During Day One of the NFL Draft, the New England Patriots had the luxury of being able to select the best player on their board in Devin McCourty, the cornerback out of Rutgers. In Day 2, with three picks in the second round and one in the third, the Patriots should have plenty of opportunities to fill their four positions of "need" (defensive line, wide receiver, pass rusher, tight end, and running back). Here is my break-down of each of those positions, and how the Patriots can address them at some point during Day 2.
The Patriots passed up Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick during round one of the 2010 NFL Draft. While the Patriots did pass up Odrick, there will be plenty of opportunities for the Patriots to improve their defensive line during rounds two and three.
One name that stands out to me is LSU defensive end Al Woods. Woods, at nearly 6-4 and over 310 pounds, would be an ideal fit for the Patriots in their 3-4 front at defensive end. While Woods hasn't quite lived up to his potential to this point, but has the strength to anchor at the 5-technique in the 3-4. Woods was my top ranked 3-4 defensive end in the 2010 draft.
Another name you should keep your eye on is Syracuse tackle/end Arthur Jones. Jones is 6-3, 300 lbs and played the nose at Syracuse last season, often anchoring against double teams. However, Jones is also a good penetrator, and could kick back inside on passing downs as a pass rusher. I would actually compare him to Jarvis Green, whom the Patriots lost to free agency this offseason.
A few other 5-techniques the Patriots could consider in the second and third rounds include Linval Joseph from East Carolina, Lamarr Houston from Texas, and Brandon Deaderick out of Alabama.
Pass Rusher/Outside Linebacker
The Patriots biggest need is arguably outside linebacker, and the Patriots passed up the likes of Jerry Hughes and Sergio Kindle in round one (although Kindle remains on the board). There looks like there should be a lot of options in round 2 for the Patriots to address the need.
Players that remain on the board include Sergio Kindle of Texas, Ricky Sapp of Clemson, Jason Worilds of Virginia Tech, Corey Wootton of Northwestern, Thaddeus Gibson of Ohio State, O'Brien Schofield of Wisconsin, Eric Norwood of South Carolina, Koa Misi of Utah, Everson Griffen of USC, and Daniel Te'o-Nesheim of Washington.
Sergio Kindle was often regarded as the top 3-4 outside back in this year's draft, but concerns about the health of his knee have pushed him down the board. Ricky Sapp of Clemson is a guy I really like, an athletic pass rusher who already has experience in coverage. However, Sapp lacks the strength at this point to be effective at setting the edge. Jason Worilds is an undersized guy who could be a good situational pass rusher, but lacks the instincts and strength to be an every down player. Corey Wootton of Northwestern has similar size to former Patriot Willie McGinest. However, he isn't too comfortable in space, and might not be the best fit as an outside backer. Thaddeus Gibson is fast and comfortable in space, but hasn't produced as a pass rusher yet, and lacks the size/strength the Patriots look for in their outside linebackers. I could continue to go on and on with these guys, but all of them have some type of flaw.
However, of all of the guys I mentioned above, the player who most resembles what the Patriots look for in their outside linebackers would be Koa Misi of Utah. He is another smart player with great football instincts. He also has the size (6-3, 251) and strength to set the edge. He is a great tackler who is fluid in his movements. While he doesn't have the best sack production and isn't the greatest at getting off blocks, he has the skill-set that could make him a great starting outside linebacker for the Patriots from day one.
Rest of the positions after the jump.
The Patriots will draft a tight end at some point today. If they don't, I really will be shocked. To this point, the only player off the board is Oklahoma tight end Jermaine Gresham, leaving the likes of Rob Gronkowski, Dennis Pitta, Aaron Hernandez, Jimmy Graham, Anthony McCoy, Ed Dickson, Tony Moeaki, and Dorin Dickerson on the board.
My favorite of those players in Dennis Pitta, who I think could be a Dallas Clark type of player for the Patriots. Here is what I had to say on him Wednesday:
The Patriots already acquired a blocking tight end in Alge Crumpler, so they could use a receiving tight end to complement him. Dennis Pitta would be perfect in that role. He has great size and decent speed. While he may not be the best in-line blocker, he is very willing and can improve. As a receiver, he may not threaten the seam consistently, but he has great hands, and consistently makes tough catches in traffic.
Another guy I like, who could be a potential third round pick for the Patriots is Tony Moeaki of Iowa, who looks like a nice overall prospect at tight end.
The Patriots may also look to bring some fresh legs to the running back position. A few second day guys who the Patriots could look at are Montario Hardesty of Tennessee, Charles Scott of LSU, Dexter McCluster of Ole Miss, Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech, and Toby Gerhart of Stanford.
My favorite of that group is Montario Hardesty, who is arguably the best all-around back left on the board. Hardesty has a nice combination of power, speed, and agility, and consistently drags defenders after contact. He is also a solid pass protector, and is good catching the ball out of the backfield.
If the Patriots want a power back, they could look in the direction of a Charles Scott from LSU, or a Jonathan Dwyer of Georgia Tech. If the Patriots aren't looking for a traditional back, there is always the explosive Dexter McCluster, who could do a variety of things for the team.
Although the Patriots recently acquired Torry Holt, I don't think there is a reason for them to avoid drafting a receiver. In the second round, there are plenty of potential Patriots. The list includes Damian Williams of USC, Mardy Gilyard of Cincinnati, Eric Decker of Minnesota, Arrelious Benn of Illinois, Golden Tate of Notre Dame, and Brandon LaFell of LSU. In the third round, the Patriots could look at Andre Roberts of Citadel, Taylor Price of Ohio, Marcus Easley of UConn, Riley Cooper of Florida, or Jeremy Williams of Tulane.
Of that list, the Patriots have paid a lot of attention to Mardy Gilyard, who could line up at multiple positions for the Patriots. While he isn't the most athletic, he is dangerous after the catch, and consistently makes big plays.Golden Tate has that same big play ability, played under Charlie Weis, and is like a running back after the catch. Damian Williams of USC is arguably the most polished route runner in this years draft class, and could fit the role of Jabar Gaffney for the Patriots. Eric Decker has great height (6-3), and could develop into one of the best possession receivers in this draft class. You could throw Riley Cooper in a similar role. Andre Roberts, Taylor Price, and Jeremy Williams all have great speed and potential, but played at smaller schools. Marcus Easley has a big frame, is super fast, and has a very high ceiling.
Clearly, the Patriots, if they go receiver, could find a nice player in the second or third rounds of the draft.