Zac Robinson

2010 Draft Grades: Patriots

The Patriots had a rough stretch of drafts, which has contributed to their lack of current depth, but have bounced back the past two years.

I was mildly surprised by the selection of Devin McCourty. Given their lack of depth in the defensive front seven, I expected Belichick to address that area first. Jerry Hughes and Sergio Kindle were both guys that could have stepped into the hole at outside linebacker.

That said, I do like McCourty. Leigh Bodden has one starting job locked up but the other is up for grabs. Shawn Springs will likely begin the season as the starter but McCourty and 2008 2nd-round pick Darius Butler will compete for the job. I expect McCourty to be starting before the season’s over.

I felt the same way about their 2nd-round selection of Rob Gronkowski. He’s a perfect fit in New England, but outside linebacker was a much bigger hole. If healthy, Gronkowski has an excellent chance to start right away over Alge Crumpler. Had it not been for some serious injuries concerns, Gronkowski would have been a guaranteed 1st-round pick, and the top tight end on many draft boards.

They finally addressed their need for an outside linebacker with Jermaine Cunningham in the 2nd round. He’ll likely be given every opportunity to start opposite Tully Banta-Cain, but it was a reach. I had him graded as a 4th-round pick.

I also think Brandon Spikes was a reach. Despite his tremendous production in college, he lacks the speed and athleticism to excel in the NFL game. At Florida he was surrounded by 10 other defensive players who will all be playing in the NFL one day. It essence, Gators defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was able to mask Spikes’ deficiencies. But in the NFL, there just aren’t many linebackers that run a 5.00 40-yard dash. There are exceptions to every rule, so Spikes may work out, but they took a gamble a little too early.

I love the selection of Taylor Price in the 3rd round. There’s a good number of guys ahead of him on the depth chart right now, but I like his chances to start the season as their 3rd or 4th option at receiver. Randy Moss and Torry Holt may not be around a year from now, at which point he could step into a starting role.

In the 4th round Aaron Hernandez was simply a value pick. They clearly didn’t need a tight at after taking Gronkowski, but he had great value at that point in the draft. I’m not entirely sure how he’ll fit into their offensive scheme, but I’m confident Belichick will find a way to make it work. Given his athleticism, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him frequently lining up in the slot.

They reached for Zoltan Mesko. I don’t believe in taking punters before the 7th round. Punters grow on trees and they’re hit-or-miss prospects in the draft. He’ll be their starter, but he could have been on the board there much later. If not, someone of comparable value would have.

Ted Larsen and Thomas Welch will help replenish the offensive line depth. Neither has a bright future, but the Patriots just needed to add some bodies on the offensive line.

I was shocked that they didn’t address the defensive line until the 7th round with Brandon Deaderick and Kade Weston. Deaderick is a good fit at end in their 3-4 scheme, and could be part of the rotation this season. Weston is more of a developmental player. He was never a full-time starter in college but has impressive size and athleticism.

And Belichick’s obsession with late-round quarterbacks continued with the selection of Zac Robinson. Almost every year he either drafts or signs a developmental prospect at the position. It’s as though he’s constantly searching for the next Tom Brady. His obsession is humorous, but I do like the pick. Robinson has impressive athleticism for the position and made significant strides over the past two seasons as the starter at Oklahoma State.

Overall, I think the Patriots had a very solid draft. They got good value for most of their selections and addressed the majority of their needs. The only thing that seems to be missing from the draft is someone who can contribute immediately as a pass rusher. Cunningham could be that guy, but there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to win the starting job over Pierre Woods.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2010, Patriots Comments Off

Patriots searching for the next Tom Brady

Given Tom Brady’s age (33 in August) and recent knee injury, one would think it’d be a good idea to bring in a veteran backup. Yet Bill Belichick insists on filling the need for a backup signal caller through the draft. Since 2007, the Patriots backups have been almost exclusively home grown – Matt Cassel, Matt Guttierrez, Kevin O’Connell and Brian Hoyer.

Despite still having Hoyer on the roster, who spent the 2009 as Brady’s backup, Belichick appears to be planning on drafting yet another quarterback in the mid-rounds of the draft. Thus far, the Patriots have visited or have scheduled visits with Tony Pike, Zac Robinson and Tim Tebow.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Florida v Cincinnati

Could Pike be groomed as Tom Brady's replacement?

