Much is made each year about Coach Belichick’s penchant for moving around on Draft Day, especially down. Do you see the Patriots staying put this year, or even moving up?
I think they’ll stick with their first round pick at No. 22, but they could make some moves involving one of their three second-round selections, either using some of them to trade up to a later first-round spot or an earlier second-round spot if they think some other team is going to take a player they may be after. I don’t think, however, they’ll take any one of those first four picks and try and move into this year. This year’s draft is deep in areas of need for the Patriots, and they are going to need those this year.
The Patriots have struck gold with some undrafted free agents (Guyton, Hoyer…) and late-round picks (Cassel, Edelman…) in the past few years. To what do you attribute the success of the Patriots at finding the proverbial diamond in the rough?
The Patriots remain one of the best teams in the league at finding players who fit their system. They almost never try and place a square peg into a round hole. And in a copycat league, they also make sure to think non-traditionally when it comes to guys like that — witness what they did with Edelman.
New England is both heralded as a team that holds “character” on a pedestal, but also took chances on Corey Dillon, Randy Moss, and others. In your opinion, how much does character play a part in the Patriots draft process?
Interesting question. A couple of points: I think character does play a part in the Patriots draft process, but it’s not the end all and be all. They will take a chance on a guy in the draft if there are a couple of minor questions about his character–and they might do that with Dez Bryant or Sergio Kindle, two guys two have been linked to the Patriots by several draft gurus but have some red flags in their past. But also when you look at most of the character guys they took chances on, it’s important to remember they were already established in the league and they were acquired, not drafted.
If the Patriots stick at #22, give us who you would pick – both for the offense and the defense.
I think the Patriots need to target a pass-rusher, one of those 3-4 OLB/DE conversion types. Kindle is certainly a candidate to be there at No. 22 if they decide to go in that direction. (I would also look for guys like Brandon Graham–if Graham is there and selected, it would represent a bit of a departure for them because of his size–when it comes to his look, he’s more Elvis Dumervil than Wille McGinest, and they have rarely gone after those smaller pass rushers/edge guys.) If they go for offense, I think a pass-catching tight end is also high on their list of priorities, and Jermaine Gresham of Oklahoma would be a good fit. My “NFL Sunday” partner Christian Fauria made a good point when he said the Patriots like to pair up a veteran and a youngster or someone who is new to the system at tight end, and the combination of Crumpler and Gresham would certainly fill the bill there.