Time for Reflection

Thankfully, the 2011 draft is only 362 days away (pending some craziness involving the Collective Bargaining Agreement) and quite frankly I’m pumped.  It is pretty safe to say that my mock draft flopped, but it’s equally as safe to say that anyone that created a mock draft didn’t do so wonderfully either.  Before I start preparing for the 2011 NFL Draft, it is important to first consider what occurred in the past three days and take a little time to reflect.

There was a whirlwind of excitement surrounding the Patriots’ draft heading into Thursday night.  With 4 picks in the first two rounds they were certain to improve their team drastically.  But, coach Belichick certainly wasn’t content with staying put.  He moved all around the draft board and ended still with four picks in the first two rounds (different spots than before), but also picked up an extra second round pick for the 2011 draft (they now have two first rounders and two second rounders).  Here is a breakdown of each pick:

1st Round (27th Overall) – Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
The numbers: 5’10” 193lbs.  40: 4.38.  BP: 16 reps

-Drafting a cornerback in the first round was certainly a shocker with needs at so many other positions.  Also, anytime a players position includes special teamer (McCourty position is listed as      cornerback/special teamer) I question his status as a first round draft pick.  I gave the Pats a low grade for their round one selection and I stick behind that.  McCourty has a ton of upside, but his ability to contribute immediately doesn’t look promising.

2nd Round (42nd Overall) – Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona
-The numbers: 6’6” 260lbs.  40: 4.65.  BP: 23

-Gronkowski missed the entire 2009 college football season after having back surgery.  That fact alone scares me, but had Gronkowski not missed all of 2009 he may have been the first tight end selected in the first round of the draft.  He is probably the most balanced tight end in the draft, possessing exceptional ball skills along with great blocking ability.  Day two was off to a great start with this selection, addressing one of the Patriots’ biggest needs.

2nd Round (53rd Overall) – Jermaine Cunningham, OLB, Florida
The numbers: 6’4” 260lbs.  40: 4.60.  BP: Unknown

-Many thought that taking Cunningham with the 53rd pick was a bit high, but he possess the ideal size and athletic ability necessary for the Patriots’ defense.  Cunningham didn’t get much praise playing of Florida’s star-studded defense, but as a three year starter he was a model of consistency.  Cunningham addresses one of the Pats’ biggest needs, and Urban Meyer is one of Belichick’s closest friends so you know that Bill knows absolutely everything about this kid.  Cunningham will get a chance to compete for playing time come June.

2nd Round (62nd Overall) – Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida
The numbers: 6’3” 250lbs.  40: 5.00.  BP: Unknown

-This was my favorite pick of the Patriots’ entire draft.  Spikes caught a ton of flack for running a 5.00 40, but I watched at least ten of his games over the last two seasons and he plays must faster on tape.  He is an ideal fit for the Pats’ defense.  Jerod Mayo can move to the weak side linebacker spot (which will utilize his quickness and sideline to sideline speed) while Spikes can hopefully fill the strong side spot (where his ability to take on lineman, blitz, and stuff the run are key).  The only thing that could hold Spikes up from starting at some point in the 2010 season will be his ability to absorb the playbook.

3rd Round (90th Overall) – Taylor Price, WR, Ohio
The numbers: 6’1” 205lbs.  40: 4.40.  BP: 16 reps

-Another need selection.  Some analysts had Price going as high as late in round two, while others had him supplanted in the third round.  I haven’t watched much tape on Price, but from the little that I’ve seen he displays elite speed, good agility, and great hands.  My concerns are in two areas: low level of competition, and he attended a smaller school.  Ohio certainly doesn’t play at the same level of competition as big schools, which means that Price’s ability could be overvalued.  Also, many small school players have problems absorbing NFL playbooks, and Belichick’s is certainly one of the most complicated.

4th Round (113th Overall) – Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida
The numbers: 6’3” 245lbs.  40: 4.64.  BP: Unknown

-If there is one thing that Aaron Hernandez can do it is catch the ball and then run with it after the catch.  Hernandez was never, and I mean never asked to block at Florida and that is a major flaw in his game.  Thankfully, Alge Crumpler and Gronkowski are good blockers, allowing Hernandez to use his athletic ability in the pass game.  I think that Hernandez may actually compete with Julian Edelman to play in Wes Welker’s role until he returns from injury.  Another great selection in the fourth round for Bill and company.

5th Round (150th Overall) – Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan
The numbers: 6’5” 240lbs.  40: 4.79.  BP: 16 reps

-Mesko averaged nearly 45 yards per punt in his senior season at Michigan.  Punter was a huge need for the Pats and Belichick showed once again that he is not afraid to spend a reasonably high draft pick on a special teams player (Stephen Gostowski was a 4th round selection in 2006).  I think the Mesko selection was a great pick and fully expect him to be the starting punter in 2010.

6th Round (205th Overall) – Ted Larsen, C, NC State
The numbers: 6’3” 304lbs.  40: 5.19.  BP: 26 reps.

-Larsen was wildly considered as the third best center in this draft and was expected for be an early 5th round pick.  He played defensive tackle for his first two season as NC State before switching over to center.  Larsen is still raw, but a few season of seasoning behind Dan Koppen and Larsen may be a force to reckon with in the NFL.

7th Round (208th Overall) – Thomas Welch, OT, Vanderbilt
The numbers: 6’7” 307lbs.  40: 5.42.  BP: 29 reps.

-Welch has played both right tackle and left tackle at Vanderbilt.  He is a mean run blocker and is very strong with a huge frame.  His pass blocking footwork is skeptical and he is a bit stiff, but he certainly provides some depth behind Light, Kaczur, and Vollmer for the Pats.

7th Round (247th Overall) – Brandon Deaderick, DL, Alabama
The numbers: 6’4” 314lbs.  40: 5.08.  BP: Unknown

-Similar to the relationshop between Urban Meyer and Bill Belicheck, Nick Saban is also a close friend of Bill.  Saban is one of the few college coaches to have implemented a 3-4 defensive scheme.  Deaderick played the 3-4 end at Alabama, which will certainly help with his learning curve.  But, he will have to compete for playing time behind newly acquired Gerard Warren, Mike Wright, and Ron Brace among others.

7th Round (248th Overall) – Kade Weston, DL, Georgia
The numbers: 6’5” 316lbs.  40: 4.99.  BP: Unknown

-Belichick stayed true to his philosophy, grab your skill position players early in the draft and then add depth to your two lines later in the draft.  Weston has ideal size to play the 3-4 end, but will have a lot of competition to just make the team.

7th Round (250th Overall) – Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State

The numbers: 6’3” 214lbs.  40: 4.68.  BP: Unknown

-Zac Robinson showed flashes of brilliance throughout his career at Oklahoma State.  Robinson doesn’t have a cannon, but he has enough zip on the ball to make all of the necessary throws.  His accuracy is scarce at points, but improving his mechanics and footwork will go a long way towards improving that.  Robinson will press Brian Hoyer for that backup quarterback spot, but I see him spending 2009 on the practice squad.

I was certainly disappointed in the first round selection that the Pats made, but I think their picks on day two and three, and their accruement of draft picks for next year leave me energized for the 2010 NFL season and beyond.  They addressed almost all of their team needs in the draft, but don’t expect Belichick to sit back and relax.  Look for some undrafted free agents to be picked up within the next couple of weeks.  Then we can all look forward to the position battles once minicamp and training camp roll around.

Draft Grade: B

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