by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
Okay, kids. A quick review of this year’s draft haul.
ROUND ONE: (17) Nate Solder, Colorado OT
ROUND TWO: (33) Ras-I Dowling, Virginia CB; (56) Shane Vereen, Cal RB
ROUND THREE: (73) Stevan Ridley, LSU RB; (74) Ryan Mallett, Arkansas QB
ROUND FIVE: (138) Marcus Cannon, TCU OG; (159) Lee Smith, Marshall TE
ROUND SIX: (194) Markell Carter, Central Arkansas OLB
ROUND SEVEN: (219) Malcolm Williams, TCU DB
WHAT’S GREAT: In and of itself (a phrase to remember), the drafting of Solder can help the team for years to come. He’s huge (over 6-foot-8) and has the athleticism of a former hoops player. If he can pick up the offense and strengthen his upper body, he’ll prove himself as the right pick.
We’re also high on Vereen. He’s compact and strong (31 bench reps at the combine). During interviews, he said he prides himself on his pass protection, which we’re sure Tom Brady enjoyed hearing. Though he projects as a third-down specialist, his versatility makes him a threat on every down.
WHAT’S GOOD: New England needed another big back, and – even if he was taken a round or two higher than expected – Ridley fits well in a complementary role. We worry about his limited carries at LSU before 2010, but we can’t argue with a 225-pound back who gained 1,147 yards this past season vs. SEC defenses.
Dowling fell down draft boards due to an injury-prone 2010. Again, in and of itself, getting a top DB with the 33rd pick seems like a solid move. We also know Bill Belichick got the ultimate scouting report from his pal, former Virginia coach Al Groh.
Though it might take some time to witness Cannon’s on-field ability before he addresses his medical concerns, we like drafting him for myriad reasons. The Brobdingnagian brawler (6-5, 358 pounds) should be able to make a path through opposing defenses. His current situation (non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma) stinks, but he has a 90 percent chance of recovery. The Patriots did the proper thing here.
MEH: We don’t know how much Smith can bring to the team, unless Belichick is subtly encouraging veteran tight end Alge Crumpler to explore other NFL cities (a plan we do not endorse). Smith might end up as a contributor, but we’d hate to mess with the best tight end combo the Patriots have had in recent memory.
Williams is a clear case of the Patriots wanting to get a potential rookie free agent into camp because the lockout prevents them from signing undrafted players. He has been described as “another Matthew Slater.” We’re not sure how to feel about that.
Carter did some damage as a defensive end in college (19 tackles for loss in 2010). We like his size (6-4, 252) and his production for the Bruins; we’re just not sure how it translates to the NFL level. It does give us a bit of hope that Central Arkansas alum Jacob Ford has had some success with the Titans (15.5 sacks in three years).
Hey, who knows? Carter could become the best pass-rusher on the team. Speaking of which…
WHAT’S CONFUSING: Hmm, let’s see. I knew there was something I wanted to… HOW ABOUT DRAFTING A TOP PASS RUSHER? HUH? WHY NOT DRAFT A PROVEN SACK GUY FOR ONCE? WHAT DO WE HAVE TO DO?
HELLO? IS THIS THING ON?
Sorry, sorry. Had to get that out of my system. Let’s just say that if Adrian Clayborn, Cameron Jordan, Jabaal Sheard or Brooks Reed end up with double-digit sacks this season, the words “value” and “draft” should only be used to promote two-for-one beer night.
We’re also confused by the Mallett selection. With his past drug use and rumors of poor behavior, he doesn’t seem like a Patriots guy.
We’re not saying he can’t be a good player or that he can’t turn himself around; we’re just pointing out that it seems weird.
WHAT’S TERRIBLE: Actually, nothing. Nothing looks terrible in this draft. From top to bottom, it’s fine. Perfectly fine.
And there lies the problem.
This was the year where the Patriots seemed lined up to wheel and deal for the now; instead, they prepared for 2012 and beyond.
By doing so, they raised questions about 2011.
Email Chris Warner at firstname.lastname@example.org