Needless to say, many Patriots fans weren't as thrilled with day two of the 2012 NFL Draft as they were with day one. After selecting players that filled needs and could be categorized as the "best player available" at the time on Thursday night (Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower), the Patriots made some "questionable" decisions day two.
The "questionable" decisions started with the selection of Illinois safety Tavon Wilson in the second round, at 48th overall. Wilson has prototypical size-weight-speed for a free safety, has the versatility to play cornerback, and was productive his senior year, when as a captain, he recorded 83 tackles, one interception and a sack. According to various scouting reports, Wilson has been categorized as an instinctive player who can be valuable in run support, is disciplined in zone, and has room for improvement in man coverage.
Of course, it's easy to be critical of this pick. Wilson wasn't mentioned by many media outlets as one of the top safeties, he wasn't invited to the combine, and he was really only seen as a sixth or seventh round draft pick by most.
That means the selection was terrible, right?
Wrong. Lets put it this way: there's a reason why media members, such as myself, aren't evaluating tape and making decisions on which players a particular team should select - it's not our job. The Patriots have one of the best personnel evaluation departments in the NFL. When they studied Wilson, they saw a player who obviously graded very highly on their draft board. New England will never just draft a player to draft a player. They're not going to say: "Well, we've got this Tavon Wilson guy ranked in the sixth round, lets just take him here because we like him and only have two picks left." That's just not how it works. Think about the fan and media reaction to the Sebastian Vollmer selection in 2009. That selection "came out of nowhere," and now he's an All-Pro caliber tackle.
Of course, I'm not saying that the Wilson pick will turn out like the Vollmer one did. The Patriots are highly unlikely to find a player as good as Vollmer at any level. Nonetheless, Wilson fills an area of great need at safety and will be able to contribute immediately as a "big four" special teams player, and I'll trust Bill Belichick's evaluation of him more than I'd trust an evaluation of him from Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, or any other so called "draft expert." Greg's Grade: C
Analysis of the Patriots' trade and Jake Bequette selection after the jump!
So to me, the Tavon Wilson selection wasn't the team's most questionable move of the night. The most questionable move of the night, to me, was the decision to trade the #62 pick in the draft to the Green Bay Packers for the #90 and the #163 selections. The Patriots got hammered on the draft value chart. In addition, considering that the Browns traded the #67 pick to the Broncos for picks #87 and #120 just a few minutes later, it shows that the Patriots really got poor value. In this case, I saw the trade as a "panic" move, as the team wanted a day three selection and felt they had to take the best offer to get one. Had the team picked up an extra third day draft pick, I would have felt better about the deal. But moving back 28 spots from the second to third round to get a very late fifth round pick... doesn't seem like good business to me. The only reason I won't grade this trade an "F" is because the team did allow itself to remain active on day three in picking up the fifth round pick. Greg's Grade: D-
The Patriots final move of the night was to pick up Arkansas defensive end / outside linebacker Jake Bequette with the 90th pick in the third round. To me, this was a really solid pick all around. At 6'5" and 274 pounds, Bequette shows surprisingly fluidity and explosion for a player his size. Bequette probably projects best as a left defensive end in the 4-3, but there are a lot of people out there who think he has the athleticism and fluidity to play standing up as a 3-4 outside linebacker.
In fact, during the pre-draft process, NFL teams had Bequette running a lot of linebacker drills. Following his selection last night, NFL Draft Scout described Bequette as a "versatile Mike Vrabel-type with a defensive end's frame but enough agility and tenacity to get time at outside linebacker if the Patriots dabble in the 3-4 front as expected." The Patriots are likely to take advantage of this versatility, and Bequette's skillset. While he doesn't have the most extensive pass rush repertoire, he is a tenacious rusher who plays at 100% every down and can also set the edge. Overall, a real solid selection that highlights the turnover the Patriots have had at defensive end / outside linebacker this offseason. Bequette should contribute for significant time in the Patriots defensive line / outside linebacker rotation as a rookie. Greg's Grade: B+
Overall, it was a bit of an up and down day for the Patriots on day two of the 2012 NFL Draft. I really liked the Bequette selection, I was very wary of the trade back from #62 to #90, and I am very open to consideration on the Patriots so called "reach" in Tavon Wilson.