Some Slightly Educated Football Ramblings

Okay, so I’ve been pouring over NFL mock drafts lately, trying to get a bead on where certain players might go. It’s an annual thing with me, something I can’t possibly explain in any way which would allow me to come across like a rational human being. There’s just something inherently “fun” about the draft process, even though I don’t really know much about the guys being drafted (other than what I read). Six months from now I won’t remember shit about the draft, but for whatever reason it gives me wood on the day of.

Anyhoo, these mock drafts are fascinating, not only for what one can learn about the potential draftees, but also for the shear amount of stupidity it apparently takes to put one together. Do these guys know anything about the NFL? Do they have a clue of the drafting tendencies of the teams they are “mocking”? Let’s take a look at some examples of my beloved Patriots. With the 21st selection in the first round, here’s how some of these supposed “experts” think the Pats will go.

Dennis Dodd, CBSsportsline.com – DeAngelo Williams, RB, Memphis
Pete Prisco, CBSsportsline.com – DeAngelo, Williams, RB, Memphis
Clark Judge, CBSsportsline.com – Chad Greenway, LB, Iowa
Don Banks, CNNSI.com – Antonio Cromartie, CB, Florida State
FoxSports.com – Rob Carpenter, LB, Ohio State
draftstudio.com – Santonio Holmes, WR, Ohio State
nfldraftcountdown.com – Richard Marshall, CB, Fresno State

Okay, on the plus side, the general consensus is that the Pats four biggest position needs are LB, WR, CB & RB, and all of these players fit that. Problem #1, however, is that the Pats under Pioli & Belichick have made it clear they don’t think drafting a WR or a RB in the first round makes much sense, as you can always get good value at those positions in later rounds, especially since so many first rounders end up being busts. That being said, Santonio Holmes is another undersized guy in the mold of Troy Brown and Deion Branch. What they NEED is a bigger target, somebody that is 6-1 or taller who can take the place of David Givens. Holmes makes NO sense here.

As for Williams, the thinking is that they want to find an eventual replacement for Corey Dillon, but let’s be smart here. The need is not THAT great, and there’s no way the Pats will waste a first round pick on a guy they don’t expect to at least challenge for starts right away. Maybe in the second or third round they might grab somebody, but it sure as hell ain’t gonna be in round one. On top of that, he’s only 5-9, and the Pats have usually wanted bigger backs to be their main guy. They draft the smaller guys (like Kevin Faulk) in later rounds because they don’t expect them to be every down guys in their system.

As for CB, I’m not one of those who think this is a huge need for the Pats. Asante Samuel has turned into a very solid NFL starter, and both Randall Gay and Ellis Hobbs have shown in limited opportunity that they each have the chance to become better than expected. Add to that the signing of Eric Warfield (a cagey veteran who has something to prove this season), and they appear set at the position. Yes, they want depth, but you don’t waste a first round pick on depth (at least not “third string” depth). If they *did* go to that position, Marshall is at least logical because he fits their system and played at Fresno State, whose head coach is on the Belichick list of ex-assistants he likes to draft from (see Logan Mankins last year). But Cromartie? The guy missed ALL OF LAST SEASON with an injury! Yeah, he seems talented and has had good “workouts”, seeming healthy now, but do you honestly believe that the Pats of all teams would take that kind of gamble? Get real.

The LB picks are the only two I’ve seen that make any sense. Both Greenway and Carpenter have the size and skill sets the Pats look for, and LB is easily their biggest need, as they need to fill the hole left by Willie McGinest leaving town. They also need to have replacements ready for Mike Vrabel and Teddy Bruschi, so I don’t buy the whole “the draft is deep at LB, so they can’t get one later”. They need more than one, and they need one to start right now!

And that’s just a small example. I’ve seen mock drafts where they have the Jets passing on Matt Leinart to take Vince Young (oh yeah, that’s something Mangini would do, take a pure athlete over a polished QB), or the Saints drafting Leinart (because that six year contract they just gave Drew Brees wasn’t enough security, apparently), plus other stupid shit like teams who are notorious for taking good character guys being predicted to draft dudes with attitudes.

Who would I *like* to see them draft? Well, I’m so glad you asked. Actually, I have a handful of guys I’d like to see them go after, depending on where everybody goes. My early round hopefuls:

ROUND ONE

In a perfect world AJ Hawk would slip out of the top 10, the Pats would package their 1st along with one of their extra picks to move up and grab him. I doubt HIGHLY that will happen, but that’s my dream.

Outside of that, I’d like to see them grab Carpenter. He’s got a little better size than Greenway and I like the connection that his dad once played on the Giants (back when Belichick coached there). Most of Carpenter’s weakness tend to be stuff you can coach (better tackling, learning to shed blocks), as opposed to Greenway (lacks lower body strength, tends to be undisciplined).

If they had to get a WR, I’d rather see them move up to grab the bigger Chad Jackson of Florida (who probably won’t drop to 21) than take Holmes. The rest of the bigger guys are generally 2nd and 3rd round material.

One outside shot that sort of falls into the category of me being a total homer, would be for them to draft Boston College DE Mathias Kiwanuka and turn him into a LB. That’s the way they generally fill the OLB role in the 3-4 defense, by drafting college DE’s and turning them into LB’s, because they have better size than most college LB’s. He seems to have the skills the Pats like, but I’m not sure if they’d use a first round pick on someone who might be seen as a gamble (given the position move).

ROUND TWO

Here’s where I’d love to see the Pats grab a WR. Maurice Stovall of Notre Dame is my guy here. He’s got great size (6-4, 217), which they desperately need at the position, and he flourished in his senior season under Charlie Weis. He’s not so much of a breakaway guy, but they need somebody to be a possession received across the middle so Branch can fly down the field. Stovall fits that. Plus, I expect Notre Dame will become a pipeline to the Pats (replacing LSU now that Saban is in the pros), and this would be the beginning of that.

There’s an outside chance RB LenDale White of USC will drop into the second round, although it’s HIGHLY unlikely he’d fall all the way to the second half. Still, his stock has dropped due to some injuries and rather vague references to “potential” character issues. But he’s immensely talented and has the size and running style that is perfect fit for what NE does. He’s very much like Corey Dillon, and would make a great replacement. If they had to move up in round two to get him, I’d be down with that.

ILB Abdul Hodge of Iowa is a guy who, from everything I’ve read, sounds like a slightly smaller Teddy Bruschi. One of those guys who seems to always be around the ball, making plays, and acting as a leader, despite the fact that his size and skills would lead you to believe he shouldn’t be that good. In essence, he’s not a combine star, but rather a damn good football player. The Pats tend to go for guys like this, and I’d love to see them grab this dude late in round two.

OTHERS

At the risk of once again being a B.C. homer, I’d love to see them somehow grab Will Blackmon somewhere in the 3rd or 4th round. He’s got good size for a corner at over 6-0, and he played a lot of WR for the Eagles last year, which means he’d fit perfectly into the NE scheme of getting versatility from their mid-round guys. He’s also considered one of the top return men in the draft, another thing you can never have too much of.

If they draft a kicker… yikes.

So that’s some of my barely-educated rambling. All of which will probably prove wrong by the time the draft is over, but I like pretending I know what I’m talking about.

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