New England Patriots 2012 draft

National Football League Draft

National Football League Draft (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chandler Jones DE/OLB from Syracuse University An athletic guy who has a big wingspan. He needs to work on his pass rushing moves but could develop into a great player. He could step in right away as the starter or play some significant time on sub packages so either way they have some options. He is a versatile player who can play in either defensive set but I do not see him being a “making waves” kind of production in his first year. His kind of size and athleticism does not come around all of the time so I love that the Patriots saw him still on the board and grabbed him then traded back up to get the guy they really wanted. GRADE- A

Dont’a Hightower ILB from Alabama– I do not see him being used as just an ILB but I can see him playing in different positions. I am a little surprised that he was still on the board but I am glad that Bill traded up to grab him because Baltimore would have otherwise. He is a guy who can play in the middle with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, but I also see him playing some time at OLB or even in coverage. He is good at blitzing up the middle but I do not think he is a pass rusher, he might contribute to that but will not be the main guy. The only thing that might hurt him is the development of Brandon Spikes, which could cut down his playing time, unless Bill has a plan to move either Mayo, Spikes or even Hightower to another LB position. GRADE- A

Tavon Wilson CB/S from Illinois- Officially labeled by NFL.com as a free safety but spent the first two seasons in college as a cornerback then converted over to a safety before the 2010 season. I do not know where he fits in the Patriots defense, whether it is as a cornerback or a safety but I do think that this pick was a head scratch especially since so many other defense backs were still on the board at the time. Defensive backs that are more known, most likely higher potential, and will most likely be in the league later. I do not get this pick and I just do not know if Tavon will be an impact player. I will trust Bill on this one I guess but the fact that they did take a DE later on in the draft kind of gets to me. They could have picked up a better, more productive DE at this pick and still picked up Wilson at 90. GRADE- D

Information on Tavon Wilson

Patriots trade 62nd pick for the 90th pick and the 163rd pick. SHOCKING. Did you really think that Bill was not going to disappoint us all and avoid drafting some players who can actually start and instead end up with a new class of practice squad members. Maybe I am being a little harsh on this move but I am just a little taken back by the second round moves that they made, especially after such a great start. First they pick up someone who MIGHT sniff the practice squad and then they trade out of the second round. Okay, so let us see where this goes and be optimistic about this. Belichick is the coach with the rings and we are the fans who are just anxious and want the Patriots to pick up everyone with a name we know but that is not going to happen. GRADE- F

Jake Bequette DE from Arkansas– This was taken from NFL.com on Bequette.

“Bequette was a strong player for Arkansas, though his productivity could be attributed more to competitiveness and intelligence than great athleticism. He stood out as a leader and high-energy player for the Razorbacks. He had the strength to rush, set the edge and hold his ground in the run game, able to battle bigger linemen and go hard until the end of the play. He is a solid tackler around the ball and consistently pursues plays from the backside. His versatility across the line makes him a good value for NFL teams, especially those running a 3-4 defense. He will likely be taken in one of the later rounds.”

His weaknesses summarized that he gets lost on double teams, not too athletic, not a factor in the passing game, does not play as fast as he could. Jake seems like a decent pick and will contribute in his own way but not sure, how often or how big that impact will be. He could compete with Jermaine Cunningham for playing time and who knows who will win that battle but either way the Patriots will get a good player out of it. GRADE- C

Something to worry about Patriots fans is that the Patriots have the fewest draft picks left with just one pick, which is 163, a 5th round pick. We always hear the same thing, the word value is thrown around, and it just gets annoying. Yeah you can trade all kinds of picks for later picks in the draft because you can get some value players… wow… great… how about players who can start and make an impact on a game that can say… I do not know… help you actually win the Super Bowl versus not being able to stop the other teams offense. Would it have been so bad if you did not have any picks after 62? Does that spell a bad draft if you only have four picks? Well it is quality not quantity, and while Hightower and Jones are quality picks the rest of the picks are not. However, let us be positive here and say that for whatever place they do not hit they can always plug-in another free agent because you still have some talented names available on the market.

