The Patriots did it again. They somehow managed to find a trade partner to move out of the first first. Just like last year, when New England wanted to trade out from the end of the second round to get more picks- only this time the Patriots didn't get fleeced.
The Patriots walk away with an extremely fair trade and now have more freedom to move around and select some impact players. So what are some potential targets for today?
Let's look at the value. As it stands, the Patriots hold the 52nd, 59th, 83rd, and 91st picks. I see the fourth rounder as pretty close to off-limits, while the 7th rounders can sweeten the pot, but won't add much value (and I see them wanting to keep one, while pairing up the other two to jump into the sixth round). Here are the combinations:
52nd+59th: 54.3 = ~26/27 overall. Not viable unless a future pick is included.
52nd+83rd: 43.4 = ~35/36 overall. Possible partners are the Lions, Bengals, and Cardinals here. I don't see the Patriots moving this high up in the round as there should be a run of quarterbacks at this point. I believe San Francisco will take a wide receiver (Justin Hunter), but this would allow the Patriots to jump the Jets and Bills, who are both potential wide receiver needy teams. Expect receivers Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, and even corner Jamar Taylor to be on the board here.
52nd+91st: 40.9 = ~38/39 overall. Possible partners are the Cardinals, Jets, and Titans. I believe the Cardinals could be the first team on the board that could be a real trading partner with the Patriots. They have a lot of holes and they could use the draft picks. Hopefully they would accept the cheaper of these two offers, but this would also allow the Patriots to jump the Jets who are most likely going after a receiver.
59th+83rd: 38.9 = ~40/41 overall. Possible partners are the Titans, Bills, and Raiders. If the Patriots like both Woods and Allen (or Quinton Patton, Markus Wheaton, etc) and don't care who the Jets take, then this would be a cheaper option. Depending on the board (Tank Carradine might still be available for the Titans), these teams might not be open for a trade.
59th+91st: 36.4 = ~43/44 overall. Possible partners are the Buccaneers, Panthers, and Chargers. This is the hot spot. I believe the Patriots would have the best chance of trading up with these teams, or maybe even further up and striking a bargain with the Raiders at 42. There's an obvious connection between Belichick and Greg Schiano of the Buccaneers, the Panthers have no third round pick, and the Chargers are always willing to move. This position falls after the Jets and Bills, but there's still a high chance that one of the Patriots' top targets will still be available.
83rd+91st: 25.5 = ~57/58 overall. Possible partners are the Texans and Colts. Right in front of the Patriots at 59. Possible? Yes. Probable? No. I'm sure the Patriots would rather keep their third round picks and maybe pick up a future pick, a fallen star (Tyrann Mathieu?), or some later round picks.
Of all these possibilities, I think the move with the Panthers makes the most sense. Both teams have needs the other can fill, and both franchises have a history (whatever that's worth) of trading with each other. If the Patriots can move up and grab one of Robert Woods, Keenan Allen, Jamar Taylor, or maybe one of the defensive ends on the board (although I think some quality DEs will be available at 59).
I'm going to assume the Patriots are going to trade up when evaluating some of the potential prospects:
Wide Receiver: Robert Woods, Keenan Allen,
Cornerback: Jamar Taylor, Jonathan Banks
Defensive Line: Tank Carradine, Jesse Williams, Margus Hunt
Linebacker: Arthur Brown
I believe the Patriots will move up to the low 40s to snag one of the top receivers or corners. I feel like it would be a real Patriots draft is they take Boise State's Jamar Taylor to be the long term replacement to Aqib Talib. Sorry to those that love Woods or Allen, but I don't see it happening. Banks is another prospect that I could see the Patriots taking a chance with, but Taylor fits the new model of the Patriots defense.
Wide Receiver: Quinton Patton, Markus Wheaton, Terrance Williams
Cornerback: Dwayne Gratz, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Darius Slay, David Amerson
Defensive Line: Kawann Short, Johnathan Hankins, Damontre Moore, Sam Montgomery, Alex Okafor
Linebacker: Jamie Collins, Sio Moore
I'd expect the Patriots to hold on to the other one of their second round picks and, if an enticing trade doesn't come along (future first, anyone? Future second and a current third?), there will be plenty of talent still available. Look for Quinton Patton or Markus Wheaton to be targets as the Patriots want to bolster their receiving corps. Personally, I would take Kawann Short as he fits a need next to Vince Wilfork and can take the defensive line to the next level, but I think some other team might pull the trigger before the Patriots draft. Linebackers Jamie Collins and Sio Moore could be attractive as the Patriots look to add depth at linebacker, but the price might be a little too rich. In the end, I think they would take Oregon State's Markus Wheaton in this scenario.
Wide Receiver: Stedman Bailey, Da'Rick Rogers, Aaron Dobson, Chris Harper
Cornerback: Robert Alford, Tyrann Mathieu, Logan Ryan
Safety: D.J. Swearinger
Defensive Line: John Jenkins, Bennie Logan, Brandon Williams, Cornelius Washington
Linebacker: Jon Bostic, Kiko Alonso, Khaseem Greene
Assuming the Patriots had to cough up one of their third round picks to move up to the 40s, the Patriots would be left with only one more pick on the day. Safety D.J. Swearinger has been noted as extremely versatile and has had the Patriots interested. The Patriots could double dip on a potential stud like Da'Rick Rogers or Aaron Dobson. They could also use some help at on the defensive line and I can't help but think Bennie Logan is a future Patriot. But in this scenario? Oregon's Kiko Alonso is a perfect fit as the Patriots need to add depth to their linebacker corps- and Alonso can step in as the best coverage linebacker on the roster.
Today should have plenty of excitement as there's a ton of quality players left on the board. Walking away with a haul of Jamar Taylor, Markus Wheaton, and Kiko Alonso will help the Patriots with three immediate impact players who add new elements to the offense. Taylor can be tagged as the heir apparent to Talib and can learn the system and slowly adjust, while providing needed depth in case of injury. Wheaton can be a more vertical threat up the sideline and his agility in space is a definite bonus. Alonso will be the coverage linebacker the Patriots have been looking for the past two seasons and he can contribute with his flexibility in both the 3-4, 4-3, and the 2 LB packages.
Let's have a great draft!