9:30 PM – CONTINUING DAY TWO COVERAGE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS POST.
I don’t know about you, but I thought yesterday was great fun.
The Patriots didn’t make a first round pick for the first time since 2000, but did make three trades that left them with eight selections in the top 100 of the draft. And thanks to Friday’s trade up rumors, they were in the thick of it from the top ten through the sixty-fourth selection late last night.
It’s pretty clear now (it always is, after the fact) that the Patriots went into the draft thinking that its real value was in its second and third rounds. That there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the top prospects and those on the next level down. Unless you’re counting real dimes.
Only time will tell if they were right, as they passed on chatted-up prospects like OT Michael Oher (once), LB Clay Matthews (twice), LB James Laurinaitis and LB Rey Maualuga (three times apiece).
Even as they backed away from first-round contracts, they had no such trepidation on second-round deals as they selected four players in the second for the first time in my memory, and probably ever.
I did a little fist pump when they chose Patrick Chung, the strong safety from Oregon, with their first selection (#34, making it official – it was Cassel and Vrabel for Chung, though having the 34th pick was certainly a key to their first-round trade backs, and the addition of two more Top 100 picks). He was a favorite here throughout the process, for the obvious Rodney Harrison-replacing reasons.
The Pats will now have three front-line safeties under extended contracts, and each of them will be 25 or younger.
Ron Brace was another who caught our attention as he has all the size and run-plugging qualities needed for a 3-4 nose in the Pats system. This isn’t a sexy pick but it addresses a need, both for depth as well as protection against the unlikely event that Vince Wilfork cannot be resigned after next season.
I heard from quite a few Pats fans who would have warmly welcomed Darius Butler as the team’s 23rd pick, so they have to be thrilled to see him picked at 41. Mike Mayock has consistently said Butler was the best zone corner available, and Pro Football Weekly had him rated as the 14th best player in the draft.
No one else did, evidently, but no matter – what’s interesting here is that the Pats add another young corner to the Wheatley/Wilhite combo last year, which should give the team a cushion behind the Bodden-Hobbs-Springs veteran group. We’ll see if this leads to an improved secondary next year, but at the least, they have some depth to protect against the possibility that both Hobbs and Bodden leave after next year.
By the way, you cannot fault the Patriots for not addressing their secondary this off-season. Two front-line veterans and now a second-round corner have been added.
It will also be fun to see what the Pats do with Butler – he’s two-wayed as a receiver at UConn, and he can return kicks. I’d say there’s a decent chance that Chung, Brace and Butler will all find their way to the field next season.
That may not happen with Sebastian Vollmer, the developmental tackle chosen with pick 58. Like Shamwow Vince says, you know the Germans always make good stuff, but ten bucks to you if you saw this one coming in the second round. He is incredibly massive, but I guess the question will be his feet and mobility. He’ll probably play on the right side, at least until they find out. The Pats were right to grab a tackle yesterday, and we’ll see if Vollmer has the stuff to be the starter when Nick Kaczur plays out his contract.
Now the third round begins with the Pats in possession of the 9th, 19th, 25th and 33rd picks. I favor some receiving help, perhaps an inside backer, a d-end developer, and as always offensive line. Follow along with us in the comments section below.
Scott Benson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org