We should be used to this by now in New England. For years, people here have expected the Pats to draft some linebackers, only to see them get more tight ends and linemen. This year, we expected a draft loaded at the top with defensive backs, instead the Pats took a linebacker with their first pick. And in the draft's second day, the surprises kept on coming.
Round 3, Pick #15, 78th Overall: Shawn Crable, LB, Michigan
Crable was born to play OLB in a 3-4 scheme like New England's. He had 7.5 sacks in '07 to go along with a ton of tackles for losses. He's big (6' 5" 243), and fast. The one big knock on him is his work ethic. The people at Michigan felt like he never put in 110%, and that cost him a bit. But to get a talent like this in the 3rd round is a bargain. And if any coach and team can get this guy to give it his all, it's Belichick and the Pats.
Round 3, Pick #31, 94th Overall: Kevin O'Connell, QB, San Diego State
I'm not surprised the Pats picked a QB, I'm just surprised they picked one so early. O'Connell is tall, he has a strong arm, he's tall, he has a strong arm, he has a strong arm, and he's tall. He's got the physical qualities and skills to be a good QB, but he needs to work on reacting under pressure. He's a work in progress, which is good because #12 is still #1 on the QB depth chart and will be for a long time.
Round 4, Pick #31, 129th Overall: Jonathan Wilhite, CB, Auburn
Wilhite doesn't have the numbers of a big-time college defensive back (only 3 picks in 3 years), but he does have the talent and skills. He's a good size for a CB at 5' 11" and 185 lbs, and he's fast. He's had some injury issues, and his character is a question mark, but for a 4th round pick, he has a great deal of upside.
Round 5, Pick #20, 153rd Overall: Matthew Slater, S, UCLA
Slater's career has been riddled with injuries. He was a reserve wide receiver his sophomore season, but didn't see much playing time. UCLA moved him to safety, but he saw most of his action on special teams, and excelled on kickoff coverage. I think this is what caught Belichick's eyes. He could turn into a solid special teams specialist as well as a backup safety.
Round 6, Pick #31, 197th Overall: Bo Ruud, LB, Nebraska
Ruud is another one of those work in progress kind of guys. He's got the size and the strength, he just needs some fine tuning on his basic defensive skills before he can be an impact player. But as you can see from the video, he's already a good pass defender. He put up some solid numbers in college for the Blackshirts. In 4 years and 47 games, he had 216 tackles, 4.5 sacks, and 5 INTs (3 returned for touchdown).
So there it is, the 2008 Patriots draft. Six of the seven picks were defensive players (although Matthew Slater can also be listed as WR). Three linebackers, three defensive backs. Only one non-BCS school had a selection.
All in all, it looks like a solid draft. But of course time will tell on that one. The defense has some new blood, which it desperately needed. But the Pats still have a great deal of room for improvement.
UCLA Bruins Official Athletic Site