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What were the best and worst value picks for the Patriots in the 2011 NFL Draft? That's the question I attempt to tackle in this article:
Best Value Pick: Marcus Cannon, OG/OT, TCU - Round 5, Pick 138
Other Consideration: QB Ryan Mallett (Rd 3, 74)
Ryan Mallett got some consideration in this spot, because after all, he was a top ten talent who fell all the way to the middle of the third round for the Patriots. Ultimately, I went with TCU offensive lineman Marcus Cannon, who I think could step in and be the starter at right guard by year two.
As you have probably heard by now, TCU guard/tackle Marcus Cannon was a borderline first round talent who fell all the way to the fifth round due to being diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma shortly before the draft. While that incident was unfortunate and we wish Cannon the best with his recovery, there's no question that the Patriots got terrific value by selecting the mammoth. Cannon is not the prototype 6'4" 300 lb Patriots guard. He stands at 6'5" and 353 lbs and is a mauler who excels at run blocking. However, he is more athletic than you would give him credit for, and could develop into an adequate pass protector as a right guard. As a fifth round pick, the selection is very low risk-high reward. Even if Cannon is not ready to play in 2011, he would likely be a starter by 2012.
Worst Value Pick: Malcolm Williams, CB/S, TCU - Round 7, Pick 219
Other Consideration: RB Stevan Ridley (Rd 3, 73)
So did I totally cop out by choosing a seventh round pick for "worst value"? Yeah, probably. But here me out. We've already discussed how Ryan Mallett and Marcus Cannon were the best values. Nate Solder was good value in the first round. Ras-I Dowling was terrific value at pick 33 considering he was at one time considered a borderline top ten talent if it wasn't for his run on injuries. Shane Vereen wasn't terrific value, because I think he could have been had at 60 (which would have allowed the team to select Torrey Smith or Greg Little at 56, who were reportedly the two players they were looking to get there). Lee Smith was good value - the Patriots got the best blocking tight end at the tail end of the fifth round. And Markell Carter is a high-upside pass rusher with little risk in the sixth round.
I considered Stevan Ridley here. I had him as a 4th-5th rounder, and I think he could have gone later. Nonetheless, I like what Ridley provides as a north-south runner, and I think Bill Belichick knows what he is doing using a top 75 pick on a runner. That being said, I still do not get the Malcolm Williams pick. Sure, he was a good special teams player and the Patriots value those guys, he also had a great pro day. But he was on no one's draft radar. He did not receive a workout from a single team. On some draft web sites, he wasn't even in the top 100 cornerbacks. There were still some good value players left on the board at pick 219. Players who I could not possibly imagine being lower than Malcolm Williams on a team's draft board. I have to think that Williams would have been available after the draft as an undrafted free agent. Why not take a flier on a player with some high upside (even if there's risk involved, it is just a seventh round pick)? I hope the best for Williams. Maybe he can unseat Matt Slater for a special teams spot. I do not know. But in terms of a value pick, Williams was definitely the worst.
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Best value pick?
QB Ryan Mallett (3rd) (256 votes)
OL Marcus Cannon (5th) (434 votes)
CB Ras-I Dowling (2nd) (116 votes)
TE Lee Smith (5th) (22 votes)
828 total votes