6. What was the Patriots best trade?
This one is really a no-brainer. The best trade the Patriots made was when they traded the 89th pick in the third round to the Carolina Panthers for their second round pick in 2011. While the Patriots were reportedly prepared to take Everson Griffen, this trade is a great value trade, and gives the Patriots four picks in the first two rounds next year. Additionally, you could argue that it was three trade-downs in the first and second rounds that netted the Patriots the 89th and 90th selections, thereby allowing them to convert one of those picks into a second rounder. While the Patriots have received some scrutiny for consistently moving down and moving picks into future years, I still love the strategy.
In fact, the trade discussed above was the only trade the Patriots made where they moved picks into 2011. The rest of the trades had the Patriots moving around the board, whether it be up or down. It seems as if the Patriots still got the top players on their board, despite all of the shuffling around.
7. How effective were the Patriots at filling their needs?
They were above average. They were good, but not great. While the Patriots addressed the tight end, outside linebacker, and wide receiver spots in the first three rounds, they failed to address the defensive line or running back positions. You could also argue that two of their picks, Devin McCourty and Brandon Spikes, did not feel big needs. However, those two picks were also two of my favorite picks. The main quibble I had with the Patriots was passing up good defensive line prospects in the fourth and fifth rounds, such as Al Woods and Arthur Jones. However, they did pick up Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston in the 7th. If one of those guys pans out, the Patriots will have filled most of their needs (with the exception being running back. Whether or not you are on the back-by-committee bandwagon, not a single running back is signed past this season for the Pats).
Rest of the questions/answers after the jump.
8. Who is one sleeper pick that could have an impact for the Patriots in 2010 or beyond?
The obvious choice would be tight end Aaron Hernandez, who was picked in the fourth round out of Florida. For the purpose of picking a real sleeper, I'm going to cast Hernandez aside for now, and look at two guys; center Ted Larsen out of N.C. State, and defensive end Brandon Deaderick out of Alabama. Larsen was a former defensive tackle, who is surprisingly athletic, and was great value for the Patriots with their compensatory pick in the sixth round.
While Larsen could develop into the future starter at center, I'm going with Brandon Deaderick out of Alabama as my real sleeper pick. I had a fourth round grade on Deaderick, who played the defensive end spot in the 3-4 under Nick Saban at Alabama. Deaderick consistently showed how dominant he could be against the run, and that he could hold up and push back against double teams. He even flashes some ability to get to the quarterback. He also has the prototypical length (6-4) and weight (310) that the Patriots look for in their defensive ends.
9. Did the Patriots pick up any potential gems via rookie free agents?
The Patriots ended up signing six rookie free agents, and there are a few that I think could compete in camp. Pass rushing outside linebacker Dane Fletcher is the one everyone has their eyes on. While he doesn't have the prototypical length that Bill Belichick looks for in his outside linebackers, he has a high motor, and had great sack production at Montana State. He could be a fan favorite at training camp.
Another rookie free agent to look at: Bryan Anderson out of Central Michigan. While Anderson only runs a 4.58, he has great size, at 6-5, 215 lbs. He had great production in college, netting 290 receptions, over 3600 yards, and 28 touchdowns on his career. With the Patriots looking for some height at receiver, Anderson should be a welcome addition.
A couple of more names for you:
Pat Paschall, RB, North Dakota State: While he ran a 4.69 40 yard dash, he was the leading rusher in all of FCS last season. Patient runner with good balance, should be a practice squad candidate.
Sergio Brown, S, Notre Dame: Good size, ran 4.45 40 yard dash. Questionable instincts. Practice squad candidate.
Ross Ventrone, S, Villanova: The brother of former Patriots' safety Ray Ventrone, who was a fan favorite. If he plays with his brother's motor and intensity, you can't count him out.
Kyle Love, DL, Mississippi State: 6-1, 315 lbs DT who will have a tough time cracking the Patriots' crowded defensive line.
10. What is a fair overall grade for the Patriots' 2010 draft?
While it's tough to hand out a "grade" for a draft that happened just this past weekend, I think the Patriots did a really solid job overall. Devin McCourty, the teams first round pick, probably won't start his rookie year, but should contribute on special teams, he has great intangibles, and should become the team's #1 down the road. Tight end Rob Gronkowski filled a major need for the Patriots. If his back is healthy, he should come in and start day one, and could be that all-around tight end threat the Patriots have been missing. Jermaine Cunningham fits the bill at outside linebacker for the Patriots, while time will tell on this pick, it certainly fills a need. Brandon Spikes is a big-time player, and could start day one for the Patriots at inside linebacker. Taylor Price and Aaron Hernandez are another two weapons to develop for quarterback Tom Brady. Zoltan Mesko should come in as the punter day one. Ted Larsen and Thomas Welch add some offensive line depth, and have a chance to develop. Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston are prototype 3-4 defensive ends, and may have a chance. Zac Robinson is a spread QB with some athleticism and potential to be the Pats' #3.
When all is said and done, it looks like the Patriots really chose for value, picking up a lot of good players at spots they might not have expected them to fall to. More importantly, the Patriots, while addressing needs, showed that they want to get back to their more physical style of play to their team, particularly with their selections of Rob Gronkowski, Jermaine Cunningham, and Brandon Spikes. Overall draft grade: A-