2012 Draft: Patriots Pick by Pick Breakdown

The Patriots got a 2nd Round Cornerback in the 7th Round with Alfonzo Dennard.

NEPD Editor: Mike Loyko

The 2012 NFL Draft is in the books and now that all the dust has settled it’s time to take an in depth look at what the Patriots came away with over the three day draft. In typical Patriots fashion, some picks were met with excitement and some left you scratching your head. What was the rationale behind each pick? How does each player fit in with the Patriots current roster?

Continue reading for a breakdown of each selection and of course my opinion on each one of them.

Chandler Jones, DE, Syracuse – Round 1 Pick #21

There was certainly a lot of pre draft buzz surrounding the Patriots and their interest in the Syracuse defensive end. The buzz ended up being completely true as the Patriots moved up six spots in the first round from pick #27 to pick #21, surrendering a 3rd round pick to the Cincinnati Bengals in the process. We now know that Jones was the player the Patriots had targeted all along and had planned on trading up to get him, this video confirms that.

Bill Belichick doesn’t move up very often and I have to think he doesn’t plan on trading up before the draft to get a specific player ever, so he definitely sees something he likes in Chandler Jones and made the bold move to get him. The Patriots had built up their draft cache over the past few seasons by moving down and it was time to cash in some of the picks.

In the grand scheme of things, a 3rd round pick isn’t a big deal if you think the player you are moving up to get is the best player on your board. Entering the draft with few glaring holes, the Patriots needed to get impact defensive players, not accumulate picks this year and Jones is certainly considered an impact player.

It is going to be interesting to see how the Patriots deploy Jones early on. With his great size (6’5″ 266 lbs.) and length (35.5″ arms) some thing he is best suited to play a 4-3 edge position. Jones was at his best in college when he had his hand in the dirt and could come off the edge to apply pressure on the Quarterback.

The Patriots don’t play a true 4-3 front and I have heard some people question the fit. What makes Jones a great fit for a Bill Belichick defense is going to be his versatility. Unlike some of the other edge rushers in the draft, Jones is pretty solid vs. the run and can play on all three downs.

Jones will likely fit into the Patriots “elephant” position, which is a hybrid defensive end – linebacker. Sometimes he will be asked to stand up and drop into coverage, sometimes he will have his hand in the ground. Having a player like Jones or McGinest on the edge of the defense allows Bill Belichick to get creative with his blitzes and disguise his schemes.

If Chandler Jones develops like Bill Belichick and many others think, Jones will give the Patriots a player they have never had before. Jones’ length is extremely rare. His arms are actually longer than Jason Pierre-Paul’s arms. While Jones doesn’t have the quick twitch and natural agility that Pierre Paul does, he is more powerful and better against the run. Both players have great motors and make a ton of plays by simply chasing down the ball carrier. It’s been awhile since the Patriots have had a young edge rusher to build around and now Jones becomes the cornerstone of the front seven for the next decade.

Personally, I loved the selection and anytime Bill Belichick moves up for a certain player it piques my interest. I think Patriot fans my want to thank the Jets for passing on Jones for the lazy and unmotivated Quinton Coples, because it allowed Jones to fall into the Patriots lap. Those two will be linked throughout their careers in the AFC East and I will take my chances with Jones.

Dont’a Hightower, LB, Alabama – Round One Pick #25

The Patriots were able to keep their interest in Hightower on the down-low unlike their interest Chandler Jones. Almost every draft analyst and expert had Dont’a Hightower going to the Pittsburgh Steelers at pick #24. Once the Steelers passed on Hightower for Stanford OG David DeCastro, the Patriots wasted literally no time and moved up to get him. This time the Patriots only had to surrender a late 4th round pick to move up six spots with Denver from #31 to #25.

I believe Hightower is going to have the most immediate impact of any of the Patriots draft pick. He was one of the most pro ready linebackers in the draft and should have no trouble slotting into the Patriots linebacking corps. Hightower comes from the Alabama defensive which is a very similar scheme to what Bill Belichick runs, so the learning curve should be minimal.

I am truly excited to see what the Patriots do with Hightower. Like Chandler Jones, Hightower offers tremendous versatility and might even be the most versatile defender in the entire draft. At Alabama Hightower moved all over the defensive front seven. He lined up at SILB on certain run downs, he moved to outside linebacker on some downs, whether to cover or rush. Then on obvious passing downs he would line up at defensive end with his hand in the ground and rush the passer.

I’d expect Hightower to come in and compete for a starting job immediately, most likely at OLB. Adding a player of Hightower’s quality to Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, gives the Patriots one of the best young linebacking trios in the NFL and it should be the backbone of the defense for years to come.

