At pick 22, the New England Patriots are stuck in that awful "orange" zone of picks.
Most of the elite, proven athletes are off the board. So, too, are the workout warriors who blew everyone away in private session and at the NFL Combine. There are a ton of guys with top-tier upside still available, but now the question marks start pouring in.
This guy didn't have a great combine. That guy didn't have a great senior year. That guy has an injury history. This player is making a position change.
Odrick, for example, is a do-it-all defensive lineman out of Penn State. He's a smart kid, who has experience playing everywhere along the defensive line, as well as working with the 3-4 and 4-3—rare for a college player.
His workout numbers don't leap off the page, but he's a smart bet in a draft loaded with defensive talent.
He's obviously got way more experience in the 4-3, as does just about everyone in college, but as a 3-technique defensive tackle, or even wider as a 3-4 defensive end, he could give the Patriots a great deal of flexibility along the defensive line, along with guys like Mike Wright and Myron Pryor.
That's especially going to be important because the Patriots' previous jack-of-all-trades Jarvis Green is now going to be his old versatile self in Denver. Though the Patriots solidified the centerpiece of their front seven by re-signing Vince Wilfork, they'll need a great deal of flexibility up front with Richard Seymour and Green now both playing for other teams.
Odrick's got a great, stable base, though he's not terribly explosive. The Patriots don't need a slam dunk here, they just need a good solid athlete who can contribute at a variety of positions right away, especially with Green now out of New England.
A lot of drafts have them going after a "tweener" who can make the switch from 4-3 defensive end to 3-4 outside rush linebacker. Those are high-profile picks and they're extraordinarily valuable, but they're incredibly difficult to project.
I think the Patriots will trade out of this spot, ultimately, even if it's only to move down to 26 or 27 where they can still land a guy like Odrick and pick up a second-day pick to solidify their roster a bit.
This is a deep draft and with the (incredibly likely) possibility of a rookie wage scale coming and the fact that, according to several reports I've read, there's close to 45 guys who would rate at a first-round level in this draft, I think the second round is the place the Patriots want to be, more so than late in the first.
They could also trade up if they get a good enough offer from a team looking to bail out of the first round and they see somebody they're willing to pay the premium money for.
Either way, I'd expect to see some movement by the Patriots. That's certainly been their M.O. in the past.
At pick 23 last year, for example, the Patriots traded their pick to the Ravens who used the chance to draft Michael Oher, the raw physical tackle who was surprisingly still on the board. The Patriots passed on Oher, who ended up being the best performing rookie tackle. Of course, they then picked up Sebastian Vollmer 35 picks later and he ended up being the second-best performing rookie tackle at a fraction of the price.
Was it worth it? Only time will tell, but it just goes to show how difficult picks 20-60 are to project, even in a year when every junior in the country isn't jumping at the chance of landing the last big rookie contract.
The fact that this is a draft flooded with first-round talent looking to be the last class to cash in on big money before a rookie wage cap hits and that there's a plethora of top-drawer defensive linemen means the Patriots will be as cagey as ever come draft day.
Would you expect anything else?
With the 23rd pick in the 2010 NFL Featured Columnist Mock Draft, the Green Bay Packers.
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