“Who will the New England Patriots draft in the first round”?
A person is more likely to pick all six lottery numbers than to answer that question accurately. The only thing that is consistently predictable is that whoever the Patriots draft, most fans and experts will not have seen it coming.
For several years in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, a person could at least be sure of one thing- the Patriots’ draft strategy would see the team trading down in the first round, or completely out of it, so they could add more picks in later rounds.
But there is one trend that has developed over the past two years- Belichick and the Patriots draft defense in the first three rounds.
In the 2012 and 2013 drafts, seven of the eight Patriots draft picks in the first three rounds were defensive players. As this article is being written, about 22 hours before the draft begins, the Patriots’ only pick in the first round will be their own selection at #29.
With Rob Gronkowski coming off knee surgery, and Aaron Hernandez getting ready for his trip to death row, we might see the Patriots draft a TE in the first round- but I just don’t see it. I fully expect Belichick to continue building a fast, young defense as he prepares for life without Tom Brady.
This could change if one of the two tight ends expected to go in the first round (North Carolina’s Eric Ebron and Washington’s Ausitn Seferian-Jenkins) fall to #29, but that is highly unlikely. With Vince Wilfork turning 33 in November and coming back from Achilles surgery, I expect Belichick to go after an interior defensive lineman with his first-round pick.
Pitt’s Aaron Donald is probably the best of the DT expected to go in the first round, but it is extremely unlikely that he will fall to #29- and it’s even more unlikely that Belichick would trade up to go after Donald.
Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman, a 6’6″, 310 pound tackle who was highly recruited as a tight end, looks like a Belichick player to me. While he tended to disappear from time to time during his college career, at the combine he showed a freakish 35 1/2 vertical leap while also bench pressing 225 pounds 32 times.
Belichick loves players who can fill in on the other side of the ball in case of emergency, and Hageman looks like a Pro Bowl talent if he’s motivated to play hard all the time. Not only was Hageman a tight end in high school, he also won a state championship in basketball there.
Other than Nate Solder in 2011, Patriots’ draft picks in the first round have been defensive players since Laurence Maroney was taken 21st overall in 2006. I fully expect that trend to continue in the 2014.
Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. He attended Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (columnist) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters, SportsCenter anchor) . In addition to running Bullsville.net and writing for The Sports Bank and ChicagoNow (Bullsville), he is also a KHSAA baseball umpire. He’s a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. Follow Don on Twitter @Bullsville.