Quick Take On Patriots' Draft

RB Stevan Ridley

The New England Patriots Draft class didn't stun anyone Draft experts, but did manage to offer a few surprises. Adding youth and depth on offense was the theme in 2011.

Though the team didn't do much to address its top need at pass rusher, New England filled a few other needs in its nine selections by getting a potential franchise left tackle in Nate Solder, adding depth to a developing secondary with Ras-I Dowling and depth to the backfield with Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley.

But the team clearly will need to be aggressive in either free agency or the trade market to find bodies for a pass rush and outside linebacker position that remains a glaring hole.

Coach Bill Belichick, entering the draft with two first-round picks and six in the first three rounds, also made his usual trades to push picks forward by adding a first-round pick from the Saints and a second rounder from Oakland in 2012.

Still, New England's draft work left many fans wanting for more, especially at the linebacker spot.

BEST PICK
Tackle Nate Solder: Solder has elite potential given his size and athleticism. With Pro Bowler Matt Light a free agent, Solder also fills a major need as he will have a chance to start at left tackle protecting Tom Brady's blind side from day one.

COULD SURPRISE
Running back Shane Vereen: Vereen not only has the versatility to help out in the passing game as well as on the ground, but comes from a Cal system that produces solid NFL-ready runners. With only undrafted players BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead ahead of him on the depth chart at this point, Vereen should get the chance to make some decent contributions as a rookie.

A closer look at the Patriots picks:

Round 1/17 - Nate Solder, T, 6-8, 319, Colorado
Solder is a former tight end who's only played tackle for three years, but has the length and athleticism to be a premier player in the future.

Round 2/33 - Ras-I Dowling, CB, 6-1, 198, Virginia
Heading into 2010, Dowling was thought of as a first-round prospect, but he played just five games due to injury. He adds depth and versatility (safety) to the New England secondary.

Round 2/56 - Shane Vereen, RB, 5-10, 205, California
Vereen is a versatile back who rushed for 1,100 yards last fall as a junior and scored at least 12 touchdowns in each of his final two seasons. He joins the committee backfield in New England with the ability to chip in as both a runner and receiver.

Round 3/73 - Stevan Ridley, RB, 5-11, 225, Louisiana State (LSU)
Ridley will move from a rotating committee backfield with the Tigers to the same role in New England. He has experience as both fullback and lead back having rushed for 1,100 yards and 15 touchdowns last fall.

Round 3/74 - Ryan Mallett, QB, 6-6, 238, Arkansas
Mallett has a huge arm and is one of the more physically talented passers in the draft. He has impressive upside and will learn behind the best in the game.

Round 5/138 - Marcus Cannon, OT, 6-5, 358, Texas Christian (TCU)
Cannon has a tumor in his stomach that will require chemotherapy. Expected to recover fully from that treatment, he could be a steal and compete for a starting job down the road.

Round 5/159 - Lee Smith, TE, 6-6, 269, Marshall

Smith, who is considered a blocking tight end, could be groomed to replace veteran Alge Crumpler in that role.

Round 6/194 - Markell Carter, OLB, 6-4, 252, Central Arkansas
At best Carter is a developmental edge guy with intriguing length.

Round 7/219 - Malcolm Williams, DB, 5-10, 204, Texas Chtistian (TCU)
College backup with raw ability.



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