Why the 2012 Draft Shouldn't Be Overlooked

Each year with the NFL draft approaching, we as fans often tend to make the same mistake.  Firstly we list the needs of our team in our minds, followed by an analysis of where our team is picking in the draft in each round and how many picks we have overall.  We follow this act by systematically allocating picks to players in positions of need, somehow thinking the Patriots can address every single need in a single draft.  It just doesn't happen that way.  Similarly, in the build up to the 2011 draft, fans (myself) included have gone through the same practice.  And again we may have overlooked what could be just around the corner in the 2012 NFL Draft... 

 

Anticipating & drafting the strength of the Draft.

Many Patriot fans were stunned when, in the 2010 NFL draft and the Patriots sitting at 27 with our future right defensive end Jared Odrick still on the board, the Patriots decided to take some special teams ace from Rutgers.  Where was our pass rushing, run stuffer going to come from?  With regards to pass rush, our concerns were eased somewhat in the 2nd round when the Patriots traded up above the pass rush needy Baltimore Ravens - "I can't wait to see Sergio Kindle chasing down Peyton Manning" we all thought!  And Bill Belichick went and drafted a supposedly injury prone tight end out of Arizona.  Two needs completely ignored - no pass rusher, no defensive end! 

Of course, what we completely overlooked was the fact that the 2011 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded with defensive line and outside linebacker pass rushing prospects.  Did Belichick really think that Gerard Warren, a washed up former 1st round pick and Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston, two late round picks would really be the future of the right defensive end position?  Well...no, not really!  Those players were picked as stop gap players in essence, to help out with a short term need until a strong defensive line draft came along.  The Patriots waited until 2011, where they will likely draft to the strength of this draft.

Need for Speed

How many people have the Patriots taking a wide receiver high in the 2011 NFL draft?  Well, reading some of the expert mock drafts on ESPN and such, a number of pundits have the Patriots selecting someone like Torrey Smith or Jonathan Baldwin.  Never mind the fact that the 2012 draft is stocked full of blue chip wide receivers - so much so that if 2011 is the year of the pass rusher/defensive end, then experts believe 2012 will be the year of the receiver!  Looking at many early mock drafts for 2012, some of the top receiver prospects include the following:

Name

College

Size-Weight

Draft Projection

Michael Floyd

Notre Dame

6'3 - 228lbs

Top 15

Alshon Jeffery

South Carolina

6'4 - 233lbs

Top 15

Justin Blackmon

Oklahoma State

6'1 - 207lbs

Top 15

Ryan Broyles

Oklahoma

5'11 - 183lbs

Mid-Late 1st

Mohammed Sanu

Rutgers

6'2 - 218lbs

Mid-Late 1st

Greg Childs

Arkansas

6'3 - 213lbs

Late 1st/Early 2nd

 

The first thing that jumps off the page is that 2012 will be a year of big receivers with good size, strength and speed.  I would not be surprised to see the Patriots use a 2012 1st round pick on a wide receiver, particularly if they trade down this year to accumulate an additional 1st for 2012.

Protection Issues

A number of mocks also have the Patriots using one of their 2011 1st round picks (usually the 17th overall pick) on an offensive tackle or guard, such as Anthony Castonzo or Mike Pouncey?  Well, the 2012 draft is considered a very strong class for offensive linemen, particularly at the Tackle position, much different from the 2011 draft, where the overall offensive tackle class is considered quite weak.  Some of the top offensive line prospects include:

Name

College

Size-Weight

Draft Projection

Matt Kalil

USC

6'7 - 295lbs

Top 10

Jonathan Martin

Stanford

6'6 - 291lbs

Top 10

Mike Adams

Ohio State

6'8 - 300lbs

Mid 1st

Riley Reiff

Iowa

6'6 - 300lbs

Mid 1st

Matt Reynolds

BYU

6'6 - 329lbs

Late 1st

Nate Potter

Boise State

6'6 - 296lbs

Late 1st

 

There is real depth at the offensive tackle position in 2012 (look at some of the mock drafts and you will find even more tackle prospects starting to find their way into the first round), and certainly the Patriots could easily decide to wait and address the position at a later date.  In 2011, there as undoubtedly excellent OT prospects, but after the first three or four, the talent level really starts to drop, unlike the expected class of 2012.

Indeed, while the 2012 draft appears already to produce a strong group of quarterbacks, the real strength of that draft at the moment is considered to be at wide receiver and offensive tackle.

What does this mean for the Patriots?

Well, first of all, don't throw your TV remote through the window if the Patriots don't draft a field stretching wide receiver in 2011!  The Patriots will in all likelihood allow Taylor Price to show what he can do and see if Brandon Tate can finally put it all together.  While the Patriots may add a late round developmental prospect, they can afford to wait, safe in the knowledge that 2012 could bring a long term solution if needed.

Furthermore, don't vow to never watch the Patriots again if Belichick doesn't take an offensive tackle high in the draft, not when the Pats can resign Matt Light as insurance and take their future offensive tackle in a strong class in 2012.

Let's remember that not all needs can be addressed in a single draft.  The Patriots will draft to the strength of a given draft and 2012 certainly will bring strength in depth in two areas of need for the New England Patriots.

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