Defense, defense, and more defense. Leading up to the start of the 2012 NFL draft this has been the mantra of draft experts and Patriots fans alike, when discussing our men of Foxboro. From Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd Mc Shay to "Johnny" at the end of the bar all agree the Patriots need defensive help. Unfortuantely, for all the "experts" Belichick and company probably have another idea in mind.
It is clear to everyone that the Patriots are in desperate need of help along the defensive line and secondary. These are also positions that can be filled using solid veterans as Belichick has done in the past. The Patriots have shown a propensity for finding value Ted Washington, Mike Wright, Kyle Arrington, Andre Carter and to a lesser extent Shaun Ellis. Now these names did not have the sizzle of a first round draft pick, but regardless produced results. Yes there have been busts like Albert Haynesworth and Leigh Bodden, but the same can be said of past defensive draft picks.
What makes any of us think the Patriots have not already addressed the defensive line and secondary by signing Steven Gregory, Trevor Scott, Will Allen and Johnathan Fanene? These players represent the low risk-high reward players, the Patriots believe they can coach up when placed into their system as they have shown in the past. This line of front office thinking can alter the perception Belichick and Director of Player Personel, Nick Caserio, see as an immediate need.
With the retirement of Matt Light and the uncertainty surrounding Brian Waters, it should not surprise anyone that the Patriots deem offensive line as the way to draft. Belichick has shown the foresight to do this in the past with other players, like Logan Mankins and Nate Solder. One can reason the Patriots will once again see value in selecting a future starter to block for Brady over his final years. The name that keeps sticking out as a potential sleeper pick is the center, Peter Konz, of Wisconsin.
Konz was a three year starter at Wisconsin, while blocking for quarterback Russell Wilson and running back Monte Ball. He has shown the toughness and nastiness offensive line coach, Dante Scarnecchia, look for when grooming the Patriots offensive line. His combine numbers might not have reflected his skill set, but this should not take away from Konz being the top center prospect in the 2012 draft.
The signs are there for the pick. Dan Connolly, has earned the right to be a starter as evidenced by his play during the Superbowl and the Patriots showed this by handing him a contract this offseason. He will be 30 years old when the season starts, but has shown the ability in the past to play guard along with center. Former starter and Superbowl champion Dan Koppen was brought back on a two year deal, but with the intent of playing him where needed along the line.
It makes sense to bring in a player of Konz stature to grow along Mankins, Solder, and Marcus Cannon. The center position will be solidified for the next ten years as it was when Koppen was drafted in 2003. Take Konz and trade the other pick for a second round pick and a first next year. If the Patriots want to maintain the success seen over the last decade they need to protect Brady at all costs. Peter Konz may not be a splashy draft selection, but neither was Logan Mankins.