A Very Early Look at the Patriots' 2008 Draft

andy millerCorrespondent IFebruary 14, 2008

As the sting of Super Bowl XLII wears off for Patriot fans, we join the other 30 teams that ended 2007-2008 on a sad note and look forward to the off-season.

Free agency and possible retirements are obviously key, with question marks surrounding the return of Asante Samuel, Randy Moss, Randall Gay, Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau, Dante Stallworth, and many more.

But for now, let's focus on my favorite sports day of the year, the NFL Draft.

The Patriots have the seventh pick in this year's draft via a trade last year with the 49ers.

San Francisco was expected to contend for a playoff spot this season, but the season started poorly for San Francisco, and never got much better, especially after Alex Smith went down with an injury.

As a result, the Patriots are in a rare position of being a top tier team with a top-10 pick.

Unfortunately, as you may have heard by now, there was this little incident with a camera back in week one, and the Patriots have forfeited their own pick (No. 31), and, barring a trade, will only have one first-round pick this year.

Before we can focus on what the Pats will do, we must first look at the six teams drafting ahead of them.

For the sake of argument, we will assume that each of these teams is going to keep their pick and stay right where they are.

The Dolphins were a Matt Stover missed field goal away from an 0-16 season, and basically need everything, especially after cutting several veterans for salary-cap purposes.

Bill Parcells is calling the shots in Miami now, and will resist the temptation to take a potential franchise QB like BC's Matt Ryan or Louisville's Brian Brohm; Tuna will not want to wait around for a young QB to take his lumps and then improve.

The Dolphins will keep it simple and take the most talented player in the draft, LSU's stud DT, Glenn Dorsey.

Parcells likes big guys in his front seven, and at 6-2, 300 lbs, Dorsey fits the bill.

At No. 2, we have the Rams.

Once known as "The Greatest Show on Turf", the Rams struggled mightily on offense last season.

They have thrown their support to QB Marc Bulger in the form of a $60 million contract; they are going to want to protect that investment.

At one time, Orlando Pace was the best in the game, but he is no spring chicken. The Rams will grab their left tackle for the next decade in Jake Long of Michigan.

The Raiders are now on the clock and shown a slight improvement from last season, up  two wins to four in 2007. 

They found an unlikely 1,000 yard rusher in Justin Fargas, but will be tempted by RB Darren McFadden.

They will resist that temptation and take the lesser known, but very talented Sedrick Ellis, defensive tackle from down the street at USC.

Some have compared him to Warren Sapp, and Ellis may very well become his replacement on the defensive line.

Following the Raiders at No. 4 is their arch rival Kansas City, who need help all over.

The Chiefs are desperate for playmakers on offense, and will tab the best quarterback in this year's draft, BC's Matt Ryan.

Like the Raiders, Darren McFadden looks appealing, but the Chiefs will bank on a return to form from Larry Johnson.

Brody Croyle showed some flashes last season, but not enough for the Chiefs to turn down Ryan, whose leadership skills will endear him to all of the Chiefs' fans for years to come.

There may not have been a bigger mess in sports lass year than the Atlanta Falcons.

From the Michael Vick saga, to the Bobby Petrino disaster, the Falcons were humiliated on and off the field.

I have never felt as bad for a guy with millions of dollars as the way I did for Arthur Blank last season.

The Falcons get back to what got them to the NFC Championship in 2004; running the football.

Atlanta needs good players, but they need a PR win, and choosing Darren McFadden right in SEC country does just that. Warrick Dunn is now 33, and on his last legs.

McFadden will team with Jurius Norwood to form a 1-2 punch that will scare defenses for a long time.

The fans in attendance will perk up at No. 6, as the "host" NY Jets are on the clock.

Eric Mangini got the Jets into the playoffs in 2006, but fell back to 4-12 last season, while their neighbors, the NY Giants took home the Lombardi trophy.

Head Coach Eric Mangini is a defensive guy at heart and cannot believe that Chris Long, defensive end from Virginia has fallen into his lap at No. 6.

Some analysts have him as the best player on the board, and Mangini gets Long, a perfect fit for a 3-4 defense, to terrorize quarterbacks in the AFC East.

That brings us to the Patriots.

It seems like every year the fans yell for a linebacker to help out their aging corps.

And every year, the Pats go in a different direction. There are many good linebackers here (Dan Connor and Keith Rivers to name two).

However, the Patriots value two things in their linebackers: size and experience.

Neither guy can offer that, and the Pats are going to want to win now, especially after their heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl XLII.

Asante Samuel will be gone, and the Pats will look to Mike Jenkins of South Florida to take his place (no pressure, kid).

The Pats have already signed T.J. Slaughter to add depth at linebacker, and Adalius Thomas played perhaps his best game as a Patriot at the Super Bowl.

They may try to get some LB help through free agency or later in the draft, but at No. 7, they get a playmaker with good size (6-0, 200 lbs) who can play man-to-man as well as any CB in this draft.

Along with Brandon Meriweather, who came on strong towards the end of 2007, Jenkins will help the Patriots get younger and faster in the secondary.

With two months to go before the draft, so much can happen.

And I, like any fan, reserve the right to change my mind (and I am sure I will do just that).

But for now, the Pats address the LB needs in other ways and grab some much needed help for their secondary.

In later rounds, the Pats will address needs on the offensive line (incredible for much of the season, but exposed in the Super Bowl by the power and speed of the New York Giants), wide receiver (depending on what happens to Gaffney, Moss, and Stallworth), and running back (Sammy Morris is coming off injury, and Kevin Faulk will be 32). 


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