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Draft Questions:  Trade up, down or stand pat?

Thursday, April 26, 2012


What do we know that is certain about the 2012 NFL Draft?

One, we know the Indianapolis Colts will select quarterback Andrew Luck from Stanford with the number one pick. Two, we know the Washington Redskins will take Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin from Baylor with the second pick…since they traded up to get him at that spot a few weeks ago.

After that, not much is certain. And that’s what makes the draft intriguing – if not downright fun – for football fans every year.

But if you’re a Patriots’ fan, you could be in for a little frustration to go along with that fun and intrigue. New England holds two first-round picks, at #27 and #31, and history holds that Bill Belichick often looks to stockpile selections for future years. Inevitably, high picks get traded away for high picks in later years…deciding that if the present-day value of a player isn’t worth the selection, move on. The Patriots have dealt 10 first-round picks to other teams over the past 12 years.

Also new to the New England equation this year – just six selections owned overall. That’s the fewest amount they’ve held since Belichick began the Patriot Way in 2000. Don’t be surprised if trades occur to bolster the back end of this year’s draft, should the “value meter” begin wavering in the Patriots’ war room.

“We’re well versed (at that end, players 100-200), so if there’s an opportunity to make a decision on a player then we can go ahead and pull the trigger if we have the chance to do so,” Patriots Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said. Twenty-one draft day trades over the past three years certainly indicates a trigger-happy philosophy.

As for the first two rounds, where the team holds four selections overall (including #48 and #62 in the 2nd round), you can probably expect a defensive emphasis. Considering the team took six offensive players in their first seven picks last year…and the statistical beating the defense took during the season…that seems a given.

Here are six players New England will be considering, taking into account team needs, availability and previous draft day decisions:

Alabama S Mark Barron; al.com

Alabama safety Mark Barron: Barron is apparently at the top of the wish list, but for New England to have a shot at someone who could be a difference-maker defensively, they would probably have to move up into the 10-15 range of the draft to get him.

LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers: Described as a Richard Seymour-type of player, Brockers is 6-5, 322 pounds and fits the mold as well as any lineman out there. Big, strong and fast enough to play tackle in a 4-3 or end in a 3-4 alignment. However, he’s probably not going to be around at #27.

Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones: Jones’ stock is rapidly rising, and he may not be around for the Patriots to pick at 27 or 31 either, as once originally thought. Even though he might be a bit undersized for an NFL defensive end (247 pounds), he can always gain weight. Jones has long arms, great quickness and the always-useful “high-revving” motor that makes him a threat to sack the QB.

Alabama defensive end/outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw: His stock could be slipping, and as ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper recently tweeted, Upshaw might even drop into the second round. He’s smart, playing for Nick Saban, and versatile enough to play in the middle of the line, or on the edge. At 6-2, 272, he’s shorter and heavier than a “normal” end, but he could also be available.

Alabama DL Courtney Upshaw; chron.com

Boise State outside linebacker Shea McClellin: After the team lost rush end Mark Anderson to Buffalo through free agency, and with Andre Carter’s injury status not yet determined, there is a definite need for end/OLB rush help. McClellin’s game is modeled on a similar style as former Pats’ LB Mike Vrabel.

Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith: The defensive backfield is of primary concern, with the safety position a trouble spot last season. Smith figures to be available late in the first round, and at 6-2, 213 pounds, he has ideal NFL size. He was a team captain, had no injury problems in South Bend, and is considered fundamentally sound.

Other areas for the Patriots to address will include the offensive line, and possibly running back, in addition to the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backfield.

Keep in mind, there is a rookie wage scale now in place, which means if there were ever a year for the Patriots to trade up in the draft…this could be one. Additionally, with the team selecting a total of 33 players over the past three drafts, quality could be more of an emphasis than the previous quantity and overall depth. The sense of urgency to grab an impact-type of player is as apparent as ever.

That too, is certain. But these are the Patriots we’re talking about.

Unless you have an open pipeline of communication with Bill Belichick, certainty is never guaranteed.

Patriots Notes

According to several published reports, the Patriots placed offensive tackle Matt Light on the reserved/retired list Tuesday. This means, for all practical purposes, that Light is officially retired. With NFL rosters expanding to 90 players, which also includes unsigned draft picks, this opens up a spot on the roster and creates a bit more salary cap room for additional signings. Light played his entire career with New England after being selected in the second round of the 2001 draft out of Purdue. He could change his mind, if he wishes, and return to the team. But the move Tuesday means Light is considered retired...Wes Welker mentioned during several interviews with ESPN TV and radio Tuesday that he may decide to sit out mandatory mini camp workouts in June, if the Patriots don't at least begin to work on a long-term contract. Welker had the team franchise tag placed on him in March, which should give him a salary for the upcoming season at approximately $9.5 million...


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