by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
The Patriots 2009 draft felt akin to a family reunion. Sure, they had a couple of slip-ups and invited some people you didn’t know, but overall, it was a good weekend.
As is Bill Belichick’s habit, the Pats traded picks like baseball cards at school recess (boy, I feel old). New England ended up with two extra second-round picks for 2010, a year expected to yield more top-tier talent than this one. Now they have a dozen rookies to contend with, along with undrafted free agents, signings of whom we’ll report as the week continues.
For their Day One picks, they batted about .750. Although I didn’t feel great about Patrick Chung (second round, 34 overall), they did need safety help and got a solid hitter from the Pac-10. He could very well turn into another “Jerod Mayo pick” from my perspective: someone who didn’t wow me on film but who could fit into New England’s system and produce beyond expectations.
I really liked picks 40 and 41, Ron Brace and Darius Butler, respectively. At 330 pounds, Brace could become the backup nose tackle that Vince Wilfork has never had (with all due respect to the svelte, 295-pound Mike Wright). Butler could have gone at the Pats’ original pick of 23 and had solid support. At 41, he seems like a gift.
Even after some time to digest the Sebastian Vollmer pick at 58, it still looks like a reach. Skimming through all my draft magazines, I haven’t seen him ranked higher than a “Dude-Who-Might-Get-A-Few-Bucks-For-Showing-Up-To-Camp” ranking. He’s definitely a wait-and-see guy, although he does have nice size at 6-foot-7.
On to Day Two. I’ve split up the picks into four basic categories depending on my reaction to each.
Trade Wins: New England swapped two separate third-round picks to Jacksonville and Tennessee for each team’s 2010 second-rounder. Always seems like a good idea.
Hi, I’m A Mac: Taken in the third (37 overall), Tyrone McKenzie fits a position of need. He’ll move from outside 4-3 linebacker at South Florida to inside in the 3-4 at Gillette. McKenzie has tallied over 100 tackles each of the past three years, and he has played just about every linebacker position. He showed strength in his testing (bench pressing 225 pound 27 times) and in his personal life (working an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. hotel job to support his mother).
I’m posting the nickname now in case he starts at the other inside spot: Big Mac with Mayo… Tough to handle together.
Leaving Ellis Island: You can question the results (two fifth-round picks resulting in a lineman and a long snapper), but trading away Ellis Hobbs seems like the right thing to do given the amount of cornerbacks expected in camp.
Thanks, But I Just Tate: You can’t argue that Brandon Tate has had success on special teams; however, you can argue whether or not he’ll be able to continue that after his knee injury last autumn. (Funny how people debate injuries they’ve never seen on men whom they’ll never meet.) I like the pick because the North Carolina receiver’s got huge potential and, with the Pats pass-catchers already in place, he can take a year to heal and learn the offense. Some risk, but I like the ratio to reward here.
Pryor Encounter: I like the selection of Kentucky’s Myron Pryor for his value (sixth, 207). The backup defensive tackle checks in at six-feet, 319 pounds and has shown some power off of the snap. I thought he might go higher than this due to his standout performance at the East-West Shrine Game. Now the Pats have three nose tackle candidates tilting the scales at 319 or more. Bad news for the training table chefs, good news for the defense.
My Other Brother Darryl: As a 6-3, 300-pound defensive lineman, Darryl Richard of Georgia Tech fits as a backup defensive end in New England’s 3-4 alignment. For the Patriots’ last pick of 2009 (234), they get someone with a chance to contribute. Can’t ask for much more than that.
Rich Man, Poor Man: As someone who sought out “Patriots-type” linemen in this year’s draft, the pick of Rich Ohrnberger (fourth, 123) threw me. The Penn State product gets credit after a second look, due to his speed (5.1-second 40-yard dash) and strength (32 bench reps). Still, when a lineman gets summarized in draft magazines in one sentence or less (also called the “Vollmer ranking”), it’s safe to say he could have lasted until the fifth round.
Taking The Bussey: After the Pats appeared to reach on Ohrnberger, their next pick (fifth, 170) went to another barely-ballyhooed lineman. George Bussey did make the All Big-East Team last year. That’s a good thing, right?
Yes, they needed offensive guards and tackles. Yes, they have a different ranking system than just about anyone else. I’ll hold comment and try to remain optimistic.
I’M NOT UPSET ANY MORE
Everything’s Jake: Yeah, Jacob Ingram is just a long snapper out of Hawaii. Yes, he got plucked in the sixth round (198). Sure, I started pouting like a six-year-old who dropped his ice cream after I read his name. But when I considered that the team wanted competition for free agent Nathan Hodel and that Ingram was considered the best in college, a compensatory sixth-rounder became a reasonable spot for him.
How Good Will Ju-Ju Be? The selection of Kent State QB Julian “Ju-Ju” Edelman (that’s actually a nickname) seemed bizarre, especially considering other options in the seventh (232). Edelman will make the switch to wide receiver in the NFL. At only 6-foot, 198 pounds, he’s undersized, but his quickness (a remarkable 3.91 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle) and production (passed for 1,820 yards and ran for 1,370 last season) should get him a look as one o’ them Wildcat wonders.
That, dear readers, summarizes New England’s draft dozen for 2009. Thanks for reading and keeping us going with your comments and emails. More on incoming players once the roster gets filled out, probably later this week.
Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]