21. DE Chandler Jones B-
Defensive end was a need of theirs, but I had a 2nd round grade on Chandler Jones. He’s very raw, especially as a pass rusher. He can come in as play the run right now, but he’s a project as a pass rusher. He’s got the upside though and I trust the Patriots to get it out of him, but I don’t like that they traded up for him, especially with so few picks in this draft. There were plenty of pass rushers available at 27 and even if Jones was not there, that’s fine because he would have been a reach even there.
25. OLB Dont’a Hightower B+
Focusing on the front 7 more, Hightower is a great player. My only 2 concerns with him were his history of injuries and his lack of a true position in a 4-3. The Patriots will probably run a 4-3 in 2012 (especially since Jones is more of a 4-3 end than a 3-4 rush linebacker), but they like versatile guys like Hightower. He can play middle linebacker, outside linebacker, and defensive end for them. He fits the range and can be an immediate contributor for the Patriots.
48. S Tavon Wilson F
Safety was definitely a need, but Tavon Wilson is the first player drafted that wasn’t on my top 250. And it wasn’t for lack of watching him. I even spotlighted him in an Illinois game against Michigan. He’s a big stiff at cornerback and a little undersized at safety. He’s a tweener, but I like him more at safety than anywhere. Still don’t like him much. The Patriots should have traded down and tried to get him, especially with so few picks.
90. DE Jake Bequette A
Another defensive end? Well it was certainly a need even after drafting Jones and Hightower. Bequette was one of my underrated prospects and he fits the range here.
197. S Nate Ebner C
One of only a few I had never heard of that had been drafted, Ebner had 31 tackles in 3 years at Ohio State as primarily a special teamer. He’s supposedly a great special teamer and he has great measurables, but special teams aren’t hard to find. There had to be better picks than this.
224. CB Alfonzo Dennard A
Assuming he doesn’t go to jail, Dennard is a great pick here. Even if he does go to jail, it’s worth the risk. I had a 2nd round grade on Dennard before his arrest and even mocked him in the 2nd to the Patriots because he’s such a good scheme fit. He’s a bit of a bonehead for getting arrested so close to draft day and you have to question his love of the game after putting himself in that position. He’s definitely worth it in the 7th round. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he were a starter at cornerback, a position of need, for them at some point.
235. WR Jeremy Ebert A
Another player I actually had never heard of, but I don’t know how I don’t. Ebert had 2 good years of production for Northwestern in the Big 10 and ran in the 4.3s at his Pro Day. I don’t know why he wasn’t in my top 250 and why I had never heard of him. I’m baffled this guy slipped past me. This is my bad and definitely a good pick by the Patriots in the 7th round, needing some youth at receiver.
The Patriots clearly made defense a focus of their draft and rightfully so after giving up the 3rd most yards of any team ever last year. I didn’t really like the Chandler Jones pick, but he can still be a contributor, as can Jake Bequette and Dont’a Hightower. Tavon Wilson was a major reach in the 2nd round, but they got a good value with Alfonzo Dennard in the 7th.
Nate Ebner is head scratching, but it’s the late rounds. I didn’t love this draft, but I think they made the defense a lot better for the future and if not for the Wilson reach, this would probably be a B+. Replace Wilson with someone like Brandon Taylor after a move down and this is a A- probably. Stay at 27 and take Harrison Smith and grab a defensive end like Vinny Curry in the 2nd, this is probably an A draft.