Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Fallout

"Who are you to wave your finger
You must have been out of your head."

So I was at work on Draft Saturday, and we had the people working the main dining room keep us in the kitchen informed of who the Pats drafted. Needless to say, there seemed to be a common theme in each of the updates..."yeah, the Pats just traded down again." It got to the point when I was wondering if they would pick at all, or if they were attempting to compile like 40 picks for next year's draft.

In any event, the Pats had one of the most fascinating drafts in recent memory. They were slotted to pick at #23, and not only traded down once (with Baltimore), but traded down again afterward (Green Bay). Then, they traded up in the second round with Oakland, then, on Day 2, the Pats traded two of their third round picks for second-rounders next year, and, just when I thought it couldn't get any wackier, they trade Ellis Hobbs to Philly (who now has both the corners from the Super Bowl XXXIX team) for two fifth rounders, which they promptly traded to Baltimore to move up in the fourth round...keeping up with all of this was probably the most exhausting exercise I've done in years (this was like the "Boot Camp" of keeping up with draft trades).

Okay, so, how did we do? Well, for the umpteenth year in a row, this Patriots' draft will be able to be completely graded by what happens in next year's draft. I guess my read on this year was that the Pats were just not in love with anyone this year, and instead, they wanted to focus on finding value for the picks they had, and doing anything possible to get some kind of value with the picks they held onto. They popped out of the first round altogether, which makes me think that, again, there just wasn't a player that Belichick and Co. felt they wanted to throw $5-10 million guaranteed at. So, they made Patrick Chung their first selection of the draft. This speaks to how the Pats feel about their current safety situation...basically, they don't like it, and neither do I. As I have said before, James Sanders is not an NFL starter. In addition, I felt like they could have made a run at Darren Sharper before he went to New Orleans. Instead, they waited until the draft and took Chung. Chung has an interesting scouting report. Instead of boring you with the details, I'll keep it simple. Basically, he's a Rodney Harrison clone. He's not the best in coverage, and he's not the best at reading offenses, but when you ask him to hit someone, not only does he hit them...he lays them out. Considering how well Harrison made the secondary, I think this is a really good move. Also, you move Brandon Meriweather back to free safety, which is more of his game than being a strong safety.

Then, through two trades the Pats made, they ended up with back-to-back picks in the second, and took two New England college products in Ron Brace (BC) and Darius Butler (UConn). Brace, in case you were unaware, is a gigantic individual (6'3, 330). This is a smart play for two reasons. First, he adds depth in a position where they basically have none in (do you really feel comfortable with Mike Wright being the heir-apparent?), and second, if for whatever reason they are unable to sign Vince Wilfork, they now are in a position where they have a high draft pick who could have the ability to step in and start in the 2010 season if they need him.

Butler was interesting because he actually fell into the second round, which was surprising enough, but the fact that a lot of experts correctly pegged Butler as being New England-bound (with most of them having him go #23) were correct in their assumption of Belichick's presence at the UConn pro day having some significance, which I really did not believe. However, in looking at what Butler potentially can bring to the table, I'm huge on this pick. Sometimes, when a prospect is almost to the point of being arrogant, it can be a turn-off. For some reason, I like how Butler carries himself. Maybe it's because he's coming to New England and I'm completely biased, but I like his confidence. He talks a little bit, but he also can back it up (fastest 40 time at the combine). Personally, I'm not completely sold on Terrance Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite becoming every down corners. However, if Bodden plays up to his '07 level, and Butler is anything like how he was in college, the corners of the future may have fallen right into Belichick's lap here (by the way, I'm convinced that Bodden will be more than decent, which is why I hope they sign him to a fairly long-term deal before his value start going up).

I know that when Sebastian Vollmer got taken with the third second round pick, I really didn't know all that much about him. Then I remembered when they drafted Logan Mankins, I had the same feeling, so I guess it's all pretty much relative at this point. Also, I have said over and over again that the right side of the line is just terrible, and they were in need of some help. Judging by this video, I'm feeling a lot better about our situation.

The other notable pick for the Pats came on Day 2 when they went with Brandon Tate, receiver out of UNC. Tate is an impressive receiver who can also contribute on the return game. Two things that are interesting though: 1) He tested positive at the combine for pot, which doesn't say much in terms of his timing, and 2) He could miss the entire 2009 season recovering from two torn knee ligaments. It's not as though the Pats especially need a receiver this coming year with Moss, Welker, Lewis, and Galloway, but they obviously will be needing one in 2010 when Galloway will likely be gone. Also, with the Hobbs trade, the Pats will be looking for help in the return game, which Tate can help them with. Still though, it's curious that they would kind of reach for a guy when it's not known if he will be able to make a full recovery from that injury. I think this is like a John Smoltz pick, where there is little-to-no risk involved, and the reward could potentially be huge. So, the key word here is intriguing I guess.

So, that's pretty much how the draft went for the Pats. They didn't make a huge splash with anyone, but they made picks that they hope will contribute at some key areas in the future. In addition, the Pats now have a ridiculous three second round picks next year, matching the three that they had this year. Belichick officially has spear-headed the idea of not breaking the bank for rookies. He is basically initiating what the league should already have in place, which is some kind of rookie salary cap. He traded out of a first round pick twice purely because he didn't see a Jerod Mayo this year (i.e. a guy he was in love with). In addition, he saw what I was deducing when I was making the mock drafts, which was that there was a ton of value that would be hitting the top of the second round. Belichick saw this, and wound up with three picks right at the beginning portion of Round 2. So, he was able to get first round talent, and sign all of them to much less money than they would have gotten if they went in the first round. This is why when you go around the web, despite passing on guys like Clay Matthews, Connor Barwin, etc., they are universally getting a B+ and fairly high grades across the board because of the value they got where they picked at, the fact that they won't be breaking the bank for any of their incoming rookies, and they picked up two second-rounders for next year. All and all, I'm pretty happy with how everything went. My only issue is that the OLB position remains a mystery, and by how this draft went, it says two things to me: 1) The Pats are going to get Jason Taylor, or 2) They are under the impression that Shawn Crable will be able to come in and make a huge push to be a starter, because Pierre Woods as the starting outside linebacker opposite Adalius Thomas is just down-right scary to me. I guess time will tell in terms of how that on-going saga will shake down.

Okay, quick I know, but I just wanted to share my opinion about how the Pats drafted. Again, with my MTEL test coming up, and working two jobs, my time will be somewhat limited as to how much I can write. Celts made an improbable comeback last night, which was awesome. Then, Javier Lopez muffed a simple handoff from Youk when he was attempting to cover first, losing the game and the eleven game winning streak, which was not awesome. The Bruins are set to play Carolina starting Friday. This is fitting because the general formula for the Bruins making it to the Stanley Cup Finals was to beat Hartford and Montreal along the way...so this is about as close to that as we can possibly get right now. It will be interesting to see how this series goes considering how easy the Montreal series went. I'm pretty sure Carolina will put a stronger fight, but I am so confident in the Bruins right now that I see them getting through and making the Eastern Conference Finals.

So, that's all for now. Thanks for stopping by. Peace.


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