I believe the Patriots were a little hampered last year with the lack of flexibility at the linebacker position. Brandon Spikes is only able to play inside and Jerod Mayo struggled when he had to play OLB for extended periods of time. Hightower will allow the Patriots to rotate their linebackers and become more “scheme diverse”. Hightower will be a three down linebacker in the NFL in my opinion. He dropped into coverage a lot at Alabama and showed pretty good instincts and range when doing so. By adding Hightower and Jones to the front seven, the Patriots got younger, more versatile and more athletic.

Exiting the first round of the draft with two players the caliber of Jones and Hightower was thrilling for Patriot fans. I believe they added two immediate impact players to the front seven. For a team that didn’t have many holes entering the draft, they got two studs, who just made a Super Bowl caliber team that much tougher.

I don’t know any Patriot fan who was disappointed with the first two picks and as I said Thursday night on twitter “this first round is as good as it will ever get for the Patriots”.

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Tags: 2012 NFL Draft, Chandler Jones, Don'ta Hightower, Draft Picks

22 Responses to “2012 Draft: Patriots Pick by Pick Breakdown”

  1. Dave Hunter says:

    Has anyone else read this analysis of the Pats 2012 draft from ex-pro player Corey Chavous(played 11 years,made a pro bowl as a db), who now scouts and has his own scouting site? He offers up in my opinion more actual eyes on evaluation of some our draftees than anywhere else I’ve read.
    “On Tavon Wilson. ”He was a pretty good leader for the team when they had injury problems. He moved to safety seemlessly. I think he’s going to be good for the secondary out there, I really do. I think he has a lot of potential. His best football is ahead of him. I always thought his best work would be at corner, but then when I saw him at safety, he takes really good angles. He breaks up a lot of passes, I’d just like to see him finish on the ball a little better. The one thing I really like about him, he’s got really good movement skills. He bends well, he can play a lot of different positions. He’s a very mature kid who could start year one.”

    “On Jake Bequette: ”Watching him move around at the Senior Bowl as an outside backer, he looked better than (Shea) McClellin who went in the first round . . . I think he has a chance to be a really good football player. I like his energy, I like his motor, he has a very high football I.Q. He’s played in multiple football schemes in Arkansas. He’s a very underrated athlete.”

    More on the other draftees in the link below.

    http://www.bostonherald.com/blogs/sports/rap_sheet

    • MilitStrat54 says:

      Please respond to the following, interested in others opinions or better yet, facts if you’ve got any… Lavonte David was available when the Pats chose Wilson. David is a smallish linebacker yet considered one of, if not the greatest Nebraska defensive player due to his speed and quickness, anticipation, ability to cover receivers and football IQ. At 6 foot 1 inches tall and 233 lbs he would be a fantastically solid and sized safety. Couldn’t the Pats have used his size and speed in the box as a strong safety or his ability to cover and anticipation at free safety. Isn’t it possible that David, and not Barron was the best safety not only available but in the entire draft? Is it possible that just because a guy excels at one position that he is overlooked for an other position that he might excel at even more? It is said that BB took Wilson when he did because he couldn’t take the risk not to. I suggest that taking David instead of Wilson in round two was less of a risk because (1) David is a better athlete with an adaptable skill set to safety (David was identified as the steal of the draft by MULTIPLE draft experts to include Kiper and McShay and it’s hard for these guys to agree on anything);(2) taking David and sending the message that the Pats got their safety, makes it less likely others would take Wilson early to hurt the Pats (allowing the Pats to pick him up a few rounds later);(3) there is no downside to David, he can always strengthen the linebacker corps and special teams. If Wilson isn’t a top notch safety, what else can he do? Seems BB missed option #1 and went straight to option #2. And at 233 lbs David would be the HAMMER the Pats (and everyone else) have been looking for. Looking for facts, measureables and insights as opposed to “BB knows what he’s doing”. For snickers and grins, I picked both Revis and Mathews in past drafts (sorry to say the Pats passed/ I did miss Brady though). Thoughts?

      • MilitStrat54 says:

        Saw an interesting comment that BB wanted a hybrid (safety/cornerback) so to as to mask when he had a third CB on the field. Parcells said as much when asked how he’d line up in todays game. Like the idea, always good to have as many offensive attack possibilities defended. BUT/BUT, I don’t disagree with the strategic concept (I endorse it). I just don’t see how he came up with this guy to fit the role. The differences in measureables between Lavon (Wilson) and Lavonte (David) seem to favor Lavonte (David) at every turn. Faster-bearly, more athletic, taller-by an inch, heavier-by 28 lbs, stronger, more powerful, better tackler, better on film, better technique, greater anticipation, more experienced, better coached, more time on the field. Only thing Lavon has on him is time spent at the position (more fluid hips?). Could it be that BB yelled get Lavonte and they only heard Lavon. Would like to hear from that gremlin living inside BBs head. If it was a mistake, easy to forgive. Find out how it was made, correct it, and move on. If BB really thinks this kid is something special, the draft is over, he doesn’t need to keep it a secret any more. Inquiring minds would like to know. Anybody know??? My view is that David could be a better Barron, and could shut down his side of the field. Imagine an Ed Reed who hits like Ray Lewis. Linebackers have less time to react than safeties, and David’s react time was sensational as a linebacker. Math equation for the thinking man…
        +Lavon -Lavonte = (leaves) Patriots barron (at safety)

