by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff
Outside linebacker, defensive end and offensive lineman should sit at the top of New England’s draft list. But what about the rest of the offense?
Fellow PD writer Dan Snapp pointed out a recent comment on boston.com about Bill Belichick meeting Miami wide receiver Leonard Hankerson (I guess you could call that info a Snapp to attention. Ha ha! Right?). It got us thinking about how we’d feel drafting specialty positions with New England’s first three picks (17, 28, 33).
Below lie the various reactions we expect if the home team were to take the best player available instead of addressing their most pressing needs.
RUNNING BACK (aka the “All right, I can see that” pick) – Mark Ingram stands out as a clear first-rounder. We’re also big on Mikel Leshoure. People love Ryan Williams: that’s a polite way to say we don’t quite see it.
The last time New England won a Super Bowl, they had a big back in Corey Dillon (and the year before that, another bulky ball-carrier in Antowain Smith). That puts Ingram and Leshoure in the forefront for us.
Later round possibilities: Heavier guys like Delone Carter and Allen Bradford intrigue us. Carter (a bowling ball at 5-9, 222) rushed for over 1,000 yards at Syracuse, while forklift Bradford ran a 4.53-second 40 at 242 pounds. As a senior at USC he averaged over seven yards per carry.
WIDE RECEIVER (aka the “Well, that’s cool, I guess” pick) – If the Pats can get their hands on the likes of A. J. Green (consensus number one at the position) or Julio Jones, they have to consider it. However, the next three leave room for doubt.
Maryland’s Torrey Smith, Pittsburgh’s Jon Baldwin and Miami’s Hankerson could all produce at Gillette. Having Tom Brady at quarterback makes that seem obvious, though we shouldn’t forget the Chad Jackson Debacle. Smith (6-1, 204) has had a great spring, burning up the combine turf and showing good skills at his workouts. On the other hand, the freakish Baldwin (6-4, 228) has failed to show the speed or route discipline to make him a must-have selection.
Hankerson, though intriguing, begs the question: what are the Pats going to do with Taylor Price? Compare combine numbers between Hankerson and Price. The former is one inch taller; the latter leaps one inch higher. Their 40 times are both 4.40 seconds. Of course Hankerson’s experience at Miami outweighs Price’s at Ohio, but is he worth a top-33 pick?
Later round possibilities: We still like Edmund Gates and Cecil Shorts III – quick, athletic guys with special teams experience. In a deep receiver class, we can only mildly endorse a high pick.
TIGHT END (aka the “Punch me in the face so I feel something” pick) – Drafting Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez had one big benefit for Pats fans in that, for the first time in years, they spent the college football season not scouting tight ends. Kyle Rudolph of Notre Dame will change the dynamic of some lucky NFL team; however, having two 6-6, 260-pounders looks like too much.
D. J. Williams of Arkansas and Luke Stocker of Tennessee round out an unspectacular tight end class. (Here’s a funny, random fact: USC had a tight end named Jordan Cameron, while Cal had a defensive end named Cameron Jordan. Oh, that crazy Pac-10!)
Later round possibilities: We hear whispers about Virgil Green of Nevada, who’s got great athleticism (4.54 40, 42.5-inch vertical). We’d feel more comfortable with an H-back type like Ryan Taylor of North Carolina. He’s listed at fullback, but at 6-3, 250, he can take on the backfield blocker role where New England keeps platooning personnel.
QUARTERBACK (aka the “Hold me as I cry tears of rage” pick) – Some selections seem unnecessary but, much like Devin McCourty, defend themselves with a productive season. Blaine Gabbert of Missouri (who sounds like an Old West gold miner) should go to Carolina at number one overall. After that, Jake Locker and Cam Newton have the uppermost slots, though neither should make it to number 17.
A first-round QB to the Patriots? Shut your mouth. Shut it!
Later round possibilities: We like T. J. Yates, who put up record-setting numbers at North Carolina, and we remain intrigued by Josh Portis of California, Pennsylvania, who’s athletic, a prolific passer, and available late.
I know, I know: some of you believe Baldwin, Rudolph or (shudder) Locker would bring something special to Foxboro. If so, tell us in the comment section below.
Email Chris Warner at [email protected]