Five Inconvenient Truths Pats Fans Are Going to Have to Face In the Draft

#1. There is probably no Vince Wilfork in this draft.

Listening to Pats fans talk about this years draft is a lot like the last decade of post-Nomar Red Sox callers on WEEI.

“We need to sign a shortstop who’ll hit 40 home runs!”

Well that sounds wonderful, who?

“I don’t know! We just need one!!!!1!”

The trouble with drafting for positional need is that the player you want has to actually exist. So when I hear “we need to draft a pass rushing DT to play opposite Vince Wilfork” I say that’s great. WHO? This was a really nice sentiment when we thought Shariff Floyd was going to fall to the bottom half of the first round. You can forget about that. The secret is out and Floyd looks to be a top 5 pick. So who is left?

Purdue’s Kawaan Short seems to be the most popular choice. He’s big, fast and shows up well statistically with 13 sacks in his final two seasons. If he’s available at 29 I can’t say for certain that he’ll be the best player available though. His inconstancy is a big reason why he’s not a consensus lock for the 1st round. I’m 50/50 on him and never seem to grade his tape the same way twice. Please comment if you’d like to persuade me one way or another.

Let’s say Short is off the board at 29 and you’re bent on taking a defensive tackle. The talent drop is exponentially steeper as it goes down. Who do you bite on? The 24 year old Sylvester Williams who was working in a radiator factory a few years ago? The 350lb John Jenkins who was academically ineligible for Georgia’ bowl game? Ohio State’s Jonathan Hankins and his 1 single sack? LSU’s Bennie Logan and his 2 sacks (plus watch Logan play and you’ll see a talented DT who gets beat by being slow off the snap)? These are all guys with talent who at one point or another were in the first round conversation until analysts started looking at tapes and workouts and thought better of it.

Maybe the #1 NT in the draft and he couldn’t make the bare minimum academic requirements to play in the bowl game.

Remember who every mock drafter in the nation had the Patriots slotted to pick last year? Jerel Worthy, an inconsistent DT with known stamina issues who disappeared for big chunks of games and had disappointing numbers. What was the rationale? He was DT with name recognition and the Patriots needed a DT. Nothing else. Belichick drafted 3 players before Worthy was off the board and one of them was a safety from Illinois who was slotted as a 4th rounder.

Come to think of it. Here are all the DTs taken in the 20-32 range in the last 5 years. You’ll note that there weren’t any drafted last year. Stop me when you hit a superstar.

YEAR PLAYER TEAM CAREEER SACKS PICK #
2011 Phillip Taylor CLE 5 21
2010 Jared Odrick MIA 11 28
2010 Dan Williams AZ 0 26
2009 Ziggy Hood PIT 8.5 32
2009 Peria Jerry ATL 2 24
2008 Kentwan Balmer SF 0 32

This team got where it is by drafting the best player available for the best value. Insisting on drafting a DT in the first round is a really stubborn way to go about preparing for this draft. It’d be cool to be wrong here but I don’t see a DT worth the 29th overall pick.

#2. The Chance of Getting an Elite Corner in the 1st is Slim and Getting Slimmer.

Two popular mocks to the Patriots early on were Washington’s Desmond Trufant and Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes. Those are two great picks and I’d take either of them. Four months ago these were tragically underrated prospects and for our own greedy good we wanted it to stay that way. It didn’t. Trufant killed it all through the Senior Bowl practices and people actually started to look at Rhodes’ tape and saw a talented complete corner. As the days goes by it looks more and more likely that the two of them will be off the board in the top 25 picks.

BUT WON’T SOMEONE PLEEEASE THINK OF THE SECONDARY??!!

I get it. The pass defense is a recurring problem. So is throwing talent at the pride of the South Dakota Mining and Technology football legacy aka CB’s coach Josh Boyer (have you figured out yet that we don’t like him?). So if you really want to keep giving Boyer talent to ruin lets assume Milliner, Rhodes and Trufant are all off the board. Who do you take?

Belichick’s smoke screen du-jour Jonathan Banks? In a decade of Belichick he’s never tipped his hand that soon on a player so I don’t buy the reports that the Pats are after him. Sure, Banks has some pretty nice numbers and measurables. He also flopped at the Combine, got out-shined by his #2 Darius Slay, and has major tackling issues. Or maybe you’d prefer other first round mention LSU’s Tharold Simon otherwise known as the guy on the wrong end of DeAndre Hopkins 191 yard killing spree in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl? David Amerson, Jordan Poyer, Blidi Wreh-Wilson? Do you look at the tape of any of those players and think they’re going to set the league on fire if we take them in the first round?

One name you should start getting familiar with, if you haven’t already, is Boise State’s Jamar Taylor. While everyone was gushing over Trufant’s senior bowl practices Taylor was very quietly showing off some impressive cover skills. His tape reveals strong tackling as well. In my opinion Taylor has made an argument for himself as the #3 or #4 corner in this draft. His technique isn’t quite as refined as Trufant’s but athletically he’s been stride for stride with him: Trufant ran a 4.38, Taylor ran a 4.39, Trufant had a 37.5″ vertical, Taylor had a 37″ vertical. The Pats him in for a private workout on Monday and have quietly been all over him during the draft process.

#3. The Patriots Might Just Draft Multiple Wide Receivers… And it Might Just Work Out Really Awesome.

One thing I’ve never understood is the attitude on Pats fans towards drafting a wide receiver. Since 2007 the Patriots passing offense has ranked in the top five 4 out of 6 years. And every single year I’ve heard people gripe about the need to draft a wide receiver in the first round. You people wanted Percy Harvin when Wes Welker was the most productive receiver in football. Now we go into a draft literally dripping with wide receiver talent and what do I hear from you?

