The New England Patriots started their draft this year by making two selections in the first round. As expected, both selections were on the defensive side of the ball. They made two trades in the first round Thursday night to move up their selections. Originally the Patriots had pick 27 which they received through a previous trade and 31 which was their own.
The move the Patriots made was to move up six spots to grab the 21st pick of the first round. They traded their 27th pick and their third round selection (93rd overall) to the Cincinnati Bengals in order to select Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones. While opinions varied on the list of defensive ends in this draft, Jones was widely considered one of the best of the group. Considered a late-riser on the draft boards, Jones is a speedy pass rusher that will help solidify the Patriots defensive line.
The second move the Patriots made was to trade up a second time. This time they traded their 31st pick and fourth round selection (126th overall) to Denver for the Broncos’ 25th overall pick. With this selection the Patriots took Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Considered an elite linebacker from the defending national champions, Hightower should immediately improve the Patriots linebacker position. The Patriots have multiple options on how they plan to use Hightower. They will be able to use him as a strong side linebacker with Brandon Spikes or in the middle, where he played at Alabama, with Jerod Mayo playing on the weak side.
A possible surprise in this first round was the Patriots not selecting a defensive back. While they were expected to take a defensive end and linebacker at some point in the draft, many felt that with the deficiencies at defensive back the Patriots would select and possibly trade up to get a cornerback or safety.
Barring another trade for later picks, the Patriots will wrap-up their 2012 NFL Draft Friday when they make two selections in the second round having traded away their last two selections. As for the first round, the Patriots were very aggressive in making trades to move up and select the players they wanted. Jones and Hightower are two players highly rated by many and should expect to see significant playing time in 2012. As to how well the Patriots chose, we’ll find that out when the regular season starts in September.