Patriots 2009 Draft Grades: Safety earns an A

Oregon's all-conference safety Patrick Chung (15) turns the corner and returns a punt for a touchdown.

With the 34th pick in the Draft the Patriots selected their first actual player, Oregon Safety Patrick Chung.   This is a grade A pick.  The comparisons to Rodney Harrison's hard hitting style have been numerous, and what makes this an especially good choice is the current uncertainty of whether Harrison will return or retire.  Rodney will not be easy to replace on the field or in the locker room in terms of his leadership, intense work ethic and impeccable character, but the experts at NFL.com and Draftguys.com's Sigmund Bloom feel Chung might just fit the Harrison mold.

Why he will succeed:

  • Well-built, versatile athlete who has seen time at cornerback and as a returner.
  • Flashes explosive hitting ability; accomplished blitzer.
  • Durable, instinctive punishing presence in the secondary.
  • Receivers are cognizant of him when going over the middle.
  • Attacks underneath routes and rarely allows the receiver to cross with the ball unscathed.
  • Few have Chung's ability to explode into ball carrier while wrapping their arms securely.
  • Reads the action quickly and is seemingly always around the ball.
  • Among the more reliable open-field tacklers in the country.
  • Limits the yards gained at the point he meets the ball carrier.
  • Consistently swarms the ball.

Why he might fail:

  • Questionable deep speed and is a bit shorter than scouts prefer because of their coverage duties against tight ends.
  • Physical player who can get a bit grabby while in coverage, leading to some holding calls.
  • Attacks the line or underneath routes too quickly, leaving room for the deep ball behind him.
  • At his best facing the quarterback and running downhill towards the ball.
  • He'll be exposed if he's put on an island in coverage.

Quite frankly, he had me at "explosive hitting ability" and "punishing presence" but it all looks good, and his positives vastly outweigh any negatives - at least on paper.  As the roster currently stands, Patrick Chung joins James Sanders, Ray Ventrone, Brandon Meriweather, Antwain Spann and Tank Williams to secure the Safety position -- but it may not be enough.

It's a good bet that Bill Belichick will continue to sign free agents to add depth or just to increase the competition in the pre-season workouts, leaving the position in flux until the final roster cuts in early September.  Bolstering a solid base by drafting Patrick Chung was a terrific way to start.

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