“YOU GUISE THE OFFENSE ISN’T THE PROBLEM!”

Correction: the offense wasn’t the problem. Now it is. Welker is gone. Amendola is no guarantee. Deion Branch (lets face it) is no longer a real option. Brandon Lloyd is gone. If you follow Pats trends you were probably looked at the desolate free agent landscape and said Ned Stark styleThe slapdicks are comin.’Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, these guys are 40/60 to even make the week 1 roster. I liked Jenkins a lot in Atlanta but I honestly forget he even played football last year. So ask yourself how much sense it is to get caught up on an offense from ayear ago that doesn’t even exist anymore. How about we move on and agree that some new talent needs to come in/?

If you actually maybe look at this draft for what it is you’ll see one of the deepest wide receiver classes in a very long time. So you tell me? Does it make sense to ignore the biggest strength of the draft class, at a position of need, because of last years stats based on an offense that doesn’t exist anymore? There might not be a once in a lifetime Randy Moss type in this class, but there’s a logjam of mid-late first round projected legit talent. Justin Hunter, Keenan Allen, Coradelle Patterson, DeAndre Hopkins, Stedman Bailey, Keenan Allen, Tavon Austin, Quinton Patton, Robert Woods. Face it linebacker hoarders: this is the year to draft a receiver.

That being said I don’t think its out of the question to see an unbalanced draft again this year, this time with wide receivers. I don’t think it’s insane to think the Pats might take 2 WR’s in the first three rounds. If that upsets you ask yourself how upset you’d be if the Pats walked out of this year’s draft with DeAndre Hopkins and Quinton Patton in their pocket. As yourself how upset you’d be if perennial the dink and dunk offense added Justin Hunter (4.44 40) and Markus Wheaton (4.45 40) to stretch the field out.

You don’t want to add a wideout in the first round? Fine. Be a baby. Here’s Stedman Bailey. In a different draft he’d be a first round pick. In this draft he’s being projected as a 2nd or 3rd rounder. He’s everything that Brand Lloyd wasn’t.

#4. Cover Linebacker Might Be the Dark Horse Position of Need

I love our starting linebackers. Why wouldn’t I? Contrary to popular belief the Patriots had the 9th best run defense in the league giving up only about 130 yards more than the supposedly unbeatable 49ers all year. But the decision to go heavier and meaner at the backer position left Pats exposed on passing downs. Case in point the Pats D gave up 40% of their 3rd downs last year (22nd in the league). Getting Dane Fletcher back is a bonus but he’s the only backer of his mold on this roster. Tracy White is a good special teamer but he just shouldn’t be allowed on the field for the first 3 downs. And a hearty LOL @ U if you really thought Bobby Carpenter was going to work out.

The word is out that the Pats have been kicking the tires on some of the faster middle linebackers. Jonathan Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, Zaviar Gooden, Sean Porter have all been either worked out privately or brought in for an official visit. Patriots linebackers coaches also went out of their way to check out AJ Kline at the Iowa State Pro Day, and have been sniffing around Southern Miss outside linebacker Jamie Collins.

Gooden is maybe the most athletic of the aforementioned group but Kline is probably my favorite. He’s getting the white guy linebacker treatment from analysts: “Smart player… good instincts… makes up for lack of athleticism…” blah blah blah insert racist scouting report here. I agree that he’s a good instinctual football player, but the guy ran a 4.66 at 246 lbs. In fact he was one of only 6 linebackers to run in the 4.6’s That’s plenty athletic for my tastes. A player like Klein would give the Patriots a reliable passing down option that would allow them to keep that sense of toughness Spikes and Mayo bring.

There are a lot of ways to make a defense better. Hoarding pass rushers for the sake of having them isn’t always priority #1. Ask Jake Bequette and/or Markell Carter.

#5. Absolutely No One is Calling With A Blockbuster Deal for Ryan Mallett

Of all the things I’ve consistently heard from Pats rumor mongers the Ryan Mallett fables are among the dumbest. Mallett for the Browns 12th overall pick. Mallett and a 1st to Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald. Ryan Mallett to the Knicks for Carmello Anthony and Patrick Ewing’s flat top…

You understand for a trade like this to happen you have to have either Andy Reid or Matt Millen on one side of the equation? One of them is out of football and the other has already made the single worst trade of the year for a backup QB. I don’t think he has a 2nd in him.

Honestly if the Larry Fitz trade was ever even a minor reality I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have taken it if I was the Cardinals GM. They’d lose their best player but pick up a ton of cap space, 2 first rounders and a guy who actually has a chance to develop into a starting quarterback. Unfortunately they’ve got a new GM with the old GM’s dumbass Kevin Kolb trade looming over him. On top of that they already have a Brady Butt-Double in Brian Hoyer who drew a 2nd round tender from the Cards this off season. That’s right. The guy who sucked worse than Ryan Mallett in last year’s pre-season is so valuable to the Cardinals that they put him up for a 2nd round tender. So don’t count on any last minute trades.

I don’t see why the Jaguars, who passed on Mallett for fuckin Blaine Gabbert of all people, don’t pick up the phone and try to make a deal. They’ve proved outright that they don’t know how to draft anybody, what the hell do they care if they give up a 2nd round pick for him? But no, they’re perfectly content living in their AFC South basement “apartment” forever like the Texans and Colts were their disappointed parents.

And if there’s no blockbuster deal for Mallett then what the hell is the point of even trading him. He was a third round pick. This team jettisons third round picks like they’re dryer sheets. If he works out he works out, if not Brady is playing until he’s 50 anyways so who cares.

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