Breaking Down The Draft

Admit it, if you knew what the Patriots were going to do in the NFL draft it really wouldn't be much fun to watch would it?  Throughout the course of last weekend I had convinced myself that I was a draft savant by predicting that the Pats would select an OL early, and then in turn convinced myself I was about as well suited at drawing up a mock draft as Khloe Kardashian after the selection of not one but two running backs and a quarterback before the first defensive lineman came off of the Patriots draft board..  We saw the trademark tradedowns, another absurd robbery of Oakland, and the emergence of a genuis strategy for compiling draft picks into perpetuity play itself out amidst a chorus of boos for Roger Goodell and enough closeups of drunk Jets fans to hold us over until week 5 (if the season is played that is.)  And so here we are, five days after the last pick was selected, still in the middle of a lockout and with nothing to do but speculate.  What could be better?

17.  Nate Solder

I thought that this was a great pick and addressed an immediate need for the Patriots given what now seems like the imminent departure of Matt Light.  Solder should have the opportunity to compete for a job this season if Light does indeed depart for free agency, either at RT or at LT.  Belichick came out and said that Solder will be slotted strictly on the left side, which makes me a little nervous given that he could be tasked with protecting Tom Brady's blind side as a rookie.   Its also a little surprising given the emergence of Sebastian Vollmer as a very good player.  Solder certainly has the talent and the potential to be a franchise LT, it will be interesting to see how he is worked into the rotation once the Light situation is resolved.

28.  Pick Traded to NEW ORLEANS

This was a pretty obvious trade down pick given that the Patriots still had number 33 overall waiting in the wings and they could get themselves a great return from a team desperate to move up or back into the first round at this spot.  More than a few Patriots fans cringed when the Saints selected Mark Ingram as everyone seemed to be on the Ingram to New England bandwagon.  But the Patriots picked up a 2012 first round pick and another 2011 second rounder.  Trying to make sense of it all I wandered over to and came across this article.  It examines how the 1st round pick acquired from Oakland for Richard Seymour has essentially become a perpetual bargaining chip giving the Patriots, should they choose, two first round picks in every draft going forward.  In a nutshell, it works like this:  The Patriots had #17 and #28 this year, they took Solder at #17, then traded #28 to NO for a 2012 1st rounder, giving them two 1st rounder next year.  One of their 2012 picks can easily become another 1st rounder in 2013 if somebody again wants or needs to move up or back into the first round, and so an and so forth. 

Additionally, the two 1st round picks could be used to move up into the top of the draft if the Patriots really desired or needed a particular player.  As I thought about this strategy some more it seemed to make sense that the Patriots could potentially be holding these picks until either Brady begins to decline or they had thought they had found the heir apparent at QB.  (We will get to Mallett later) Using the NFL draft value chart the lowest possible combined value (If NE plays NO in the Superbowl) that these two 1st rounders in 2012 could have would be 1190 pts.  If you use the chart, this puts you just about at the 12th pick if you wanted to trade up.  Throw in a 2nd round pick or two and you jump right into the top 5.  This doesn't even begin to take into account what would happen to those pick values if the Patriots worked out a deal with a bad team, or, and it pains me to say this, had a bad year.  You can play with these numbers a million ways, the point is that the Patriots have the flexibility to go after almost any player they want to given the number of picks they currently hold.  Its a beautiful thing.

33. Ras-I Dowling

Dowling was completely off mine and many peoples radars after battling through several injuries over the past year.  Prior to the 2010 season many had him ranked as a first round talent, and truthfully I had never heard of the guy.  Here's what we know about him.  He is a big physical corner who can jam at the line of scrimmage and run with taller WRs downfield.  When healthy he also played on nearly all of Virginia's special teams (always a plus with Belichick).  He seems to be a perfect complement to McCourty.  The Patriots had some trouble with bigger receivers in 2010 (Braylon Edwards dominating Darius Butler comes to mind), and this allows them to match up physically with larger wideouts and allows Butler and Willhite to move inside on slot receivers where they may have a more favorable matchup.

56. Shane Vereen RB and 60. Stevan Ridley RB

This was probably the point in the draft where Patriots fans really started drinking hard.  I'm not sure anyone would have seen the selection of two runningbacks coming, I certainly was thinking O line at this point in the draft.  But upon further examination the picks make sense for a few reasons.  First, Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor, and Sammy Morris are all but finished with the Patriots.  Faulk is the only one of the three that I think has a legitimate shot at making the team.  Vereen's game seems to translate well to Faulk's; a sure receiver, versatile runner, and someone capable of playing in a variety of formations and packages as well as on special teams.  Ridley is more of a north-south runner and could see time at fullback, short yardage tailback, and on special teams as well.  This gives them (potentially) a young, cheap, backfield in Green-Ellis, Woodhead, Vereen, and Ridley.  Everyone except for Green-Ellis will probably contribute on multiple special teams as well.  Not bad at all.

74. Ryan Mallett QB

I think what you have here is a player falling so far from his anticipated draft spot (top 10 by many experts) that the Patriots were pretty much forced to grab this guy at 74.  I would have figured that the Patriots were at least a year away from beginning the succession planning for Tom Brady and Iimagined that they might have been stockpiling picks to give themselves the ability to jump into the very top of the draft within the next couple of years if a solid prospect emerged.   It turns out one might have fallen right into their lap.  Rumors of off the field issues seem to have been behind the plummeting draft value of Mallett, and it looks like in the end both New England and Mallett ended up with an ideal situation.  New England gets a high-potential, low-risk quarterback prospect (given his draft position)  and Mallett gets a chance to learn under one of the best quarterbacks and coaching staffs in the NFL with no pressure to step right in and take over the team himself. 

If you read into the rumors circulating on the internet partying in particular was the supposed red-flag.  I think its fair to say that some college athletes dabble in drugs and alcohol. Others spend their summers circumsizing children in the third world.  Lets just chalk those things up to youthful indiscretion.

I'm excited to see how things with Mallett play out, he has got serious talent and raw ability and a little bit of swagger and edge to him as well.  I think he will be a great fit.

138.  Marcus Cannon G/T

Another steal here.  Cannon dropped into the 5th round due to a recent diagnosis of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  Turns out the prognosis is excellentand he should be good to go by the start of training camp.  Cannon is a monster at 6'5" and 350 lbs and is athletic enough to play G and T.  You could be looking at a line of Mankins, Vollmer, Cannon, Kopen, and Solder, all enormous human beings.  I'm sure Tom Brady liked this pick.

159.  Lee Smith TE

My buddy Nick over at sent me a link to this story.  Turns out that in addition to being a great run blocker he might also have seducedhis high school vice-principal.  Smith looks to be the heir apparent to Alge Crumpler as a run-blocking TE.  A nice solid player at this stage in the draft and the long-snapper for Marshall last season as well-another added value. 

194.  Markell Carter OLB

Just when you thought that all of your pass rush needs were going to be completely ignored!  Carter looks like a project, not overly impressive on film and not playing against the greatest competition at Central Arkansas, but at 6'4" and running somewhere in the 4.7 range, he has the raw tools for the position.  Nothing to lose here.

219.  Malcolm Williams  CB

Williams was most likely drafted as an athlete.  On paper he's probably a CB or FS, and last year at TCU he was pretty much a special teams player.  Whether Belichick drafted him to play on teams or to mold him into an every down player is yet to be determined.  His numbers from the TCU pro-day were impressive (he wasn't even invited to the NFL combine): 42" vertical, 4.4 in the 40, and at 5'11" 200lbs hes got decent size.


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