The Patriots have done nothing but surprise fans and media alike for the last decade. Why would this year be any different?
Round 1 (OAK – Richard Seymour)
We’d love to project a trade up here, but the Patriots are in a great position to let this draft come to them, at least at the 17th pick. With at least two, and as many as five, quarterbacks projected to be picked in the first half of opening round, there were certainly be some top prospects lasting longer than they should.
One of those prospects could be the next in the long string of surprising 1st round selections under Bill Belichick. Prince Amukamara (CB, Nebraska) would bring a third starting caliber corner to the Patriots defense, providing some solid depth in nickel/dime situations and in case of injury. Many teams in the top 10 covet the former Cornhusker, but each of them (San Francisco, Dallas, Houston, Detroit) have other needs that could be addressed.
Amukamara’s physicality, nose for the ball, and ability to play both man and zone coverage will remind many a Patriot fan of one Ty Law. If he could provide the same impact as Law, this Prince could become the only King welcome in New England.
This is where we ultimately expect there to be some movement in the 1st Round – Pick 28. We see the Patriots packaging the 28th pick, along with the 74th pick to the Kansas City Chiefs. In return, the Patriots would receive the 21st pick, as well as a swap of 5th round picks.
In moving up to pick 21, the Patriots have leapfrogged multiple teams, including the Indianapolis Colts, that are looking for offensive line help.
Anthony Castonzo (OL, Boston College) is a lineman that can help out at multiple positions, including left/right tackle and guard. That sort of versatility, along with the interest of the Patriots offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia, makes Castonzo a likely possibility for New England.
Round 2 (CAR – 2010 Draft Day Trade)
In order to let their improving defensive backfield excel, the Patriots need to create some more pressure on the opposing quarterback. Even though we haven’t been extremely high on him, Brooks Reed (DE/OLB, Arizona) is a guy who can do just that.
While Reed may have some issues in setting the edge in Belichick’s 3-4 scheme, getting a guy in the second round who can provide some sacks in sub-package situations (nearly 50% of the Patriots’ plays in 2010) may be hard to pass up.
Under Belichick’s tutelage, Reed can grow into a three-down player, while providing an instant impact as a rookie.
After about the first fifty picks, the talent really levels off at most positions. If none of their players have fallen to the 60th pick, we see the Patriots moving down – in this case for a 2012 3rd Round pick and the 77th pick from the Titans.
Round 3 (MIN – Randy Moss)
This pick was earlier sent to the Kansas City Chiefs to move up from the 28th pick to the 21st.
Round 3 (TEN – 2011 Draft Day Trade)
With the Patriots unable to select J.J. Watt or Muhammad Wilkerson on the first day of the 2011 NFL Draft, they had to set their sights on some other 3-4 defensive ends. Kenrick Ellis (DL, Hampton) is a huge guy that would be a top 50 pick without any character issues.
With his gargantuan build, Ellis should be able to play both end positions, while also being able to fill in at nose tackle or defensive tackle when the situation arises.
With the rise of some small-school offensive linemen like Will Rackley and Ben Ijalana, some of the bigger names might fall down some draft boards. If Clint Boling (OG, Georgia) is still there at the 92nd pick, we’d expect the Patriots to hand in the index card with the former Bulldog’s name on it pretty quickly.
Boling, like Castonzo picked earlier, played left tackle in college but can play multiple positions at the NFL level. He would probably be best suited at the right guard position left up for grabs by Stephen Neal retirement.
While we’re on record stating that the value just isn’t there selecting a running back in the 1st round, we do expect the Patriots to add another horse to their stable of running backs. Delone Carter (RB, Syracuse) is a 3-down option that has skills in the passing game as well as the great vision to read his blocks.
Carter would be a nice addition to the young core of Danny Woodhead and Ben-Jarvus Green-Ellis.
Ever since the Randy Moss trade, the Patriots have been clamoring for a legitimate vertical threat. Brandon Tate and Taylor Price still have time to develop, but a tall receiver prospect like Chris Matthews (WR, Kentucky) would give Tom Brady another option down the field.
Willie Smith (OL, East Carolina) would provide the Patriots with a developmental guard prospect at a time in the draft where the Patriots love drafting offensive linemen. With a potentially larger roster a part of the yet-to-be-negotiated CBA, the Patriots wouldn’t have to part ways with guys like Ted Larsen and potentially Smith.