The Patriots addressed defense mostly in this draft, and they filled holes at both linebacker and cornerback. Here are their picks:
First Round - 10th Overall - Jerod Mayo, ILB, Tennessee
Second Round - 62nd Overall - Terrence Wheatley, CB, Colorado
Third Round - 78th Overall - Shawn Crable, OLB, Michigan
Third Round - 92nd Overall - Kevin O'Connell, QB, San Diego State
Fourth Round - 129th Overall - Jonathan Wilhite, CB, Auburn
Fifth Round - 153rd Overall - Matt Slater, WR, UCLA
Sixth Round - 197th Overall - Bo Ruud, OLB, Nebraska
I like Mayo. He was very successful on an otherwise dismal Volunteers defense. He can play both inside and outside, as he did in college. In his first, and only, year as an inside linebacker Mayo excelled. He accumulated 140 tackles, the most by one player at Tennessee since 1990. He is a smart pick for the Patriots because if he can play inside, we can rotate him with Brushi and Seau, therefore moving Adalius Thomas outside to make use of his ability to reach the quarterback. His athleticism is surprising given his very, very physical style of play. His athleticism and speed give him great range and his skill in pursuing. He is an every down player and you can rely on him to produce. He is not only a big hitter, but a reliable tackler as well. He is a classic pick by Belichick and Pioli: a smart and versatile player who you can put anywhere. Many say he is undersized, but, hey, they said the same thing about Tedy Bruschi!
He is very well spoken and he has good character as well.
I have heard many call Wheatley a stretch here, but I trust Belichick and Pioli. They have been successful in the past and hopefully that continues. Back to Wheatley; he has very good speed, he had a 4.37 forty, and great burst. Like Mayo, he is a great athlete. He is another smart player who plays hard. There have been durability concerns and he has some issues when lined up against bigger receivers. He does have good hands and playmaking ability though. Wheatley could be a very good special teams player and he is a surprisingly good tackler. I believe that if he wants to be a solid cornerback for our team he will need to improve his strength and somehow overcome his size. Also, is there some food connection here? MAYO and WHEATley? Hmm...
To be honest, I knew next to nothing about this guy until the Patriots drafted him. What I did learn was he has very good size (6'5" and 245 pounds) and he is a good athlete. The Patriots may have drafted him to be a blitzer. His athletecism and speed allow him to make plays in the backfield. Don't let him fool you, though, because he has strength and power to go along with it. His versatility is another thing the Patriots will put to good use. Unfortunately, he does not have a great motor and his work ethic has questions, but I'm sure Belichick and his fellow teammates will smarten him up. Many say the best fit for Crable is a pass rushing outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. Excellent. Look! More food! CRABle! I think I may have discovered why the Patriots are so good in the draft.
I was puzzled by this at first, but I did realize that Cassel is not the guy we want as our back up. I believe O'Connell will easily pass him. The biggest knock on him is he will take a few years to developed because he is not very polished. Well, that's not a problem for us because Tom Brady is only thirty and if it takes him three or four years to develop Brady will be thirty-three or four. This could work out well. He has great height at 6'5" so he can definitely see the field from the pocket. He ran a very impressive forty yard dash (4.61) plus he can throw on the run. He is called a better athlete than a quarterback, but if he learns from Brady and his coaches he could become both. He is a hard worker, a leader, and a competitor with plenty of experience. If he can improve his decision making under pressure along with his accuracy and mechanics he will certainly do well.
Wilhite is yet another athletic player drafted by the Patriots. He ran about the same forty time as Wheatley and he is physical like him as well. He is very quick and has excellent feet, that will help him a lot. He is aggresive and confident, which I love in a corner. At Auburn he faced top notch receivers. Like Crable his work ethic is questionable, but that can be easily solved. He isn't as good of a tackler as Wheatley and he isn't as much of a playmaker. I wouldn't be surprised if Wilhite surprised everyone despite his weaknesses because he was overshadowed by other great corners from Auburn, David Irons and Patrick Lee.
This is the only pick I don't understand at all. Sure we lost Donte Stallworth, but we still have Randy Moss, Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, and Chad Jackson if he ever plays to his potential. The only explanation I have is that he is a kick returner. That's the only reason I see for us trading up seven spots in the fifth round to take him. However, we also took Terrence Wheatley who returned kicks in college. Well, I'm going to write about how Slater returns kicks. He ran a 4.4 forty at the combine, but before his senior season he ran a 4.29 forty. Kahlil Bell was a teammate of Slater and he said that Slater returns kicks like Devin Hester does. Slater is humble, and says he wishes he was a quarter of what Hester is. Slater returns kicks with a little power and straightline speed. Slater is pretty versatile too because he can play on coverage teams and hunt down the returner, as well as being one.
The Patriots went with their third linebacker here and their second outside linebacker. Bo Ruud was the Patriots' last draft pick in the 2008 NFL Draft. Bo Ruud's brother, Barrett, is currently a player in the NFL. I hope he takes his family's advice about how to succeed in the NFL and applies it during games. Ruud had a very good career at Nebraska. After his senior year he ranked among the top thirty tacklers in Nebraska's history, along with his father Tom and brother Barrett. He raked in 216 career tackles. He managed to always be around the ball in his three years as a starter on Nebraska's defense. He had a good career and a good pedigree, I hope he can translate that into the NFL and succeed on our team.
Here are the trades:
Patriots traded their first round (7th overall) and fifth round (164th overall) picks to New Orleans for their first round (10th overall) and third round (78th overall).
Patriots traded one of their third round selections (69th overall) to San Diego for their second round pick in 2009.
Patriots traded their fifth (160th overall) and seventh round (238th overall) picks to Tampa Bay for their fifth round pick (153rd overall).
I like all of these trades, except one. They were all good trades for our teams, gaining more than we gave up except the trade with the Bucs. We moved up just seven spots to get Matt Slater, a kick returner.
I believe the Patriots had a very good draft. There is the possibility of all of our picks making it on the roster. We filled our needs on the defense and the defense has certainly become younger and more athletic. Our picks all have versatility as well as athleticism and a few of them have a type of food in their name. I am looking forward to see all of these players, especially Kevin O'Connell and Jerod Mayo develop. This draft could definitely turn out very well.