by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
While trying to guess whom Bill Belichick and Company will select in the last weekend of April, we reviewed recent history and came up with these basic rules for a New England draft.
Rule One: Avoid the flashy guy. Sure, there could be an incredible athlete available right when they’re picking, but the Pats tend to look past the Players of the Week to review each player’s overall career and see how it fits in Foxboro.
Rule Two: Trade down when possible. Relates to Rule One. This will happen, people. Heaven help us, this will happen.
Rule Three: Find a lesser-known player who may have been available later, and draft him. Too harsh? Maybe. While the Pats have a well-earned reputation for finding proverbial diamonds in the rough, for every Julian Edelman there’s at least one George Bussey.
With those three rules in mind, we’ll give this a shot. New England has six picks in the first three rounds (17, 28, 33, 60, 74 and 92 overall). They also have one pick each in rounds four, five and six (numbers to be determined). Ladies and gentlemen fans of Foxboroites, your 2011 Patriots draft…
Just after Pick 17: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin OT. Yep. Despite needing a dominant pass-rusher more than a waterfall needs gravity, New England will trade down (see Rule Two) for an offensive lineman. A great one, sure – Carimi won the Outland Trophy this past season – but was it the Pats’ offense or defense that had us screaming at the TV in January?
We’d like to see: We at PD have made our hopes clear regarding trading up for pass rusher/athletic freak Robert Quinn of North Carolina (How about San Francisco at number seven, Bill? Think about it). Barring that, defensive end J. J. Watt would fit quite nicely, as would myriad other pass-rushing candidates.
Pick 28: Cameron Heyward, Ohio State DE. Here’s a situation where the Pats look beyond Heyward’s elbow surgery earlier this year that prevented him from participating in the combine. His body of work, his size (6-5, 294) and his status (a captain at OSU) put him on the local radar and bring him to Gillette as a rookie starter.
We’d like to see: Barring a trade up for Quinn, maybe another pass-rushing type like Ryan Kerrigan of Iowa or Justin Houston of Georgia. But we have no problems with picking a defensive lineman, as it fills a need with a productive player. In fact, writing the previous statement makes us wonder if it’s going to happen. We’ll just be quiet now.
Pick 35 or so: Brooks Reed, Arizona OLB. The Pats will trade down again (because they can) and snatch up the best pass rusher available. That looks like Reed, an outside linebacker who – unlike the Pats’ current crop – can get to quarterbacks before they have a chance to set up their proverbial picnic blankets. Reed’s 6-3, 263-pound frame and 30 reps on the bench press should hold up against the run as well, potentially making him an every-down player on defense.
We’d like to see: Nothing against Reed (we heard his name was going to be Rivers but he was smaller than expected. Ha), but we’d address the pass-rushing position in Round One and take Maryland wide receiver Torrey Smith here. Smith has good size and excellent speed; he would add a deep threat to New England’s well-stocked wideouts.
Pick 60: Kenrick Ellis, Hampton DT. Not the flashy receiver or running back fans will want, but a big body who can take up space in the middle – or anywhere else along the line. At 6-5, 346, Hampton brings to mind a big body like Ted Washington of the 2003 Patriots.
We’d like to see: It’s hard to mess with this pick, and not only because that dude just got classified as a planet. (Sorry, Mercury!) The more monoliths along the defensive line, the better.
Pick 74: Ronald Johnson, USC WR. He doesn’t have great straightaway speed (4.46 in the 40) nor size (5-11, 199), but Johnson’s experience, big-school production and versatility (second team All Pac-10 punt returner) get him drafted ahead of schedule here.
We’d like to see: Wide receiver Edmund Gates of Abilene Christian. Faster and quicker than Johnson, Gates proved an exciting playmaker at the Division II level. With time – much like what they allowed for Taylor Price this past season – Gates could develop into a reliable receiver.
Pick 92: Delone Carter, Syracuse RB. Due to his stature (5-9), Carter may get compared to Lil’ Danny Woodhead. Some similarities hold true, especially when looking at the quickness of each player (compare Carter’s combine numbers with Woodhead’s 2008 pro day numbers). Though slower in the 40, Carter actually showed quicker times in the 20-yard shuttle and the 3-cone drill. Plus, Carter outweighs Woodhead by 25 pounds. We envision the ol’ coach hearkening back to the days of Joe Morris with this pick.
We’d like to see: Based on pure athleticism, cornerback Buster Skrine (pronounced screen) of Tennessee-Chattanooga warrants a long look here. Though undersized at 5-9, his 40 (4.37), quickness and return skills give Skrine the ability to help the team immediately, both as kick returner and defensive back in a dime (six-DB) package.
Round Four: Cortez Allen, Citadel CB. Ever heard of him? Nope? Exactly. Our nod to Rule Three comes in the form of a solid athlete who attended a military-style academy. Allen made second-team all conference and led the Bulldogs with five pass breakups. He has good size (6-1, 197) and quickness (4.1 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle) and seems like the type of guy about whom the Pats’ scouts would have enough inside info to warrant a selection.
We’d like to see: As we’ve said before, Hawaii running back Alex Green seems to fit the Patriots. As part of the Warriors’ pass-oriented offense, Green still gained over 1,000 yards this past season. His combine 40 (4.45) belies his size (6-0, 225). If the Pats decide to wait until the middle rounds, they can get some heft and speed for their backfield here.
Round Five: David Arkin, Missouri State OG. The Pats have taken offensive linemen recently in this area of the draft. This off-season has given them no reason to stop such a trend, as Stephen Neal has retired and Logan Mankins has made his contract dissatisfaction clear. Arkin earned All Missouri Valley Football Conference honors for every one of his four years at college. That’ll work.
Also, while Arkin attended Missouri State, Pats guard Dan Connolly went to Southeast Missouri State. So… that’s something. Right?
We’d like to see: If he’s still available, this looks like a great spot for linebacker Mark Herzlich of BC. A heady player with strength, Herzlich has been a great leader for the Eagles and could contribute right away on special teams.
Round Six: T. J. Yates, North Carolina QB. The Pats pick up another dependable, productive QB from a solid system who will make a dependable, solid backup. (I mean, when you have Tom Brady, who wants to see anyone else under center?) Yates (6-3, 219) holds both the career and single-season passing records at UNC. When New England trades him for a second-rounder in a few years, we shall all nod with the understanding that this was part of the plan.
We’d like to see: Something about quarterback Josh Portis of California-PA intrigues us here at PD. He showed his ability to run (4.59 combine 40), yet he passed for over 6,000 yards in his two-year career. Maybe we’re just hearkening back to the days of Michael Bishop at backup QB, but it would really mess with opposing defenses to have someone like Portis take a snap once in a while.
Thoughts? Opinions? Martha Stewart crafts? Please post any or all of them below.
Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org