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The Patriots have been awfully busy in the first six rounds of the 2009 NFL draft, trading down numerous times and picking up nine players thus far. The biggest news just broke as Ellis Hobbs was traded to the Eagles, leaving room for an entire new secondary in 2009, not such a terrible thing. Here is my analysis on the Pats draft picks and other thoughts on the draft.
2nd Round 34th overall: Patrick Chung – Safety, Oregon: The Pats traded down from 23 to 26 in the first round before trading down yet again and took Chung with the pick received from the Chiefs in the Matt Cassel trade. Chung is smart, versatile and tough as four years starting at Oregon made him the best strong safety in the draft. He’s a guy who can play on special teams as well, seems like a guy who can step in on day 1 and contribute somewhere on the team. Pick Grade: A
2nd Round 40th overall: Ron Brace – Defensive Tackle, Boston College: With the first of two straight picks early in the second round the Pats took Brace, a massive defensive tackle from BC. At 6’3″ and 330 pounds, Brace is an upgrade from Mike Wright on the defensive line and between him and Vince Wilfork, the middle of the goal line defense will be epic. Could this be a potential replacement for big Vince though? Pick Grade: A-
2nd Round 41st overall: Darius Butler – Defensive Back, UConn: In the second of two consecutive picks the Pats beefed up their secondary with Darius Butler. Butler has been tutored by Deion Sanders and is one of the best cover corners in the draft. Though it seems he is not much of a run stopper/big hitter, he’s got the speed and size that could have seen him drafted in the first round. Maybe not a guy who can step in and start on day 1, but a great value pick by the Patriots on a guy who could be a starter before too long. Pick Grade: A
2nd Round 58th overall: Sebastian Vollmer – Offensive tackle, Houston: Just a mammoth of a player at 6’7″, 314 pounds, Vollmer is more of a project as he just started playing football at age 14. He’s got quite a story as he grew up in Germany and was recruited for college as a tight end before, well, growing. He’s a fair run blocker and effective pass blocker, yet in both areas he has a lot of upside to improve. The only downside of this pick is the timing, as most analysts had Vollmer going much later in the draft. Pick Grade: B
3rd Round 83rd overall: Brandon Tate – Wide Receiver, UNC: Continuing their run of great value picks, Brandon Tate could be a stud wide receiver in the NFL. While his downsides include an ACL tear during his final year of school and a reported positive test for marijuana, Tate is reported to be a good pass catcher who can also return kicks. Though he lacks big size (just 5’11”), he’s seen as a potential long term solution at wide receiver. Don’t be surprised if we see little of him in 2009 but he could be a breakout player if given a chance. Pick Grade: A-
3rd Round 97th overall: Tyrone McKenzie – Linebacker, South Florida: Because this was a compensatory pick, the Patriots were unable to trade it and thus took Tyrone McKenzie. McKenzie made a pre-draft visit to New England and projects to be an inside linebacker in the NFL. As reported in Reiss’ Pieces, he has quite an inspirational story having played at three colleges and actually left school for a time for a full time job to support his mother who couldn’t work because of an accident. A strong 6’1″ 245 pounds, McKenzie will have plenty of competition for playing time at ILB. Pick Grade:B+
Fourth Round 123rd overall: Richard Ohrnberger – Offensive Guard, Penn State: With one of the picks acquired from the Ellis Hobbs trade, the Pats take the 6’2″ 297lb tackle. Like the earlier offensive line pick, Ohrnberger is more of a project, but with many of the Pats current OL’s nearing the end of their contracts and injuries always a problem on the right side of the line, young bodies seem to be just what the Pats need. Pick Grade: B+
Fifth Round 170th overall: George Bussey – Offensive Tackle, Louisville: It’s pretty simple; more bulk and bodies on the offensive line. Bussey is listed at 6’2″, 306 pounds and was a walk-on when he first got to Louisville. At this point (5th round and lower) you’re looking at players who may be more suited for the practice squad, at least in their first season. Either way, another wide body to protect Tom Brady. Pick Grade: B+
Sixth Round 198th overall: Jake Ingram – Long Snapper, Hawaii: Pretty much what you want from a long snapper. Draftcountdown.com calls him “Extremely accurate…Outstanding balance…Is not fazed by pressure…Intense and active…Consistent…Gets a lot of zip on his snaps…Has a strong work ethic.” Replaces the departed Lonnie Paxton. Pick Grade: A
Sixth Round 207th overall: Myron Pryor – Defensive Tackle, Kentucky 6’0″, 314 pound, 2008 SEC all-second teamer, Pryor had a big senior year at Kentucky which vaulted him into draftable range. Again, more depth along the defensive line, something Bill Belichick loves. BTW, check out this hit by Pryor – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoOxP8plpoA. Makes you wonder though, will the Pats go after a running back at any juncture?Pick Grade: B
Seventh Round 232nd overall: Julian Edelman – Wide Receiver, Kent State With a lot of WRs in front of him, Edelman could be a special teamer or wind up on the practice squad. Pick Grade: Who the hell knows
Seventh Round 234rd overall: DT Darryl Richard from Georgia Tech More depth along the d-line. Again, probably a practice teamer.
Trades and final thoughts on Pats draft so far: The significance that comes out of this draft may not be seen right away. There’s no guarantee that any of the players selected with have the immediate impact Jerod Mayo had in 2008 but it seems all of them can step into some kind of role, be it on third down or special teams, to help the team right away. The Pats have reloaded with young talent without having to shell out first round pick money.
Speaking of money, it’s important to remember that the offseason isn’t over and there are still players out there that could be coming to New England, like Jason Taylor. One guy who is not coming to New England is Julius Peppers. Like most Patriots fans, when the reports started surfacing about Peppers possibly coming to New England, my ears perked up like a German Sheppard. However the more I looked at it the more implausible a trade seemed. Not only would he have to sign a one year tender offer and the Patriots give up quite a bit to get him, but Peppers would require a long term deal in the neighborhood of Albert Haynesworth money. As we saw with the trade of Cassel, the Patriots simply didn’t have the cap room to trade and sign Peppers without having to cut significant players/salary off the roster (we’re talking Richard Seymour and probably Adalius Thomas combined) in order to get under the cap. While I’ll be the first to say Seymour and Thomas have been less than perfect the last couple seasons, I think it would be unwise to blow up your defense for a player who possesses freakish athletic skills but is nearly 30 years old and would be switching to a new position (OLB) in the Pats scheme. Would he be great to have? Absolutely. But the collateral damage that would’ve had to be done for the Peppers deal to happen would have changed the Patriots irrevocably, and it wasn’t guaranteed to be for the better. The Patriots did not drop the ball, they just realized it wasn’t the best direction for the team at this time.
The Patriots made two trades in the first round and picked up picks later in the draft. The significance to know from Sunday thus far is the Patriots traded two of their third round picks for 2010 second round picks, one to Jacksonville and one to Tennessee. This shouldn’t surprise anyone as Bill Belichick loves to stockpile for the future. The fact that the Pats already have a deep roster, will load up with good value prospects this year and already have three second round picks for next year just further backs up the long term successful plan of Bill Belichick.
Other thoughts on the draft: