Matt will be reviewing each team's pre-draft analysis by talking about the draft range of targeted players.
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New England Patriots (Last Year: 16-0)
Well, I know I had the Patriots beating the Giants in the Super Bowl (by 4-7 points, might I add on my prop bet), but Eli Manning just had to mess that up with his game-winning drive. Whatever, the Patriots still had one of the most amazing seasons in NFL history, but they have to rebuild their defense through the draft.
Great move by Scott Pioli to trade away their second first-round pick last year (No. 28) to the 49ers for their 2008 first-round pick, which we all know turned into the No. 7 selection. I am a huge fan of acquiring future first-rounders if you can afford it, and we see why here. What will the Patriots do at No. 7?
Even if Darren McFadden is on the board (which I doubt), I don't see the Jets passing up on Gholston. OK, but for hypothetical purposes, let's say Gholston is available. They have Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel on the outside, so there is no need for Gholston. If they want they can move Thomas inside, but I think they would be better off drafting an inside linebacker later in the draft.
If Al Davis and his fondness for 40 times pass up on McFadden (which like I said above, I doubt) at No. 4, he should fall to the Patriots at No. 7 since the Chiefs and Jets don't have needs for a running back. Well, neither do the Pats, and if you are going to spend big No. 7 money on a player, then you have to fill a need, especially a team as cap strapped right now as the Patriots.
For 18 games last year, Tom Brady rarely got sacked or pressured. No need for Clady; Matt Light gets the job done at left tackle. Is he elite? No, but he is a very solid left tackle who fits the Pats' scheme. Also, Clady cannot play right tackle. As a prospect, I see a lot of D'Brickashaw Ferguson in him.
If Bill Belichick wants to add a great leader with outstanding talent that can fit his 3-4 scheme, he'll look no further than Rivers. Yes, he can be an inside linebacker in the 3-4 and a very good one. He works best in the phone booth disengaging from linemen; he hits very hard and brings high intensity to a defense. Pete Carroll seldom gives out the No. 55, which is a storied number for the Trojan defense (Junior Seau, Markus Steele, Willie McGinest, Chris Claiborne) and shows the mark of an individual with great character, leadership, and play-making ability. Rivers is my sleeper for the Pats at No. 7, and I've been pimping it for a while.
Leodis McKelvin/Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie/Mike Jenkins:
Obviously, the Patriots' biggest need is a cover corner with the losses of Asante Samuel and Randall Gay in free agency. I think McKelvin is the favorite to be the Pats pick, but if the Chiefs or Jets draft him, then "DRC" and Jenkins are possibilities as well.
Why not Aqib Talib? Questions about his agility and speed on game tape make him a poor fit for the defense that the Patriots run, which puts the corners on an island at times. They have to be able to stick with their man and recover; I don't see the speed in Talib to recover. The best fit for him is on Tampa-2 defense (Chicago, Buffalo, Minnesota, Tampa).
Pat Kirwan in his latest mock draft
has the New Orleans Saints trading up with the Patriots to acquire Sedrick Ellis. That makes no sense to me. Why would the Saints have to leapfrog the Ravens, who have no need for a nose tackle or five technique? Maybe they might want to leapfrog the Bengals and trade with the Ravens, but I still say that would be a bad move because they have too many needs on their defense.
I can't find a reason why any team would have to trade ahead of the Ravens to acquire their player, or how any team can afford to do so (after Saints there is no one that would do this trade).
The Patriots will not be able to get out of this selection, and quite frankly, I don't think that's a bad thing at all. Take a top 10 talent and improve your team!!! Lets explore what picks Pioli could make in Rounds 2 and further.
Their next picks are at Nos. 62 and 69 (acquired from the Raiders last year as they moved up for Mario Henderson). Where will they go here? I think they could still go cornerback because they need more than one talented player. Charles Godfrey, Justin King, Terrence Wheatley, Orlando Scandrick, Zack Bowman, and Antwaun Molden are all possibilities in Rounds 2 and on if Pioli wants to go corner again.
They also need a leader at inside linebacker. Like the other 3-4 defenses I have mentioned, I think Jeremy Leman, Jonahtan Goff, Jameel McClain, Beau Bell, and Spencer Larsen are good fits.
Safety also becomes a need. Brandon Meriweather looks solid, but Rodney Harrison won't last forever. Terrell Thomas, a corner from USC, can play safety in my opinion. He is physical, and is more of a Tampa-2 type corner, but he has the skill set to play safety. He could be an option at 62 or 69. Also, Craig Steltz, Jamar Adams, Michael Grant, Quintin Demps, and Bobbie Williams are all possibilies in the mid-late rounds.
Drafting for depth at runningback behind Laurence Maroney would also be a good move (Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris are over 30), and if you are going to do it, then this is the year because this is the deepest running back class in the history of the draft. Kevin Smith, Mike Hart, Steve Slaton, Cory Boyd, and Matt Forte are in that mid-late round range as well. If they were to go running back with their second or initial third-round pick, look out for Chris Johnson because his elite speed and play-making ability would be a good commodity for this offense behind Maroney.
In summary, don't buy into the "Patriots trade-down hype." It's not going to happen. While they are an extremely good football team, the Pats need to solidify their defense for the future.
New England Patriots 2008 Offseason Needs
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