This Thursday Patriots fans from around the globe will be glued to the TV for the 2011 NFL draft. We know we are in for a good time with the Pats holding 6 picks in the first 3 rounds. As a Red Sox fan I had for years grown accustom to them losing in the post season. As a Patriots fan, I have grown accustom to them trading when I wish they didn’t. As such, I offer you my “expected” 2011 draft.
For months now we have waited for the following words, “With the 17th pick of the 2011 draft, the New England Patriots select…” But somewhere in the back of our collective reptile brains we have always known the horrible truth, that those words will never be uttered.
17 – Traded to CIN for 35 and 2012 1st Round pick.
When Miami surprisingly grabs Mallet off the board, Cincinnati decides it has to pull the trigger and go get their man. The Bengals trade up to land Dalton, comfortable with the knowledge that they will more than recoup the cost when they inevitably deal Palmer in free agency, either this year or before 2012.
Patriots’ nation takes a deep breath and collectively sighs “here we go again.” But it’s still ok. The inevitable stocking up for 2012 is already taken care of and Heyward will still be on the board at 28 and Watkins at 33. Two of the big three needs will soon be filled. But then comes the 2nd big surprise of the night.
28 - Traded to San Diego for 50 and 61.
The Chargers were the first team rumored to be inquiring about the Pats’ 28th pick and have the perfect ammunition to land it. Belichick loves him some 2nd Round picks and the two for one deal is just too good to pass up, especially considering that San Diego already grabbed Watt at 18 and wont be looking to take Heyward with the pick we just gave them. It’s 11:00 at night and half of New England is ready to tear their hair out of their heads at this point. This was the “Carpe Diem” draft. The quality over quantity draft. How could this be happening?
After all this waiting Pats’ nation has to wait a little longer, until the start of day two. So much for the Thursday night draft party. We all take solace in the fact that at least there was beer, and surprisingly, Heyward is still on the Board. Tomorrow is a brighter day.
Day 2 and Beyond
Back in front of our TV’s, Patriot’s Nation is again full of confidence. Any minute now, at the very start of Day Two, the Patriots are going to finally make a selection. We are all giddy with anticipation.
33 – Traded to Carolina for 98 and 2012 1st.
Jets fans rejoice at the collective groan they can hear all the way in Manhattan. Enough trading for the future already and pick someone. At this point, anyone!!! Brady isn’t getting any younger! It might not be Carolina that makes this jump, but someone will overpay for the 33rd pick and the Hoodie will more than oblige them.
Just ten minutes later, however, our fortunes begin to turn.
35 – Cameron Heyward, DE
Thanks to the run on QBs (God bless you lack of a Free Agency) Heyward has managed to slip to 35 and the Patriots get the man they may have considered taking at 17. Belichick is either mad lucky or mad genius. If Heyward is already gone, then the Pats grab either Mohammad Wilkerson or Marvin Austin (one of the three has to drop into the top of the 2nd round).
A mere six minutes later the Pats make their next surprise move. Packaging the 50 from San Diego and their 92, they jump up and trade for the Browns’ 37.
37 – Aaron Williams, CB
First, Bill always seems to take a corner in the 2nd round. Second, Williams has the skills and build to cover the slot and move to safety, should a certain “pro-bowler” get a ticket out of town when free agency starts and he still has some value to the organization (hello 2012 2nd rounder?). With Bodden back this might seem like a luxury pick that should wait until later, but most of us thought the same thing last year when McCourty was tapped in the 1st. Corners are becoming more and more important in the NFL every year and Bill will not overlook the obvious value in the early 2nd round. If Williams is off the board, then look for Brandon Harris or Ras-I Dowling to get the nod.
With all of the trades out of the way, the Pats finish out the draft as follows;
60 – William Rackley, OG
The Pats now have two picks in a row, 60 and 61, so it doesn’t matter which need gets addressed first. Despite all the attention the top five tackles are getting right now, there is plenty of solid strength in the interior line in the late 2nd/early 3rd rounds of the draft. Rackley is a versatile interior lineman with a mean streak, just the way the Patriots like them. If Ijalana, Cannon, or Wisniewski are still on the board they may get selected before Rackley.
61 – Bruce Carter, OLB
Finally the pass rush, what many consider the most pressing need, gets addressed. Bill has never taken a pass rusher in the first round and his streak continues in 2011. Bill has also never hesitated to take a first round talent that has fallen because of injury concerns (i.e. Gronkowski). If he’s convinced Carter’s ACL will heal, then there is no way Belicheck passes up the chance to take one of the stronger OLB prospects in the draft. If the ACL is too much of a concern, or Carter is already gone, look for the Patriots to pick Allen Bailey, Sam Acho, or Brooks Reed if he somehow falls this far.
74 – Marcus Gilbert, OT
The Florida connection comes through again as the Pats grab a solid tackle in Gilbert who hits the playbook as hard as he hits the gym. Gilbert may be one of the steals of the entire draft. If Gilbert is gone, look for John Moffitt as a probably target.
98 – Taiwan Jones, RB
With the recently acquired first pick of the 4th round, the Pats take a back that is small, elusive, and has home run potential each time he touches the ball. With a 4.2 -4.3 forty, he’s one of the fastest and shiftiest athletes in the draft. The knock on Jones is he has durability issues and won’t be able to take the pounding as a primary back. However, with BJE and Woodhead sharing the backfield the Pats won’t ask for a ton carries from Jones. He gets the lighter load his smaller frame requires and the Pats get their home run threat out of the backfield.
125 – Mark Herzlich, OLB
An unfortunate illness and long recovery (plus fear of relapse) has driven down the stock of an athlete that had he come out a year earlier would have been a consensus first round pick. Herzlich is not only a high motor, dedicated, high iq football player, but he is a playmaker as well (6 interceptions last year). Like Carter, if the medical checks come through, the Pats will double down on the OLB position with two players whose stock has taken a beating thanks to injury or illness. If Herzlich is gone already or does not check out medically, then look for the Pats to tap Greg Romeus, another OLB prospect whose stock has plummeted due to injury concern.
159 – Ricky Elmore, OLB
Instead of the boom or bust top linebacker, I have the Pats taking the “lets see what sticks” approach and triple dipping in their search for a pass rush. Elmore lead the PAC-10 in sacks and Bruschi loves him. Definitely worth a 5th round flier. The triple dip at OLB may seem excessive, but if Carter is seen as still needing more time to heal (but able to fully heal) you could see him on the DL for his first season, making roster room potentially available for Elmore. If Elmore is already gone, look for the Pats to look for additional OL help, such as OT Jah Reid.
191 – Ricardo Lockette, WR
I fully expect the Pats to address the one open WR position on their roster (sorry Slater) through free agency and wouldn’t be surprised to see Sidney Rice, Ochocinco, or even Randy Moss at the Razor next year. With a likely shortened season and a complicated offense that takes time to learn, rookie WRs are of limited value in 2011. However, with their final pick of the 2011 draft, the Pats take a true flier on a speed burner receiver who could potentially develop into a field stretching threat. Lockette needs work on his route running and hands, but if he can show improvement the former track star has the size and speed to take the top off NFL defenses.
I would not be all that upset if the draft worked out something like this, although I would love to see Cam Jordan and Dan Watkins in a Pats uniform in September. At least we will have 3 first round picks in 2012. I may be completely wrong on the actually picks, but I bet the draft plays out a lot closer to this scenario than not. We'll see in four days.