for media interviews during the upcoming week. Also in the immediate future, on Monday, the Patriots will welcome first-round choice Dominique Easley to Gillette Stadium for the first time as a Patriot. He'll be presented with his ceremonial top-pick jersey, pose for photos, and answer questions from reporters in person.