by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
We miss the good old days of the NFL draft weekend, spending Saturday and Sunday sitting on the couch, blogging, eating pizza and sipping diet Dr. Pepper.
(Sorry, ladies: I’m married.)
Over the next few days, we’ll be posting our thoughts on what New England might do on each draft day of the new, ratings-improved, three-day format beginning Thursday, April 28 with Round One. (Friday night will feature Rounds Two and Three; Saturday afternoon has Rounds Four through Seven – and no, I don’t know why I’m putting rounds in capital letters.)
Every year, it seems, Bill Belichick gets his team in prime position heading into draft weekend. And every year, it seems, he trades down to get his team in prime position for next year.
You’d think at this point that it wouldn’t be a surprise.
Due to such finagling of picks past, New England finds itself with two selections on Day One (17, 28). This gives them some serious bartering power. We’ll see if they use it.
SCENARIO ONE: The Big Kahuna
As mentioned in a previous PD piece, Coach Belichick could trade up for a top pick such as Robert Quinn of North Carolina. Despite some off-field issues (health questions and a suspension this fall), the pass-rusher helped himself during the NFL combine. His speed numbers (4.62-second 40) fit a running back, much less a 6-foot-4, 265-pound college defensive end.
Sure, there’s risk involved (What if he can’t stay healthy? What if he’s a jerk? What if he reads a headline that says “The Mighty Quinn” for the 7,000th time and loses it?). But for the past few years, New England’s defense has been like a drummer, bassist and piano player doing jazz: okay in general, but you need some sax.
Sorry. It’s been a long winter.
Other looks: Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers, Cal DE Cameron Jordan and Alabama DT Marcell Dareus would each merit a trade up. All have the potential to start right away in New England’s defense.
If the Pats make a move for anyone other than a front seven defender, get me a throat lozenge because I’ll be screaming myself hoarse.
SCENARIO TWO: The Blue Chippers
With the depth in this draft at outside linebacker and defensive end, the Patriots should improve themselves by the end of round one.
At outside linebacker, we like Ryan Kerrigan of Purdue, Adrian Clayborn of Iowa and Justin Houston of Georgia. All can get after the QB, and all showed the quickness necessary to drop back into coverage. While Missouri’s Aldon Smith had an impressive combine, the sophomore’s lack of experience scares me off.
Defensive ends include Wisconsin’s J. J. Watt and Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward. When healthy, Heyward has changed games. Of course, “when healthy” is the Mephistopheles of introductory clauses, promising great things but always leading you astray.
Other looks: New England needs help on the offensive line. The one athlete who really pops out is tackle Gabe Carimi of Wisconsin. Watching him take on Clayborn in this highlight reel shows his agility and strength. He makes a top-ranked pass rusher look about as relevant as a tailor at a nudist colony. Mike Pouncey out of Florida could help the O-line as well.
So, Mr. Belichick, no specialists. No receiver (A. J. Green of Georgia), no running backs (Mikel Leshoure of Illinois, Mark Ingram of Alabama). Plenty of guys to look at on Days Two and Three.
SCENARIO THREE: The Contributors (aka The Fans’ Nightmare)
Hey, it could happen. Maybe the coach will be too busy to consult PD on draft day and he’ll fail to heed our advice. In that case, he’ll trade down and get some less flashy players who will help the team – just not as much as we’d hoped.
Defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson of Temple, cornerback Jimmy Smith of Colorado and linebacker Martez Wilson of Illinois all fit that description for me. Each seems able to get onto the field and help the team out; none seems like an immediate game-changer in New England.
Coming up: Day Two possibilities, including wide receivers and running backs.
Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org