I've been pretty hard on Bill Belichick the last couple of years in regards to his draft picks. I felt as though his drafts were overrated due to his "genius" label, and that the busts or, almost-busts were piling up at an alarming rate.
Kevin O'Connell, Terrence Wheatley, Chad Jackson, etc. all had me wanting to pull out my hair.
The constant trades back during the draft are also a source of angst for Patriots' fans. Stockpiling picks is nice, but you know that they're not all going to make the team—sometimes quality is better then quantity.
That being said, give the man credit where it's due.
Last season's class looks pretty phenomenal, especially considering the trades back.
A tackle capable of playing either side at a franchise level?
A converted seventh round quarterback able to impersonate Wes Welker with eerie aptness?
Since they've finalized signing everyone, let's turn our attention to this year's bounty of players. It's no exaggeration to say the short-term as well as the long-term success of the team could hinge on these guys.
I am able to freely admit that at first glance this pick seemed dubious to me. I was "bromantically" inclined to go with Sergio Kindle, especially given all the pass rush questions that New England has had.
After a little research, I did a 180 and am happy to have Devin on the Pats.
He's an extremely physical corner, who boasts above-average ball skills to go with great speed. He's also a special-teams demon, notching six blocked punts and one field goal.
Expect him to compete for and hopefully win the nickle corner job this season. He should also see a heavy dose of action on special teams given his skill set. With him, Butler, and a still-in-his-prime Leigh Bodden, the Patriots appear to be set in the defensive backfield for years to come.
Fun fact: Of his collegiate tackles, 94 were on third down along with 33 more on fourth down.
Translation: 38.6 percent of his plays made were drive-killers.
Rob's selection in the second round was one of the several that had me throwing joyous high-fives all around. If not for a back injury in college he was a sure fire first round pick, challenging Gresham to be the first tight end selected.
While it's light-years early to make the comparison, his skill set compares to "all-around" tight ends extraordinaire, Heath Miller and Jason Witten.
He's got the size (6'6", 265lbs) and prowess to be an above average blocker.
He runs crisp routes, and has otherworldly soft hands to go with the size already pointed out to be a huge red zone threat. He also seems to be dedicated to the game, tearing up at the draft when realizing he'd be catching passes from Tom Brady.
Provided his back injury never resurfaces, Patriot nation could be set at the tight end position for years to come.
Fun fact: He once had a monster 12 catch, 143 yd game vs. Oregon that almost allowed Arizona to come back. He also has a TD to catch ratio of 1-5.
Here's a pick where "In Bill we Trust" has to be applied, at least a little. His more heralded teammate (Carlos Dunlap) was still on the board, as well as Ricky Sapp and several other better known prospects.
Belichick and Urban Meyer are very close though, so I'm going to bet Bill had some inside info on the young defensive end from Florida.
Having the prototype size Bill covets in his outside linebackers (6'3", 252 lbs), he's also much quicker than you'd first think. I've read reports that his forty yard dash time was as fast as 4.59.
Whether or not he sees the field much this season will hinge on his transition to OLB, as well as how fast he can grasp the Pats playbook. He should get his feet wet on some passing downs at the very least, given the lack of proven options the Patriots have.
The Patriots continue to get younger and more athletic on defense every season, and the "rebuilding" effort is awesome because they're doing it while staying competitive.
Fun fact: Cunningham is tied with Carlos Dunlap for 10th on Florida's all-time sack list (19.5).
A great example of how the NFL Combine is overrated, Spikes' stock plummeted after an admittedly poor forty time of 5.06. In seasons past he had been touted as worthy of near top 10 pick status, yet a poor running in shorts gift-wrapped him to the Pats at 62.
Why don't people let the game tape speak for itself?
He's a beast against the run, solid enough in coverage, and has big play ability to spare. To prove that point, in his career he had six-and-a-half sacks, forced two fumbles, recovered four, and had six picks returned for 139 yards and four touchdowns.
If he can start from week one, I like him as a dark horse for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Not only that, but his presence will allow Jerod Mayo far more freedom then he's ever had, which should help the Pats' defense generate big plays.
Fun fact: Suspended for half of a game for eye-gouging an opponent, Spikes showed true contrition by extending his punishment himself to a full game.
A speedster at wideout (reports of sub 4.4 forties abound), he's also an underrated blocker at the wideout position. His versatility and willingness to do whatever is asked of him will endear him to coach Bill Belichick.
While rookie wideouts historically struggle, he will flourish in spots and not be rushed into a deep wideout corps.
