In stark contrast to recent seasons, the New England Patriots enter the 2013 NFL draft with only five picks. They have their own picks in the first three rounds then don’t pick again until Round 7, where they also have Tampa Bay’s pick.
They traded away their fourth-rounder for that pick and Aqib Talib.
They dealt their fifth- and sixth-rounders for Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco, respectively.
Given the chaotic nature of the NFL draft and Bill Belichick’s history of wheeling and dealing on draft day, New England figures to move at least one of its picks. As things stand right now, the Patriots pick 29th, 59th and 91st overall, then twice in the seventh round.
Rather than trying to forecast what maniacal schemes Belichick is conceiving behind closed doors, let’s focus on team needs and where they fit into New England’s current draft slots.
For starters, the Patriots need help in the secondary.
According to Greg Bedard of The Boston Globe, they would like to re-sign Talib. If they do, they still face the prospect of entering next season with him, Devin McCourty, second-year men Alfonzo Dennard and Tavon Wilson and the oft-injured Ras-I Dowling as the only defensive backs on the entire roster who’ve ever started an NFL game.
That’s if they sign Talib, and if Dennard avoids prison time for his recent conviction of third-degree assault on a police officer.
If not, New England could enter next season perilously thin at both the cornerback and safety positions.
They could also use another wide receiver. Signing Danny Amendola was a great start on the road to recovery in the post–Welker era, but that still leaves the Patriots with him and Brandon Lloyd in the starting lineup, followed by a group with a combined three career receptions.
If recent reports are to be believed, Lloyd may not even be in New England next season. If that’s the case, the Patriots would create a glaring hole at the receiver position, so they could address the spot with one of their early picks.
*Update: It looks like New England just signed Donald Jones. He will add some depth but likely won't have a major impact on their draft plans.
Another potential need could arise at right tackle if Sebastian Vollmer departs via free agency. Even with him back in the fold, the Patriots lost Donald Thomas to the Colts and could use more depth to help protect Tom Brady.
They could also snag a pass rusher to complement Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich.
Washington's Desmond Trufant
To be clear, the Patriots could go in any number of directions in Round 1 depending on how they wrap up the free agency period.
If, for example, the Patriots bring in Ed Reed at safety, players like Florida’s Matt Elam or Florida International’s Jonathan Cyprien probably won’t receive draft-day phone calls from Belichick.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State
Listed at 6’1” or 6’2”, Rhodes displayed incredible athleticism at the NFL combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and posting a 40.5” vertical leap. Known for his physical style of play, Rhodes’ blend of size, freakish athletic ability and tenacity on the field has him as the second-best cornerback on most draft boards.
The redshirt junior was named First-Team All-ACC and put up some mind-boggling stats during his senior season.
His three interceptions tied for the team lead and his 10 passes defended led the squad, but what stands out most is his 12-game stretch, culminating in an Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois, during which time he was targeted 47 times (roughly four per game).
Only 13 of those targets resulted in completed passes, for a grand total of 88 yards.
Think about that for a moment.
Over a 12-game span he yielded on average one catch for seven yards.
He’s exactly the type of impact player New England needs in its beleaguered secondary.
Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington
Not quite as big as Rhodes, the 6’0” Trufant still brings nice size to the table and actually flashed better speed at the NFL Combine with a 4.38 40-yard dash. He also put up an impressive 16 reps on the bench press.
During Senior Bowl week the younger brother of former first-round pick Marcus Trufant impressed coaches and scouts with his coverage skills and closing speed. He held up well in man coverage and was able to corral Oregon State speedster Marcus Wheaton.
During one exchange, Wheaton jawed with Trufant and rather than take a seat for the next player’s turn, the All Pac-12 cornerback refused to exit and went right back at it. That kind of competitive fire should serve him well as a press corner at the next level.
D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
If Sebastian Vollmer departs via free agency, the Patriots will have a gaping hole at right tackle. Not only would they be forced to start the unproven Marcus Cannon, but they would only have four offensive tackles on the roster.
Fluker would fill that void perfectly.
The massive 6’5”, 339-pound right tackle won two National Championships and would bring much-needed depth and size to a unit that’s thin at the moment. He could be a starter on the line for years, keep Brady upright and help pave the way for the ground game.
Belichick might take a receiver even earlier if somebody like West Virginia’s Tavon Austin falls, but he has a poor history of drafting receivers, and this year’s crop is fairly deep. It makes more sense to grab one of the elite defensive backs in the first round and tap into the receiver pool with later picks.
Round 2 still offers some potential playmakers to help fill New England’s biggest needs.
Eric Reid, FS, Louisiana State
The durable two-year starter has only missed one game during his three-year career and is graduating with a 3.5 GPA in Business Administration. It never hurts to be smart at the NFL level.
Reid weighs in at 6’1” and 213 pounds and showed a nose for the football with 81 tackles in 2012.
With the Patriots having such a thin secondary, the 2012 All-SEC selection would bring much needed playmaking ability to a unit that was among the league’s worst last year.
Robert Woods, WR, USC
Woods would bring a proven track record of productivity to the Patriots offense and give them a nice option opposite Danny Amendola.
The junior starred at USC and was an absolute monster during his time there.
A three-year starter who never missed a game, Woods set the Pac-12 all–time record with 111 catches as a sophomore. He may not last this long, but if he falls, the Patriots could have a steal on their hands.
Terrence Williams, WR, Baylor
Williams would bring New England big-play ability and at 6’2”, he posted 97 catches for an eye-popping 1,832 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012.
That included 17 catches for 314 against West Virginia, followed by three catches for 163 yards against TCU.
He could be an explosive weapon for the Patriots regardless of Lloyd’s future and would be an excellent value with the 59th pick.
Oday Aboushi, OL, Virginia
If he’s available, the Patriots may consider taking a chance on Tyrann Mathieu as a playmaking cornerback with character concerns. But given the chances the team takes Trufant or Rhodes earlier, it makes sense for them to bolster their offensive line.
Oday Aboushi fits that bill. He played both tackle positions as a three-year starter in college but would likely settle at right tackle in the pros.
New England could really use a versatile offensive lineman not only to potentially help replace Vollmer, but to bolster their line behind Cannon, Ryan Wendell and Dan Connolly.
Obviously, once you get this deep into the draft, all bets are off. At this point, if a player ever actually plays for your team it’s a good pick. A few players who would make sense in terms of depth, roster needs and talent level are:
Albert Rosette, LB, Nevada
Rosette tallied 135 tackles and four sacks in 2012 en route to All Mountain–West honors. He could contribute on special teams and add more depth along the defensive front seven.
Eric Martin, DE/OLB, Nebraska
Martin netted 8.5 sacks during his senior year attributing to his 16.5 tackles for a loss. That’s worth a look as end-of-roster depth coming off the edge.
Denard Robinson, WR, Michigan
Robinson was once one of the most dynamic players in all of college football and the former quarterback could make an immediate impact in the return game. There’s upside for more if he can learn the WR position.
Travis Howard, CB, Ohio State
Howard led the Big Ten with four interceptions and could compete for a roster spot in a weak secondary.