With the 2010 NFL Draft just days away, the New England Patriots have more holes in their roster than they've had in a long time. Both offense and defense have glaring needs and thankfully the Patriots have some picks in good positions to address such concerns. Here is a non-expert's preview of what could happen with said picks.
The many glaring issues of the Patriots are the lack of pass-rush of the defensive front seven, depth and lack of youth on the offensive line and at cornerback, play-makers and talent at running back and in the return game, and depth at wide receiver and tight end.
As usual, the Pats may or may not keep their first round pick, No. 22 overall, but the likelihood of them keeping it is slim. This year's draft could possibly be the last draft without a rookie salary cap, and as we have seen in the past, the Pats don't like spending big money on rookies unless they know they can have an immediate impact—see Jerod Mayo.
With that said, unless they fall in love with somebody they feel will be taken before their pick and they trade up, or if a big-name player like DE/OLB Sergio Kindle falls into their lap, the Patriots will likely accumulate another second-rounder and a third rounder, or a first round pick in next year's draft.
If Kindle is not available, which he probably won't be, the Patriots could select DE Everson Griffen. He tied for the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine, and coupled with his 6'4", 273 pound frame, he could turn into a force coming off of the edge for the Patriots abysmal pass-rush.
Other names to keep in mind depending on who is taken before the Patriots are DE's Carlos Dunlap and Tyson Alualu, and OLB's Sean Weatherspoon and Jerry Hughes. These players are most likely fail-safe options if the Patriots can't get enough value via a trade or don't fall in love with who is left, especially with Dunlap's off-field issues. However, with a large talent drop-off between the top few DE's and the next group is something the Pats will most likely pay attention to and may cause them to take a DE over an OLB in the first round.
WR Dez Bryant could be an interesting option as well; his stock is falling because of some possible character issues, but he has said he would like to be a Patriot. Unless the Pats trade up, however, he will likely be gone at No. 18 to the Steelers, if not sooner.
The Patriots next pick is in the second round, No. 44 overall. This pick could also be used for defensive purposes, but that depends on what happens in the first round. Barring any gems that fall into their laps, look for the Pats to address whichever position they don't take at No. 22.
Two interesting options at OLB would be Daryl Washington or Navorro Bowman. Both of these guys have the quickness and size to get around the corner plus experience in coverage. DT/DE Jared Odrick may fall this far, and DE Tyson Alualu may also be available, but it will all depend on the Pats' first-round pick.
The next biggest factor is who the best available player is at his position and whether or not the Pats are set on that position. CB, WR, RB, and TE are all issues that could be addressed with this pick, especially because of the drop in talent at these positions as the draft goes on.
Some CB's that may be around could be Patrick Robinson and Brandon Ghee. RB's Jahvid Best and Ryan Mathews may be available this late. As for TE, Aaron Hernandez, Ed Dickson, and Dennis Pitta may all be in the mix here depending on how their interviews go. WR's Arrelious Benn and Damian Williams' availabilities are up in the air this deep into the draft, but would both be good options for the Pats.
If the Patriots address their pass-rush issues with their first pick, the safe pick here would most likely be either WR Arrelious Benn or OLB Daryl Washington. Benn would be the first choice and a huge steal for the Pats, but likely will be off the board by this pick; if he isn't the Pats will jump on this opportunity, or maybe even trade up a few to get him. That means the Pats will probably take Washington. Washington has enough speed and athleticism that translate into success in the NFL to overshadow the questions about his strength; he only had 17 reps on the bench press at the combine.
Next up for the Pats is the No. 47 overall pick. This is where the offensive selections will start coming into play. Depending on the best available at certain positions, the Pats could look at getting a WR, RB, TE, OLB, or CB
Possibilities are: WR's Damian Williams and Eric Decker, RB's Dexter McCluster and Ryan Mathews, TE's Anthony McCoy and Dorin Dickerson, OLB's Jason Worilds and Navorro Bowman, and CB's Brandon Ghee and Chris Cook.
If Williams is available at this point, the Pats will likely take him if they haven't taken another WR earlier. If not a WR at this point, McCluster is another good option, along with Navorro Bowman.
As far as value at the position compared to where the pick is and who comes after him in the RB pool, I would say that McCluster is the best option for the Pats here. They are high on second year WR Brandon Tate, so a WR that isn't big in the return game or a possible number one player is not a huge priority. McCluster has the speed to contribute in the return game immediately and is used to pro-level defenses having played in the SEC.
With the next pick, No. 53 overall, the Pats game plan is a toss up. This is where they could go for an O-lineman, WR, TE, or even a CB; the pick all depends on who Belichick feels brings the most value to the team.
Need-wise, CB would be the ideal pick here, and if Brandon Ghee is available, he would definitely be a smart pick. As far as TE goes, unless the Pats feel there is a steal on the board, they will likely address TE in the fourth round. O-line is another area that can likely be addressed later in the draft, especially because Belichick always seems to find diamonds in the rough on the O-line.
Another possibility is if the Pats again feel that there is a high-value player for immediate impact at the WR position. If they don't take a WR with their previous pick, it will be because they feel that another WR is better than other teams think he is. Again, if Williams is available, he would most likely be the pick here. Another WR to keep in mind is Carlton Mitchell, whose stock is rising and has the speed and size to be a consistent NFL player.
Look for Brandon Ghee to be the pick here. There are not too many other promising CB's after him in the draft pool, and he has the speed to keep up with most NFL WR's.
The Patriots then have a fourth-round, two sixth-round, and five seventh-round draft picks remaining after their second-rounders. These are the picks that Belichick and the Patriots made their names for in the last few years. TE, O-line, another DE and OLB, and maybe a punter are some issues that they will look to address.
Ricky Sapp is one DE/OLB prospect whose stock has dropped due to his injuries in college. He had a career year his senior season on a knee that was not 100 percent. The Patriots could look to move into the third round to look at, or even take him with their last pick in the second round.
There are sure to be trades and surprises, so keep an eye on the Pats' picks this year being moved for next year's picks. Also, if they feel there is not a good enough value at their draft picks, they could look to make a few moves for some veteran help.
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