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Exploring the Possibilities: 2011 NFL Draft

This past weekend was an eventful for one for the National Football League and the New England Patriots. Not only did 32 teams across the league cut down their rosters to 53, but the NFL saw a big trade. The Patriots traded all-pro defensive end Richard Seymour to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for a 2011 first round pick.

The trade was a brilliant move for the Patriots as Seymour wouldn’t have been re-signed after this season. Now the team can focus on re-signing big free agents to be, Vince Wilfork and Logan Mankins.

The real intrigue with this trade comes with the compensation: that draft pick. History tells us that the Raiders will still be a terrible football team because of Al Davis, so we can pretty much bank on a top ten draft selection comes April 2011. Here are three players that will be BIG names in that year.

Julio Jones, WR – Alabama

Would there be a better player to eventually take over the reins from Randy Moss? The sophomore from Foley, Ala. has already established himself as one of the premiere pass catchers in the collegian ranks. At 6-4, 211 pounds, Jones is physically imposing. During his freshman campaign, Jones caught 58 passes for 924 yards while reaching the end-zone four times. Jones’ stats should only improve with more game experience. Projected to run a sub 4.5 forty yard dash, Jones will be sure to find himself a top ten draft pick whenever he decides to declare for the NFL draft.

In the past, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick has struggled when drafting wide receivers. Aside from 2002 draft where Belichick drafted both Deion Branch (second round) and David Givens (seventh round), he has painfully missed with other prospects. Bethel Johnson, the speedster from Texas A&M, was surprisingly drafted in the second round of the 2003 NFL Draft. Although he had some flashes returning the ball, Johnson never grasped the receiver position in the NFL and was released shortly after entering the league. A year later Belichick looked towards Florida State product P.K. Sam. Again, it would not work out. Sam reportedly had many disagreements with the Patriots coaching staff and front office and was released after his rookie season.

However, the most notable miss at receiver for the Patriots came in 2006. The Patriots traded up 16 spots with the Green Bay Packers to ensure the drafting of Florida receiver Chad Jackson, while Green Bay would go on to select Greg Jennings. After an injury-riddled rookie season, Jackson and fans alike were excited to see him perform in 2008. But, in shocking form, Belichick released Jackson, who would later be signed by the Denver Broncos.

With the recent failure drafting of receivers should we expect the Patriots to look at a Jones or someone similar with the projected top ten 2011 draft pick? Whatever the case may be, Jones is a big time player that would be a big time star for this franchise for 10 to 15 years.

Patrick Peterson, CB – LSU

The big, talented sophomore cornerback has been called the best cornerback prospect to come out of high school since Champ Bailey. From Pompano, Fla., Peterson originally committed to the University of Miami, however, after a visit with Louisiana State University, Peterson quickly changed his mind. That’s not only the thing Peterson changed. When he turned 18 years old, Peterson changed his name from Patrick Johnson to Peterson.

On the field, the 6-1, 200 pound physical specimen is terrific. His closing speed may be his biggest attribute as he is reported to run the forty in the low 4.4′s. His size allows him to be physical with opposing receivers and his ball-hawking abilities are second to none in the nation. Last week when LSU traveled to Seattle, Was. to play against the University of Washington, Peterson had nine unassisted tackles along with a couple pass breakups. Most of his damage came in the first half as UW quarterback Jack Locker only threw to Peterson’s direction two times in the second half.

2009 second round pick Darius Butler looks to be the cornerback of the future with the Patriots. His physical play and intelligence in the secondary shows promise for New England. However, behind Butler there is some question. Second year pros Terrence Wheatley and Jonathan Wilhite are both in the mix. Wilhite is clearly ahead of Wheatley at this stage of their careers and he could see substantial playing time in the 2009 season. But, is either of these players starting material? That’s the question. Leigh Bodden is another intriguing option. Bodden is a free agent after this season, and it is uncertain whether or not the Patriots will extend his services. That decision is pending on how he performs this season.

Terrelle Pryor, QB – Ohio State

Enter the most intriguing option for the Patriots come the 2011 draft, Terrelle Pryor. Standing at 6-6, 235 pounds, Pryor fits the bill of an NFL quarterback. Now throw on top of that his reported 4.3 forty speed and you have yourself a physical marvel. The sensation out of Columbus is well, truly that, a sensation. Come April 2011, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will be 33 years old, so drafting a quarterback high may be a wise move for Belichick and company. Pryor’s mobility would bring a facet to this offense that has never been seen in New England. Although he is a project player that won’t be able to play right away, he won’t have to. Pryor, who will be 21-years-old when he is drafted, can afford to sit for two years and learn from both Brady and Belichick. It just makes perfect sense from that standpoint. But, the question has to be asked on whether or not the team feels drafting a quarterback that high as a top priority especially with players like Jones and Peterson sitting in the Patriots laps.

Now, of course, there are a couple factors we have to look at:

  1. First off, we need to cross our fingers and hope the Raiders don’t miraculously have a mediocre season and win six games or more. To be safe, let’s hope for three wins for Oakland in 2010.
  2. These three, big named, players mentioned are currently sophomores. So we also have to hope that they all declare for the NFL Draft. However, that seems likely at this time and place.

Other notable players

  • Sam Bradford, QB – Oklahoma
  • Jevan Snead, QB – Mississippi State
  • Mark Ingram, RB – Alabama
  • Dez Bryant, WR – Oklahoma State
  • Rolando McClain, ILB – Alabama
  • Jimmy Clausen, QB – Notre Dame

It’s also worth noting that because of the CBA, the 2011 draft may institute rookie cap numbers similar to the NBA. So instead of potentially paying a rookie up to $20 million in guaranteed money, the Patriots could luck out and pay a significantly lower price. What are the NFL Football Odds that this will happen? Only time will tell.

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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  1. Exploring the Possibilities: 2011 NFL Draft: This past weekend was an eventful for one for the National Football.. http://bit.ly/16v2Bs

    Posted by Sports of Boston | September 10, 2009, 5:56 am

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