Ramble On Sports

Where sports, pop culture and everything else collide.

Patriots piece together 2010 draft class

Posted by Bill Koch on April 26, 2010

2010 NFL Draft

Don’t think for a second that we here at Ramble On forgot about the NFL Draft. Just because we don’t watch our blood pressure spike and start panting over 4.37 40s and 35 reps at 225 doesn’t mean that we weren’t paying attention to how the New England Patriots were continuing to rebuild their team on the fly.

Devin McCourty didn’t exactly make us warm and tingly, but New England improved as Thursday turned into Friday and Friday turned into Saturday. We’ll give the Patriots a solid B+ for their efforts, and we’ll break down some of their picks here.

Devin McCourty, CB, Rutgers (1st round, 27th overall): He’s an excellent special teams player and kick returner, an area of need for New England, but excuse us if this pick doesn’t make us dread a repeat of the Chris Canty disaster in 1997. That’s not a reflection on McCourty – Canty was simply that bad during his two years in New England, and he ruined our perception of every other defensive back drafted by the Patriots. Defensive backs are handcuffed by current NFL rules which basically prohibit any sort of physical contact with wide receivers at any time. The quickest way for New England to improve its coverage is to make opposing quarterbacks look into the depths of hell thanks to an improved pass rush. The jury will stay out on this pick for the near future.

Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona (2nd round, 42nd overall): He comes with all the physical gifts that Daniel Graham and Ben Watson possessed – great hands, huge frame (6-foot-6, 265 pounds), surprising speed – but think about how those other two guys turned out. Were they as good as Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez or Dallas Clark? Did they have back surgery that cost them a full season of college? No and no. Still, Gronkowski appears to be a decent selection at a definite position of need.

Jermaine Cunningham, DE, Florida (2nd round, 53rd overall) and Brandon Spikes, LB, Florida (2nd round, 62nd overall): We’ll take the two Gators together, likely because New England views them as a package deal. Both were winners in college. Both played for Urban Meyer, a close friend of Bill Belichick’s who has turned Florida into the nation’s elite college program. The two men have talked strategy and philosophy on both sides of the ball, especially on defense, and Spikes in particular could end up being a steal while playing alongside fellow SEC star Jerod Mayo (Tennessee).

Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida (4th round, 113th overall): That’s more like it. There’s no way that the Bristol, Conn., native should have been on the board at this point. Most draft experts gave Hernandez a grade that placed him somewhere in the middle of the second or start of the third round, and this is the type of value pick that the Patriots used to build their title winners. Hernandez is a matchup nightmare at a quick 250-pounds, a pure pass catcher, and will be used in the slot against overwhelmed safeties and nickel corners.

Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State (7th round, 250th overall): The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder broke every Cowboys’ offensive record during his college days. He ran almost a carbon copy of the spread-influenced, empty backfield set that the Patriots employ when Kevin Faulk enters the game and New England empties all five eligible receivers into the pattern. Look for Robinson to push Brian Hoyer in the duel to replace Tom Brady when The Cover Boy finally decides to become a fulltime Earth Day spokesman.

The bottom line here is that the draft feels different in New England. The Patriots never do the sexy thing, and you’ll be waiting for the rest of your life if you want them to change the way they do things. They rarely make a splash by trading up into the top 10 or chasing a hot prospect that puts Mel Kiper’s hair out of place or brings a little color to Todd McShay’s sun-deprived cheeks. New England’s draft philosophy is a simple one – In Bill We Trust.

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