When a team finishes with the highest-scoring offense and the worst third-down defense, you would expect the defense to be the draft priority.
Although experts and fans pegged the front-seven as the Patriots’ biggest need, Bill Belichick spent only a sixth-round pick on a pass rusher.
By the time the Pats made their last selection at No. 219, the team had drafted a quarterback, two offensive linemen, two running backs, a blocking tight end, two cornerbacks and an outside linebacker.
Not exactly what most fans were expecting.
The draft haul leaves a lot of questions: Where will the pass rush come from? What is the plan for Ryan Mallet? Is there a change in offensive philosophy? Another tight end?
As someone who takes a heavy interest in scouting and the draft process, I can say many of the picks were head scratchers. That being said, I think nearly every pick has a fair explanation and fit behind it.
Patriots 2011 Draft Class
1(17) Nate Solder, T, Colorado: With Matt Light’s 10-year run possibly over, the Patriots needed to secure his replacement. Solder was one of the top options available and was said to be on the Giants’ radar at pick 19. Also, Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan and Aldon Smith were already off the board (although I think the Pats should have given consideration to trading up for Quinn). That said, Solder has tremendous upside because of his size and athleticism, but will he be able to play right away? He has boom potential, but could also fail because of his lack of power and strength.
2(1) Ras-I Dowling, CB, Virginia: After passing over Cameron Jordan and other pass rushers in the first round, many thought the Pats would take either Brooks Reed or Jabaal Sheard with the 33rd pick. We were all wrong when Belichick opted for Dowling, a first-round talent who slid because of a senior year marred by leg injuries. I’m torn on this pick because Dowling is definitely a solid player with the ability to form a lockdown tandem with Devin McCourty, but by selecting Dowling the Patriots took themselves out of the running for any of the other 3-4 OLB prospects in round two. The Pats have swung and missed on a corner with an injury history – Tyrone Wheatley – so let’s hope Dowling can stay healthy and play to his abilities.Grade: B-
2(24) Shane Vereen, RB, California: Heading into the draft, we all knew running back was a need. While I think he was drafted a little early, I liked the complete game that Vereen brings to the table and don’t think Mikel Leshoure or Mark Ingram were elite enough prospects to take earlier in the draft. Physically, Vereen has it all - size (5-foot-10, 210 pounds), speed (4.49) and strength (31 reps). He was also a productive player who rushed for 1,176 yards last season and has good hands and blocking ability. I don’t think he’s a great player by any means, but he is good in all areas and will have a nice role in this running back stable.
Grade: Bno comments