Patriots 2012 Draft Wish List

By Chris Warner

With six picks this year in the top four rounds, New England should get busy starting April 26. No one knows which direction Coach Bill Belichick will take, so instead of guaranteeing failure with predictions (check out our upcoming mock draft!) we’re focusing on positions we’d like to see Mr. Kraft and Co. address.

DAY ONE (Round One): The Pats have two picks in the first round (27 and 31 overall), and we hope – nay, we insist – they use at least one of them on a pass rusher. We won’t dwell on New England’s recent, lackluster picks, but we can shoot a wistful glance toward the Texans’ roster and get a sense of what we’re missing (Connor Barwin, Brooks Reed and Brian Cushing).

Rumors abound regarding a trade up for North Carolina monster Quinton Coples (6-foot-6, 284). We’re not making predictions, but if we were, that would be a poor one. Still, we’d take any player who would force an opposing offense to game plan for him.

Late first-rounders who could help the cause include Clemson’s Andre Branch and Syracuse’s Chandler Jones, college defensive ends who fit the larger outside linebacker mold teams like the Patriots covet.

Also consider: a defensive lineman, like Kendall Reyes of Connecticut (6-4, 299). He’s a versatile guy who can get after the QB when necessary.

What about a receiver? No. Just, please: No. Finding the right receiver for this offense has been such a crapshoot, an early draft pick doesn’t seem worth it. We’d rather have three Julian Edelmans than one Chad Jackson, you know?

DAY TWO (Rounds Two and Three): The Pats enjoy picks 48 and 62 overall in the second, and 93 overall in the third.

We’d love more defense here, including a larger lineman like Washington’s Alameda Ta’’amu, who measures only slightly smaller than a Ford Focus at 6-3, 350. We’re also fans of Mike Martin of Michigan, a 6-1, 305-pound fireplug who ran a 4.9 40-yard dash. This season, Martin hustled all over the field like a Jack Russell Terrier on an Easter Egg hunt, proving himself an ideal 4-3 interior lineman.

In the defensive backfield, we’d love it if Central Florida cornerback Josh Robinson were still available, but after his combine performance (including a 4.33-second 40 and 38.5-inch vertical leap), it’s hard to see him sticking until midway through the second. Despite a relatively slim crop this year at safety, Trenton Robinson of Michigan State might be worth a look.

Keep in mind, with the state of New England’s defensive backfield, Artrell Hawkins could come out of retirement for another cup of coffee and we wouldn’t complain. (Actually, we would. I mean… come on.)

Round Three might provide time to look for an offensive lineman. The futures of veterans Matt Light and Brian Waters remain in doubt, center Dan Koppen missed almost all of last year with an injury, and guard Logan Mankins had postseason surgery.

Come to think of it, maybe we should look for an offensive lineman earlier. But if not, we offer up Miami of Ohio’s Brandon Brooks, who just stunned onlookers at his pro day earlier this month with his size (6-5, 346), speed (5.0-second 40) and strength (36 bench reps of 225 pounds). At center, consider Philip Blake of Baylor, an All-Big 12 choice who may have had a little something to do with quarterback Robert Griffin III’s success.

DAY THREE (Round Four): If Coach Belichick gets the job done on defense and offensive line early, he’ll have some flexibility here. We’d like to get a receiver to give youth a chance in preseason competition, as names like Anthony Gonzalez and Donte Stallworth give the roster a distinctly 2007 feel. And not in a record-breaking type of way.

Two names come to mind for a mid-round pick: Fresno State’s Devon Wylie (5-9, 188) has a lot of power for a little guy (39-inch vertical) and averaged over 15 yards per punt return. Florida International’s T. Y. Hilton (5-10, 183) was named the Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year. This guy did everything except fetch Gatorade, catching 72 passes for over 1,000 yards, averaging 23 yards per punt return and 30 per kick return, even rushing 19 times for a 6.5-yard average.

Barring a series of downward trades (oh please oh please fortheloveofGodno), the Pats should finish early, which will give them a chance to contact potential rookie free agents (RFAs). From Randall Gay to BenJarvus Green-Ellis to Dane Fletcher, New England has provided a hospitable home to RFAs for years.

Below, some potential rookies who could help out in camp, and maybe beyond that:

Defensive End Broderick Binns, Iowa. Binns had 12 tackles for loss in 2011. He’s a bit on the stocky side (6-1, 261), but his timing and prowess helped him defend nine passes last season. Add to that a potentially thorough scouting report from Belichick buddy and Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz, and Binns would be worth a look.

Receiver Elvis Akpla, Montana State. Okay, one, he’s named Elvis, which is awesome. Two, he performed a circus catch considered one of the best of 2011 (you can link to the video here). Akpla averaged over 18 yards per catch on his way to 1,145 yards for the season.

Running Back Jonas Gray, Notre Dame. A stout back at 5-10, 223 pounds, Gray’s injury history will keep him off draft boards, but his production (and experience under former Irish coach Charlie Weis) should force New England’s higher-ups to offer him a spot at camp. Gray averaged 6.9 yards a carry in 2011 while scoring 12 TDs.

