It woudln’t be a Bill Belichick draft, if he didn’t make at least one selection that left everyone scratching their head or saying “WTF”.
This Tavon Wilson pick in the second round definitely did that for me. Let’s first get one thing clear. I am not knocking Tavon Wilson or the pick on his talent. I am just questioning the pick based on where in the draft they made the selection.
I obviously didn’t spend anywhere near the time evaluating this kid that Bill Belichick and his staff did, so they have a much better understanding of his talent level and fit into the defense. However, I find it very tough to believe that they had to pick this kid at #48 otherwise they would have lost him. While Wilson made seven pre-draft visits, picking him at #48 in second round, according to EVERYONE I have talked to has to be considered a reach.
I believe the fact that the Patriots only had two selections left in the entire draft at the time of the pick had something to do with it. I am sure they would have liked to trade down, but found no takers. Worried that they would be unable to come out of the draft without Wilson and worried that they may not be able to trade down from pick #62 at the time, Bill Belichick took the player that he wanted.
On the field, Wilson is a versatile defensive back (notice the trend). He has lined up all over the secondary throughout his career at Illinois. This season he was asked which position he would like to play, safety or cornerback and chose corner, because he felt the team needed him more. For the Patriots, I like Tavon Wilson at the free safety position.
Watching him on tape over the weekend, I think he is better when the play is in front of him. He seems to have the range and recognition skill that a safety at the NFL needs. Wilson also is a good blitzer and was asked to do it many times at game in college. Watching the Illinois secondary on tape, there seemed to be a lot of coverage breakdowns and on many occasions the “help” or rotation never came. This caused Wilson to be “left out to dry” quite a bit. I am sure Bill Belichick has seen through all this and has already envisions how Wilson will fit into the Patriots secondary.
Overall, I wasn’t a fan of the pick. There were better players on the board in my opinion and without trading down that #48 pick in the draft is just too high for a player like Wilson. I really hope I am wrong and I am anxious to see what he can do on an NFL field.
With the third round selection they received in the trade down with the Green Bay Packers the Patriots selected Jake Bequette, who is a pass rusher from Arkansas.
Bequette lined up primarily at 4-3 defensive end throughout his days at the University of Arkansas, recording 23.5 sacks and 31 tackles for a loss. Bequette was able to rack up 10 sacks this past year despite missing three complete games due to injury. While Bequette wasn’t mentioned as one of the premier pass rushers leading up to the draft, he was as productive as any defensive end in college football over the past two seasons.
Bequette, who is 6’4.5″ 274 lbs, had one of the best combines of any defensive players. What is remarkable about Bequette’s performance is that he ran a 6.90 3-Cone drill and a 4.07 short shuttle, which is better than the majority of the wide receivers and running backs who were drafted this year. We have highlighted throughout the draft season how much the Patriots value those drills and this pick is a reflection of that.
Like the other picks before him, Bequette offers some position versatility. While he didn’t play OLB in college he was asked to play there in the senior bowl and did so willingly. While I think he will be used mostly as a rush end for the Patriots he has shown that he does have at least the raw ability to stand up in drop into coverage if need be.
Bequette was a two-time defensive captain at Arkansas and is regarded as a smart, hard-working and dedicated football player. All qualities which the Patriots value highly. I believe Bequette will be able to get on the field this year and provide some situational pass rush from one edge position.
The Nate Ebner pick was a little bit of a head scratcher at the time, only because he wasn’t projected to be drafted. After learning more about his background information, the type of character he has and the way he plays special teams the pick makes perfect sense… for the Patriots.
Bill Belichick notoriously drafts special teams standouts in the final rounds of the draft and turns them into solid NFL special teams players. While other teams wait until the UDFA signing period to target special teamers, the Patriots actively scout and target specific ones to bring to Foxboro.
The former rugby star should be able to come in and really give some of the other special teams only players on the Patriots a run for their money. Ebner seems like a highly motivated, maximum effort player. He is the type of person who understands his role and won’t complain about lack of playing time. The pick of Ebner reminded me of the famous Bill Belichick saying regarding the draft “We are building a team, not collecting talent.” NFL teams need players like Ebner.
I believe Ebner will likely take the roster spot of a player like Ross Ventrone or Malcolm Williams, eliminating the daily transactions just to get enough special teams players onto the team. Ebner, like second round draft pick Tavon Wilson, has overcome a lot of adveristy in his lifetime. His father was killed in 2008 defending his business from a robbery attempt. The Patriots really focused on high character players in this years draft and Ebner is of the highest character possible.
Besides the first round draft picks of Chandler Jones and Dont’a Hightower, the pick of Alfonzo Dennard in the seventh round is my favorite pick and it’s not close.
We say it every year how the Patriots got a steal in this player so and so, but with Dennard the Patriots are getting a legitimate second round cornerback in the seventh round. I really believe that if it wasn’t for the arrest last weekend that Dennard would have been drafted on day two.
Dennard also fills a need for the Patriots. He is best suited to play slot cornerback, which is a position that plagued the Patriots last season. He is a “shorter and squatty” corner who loves to play at the line of scrimmage and get physical with receivers. He has experience in press man coverages as well as press and bail.
He was able to play at a high level of competition the past two seasons against some of the top wide receivers in the country, including Justin Blackmon, Ryan Broyles, Marvin McNutt and Alshon Jeffey. I believe Dennard will make an impact on the field this season, as a nickel or dime cornerback.
When we look back on this draft next year, this is going to end up being one of the steals. He is simply too good, too competitive not to wash out after one season. Falling to the seventh round should only motivate him and make him hungry to prove himself. A lot has been made of the arrest and it was awful judgement, but other than that he has stayed out of trouble off the field. Like they said with Ryan Mallett last year, if Alfonzo Dennard can’t succeed in New England he won’t be able to succeed anywhere.
The Patriots wrapped up their 2012 draft by taking their only offensive player in the class. Ebert is a slot WR who has been productive throughout his career at Northwestern, totaling 173 catches for 2400 yards and 21 receiving touchdowns.
He was timed at 4.41 at his pro day and some scouts timed him at under 4.4. Ebert will add youth to a position that was strengthened with a lot of veteran free agent talent this off-season. Ebert might not see the field much this year, but he is someone who the Patriots should be able to stash on the practice squad and develop for the future. Ebert is known for running very good routes, having very good hands and being a smart football player. Ebert will draw comparisons to Wes Welker, only because he is a white slot wide receiver.
Coming out of college Ebert is bigger than Wes Welker and much faster. At the very least he will provide competition to Julian Edleman and Anthony Gonzalez for the final wide receiver spot on the Patriots roster.