Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. If I had to guess the handful of names that Bill Belichick will write down as realistic first-round possibilities for the Patriots at No. 17 and 28, here is my list: DL Muhammad Wilkerson (Temple), DL Cameron Heyward (Ohio State), OL Mike Pouncey (Florida), RB Mark Ingram (Alabama), OL Nate Solder (Colorado) and OLB Jabaal Sheard (Pittsburgh).
2. One scout believes there could be as many as 15 defensive linemen taken in the first round. That would be unprecedented.
3. With so many highly-rated defensive linemen, this draft reminds me a little of 2003 and how the key is assessing which lineman fits best in the Patriots’ system. Some thought the Patriots were a little rich selecting Ty Warren at 13 that year, but he was the best fit when comparing him to Dewayne Robertson (4), Johnathan Sullivan (6), Kevin Williams (9), Jimmy Kennedy (12), Michael Haynes (14), Jerome McDougle (15), William Joseph (25) and Co.
4. Considering the strength of this draft, and looking at the Patriots’ history evaluating and drafting defensive linemen, I’d be feeling pretty good as a follower of the team. This is right in their wheelhouse.
5. Last year, Tedy Bruschi made the point that Bill Belichick had been looking for the next Mark Bavaro at tight end for years, and that Rob Gronkowski would be a great draft pick for the team. Nice call. One player Bruschi really likes this year for the Patriots: Arizona defensive end/outside linebacker Brooks Reed.
6. If I could have one thing back from our four-headed mock draft on ESPNBoston, it would be with LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson. I let him slip out of the top five, which was a mistake. The more I hear about him, a strong case could be made that he could be one of the top two picks in the draft.
7. Tom Brady enters his 12th year in the same offensive system, which is a luxury that gives the Patriots a huge advantage in this lockout world. On the flip side, you have teams that will be drafting a quarterback yet won’t be able to work with him until the lockout ends, leading to the question: Can the QB get up to speed in time to help in 2011? This positions the Patriots well for whenever the 2011 season might be played.
8. Thomas Dimitroff, the former Patriots director of college scouting, has done a great job as Falcons general manager over the last three years. You’re a hard-core Patriots fan if you know who succeeded him in that job – Jon Robinson. “Patriots Today” introduces you to Robinson, the hard-working scout who like Dimitroff refreshingly isn’t in the self-promotion business.
9. It makes sense to think one of Bill Belichick’s goals in this draft will be to add at least one selection in 2012. The Patriots only have five 2012 picks and I can’t recall a time that Belichick has had such an empty cupboard the following year.
10. After the overload of draft information, I think any Patriots analysis ultimately comes back to this: They need to come out of this draft with help for their third-down defense (32nd in the NFL), which primarily comes back to the pass rush. The draft is their best opportunity to do so.