The New England Patriots began the 2012 NFL offseason by addressing their biggest need on offense signing Brandon Lloyd. So when they turned to the 2012 NFL Draft over the weekend, the focus was clearly defense. The Patriots drafted seven players over the weekend six of which were defensive.
In the first round the Patriots had the number 27 pick and the number 31 pick. Quickly the team moved up through trades to secure players they felt would be immediate help to the second worst defense in the NFL. They first moved up from the 27th selection to the 21 selection by trading their third round pick (93rd overall) along with the 27th pick to the Cincinnati Bengals. They moved up so they could select defensive end Chandler Jones out of Syracuse. While not a household name, Jones had moved up on many draft boards recently. The 6’5”, 247 pound Jones is a Belichick kind of player due to the diversity of his game. He is a good pass rusher, can defend the run, and drop in the coverage.
The Patriots wrapped up the first round by trading up again. This time they traded their second pick (31st overall) and the fourth round pick (126th overall) to the Denver Broncos for their pick at number 25. With the 25th pick in the first round, the Patriots took linebacker Dont’a Hightower out of Alabama. This was another strong but good move by the Patriots as they ended the first round getting one of the best pass rushers and one of the best linebackers in the draft.
With their first pick in the second round (48th overall) the Patriots selected free safety Tavon Wilson from Illinois. With the Patriots biggest deficiency having been their defensive secondary in 2011, this wasn’t a surprising selection. While the combination safety and cornerback was taken higher than many thought, Bill Belichick and his staff clearly think this is a player that will develop over time and become an important player in the defensive backfield.
Before the Patriots could make their next pick at number 62, they traded that pick to Green Bay for the Packers third round pick (90th overall) and their sixth round pick (197th overall). With their newly acquired third round pick, the Patriots took another defensive end, Jake Bequette out of Arkansas. Bequette is not yet the finished product and will not make the same impact as Jones in 2012 but Belichick believes he has the ability to learn and become a good player in the future.
While on the clock for their fifth round selection (163rd overall) and their final pick of the draft, the Patriots made another trade with Green Bay. This time the Packers traded up one pick and gave the
Patriots two seventh round picks. The first of those picks was number 224 overall and the Patriots used that pick to select cornerback Alfonzo Dennard out of Nebraska. Dennard was originally expected to be a first round pick this year before some poor performances and off-field incidents dropped him into the seventh round. When at his best the corner is one of the best available so if Dennard can put those off-field problems behind him, this could be the steal of the draft for Belichick and the Patriots.
The final pick for the Patriots was the number 235th pick overall. With that pick the Patriots selected wide receiver Jeremy Ebert out of Northwestern. Many expected the Patriots to take a running back or wide receiver late in the draft and Ebert was just that. While he won’t be a main receiver for the team especially with some of the free agent moves the team made this year, Ebert will probably contribute to the special teams and be a backup receiver in 2012.
Overall it was a very good draft by the New England Patriots. They picked up two very high level players in the first round which will immediately improve their defense. Jones and Hightower could start in 2012 and have a big impact. While Wilson may not start in 2012, he’s a player that can be coached and could become a very important piece later in the year. The pick of Dennard could be a bust or the steal of the draft depending on his attitude. If he works hard, he has the ability to become one of the best cornerbacks in the league. The Patriots went into the draft with specific needs at defensive end, linebacker, and defensive back. The Patriots used their late picks the best they could and came away with a very strong 2012 draft class.