No big splash among this year’s class
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
You can’t fully evaluate how an NFL team does in a specific draft until the aforementioned players have at least two or three years to develop, which is why handing out grades for the Patriots’ 2010 class less than a week after the dust has settled is an exercise in futility.
Luckily for you, I enjoy putting my rear-end on the line by making bold predictions and rash judgments long before I have the right to do so. With that said, here are my round-by-round grades for New England’s 2010 draft.
The Patriots had a 50-percent chance of acing this round since they only had one pick, yet they still managed to wet the bed by trading down twice, passing on a stud wide receiver (Dez Bryant), and ultimately selecting a pint-sized cornerback (Devin McCourty) with lousy hands who isn’t anywhere near ready to crack the starting lineup. Gross.
Two Florida Gators (DL Jermaine Cunningham and LB Brandon Spikes) among the three picks? How is Florida coach Urban Meyer still on Bill Belichick’s Christmas card list after the epic failures otherwise known as Chad Jackson (second round, 2006) and Jeremy Mincey (sixth round, ’06)? At least they addressed a need with TE Rob Gronkoski of Arizona.
Again, the Patriots had just one pick in this round, but they used it to fill a need by selecting Ohio WR Taylor Price at 90th overall. Randy Moss is going to need some help with Wes Welker nursing a surgically-reconstructed knee and Price could help right away (unless you think David Patton’s decaying carcass will contribute). At six feet and 202 pounds (all muscle), he’s got the size they’ve lacked at this position for years.
Surprise, surprise – another Gator. I like this one, though, because he fills a specific need. TE Aaron Hernandez actually has the potential to be better than Gronkoski. He’s bigger (245 pounds) and surprisingly athletic despite his girth. In the past, the Patriots have found valuable players in the middle rounds under Belichick’s watch (Ellis Hobbs, James Sanders, etc.) and Hernandez could be the ultimate overachiever of this year’s class.
Grabbing a punter (Zoltan Mesko of Michigan) at 150th overall seems like more of a “value” pick than anything else, except the Patriots actually need one now that Chris Hanson is a free agent. Mesko is solid. The Wolverines actually made him a team captain last year. How many punters earn that distinction? Most of them carry equipment for the cool kids or get stuffed into lockers. Assuming they can’t find someone better on the street, Mesko should make the final cut.
I’ve never been a huge fan of drafting offensive linemen within the first three rounds unless the player in question is a can’t-miss stud. The Patriots have survived for nine years with an un-drafted college wrestler (Stephen Neal) at right guard, so why waste first- or second-round bullets on a position that seems damn near impossible to predict? Picking up OL Ted Larsen of North Carolina State with the 204th pick adds some competition to the fray and might even turn out to be a steal if you believe recent history is a legitimate barometer.
You hate to have the bulk of your picks in the seventh round since most of them fail to make it past the first round of cuts, but as long as we’re grading everyone we might as well make an attempt to rate these future nightclub bouncers. I like DE Brandon Deaderick of Alabama (247th overall). The Patriots know how to make the most of late-round – or, in Mike Wright’s case, un-drafted – defensive linemen and Deaderick has “role player” written all over him. I’ll eat Vince Wilfork’s tube socks if DL Kade Weston (248) or QB Zac Robinson (250) makes the roster.
After watching the Patriots draft nine players in 2007, only to have one of them left on the active roster (safety Brandon Meriweather), I no longer assume Belichick and his staff will get it right when it comes to evaluating college talent. What worries me the most about this year’s class is the curious selection of McCourty in the opening round and the heavy influence of Florida coach Urban Meyer, whose players have crashed and burned at the professional level far too often for my taste. The Patriots better hope their middle- to late-round draftees work out, because those are the picks they used to address their most pressing needs.
Overall grade: C-plus.