New England Patriots 2011 NFL Draft Review

New England drafted offensive players in six of their first seven selections. They had nine total picks. Offensive tackle Nate Solder was the pick at 17 and reportedly was their highest rated tackle. A good athlete, he can pull and adjust on the run and is effective at walling off the corner support. He will provide Nick Kaczur with competition for the left tackle spot. Second round choice Ras-I Dowling has the speed, size, and skill set to play in Bill Belichick’s aggressive defensive scheme. Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley fill voids in the backfield with backs Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor, and Sammy Morris all unrestricted free agents. Nate Solder moved from tight end to tackle in the spring of 2008. The rangy pass protector has easy light feet to slide laterally and adjust his block to a speed rusher. He dominated Von Miller in their 2009 matchup. Miller admitted before the draft that Solder was the best lineman he had faced at Texas A&M. Solder knows how to use his long arms. He possesses good body control and balance. He should be a future bookend tackle, playing opposite 2009 2nd round draft choice Sebastian Vollmer. Ras-I Dowling, prior to last season, was one of the top defensive corners in the country. Injuries limited his senior play to just five games, starting 2 of them. His injuries included a left ankle fracture, hamstring strain, and a right knee injury. A good athlete, he is smooth in his turns and is not afraid to support the run. Shane Vereen was drafted as a possible replacement for Kevin Faulk. Like Faulk, Vereen has good running and receiving skills. He must improve his ability as a pass protector before he gets on the field. A north/south runner, he is a natural pass receiver with 74 career catches. Stevan Ridley is a straight ahead north/ south runner who will replace Fred Taylor. A downhill runner with zone cutback vision, he drives his legs on contact. He is explosive through the hole and flashes a quick cut and burst up the field. He will feel comfortable in a rotation role for the Pats like he was at LSU. Ryan Mallett is a big man with a big arm. He will learn firsthand from Tom Brady the proper approach that successful NFL quarterbacks take. There is no question that the Arkansas cannon can make all the NFL throws. He played in a combination pro and spread complex offensive system under Bobby Petrino. He has the skills to manage the offense and handle adjustments. Marcus Cannon must first battle non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a treatable form of cancer that was discovered in pre-draft physicals. He has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments which will conclude on June 29th. The success rate of beating this form of cancer is 90 percent because of early detection, his health, and his age. Cannon was a projected 2nd round pick and could prove to be a steal for New England. He played left tackle at TCU. A big man with long arms and athletic feet, he flashes an explosive six-inch punch and makes good use of his hands as a pass protector. He is versatile enough to play tackle or either guard position. Lee Smith is the eleventh tight end drafted by Belichick since 2001. Smith’s role will be to replace Alge Crumpler sometime in the future as an inline blocker. He has the ability and size to drive block one on one with functional strength and balance. Markell Carter was a rush end in a 4-3 scheme in college, but projects to an outside linebacker. He played wide receiver in high school. He started getting bigger, stronger, and tougher his junior year at Central Arkansas. His workout numbers at his pro day on 3/9/11 were: 6043, 252, 4.73/40, 1.75/10, 17/BP, 35.3/VJ, 10-1/BJ, 4.45/SS, and 7.43/3 cone. Malcolm Williams is a developmental cornerback that was a reserve at TCU. His pro day numbers on 3/11/11 were: 5095, 204, 4.49/40, 1.98/10, 16/ BP, 40/VJ, 10-6/BJ, 4.39/SS, and 6.90/3 cone. GRADE: ABOVE AVERAGE.

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