Scout.com has partnered with the NFL Network (NFLN) to bring you some amazing insights into what teams are thinking and doing in their pre-draft preparations. NFLN has a series entitled Path to the Draft, where a representative from each NFL team on Scout shares what they've heard, and what the indications are for the team's first round draft pick. Jon Scott, filled in on behalf of PatriotsInsider.com today.
Patriots Path To the Draft
on NFL network
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The taping of the show went by fairly quickly. I'd like to say thanks to the guys at WTIC TV in Hartford (my old stomping ground) for providing the feed to NFLN. I must say, with no prep time, it was a sort of quick heads-up and those guys really helped.
You learn to appreciate that the NFLN and other TV shows take a lot of coordination by many talented people behind the scenes. While the "on air" personalities get the credit, it's the rest of the crew that makes the show run, which is why stepping in for Scout.com to talk about the Patriots on NFLN was such a great experience. The thing is
TV is very compressed snapshot into the world of what is happening in Patriots land, and we just didn't have time to get into the reasons why I thought the Patriots might do what they'll do.
It was a one shot deal, no do-over, so aside from a minor hiccup, I think the whole thing went pretty well. Hopefully so did the NFL staff. Note to self: get new contacts! old dried-out contacts do not help one's TV presence.
In my pre-segment appearance, I spoke with a couple of producers at NFLN to tell them why I believed the Pats would go a certain direction. Here's a summary of those conversations:
The Patriots have a number of options at the No. 7 spot and I really think linebacker is the way to go if their guy is there. The team needs a big body guy who can fill in to set the edge, and the one player whose name continues to come up is Vernon Gholston of Ohio State. The 6-foot-3, 266-pound man-beast is built to start in the NFL as a rookie. With the loss of Rosevelt Colvin, the possible retirement of Junior Seau and the increasing age of the remaining starters (Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel), adding Gholston would allow the Patriots to infuse much-needed youth to the unit.
Another option for the Patriots at No. 7 is USC linebacker Keith Rivers. The 6-foot-2.5, 240-pound defender is projected as an inside linebacker. He has the speed necessary to cover and has the size to hold up in the middle.
The team worked out both players, attended both pro days, had Rivers in for a visit yesterday, and Gholston was set to also visit with the Patriots. The team could go either way, but those two appear to be the top prospects at the position.
If not LB then what?
The Patriots are well known for avoiding linebackers early in the Draft - Bill Belichick has never selected one higher than round 5 since arriving in New England -- but some of the best linebackers the team has had were former first day or first round picks. If New England wants talent at the linebacker spot, they're going to have to spend to get it.
The issue with Gholston is that many experts feel that he'll be gone by the No. 7 pick. So if he's not there, the Patriots need to consider one of two options: Stay and take the best player available or trade down?
Option 1: Stay put
If the Patriots stay at 7 and don't select Rivers or Gholston, then I believe they're pretty high on South Florida defensive back Mike Jenkins and Troy cornerback Leodis McKelvin.
Jenkins met with Belichick personally for a private workout. He also met with Dom Capers later the same week. The Pats were at his pro day and checked in on him at the Combine. (read article)
McKelvin is the other possible option at 7, but it may be too high for either. Although he is a smaller cornerback (5-foot-10, 186), McKelvin's fast and has the ability to be a key component in the kick return game, something the Patriots obviously like. Ellis Hobbs was hurt in 2007, and when he went down with a groin issue, the return unit suffered. Adding another DB with the ability to return kicks - especially with McKelvin's talent - would address two needs in one move. (more on McKelvin)
Option 2: Trade down
I think the Patriots would like to trade down. Knowing that the first round pick New England forfeited for the videotaping incident significantly changes their draft strategy, it's easy to visualize the Patriots trying to move down from seven to get another early pick in return. The challenge is to find the right partner and the right terms.
For argument's sake, I'll just assume they find a trading partner in the teens and they net an extra second round pick for the move.
With that said, top talent in the teens would be players the Patriots can get to fill in reserve roles initially, eventually moving into solid starters. Brandon Meriweather took a long time to move into the nickel role for the Patriots after being selected at 24 last year.
With Gholston obviously off the board in the teens, and Rivers most likely gone also, I think the Patriots take a long hard look at Quentin Groves and Derrick Harvey. Both are former defensive linemen who project to outside linebacker or edge rusher. Harvey (6-foot-4.5, 259 lbs.) has more size than speed, while Groves (6-foot-3, 259 lbs.) turned in the second best 40- time at the Combine (4.57) and was described as working out at the linebacker drills better than some of the linebacker prospects. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the corner from Tennessee State is also an option in the middle of round one. The Patriots really liked his cousin after Belichick worked him out at Florida State, but the Chargers took him a couple picks before New England's turn.
For more options, confirmed visits and workouts, check the insider's lounge
Jon and some of the other insiders who hang out in the lounge, will gladly answer your questions.