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2011 Draft: How Should the Patriots Draft?

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Immediately after the 2010 NFL Draft, I posted a piece talking about how the Patriots should draft for the upcoming 2011 NFL Draft. The general idea was that the Patriots have spent the past couple seasons laying down the groundwork of depth on the roster and that this year is the time to pick up a couple stars to push the team over the top and back into the upper echelon of the league. Well, the Patriots finished the season 14-2 and, despite their disappointing exit, can be considered one of the top teams in the league. This year's draft is about putting the Patriots into the front of the league.

Before the season started, I pointed out the positions of need were defensive end, outside linebacker, offensive line and running back. Well, those are still positions that need attention this off-season. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead have lessened the need for a running back, but they are the only two backs on the roster that can be trusted so the Patriots could be looking for an addition to the stable. Still, the Patriots need help at DE, OLB and OL.

Let's take a look at some options for the Patriots after the jump!

I was talking with some of the guys at WEEI.com about how the Patriots should draft and brought up these possible scenarios:

Scenario A

Combine #33 + #60 to pick up ~#18.

#17 - DE

#18 - OLB

#28 - OT

#74 - OG

#92 - RB

Yes, the Patriots could move up in the first round. There are a lot of prospects that could go in the middle of the round that could fit with the Patriots. Defensive ends like Cam Jordan, J.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward, and Outside Linebackers like Aldon Smith and Ryan Kerrigan could all be selected in the middle part of the round. If the Patriots' see the value, why not get two of the top players at their position? There is a big drop off in athleticism from the first round OLB prospects in the later rounds, so the Patriots would be justified in taking a player with a burst that no players later in the draft would possess. Also, there's a potentially big difference between the first round DEs and the rest of the DEs in the draft (although the difference isn't as distinct as with the OLB position).

Looking at position #60 at the big boards, there's a very small difference in the level of predicted production as the expected production from 3rd and 4th round picks. There are very few players in positions of need that are expected to be drafted in this area of the draft- so why not package the pick and move up?

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Scenario B

Combine #60 + #74 to pick up ~#38.

#17 - OLB

#28 - OG

#33 - DE

#38 - OT

#92 - RB

The big difference between A and B is that A has greater potential quality, but B has a great balance of quality and quantity. The Patriots don't have a lot of space free on the roster, but they have room for a couple top prospects. The difference between A and B is that A can get Cameron Jordan, Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt, while B will get Mike Pouncey, Muhammad Wilkerson and Anthony Castonzo. Which is better for the team? Not sure- but it's definitely a reasonable debate.

This scenario saves a lot of value for the Patriots, yet still increases their expected quality of player. Pick #60 still remains a swing selection as trade fodder.

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Scenario C

Combine #17 + #60 to pick up ~#11.

#11 - OLB

#28 - OT

#33 - DE

#74 - OG

#92 - RB

Once again, #60 is used to consolidate the number of draft picks. Here, the Patriots make a move up the draft board to have a chance to grab a player like Robert Quinn or Aldon Smith. The Patriots are at a place to grab the top 3-4 OLB prospects, the top OTs and a second tier DE, and a second tier OG. Which positions need the greatest upgrade? In order, I'd say OLB, OG, DE, and then OT. Which scenario will help the Patriots the most?

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For me, I'd have to go with Scenario B. I'm a big fan of utilizing the #33 pick because it gives the Patriots a full night to sleep on who they want to select. I think that the Patriots can get the players they want with four picks in the first 38 spots, whereas I don't believe that the best players will be available at #60 and beyond. After pick #50, the next 20-30 players are all extremely similar- so why not take the value of the #60 pick and move up to get a higher quality player?

I believe that it's time for the Patriots to use the draft picks they've saved up and spend them on high quality players. Of course if a team offers them great value on a future pick, then make the trade, but the franchise has the opportunity to get multiple stars to put them over the top for the next half decade.

What do you think?