During the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots selected a corner in Devin McCourty. Corner wasn’t a need, but McCourty is a solid player. With the Dolphins and the Jets trading for stud wide receivers, adding another corner does make sense as the Pats will probably have at least 3 corners on the field for a majority of their defensive snaps. On Day 2 during rounds 2 and 3, the Patriots focused more on their needs and drafted some solid players to potentially step in and plug those holes.
The Pats started their second round by hopping over Baltimore, trading with the Raiders to take TE Rob Gronkowski. The Pats had only Alge Crumpler and two practice squad players on the roster at the position after losing Ben Watson and Chris Baker to free agency. They now have a tight end who can catch and block- the complete package. Gronkowski and his entourage also had one of the more memorable celebrations when he realized he was drafted by the Pats: they all huddled and chanted some Hoorah football chant. You can see a clip of Gronkowski’s celebration by clicking here. You can see highlights of Rob Gronkowski by clicking here.
The Pats then did some trading back and grabbed an extra third round from Arizona. They then turned that third round pick into a 2011 second-rounder. It’s easy to get frustrated with all of the trading back but you can see why the Pats do what they do and why they’re successful. Add to that potentially having a rookie salary cap in place next year, and the Pats 2 firsts and 2 seconds places them in the driver seat for a strong draft next year.
The Pats then addressed their need for an edge pass rusher at 53 and selected DE/OLB Jermaine Cunningham from Florida. His teammate Carlos Dunlap got more press but Cunningham is a solid pass rusher and probably projects as a better OLB than Dunlap. He better fits what the Pats look for in an OLB- big and sturdy with some reach (he’s 6’6″, 266). He had 19.5 sacks his last 3 seasons at Florida and for Belichick to take him over Dunlap, you know that had to be on Urban Meyer’s recommendation. For Jermaine Cunningham highlights, click here.
After further trades back to 62 overall, the Patriots made their third selection of Round 2: Florida LB Brandon Spikes. Aside from Jerod Mayo, the interior of the Pats’ LB corps lacked toughness. Gary Guyton is better suited on passing downs in coverage and Tyrone McKenzie is a wild card after missing his entire rookie season. Brandon Spikes brings toughness and leadership to the interior linebackers and I think could potentially be the steal of the draft. Watching his play, he reminds me a little of Bryan Cox in the intensity and attitude he plays with, another element that was missing from the defense this past season. Check out his highlights by clicking here (watch for the crunching hit on Knowshon Moreno).
Finally, after turning pick #89 in the third round into a 2011 second-rounder, the Pats addressed their needs at WR and drafted Taylor Price from Miami-Ohio. This need was subdued a bit when the Pats signed Torry Holt, but was still certainly a long-term need. Taylor Price could see some significant playing time depending on how the depth chart shakes out during training camp, but he’s certainly gifted physically. He has good speed for his size and he’s a physical receiver as well. He can block and lay a hit on a DB after the catch. Check out his highlights below.
The only need that hasn’t been addressed is running back, and they could probably use another edge player or defensive lineman. Luckily for the Pats, they still have 8 picks to try and address those needs. As far as running backs, some names to watch for are Joe McKnight, Jonathon Dwyer, and James Starks as a wild card. Starks played at Buffalo and posted back-to-back thousand yard seasons but was out of football this past season due to injury.