May 29, 2006 New England Patriots '06 Draft Review -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Scott Wright President, NFL Draft Countdown When it comes to the Patriots most recent draft class it's probably best to take a wait and see appraoch because while many of the prospects they chose won't provide much in 2006 they could very well provide the basis for future playoff runs. Overall it looks like the team once again brought in not only talented players but also guys who fit in with what they try to do both on as well as off the field, a factor than can never be underestimated. In the first round the Patriots selected Minnesota running back Laurence Maroney, who maybe doesn't address an immediate glaring need but could pay huge dividends in the long run. A big play threat who can take it the distance from anywhere on the field, Maroney was extremely productive throughout his college career and would have been the Broncos pick at #15 overall had they not traded up for Jay Cutler. As a rookie Maroney will probably be limited to a backup role but Corey Dillon won't be around much longer which means the starting job could be his sooner rather than later. In round two the Pats were aggressive and traded up to get Florida wide receiver Chad Jackson, who they almost took in round one. A great athlete with an ideal blend of size and speed, it was a mild surprise that he fell as far as he did. With David Givens and Andre' Davis leaving as free agents and Troy Brown nearing the end of his career it's possible that Jackson could be the #2 or #3 wideout in New England very early on in his career. In round three the Patriots chose Texas tight end David Thomas, who doesn't have ideal measurables but was very productive and Vince Young's favorite target with the Longhorns. At first glance tight end wouldn't seem to be a need, even with Christian Fauria leaving since they still have Ben Watson and Daniel Graham, but Graham will be a free agent soon and the team might be preparing for the future. Thomas won't be anything more than third on the depth chart as a rookie but with the Pats frequent use of two tight end sets and Graham's potential departure he could play a big role as soon as 2007. In round four New England had a couple of selections and took a couple of risks. First came Garrett Mills of Tulsa, who is a bit of a 'tweener and could play either fullback or tight end at the next level. With the Pats look for the versatile Mills to make a position switch and play in the backfield where, if he can successfully make the transition, could possibly push Patrick Pass for the starting job at some point down the line. Next came Memphis kicker Stephen Goskowski, who went much earlier than anyone expected. With Adam Vinatieri leaving as a free agent there is certainly an opportunity for a consistent kicker like Gostkowski to make an immediate impact but after relying so heavily on one of the best ever and a future Hall of Famer it might be tough to live with the ups and downs of a rookie. In round five New England may have gotten a steal in California offensive tackle Ryan O'Callaghan, who only fell as far as he did due to some injury concerns. O'Callaghan is a classic mauler at right tackle and with only Brandon Gorin as the starter there I would not be at all surprised if he was able to make a major push for the starting job as a rookie. This could be another classic case of the Patriots finding starting offensive lineman beyond the early rounds. In round six the Patriots had three selections and brought in some interesting prospects. First came Jeremy Mincey of Florida, who played defensive end in college but will likely move to outside linebacker in the Pats 3-4 scheme. A great natural pass rusher with an excellent motor, Mincey will provide depth and with Willie McGinest now gone could even push Tully Banta-Cain for a starting job. Next the Patriots brought in Notre Dame offensive guard Dan Stevenson, who no doubt came with a recommendation from Charlie Weis. With Logan Mankins and Steven Neal firmly entrenched as the starters inside look for Stevenson to add quality depth. With their next pick the Patriots selected Nebraska defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith, a run stuffer who could push for the backup nose tackle job behind Vince Wilfork. With their final pick in round seven New England brought in versatile defensive back Willie Andrews of Baylor, who could play safety or corner while also helping out in the return game as well. Over the years Scott Pioli and Bill Belichick have done an outstanding job on Draft Day and their track record is really second to none. The Pats made some picks that I really like in Maroney, Jackson and O'Callaghan while others that I felt left something to be desired but even with those that went against the grain you can see the reasoning and purpose behind them. This class might not reap immediate rewards for the franchise but come 2007 and 2008 we could look back and say it was one of the best out there in terms of long-term impact. GRADE: B+ Ă‚Â© 2006. All rights are reserved. Disclaimer | Media Inquiries | Advertise This site is in no way affiliated with the National Football League (NFL) or the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). 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