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With the offseason (as a whole) being one of the major topics of discussion today, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look back at the draft, as we continue our "Game Changing Offseason Moves" series.
Heading into the offseason, a lot of fans were asking for the Patriots to add more "playmakers." That is, players whose presence on the field is game changing. The make plays with the ball, and can add an instant spark to a team's offense or defense.
While "playmakers" wasn't a term commonly discussed immediately following the draft, looking at the team's draft picks, there's no question that the team picked up a bunch of guys that can and will be playmakers for this team for years to come.
Round 1, Pick 27: Devin McCourty, CB: McCourty is a true playmaker. McCourty recorded interceptions in each of his four years at Rutgers. Two of his six career interceptions, returned for touchdowns. McCourty also blocked SEVEN career kicks, six of which came on punts. While McCourty may not have made that many plays on defense, he was a shut down corner, and continually was a playmaker on special teams.
Round 2, Pick 42: Rob Gronkowski, TE: I'll go straight to the stats when it comes to Gronkowski. Two years, sixteen total touchdowns. 18.8 yards per catch his freshman year, 14.3 as a sophomore. Those numbers aren't just great tight end numbers, they're great receiver numbers. While Rob Gronkowski might not be the athlete that Ben Watson was, he has consistently made big plays. With his huge 6'7" frame, Gronkowski should continue to make big plays for the Patriots.
Round 2, Pick 62: Brandon Spikes, ILB: Brandon Spikes isn't the tremendous athlete that you want your typical 3-4 inside linebacker to be. But man, does he have great instincts, and a great knack for just flat out making plays. Between his junior and senior years, Spikes picked up five sacks and six interceptions, with four of those being returned to the house. But it's not just the stats, it's the way he plays. He's always around the ball, and he just finds a way.
Round 3, Pick 90: Taylor Price, WR: Price, blessed with tremendous size and speed, produced big time numbers out of an option based offense in Ohio. With a combined 14 touchdowns his final three seasons at Ohio, Taylor Price defined playmaker for an offense not really meant to have them at Ohio. He also had carries of 17, 20, 25, 14, and 22. Just give him the ball, and he'll make plays. With quarterback Tom Brady at the helm, Price should have plenty of more opportunities to make big plays as he begins his NFL career.
Round 4, Pick 113: Aaron Hernandez, TE: Aaron Hernandez might be the truest "playmaker" of all of the Patriots picks. His senior season at Florida, Hernandez recorded 68 receptions for 850 yards and five touchdowns. After he makes the catch, he consistently makes defenders miss and picks up big yards. He is a polished route runner for a tight end. He can be lined up on the line, out wide, or in the backfield. Wherever he's placed, he just doesn't stop making plays. He should be a valuable asset for the team for years to come.
Round 7, Pick 250: Zac Robinson, QB: While a 7th round pick normally wouldn't make the list of "playmakers," Robinson certainly does. Whether it be with his arm or with his feet, Robinson often came up with big plays during his career at Oklahoma State. Whether that translates to the NFL remains to be seen.
Overall, when looking at this draft class, I think the Patriots did a good job at picking up "blue chip" playmakers. They picked up players who have proven that they consistently make big plays on the field. These players certainly qualify as "game changing." Later this week, we'll continue our "Game Changing" series, by looking at players who the Patriots selected that will help improve the locker room.