By: Russ Goldman
Before the NFL draft I told myself I wouldn’t fall into the trap of believing speculation on what the Patriots are going to do with their picks. Well, I have to admit I fell for it again. I started to hear talk that the Patriots might trade up to possibly draft a DE/OLB prospect. I also started to believe, because I wanted to, that the Patriots would draft a glaring need which is outside linebacker. Bill Belichick drafted mostly offensive players, and did not address outside linebacker until late in the draft. It was a frustrating weekend that I am unfortunately used to as long as Belichick has been coach.
For fans of 31 other teams in the NFL, the draft is a great weekend to predict which players are possibly coming to your team and how they will fit. For fans of the Patriots it is a very different experience. It is impossible to predict what the Patriots will do on Draft Weekend. Even when you start hearing the names of the players that the media, and the fans want in Foxboro prior to the draft, Bill Belichick makes us all look foolish.
Needless to say, here is my take on who the Patriots selected over the weekend.
So let’s start with Thursday Night for the Patriots. Prior to the draft there was speculation that the Patriots wanted to move up to draft Cameron Jordan, who is a defensive end out of California. By all accounts by many members of the media, Jordan could be the next Willie McGinest or Richard Seymour. He has the ingredients to be an impact front seven defensive player.
When it came to the Patriots pick at #17, Mr. Jordan was sitting right there for the Patriots to grab. When I saw that the Patriots were on the clock, I started to check twitter to see if any reporter had the name of the new Patriots player. As the minutes dwindled down I saw the name on twitter of Nate Solder, an offensive lineman from Colorado would be the newest Patriot.
Nate Solder joins Devin McCourty, Logan Mankins, and Patrick Chung as a ‘surprise’ pick by the Patriots. (FILE:Icon/SMI)
Next thing I knew I watched the draft as Mr. Solder was picked by the Patriots. I then saw him on ESPN and he looked huge. The Patriots definitely needed some offensive linemen in this draft. However, Solder was added to the list of Patriots players that were not household names when drafted by the team. He joins Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, and Logan Mankins as surprise Patriots draft picks.
I am not upset that the Patriots drafted Solder. I am disappointed that they did not address the outside linebacker position early in the draft. Cameron Jordan was still available at the #17 pick. At that time I thought it would work out, because the Patriots had the 28th pick, and there were still plenty of defensive players to choose from.
Well, I should have seen what was coming next. When the Patriots were on the clock at #28, I started to see tweets that the Patriots are trading the pick. I took my fist and hit the table in utter disgust.
I convinced myself that they would not trade this pick and actually use it. I was wrong once again. I went to bed feeling that the Patriots had let a huge opportunity to address a need pass by.
The next day, I then believed that the Patriots must have a front seven defensive player in mind for the 33rd pick. I wanted the Patriots at that point to draft Brooks Reed out of Arizona. He is an outside linebacker that can get after the quarterback.
A half hour before the draft I saw Bill Belichick being interviewed by Chris Berman on ESPN. He asked the coach what type of positions were available in the upcoming rounds of the draft. Belichick mentioned that the draft had many offensive skilled positional players still left on the board.
My first thought was, “uh-oh, Belichick is going offense in these rounds coming up”. Well, the Patriots actually took a defensive player with the 33rd pick. However, it was cornerback Ras-I Dowling out of Virginia. Again, I don’t know any expert that had this player going to the Patriots.
I was disappointed once again because the Patriots did not draft an area of need. I thought after that, the Patriots would go offense the rest of day 2, and I was 100% correct.
The Pats then drafted Shane Vereen in the second round. He is a running back out of California.
In the third round, the Patriots would draft two more offensive players. First, the Pats would take Stevan Ridley, a running back out of LSU. Then, they would make a move for a future starting quarterback. The Patriots took Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas.
Mallett has some character issues, but he certainly has the physical qualities to be a top quarterback someday in the NFL. He should be an interesting player to follow in the upcoming seasons, as he learns from the best in Tom Brady.
As day two ended I felt disappointed once again. The offensive picks I don’t have any problems with. The Patriots certainly needed some running backs, and it is not too early to look for the quarterback of the future. The problem I have once again is not drafting an outside linebacker.
As day 3 started my focus was on the possibility of the Patriots drafting Mark Herzlich, who is a linebacker from Boston College. Before having cancer, Herzlich was projected to go in the top 10 of the first round of the draft by many experts. He had to sit out a season as he beat cancer and got healthy. When he came back for his senior season, he wasn’t the same player, but that is understandable considering what his body went through.
Herzlich to me would make the perfect Patriot. He might not have the speed he once had, but he has the football mind to be very successful in the NFL. As each round went the Patriots and all the other NFL teams passed on this player.
The Patriots actually took an outside linebacker Markell Carter out of Central Arkansas in the sixth round. There is really not that much information on this player.
Now, if the Patriots are going to take a player from a small school late in the draft, I don’t know why they did not take a chance on Herzlich? I still believe this player is going to shock the experts and many teams, as I think he will have a successful career in football. The team that picks him up will be very lucky.
So here I am now on Monday, and I am looking back at what happened in the Patriots Draft. I am still very disappointed that the Patriots did not draft front seven defensive help. I actually thought they needed to draft a defensive end and an outside linebacker. To draft neither high in the draft I think is a huge mistake.
The Patriots are in the process of changing over their defense. Last draft I thought they did a tremendous job in the beginning phases of this new look defense. I actually believe the draft prior they got some solid defensive help in Patrick Chung, Darius Butler, and Ron Brace.
The problem I have is there are still holes that need to be filled. Jermaine Cunningham I think has the chance to be a tremendous outside linebacker. My questions is who will be his compliment on the other side? Tully Banta-Cain and Rob Ninkovich are not the future. They still need that player.
I have heard on the radio that they could address that position in free agency. I honestly do not see that happening. The best prospects at this position currently have a franchise tag on them.
For me this was a chance to build on what the Patriots have established in the last two drafts on defense. I think in a few years we are going to look back at the 2011 NFL draft as a lost opportunity to finish off the completion of the Patriots defense. But, then again who am I to judge this future Hall of Fame coach? This draft could be the one that shapes the Patriots offense for years to come. Only time will tell.