Pike and Tebow are likely to be off the board by the 4th round at the latest, indicating that the Patriots are willing to spend a fairly high pick on a quarterback this year. Robinson figures to still be available in the 6th or 7th round.

So why the obsession with quarterbacks?

The most likely is that Belichick views himself as a quarterback genius. After all, he has groomed a 6th and 7th round pick into starting quarterbacks during his time in New England. Knowing that Brady will the 33 before the start of the 2010 season has to make Belichick somewhat worried about his future with the team and he knows that now is the time to groom his replacement.

His interest in quarterbacks in this year’s class likely indicates that he doesn’t view Hoyer as the solution. However, in 2008 the Patriots selected Kevin O’Connell in the 3rd round, presumably to take over the backup job from Matt Cassel. We all know how that turned out.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft, Patriots Comments Off

Senior Bowl Practice Notes: Thursday

Senior Bowl Practice Notes

Things were starting to wind down at the Senior Bowl today, so not a ton of action. Players were just in shorts and there’s only so much you can learn from a practice without pads. So here’s a few notes on the day:

- Ohio WR Taylor Price is plummeting down by draft board. He dropped two easy passes today and a third one that was more difficult but catchable.

- Missouri LB Sean Weatherspoon has been auditioning for the role of the next Ray Lewis. He’s easily the most vocal player on the field. Coaches love vocal leaders, but I’m not sure the Senior Bowl is really the place for trash talking. Teams would much rather see a quite player taking in all the coaching. I’m not sure it will have any impact on his stock, but its worth taking note of for any teams interesting in bringing him aboard in the late 1st or early 2nd round.

- Pittsburgh TE/FB/WR Dorin Dickerson lined up at receiver today and looked surprisingly good. As I mentioned in my notes yesterday I have him listed as a fullback (really more of an H-back), but it seems like teams are more interested in spreading him out wide and using him as a receiver. The only drawback to that is he really doesn’t have the height to be red zone target as most tight ends are used these days. I could see him being used in a way similar to how the Colts use Dallas Clark.

- Utah OL Zane Beadles has taken snaps at tackle, guard and center. He hasn’t blown me away but the fact that he’s being moved around will increase his stock. Versatility is key for any lineman who isn’t viewed as a potential franchise left tackle.

- A lot of scouts have been impressed with Boise State CB Kyle Wilson this week. I’m not quite as excited though. I certainly don’t think he’s done anything to hurt his stock, but I just don’t think he’s physical enough to earn a spot in the 1st round as some have suggested. He did a nice job covering Mardy Gilyard on a number of plays today, but that’s a favorable matchup. I want to see him matched up with someone like Riley Cooper in the game on Saturday and see how he does.

- I continue to be unimpressed with UMass OL Vladimir Ducasse. His size is intriguing but he has a ton of work to do. He plays too upright, and I can’t help but think he looks disinterested. I just haven’t seen a mean streak in him which is necessary to excel in the NFL.

- In one 7-on-7 drill Michigan DE Brandon Graham blew past Ducasse. It was clear that Ducasse simply didn’t have the quick first step out of his stance necessary to slow down an elite speed rusher like Graham. As for Graham, he is starting to look like a 1st-round lock. I love his potential as an elite pass rusher. He could have a Brian Orakpo-like rookie year if he lands in the right defensive scheme.

- Oklahoma CB Perrish Cox continues to have a huge week. He picked of a couple passes yesterday and nearly had another today in 11-on-11 drills off of former teammate Zac Robinson. He has the speed to stick with receivers and the quickness and awareness to make plays on the ball.

- On the flip side, Alabama CB Javier Arenas continues to be unimpressive. I don’t see him as anything more than a nickel corner in the NFL. He’s really struggled when lined up on the outside against bigger receivers, namely Riley Cooper.

- Zac Robinson further improved his stock today. He looked very crisp in 11-on-11 drills. He looks very comfortable standing in the pocket and going through his reads. I was initially surprised he got invited, but he’s exceed expectations this week.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2010 NFL Draft Comments Off