The twittersphere is crazy as a bunch of scouts and popular bloggers are holding their own seven round mock draft with trades. The New England Patriots are GMed by Pro Football Focus' Akshay Anand, who is doing an insane job. And I mean "insane" in the best way possible. The Mock Draft can be found here, but this is the Patriots' draft up to now (through four and a half rounds):
17th Overall: traded to Indianapolis Colts for 2011 2nd and 3rd, 2012 1st and 3rd.
28th Overall: packaged up with their 4th round pick and a 2012 7th to move up to 25th overall, ahead of the Baltimore Ravens.
33rd Overall: packaged up with their second 2nd round pick and traded to Houston Texans for 2011 2nd and 2012 1st.
That means all four top two round draft picks were traded. Sounds about right. The net:
17th + 28th + 33rd + 60th + 125th + 2012 7th => 25th + 42nd + 54th + 87th + 2012 Colts 1st, 2012 Texans 1st, 2012 Colts 3rd.
Yes, according to this draft, the Patriots will be in possession of three first round picks in 2012 (and with a potential rookie salary cap, the value of a first round draft pick greatly inflates). I would say that Akshay did some phenomenal trading.
Let's analyze his picks after the jump!
Yes, they made their picks. Here's the breakdown:
25th - Cameron Heyward, DE, Ohio State
42nd - Jabaal Sheard, DE/OLB, Pittsburgh
54th - Rahim Moore, FS, UCLA
74th - Jason Pinkston, OT/OG, Pittsburgh
87th - Kenrick Ellis, DE/DT, Hampton
92nd - Austin Pettis, WR, Boise State
and the 5th round is currently underway. The Patriots have the 159th pick in this round, as well as a 6th rounder to go.
Trading Down from 17th/Cameron Heyward - Great pick that had to happen. Everyone believes that Baltimore will either take a 3-4 DE or a 4-3 DE for their hybrid defense. Heyward fits that bill pretty well. Looking at how the draft played out, Cam Jordan was off the board at 14th overall (to Houston), the Buccaneers traded up to 15th overall to take J.J. Watt, and the Chargers traded up to 16th overall (one ahead of the Patriots) to snag Muhammad Wilkerson. This left the Patriots without a real viable defensive end prospect at 17th. Tyron Smith (13th overall) was the only offensive lineman taken so far, which means that the Patriots had their pick any any offensive lineman they wanted. However, the Colts clearly overpaid in order to get the tackle they wanted which means that Akshay did a great job of getting value for the draft pick. I would've made that same trade in a heart beat.
Unfortunately, the trade down allowed the Colts to take the tackle of their choice, prompting a run at the tackle position, leaving Derek Sherrod as the only first round graded tackle on the board at #21 overall. Akshay ran the risk of not getting one of the top 3-4 DE prospects so he had to move up from 28th overall to grab Cameron Heyward at 25th. It was a good move that had to happen to get the DE of choice.
First Round Grade: A. They got a top player (Heyward) as well as took the Colts' lunch money. Sounds like a good round to me. Akshay left the Patriots in a position where the might not have been able to trade back into the first round without costing the 33rd overall- and what if another player dropped to the late 20s, but luckily Sherrod dropped into the second round (distinct possibility to happen in real life).
33rd + 60th for 42nd + 2012 First, as well as the Colts' 54th - Sounds like a pretty fair trade to me. Knowing the Texans, they'll be a middle of the pack teams, especially because they're a team in transition, going from the 4-3 defense to the 3-4. Teams always take a season or two to adjust and improve. They also play in a division where every teams plays for 2nd behind the Colts, which means they'll be a top 20 pick (and if not, the Colts' pick will be a top 20 pick. It's like the stock market with a portfolio of two stocks with opposite betas. If one team does well, the other does poorly. Win/Win if the Titans or Jaguars come out of nowhere). There's also a chance it will be a top 10 pick if the Titans and the Jaguars clean up their act and take advantage of the Texans' changing defense.
As for the players, Sheard is a pretty solid prospect. I view him as being similar to Cunningham, so I question his added value, unless the team is planning on running a defense with two heavy OLBs. It's a possibility if Cunningham has shown an improvement in his coverage abilities, but if not, I don't see Sheard having much of an impact, without Cunningham having a decrease in playing time.
Using the Colts' 54th, Akshay took FS Rahim Moore, a player we just previewed. I expressed that Moore would be the best player to outright replace Meriweather, but I question his versatility and the impact he can have in the Patriots' defense. I understand that he's the best rated safety in the draft, but I just don't like him on the Patriots. He's not a strong player that the Patriots traditionally have in the secondary, but is more of a light safety (who's not that fast), better fit for a lighter defense.
Second Round Grade: B. Akshay put the Patriots in a solid scenario to succeed, but I question the execution. I like the value added with the draft picks, but I'm not sure where the Patriots will play Sheard on defense because of his similarities to Cunningham, nor am I comfortable with Moore in the backfield.
74th, Colts' 3rd, 92nd - Akshay decided not to trade the Patriots 3rd rounders, but still managed to add another pick. Pinkston at #74 is a reasonable pick, but with players like Allen Bailey, Sam Acho and John Moffitt still on the table, I wonder if Pinkston (or a comparable tackle) would still be available later in the round. Pinkston is a solid project, but I question where he would play on the Patriots and whether there is a spot for him on the offensive line. He's a tackle/guard who isn't really fit for either position.
Ellis is a monster at 87th overall and I really like the pick-up. He has the potential to be Wilfork's back-up, as well as additional beef at the defensive end position. I think he's an immediate upgrade over some of the depth players on the roster, with some very high upside. Ellis is my #2 Phil Taylor-like player, which means that he's a heavy player who has tremendous agility. He can push the pocket against double teams, which is invaluable in the 3-4 two gap defense, he can stop the run and he can pressure the quarterback. Very solid selection. While Ellis may create a logjam of talent at the defensive line, that's not a bad problem if the defensive line is a position of need.
At 92nd, I'm not sure how I feel about Pettis. He's a big target possession receiver, but I see him as a less valuable Aaron Hernandez. I understand the need for a big receiver after how our smurfs were beaten by smothering coverage, but Pettis lacks speed, quickness, strength, blocking ability, and route running ability. I also want to give Taylor Price and Brandon Tate some additional time at wide receiver since Pettis is not a "can't miss" receiver. He wouldn't be an upgrade, so I don't know if he's worth the pick.
Third Round Grade: C. Average. I wouldn't be ecstatic about this round if it played out, but I can understand why it did. Maybe Akshay was following Belichick's "take questionable 3rd round players" drafting technique. With running backs like Shane Vereen, DeMarco Murray, Jordan Todman, and Kendall Hunter all available in the 4th round, I would have take any of those players over Pettis. I also would have taken James Brewer from Indiana over Pinkston because I think Brewer has more upside and just needs his technique refined.
The Patriots do not have any 4th round picks in this draft. 5th round is not completed.
How would you feel about a draft that played out like this?