As we come into the last round of the 2012 Patriots Flag Football Draft, I can't really say that I was successfully able to anticipate the way things would go. While I was definitely able to accurately predict some of Greg's picks, others took me completely by surprise and almost had me second guessing myself. Greg's latest selection, Nate Ebner, was one of those picks. At first, I thought to myself, "Ebner? Is he serious? What the hell is he thinking?" But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Greg referred to Ebner as a wild card when he drafted him on Friday, and when it comes to Ebner, "wild card" may be the understatement of the century. While the pick is definitely a risk, as nobody really has any stats or real game footage to go off of, I think that there is one thing that Greg and I can definitely agree on: thank goodness this is only a hypothetical flag football game we're talking about here. Otherwise, we may very well have been looking at a situation where every single player on the field for this game - Ebner included - ended up on IR.
But there's no time to dwell on what Ebner may or may not be capable of. I have one more pick to make in order to put an exclamation point on what has been an already stellar draft. Between Aaron Hernandez, Rob Gronkowski, and Brandon Lloyd, I think I'm in great shape on offense. Defensively, Devin McCourty and Kyle Arrington provide enough cover skills to make sure I'm not going to get completely burned. And overall, there is enough talent and athleticism on my team to make up for any lack of experience on the other side of the ball. All I need now is an anchor for my offense and a disruptor for my defense. And while there are still plenty of great options available - and it really, really kills me not to draft Vince Wilfork here - I think I'm going to go ahead and use my last pick on Nate Solder.
I was hoping that Solder would still be around at the very end of the draft, and I'm very pleased that I'm able to take him here. While I can't say with confidence that Solder is the best lineman currently on the Patriots roster, I can say that he is a very good player with more versatility than most of the other guys that play on the line. I now have a pass blocker/run blocker/tight end on my team that can serve a number of purposes offensively. While his primary purpose will be to stay at home and protect Tom Brady, he will also make a great safety valve/dump off receiver due to the time he spent in college catching passes as a tight end. I definitely won't be sending Solder on any Go Routes, and he won't be racking up too many yards after the catch, but he still remains a very solid receiving option considering he's a lineman first and foremost. Solder will definitely give Brady the time he needs to hit any of the offensive weapons I have, as I don't think that Greg's team will be able to match up with any of my receivers. However, even if Solder does get beat on a blitz or blows his blocking assignment, he can always just run a quick hook route and Brady can dump the ball off to him for a few yards, helping to avoid the sack and turn a potentially negative play into a positive one. I also couldn't overlook the size advantage here. Solder, like Gronk, is significantly taller than the bulk of Greg's team at almost 6'9," and I now have another receiver that will let Tommy B simply throw it high enough to where only Solder can get it. The combination of Solder and Gronk running routes near the goal line is all but guaranteed to score points, seeing as how Ebner and his 39 inch vertical can only be in one place at a time.
At least, I think he can. I mean, he couldn't possibly cover Solder and Gronk at the same time - could he?
Defensively, Solder will be my down lineman and pass rusher. He has a quick first step and good hands, and I would love to see how he fares on the other side of the line. He obviously doesn't have Dwight Freeny-esque agility and pass rushing skills, but I think he'll be skilled enough to at least give whoever is blocking him a run for his money. Plus, with 36 inch arms and hands 10 inches long, he can at the very least obstruct Brady's passing lanes. You figure that Solder, with his arms over his head and his 32 inch vertical, would be able to bat down a ball that was close to 12 feet off the ground; seeing as how 12 feet is more than double the size of most of Greg's receivers, I think that Solder will at least be able to hold his own on D.
Solder makes a pretty damn solid anchor to what is already a very strong team. With Solder blocking, I can now let Gronk run a little more free over the middle, give Lloyd the time he needs to get deep, and use Hernandez in any number of ways. I also have McCourty's and Arrington's speed and athleticism that Greg has to account for. The Shane Train is now officially locked and loaded.
Hurry up and make your last pick, Greg, so I can start preparing my victory speech.