by Chris Warner
As a Patriots fan, the 2008 draft felt like I arrived late to an ice cream party and the only choices left were French vanilla and rum raisin. I mean, it was a party and all, but I don’t plan on reminiscing much.
Once the Jets took Vernon Gholston, most of the excitement left the room. With few high-impact players left, the Pats did the right thing in trading down and filling a position of need. Linebacker Jerod Mayo seems like a solid footballer (if he didn’t, the headline would read “Stinko de Mayo”). The Patriots did what they could; the store just ran out of mint chocolate chip.
Below lies a quick review. Trades have been left out because if you really cared, you’d know them already. (Suffice to say the Pats get SD’s second-rounder next year.) Each pick comes with requisite second-guessing.
Round One (10 in round/10 overall) – Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee.
Second guess picks: Hard to say. Once Gholston got plucked, then Rivers, this looked like the way to go. The ESPN experts (aka Scott Benson’s dartgun targets) thought the Pats would pick one of the top defensive backs. Glad they were wrong. I would have been fine with a lineman like Branden Albert (OT, Virginia) or Ryan Clady (OT, Boise St.), but no complaints.
What’s to like: A productive guy (140 Tackles) out of the competitive SEC. He could be the most talented Patriots rookie linebacker since Andy Katzenmoyer … yeeesh. Let’s rephrase: he could lead a much-anticipated youth movement during the Belichick era.
Round Two (31/62) – Terrence Wheatley, DB, Colorado.
Second guess picks: Wait a minute… second round? In last week’s column I hoped to pick up Wheatley in the fifth (maybe I could work for ESPN). I would have considered either Charles Godfrey (CB, Iowa), a big-bodied corner from a friendly system, or John Greco (OT, Toledo), who looks and plays the part of a solid right tackle (cue the Nick Kaczur comparison).
What’s to like: Speedy corner had five picks and 10 passes broken up his senior season. Always considered him a sleeper, but I guess the Pats rustled him awake. He has demonstrated enough ability to help the team as a rookie; has experience as a kick returner, which makes their fifth-round choice even more confusing.
Round Three (15/78) – Shawn Crable, OLB, Michigan
Second guess picks: I found it ironic that, instead of a defensive end, the Patriots surprised fans by choosing an outside linebacker to play outside linebacker. (Okay, it’s not exactly a twist from “Gift of the Magi,” but I say it qualifies as irony.) Antwuan Molden (CB, Eastern Kentucky) might seem redundant after the Wheatley pick, so I’ll bring up Jeremy Thompson (OLB, Wake Forest) here as the DE who could’ve been an OLB contender.
What’s to like: Crable had 28.5 tackles for loss in 2007, a school record. He has size (6-5) and speed (4.64 40), plus character (team captain). Crable will compete with Pierre Woods as Wolverine-in-waiting for backup OLB spot; he could be ready to pounce.
Round Three (31/94) – Kevin O’Connell, QB, San Diego State
Second guess pick: Many (including myself) saw him as a sleeper. Is round three too high for him? A name that popped out at me five spots later was Oniel Cousins (OL, UTEP), who has the size (6-4, 301) and speed (5.11 40) typical of New England linemen.
What’s to like: Big numbers for SDSU last year (15 TDs, 8 INTs, 3,063 yards). Tall at 6-6. With his ability to run, he could be the most athletic QB in Foxboro since Michael Bishop. I hope my comparison doesn’t doom O’Connell’s career.
Round Four (30/129) – Jonathan Wilhite, CB, Auburn
Second guess picks: Did I just hear a needle scratch a record? (Or, for the kiddoes: Did I just hear my ipod crash?) Of all the cornerback names I looked at, Wilhite’s rested on the outer ledge of noticeable. I had a better feeling for Orlando Scandrick (CB, Boise State). Also, DeMario Pressley (DT, N. C. State) looked like a strong backup DL (6-3, 301).
What’s to like: Has good speed (4.37 40), but if he only started six games during his senior year, how can we tell what type of player he is? This is a situation where I’m hoping the Pats brass knows much more than I. (Of course they do. That goes without saying. In fact, I’ll just be quiet.)
Round Five (18/153) – Matt Slater, WR, UCLA
Second guess picks: Before this past Saturday, I probably could have named a couple dozen receivers I’d have liked. Matt Slater was not one of them, because he played mostly at CB. (Want a treat? Search online for Slater’s pro day results. You’ll more likely find Belichick blogging about his vacation.) WRs taken after Slater include Marcus Henry (Kansas), Josh Morgan (Va. Tech) and Kevin Robinson (Utah St.). And if Pierre “don’t call me boy” Garcon (Mt. Union) rips up the turf for the Colts this year, well… let’s just say that New England’s slogan for Round Five (“Koppen, O’Callaghan or Bust”) will remain safe from retirement.
What’s to like: Slater averaged 29 yards per kickoff return and scored three KOR TDs. He also had 25 tackles as a CB and special teamer. On a personal note, at least I’ll get to read columnist Bill Simmons’ upcoming references to “Slater,” Mario Lopez’s character from “Saved by the Bell.”
Round Six (31/197) – Bo Ruud, OLB, Nebraska
Second guess picks: He’s light at 234 pounds and will have difficulty taking on blockers in a 3-4 defense. If we’re talking linebackers, I liked Joe Mays (ILB, N. D. State) as a backup and special teamer, as well as Andy Studebaker (OLB, Wheaton) as a Pats apprentice. WR Garcon was also available later in the round.
What’s to like: Speedy (4.60 40), lanky (6-4) linebacker had 54 tackles and ran back two INTs for sixes as a senior. Should be able to contribute on special teams right away, even though New England’s special teams are already pretty strong and don’t necessarily need the rookie help. (Okay, okay. I’m just saying.)
That adds up to seven players; what they will add up to remains to be seen. Think of the face you make when you have a delicious scoop of ice cream. Did you make that face this weekend? I think most fans appeared as if they were tasting the gourmet stuff: unusual, maybe unexpected, but it was supposed to be good, so they nodded and acted appreciative. I mean, the ice cream maker knows a lot more than we do.
Tomorrow, a look at some undrafted rookies who I hope get a call to participate in New England’s camp.