I’ll update this again when they make their final selection but most likely the player won’t be any good so does it matter, I think not. Who will the pick be? A new practice squad member or bench guy.

*UPDATE*  4/29

Nate Ebner DB from Ohio State- A kid who will come in and contribute on special teams right away. Not a bad pick at all, a nice depth move for the Patriots and considering the injury problems they have had in the past at both CB and S this is a good pick up. Bad part about the pick is not sure he will be anything more than a special teams guy. GRADE- C

Alfonzo Dennard CB from Nebraska- This was a high risk-high reward pick for the Patriots. Dennard could have gone a lot earlier in the draft. He was once considered an early round pick until performance and bad decisions pushed him down the board. At that point in the draft, in the seventh round, if you miss it’s not a huge deal but if you hit you’re a genius and Dennard could be a hidden gem if he can get his act together. If anyone can do it it’s Bill Belichick and that core group that they have and leaders like Jerod Mayo, Vince Wilfork and Tom Brady to show him. I have to say that I did really like this pick from the Patriots. He is shorter and can get blocked by more physical receivers but will also try to be involved in the play which is good, and according to the breakdown at NFL.com, is NFL-ready which is good for a seventh rounder. Now it is just up to Dennard to get his act together or he’ll be a newcomer with WWE or the CFL. GRADE- B

Jeremy Ebert WR from Northwestern- Could eventually be the replacement/competition for Julian Edelman as a slot receiever and special teams player. The fact that he came on strong his last two seasons at Northwestern tells me that he will get better with time and will learn the system eventually. He’ll most likely be a practice squad guy since they have a lot of receivers on the roster but still a decent pick for that late in the draft. GRADE- C

Overall- A very good draft for the New England Patriots as they were primarily defensive oriented which is an area that needed to be addressed. Not that I put a lot of stock into the grades on NFL.com, because it is based on others opinions at the combine and pro days and if you don’t go then you have a low-grade but aren’t neccessarily a bad player. However, the player with the highest grade according to NFL.com is actually seventh round pick Alfonzo Dennard at 85.7 then Dont’a Hightower at 85 and the lowest being both Nate Ebner and Jeremy Ebert who didn’t have grades at all. Again, doesn’t really mean much but I thought it was a little interesting. Why didn’t I like the Tavon Wilson pick? Well because I see him as a blend in kind of player which means that he won’t do anything great but most likely won’t do anything bad either but I don’t think you use a second round pick on that kind of player. Hey, if I’m wrong, that’s awesome and I’m more than happy to be wrong on this one but I see him as a guy who you can forget is even playing just because he won’t stand out positively or negatively. He had a private workout with Bill and the Patriots however and seven other teams worked him out so teams had a different grade on him then the scouts and analysts did so I do trust Bill but I’m not going to be surprised if he is not on the team in a few years.

 

One statement spelling out past and future draft strategies by Belichick

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England P...

Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots watches the preseason game against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on August 28, 2009 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was going through ESPN and saw the Patriots Mailbag with Mike Reiss and something caught my attention with one of his answers. The question was about Belichick and trading up for an impact player.

“It sort of ties in to Belichick’s thoughts as relayed in Michael Holley’s “War Room” book about the Falcons trading up to No. 6 to draft receiver Julio Jones in 2011. Belichick didn’t endorse the move because he felt the difference between Jones and Jonathan Baldwin (a later first-round pick) wasn’t worth all it would take to move up.”

Now I can see what Belichick was talking about and sort of agree no doubt about it but I might also see where some of the Patriots drafts woes have stemmed from. Now both Julio Jones and Jonathan Baldwin were first round picks and both saw some significant time on the field but there were some clear differences in performance.

Jonathan Baldwin played 11 games, had 21 receptions for 254 yards and one touchdown. A decent season for a rookie wide receiver I must say.

Julio Jones played in 13 games, had 54 receptions for 959 yards and eight touchdowns. That is a great season for a rookie wide receiver.

