With the help of trades, the New England Patriots have six draft picks in the first three rounds of the 2001 NFL Draft.
There are so many variables to the draft this far away: final draft position, the Patriots tendency to trade picks and whether juniors will enter the draft or return to college for their final season.
Anything can happen in the draft. Sure things become busts (Ryan Leaf) and unknowns grow into legends (Tom Brady). Still, there are some positions the public knows the Patriots need to shore up. With so many picks so early in the draft the Patriots could really add some young firepower to a team that already holds the best record in the NFL.
Having that many picks also means the team can gamble on a player or two. There is also a glutton of offensive lineman and pass rushers, two things the Pats could really use.
Who are some potential targets?
The rumor mill has it that Bill Belichick wants to draft a running back. The team has a lot of free agents at the position (as well as players at the end of their careers), so they could grab someone for depth purposes. If they want a new starter though, they should take Ingram early.
The former Heisman Trophy winner is a bulky runner who runs hard and efficiently. He also is solid in the passing game too, although his blocking could improve. He has a good skill set and is strong enough where he can step in and be productive immediately.
Many liken him to Maurice Jones-Drew or Ray Rice. He would be an added weapon to the Patriots offense.
Kerrigan’s senior-year campaign—leading the nation with 26 tackles for losses and recording 12.5 sacks—may have jumped him on the big board just out of the Patriots’ reach. But if he’s around, he is a player that they need to seriously look at.
His stats prove that he can get to the quarterback. He has an array of moves and can come at the quarterback from many different angles, something the Patriots defense in the years of the Super Bowl champion teams did very well.
Kerrigan is applauded for his non-stop motor. He may be a little small for the end position in the 3-4 (6’4”, 263 pounds), but he has the skills New England needs.
It seems like the Patriots have taken a corner early in the draft for the past few years, but you can’t stockpile enough players at the position. The Patriots learned that the hard way this year. When Leigh Bodden went down with an injury in the preseason, many youngsters were thrust into the position, possibly too soon.
Some of those players have struggled (i.e. Darius Butler). The unit as a whole has been good enough to bend but not break.
Bodden should be coming back, but that would give another youngster—hopefully—the proper time to develop.
Harris is rated as one of the top corners and should be available in the middle of the first round.
The futures of Stephen Neal, Logan Mankins and Matt Light are up in the air. Even if they do return, it would be unwise not to groom eventual replacements, akin to how the linebacker corps was depleted when Teddy Bruschi, Junior Seau and Willie McGinnest left.
Solder is a mammoth tackle, standing at 6’9” and weighing in at 315 pounds. He is a finalist for the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) and many scouts say he could start immediately, which may be a necessity.
For the past couple of years, the Pats have had difficulty rushing the passer. He would be a nice big end in the 3-4 defense that is powerful enough to create pressure.
The 6’4”, 288-pound end has increased his tackle totals each year and has sacked the quarterback seven times in each of the past two seasons.
Carimi, the Outland Trophy winner, is another lineman with plenty of size. The tackle is 6’7” and weighs 327 pounds.
The Badgers had one of the best running games in the nation; they are the only team to have three players rush for 800-plus yards. Part of that success is thanks to the strong offensive line anchored by Carimi. The team has allowed only 11 sacks to starting QB Scott Tolzien as well.
Carimi is extremely durable, starting every game this season.
Beal led the Big 12 in tackles for losses and was second in sacks. He was named the 2010 Big 12 Defensive Lineman of the Year.
He’s got decent speed, but he really just knows how to get to the quarterback. He started every game as a sophomore in 2008 and registered 11 sacks last season.
He hustles all over the field and creates some turnovers. When he can’t get to the quarterback he has good awareness and quick enough hands to deflect passes.
Wisniewski’s flexibility on the line could come in handy for the Patriots.
Scouts say he doesn’t have great size or upside, but that he does have good technique, a strong work ethic and a high football IQ.
He is quick and has quick hands. His father and uncle played in the NFL.
Many say he would be a good fit for the Patriots at the position because of his intelligence and awareness and ability to compete against top competition.
He is a huge end, listed as 6’5” and weighing 305 pounds, so he has the ideal size for an end in the 3-4 defense.
He is known for being good at getting through blockers and getting to the quarterback and also takes on double teams well. This season he registered 10 sacks.
Wilkerson played on a team that went undefeated, so he knows what it takes to win which is a valuable intangible.
Some project him to go in the second or third round.
Rumor has it that Pats scouts have visited Villanova a few times this season and Ijalana could be the guy they were looking at.
He’s got good size—6’4” and weighs 320 pounds. He is known to have a mean-streak and good footwork.
He also plays both tackle and guard, and does each well.
Boling is another lineman that is capable of playing every position on the line except for center. He has good footwork and is strong, but not necessarily quick.
Still, his versatility and awareness are qualities that would fit well with the Pats.
The brother of Packers sack-sensation Clay Matthews, Casey Matthews is a little under-the-radar. His brother didn’t come into the draft with an extensive amount of hype, but he’s performed.
Matthews has a strong football pedigree and has started the past three seasons. This year he ranks fifth in the entire nation in fumble recoveries.
He’s a smart player who showcases strong leadership, and he could develop into an important piece to the Patriots defense in the years to come.