Patriot fans seemed excited about this draft, perhaps more than previous years. They held a bevy of 2nd round picks, and it was hoped that their team would use them to fill their numerous defensive gaps. And to be frank, Pats fans were setting themselves up for disappointment. Unless the Pats traded up in the 1st round (what are the odds of that ever happening?), they weren't going to get any glamorous, big-name, "stud" players.
But as much as I defend the Patriots, this off-season as a whole has been nothing short of unfortunate. This team has holes on both offense and defense. Through free agency, trades, and the draft, they've done next to nothing to improve.
The running game remains an inconsistent and unpredictable (the last things a running game should be) secondary offensive option. So get used to more Red Zone disappointments.
The pass rush will continue to struggle, forcing a weak secondary to cover (or try to) for an eternity.
The Pats' receivers are good, but not great.
I guess you could call the 2010 Patriots' campaigns "bridge season," waiting for exorbitant contracts to expire and make space more productive players.
Anyway, here's who the Patriots drafted.
1ST ROUND, 27TH PICK, 27TH OVERALL: DEVIN MCCOURTY - CB, RUTGERS
Everyone in New England was expecting the Pats to draft an outside linebacker or defensive end here. Somehow, these people have forgotten that Bill Belichick rarely drafts what you'd expect. But in hindsight, this pick shouldn't shock anyone. The Pats' secondary was dreadful last year, and has been an Achilles heel for several seasons. The big reason the Pats and their fans want a higher intensity pass rush is to protect their vulnerable secondary.
McCourty was solid as a 3 year starter at Rutgers. There was a run on corners right after the Pats picked, so had they waited for the 2nd, the talent level would have dropped significantly. Given the Patriots' lack of quality and experience at the position, McCourty has the opportunity to earn any slot on the depth chart. But he'll certainly contribute on special teams, particularly on punt/kick blocking.
2ND ROUND, 10TH PICK, 42ND OVERALL: ROB GRONKOWSKI - TE, ARIZONA
Now this is the pick that aggravated me. If the Patriots wanted a tight-end, they could have NOT traded down in the 1st, taken Oklahoma's Jermaine Gresham (who is a stud). Gronkowski missed the '09 season with a back injury, which is why a guy with his talent and size (6' 6" 264 lbs) fell to the 2nd round. In 2008 with Arizona he caught 47 passes for 672 yards and 10 touchdowns. If the back problems are behind him, he could be an excellent Red Zone weapon. He's also an adept blocker.
2ND ROUND, 21ST PICK, 53RD OVERALL: JERMAINE CUNNINGHAM - OLB, FLORIDA
Finally, the Patriots selected an outside pass rusher. Cunningham had 7 sacks last year, and 18 in three years as a starter. But he didn't reach that next level in his senior season as some might have expected. He was also arrested in 2007 for throwing soda cans at a sandwich shop clerk at 2:49 in the morning in a dispute about paying for a bag of chips. He played defensive end in school, but will likely move back to OLB in a 3-4.
2ND ROUND, 30TH PICK, 62ND OVERALL: BRANDON SPIKES - ILB, FLORIDA
I imagine getting drafted by an NFL team is pretty sweet. Then to find out that one of your teammates got drafted by them 9 picks later must be the cherry on top. Like a lot of guys in the late 2nd round, he's got lots of upside and lots of downside. His combine was forgettable, and he missed a few games in the '09 season. He accumulated 52 tackles in 10 games his senior season, along with 3 sacks, and 2 INTs. He could compliment Jerod Mayo very nicely.
3RD ROUND, 26TH PICK, 90TH OVERALL: TAYLOR PRICE - WR, OHIO
I like this pick a lot, even though it wasn't on the defensive side of the ball. It's just nice that the Patriots drafted a WR who didn't have injury problems. That being said, U-Ohio is hardly known as a receiver factory. And Price's best game was against I-AA Cal Poly when he racked up 135 yards. It was his only 100+ game of the season. Price adds much needed depth and youth to the position.
4TH ROUND, 15TH PICK, 113TH OVERALL: AARON HERNANDEZ - TE, FLORIDA
Another tight-end? Haven't we seen this before from Belichick? The dude just loves tight-ends. But the experts are saying that Hernandez is a quality receiving tight-end. He caught 68 passes in '09, for 850 yards and 4 touchdowns. He's not as versatile as Gronkwoski, but is perhaps a better pass catcher. He could get bigger and tougher.
5TH ROUND, 19TH PICK, 150TH OVERALL: ZOLTAN MESKO - P, MICHIGAN
How do you get a name like Zoltan? You get born in Romania. Only three punters were taken in the draft. The other two were taken in later rounds. So for the Pats to spend a 5th round pick on a punter, he's better be great. He was first team All-Big Ten in '08 and '09.
6TH ROUND, 36TH PICK, 205TH OVERALL: TED LARSEN - C, NC STATE
Larsen has the skills, but lacks the size. He's a serviceable backup lineman that can fill-in. He's tough and durable, and rarely wears out at the end of games.
7TH ROUND, 1ST PICK, 208TH OVERALL: THOMAS WELCH - OT, VANDERBILT
Another O-lineman who can do a few things really well, but gets exposed in other situations. He's 6' 7" and 300 pounds, but struggles to stay low (as you might imagine). Another attempt at depth here.
7TH ROUND, 40TH PICK, 247TH OVERALL: BRANDON DEADERICK - DE, ALABAMA
It wouldn't be an NFL Draft if Belichick didn't select a Nick Saban product. Deaderick is versatile and can contribute in multiple ways. He can play outside in a 3-4, inside in a 4-3. Belichick loves having a guy like that on the roster. He got shot in the '09 season, by a gun, and returned to practice two days later. Belichick loves having guys like that on the roster.
7TH ROUND, 41ST PICK, 248TH OVERALL: KADE WESTON - DT, GEORGIA
Weston's 6' 5" and 304 pounds. He can push up into the backfield, and he's done well to improve himself in college. It's hard to project the 248th overall pick to even make an NFL roster, but if he does, it will be because he's worked hard to improve his shortcomings.
7TH ROUND, 43RD PICK, 250TH OVERALL: ZAC ROBINSON - QB, OKLAHOMA STATE
Robinson's senior campaign was a major disappointment. As a sophomore and junior he surpassed 23 touchdowns each season, and threw 9 and 10 picks, respectively. He was also a much bigger threat on the ground, running for 847 yards his sophomore year. But senior year, he threw 15 TDs and 12 INTs. He only rushed for 305 yards. He has a shot to be the Pats' #3 QB.
So that's the Patriots draft. It's not awful. They did get some decent LBs. They addressed their vacancies at tight-end. They added depth at CB and WR.
But no running backs. And that's unfortunate. The Pats need a running game to help stifle opposing pass rushers, maintain ball possession, run out the clock, and punch the ball into the end zone. Oh well. At least they didn't draft Tebow. Good luck with that, McDaniels.