logoby Scott Benson

1:20 PM

The Patriots’ fourth round choice is CB Jonathan Wilhite of Auburn.

The Pats now have addressed their two most obvious areas of need by picking two linebackers and two cornerbacks in their first five selections.

Here’s what the draft pubs say about Wilhite.

Scouts, Inc.

Wilhite has the athleticism and toughness to become a quality sub-package corner or starter in a Cover 2 scheme. However, he’s been unable to stay healthy and he’s been inconsistent when he’s been on the field so he projects a fifth round pick.

NFL Draft Scout

Compares To: JAMAR FLETCHER-Houston…Outside of nickel and dime packages, Wilhite does not seem to be a player destined for starting at the next level. He has excellent speed, but lacks field awareness and seems very hesitant to make plays vs. the run. He lacks playmaking ability and even though he has eight interceptions, he lacks natural hands and struggles to track the ball in flight. He has good recovery speed when the receiver gets behind him, but poor anticipation skills and a lack of instincts make him a liability playing in the zone. Outside of his timed speed, he would have problems joining a team, even as a camp player.

Another smallish speedster, with measureables almost identical to Terrence Wheatley. Doesn’t seem he has the same cover skills at all, though. Another thing: like Wheatley and every other Pats pick, Wilhite was tagged with the ‘INJ’ label on the draft profiles. The Pats clearly believe that each one of these players have recovered and moved on from those struggles. We’ll see if they are right.

That’s it for me for now. I’m hitting the couch for the rest of this. I’ll be back with a few wrap-up thoughts later on.

11:38 AM

The Patriots chose their first offensive player of the 08 Draft when they selected San Diego State QB Kevin O’Connell with the 94th pick.

O’Connell is a quarterback that often caught my attention as I read through draft materials over the last several weeks. Here’s what the pros say:

Scouts, Inc.

Overall: O’Connell’s play has substantially improved over the past two years and there is a high ceiling on his potential. He possesses the size, mobility and arm strength of an NFL starter. However, O’Connell is a developmental prospect that did not play the highest level in college and still has lots to learn in terms of footwork and the mental portion of the game. In order to reach his full potential at the next level, O’Connell will need a patient organization with a bright quarterback coach. O’Connell is worth the risk for such a team in the final few rounds but no higher than Round 5.

NFL Draft Scout

Compares To: MATT CASSEL-New England…O’Connell is a more mobile passer, but like Cassel, he is going to need time and patient coaching to add technique and mechanical refinement. He is a rare-sized athlete with great mobility in the pocket, but his delivery is a mess and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. He forces a lot of throws and needs generate better touch on his short-area throws and improve the zip on his deep passes. If a team preaches patience and has an established veteran in place to allow O’Connell several years to develop, he could be a good one. Rushing him, however, might render any pick used on O’Connell a wasted selection.

How about NFL Draft Scout’s comparisons so far?

Looks like a long-term prospect who may push Matt Gutierrez to #2 and his draft likeness out the door. Or maybe the other way around, though that wouldn’t figure based on their play last year. As noted, I (and many others) often wondered if O’Connell would be a Pats selection , based on his size, measureables, leadership and production over the last couple of seasons. However, the draft pubs weren’t prepared for him to come off the board at this point in the process.

Another 30 picks and I’ll be back.

10:40 AM

My daughter calls the minute the Pats went on the clock.

So the Pats traded the 69th pick to San Diego in exchange for a second-round pick in 09 and a 08 fifth-rounder to replace the one they lost yesterday. Those of us who expected a third round three-pack will be disappointed today, but not so much next year.

The Pats have just selected Michigan OLB Shawn Crable with the 78th pick, adding the pass-rushing linebacker type that many expected in this draft. Here’s what the experts have to say:

Scouts, Inc.

Overall: After suffering a shoulder sprain in the fall of 2003, Crable redshirted his first year at Michigan. In his first three active seasons (2004-’06), he appeared in 34 games (eight starts) and notched 58 tackles, 14.5 tackles for losses and 8.5 sacks. As a senior in 2007, he started 12 of 13 games at strongside linebacker and turned in 90 tackles (including 28.5 for losses, second-best in the nation), 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Crable spent most of 2004 and 2005 playing on special teams. Crable’s outstanding combination of size and speed are intriguing in terms of pro potential but he is a straight-line player so he may have to move to end where he will have to bulk up his considerable frame to become an every-down player. With that in mind, he projects as a fourth round pick.

NFL Draft Scout

Compares To: SHAUN PHILLIPS-San Diego…Crable is not as bulky as Phillips, but his frame has the potential to carry 260 pounds. He is a very good edge rusher and blitzer who relies a lot on his quickness to surprise a lethargic blocker. He lacks the sand in his pants to generate a good anchor and must do a better job of using his hands to protect his body from combo blocks and cut blocks. He is quick to see the play develop, but it is rare for him to come out of his area to make a play. He is too stiff in his hips to get good depth in his pass drops and struggles with ball recognition when playing in the zone, as he does bite on play-action. He will need to improve his lower body strength for the next level, as his only value right now is as a pass rusher.

It looks like the Pats liked Crable over Purdue’s Cliff Avril, another edge rusher that often mentioned in connection with the Pats. It’s also notable that all three Pats draftees entered the draft with the dreaded ‘can’t stay healthy’ tag from the draft publications.

Pick 94 is next, at least as far as we know.

6:45 AM

Every year there’s a debate amongst Pats fans as to whether the list of players the Patriots invite to Foxborough prior to the draft, such as our own Rumor Inventory, holds any special significance when the team goes on the clock to make their selections.

Most years, it hasn’t; yesterday it seemed to.

First round LB Jerod Mayo of Tennessee visited the team on April 11th (the only time he was formally linked to the Pats before the draft), and second round CB Terrence Wheatley of Colorado came to Foxborough at about the same time. Wheatley also spent time with the Pats at the Combine, and New England scouts later worked him out privately at Colorado, perhaps in part to determine if he would hold up physically in the NFL.

It’s almost certain that the Pats will break that trend with one or several of their picks today, but while there’s a lull, here’s the remaining players on the board who visited Foxborough before this year’s draft:

CB Charles Godfrey, Iowa 
DE/OLB Darrell Robertson, Georgia Tech

Short list. Both players are expected to come off the board early today, so maybe they’re still in the mix when it comes to the Pats, who have picks 6, 15 and 31 of the third round.

But since the Pats also drafted a player (Wheatley) who they had privately worked out, here’s a list of the other private workout warriors still on the board:

DE/OLB Cliff Avril, Purdue
CB Jack Williams, Kent State
OLB Marcus Howard, Georgia
CB Trae Williams, South Florida
QB Josh Johnson, San Diego
OG Mackenzy Bernadeau, Bentley
C Jamey Richard, Buffalo
LB Stanford Keglar, Purdue
CB Zack Bowman, Nebraska
LB Thomas Williams, USC
C Drew Miller, Florida
LB Durell Mapp, North Carolina
LB Hilee Taylor, North Carolina

For what it’s worth, coach Bill Belichick conducted the private workouts for both South Florida’s Williams and Florida’s Miller during his annual post-season sojourn to the Sunshine State. 

I’ll be back around 10.