One pick, so many possibilities. Trying to figure out what Bill Belichick has planned for his football team is usually next to impossible. Well, at least for those of us not named Tom Coughlin.
One pick, so many possibilities.
Trying to figure out what Bill Belichick has planned for his football team is usually next to impossible. Well, at least for those of us not named Tom Coughlin.
Coughlin’s Giants and the never-ending Spygate scandal have cast a cloud over the New England football landscape. But thanks to a shrewd trade with San Francisco a year ago that netted them the seventh overall pick, the Pats can make some positive news early in this year’s draft.
That should make projecting what the Pats will do a little easier. After all, this time there’s only six teams picking ahead of the Patriots instead of the usual 20-plus when the NFL’s annual meat market opens for business this afternoon (3 p.m., ESPN, NFL Network).
So figuring out what the Pats will do at No. 7 should be simple, right? And the other 30 picks in the first round will fall in line with ease.
No, I didn’t think so either. But that’s not going to stop me from trying my hand at projecting the first round.
Belichick discussed the upcoming draft last week, but didn’t exactly offer anything to make the job any easier for us armchair prognosticators.
“Obviously we’re picking seventh, so I think we can narrow it down to a fairly small number of players,” said Belichick. “There’s a handful of guys that we’re considering. Maybe they’ll be there, maybe they won’t. Maybe one will be there, maybe more than one will be there. We’ll just have to wait to see how that goes.”
Thanks Bill. That was helpful.
There are a couple things you can be sure of when the Pats make their pick.
First, they won’t let an immediate need dictate who they take and force them to reach on a player. They may have a hole at corner with Asante Samuel gone, but don’t expect them to invest a pick this high, and the accompanying salary-cap hit, on a rookie corner when they wouldn’t commit that kind of cash to a proven vet like Samuel.
Second, they won’t hesitate to deal the pick if they feel there’s more value in a package of picks they can get in exchange. They’ve made 47 trades involving draft picks since Belichick took over in 2000, and will likely add to that total sometime this weekend.
“What we want to make sure is that we get the most value for our pick,” said Belichick. “And that’s a very inexact science. Sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re wrong.”
Mock drafts are inexact as well, though not always very scientific. To see this reporter’s view on what the Pats - and the rest of the league - will do in the first round, read on.
1. Miami: Let’s take a moment to thank Bill Parcells. By signing Michigan tackle Jake Long earlier this week, the Big Tuna has guaranteed we’ll get at least one pick right. Whether the Dolphins got it right will take a little longer to determine, but Parcells is hoping Long will anchor his line for years the way Jumbo Elliott did for his Giants squads.
2. St. Louis: The Rams are desperate for pass-rushing help on the edges, which would make defensive end Chris Long of Virginia the obvious choice. But there’s growing sentiment in St. Louis that LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is too good to pass up, even though the Rams used a first-round pick on DT Adam Carriker last year.
3. Atlanta: New Falcons GM Thomas Dimitroff honed his skills under Belichick and Scott Pioli in New England, and he’d love to follow the Pats’ blueprint by building from the trenches out. He’ll grab Dorsey if he’s still on the board, but if the Rams block that, the Falcons can fill another pressing need by adding a franchise quarterback with Boston College’s Matt Ryan.
4. Oakland: Al Davis will be tempted to go for the big-name splash with Darren McFadden still on the board, but running back is one of the few positions the Raiders appear set at with Justin Fargas, Dominic Rhodes and Michael Bush. The smart play will be to bring in Chris Long, a safe choice with a hall-of-fame pedigree. Of course, Davis isn’t known for playing it safe - or smart - but hey, they already have the son of Huggy Bear (Fargas) at RB, why not add the son of Howie to the defense?
5. Kansas City: The Chiefs would be tempted by Ryan if he’s available and need help on the offensive line. But having traded NFL sack leader Jared Allen to the Vikings this week, they’ll reload with another dynamic pass rusher, Vernon Gholston. He played defensive end at Ohio State, but projects as an outside linebacker in the pros.
6. New York Jets: You can’t help but wonder which is the higher priority for the Jets - helping their own team or wreaking havoc on the Pats’ draft plans? Having the bitter rivals pick back-to-back adds some spicy intrigue to the early going. Eric Mangini would love to steal Gholston from the Pats, but with him gone, their focus on their own needs and add a playmaker on offense is Arkansas running back Darren McFadden to run behind their revamped offensive line.
7. NEW ENGLAND (from San Francisco): This is about the worst possible scenario for the Pats. The pass-rusher they covet is gone with Gholston taken and their best chance to trade down was erased when Ryan went early. There would definitely be a deal to be made if Ryan falls as anybody wanting a QB would have to jump ahead of the Ravens for a shot, but the Pats still have some enticing choices. Offensive linemen Ryan Clady and Branden Albert are good value picks to augment the protection for franchise QB Tom Brady, but the thinking here is Belichick will stick to defense. USC linebacker Keith Rivers fills a bigger need, but Trojan teammate Sedrick Ellis is the better value. And that’s what it all comes down to with Belichick. Defensive tackle isn’t a position of need right now, but Vince Wilfork and Richard Seymour both have their deals expiring after the 2009 season, so the Pats could start grooming a contingency plan now.
