The 2011 NFL Draft is creeping up on us with just ten days remaining. All 32 teams are finalizing their draft plans in preparation for the big event.
The New England Patriots, one of the most dominant franchises in recent history and an organization known for acing the draft, could yet again be one of the teams to watch come draft day as they hold six of the first 92 picks and nine overall.
That being so, they have the flexibility to move around and fill the gaping voids in their roster while getting good value as well. However, just having this type of ammunition isn't enough to hit all their targets. In order to maximize their success, they must have a well scouted plan.
If I were running the show in New England, my top priority would be to stack up on defensive talent. Sure, it may seem like they need to bring in playmakers after trading away Randy Moss thus leaving them with no true big-name stars (apart from Wes Welker). However, that's exactly how the Patriots thrive.
They believe in spreading the ball and utilizing their players to the best of their abilities and with Tom Brady at the helm, that becomes possible.
Don't you remember their Super Bowl winning days? They never had flashy wideouts. Instead, they had a flawless system that involved a variety of skill players that kept opposing defenses guessing.
In addition, there's a myth spreading around that the Patriots desperately need to bring in an every down running back because they don't have an every down back. But ever thought they don't want one? The Patriots ranked 9th in the NFL in rushing yards as a product of their running back by committee system which mainly incorporated the skills of BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
Once again, think back to when the Patriots were dominating. They never had a sole running back who would take on the load of 25+ carries a game. Antowain Smith who was their lead back had only 287 carries in his finest season and was always paired with other complimentary backs. The Patriots always used their rotation to perfection in order to maintain balance.
So, if anything, they may want to add to their offensive line and potentially replace Matt Light and Logan Mankins who are in contract years and have questionable futures. Even though the group only allowed 25 sacks which is good for the fourth fewest in the league, they would not be able to withstand the blow of losing their entire left side of the line. So if the opportunity presents itself, I'd take it.
Perhaps they can trade up to get the athletic Tyron Smith out of USC or Florida interior lineman Mike Pouncey. Or maybe they can stay put at 17 and pick up Anthony Costonzo or Gabe Carimi.
Even another option could be to address a different position and wait until 28 to take Nate Solder or Derek Sherrod. Whatever they do, I believe that taking an offensive lineman early should and will be a top priority.
Now that that's all clarified, its on to the defensive side. The Patriots employ a 3-4 defensive scheme which requires a unique set of players and within that they often look for versatility and high character.
Looking at their roster, the positions of need lie amongst finding a right end to replace Richard Seymour (traded to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a 1st round pick), bringing in an explosive pass rusher to bolster a unit that managed just 36 sacks last season, and upgrading a secondary that allowed the 3rd most passing yards in the NFL.
Cal DE Cameron Jordan is a possibility many are looking into at 17. He had a strong senior year (12.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks), a solid combine, and seemed unblockable in the Senior Bowl. He would certainly help fill the hole along their three-man front.
Another possibility could include taking Cameron Heyward at 28 or trading up for Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt.
The problem is that after these two, there aren't many true five-technique defensive ends remaining. Sure, Allen Bailey or Christian Ballard are options but I'd rather shore it up with one of the aforementioned.
So with that, it looks like they may use both of their 1st round picks on building their trenches which is a wise move considering they've learned that that's where games are won.
However, this also means that they've yet to add a much needed pass rusher and cornerback. Should they have traded up into the Top 10 to take a pass rusher like Von Miller or Robert Quinn? Or a shutdown corner like Patrick Peterson or Prince Amukamara?
But why do so when players like Justin Houston or Akeem Ayers will be available? What about Jimmy Smith, Aaron Williams or Brandon harris?
I feel that based on how this class is structured, they'd be better off staying put at where they are and making picks accordingly. So in the end, it'll all depend on how situations play out. But I firmly believe that since they have so many needs to fill that trading up would not be a wise move.
Nevertheless, expect the Pats to make some bold moves and have an interesting draft.