He has some return-man potential as well; and with himself, Brandon Tate, and Julian Edelman on board the Pats have the receiving unit of the future. While he's not as heralded as some of the wideouts that were on the board at that time, he's the type of personality who will do well in New England.
I look forward to seeing he and Moss unleashed downfield at points this season, leaving whoever is working underneath room to shred the defense.
Fun fact: Price owns the Ohio single game catch record with 14.
Aaron is another prospect who slid down the board, his issue being admitted marijuana use in college (shocking, I know!). It seems foolish that someone with a skill set comparable to Dallas Clark's would fall due to that, but the Patriots stand to reap the benefits.
He has sub 4.6 forty times floating around out there, to go with his knack for splitting the seam and making the big play. He's also a Connecticut boy who grew up rooting for New England, so he's got to be thrilled at his situation.
He had a nice 12.5 yd. per catch average in his career, along with 14 games of 50 yards or more. In the pros, he's more likely to contribute right away then Gronk, who faces competition for his snaps from Alge Crumpler.
Fun fact: Owns Florida records for catches in a season (68) and career (111) at the tight end position.
If nothing else, you gotta love Mesko for allowing a person to make "Dont' Mess With the Zoltan" references. I love the fact that he was a team captain in college as a punter, as well as the passion he's reported to play with.
He averaged 44.5 yards per punt last season, and should be an upgrade over Chris Hanson as well as being the long-term solution. He also greatly improved his directional kicking abilities while playing his final year at Michigan.
His left-footed spin on the ball can throw return men for a loop, and it will be interesting to see if he can catch any pros off guard.
Fun fact: He had a nice number of punts (58) over 50 yards while in college.
I like the pick of a young center to bring along slowly, as I was less then impressed with Dan Koppen's play last year.
While he certainly has time to rebound, there's no harm in bringing in a developmental prospect to nudge him in a year or two if he doesn't resume his above-average style.
From what I've read, quickness and burst seems to be his areas of greatest strength. At this point in the draft it's all depth picks and educated gambles, and as such, the only thing I would have liked seeing better is one of the troubled running backs (Lagarrette Blount maybe?).
Fun fact: He's a converted defensive tackle with only two seasons of experience playing center.
Please let him be the next Seabass, please let him be the next Seabass...
Sorry, got carried away there. I don't expect him to get the chance to contribute like Vollmer did, which may actually help as you can't expect everyone to jump right in and dominate.
He was actually a tight end early in his collegiate career, which would stand to reason that he good speed and agility for a tackle. I've never been a Nick Kaczur fan, so for me personally, it's exciting to potentially have the young bookends of the future in place.
Fun fact: Was regarded as one of his team's most physical players while consistently earning "winning" blocking grades from his coaches.
This pick as well as the next one had me patting myself on the back, as I had both guys circled in my draft guide as potential late round finds for New England. A huge guy at 6'6", 314 lbs, he's a classic five technique defensive end.
I don't think it's realistic to expect much this year, as he's far down the pecking order in terms of potential playing time. I like his upside and potential though, and despite marginal career production (83 tackles, seven sacks), you can't teach the size needed to succeed as a 3-4 end.
Fun fact: Despite having some off-field issues early in his career including being shot by a car thief, he matured into a player the coaching staff touted as a leader in his senior campaign.
Another beastly defensive line prospect at 6'5", 317 lbs, he projects more as a nose tackle due to lack of speed and explosiveness. That being said, he has some clear run-stuffing prowess and upside as a practice squad project for this New England team.
He's stronger than even his size would indicate. While I was right about this pick, Laggarette Blount would have been a far better "potential" based pick in my opinion then yet another body on a mostly young defensive line.
Fun fact: He only had 79 career tackles, but 16.5 were behind the line of scrimmage (which equates to just over 20 percent).
Our own "Mr. Irrelevant," Tom Brady doesn't need to look over his shoulder just yet. It's a good spot for a developmental prospect at quarterback though, and I have no issue with the pick given his college resume.
It's no coincidence that Oklahoma has produced first round picks Dez Bryant and Brandon Pettigrew during Robinson's tenure. We all know spread quarterbacks take time to get acclimated to the pro game, but his upside makes him worthy of the late round flier.
He's also something of a dual-threat at quarterback, having rushed for 1,858 yards and 22 touchdowns over his career. Who knows, maybe he's the next Matt Cassel?
Fun fact: Owns the school record for most total offense in a season (3,671 yards in 2007).