Some of these players are rising on draft boards right now, so who can say how realistic this is likely to be come draft day. Generally, I've tried to find value while still being generally realistic, but reading through this draft class, I have to say the entire thing it too good to be true-- it could never work out like this on draft day without trading up.
Also, until the draft order is locked down, and the compensatory picks are settled, I've made some assumptions about which picks (# overall) we will have to play with, for the sake of trades and such.
Still, undertanding that this is very early to be anything more than a lark...
1 (#21) - HB LenDale White, USC
Sharing time in the backfield with Reggie Bush has got to be tough to do. More amazing than the fact that White ever got the ball is the fact that he was incredibly productive. Matt Cassel will give Belichick the inside scoop on White as a player and a person, but the more important factor in this case are the measurables: 6'2 235, and a fully certified road grader. Dillon had a down year and is nearing the end of his career. White is only a Junior and will have time to earn his roster spot, providing depth at RB as a rookie, and eventually securing the starting spot for himself.
A lot of mock drafts have White going to the Steelers at #27, but he's rising on charts. We'll know whether #21 is realistic in a few weeks.
Of course, this assumes that Chad Greenway is already off the board. I'm trying to find a way for us to get high enough in the draft for Greenway... but no joy, so far. I WISH
Posluzsny had declared for the draft, because he would have been a lock for us at #21.
2 (#52) - DE/OLB Manny Lawson, NC
Belichick was spotted scouting the South team at the Senior Bowl, and Lawson was the defensive standout on that squad during practice. At 6'6 245, he has the size that Belichick demands from his LBs, and his stunning pass rush is a great fit for the Pats as an outside rusher. With McGinest coming to the end of his career, Lawson projects as the eventual bookend, starting opposite Colvin, and should spend his rookie year in the LB rotational depth chart with Banta-Cain and (if he returns) Chad Brown.
If Lawson keeps performing for scouts, we might have to trade up from #52 overall to make sure of him. I've seen some mock drafts with Lawson going as high at #9 overall to the Lions, but that is utter crap. But could Lawson rise into the late first?... I have to admit that it's possible. A team like the Steelers or Panthers would be glad to have him at LB, too. Hell, if Lawson's for real, and it looks that way, Belichick may be willing to spend the #21 on him, straight up.
3 (#75) - WR Sinorice Moss, Miami
I hate drafting players from The U, but here's an opportunity to draft Santana Moss's younger brother. Runs a 4.33, has good hands and can stretch the field. A great complement to Deon Branch, and hopefully just as productive. Like Branch, undersided, but very fast and exceptionally elusive. Great intangibles and strong work ethic. With David Givens on the free agent market, the Pats will need to bolster their WR depth. In a pretty mediocre draft class for WRs, landing Moss in the early 3rd is a pretty good score, and will certainly help fill the vacancies on the depth chart at WR.
Here's another player getting a lot of play on the web. I think Moss could rise into the mid-2nd... in fact, if BB wants to make sure of him, spending our 2nd rounder (#52 overall) might be a better place for it.
3 (#85) - CB Richard Marshall, Fresno
For the second year in a row, but only the third time in history, Fresno has an underclassman entering the draft. Last year, Belichick drafted James Sanders in the 4th, from the hands of his former assistant and Fresno Head Coach, Pat Hill. This year, it's Marshall who graduated in 3 years, runs a 4.41 and has been a 3-year starter for Hill. While still a bit unpolished, Marshall has great athleticism, fantastic upside and will compete well with what is shaping into a very promising crop of unheralded youngsters in the secondary: Asante, Gay and Hobbs.
There are a lot of good CBs in the draft this year. It may be asking too much for the rest of the league to overlook Marshall's pure athleticism. By the book he's probably the 7th or 8th best CB prospect. If he goes earlier than this, then hopefully another physical CB falls to us here.
4 (#105) - LB Tim McGarigle, Northwestern
McGarigle is one of my favorite all-Heart all-Hustle players in the NCAA. He was the leading tackler in the black and blue Big-10 for either two or three consecutive years. Smart, great leadership, the anchor of the Northwestern D. For the Pats, I'd like to see him as a SS and a third ILB in the box-- a role that Rodney perfected. Failing that, he can certainly win and fill Don Davis's role on ST.
4 (#117) - WR/PR/KR Skyler Green, LSU
Belichick has been looking to bolster the return game over the past few years, drafting Bethel Johnson, Ellis Hobbs and signing Tim Dwight. Bethel lost his spot on the KR squad to Hobbs and is running out of time as a WR prospect. And after fumbling that runback against the Broncos, Hobbs got a quick hook in favor of Andre Davis, who is now a free agent. Dwight is another free agent and may not be resigned. Green is a solid 185#, an elusive return man with 4.4 speed, drawing comparisons to Dave Meggett. Good route running, elusiveness and physical play make for a nice package. Although Green may never be a star, he will be a legitimate contributor on ST and a role player on offense.
5 (#166) - FB/TE Garrett Mills. Tulsa
An overachieving player without a position, who showed up at the Senior Bowl and made a name for himself. Mills was the heart and soul of his Tulsa team. At 235#, Mills is proably too small to be an elite TE in the NFL, but his productivity in the passing game in college is legendary, his versatility in the backfield and his reputation as "another coach on the field" make him a weapon that Belichick knows how to take advantage of. Mills will never replace Corey Dillon, but he could displace Patrick Pass. Finally, a true FB on the roster. Plus, he can still play a role as a reserve TE.
6 (#214) - FS Tyrone Culver, Fresno
At this point in the draft, I'm looking for players that can help the depth chart, and contribute on ST. And although it seems silly to draft yet another player from Fresno, here it is. For most college football fans, here's the best way to remember who Culver is: remember that play where Reggie Bush ran for 50 yards, abruptly stopped short, let the DB flash past him, then continued running downhill for a TD? Well, the DB who went flying by was Culver. That missed tackle aside, Culver is a solid player and a WAC All-Conference player. Not a unique talent, but well coached, experienced and physical. Look for him to contribute on ST and provide depth at S.
7 (#245) - who cares? Push this pick into 2007
, if anyone will take it.
Next year's draft will be headlined by Brady Quinn, Paul Posluzny, Jeff Samardzija and (probably) Adrian Petersen and Ted Ginn, Jr... we'll want a piece of that.
More realistic might be to drop White altogether, and reach down the draft board for the rest, just to make sure of them:
#21 - Manny Lawson
#52 - Sinorice Moss
#75 - Richard Marshall
#85 - (someone like TE Anthony Fasano, maybe?)
#105 - Skyler Green
#117 - Garrett Mills
#166 - (trade bait?)
#214 - Tyrone Culver
#245 - (trade bait?)