With nine draft picks in the 2011 NFL Draft, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots are poised to make a huge impact on their roster. However, the idea that they will use all of those picks this year is as unlikely as was their 2006 first-round selection of Laurence Maroney.
The big picture is that the Patriots will likely use their first pick at No. 17, given that it was acquired from the Oakland Raiders in the Richard Seymour trade. Look for New England to solidify their defensive pass rush with that pick.
Brooks Reed or Aldon Smith will probably be the best available by the time the Pats are on the clock. Both Reed and Smith are quick, athletic and versatile players that have a nose for finding the ball. Reed is being considered as an outside linebacker but is schooled as a defensive end. Look for Smith to be the man if he's on the board.
Belichick isn't one for giving players too much fan fare, so trading up isn't something the Patriots will do. Instead, look for New England to trade down from their No. 28 spot, possibly looking to add a third-round pick or, most likely, adding a second-round spot next year.
The deal could come by way of Arizona or even San Francisco, both teams which are looking to beef up their defenses. Having the first pick of the second round, the Patriots have much more leverage with that 28th pick. Just about anyone in that second round is a candidate to barter a move into the first round.
That's Belichick's game.
He may even drop down in the second round with that 33rd pick if he can secure an early draft pick for 2012. The Patriots will also be looking for an offensive lineman, an issue which can be addressed late in the second round where they have the 60th pick.
It's not out of the question to have someone like a Rodney Hudson available at that spot. Hudson, a quality center who can play guard, would offer immediate contributions to the Patriots in protecting Tom Brady. Hudson is a smart football player and very disciplined. Belichick loves that kind of thing.
Late draft choices will likely involve adding to the secondary, which really isn't a pressing need, but Belichick always has some surprises.
A speedy Richard Sherman out of Stanford who has wide receiver skills is another perfect fit in New England.
The Patriots should round out their draft with a quarterback, at least for the sake of adding some depth to that position. If Brady goes down, Brian Hoyer is their sole hope. Jonathan Crompton, a practice squad QB, isn't their man.
A good prospect would be Wisconsin product and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award winner Scott Tolzien. He is the school record holder for QB efficiency rating and completion percentage. He's not mistake free, but close. That's probably what matters most to Belichick.
Belichick has already thrown out the bait by courting players, and as usual, expect the master of the draft to sit back in the pocket and wait for an opening.
At the end of the 2011 NFL Draft, much of the talk will be around what the Patriots' board will look like next year. And Bill will be neither talking up any of his picks nor show any disappointment over a player he wanted but did not get. "He was the best available player at the time." Check that.
At the start of the 2010 season, the "experts" were categorizing the Patriots in the rebuilding stage. Chances are, this season—if there is one—New England will again be a feared foe and a likely frontrunner to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.