Before we start how about a quick aside? The NFL Draft is an overhyped TV event. The first round is three hours long when you basically already know what’s going to happen or if something different occurs you will be immediately notified by your smartphone or laptop. Why do people like watching it? For the awkward hugs with Goodell and the players. To see the insane suits guys where. To bask in the glow of Mel Kiper’s peak of the year?
Anyway, going into this years NFL Draft I wanted two things. For the Patriots to stop loading up on late round picks to get value by trading away first round selections. Second for the team to stop worrying about upgrading the offense, it doesn’t need it it’s the defense that needs to improve.
Tom Brady isn’t going to play until he’s 40 whether he’d like to or not and this team has to be in a do whatever it takes to win now mode. Part of that is drafting players who can come in and immediately be contributors not guys who will develop into stars.
Well voila the Patriots did exactly what I wanted and put together the most aggressive draft I’ve seen Bill Belichick put out. In the first round the Patriots traded up not once but twice to lock in two defensive players and then continued to go defense all the way until the teams final pick. No Aaron Hernandez’ this year. No Stevan Ridley’s, even though LaMichael James and Dwayne Allen both stayed on the board for quite some time.
Yes the Patriots followed my two basic ideas, albeit without any real input from me. (I know I can’t believe they don’t ask me for help either.) Now let’s see if they got the right guys, based on my opinions of them before they even play an NFL snap. I know super fair.
First Round- Pick No. 21- Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse
Jones was the first guy the Patriots traded up to take and to be honest when I saw the name I drew a blank. Hadn’t heard of him and had no clue why the Patriots were trading up to get him. I still think they probably didn’t need to do that and I know now why I hadn’t heard of him. He played for Syracuse. The Orange may be on the map when it comes to college basketball but it’s been a long time since McNabb was under center and the Carrier Dome had a good football team to watch.
Still Jones has great size (6-5, 266 pounds) and 35.5 inch arms for the defensive end position where the Patriots haven’t had a real solid player since Richard Seymour. Getting pressure on the quarterback is something the Patriots have struggled with in recent years and getting a guy like Jones coming off the edge would be a step in the right direction. Plus his brother is Jon “Bones” Jones the UFC fighter who said of his brother “His swag can’t be touched.” Well I’m sold.
First Round- Pick No. 25- Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama
This was the trade up that made my night in the first round. I watched a decent amount of Alabama football over the last two years, mainly because they were on TV all the time and also because me and my room mates adopted them as our team after purchasing a lamp that had the Alabama logo on it in a garage sale.
In watching ‘Bama I was always really impressed with Hightower. He moves quickly, hits like a ton of bricks and is versatile enough to play just about every spot in the linebacking core, regardless or whether or not the Patriots go 4-3 or return to the 3-4 next season. Another exciting aspect about Hightower is that he is definitely a guy that will come in and make an immediate impact. He played in the NFL’s minor leagues (aka the SEC) and will probably be starting come Game One.
Grade. A++++++ Roll Tide.
Second Round- Pick No. 48- Tavon Wilson, S, Illinois
Uhh okay. After a fantastic first round came this pick. Now I want Tavon to come in and be great but this seems like on of those Belichick moves where he is so busying trying to outsmart everybody else that he over thinks himself. Perhaps Tavon will be a great safety but he didn’t seem like he was in danger of being taken this high in the draft with so many other talented players left on the board.
Now that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff to like about him. He like Hightower is versatile as hell and can play safety or corner which will be nice with the Patriots seemingly always weak in that position. See Julian Edelman getting time at cornerback last year.
Grade C-. Just didn’t like how high he was taken.
Third Round- Pick No. 90- Jake Bequette, DE, Arkansas
Another SEC player and a pass rusher is a nice sight. Hopefully there will be no rubbing off from Bobby Petrino on this kid. Bequette had a great combine by putting up 6.90 in the three-cone drill and a 4.07 shuttle which is better than many running backs. So at 6-4, 275 pounds he will certainly be a quick defender. Plus he can also slide in at OLB and has been described as hard working, high football IQ and all that stuff which essentially means he won’t rely solely on being more athletic than everyone.
Round Six- Pick No. 197- Nate Ebner, SS, Ohio State
Coming straight out of THE Ohio State University is this former rugby star who hadn’t really been anticipated as a draft pick. Although he is listed as a strong safety he probably has a better chance making it in special teams. He is obviously tough (rugby is no joke) and should be motivated coming into camp.
Grade C+. When your ceiling is solid special teams guy it’s tough to get too high a grade even in the later rounds.
Round Seven- Pick No. 224- Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
Everything I’ve heard about this kid is that he has second round talent but dropped due to some legal issues. He was arrested the weekend before the draft after all, not exactly showing great decision making but with his talent Dennard might end up being a big steal. He was cutting his chops in the Big-12 and then Big 10 meaning he’s faced some big time receivers (Justin Blackmon for example) and he can play in the slot.
Grade B+ Great value pick but off-field issues can’t just be thrown aside.
Round Seven- Pick No. 235- Jeremy Ebert, WR, Northwestern
And it is with Ebert that the Patriots draft of defense ends. To be honest this is my favorite pick other than Hightower. Ebert isn’t a flashy reciever, he’s small and quick and a reliable pass catcher who holds a bunch of receiving records at a small school in a power conference., Remind you of anyone? To me Ebert can come in and work on being the same type of receiver as Wes Welker. (By the way the fact that the Patriots haven’t signed Welker is insulting and concerning.)
Maybe he won’t be a contributor right away but will definitely be a guy on the roster who will develop. Perhaps Mallett to Ebert will be the next Brady tom Welker.
How did you think the Patriots’ draft went? Let us know on Twitter (@seeuinoctober) or in the comments.