Patriots trade down, prepared to dominate Day 2 of NFL Draft


In the post-elimination gloom of early February, many Patriots’ fans were still in full-grieve mode, lamenting tales of “what if?”.

What if Rob Gronkowski hadn’t have broken his arm for a second time against the Texans in the divisional round of the playoffs?  What ifAqib Talib hadn’t pulled a hammy in the first half of the AFC Championship game?

Connecticut Huskies conerback Dwayne Gratz (7) could be a 3rd or 4th round gem for the Patriots. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

What if Gronk had been 100% for the Super Bowl the previous season?  What if the Patriots had that cover linebacker to cover up Ray Rice?  What if Wes Welker wasn’t the only receiving weapon the Patriots had to divert attention from the issues with the Tight Ends?

But as Bill Belichick famously quipped, “If “if’s” and “buts” were candy and nuts, every day would be Christmas.”

What does that mean?  Hopefully it means that Belichick is leaving nothing to chance in his quest for a fourth Lombardi Trophy in his 13 year tenure at the helm of the New England Patriots.

From these experiences, we can reasonably assume that Belichick’s targets should be, in no particular order, a speedy wide receiver to stretch the field, a three down linebacker with coverage skill, a press corner to develop under Aqib Talib and an athletic hybrid tight end that is capable of backing up both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez with little drop off in production.

The Patriots have none of these things.  What they do have is perhaps the best collection of starting talent in the NFL for the schemes that they run, and if a corner, receiver or tight end goes down with injury…

…see the problem?  This is a “Depth Draft” for New England, and they have the opportunity to do something very proper – not necessarily mind-blowing or setting the league on fire, rather, to do the right thing and make sure that the Patriots can not be taken advantage of just because a player goes down.

Now that this has been established, how do they accomplish it?

There are many paths, and all are wrought with peril – all of the general managers and head coaches hunkered down in their respective “war rooms”, jockeying for position, trying to land The Next Big Thing…so it’s a good thing that isn’t the Patriots’ goal.  They already have the Next Big Thing, now they’re looking for insurance.

The Patriots had five total picks in the draft, one each in Rounds one, two and three…and that wasn’t going make the nut.  Then the Minnesota Viking popped up and offered Belichick a deal so lopsided in his favor that it was almost obscene – and he would have been a fool not to take it…

…so what that adds up to is two picks each in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, one in the 4th, and we all know that these rounds are right in Belichick’s wheelhouse.  These are the rounds that always finds the best value – and there are a surprising number of very good players still available after the carnage of the opening round:

Updated Big Board:

1. Jamar Taylor, CB, Boise State

2. Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State

3. Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State

4. Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

5. Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers

6. Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut

7. Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati

8. Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech

9. David Amerson, CB/FS, North Carolina State

10. Tyrann Mathieu, CB, LSU

11. Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M

12. Jordan Reed, TE, Florida

13. Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State

14. Barrett Jones, C/G, Alabama

15. Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall

16. Stedman Bailey, WR, West Virginia

New England Patriots Mock Draft – Rounds 2 – 4:

Second round, #52 overall – Khaseem Greene, OLB, Rutgers :

A former safety who converted to linebacker and became the two-time Big East defensive player of the year.  His experience at safety and his penchant for causing turnovers couple with excellence in setting the edge and rushing the passer, Greene is everything the Patriots could want from a cover backer, but he’s much more than that.  Alternate Choice: Johnthan Banks, CB, Mississippi State

Second round #59 overall – Markus Wheaton, WR, Oregon State:

Speed to burn, tracks the ball very well and is the best ball catcher in the class.  A little shorter than what the Patriots are reportedly looking for, but his route running and intangibles will remind many of Deion Branch – with better speed.  Alternate Choice: Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M

Third Round #83 overall – Travis Kelce, TE, Cincinnati:

Work with me here.  The Patriots would have at least one more trophy if they would have had someone like Kelce to replace Gronkowski when injuries forced him out of games with championship implications.  The team already has Jake Ballard, Michael Hoomanawanui and Daniel Fells, but none of them are the absolute beast of an athlete Kelce is as a virtual Gronkowski clone.  Cincinnati’s wildcat quarterback, he is also quite versatile and could be an emergency QB if needed.  Alternate Choice: Jordan Reed, TE, Florida

Third Round #91 overall – Da’Rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech:

Big, fast, tough receiver who, while at Tennessee, was actually their best receiver before being suspended for violation of the school’s substance abuse policy.  While at Tech, he apparently has clean up his act and passed every drug test given him.  Tough as nails with soft hands he would be the big Anquan Boldin-type possession receiver that would give Brady a unique check down target, though he is much more than that.  Alternate Choice: Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall

Fourth Round #102 overall – Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut

Bill Belichick turned a lot of heads when he showed up at UConn’s Pro day, purportedly to scout CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, but Gratz has all the makings of a fine corner in his own right, and ended the season rated higher than his more famous teammate.  Gratz has excellent cover corner skills that should translate to the next level…and the fact that he could be tutored by Aqib Talib make him a solid pick if he falls this far.  Alternate Choice: Chris Harper, WR, Kansas State