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2010 NFL Draft Preview: New England Patriots

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It’s that time of year again. The time when we can all gather and watch a bunch of kids younger than us make millions of dollars just by getting their name called on a podium.

The Patriots can go many different ways in this draft, but one thing is for sure; they will go after defense early and often. I scoured over the internet and did my research to learn which players the Patriots should target in the 2010 draft. Here is what I came up with:

First Round Targets

Pick 22

Dez Bryant, WR, Oklahoma

The chance Bryant falls to the Patriots at 22 is very slim, but he would be the no-brainer pick if that were the case. The Patriots are in dire need of a big wide receiver because Randy Moss is in his final season and Wes Welker is coming off major knee surgery. Bryant (6’2, 225) has been compared to Calvin Johnson and Andre Johnson, who are two of the top wide receivers in the game today and could provide the Patriots with immediate production in the WR2 spot.

Jason Pierre-Paul, DE, South Florida

His big frame (6’5, 270) is ideal for the Patriots’ 3-4 defense and his pass rushing skills fit the biggest area of concern for the Patriots. JPP (he can even have a cool nickname!) still needs to get better against the run as he has difficulty shedding blocks, but there is no doubt he can get after the quarterback and if he falls a little in the draft I would not be surprised to see the Patriots scoop him up.

Jerry Hughes, DE/OLB, TCU

Hughes is a player that I love and think the Patriots could trade down a couple of picks to get. He is a great pass rusher and showed his great combination of quickness, speed and strength at the combine. He is a smart player who has sound tackling skills and would fit perfectly in the Patriots’ 3-4 defense in a similar role to what Tully Banta-Cain did in 2009.

Sergio Kindle, OLB, Texas

Kindle seems to be the consensus pick for the Patriots in many of the expert mock drafts and for good reason. He is a pure pass rusher who lacks size, but is very athletic and strong. Some off-field issues could hurt his draft stock, but he has a nonstop motor and is relentless going after the quarterback. He would be a great fit on the Patriots defense.

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Oklahoma

The Patriots have drafted a tight end in the first round twice in the Belichick era, and there’s a pressing need for it yet again. At 6-foot-5, 261 pounds, Gresham is a huge target and could be a beast over the middle for the Patriots. He does have some durability issues as he has suffered two major knee injuries in his career so far, but you won’t find a better speed/size combo than him in this draft.

Maurkice Pouncey, OG, Florida

If the Patriots draft Pouncey in the first round, it’s because they don’t think they will re-sign Logan Mankins. Pouncey has good agility for his size (6’4, 308) and could play any three interior OL positions. I expect the Patriots to draft more towards need rather than best player available, but Pouncey is a very safe pick in the mid-to-late first round.

Brandon Graham, OLB, Michigan

Scouted as the top OLB in the draft, Graham has great size (6’1, 268) and could line up at both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’s very strong against the run and has sound tackling skills, but there are questions whether he fits in a 3-4 system.

Jared Odrick, DE, Penn State

We all know that Bill Belichick loves to trade down to get more value for his draft picks and if he is picking in the late first round, Odrick would be the logical choice. He’s a defensive tackle who can play on the edge in a 3-4 defense much like Richard Seymour did. At 6-foot-5, 301 pounds, Odrick is a big guy and would definitely be a force on the edge of the defensive line. He’s more quick than fast, which is a good thing for defensive linemen and his strength would be a nice attribute against the run.

Second Round Targets

Picks 44, 47, 53

Tyson Alualu, DT, Cal

Alualu is very versatile and could line up anywhere on the defensive line, which is something Belichick loves in his defensive linemen. He has great instincts and very good size (6’2, 295), and is better against the run than he is at rushing the passer. With last year’s second round pick Ron Brace basically nonexistent last season, the Patriots could take another shot at the defensive tackle position with Alualu.

Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida

Spikes is someone I would love the Patriots to draft in the second round. He has great size and instincts and would fit great playing next to Jerod Mayo. He is a very aware player on the field and is faster than his 40 time indicates. Spikes is a very good tackler, which is something Belichick loves, not to mention Bill also has great ties with Florida’s head coach Urban Meyer.

Vladimir Ducasse, OL, UMass

This UMass product is very raw, but Ducasse is athletically gifted and would be regarded as a project much like Sebastian Vollmer was last year. Since Vollmer seems to have been a huge success, the Pats might try their hand at another offensive lineman in the same boat. He’s a massive body (6’4, 332) and is very quick and strong. He could be a great value in the late second round.

Chris Cook, CB, Virginia

The NFL is changing into a pass-happy league, and especially in the AFC East with the arrivals of Santonio Holmes and Brandon Marshall. Cook is officially the tallest cornerback in the draft (6’2) and has average top end speed for a guy his size. He is someone with a injury-riddled past, but he would be very useful in guarding big, possession-type receivers.

Tim Tebow, QB, Florida

It’s seems like Tebow is going to go in the first round (or at least early second), but if he’s there in the second round the Patriots will either have the option of drafting him or trading down and letting someone else take him. Belichick could be trying to add value to his second round picks by wining and dining Tebow in the North End, but I think he would be a nice fit in the Patriots’ system. It seems that the Patriots are comfortable with Brian Hoyer as their backup for now and would probably be more inclined to trade down if Tebow is available in the second round.

Joe McKnight, RB, USC

McKnight would fill in nicely once Kevin Faulk leaves as he is quicker than fast and a good pass catcher out of the backfield. He is tough to tackle and could take over in the pass-happy Patriots’ offense once Sammy Morris, Fred Taylor, and Laurence Maroney are out of town. McKnight will never be an every-down back and will probably slip in the draft because of concerns with his ability to run between the tackles.

No Picks in the Third Round…

Later-Round Targets

Montario Hardesty, RB, Tennessee – His vision is his greatest strength and he posted the best vertical jump at the NFL Combine. He could be a great value in the fourth round.
Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, DE/OLB, Washington – He’s a player who doesn’t have a lot of speed or quickness, which makes his upside very limited. But, he’s a hard worker and is Washington’s all-time leader with 30 sacks.
Dennis Pitta, TE, BYU – Very tough competitor and not afraid to sacrifice his body over the middle. Pitta has some room to add bulk to his 6’4, 245-pound frame, but he is a great pass catcher that could be a great fit in the Patriots’ offense.
David Reed, WR, Utah – Not a very polished route-runner, but he played in a spread offense and the Pats love to pass out of a similar offense. He is not a burner, but neither was Wes Welker and we saw how that turned out.
Greg Hardy, DE, Mississippi – Has great combination of agility and size. Great at rushing the passer and would be a force as a DE in the 3-4 defense.
Andre Roberts, WR, Citadel – Great runner after the catch and runs good routes. He is more of the possession type than a burner, but he does have good speed as evidenced by his 4.46 40-yard dash.
Clay Harbor, TE, Missouri State – Great combination of hands and size with good blocking skills. He’s a hard worker and runs crisp routes.
Seyi Ajirotutu, WR, Fresno State – Deceptively fast and has great size (6’4, 204)and is someone who has strong hands with a competitive edge to fight for tough catches.

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