The Patriots once again made headlines in the 2010 NFL Draft. Like usual, they worked the boards, making seven trades overall, and an astounding six trades within the first two days of the draft. The Patriots made twelve total picks for the second straight year, including four in the first two rounds. Three of their picks came from Florida, having played under Bill Belichick's buddy Urban Meyer. This article is my attempt to bring it all-together, and give you a comprehensive look at the entire Patriots 2010 Draft Class. To do this, I tackle 10 major issues, in question and answer form. This article includes the first five. The second part will be published tomorrow. Enjoy!
1. Who were the picks?
Round 1, Pick 27: Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers - A special teams ace for Rutgers, McCourty is surprisingly good in run support, and is comfortable in man or zone coverage. Fast, fluid, and has great recovery/closing quickness. His numbers suggest he could become a shutdown cornerback.
Round 2, Pick 42: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona - Gronkowski was unanimously considered one of the top two TE's and a first round talent, with the only thing dropping him was a concern about the health of his back. Great all around TE with great hands, great size (6-6, 260).
Round 2, Pick 53: Jermaine Cunningham, DE/OLB, Florida - While Cunningham was overshadowed by Carlos Dunlap at Florida, he has the type of size the Patriots look for in their pass rushing outside linebackers (6-3.5, 266). Has great burst and acceleration, can set the edge, uses his hands well, and has the athleticism and instincts to drop into coverage.
Round 2, Pick 62: Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida - Brandon Spikes is a top-15 talent who fell this far in the draft because of his poor 40 yard dash time (5.0). While Spikes timed low, he runs faster in pads, and is quick directionally, and has a good closing burst. He can take on blockers, shed them, and makes plays. He is very smart, instinctive, and is a great leader both on and off the field.
Round 3, Pick 90: Taylor Price, WR, Ohio - Taylor Price is a developmental prospect who can run a 4.3 40 yard dash. He has great acceleration off the line, and can run great routes. Can also make the tough catch.
Round 4, Pick 113: Aaron Hernandez, TE/H-Back, Florida - Was arguably the best tight end at the collegiate level this past season. He is a good route runner, with nice speed, and is great after the catch. He can also line up at multiple positions; tight end, h-back, fullback, even out wide.
Round 5, Pick 150: Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan - Big, lefty punter with good power, and good hang time. Can sometimes let one get away.
Round 6, Pick 205: Ted Larsen, C, NC State - Former defensive tackle still rough around the edges. But plays with a high motor, is nasty against the run, and has the short area quickness and upper body strength to develop as a pass protector.
Round 7, Pick 208: Thomas Welch, OT, Vanderbilt - Former tight end with good quickness/speed. Has great size (6-6, 312), but needs to add some strength. Likely could play left or right, with good development.
Round 7, Pick 247: Brandon Deaderick, DE, Alabama - Plays with great leverage, and can hold up against double teams. Excellent run defender. Typical 3-4 DE size, at 6-4, and over 300 pounds.
Round 7, Pick 248: Kade Weston, DE/NT, Georgia - Could probably play nose or end in the 3-4 at 6-5, 315. Great length, long arms, excellent strength. Can hold up at the point of attack. Lacks starting experience.
Round 7, Pick 250: Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State - Athletic, spread quarterback who is fairly accurate and mobile in the pocket. Production dropped significantly when Dez Bryant was suspended.
2. Who was the biggest steal for the Patriots?
This one was a toss-up for me between Gronkowski, Spikes, Hernandez, and Deaderick. I decided to go with Brandon Spikes because I think he is the type of player that this locker room needs. While he might not be a three down player, he does have the QUICKNESS to be an NFL linebacker. His will play strong inside linebacker for the Patriots, which will move Jerod Mayo back to his natural spot at WILB. This will open up more plays for him. To get a top 15 player late in the second round is an absolute steal.
3. Who was the biggest reach for the Patriots?
The Patriots really didn't reach on any players, but if I had to go with one, the pick would probably be Zoltan Mesko, punter out of Michigan. 5th round is probably a little too high for Mesko, considering some of the talents that were still on the board. However, if Mesko comes in and wins the punter job, this will be a fine pick for the club.
4. Which players will have the biggest impacts as rookies?
There are five players that I think could come in and have immediate roles with the team. Devin McCourty should step in as the third cornerback, and will likely get a chance to start. Rob Gronkowski will be in the drivers seat for the starting tight end position. Jermaine Cunningham will get a chance to start at outside linebacker, but more realistically, could have a role as a situational pass rusher. Brandon Spikes should be able to start at inside linebacker next to Jerod Mayo as a rookie. He should at least get in on running downs and short yardage packages. Aaron Hernandez should see some run as a fullback/h-back and as a receiving tight end. Zoltan Mesko should become the starting punter.
Also, we could see Ted Larsen who played defensive tackle in college, and Thomas Welch who played tight end, get involved on special teams. I wouldn't rule out one of Brandon Deaderick or Kade Weston earning a spot in the defensive line rotation.
5. How many starters will come out of this draft class?
I think the Patriots will get at least five starters out of this draft class (if you count punter). They could potentially get as many as eight.
Devin McCourty should become a starter. I think Jermaine Cunningham will become a starter sometime in the future. Brandon Spikes could be an instant starter at inside linebacker. Same goes with Rob Gronkowski. Zoltan Mesko will likely be the starting punter.
Other players with starting potential include Aaron Hernandez, Taylor Price, Ted Larsen, and one of Brandon Deaderick or Kade Weston. Hernandez may become the starter as a receiving threat at fullback. With Randy Moss potentially leaving the Patriots after 2010, Price could develop into a nice #2 for the Pats. Ted Larsen, with some time, could be groomed to take over for Dan Koppen. Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston have some potential as two-gap defensive ends, and with some work, could compete for a starting spot come 2011 or 2012.