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Patriots Draft 2011: With the 17th Pick...

Over at Mocking the Draft, our friends are hosting an NFL Mock Draft. I was lucky to have Cameron O helping with the draft and he did an admirable job helping out not only the Patriots, but the whole draft. Round of applause for his work! I will also throw in there: It's my fault that we didn't get Cameron Heyward. I'm not as high on Heyward as a lot of other people (I believe there are other better, more Patriots 3-4 defense ready prospects), but I do know that a lot of you wanted him. I thought he'd last until #33 overall- unfortunately, he was snagged a couple picks before then. However, in my opinion, I believe that the draft fell out in our favor. Let's look at our first selection of the draft!

With the 17th overall selection of the 2011 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots select:

Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State

Cameron O made this selection because I was on RA rounds at my school at the time; regardless, he actually would have been the player selected on my draft big board. Players like Robert Quinn (5th overall), Cameron Jordan (7th overall), Julio Jones (12th overall), Aldon Smith (13th overall), and Gabe Carimi (15th overall) were already taken and Sherrod was one of the top players available- and the Patriots didn't want to wait until the end of the "run for tackles" to get whoever was leftover.

Read the reasoning after the jump!

Sherrod is regarded as one of the top tackle prospects in the draft. In all honesty, the top 5 tackles are almost interchangeable. Here's a list of certain qualities, according to me:

NFL Ready Versatility Upside Score
Gabe Carimi 1 1 5 7
Derek Sherrod 2 2 4 8
Anthony Castonzo 3 3 3 9
Nate Solder 5 4 1 10
Tyron Smith 4 5 2 11

That's a pretty rough grading scale, but it goes to show how similar these players are in the draft. Carimi can play ever line position, except guard, but he's pretty much playing at the level he'll play in the NFL for his career. Sherrod can play both tackle positions and has some room for growth. Castonzo is pretty middle of the pack in everything. Solder is a huge (literally) work in progress, yet he has plenty of upside if he can put everything together. Smith has only played right tackle in college, but has the skill set and potential to flourish in the NFL.

Sherrod seems like a great fit for the Patriots because he allows the Patriots to sign Matt Light for a transition contract (akin to what Stephen Neal received for this past season), as Sherrod learns under Dante Scarneccia's tutelage. Normally I would have waited to draft a tackle, but Carimi was taken off the board at #15 overall, which means that most of the tackles would be off the board by 28, and definitely by 33. All five of the tackles were gone by #27 (Atlanta Falcons), which means that the Patriots most likely would have been left with the lowest ranked tackle. It's great that the Patriots went out to get the guy that they wanted.

Personally, I would have taken Anthony Castonzo because I'm a biased Boston College guy because he provides the balance that the Patriots want in a prospect. He has more upside than Sherrod and could prove to be the better professional in the NFL in the long term- and the Patriots like keeping their line together. I don't think there's a big drop off in immediate quality either, between Sherrod and Castonzo, but I could see the two of them being extremely similar at the next level.

Sherrod still is a great pick for the Patriots. He's a great pass blocker who is able to jam his opposition quickly and get them off track, which is important when dealing with speed rushers. He's a little soft in the run blocking area, but it's more from lack of technique, which can be taught. He's a smart kid who loves to get involved with the community, which makes him a high character player who would fit in with the locker room.

Scouting reports state that Sherrod is a little top heavy, which would throw off his balance against some of the premier pass rushers and that he doesn't have the body type or frame to redistribute or add weight to his core and base. This would be the biggest concern moving ahead because it questions Sherrod's ceiling. Where will he max out? When will he be a liability? If he lacks the base to counter quick pass rushers, how would he hold at right tackle against the Cameron Wake's of the league? What about at left tackle against the Dwight Freeney's and the Terrell Suggs'?

I do believe that Sherrod can and will succeed at the NFL level. However, the question remains how high can he bring the level of his game? Will he be a solid tackle like Damien Woody? Will he be an above average tackle like Matt Light? Could he possibly elevate his ability to play like a Joe Thomas or Jake Long? Those are the questions to be asked when drafting the tackle. I believe that Sherrod could be a Matt Light at the next level. I believe that players like Castonzo could be at a level between Light and Long (like a D'Brickashaw Ferguson). I believe that Sherrod has a higher chance of being a Matt Light than Castonzo has of being a Ferguson.

Overall, this is a quality pick. It fulfills a need for the Patriots with one of the top prospects of the position and also one of the top players remaining on the draft board.