While I enjoy reading Mock Drafts from around the internet I would never claim to know the true needs of the 31 NFL teams that actually lost a regular season game in 2007. The Patriots are what I know and in the two months since the perfect season fell to pieces two minutes before its culmination I have immersed myself in all things draft related. I know the Pats roster inside and out. I know when contracts expire. I know who’s poised to break out and who’s getting old. Most of all I know trying to predict what the Patriots will do on draft day is futile. So if this ends up being totally wrong don’t hold it against me.
First, I am operating under the following three assumptions:
1) These players will be off the board:
Chris Long, DE Virginia
Jake Long, T Michigan
Glenn Dorsey, DT LSU
Darren McFadden, RB Arkansas
Matt Ryan, QB Boston College
VernonGholston, DE Ohio State
Of that group only Gholston has a shot to drop to the 7th pick and if he did I think the Pats will take him. But most likely he’ll be gone and I’ll be sad.
2) The Patriots will select a player at #7 and not trade down even though the likelihood of a trade down is extremely high.
3) Roger Goodell won’t decide at the last minute to dock this pick as well because the Patriots are just too awesome.
Those are the assumptions I am making before choosing my pick. Next are the reasons why they won’t pick who the mock drafts have them picking.
Any Cornerback – (Leodis McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Mike Jenkins, Aqib Talib) Why not just pay Asante Samuel instead of drafting an unproven rookie and having to give him similar money? Samuel got 6-years, $57 million with $20 million guaranteed. Last years 7thoverall pick DB Michael Huff got 6-years, $43 million with $15 million guaranteed. Not exactly the same numbers but they’re close enough when you’re considering a proven NFL veteran coming off a Pro Bowl and a rookie who’s never played a down. Corners are often hit or miss and with the kind of money the 7th overall pick will get it’s too risky on a position that is clearly not the most valuable for the Pats defense.
Sedrick Ellis, DL USC – I think all the whispers over the past couple weeks about the Pats being interested in Ellis are just a smoke screen. Lots of other teams are rumored to be enamored of him and by the Pats feigning interest it could force other teams to trade up and take him. That could allow someone like Vernon Gholston to slide.
Size-wise Ellis looks only capable of playing Nose Tackle in the 3-4, and the Pats are pretty set there with Vince Wilfork who many feel is the best 3-4 middleman in the NFL. Ellis is also a good 5 to 6 inches shorter than all of the current Patriots Defensive Ends so it already looks like his versatility would be crippled in the Pats defense.
Ellis is a prototypical 4-3 Defensive Lineman. He’s got great speed to get to the Quarterback but that’s not what the Patriots defense requires. Playing him at Nose Tackle would not take advantage of his strengths, he doesn’t have the size to occupy two blockers at Defensive End and thus he’s not worth taking 7th overall because he just doesn’t fit into New England’s scheme.
Keith Rivers, LB USC – I like Rivers and while I think he has an outside shot at #7 there are a lot of questions out there of how much he benefited from being surrounded by top-tier Linebackers at USC. He’d be a perfect pick around #20 but it’s hard to pay him that much money when it’s so difficult to project how he’ll fit into the Patriots defense. Maybe he can be made into an ILB in the Pats 3-4 but part of the knock on him is his inability to disengage blockers, something that is vital for an ILB in the 3-4. Still he might be versatile enough to play some Outside Linebacker as well so the Pats could be interested in him. I’d rank him as the second most-likely selection.
Derrick Harvey, DE Florida – Of all the “tweeners” Harveyhas the most question marks as to whether or not he can stand up and play OLB in the 3-4. Though he seemingly has the kind of character the Pats like he’s better suited as a 4-3 Defensive End.
Quentin Groves, DE Auburn - As much as I love the idea of the Pats picking up a pass rushing terror I’m just not sure Groves is worthy of 7thoverall. I also wonder if he has the football smarts for Belichick’s defense. As I said a few weeks ago in the blog Groves is my boo, I’d love to have him on the team, in fact I think my heart wants this guy more than just about anyone not named Man-Beast Gholston. But my head says he’s just not as good as my heart wants him to be (and also that his heart isn’t as healthy as it should be). Some scouts don’t even have him ranked in the top 50.
That covers just about all the most popular mock draft picks. So now here’s who I think they’ll take….
With the 7th overall selection in the 2008 NFL Entry Draft the New England Patriots select:
Branden Albert, G/T Virginia
Alright, don’t go nuts on me just yet and let me explain why. Albert is a monster, he can play either tackle or guard, he’s young and has had zero injury concerns. Plus by all accounts he’s a model teammate. I know in previous blogs I didn’t think the Pats would take an Offensive Lineman at #7 but upon further reflection I think it makes sense. Albert seems as close as you can get to a sure thing. He would instantly stabilize the right side of the Patriots line and would be the key protector of Tom Brady as his career winds down. Albert has unequaled size and speed, and he would excel getting downfield and blocking the screen passes the Pats like to run. Of all the prospects likely to be available at #7 Albert is the safest bet and an excellent investment.
Yes, the Pats biggest needs are Linebacker and Cornerback but there are lots of prospects in this years draft at those positions. While they don’t have ideal depth currently on the roster at LB or CB if the season started tomorrow they’d still field a pretty solid defense. Add in a second round OLB and a third round Cornerback and the Pats would be looking pretty good.
Albert is smart, safe move that will protect the franchise Quarterback until he retires and you can’t put a price tag on keeping Tom Brady healthy.
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