Baltimore Ravens' OT Michael Oher was excellent last season. So was the Green Bay Packers' OLB Clay Matthews. The St. Louis Rams' James Laurinaitis was a great player at MLB. The Jacksonville Jaguars picked up a different quality tackle in Eben Britton. The New York Giants got a great WR in Hakeem Nicks, while the Tennessee Titans got their own play making receiver in Kenny Britt. The Miami Dolphins picked their CB for the future in Vontae Davis.
What do all these players have in common?
They were all available at the New England Patriots #23 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft.
The Patriots wheeled and dealed all through the draft last season, ending up with 12 picks who all remain on the roster today. That seems like a quality draft, except when you look at the quality of players the Patriots left on the table by trading down and out of the first round.
I'm here to propose another bold move: Let's trade out of the first round in the 2010 NFL Draft.
Read my argument after the jump.
This draft is regarded as the deepest draft in many years. There's a general saying that playoff teams don't draft merely solid players- they draft playmakers who can push the team into the Super Bowl. I fully agree- some players need to be able to create opportunities for victory. The Patriots had a definite lack of "playmaking ability" on the defensive and offensive side of the ball this past season; their lack of "oomph" shone during the many second half losses.
However, I believe that players out of college, that go in the early rounds, rank in a couple different ways:
1) Can't Miss Prospect, Instant Star - Ndamukong Suh, from Nebraska, falls into this category. He's a player who has the potential to be the next big thing in the NFL.
2) Excellent and Immediate Starter - Rolando McClain, from Alabama, fits here. He may not be a Pro Bowl player in his first year, but he will most likely be excellent for years to come.
3) Great Player, High Ceiling, Immediate Contributor - Brandon Graham, from Michigan, matches this tier. He has the athletic ability and has shone in the college level. It's unknown if his play will translate to the NFL level, but if it does, he'll be a great player.
4) Unknown Commodity, High Ceiling, Project Player - Jason Pierre-Paul, from South Florida, is this exact type of player. No one knows if he'll succeed- he has a high bust risk- but he's a freak athlete who has the potential to put everything together. He'll have to learn the game for a couple years before contributing.
5) Good Player, Immediate Contributor - Ryan Mathews, from Fresno State, falls here. He has a position in the NFL as a potential starting running back. He may not blow minds like Tennessee's Chris Johnson, but he'll pitch in immediately and contribute when given the chance. Indianapolis's Donald Brown is this type of player.
I believe that when the Patriots start drafting at #22 (I doubt they trade up), the draft board will be filled with mostly "Good Players", "Great Players, High Ceiling" and "Project Players". The Patriots benefit from not needing a rookie to step onto the field and immediately contribute. While it would be nice for our picks to do so, it's not necessary. We have players like Myron Pryor, Ron Brace, Mike Wright and now Damione Lewis who can step up on the defensive line. Tully Banta-Cain, Shawn Crable and Pierre Woods still have a chance to perform at OLB, and we have a chance to resign Derrick Burgess who seemed to get a hang of our defense late in the season.
My point is, we don't need a player to start immediately. At #22 overall, I don't see many players available that could start immediately on our team. I think what this draft lacks in immediate contributors, it more than makes up in players who have high ceilings. All it comes down to is how high the Patriots believe each player's ceiling is.
I believe that many players have the same general ceiling in this draft. While I see some players being more "NFL Ready," I don't see them being much better in the long run than some players who will be available later on. With the benefit of sitting for a season, we have the opportunity to take these players, who have the same high ceilings as some earlier players, but later in the draft.
Here's some examples of players and their potential later-round picks, who I believe have the same ceiling.
First Round Pick: Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas
Second Round Player with Same Ceiling: Ricky Sapp, DE/OLB, Clemson
First Round Pick: Golden Tate, WR, Notre Dame
Second Round Player with Same Ceiling: Damian Williams, WR, USC
Third Round Player with Same Ceiling: Andre Roberts, WR, Citadel
First Round Pick: Jared Odrick, DE/DT, Penn State
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Torrell Troup, DE, University of Central Florida
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Tyson Alualu, DE, California
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Alex Carrington, DE, Arkansas State
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Lamarr Houston, DE, Texas
First Round Pick: Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma
Third Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU
Third Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Anthony McCoy, TE, USC
First Round Pick: Ryan Mathews, RB, Fresno State
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Jahvid Best, RB, California
Third Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee
First Round Pick: Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Kareem Jackson, CB, Alabama
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers
First Round Pick: Charles Brown, OT, USC
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Rodger Saffold, OT, Indiana
Second Round Pick with Same Ceiling: Jared Veldheer, OT, Hillside
So, in my opinion, while there are great players who could be taken at #22 overall, there are players with potential to be just as good later on in the draft. Call it "vague research" or "gut instincts", but I think the Patriots have the same feelings I do- there are plenty of great players in this draft, especially those who will be available after the first round.
So it seems pointless to throw out that we trade down if there are no teams to trade with. So, therefore, I've come up with some teams that we could trade with in order to make both teams happy.
According to Sportz Nutz.com's NFL draft point value list, the New England Patriots #22 pick has a value of 780. The value list is just a compilation of data, over time, which shows how teams value each pick and provides a guide line for what teams will follow in trading draft picks.
I should note that the Patriots seem to get a slight edge in most deals that take place- this is due to my opinion that the Patriots selection will be in high demand. The Patriots also have a plethora of sixth and seventh round picks that could be utilized to make some trades more even. It will be at the end of the first round and teams might be vying for a certain player who might not drop to their next selection. The Patriots are the first of many playoff teams who have the ability to draft the best player available instead of the best player needed- that's why I think some teams will slightly over trade to get the chance to pick the player they want.
Scenario 1: Tampa Bay Buccaneers #42, #67, 2011 Third Round Pick: Point Value = 735 + 70 (est) = 805
or #35, #67: Point Value = 805
The Buccaneers are a young team that needs all the help it can get. They also benefit from having two second round selections. They need help at almost every position, but they really need a huge offensive playmaker. While they'll most likely utilize their 3rd overall choice on either Gerald McCoy or Suh, they still need help on offense. If a player like CJ Spiller or Dez Bryant drops to #22, look for the Bucs to show some interest.
Scenario 2: Philadelphia Eagles #37, #70, #171: Point Value = 793
The Eagles have recently stock piled picks and have the greatest mobility out of any team in the draft- even more than the Patriots. They just invested their team's future in a young quarterback and, despite coming off a playoff year, have a lot of questions to answer on the defensive side of the ball. They could also go for an offensive tackle, if a player they like is still on the board. While they hold a pick only three slots behind us in the first round, they have the opportunity to trade up from the second round and get two first round picks- allowing them to fill two big holes of their choosing. With a need for TE, OT and Safety, if a player like Gresham is still on the board, or if Earl Thomas drops, the Eagles might opt to trade up and select the player of their choosing.
Scenario 3: San Diego Chargers #40, #92, #159, 2011 Second Round Pick: Point Value = 659.8 + 150 (est) = 809.8
The Chargers have a huge need at running back and NT. They are expected to pick the best available of either position in the first round. By trading with the Patriots, and getting two first round picks, the Chargers have the ability to fill both needs. If a player like Dan Williams has a free fall, or if Brian Price, or Terrence Cody is still available, the Chargers are a potential trade partner who would want to move up.
Scenario 4: Buffalo Bills #41, #73, #140, 2011 Third Round Pick: Point Value = 751 + 70 (est) = 821
The Bills are a division rival, but that hasn't stopped us from trading with them before (Hi Bledsoe!). They have many needs, due to their lack of starting QB, their lack of personnel for their new 3-4 defense and lack of receivers for said (lack of) QB. While it wouldn't surprise me if the Bills kept all their picks (because they need them all to improve), if they select the top OT at #9 overall and Jimmy Clausen falls to #22 (and it seems highly likely), maybe the Bills would make a move to grab him. On the other hand, if they choose Clausen at #9, and a tackle like Trent Williams or Charles Brown is still available, maybe they'll move up to pick them.
Scenario 5: Carolina Panthers #48, #78, 2011 Second Round Pick: Point Value = 620 + 190 (est) = 810
The Panthers don't have a first round pick this year and they may regret that. They need a talented receiver, as well as a strong pass rusher. If a player like Dez Bryant or Golden Tate is available, the phone might ring. If Everson Griffen or Carlos Dunlap is available, the Panthers might come knocking.
My point is that if the Patriots want to trade down, they'll most likely have a team extremely interested. The Patriots need to take advantage of this draft and I think the best way to "win" is by getting more picks and trading down. With the ability to have players sit and watch, perhaps the Patriots should follow their own example- trade down and reap the benefits.