8. Baltimore: The Ravens want Ryan, but they’ll have to settle for help on the other side of the ball. Troy’s Leodis McKelvin is the top cornerback available, and it doesn’t hurt that he might also be the best return man in the draft, too.
9. Cincinnati: The Bengals need help up front, maybe even enough to throw a pick the Pats’ way to move up for Ellis. If not, they’ll still slip the best available Trojan into their defense, adding USC linebacker Keith Rivers to their defense.
10. New Orleans: The Saints could also move up for a shot at either elite DT, Dorsey or Ellis, but if they stay here they’ll go for help in the secondary with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, an athletic but unpolished corner out of Division I-AA Tennessee State.
11. Buffalo: The Bills want help at wide receiver, but this is a weak crop of wideouts. A trade down is possible, but they could also continue the run on corners with Mike Jenkins, a playmaker out of South Florida.
12. Denver: The Broncos once were able to plug in any runner and watch the yards pile up, but they’ll need help up front to get back to that. Boise State’s Ryan Clady fits the bill, while also protecting young QB Jay Cutler’s blindside.
13. Carolina: The Panthers reached the Super Bowl earlier this decade with a dominant defensive front. Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey can help them start rebuilding that unit to an elite level again.
14. Chicago: The Bears will face pressure to stay close to home and take Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall, but offensive tackle is a bigger need. Virginia’s Branden Albert played mostly guard in college but has the athleticism to be a standout tackle in the pros.
15. Detroit: What, we can’t just pencil in the next wide receiver bust for Matt Millen? The Lions are looking for a pass-rusher, but they also want to establish a legitimate running game. Rashard Mendenhall will have to leave Illinois, but at least he stays in Big Ten country.
16. Arizona: The Cardinals go to the ground as well, nabbing Jonathan Stewart of Oregon to help Edgerrin James carry the load in the desert.
17. Kansas City (from Minnesota): The Chiefs got their pass rusher at No. 5, now they’ll get a pass protector here, bolstering their offensive line with Jeff Otah of Pittsburgh.
18. Houston: The big guys are ruling the early goings of the draft this year, with the Texans also going for offensive line help with Vanderbilt tackle Chris Williams.
19. Philadelphia: The Eagles have needed a playmaker out wide since T.O. took his popcorn down to Dallas, and they may have found it in Michigan State wide receiver Devin Thomas.
20. Tampa Bay: The Bucs need some young legs at receiver as well with Joey Galloway close to collecting social security, and California’s diminutive speedster DeSean Jackson fits the bill.
21. Washington: The Redskins begin a long-needed youth movement with Clemson defensive end Phillip Merling[nf], who may have gone higher if a sports hernia hadn’t kept him out of the combine and pro days.
22. Dallas (from Cleveland): The only thing keeping Arkansas alum Jerry Jones from trading up to get McFadden is the belief that he can land another Razorback running back with this pick, and Felix Jones would provide a nice complement to Marion Barber.
23. Pittsburgh: Injuries and free agency have hit the Steelers’ offensive line hard, but they can start rebuilding with Boston College tackle Gosder Cherilus.
24. Tennessee: The Titans need to add weapons around Vince Young on offense, so why not bring in one he’s familiar with in former Longhorn teammate Limas Sweed, a wide receiver who battled a wrist injury last year at Texas.
25. Seattle: The Seahawks’ biggest need is at tight end, but they go with the better value to fill another hole with defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer of North Carolina.
26. Jacksonville: The Jaguars add the pass rusher they’re seeking in Quentin Groves, a defensive end from Auburn.
27. San Diego: The Chargers have used the draft to assemble one of the best rosters in the league, and they fill one of their few holes with Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib, who steps into the secondary rotation for the departed Drayton Florence.
28. Dallas: The Cowboys are looking to trade for an established star receiver to team with Terrell Owens, but if they can’t swing a deal then Indiana’s 6-foot-6 wide receiver James Hardy is a good fallback plan who could create matchup nightmares.
29. San Francisco (from Indianapolis): The 49ers struck gold last year with defensive rookie of the year Patrick Willis, and they can add another standout young linebacker with Tennessee’s Jerod Mayo.
30. Green Bay: With Brett Favre retired (this week at least), the Packers will add a youngster to groom behind Aaron Rodgers in Louisville’s Brian Brohm.
31. New England: This is the forfeited pick as part of the Spygate punishment, and it really hurts with quality cornerbacks like Virginia Tech’s Brandon Flowers, Antoine Cason of Arizona and Indian’s Tracy Porter available to fill the Pats’ biggest need.
32. New York Giants: With Gibril Wilson signing with the Raiders, the Giants need help at safety and Miami’s Kenny Phillips is the latest Hurricane ready to take the NFL by storm at the position.
Douglas Flynn covers the Patriots for the Daily News. He can be reached at 508-626-4405 or firstname.lastname@example.org.