Apr 26, 2012; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell introduces Dont'a Hightower (Alabama) as the number twenty-five overall pick to the New England Patriots in the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall.
Yeah, at this point, it's way too early to accurately hand out draft grades. But it's still a fun exercise to do. That being said, here are some day one draft grades handed out to the Patriots from around the web:
It's not often you revamp a position in one day like the Patriots have done here with Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower. New England's pass rush was a weakness.
Chandler Jones, A+: The Syracuse star was considered a bit of a late first-round sleeper, just the kind of player Belichick turns into a star in New England.
Dont'a Hightower, C: They traded back up to get this guy, but where does he play? Outside rusher? Inside? Not sure about this one.
Chandler Jones, B+: The pass-rushers were flying off the board, so the Patriots made an unlikely move and moved up for Chandler Jones. I don't have much of a problem with this. In fact, I think this is a decent move because Chandler Jones could have gone as high as No. 12. Unfortunately for the Patriots, Bill Belichick's run of having two first-round picks will conclude in 2013.
Dont'a Hightower, B: Dont'a Hightower is a really good football player who fits the range. I didn't think the Patriots would pick him, but it makes sense because Bill Belichick loves players with versatility. Hightower definitely has that; he can be used at inside linebacker or on the edge as a pass-rusher. Belichick will have lots of fun using Hightower all over the football field. If the Patriots didn't trade up, this might have been an A-.
Chandler Jones, A-: Some of those closest to Bill Belichick noted before the draft that the coach isn't the type to fall in love with one player, but the trade up for Jones (from 27 to 21, with a third-round pick as a sweetener) shows that's not necessarily the case. There is intriguing potential here, similar to the Giants' selection of Jason Pierre-Paul in 2010. Giants GM Jerry Reese felt confident taking Pierre-Paul because he was such a good athlete -- he's turned into a stud -- and Jones falls into a similar category. Jones has rare physical traits, which don't come around often.
Dont'a Hightower, A-: Sensing that perhaps the Ravens (29) were prepared to pounce on Hightower, the Patriots made a move up the board (from 31 to 25, with a fourth-round pick as a sweetener) to secure a versatile, tough, athletic linebacker who fits in a few different spots. It is rare to see a player who could be a run-stuffer on the inside on early downs, then play end as a rusher in passing situations. The Patriots might have had a greater need in other areas, but Belichick isn't going to turn down a good football player who unexpectedly is still on the board.
That's it for draft grades for now. Pretty much every publication seemed to be high on the Chandler Jones selection, while the reaction to Dont'a Hightower was mixed. Last night, I gave the Jones selection a B+ and the Hightower pick an A-. The NFL Draft continues tonight at 7:00 PM. Currently, the Patriots hold the 48th and 62nd overall selections.