New England Patriots Super Bowl Champs

Patriots Gab Grades the Teams Picks in the 2011 Draft

By Abe Munch

1st- Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
2nd- Ras I-Dowling, CB, Virginia
3rd- Shane Vereen, RB, California
3rd- Steven Ridley, RB, LSU
3rd- Ryan Mallett, QB, Arkansas
5th- Marcus Cannon, OG, TCU
5th- Lee Smith, TE, Marshall
6th- Markell Carter, LB, Central Arkansas
7th- Malcolm Williams, CB, TCU

The Patriots most glaring needs coming into the draft seemed to be youth along the offensive line and a pass rush on defense. New England addressed the offensive line but failed to add a productive pass rusher early, despite this being a deep class for rush linebackers. The Patriots worked the draft board and added an extra 1st and 2nd round pick for next year.

Best Selection:
Ryan Mallett. Mallett may have been the best pure pocket passer to come out of college in years. He was highly productive in a pro style offense against top competition and left Arkansas 18-8 as a starter. I’ve never scouted an arm strength/release combination like Mallett’s, except for maybe when I watch old Dan Marino games. Unfortunately he was dogged by character concerns throughout the draft process which dropped him into the 3rd round. New England either has an heir apparent in waiting, or a real good backup to develop for another team.

Biggest Risk:
Choosing not to draft a pass rusher. Tully Banta-Cain led the team in sacks last year with 5. That needs to improve. New England is banking on the development of Jermaine Cunningham to present itself in his second year. A healthy Ty Warren will also go a long way to generating push up front, but the entire unit needs to improve.

Marcus Cannon. Cannon has uncommon footwork and strength for his size and flashed dominant play for the Horned Frogs. His diagnosis of lymphoma caused teams to drop him off their draft board altogether. He believes he’ll make a full recovery after treatment. He’s a 2nd rounder if he’s healthy.

Grade: B+

Every year the Patriots find a way to add extra high round picks. The first two selections of Nate Solder and Ras I-Dowling can become cornerstone players for New England. Shane Vereen has the speed to take it the distance and replace Kevin Faulk in the passing game, while Lee Smith is almost a third tackle on power formations.

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3 Responses to “Patriots Gab Grades the Teams Picks in the 2011 Draft”

  1. Michelle R says:

    I have to disagree a bit with your assessment, especially for our best selection. When you’re drafting, you’re really trying to get fill the voids on your team to make a run for another championship, which Mallet has nothing to do with. I think we took him because he should be a great QB and if Hoyer impresses again this preseason, he’s most likely going to leave for another team so it’s insurance, I get it. But our best pick her truly was our first. Nate Soldier was a brilliant pick by Belichik because he’s going to be protecting our biggest asset and biggest key to a championship – TB12.

    As for a sleeper, I think Markell Carter or Shane Vereen would fit this category because Cannon is expected to be amazing. By all accounts he should have gone higher but due to health reasons people got skiddish and backed off. I love the pick and I think I’d call him a complete steal but not a sleeper.

    If you look at Carter, he provides some pass-rush, is a total workhorse who will completely buy into the Patriots mentality, and I think he has that it factor to really turn it on in the big leagues. Vereen on the other hand is so versatile. He’s exactly what Bill looks for and loves in players, guys that aren’t just the best at doing the obvious, running, but pass-bloacking, catching, etc. I was really excited about this pick and I think he can do a lot for us and our offense.

    • Abraham says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      You bring up some good points.

      I picked Mallett as best selection because of his overall value and skill set based on where he was selected. Tom Brady has been hampered a bit with ribs, shoulder, hand, and foot injuries the past couple seasons. And of course he’s three years removed from knee surgery. Choosing Mallett gives the Pats a player who can come in and be productive early- provided he has a pre-season to learn the playbook- and also gives the front office a security blanket if problems arise with Brady’s contract after the 2012 season (salary almost doubles)when Brady will be 36 before the season starts.

      I thought about Markell Carter as a sleeper, but if Cannon reaches his potential he’ll have to have overcome cancer to do it. Him being selected in the 5th round while he’s undergoing cancer treatment tipped the sleeper pick to him.

      Thanks for the comments guys! Go Pats!!

  2. rdf63 says:

    I think B+ is a fair grade but it does have the potential to be much higher. Time to analyze the picks:

    Solder – solid pick and should be the left tackle for a lot of years. With Vollmer, who is only 26, they can be one of the best offensive tackle tandems in the league.

    Dowling – could be a great CB if healthy but the physical play can make him and McCourty possibly one of the best CB tandems in the league. If he does play like he can, the Pats can stop picking CBs for a couple of years.

    Vereen & Ridely – Both gained 1,100+ yards last year and Vereen has 2,800+ in his college career. They might be the future backfield with pass catching and solid blocking skills. The best thing is that they are young and played in good conferences.

    Mallet – sits on the bench for a year and some team will be interested in trading for him. That team could be one of the teams this year with a pick that didn’t work out or another team next year. The Pats could keep him for 2 – 3 years and his value would probably only go up.

    Cannon – if he is healthy will be another starter. Means the Pats drafted two future OL starters this year and with All Pro Vollmer have the next generation of OL already in progress. This gives the Pats some breathing room for Mankins and I really liked this pick.

    We can question the picks and I was as surprised as many others but the bottom line is five of the first six picks listed above, all by Ridley, were 1st and 2nd round caliber players.

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