As the NFL draft approches, we really begin to flip the page on the 2012 season and begin on the 2013 season. For the Patriots, I think the needs going into the draft are pretty simple, just focus on the secondary. Let everything else take care of itself, and really focus in on selecting good quality players to help boost a reeling secondary that may lose both Aqib Talib and Alfonzo Dennard.
One interesting guy that I think the Patriots should look to draft is Tyrann Mathieu. After his great 2011 campaign he was kicked off of the LSU football team in 2012 and he sat out the entire season. This will really affect his draft stock as he is being projected to go around the third round right now. Despite sitting out 2012 I think Mathieu can still make an impact on an NFL team. He was a flat out playmaker while at LSU, and we all know how much the Pats could use one of those on the defensive side of the ball. Mathieu was a very aggressive corner that had pretty good cover skills, and showed extremely good speed and instincts. One thing other than him sitting out 2012 that will definitely drive some teams away is his size. Mathieu is only 5’9, which is extremely short, especially for a cornerback. A lot of draft analysts are saying that Mathieu would be better fit as a free roaming safety in the NFL rather than a cornerback. With his speed and playmaking ability I definitely can see him playing as a safety in the NFL, but at the same time he showed very good cover skills while at LSU and I would like to see him get a shot at corner in the NFL.
The Patriots are pretty decimated at cornerback at the moment, as Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington are both free-agents and Alfonzo Dennard could be facing some jail time. They could use pretty much anybody to help them out at that position and I think that selecting Mathieu in a later round could be a huge steal for them. The Pats really would not have to name any specific position for Mathieu if they selected him; I really would just like to see him just back in the secondary trying to make plays for the Pats. He showed that while at LSU he can be one of the most disruptive defenders in the country and I think that as a third round selection he would be worth the investment.
The last reason (and maybe the biggest) I think the Pats should draft Mathieu is because of his punt-returning ability. I love Julian Edelman just as much as the next Pats fan, but he is a free agent and I do not think the Pats would be able to keep him along with all of there other big free agents. He also has shown that he is injury prone and we know that the Patriots like their big contributors to be healthy guys. So, if he were to leave the team I think Mathieu could step in for his punt-returning duties and perform very well. Again he showed very good skills returning punts while at LSU as he returned two of them for touchdowns in 2011, and it is another dimension that I think he could bring to the Patriots.
Leading up to the draft everybody is always talking about the “big names” in college football, but I think that where teams win or lose in the draft is in the later rounds. I believe that if the Pats drafted Mathieu, they could get a very good player at a very decent price. We have known Belichick to go out and get “troubled” players and turn them into model citizens. I think that he could do the same with Mathieu and in exchange they would get a game changer that they desperately need on the defensive side of the ball.