The draft is in the books, which means it’s time to evaluate what happened. Whether the players are any good is impossible to say until they see the field in the fall. I obviously expect all to be great or at least adequate in our system, but even the Patriots strike out once in a while, so this article will focus more on positions targeted, deals and such.
Money in the bank
Before the draft it was obvious that the Patriots had more dough than they could spend in a normal shopping spree. Some of it had to be spent on moving up in the first round or be pushed into next year, preferably with interest. I was a bit worried when we first traded down, thus getting more picks, and later actually used four second-rounders. Right behind us San Francisco turned their second rounder into Denver’s first-round pick next year. Had Hoodie lost his touch? Was the rest of the league conspiring against the Patriots to let them choke on their abundance of picks? Or did Belichick really think the roster was so barren, that he needed to exercise all those picks?
Luckily he quickly displayed his usual touch in the third round and acquired two second-round picks next year. Come next April, Carolina will again moan their lack of a first-rounder and we will again be thrilled with our flexibility and chances to add the players we want. This brings me to the next point:
The Pats got their targeted players
That’s right. I believe the Patriots got exactly who they wanted with at least their first three picks. Of course, they may have hoped a player like Andre Smith slided, and I can’t imagine they wouldn’t have loved to grab Curry, but given the starting position at #23 that was never realistic. So, moving back from the “who do we dream of” to the “who do we want” board, Belichick got the players he desired. Chung was there at #34 and the Patriots effectively moved up / down the board to the early second round for Brace and Butler. However, this implies that…
No OLB was worth the trouble
Everybody and their grandmothers believed the Patriots had no greater need than OLB and speculated whether English, Matthews, Sintim or somebody else was the answer. Apparently none of them was. This will leave me worried about the pass rush until I see it working on the field, but obviously you can’t draft to soothe the feelings of fans in April, since they will come for your head in November anyway, if it doesn’t work out. Still, if anybody has compromising pictures of Jason Taylor, now is the time to persuade him to join the Patriots as a situational pass rusher.
Prepared for FA 2010
As we discussed before the draft a number of players will be free agents next year. I think this played some role in the draft. Moving picks to next year will in itself provide some insurance, and especially the O-line picks seem destined to provide depth this year and be replacements at the guard and RT positions next year if necessary. On the D-line Brace adds both depth and insurance for Wilfork. I don’t think this means Wilfork will definitely be gone, but it is probably an attempt to keep the cost of resigning him down. IMO it should still be a high priority. He has become a top performer, he is relatively young, and we KNOW he is good. Brace MIGHT be good
Lots of picks
Even with next years picks a LOT of players (12) became Patriots during the weekend. It is obvious that not all of them will make the active roster. Nobody wants to throw away goods for nothing, so Belichick made a couple of moves to limit the problem.
First, he drafted a long snapper. Most years you don’t want to spend a draft pick at that position, but with Paxton gone this roster spot is somewhat open. We acquired Hodel from Arizona, but he could turn out to be just an insurance policy. Other teams have QB-competitions in camp, but only the Patriots will have a LS-competition! (As long as it doesn’t turn into a LS-controversy, I’m all for it…) Seriously, I believe it is good business to draft specialists, when you need one. When your fifth-round pick will likely be training camp fodder anyway, why not have a free choice at kicker, punter or long snapper?
Secondly the Patriots drafted Brandon Tate, WR in the third round. Tate is coming of a major knee surgery, which makes him a high risk / high reward player, but is also means he can possibly be stashed at the PUP-list this year and not count against the roster limit. Still the training camp competition will be fierce.
Finally, it is worth noting that the Patriots traded like crazy. Of the 12 players picked only two (Sebastian Vollmer, #58 and Darryll Richard, #234) were selected in an original Patriots draft slot. The rest were either picked in compensatory selections or in slots acquired through trades.
One trade stood out, because it moved Ellis Hobbs to the Eagles for a pair of fifth round picks. I’m a bit ambivalent about this move, because I always liked Hobbs and it seems risky moving the best player in a unit that didn’t exactly shine last year. That is probably the very reason, though, since the Patriots have added numerous free agents, still have two promising rookies from last year and have added two high-round draft choices in Butler and Chung to the defensive backfield. It was foreseeable that one of them would have to be cut before the season, so Belichick decided to strike when he could get something in return.
In the end
This looks like a productive draft for the Patriots. Not all needs were covered, and I don’t think the picks will be instant impact players. The 2009 season will be determined by the players who were already on the roster before April 25th, but that is not a bad thing. Usually teams start rookies because they have serious issues, not because they don’t think they could use a little seasoning. At least the Patriots got what they set their eyes on and handled the draft process great.