Before you get upset with the Patriots for drafting players you have never heard of before, understand that every year there are players who Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. (great analysts) rave about before the season, but who end up being busts.
Basically, just because a guy is not talked about as a prime NFL prospect does not mean that he won't eventually become one.
Here's a breakdown of the first four rounds of the Pats' 2010 draft.
Devin McCourty, CB
First of all, do not be turned off by the Patriots drafting Devin McCourty. Initially, I was disappointed with the pick as well, but looking into it as McCourty may be a solid player for the Pats.
Firstly, he is a demon special teams player, as he had seven blocked kicks at Rutgers. Also, he is a kid with lots of speed, running a 4.38-second 40-yard dash.
He is a good press corner, and just as importantly a sound tackler, something the Pats have been missing on the outside for quite some time.
He does not have great ball skills, and he won't lead the league in interceptions, but he is more of a two-year prospect who will immediately contribute on special teams.
I thought Sergio Kindle would be a good pick here, or even at a later pick for New England (he was available well into the second round). He is an injury threat with a banged up knee, and the last thing the Pats need is an injury-prone player on defense.
Grade: B- He will be a good player for New England, but he could have been picked up closer to the second round, or even in the second round.
Rob Gronkowski, TE
This TE could have been a first-round selection, had it not been for a back injury that set him back during his senior season. However, he is one of the best TEs, if not the best, at getting open in the middle of the field.
He's a good blocker, has soft hands, and is much more consistent than Ben Watson.
He's also borderline 6'7", 265 lbs., and he runs a 4.64-40, so he'll be a matchup threat against some smaller defenses (like Indy).
Grade: A- Patriots drafted for a need here, and Gronkowski is great at getting open, providing Brady with an extra option in the middle of the field. Hopefully he'll stay healthy.
Jermaine Cunningham, OLB
Cunningham is the perfect player for the Patriots, especially late into the second round, because as a Gator he was a consistent pass rusher. Not overpowering or extremely fast, he finds ways to get into the backfield with consistency using quickness and technique.
This is just the type of player Bill Belichick likes, a coachable kid who plays with technique and consistency.
Grade: B+ It would have been nice to see the Pats address this position earlier, but they get a good special teams player as well as a consistent OLB.
Brandon Spikes, ILB
Spikes should be competing for the job alongside Jerod Mayo as the Patriots' starting middle linebacker. Spikes was a good player in Florida. He is a great tackler and possesses a rare ability to anticipate plays, and he does not give up on plays, regularly chasing down players from behind.
He is strong in the three-point stance, so he will be a threat to get after the quarterback. While Spikes has a great initial burst of energy, whether off the line or into coverage, he is unable to sustain his speed, as he was clocked with a 5.01-40 at the combine. This is slower than the punter the Pats drafted, Zoltan Mesko, who ran a 4.99.
Grade: B I like Spikes despite his lack of speed because he is explosive, energetic, passionate, and smart.
Taylor Price, WR
Price is fast, quick, and has great acceleration, as he bursts off the line and quickly gets to his top speed.
He is a versatile player, as he can pass the ball too, opening up offensive possibilities for New England.
Price is not exceptionally talented as a pass catcher, occasionally dropping catchable balls, but chances are that he'll be used more as an outside threat than a possession receiver.
Grade C+ Price is a good pick and will develop to be a good wide out, but the Patriots could have picked a much more explosive player from Notre Dame, named Golden Tate, in the second round.
For full article and overall draft grade, visit New England Sports Online.
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