By: Ian Logue
Raise your hand if you would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the ‘war room’ during today’s draft selections.
Will Mallet be New England’s future QB when Brady retires? (FILE:Icon/SMI)
New England continued doing exactly what fans have come to expect, and that’s completely ignoring players that fans were salivating over, and instead going with guys who apparently were at the top of their board in value even though it doesn’t initially make a lot of sense to those who were hoping they would make at least one attempt to bolster their pass rush.
With Leigh Bodden coming back next season – presumably healthy – most thought that the Patriots were deep at the cornerback position opposite Devin McCourty, and with Kyle Arrington and Darius Butler they seemed to have four quality guys that had them fairly deep at that position.
Fans were clammoring for a defensive lineman. Instead, they got another cornerback.
New England opened day two by taking Ras-I Dowling out of Virginia, who at 6-1 ½, 198 pounds gives them a taller presence on the outside, which is one disadvantage they’ve had against some of the bigger receivers. The question really is with two guys who you would think would be slated to start on the outside in Bodden in McCourty, where are they going to use him?
He’s thought to be good in press coverage, but Dowling admitted to reporters he played primarily on the outside and didn’t get any slot corner experience in college. So if the plan is to use him there, any experience he does get will be while under the tutelage of Bill Belichick. He says he’s willing to play special teams, and feels it’s an important part of his game.
“Very important,” said Dowling when asked how important that part of his game was. “I think special teams is a big part [of the game] and really game-changing plays. I just continue to buy into special teams and I really believe that’s the way of winning.”
Listening to his conference call he’s also a very religious and respectful person, and much like Deion Branch answered each question with “sir” and “maam”. He made a good first impression, but it’s going to be interesting to see how he fits into their defense. Thanks to the legal system we’re still stuck in a lockout, so we’ll have to wait a bit before OTA’s and rookie minicamps start before we get to see what he can do on the field.
After Dowling came two runningbacks, with the Patriots first taking Shane Vereen out of California with the 24th pick in the second round, followed by Stevan Ridley out of LSU with the 9th selection of the third.
With just Danny Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis left as reliable options since Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor aren’t getting any younger, the two selections give them additional youth at a position they were in need of getting a little younger at. Ridley is considered to be a bigger back with speed and strength, while Vereen is a bigger back and a guy who is also good at picking up the blitz.
Belichick said during his press conference that the two should compliment eachother well, and give them some options in the kicking game.
“I think that Vereen and Ridley obviously play the same position, but I think they are very different players,” said Belichick. “Both have been very productive in college, Ridley more so this past year, but even when he had an opportunity to play earlier in his career when they had other backs, they always kind of rotated the backs through there at LSU, that he’s been a very proactive guy both in the running game and in the passing game. He’s a bigger, physical back, good running style, gets a lot of tough yards.
“I’d say Vereen is a little bit more elusive, a little bit more of a space back, has good hands. I think both of those players can help us in the kicking game and they both have been productive at high levels of competition. I think they will complement each other well. We’ve had a little bit of age at that position, so this gives us a couple of young guys that will provide competition for the players that we have in that position.”
Finally to end Day 2 New England selected quarterback Ryan Mallet out of Arkansas, who apparently could be the guy that could eventually take over for Tom Brady whenever he decides he’s done playing football. Belichick told reporters that one of the main reasons he selected Mallet is because he’s a guy who knows how to win, which is an attribute he talked about after selecting Brady back in 2000. Despite some character issues which included a public intoxication arrest back in 2009, Belichick said after talking with him they were comfortable enough with him to decide to bring him to New England.
“We just felt like he was a good player,” said Belichick. “He’s had a lot of production. He’s won everywhere he’s been: high school, college. He did a good job at Michigan. They came in and changed offenses and that was definitely beyond his control. I think he’s been a successful, productive quarterback all the way through his career: high school, college. He’s an impressive guy to talk to.”
When asked by one of the reporters about Mallet’s potential character issues, Belichick quickly rebuffed it.
“Obviously we’re comfortable with him; we took him.”
For an interesting 17,000 word take on him, here’s a link to an article that ran in the Florida Sun-Sentinal that talks about his career, as well as some of the off-field issues he had in college.
Rounds 4-7 will take place later today, and we’ll have a complete wrap-up later on.