While the Falcons did give up a lot to get Jones, I think it paid off in the end. As of right now I think the difference between the two is upside and other little things. Julio Jones, I believe, has a higher ceiling and has more upside than Baldwin has. Baldwin is no doubt talented, maybe as talented as Jones but I don’t think he has as high a ceiling as Jones honestly. Now the argument can be made that there were two completely different quarterbacks throwing to them. One is Matt Cassel, who is a slightly above average quarterback who benefited from backing up the great Tom Brady. Matt Ryan however is a first round pick who came to the Atlanta Falcons after they fell from grace because of the whole Michael Vick situation. Therefore, you would be right to make that connection and bring that up but either man could have ended up on the other team and I will argue that the results could be the same. Jones would still out perform Baldwin, even with Cassel as his quarterback.

Therefore, Belichick is right, sort of, and that giving up all of that might not have been worth it but comparing the two, right now it seems that the Falcons won. Would the Falcons, if they kept all the picks they had, and chose Baldwin and filled some other spots they really needed like defensive line, secondary and getting someone to eventually replace John Abraham, have made it to the playoffs? Maybe, maybe not but drafting Julio Jones did not hinder that at all, they still made it… granted they lost but they made it.

So is that why Brandon Tate, Taylor Price, Darius Butler, Terrence Wheatley, Jonathan Wilhite, Shawn Crable, Chad Jackson, Laurence Maroney, Tyrone McKenzie and some others haven’t worked out and why Jermaine Cunningham and Ron Brace are currently not working out? Did he see that they had just as much talent as someone else in the draft but that they had a little less of an upside? While a good strategy by the mastermind Bill Belichick sometimes you have to take that “higher upside” talent to be surrounded by the others. Therefore, you have some adequate young talent surrounding one or two superstars and now you have a team.

However, hey, who am I? Just a fan, someone who watches the games and has an opinion on things. I am obviously not a part of the NFL or any station that follows them, but this is just my opinion and what I see.

I will say that in the last few drafts he has made some key hits with Brandon Spikes, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourt (well, judge is still out with his horrible season last season but for now I’ll count him), and Zoltan Mesko. Judge is still out on the 2011 NFL draft class but so far some hits seem to be Nate Solder, Marcus Cannon and who knows how Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and Ryan Mallett turn out but right now, they seem to be a part of the Patriots’ future. Ras-I Dowling is a question mark for me because of his past with injuries and the fact that he ended up on Injured Reserve last season. Before going on IR, he was doing okay but you were, well I was, just waiting for him to end up on that list and he did.

Although, some key misses at least from 2011 was Brooks Reed who went to the Houston Texans and when Mario Williams went down him, Conner Barwin and J.J. Watt made it not so bad that they lost Williams to the Buffalo Bills this past off-season. Another I think was Torrey Smith WR who went to the Baltimore Ravens. I am not going to rehash all of the other misses from the other years because quite honestly, they have been talked about repeatedly and we all need to forget about them. I think it just seems that the Patriots miss more because Belichick piles up so many picks. I still think Brooks Reed and Torrey Smith were misses in time they’ll be in the same category as the others… under a file that just says, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

In my opinion in this 2012 NFL draft that is a little over a month away Bill has to be aggressive, or at least stand pat with his picks and not trade down. Bill, Nick and the powers that be will have the master plan and do what is best for the team but with Tom Brady getting older and his seasons numbered, I think it’s more important than ever to snag a playmaker or two sooner rather than later. However, with what he said I see him continuing to trade down unless he sees an incredible talent on the board that is a once in a lifetime type of talent.

With whatever criticism we all have of coach and General Manager Bill Belichick it comes with an understanding that he is one of the best in the game. He has made questionable moves but we’re lucky to have someone who can win constantly and run the office side of things for as long as he has and like I said still have an “elite” team. At least we don’t have a revolving door at coach and G.M. like some other teams in the NFL. Of course, you could say that Tom Brady is the person who makes sure the Patriots keep winning but Belichick is the one who brings the talent in. Brady can’t do it by himself… don’t believe me? Well 2006 seems to point that way and if they had better talent at that time, they would have won it all instead of the Colts.

It was an interesting mailbag check it out:

ESPN Patriots Mailbag with Mike Reiss