New England has four picks in the first two rounds of the draft and there's a good chance the Patriots will packages one or more of those picks in a draft-day trade. My colleague Mike Reiss from ESPNBoston.com addressed the Patriots' strategy this morning and told me the following:
"Bill Belichick always seems to repeat the same word when talking about the NFL draft: flexibility. He loves to move around the draft board and he said that with four picks in the top 53, he thinks the Patriots can write their ticket in terms of being able to pick at all points in the draft. With that in mind, I'd think it would be an upset if they stay in all their assigned spots."
Agreed, but this is a deeper draft than we've seen in recent years so this could be the year the Pats stay put. If they do, here's how things could unfold:
No. 22 overall: USC DE/OLB Everson Griffen
Griffen is a perfect fit for to reasons. First, New England prefers bigger outside linebacker than other teams running 3-4 fronts, and at 6-33 and 273 pounds Griffen is tall enough to see into the backfield and big enough to hold up when teams run at him. Secondly, the Patriots need to generate more pressure off the edge and Griffen can give their pass rush a boost. He is an explosive pass rusher with an excellent blend of upper-body strength and closing speed.
No. 44: Arizona TE Rob Gronkowski
Gronkowski is a risk because he missed the entire 2009 season with a back injury and there have been conflicting reports about his health in recent weeks. However, he could turn out to be a steal if he is and can remain healthy. He's got the frame, toughness and massive hands to develop into a productive short-to-intermediate receiver and red zone target, as well as the speed to stretch the middle of the field. He's also a relentless blocker. If New England is comfortable with his back taking Gronkowski would provide much-needed help at tight end.
No. 47: USC WR Damian Williams
The timetable for WR Wes Welker's return from a knee injury is uncertain, and who knows how long it will be before he is back at 100 percent. Taking Williams would help offset Welker's absence in both the passing and punt return games. And when Welker returns, Williams has the savvy to get open against the single coverage he would see playing alongside Welker and Randy Moss. Williams also has the size to line up outside and allow Welker and Julian Adelman to work the slot.
No. 53: Penn State ILB Sean Lee
Another durability risk, Lee missed the entire 2008 season and three games in 2009 due to knee injuries. He's also a bit undersized at 236 pounds but is still a good fit for a New England scheme that requires its inside linebackers to shed blocks quickly. Lee absorbs blockers and then uses his hands to quickly discard them. He is also a sound open-field tackler with rare instincts. Taking him here would add depth at inside linebacker and give Gary Guyton competition for the starting job next to emerging star Jerod Mayo.