    • Jackson Murrell says:

      The Wilson pick in Rd 2 was awful. I’ve seen several attempts to rationalize it, none of which are convincing. The Pats used a 2d round pick on a guy they could have signed as an UDFA. It was not just a “head-scratcher”, as the acolytes like to say. It was stupid. Al Davis never reached so far. It seems like BB just lost interest after Rd 1. By Rd 6 he was blowing a draft pick on a rugby player-the very epitome of a UDFA. No matter how good either guy turns out, the fact of the matter is that they could have been signed right off the street. Worst draft in the league. And you all secretlly know it.

  2. Phil says:

    The safety positon still needs to be addressed. Hopefully, Steve Gregory will have a productive season.

  3. Joe Blake says:

    I would have rather had Devon Still at 48.

  4. Jim R says:

    What BB did this year was as close to a wow factor as you will get. Moving up twice in the first round speaks volumes for what he thought of the players he took. Wilson and bequette they will help in an area of need. Dennard will see action in sub packages. The other guys are SLATER type projects. UFA’s 1-2 will make the 53 man roster you know that

    • MilitStrat54 says:

      By wow, do you mean..wow he spent too many draft points for what he got?
      OR do you mean..wow he finally is paying attention to the defense just like a coach should?

  5. T.S. says:

    This guy is funny. For 1, He mentions how Ebner has the highest character because he lost his dad to a robbery/murder. But no mention of Wilson’s parents being deceased or the character it takes to overcome that. 2ndly, you state in your Wilson passage that even in your OWN 7-rd mock. You had him at #48 but you question BB. So either you dont trust YOUR work or you trust ppl’s opinion more then your own eyes. That my friend, is what separates you from a scout/Coach. You pretend to know things you havent a clue about. And then blog abt it like its fact. Tsk tsk

  6. TD says:

    Jones & Bequette are fill-ins for Carter and Anderson. If Anderson comes back, we have some major pass rush.

    Get Hightower and Dennard favorable situational matchups, and we may finally have a defense here.

    I, for one am sick of reading about slot WR’s that are bigger and faster than Welker, most of the WR’s in the NFL are bigger and faster! What they are not-is quicker and smarter and oh by the way racking up 110-120 catches a year. The guy is a machine!!

  7. big w says:

    I guess we put the high character thing to bed when we picked Denard.

  8. Sportsbozo says:

    I will have to echo most of your comments. I had Dennard coming to the Patriots at #48. The kid from Illinois Wilson was the 3rd leading tackler in the nation for impact tackling. He completely shut down two of the top WR’s in the big ten last year,McNutt Iowa’s top receiver gained a whopping one yard on one catch against him,while Robinson of Michigan State put up a goose egg!Let me digress the reason why I had Dennard coming to the Patriots was because BB went to his pro day.Besides the obvious abilities of the first rounders I think BB may have actually committed a form of larceny when he snagged Bequette,he has a constant motor! Ebert is not WW or the second coming of WW,but he is a consistant reciever and he’s bigger and faster than WW,the only question is can he beat out Edelman or Gonzalez or both for that fact. I don’t know much about the SS from Ohio State.It should be an interesting camp with many of the vets being pushed by the influx of youngsters..14-2 and another SB victory!

  9. Tom says:

    Really good point about only having two picks left when they selected Wilson. I thought the Wilson pick was partly a reflection of a weak safety class, and Wilson having some of the most experience of the safeties who were left. Seemed like a lot of drafts had the Patriots taking a conversion project (from CB to FS) , but drafting an under the radar player with safety experience makes more sense to me. It would be interesting to know what the Patriots thought of Iloka in their scheme.

  10. Spearhead says:

    Thanks for the info. I liked the draft this year because of the number of overall trades. They fixed the rookie salary issue and I think it is going to help the NFL overall.

    I liked the fact that BB seized his draftees this year. With Vareen, Das-Rowling and Cannon all healthy this year, it seems we will have 2 years worth of evaluating; both the 2011 and 2012 PAT’s drafts.

  11. @59russo59 says:

    I love Ebner. Here’s a youtube vid highlighting him. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIq-MaR5rCM
    I can imagine the scouting staff seeing this and nodding their heads in approval.

    Not sure about Bequette, I hope he isn’t arrogant like the scouting reports say.

    Jones seems like a swell high character guy, hope he solidifies that elephant spot. Obviously, I place emphasis on the personality of these picks rather than their skill sets because no one knows how the skills will translate at the NFL level.






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