The Patriots were able to add to next year’s draft by trading their first of three third round picks to the Chargers for a 2009 second round pick and a fifth round pick this year. I love that the Patriots are always looking to set themselves up for next year’s draft.
It’s just one of the reasons why the New England Patriots are the most dominant team in the NFL right now.
For a recap of day one, click here.
Third Round Pick (78th overall): Shawn Crable, LB, Michigan
Crable is a pass rushing outside linebacker with experience playing with his hand both on and off the ground. He’ll step right in as a situational pass rusher and a special teams contributor.
He projects to an outside linebacker in the Patriots’ system. He should benefit from learning behind Mike Vrabel, assuming Vrabel can get over the whole Michigan-Ohio State thing.
All in all, a very good third round pick.
Third Round Pick (94th overall): Kevin O'Connell, QB, San Diego State
O’Connell was the highest rated player on the Patriots’ board when the 94th overall pick came up, and they stayed true to their draft board despite their apparently lack of need at the quarterback position.
O’Connell was worked out extensively by the Patriots’ offensive coaching staff, and obviously they liked what they saw. This might mean the end of Matt Cassel, who will be a restricted free agent at the end of next season anyway.
Cassel hasn’t proven he can play at an NFL level yet (of course, he never really proved he could play at the college level either).
If they can build up his value in the preseason and trade him, they probably will. Otherwise, they’ll either keep four quarterbacks or send Cassel packing.
I haven’t seen enough of O’Connell to grade this pick, so I’ll give it a solid incomplete.
Fourth Round Pick (129th overall): Jonathan Wilhite, CB, Auburn
At 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Wilhite is a giant in comparison to the rest of the Patriots’ cornerbacks.
He has all the measurables to become a quality NFL cornerback, but injuries slowed him in college. When he was on the field, the few times I watched him, he was noticeable—and not in a bad way.
The Patriots needed depth at cornerback and they were able to address it in this draft, even if they reached a little for both guys. Most “experts” had Wilhite listed as a sixth or seventh round pick. Some had him as a potential undrafted free agent.
Like Wheatley, I’m a fan of the player, but not of where they picked him.
Fifth Round Pick (153rd overall): Matthew Slater, S/WR, UCLA
I know absolutely nothing about Matthew Slater, so I tried to search for his name on Google. I still came up with pretty much nothing. So I called my buddy who’s a huge UCLA fan. He tells me the kid is a player.
“He plays offense and defense,” my friend tells me, “but he’s a monster on special teams. He’s a Larry Izzo type—maybe not in size or skill set, but in that he will have a long NFL career even if he never breaks through on offense or defense. Patriots fans will like the guy.”
Sounds good to me. I’ll take a great special teams guy in the fifth round any day.
Sixth Round Pick (197th overall): Bo Ruud, LB, Nebraska
Another goal the Patriots had in this year’s draft was to add depth and youth to the linebacker position. Bo Ruud makes the third linebacker they selected, behind Mayo and Crable.
Ruud is the type of guy who’s always around the ball, even having five interceptions in his four year college career (which is probably more interceptions than Patriot linebackers had over that stretch).
He projects to an inside linebacker, but can play both inside and out. Grant it, he’s not ready to do either in the NFL just yet.
He’ll make or break his Patriots’ career on special teams. If he excels on special teams, he’ll make the Patriots. If he doesn’t, he’s a practice squad guy at best.
Which really isn’t that bad for a sixth round pick.
Jarod Mayo makes this draft for me. They needed a linebacker would could step in and play at a high level, and I believe they got one.
They also did a good job of drafting depth in the late rounds, grabbing players that can help on special teams now and maybe on the defensive side of the ball in a few years.
I firmly believe that you cannot judge a team’s draft for at least three years, but at first glance, I’m relatively happy with the Patriots’ 2008 draft class.
Overall Grade: B
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