2011 NFL Draft Team Picks: Grading Each New England Patriot Draft Pick

Keet Bailey@@KeetBaileyCorrespondent IIMay 3, 2011

Ryan Mallett is stoked to be in New England.
Ryan Mallett is stoked to be in New England.Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The Patriots are always an exciting team to watch draft.

It seems that every draft they end up having two first round picks or three seconds or just a surplus of Top 100 selections.

Per the usual, the Patriots had a fantastic draft as they ended up setting up the offense for the future with picks like Nate Solder, Ryan Mallett, Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley early in the draft.

Here’s NFL Soup’s complete 2011 NFL Draft review for the Patriots:

Round 1, Pick 17 (from Raiders): Nate Solder, OT, Colorado

With injuries and age being a factor with Matt Light, it’s crucial that they get a tackle at some point to boost the offense.

The talks look like Sebastian Vollmer could move to the left side, at least temporarily, as Solder fits the right tackle position perfectly. Solder is a project in pass protection, but he is still just a few years removed from being a tight end.

I think the pick was solid, although I’d have preferred Cameron Jordan or Muhammad Wilkerson with this selection.

Grade: B

Round 2, Pick 33 (from Panthers): Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia

Kyle Arrington isn’t anything more than a nickel back, and Leigh Bodden is getting a bit older. The Patriots couldn’t pass on Dowling’s physical presence and ball locating ability with the first pick in the second round.

Dowling is very talented, and was once talked about as a first round pick.

Grade: B+

Round 2, Pick 56 (from Saints): Shane Vereen, RB, Cal

We knew that the Patriots would target a running back early.

While The Law Firm had a very respectable 4.4 yard per carry average and over 1,000 yards for the Pats, he’s not a long term option.

Shane Vereen is a compact runner who excels in the open field and on third downs.

Grade: A-

Round 3, Pick 73 (from Texans): Stevan Ridley, RB, LSU

I’m not crazy about Ridley in the Top 100 picks. But he does have a great ability between the tackles and looks to make a great combo with Shane Vereen.

Still, I think they could have waited until the fifth round and selected a guy like Johnny White or another inside runner rather than spending a second consecutive third rounder on a running back.

Grade: B

Round 3, Pick 74 (from Vikings): Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas

Here comes the selection everybody is talking about and I love it. The Patriots have no problem taking guys with colored history. Getting Mallett, who is a first round talent, in the third round to groom behind a top two quarterback in the NFL is absolutely genius.

Mallett, likely, won’t have to get on the field for at least two or three seasons, and could learn under a great coach and player.

Grade: A

Round 5, Pick 138 (from Texans): Marcus Cannon, OG/OT, TCU

I like the risk that the Patriots took here with Cannon. Cannon was a top 50 player prior to the release that he has cancer.

The cancer is a treatable form, and the risk for the Patriots to get a potential stud right tackle/guard in Cannon is well worth it in the fifth round.

If Cannon’s cancer battle ends up victorious, then the Patriots could potentially have landed a steal.

Grade: B+

Round 5, Pick 159: Lee Smith, TE, Marshall

Despite drafting two early tight ends in 2010, the Patriots take a flier on one of the best blocking tight ends in the draft.

Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are pass catchers, and Smith can catch a little, and block with fury.

Grade: B

Round 6, Pick 194 (from Jets, through Eagles) : Markell Carter, LB, Central Arkansas

Taking a flier on a potential stud pass rushing product in Carter was a great idea. In the sixth round, grabbing the D-IAA outside linebacker was a perfect situation.

He was one of the most underrated pass rushers that nobody had heard about at pick 194, and the Patriots could end up with a solid situational pass rusher.

Grade: B+

Round 7, Pick 219 (from Raiders): Malcolm Williams, CB, TCU

Adding depth at cornerback was nice here, and the Patriots felt that he was the best player available at this point.

Williams could be just a camp body, but without a ton of great depth in New England, he could find himself as the fifth corner as early as 2011.

Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B+

Follow me on Twitter @NFLSoupKeet


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