With the draft coming up very quickly it’s crunch time for Patriots staff and scouting teams, as they need to decide which players are worth invaluable draft picks. By far, the most pivotal picks are their first four; all coming in the first two rounds. However, the Pats’ first two picks need to be spot on this year, especially if they (like they should) go defense. New England has an aging defensive core, like Tedy Bruschi who his well past his prime. Richard Seymour, another ‘ager’ has maybe 1-2 more seasons before he is considered ‘out of his prime.’ Tedy Bruschi was great and still is a great leader, but he needs to retire before he convinces himself he can make a huge difference for the team. Jerod Mayo was a brilliant pick last year, and if the Patriots can get a few picks who produce even close to what Mayo did, then in my esteemed opinion, they will have had a successful draft.
So, who do I think the Patriots should draft? Logically, it comes down to who’s left. If Wake Forest LB Aaron Curry is available at 23, then he’s obviously going to be selected. Clearly, this is an improbable situation thanks to Curry’s obvious talent. I think that at 23, the Patriots need to look defensively, especially because their offense has not had trouble putting up the numbers in the last two seasons. Brady, Moss, Welker and the Pats offensive line are still intact for at least one more year, and I still have faith in Ben Watson and Laurence Maroney. With Fred Taylor, the Pats have a trio of capable backs (Sammy Morris, Taylor and Maroney) along with their 3rd down back Kevin Faulk. Defensively, the Patriots have a strong line for the time being, in Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren, but realistically, only two of them will be with the team within the next 3 years. Their starting linebackers are on the wrong side of thirty, with the exception of Jerod Mayo, and even though Shawn Crable is highly spoken of by the organization, we still don’t know what he is capable of doing. In terms of defensive backs we made some progress with our ever depleted corner back position by signing Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden. Personally, in terms of corner backs we’re fine, because Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite both showed promise and Ellis Hobbs is a good, not great, a good corner. Springs and Bodden have both played well, and with proper coaching can put their careers back on the right track. Bill Belichick is the coach, so that shouldn’t be a problem. At safety, we have Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders. Meriweather I think can be a great safety in this league because of his athleticism, but he needs to fix his tackling, which so far has been improving very nicely. Sanders is a consistent safety who will continue to improve.
Clearly, it is the front 7 of the Patriots that needs help, as most of their linebackers are old, and their line might not be together in the near future. That is why I think we should draft Clay Matthews, because he not only has a great gene pool, but also because he has a massive upside. He improved all of last season despite not playing much in his first few years at USC, and he showed good instincts and sound fundamentals when he played, something that Coach Bill absolutely adores. Matthews should be available at 23, and will be a great fit in New England.
The 34th pick is a very intriguing pick, as it gives teams an opportunity to pick up ‘leftovers’ per say, from the first round at a bargain price. I think New England will go with either Larry English or James Laurinaitis if they’re available, again because they are both coachable players who have solid instincts and are fundamentally ready to play football in the NFL. Also, by drafting these defenders at this time, older linebackers in the system can serve as mentors, and hopefully these young ‘backers will benefit just like Jerod Mayo did. If neither are available, look for New England to draft a defensive lineman, somebody like Michael Johnson, Paul Kruger or Robert Ayers. All of these players have shown vast improvements throughout their college careers, which bodes well for their future talent. I think that Kruger would be the first two be selected from these three, because he is a solid pass rusher and run stuffer, unlike Ayers and Johnson who both are more pass defending linemen.
This is a very important draft for New England, because they can set some solid foundations of future team growth defensively, and can keep their 3-4 year window of winning more Super Bowls intact.