By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
Even after the New England Patriots collapsed in the 2007 Super Bowl, many pundits were picking them to still claim dominance in 2008. However, thanks to Tom Brady’s Week One knee injury, those thoughts were laid to rest. Or were they?
Enter little known backup Matt Cassel, who deftly led the squad to a successful 11-5 record. Unfortunately, even with that record, the Patriots were on the outside looking in during the playoffs. Now Brady is back, and so is Randy Moss, Wes Welker, and a horde of other talent, including offseason pickups Fred Taylor, Chris Baker, Shawn Springs, and Leigh Bodden.
The team is getting up there in age in certain positions, and while they are easily favored in the AFC, they have a unique opportunity. Owning four picks in the first two rounds, the Patriots can find quality team players that will be molded to their specifications, as Bill Belichick has a knack for doing. The Patriots like to horde their picks for quality trades, and with the options they have right now, a major deal could still be in the works.
New England Patriots Draft Picks:
Round One, Pick 23 (23)
Round Two, Pick Two (34)
Round Two, Pick 15 (47)
Round Two, Pick 26 (58)
Round Three, Pick 25 (89)
Round Three, Pick 33 (97)
Round Four, Pick 24 (124)
Round Five, Pick 34 (170)
Round Six, Pick 26 (199)
Round Six, Pick 34 (207)
Round Seven, Pick 25 (234)
Team Need 1: LB
Jerod Mayo was the pick at this time last year, and he made a great impact for the team, with 128 tackles and the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. With Tedy Bruschi running on his last set of steam, and Mike Vrabel now a Chief, the Patriots could afford to get younger here.
Adailus Thomas hasn’t emerged as a viable pass rusher yet in the 3-4 defense, so look for the Patriots to look at an OLB first. Clay Matthews and Brian Cushing, both from USC and in the same mold, are two options New England will take a long look at. Matthews is the better pass rusher, so if he is unavailable, going inside might be the next best option.
Another USC Trojan, Rey Maualuga, would be the best option available if Matthews gets tabbed early. Should they decide to wait until the second round, Paul Kruger could fall right into their laps with one of their three picks.
Team Need 2: OL
During Super Bowl 42, the Giants exposed the age and lack of speed of the Patriots' front five. New England did not address the need during the draft then, but with Matt Light, Nick Kaczur, and Dan Koppen all getting up there, they should look at grabbing a couple sturdy backups. Outside of top-ranked guard Andrew Levitre, who could fall to them at the end of round two, there aren’t too many guard options worth wasting a day one pick on, or even a day two flier.
Dan Koppen is still a reliable center, so I couldn’t see them using an early pick, but they could possibly use a fourth or fifth round pick on Johnathan Luigs, who is near in the same mold as Koppen. The talent at OT is undeniable, and New England should invest one or two picks at some point in the draft on some suitable backups that could be starters one day.
Team Need 3: WR
Right, with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, why would the Patriots grab a receiver? Because the depth behind them is questionable. They did bring in Greg Lewis and Joey Galloway, but neither stand out, especially considering Welker plays better when lined up in the slot, rather than the outside.
The Patriots don’t need to waste a first day pick, and could wait until the fourth round and grab a big receiver like Louis Murphy. They could go third round, possibly even their last second round pick if they so choose. Remember, this is the team that used a third round pick last year on QB Kevin O’Connell, who is now the backup to Brady, so anything is possible.
New England has the talent and the ability to be in the playoffs this season. Eventually, there will be a time when all the key members of the group get old and walk away. Taking the time now to develop suitable replacements, who can learn from the nucleus of players, is how teams succeed for long periods of time. Belichick and company are some of the smartest in the business, and will make the right calls come draft day.