There are many fans anxious to see what their teams will do on draft day, but no fan base should be more excited for the 2011 NFL Draft than that of the New England Patriots.
Why should Patriots fans be so excited?
Many fans look forward to this draft so their team can get back on track. Fans of several teams feel their team is a decent draft away from making a playoff push.
Fans of the Patriots can claim that a good 2011 draft can land New England in Super Bowl XLVI.
Take a look at the team's current picks in the upcoming draft:
- 1st Round, 17th Pick (from Raiders, Richard Seymour trade)
- 1st Round, 28th Pick
- 2nd Round, 1st Pick (from Panthers, traded 2010 third-round pick)
- 2nd Round, 28th Pick
- 3rd Round, 10th Pick (from Vikings, Randy Moss trade)
- 3rd Round, 28th Pick
- 4th Round, 28th Pick
- 5th Round, 28th Pick
- 6th Round, 24th Pick (from Saints, David Thomas trade)
Bill Belichick has put this organization in an enviable position by getting value in return for veteran players while he still could. Some of these were unpopular, such as trading Richard Seymour and Randy Moss, but Bill does what he believes is best for the team.
Getting extra draft picks is nothing new for Belichick, who had five picks in the first three rounds of last year's draft. As a refresher, those picks turned out to be:
- 1st Round, Devin McCourty
- 2nd Round, Rob Gronkowski
- 2nd Round, Jermaine Cunningham
- 2nd Round, Brandon Spikes
- 3rd Round, Taylor Price
What is New England's biggest need?
Their 2010 fourth-round pick was not bad either: Aaron Hernandez.
With the exception of Taylor Price, all of the above players were contributors this past season. Price was only active for the regular season finale against the Dolphins, in which he caught three passes for 48 yards. The organization still has high hopes for him, and he can take on an expanded role in 2011.
Belichick also had six picks in the first three rounds in 2009. Those picks included Darius Butler, Patrick Chung and Brandon Tate. Julian Edelman was a seventh-round pick that year.
So not only does Belichick have experience stockpiling draft picks, he also uses the picks well. For the most part, it is safe to say that Patriots fans can trust his decisions.
And with six picks in the first three rounds in 2011, Bill will have a lot of decisions to make.
Tom Brady won his second NFL MVP award this past season after an incredible regular season. He was the reason why the Patriots scored 32.4 points per game, tops in the NFL.
The Patriots finished ninth in rushing. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead were an underrated 1-2 punch and were key in complementing the lethal passing attack. The Patriots were second in the NFL with 19 rushing touchdowns.
With that said, New England should be fine on offense.
The defensive side of the ball is another story.
The Patriots won most of their games by outscoring their opponents to cover up for their defensive deficiencies. The defense was not all bad, though, as it ranked 11th in rushing yards allowed.
Despite a league-leading 25 interceptions, the Patriots were burned through the air on a regular basis, ranking 30th in pass defense.
Part of the reason for this is the Patriots' inability to generate a pass rush. Without a consistent pass rushing threat, quarterbacks had more time to read the defense and wait for their receivers to get open.
The Patriots were ninth in points allowed but gave up 20 or more points in nine out of the 16 games.
With that said, look for Belichick to find defensive help in the form of a pass rusher and another cornerback to pair with McCourty.
Once again, this is where the multiple draft picks come in.
The Patriots can end up more than happy after this year's draft. For example, they might end up with two linebackers that can generate a pass rush. If the Patriots are able to sign free agent LaMarr Woodley, however, they can shore up other needs.
Depending on who is available, the Patriots can add depth to one of the better offensive lines in the NFL. Maybe they can get a true deep threat at wide receiver to complement the NFL's best short-to-medium passing game.
If Belichick really wants a top-tier prospect, he has the assets to trade up and snatch them.
Trading down, however, will not make too much sense as they already pick 28th each round.
It will be interesting to see how Belichick uses these picks, and who he selects with them. Since the Patriots are going through a youth movement, especially on defense, it's not likely he will use picks to trade for veterans.
If a new CBA is not reached by the March 3 deadline, the NFL Draft will continue as scheduled. However, teams will not be able to trade picks for players, or vice-versa. Teams can still trade picks.
The Patriots already have the advantage with their plethora of draft picks.
Whatever happens this April, Patriots fans should be happy with the results.
Will Belichick continue the trend next season and stockpile picks for the 2012 NFL Draft?