Thoughts? Comments? Favorite clam chowder in your area? Feel free to post your ideas below.

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]

  • Atreyu Jones

    Unlike the first quarter of the super bowl, this needs more safeties…

  • alex

    Coples would be a lot of fun to watch, but I’m all about accumulating as many picks in the first 3 rounds as possible. The more day one/two picks you have, the more likely you are to hit on one of them.

  • latetodinner

    If I had to guess the Pats will take a guard/center with one of their first round picks and a run stuffing 3/4 nose type. I would be shocked if they take a DE. I don’t believe they value the position. In 11 years they have not taken one in the first round. They still have Jermaine Cunningham on the roster and I think they like him…I don’t get why. In any event, last year they waited until camp had begun before bringing in Carter and Anderson. It does not seem to be a priority. On the other hand they desperately need a guard. If Connley is their center, Mankins is recovering from knee surgery, Waters has not signed yet, Cannon no longer projects as a guard….they are desperate for someone inside. I like the Gallery signing but they also need some youth at the position. If they guy can also play Center…bonus! The Pats are exceptionally good at identifing stud OL’s in the draft…I can see them being safe and taking one with their top two.

    On day two in the second round my bet is they take a safety is there is one they like, a DB or an outside LB. Chris, you want a 3/4 end who can get after the QB…I think BB would prefer a 3/4 LB who can play in space AND get after the QB. They have been looking for that guy since Vrable left. They will always stock pile/take a flyer on DB’s and if they have one they rate high enough in the second round they will take him. I could also see them taking a RB here if there is a realy good one available. They took two last year but if they can find a short yardage specialist…they might jump. I am thinking they brought in the two FB’s precisely for that role but given a choice I think they would prefer a sledge hammer if they can find one.

    In the third round…it will be best player on their board…I don’t see them taking a TE but other than that… Might see a WR or another DL at this spot.

    • latetodinner

      PS better Chowdah I have had recently is at the Oyster Company in Dennisport out on the Cape. Been back more than a few times just for the Chowdah. They also have awesome oysters raised in their own farm…and the rest of the menu is pretty great.

      PPS. I am also still partial to the clear chowder at Georges of Galilee. The problem with Georges is the rest of the food there is not very good any more.

    • Chris W.

      LTD: Agree with many of your points, but must say that, whether an End, OLB, ‘tweener, whoever, if there’s anyone who can get after the QB, I’ll take him. The versatile OLB you speak of has been the Pats’ albino rhinoceros: precious and rare, often faltering when brought into captivity. I like Branch, just not sure if he has the versatility.
      Also disagree on drafting a pounding RB early, as I think this draft is deep in that regard. If they pick a TE or FB, I’m just going to punch myself in the head.
      Thanks for the chowdah rec on the Cape. I’m a fan of the clam and fish chowder at the Yardarm in Orleans.

      • latetodinner

        Its all about value to them. The logical thinking last year was they would draft a DE who can get after the QB…they didn’t. No one saw them taking two running backs…yet they did and the Mallet pick came out of left field considering they clearly hit on rookie FA Hoyer. If you remember talk about the back up QB last year was they would sign a veteran (Chad Pennington was talked about making me throw up in my mouth), instead they draft Mallet.

        So my thinking is this…logic says 3 of the first 4 picks should be front 7 defensive players…DL or LB’s…and the 4th should be an OL. In the last 11 years the Pats have never done what I thought they would do in the draft (with the exception of the Seymour pick…that one was so obvious it was scary). So my thinking is one of those top 4 picks will be something we don’t expect and since they took 2 rb’s last year and have signed 2 fb’s this year…that is my guess.

        As for the Chowder I like the Yardarm a lot…but I think the Oyster Company is better.

        • http://www.patriotsdaily.com/ Tyler

          “Its all about value to them.”

          Bingo.

          The draft may be the most exciting part of an agonizingly long NFL offseason, but it’s just one of several ways to build a roster (FA, trades, etc.). And the Pats overall drafting strategy is no different than those other methods: acquire players that will fit the system and/or improve the team, irrespective of need or depth. As LTD pointed out, they picked RBs with their 2nd/3rd round picks in 2010 despite already having BGE, Woodhead and Faulk on the roster. They’ll occasionally trade up for a prospect but more often then not they’ll trade down, get their guy(s) and stockpile additional picks. And to minimize risk Belichick will give preference to prospects that played for coaches that either previously worked with him or share his philosophy.

          Keeping this all in mind, don’t expect the Pats to either reach for that elusive second coming of Willie McGinest (whomever the pundits are anointing this year) or to stand pat with all of their selections (which I believe has only happened once in the BB era), lest ye be disappointed.

    • Scott B.

      I don’t believe Brian Waters has to sign anything. Unless I’m mistaken, he had a two-year deal last year. The question is whether he intends to retire.

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  • chas t.

    don’t trade for a pick in 2013. don’t draft a wr in the first 3 rounds. trade pick #31 ONLY if you get back a 2nd and a 3rd THIS YEAR!