The Patriots kicked off the first of their three selections of the third round with two “Huh?” moves. First, at 73rd overall, they selected LSU RB Stevan Ridley. What was a head scratcher there was that their last pick of the second round was Cal RB Shane Vereen. I didn’t think, nor did most, that the need at RB was great enough to pick two early in the draft. Ridley is a bigger back, known more as a hammering back than a finesse back. Here is the pre-draft scouting report on Ridley:
Ridley is bruising running back that could be effective between the tackles at the next level. He is a no nonsense runner that explodes through the holes and is very difficult to take down in the open field. He does not always play with a good pad level, but he keeps his legs churning and shows the ability to push the pile. He is not shifty enough to evade defensive backs in the second level, and he will not contribute in the passing game. Ridley can also contribute on special teams and could be picked in the fourth round.
But the Patriots’ second third-round pick, 74th overall, was the shocker…
The Patriots selected Arkansas QB Ryan Mallet, a QB talented enough to be considered the most pro-ready QB in the draft but one with enough off-field baggage to slide him right down to the third round. If the Patriots didn’t pick him, who knows how far he would have slid. Mallet provides the team with more depth at the position that has been manned by “just” Tom Brady and Brian Hoyer the last two seasons. There are two ways to take this pick.
First, Belichick may be looking to the future and wants to groom Brady’s successor. Placing Mallet in a locker room and organization as strong as the Patriots’, perhaps that can cure Mallet’s off-field issues and lack of maturity. The second line of thinking is that Mallet develops and shows that his off-field issues are behind him, and the Patriots deal him for a future higher pick, similar to what they did with Matt Cassel, who they turned from a 7th round pick to a 2nd round pick when they traded him to the Chiefs.
Had the Patriots selected some front-seven help on the defense already, I wouldn’t have that big an issue with this pick. The Patriots don’t really need all the extra picks, and if Mallet doesn’t work out, you cut him. No big deal. However, the Patriots went through the first, second, and now third rounds, seven times on the clock (two in the first, then three in the second, and two in the third), and didn’t select a single front-seven defensive player. The Pats are still lacking pass rush help, clearly their biggest need, but they select a QB with off-field issues. Belichick said in his post-pick press conference that he is “comfortable” with Mallet’s off-field issues. I guess that has to be good enough. I mean, he would know better than the rest of us, right?
The Patriots then went on to trade their final third-round pick to the Oakland Raiders, along with their fourth-round pick, for Oakland’s 2012 second-round pick. That leaves the Patriots with two firsts (from Saints trade) and two seconds once again in 2012. To probably trade again.