After another wild draft weekend filled with trades, exchanging of picks, and stockpiling talent, and the New England Patriots have been getting rave reviews for their performance. Throughout the sports world, draft grades have been filing in, ranging from A to B+ (which was ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s grade for the Patriots). The theme of this year was stockpiling talent as it was clear that the Patriots had some major holes to fill. After a busy free agent signing period, the Pats looked for the draft to give them greater depth at several positions, as well as redefine their defensive backfield. Here are the top 5 story lines of the Patriots’ draft weekend.
1.) The Selection of Patrick Chung. Here the Patriots got arguably the best strong safety in the draft, as well as someone that they have been targeting. This will help the Patriots at that position, as he will compete with James Sanders and maybe even Rodney Harrison, if he decides to return. By having Chung, a four year starter at Oregon, compete for the starting job, the Patriots will be able to use Brendon Meriweather a bit more at the Free Safety position. Chung is a hard hitting safety, something that the Patriots clearly value. He will play a big role in this years’ overall defensive performance.
2.) The Ellis Hobbs trade. In what most people thought was a surprising move, The Patriots dealt Cornerback Ellis Hobbs to the Philadelphia Eagles for a pair of fifth round draft picks. Hobbs will join former Patriot Asante Samuel in Philly, where he should have an immediate impact. The Patriots clearly were not impressed with their play at the cornerback position last season, as they often let up big plays and even bigger drives throughout the 2008 campaign. The pain of losing a player like Hobbs is quickly forgotten, mostly thanks to the Patriots aggressive free agent spending spree, acquiring players like Shawn Springs and Leigh Bodden.
3.) The Ron Brace Selection. People have been asking me what this means for Vince Wilfork, given that the Patriots are a 3-4 defense and Wilfork is one of the most dominant nosetackles in the game. The selection of Ron Brace simply gives the Patriots more depth at that position, as he can play both nose, as well as defensive tackle. Brace brings size and deceptive quickness for his 6 foot 3, 330 pound frame. He was a huge part of BC’s defensive success last season, earned second team all ACC honors, and will do a great job stopping runs behind the line of scrimmage.
4.) The Darius Butler Selection. Coach Belichick visited UConn’s Pro Day a few weeks ago, and various reporters had them taking a look at Running Back Donald Brown, or even QB Lorenzen. However, the Patriots were able to replace the loss of Ellis Hobbs by drafting the extremely athletic Butler. Butler may not start immediately, what with their depth at that position, however he will push other young CB’s like Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite, both of which are signed through 2011.
5.) Rolling the dice on WR Brandon Tate. Originally thought to be one of the better wide receivers in the draft, his stock went down a bit after he tested positive for marijuana at the 2009 combine. (Hey at least Kevin Faulk will have someone to hang out with!) The addition of Tate will not only bring added depth to the receiving corps, but he will potentially get a chance to return kicks and punts this season, filling the void left by the departing Hobbs.
The Patriots will also hold Rookie Minicamp this weekend at Gillette Stadium, where they will be able to get a better read on the talents and skills that these players will bring to the table this season. Joining the Patriots draftees are a slew of newly signed rookie free agents. These players are: