We're only a week away from one of the most anticipated events in the NFL offseason: the draft.
Most teams have their draft boards ready, but continue evaluating talent and spending hours and hours on film and statistical analysis to iron out the last few details. Now comes the time to plan the routes and strategies that they will follow on this three-day event.
Each team has its own "personality" on draft day. Some teams take a more aggressive approach and are willing to deal picks or players (or both) to move up some spots to select a prospect they like. Moving up is a case-by-case situation rather than a draft philosophy, but some teams like the Atlanta Falcons, Washington Redskins and New York Jets are more willing to do it than others.
At the other end of the spectrum, there are the teams that parlay the needs of others to accumulate more picks by trading down. Such is the case of the New England Patriots.
The consensus is that there are needs in the pass rushing and secondary departments that should be addressed with the early picks in this year's draft. With two picks in the first round (27 and 31) and two in the second round (48 and 62), some analysts and fans wonder if maybe this time the Patriots will use both picks this year to select two first-round talents. Some even wonder if maybe this will be the time that the Pats will even deal these picks to trade up and grab an impact player.
Don't be fooled. That is not what the Patriots do on draft day, and they won't deviate from their formula this time.
Why is that?
Year in and year out, the Patriots are one of the teams that end up selecting more players on draft day. In 2011, they selected nine players, and in 2009 and 2010, they selected 12 each year.
Drafting is not an exact science, solid players can be found in any round of the draft, especially in the higher middle rounds (second and third) and having more players available only increases your chances of having a successful draft class (just look at the 2009 Jets draft class). Trading up reduces the number of picks available, as in most cases you have to surrender one or more of those second or third-round picks.
To make matters worse, the Patriots don't have much ammo available. Apart from those two first rounders and two second rounders, the only other picks left are a pick in the third round (93rd overall) and one in the fourth round (126th overall).
Bill Belichick is good at finding contributors in the later rounds, so it's likely that he'll look to get a couple of fifth, sixth and seventh-round picks. There are many positions that should be addressed in the draft, at least to provide depth (HB, OL, DT, DE/OLB, DB), so don't expect the Pats to approach the draft with the few selections they have available at the moment.
Also, consider that director of player personnel Nick Caserio said that this draft class has some good depth in the defensive front seven.
Considering that defensive lineman and outside linebacker are, along with defensive back, the most pressing needs for the team, this is good news. Just because the Pats draft a defensive lineman or linebacker that doesn't bring a high first-round grade attached to him doesn't mean that the need won't be addressed.
Lastly, don't overestimate the benefits of having a first-round pick available for trade. While it may sound cool to acquire first-round selections, dealing one of them in the same fashion as the Saints deal last year (Pats' first-round pick for Saints' 2011 second-round pick and 2012 first-round pick) basically provides a free second-round pick every year for as long as you find someone willing to trade back into the first round.
So, don't expect anything out of the ordinary from the Patriots this year. Of course, anything can happen, but unless they fall madly in love with a prospect, you will see the exact same approach to the draft that you see every year.
And, in this case, that is a good thing.