2011 NFL Draft Analysis: Pats' Pick is Huge

"So much depends/ upon/ a gray hoodie/ sweatshirt/ sitting at pick/ 28/ before the QB/ needy"

I hate William Carlos Williams with a passion, but I will give him that the few simple lines about a Red Wheel Barrow I twisted for my own Draft purposes sparked a lot of discussion in its time. One of the most infuriating days of my Modern English Literature class my Sophomore year of college was the day we discussed that poem in class. People just couldn't stop wondering and exploring and, well, BS-ing some meaning into those few simple words. Hopefully, my little poem won't annoy you as much as the Red Wheel Barrow annoyed me.

Anyways, let's get to analyzing all the meaning behind this "poem." Basically, I believe that the entire draft (and especially the first two rounds) centers around one pick: The New England Patriots' pick number 28 overall. Why? Two words: "Quarterbacks" and "desperation."

1) Quarterbacks: This 2011 draft was though of last year as one of the best QB crops to come around in about a decade. Andrew Luck, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Ryan Mallett, just to name a few, were all potential stud, first round QBs. Of course, Luck stayed in school, and Ponder, Gabbert, and Locker didn't knock anybody's socks off with their statistical dominance. Mallet's character issues will likely hurt his draft stock, so a lot of QBs are likely to make it past pick pick 16. While there's no clear winner at the top, the depth at QB in this year's draft means that there could conceivably be starting-quality guys taken in the third or fourth round. I know for myself I'm keeping tabs on Nathan Enderle, who will likely become a solid back-up and developmental guy for some team in the fourth round, and the cluster of Andy Dalton, Pat Devlin, and Ricki Stanzi could hang around for a little while come draft day. Most mocks have three or four QBs taken in the first round: Newton and Gabbert in the top ten, Locker or Ponder in the teens, and Locker or Mallet in the twenties. That still leaves us with six QB needy teams all trying to get their guy at the top of the second round. That is where we come to my second word: desperation.

 

2) Desperation: Once we get past the Jaguars pick in round one, there is only one team (Seattle) with a professed interest in taking a QB. There are a total of ten teams who are likely to draft a QB, with eight or nine of them packed into the first sixteen picks. When the second round comes around, only two or three of the QB needy teams will have addressed the position. Quarterback is the most important position in the game of football, so being able to get "your guy" at QB in this draft is a huge thing. However, a team like the 49ers, picking at 39 could find that teams before them in the second round have already snagged their guy. If I was the 49ers GM and I had fallen in love with a Ryan Mallet, for example, I would want to trade up.

And that brings us back around to the Patriots. The Patriots have two first-round picks at number 17 and number 28. They have needs on defense, but the Patriots are sneaky. They know how to get value in trades and free agency, and nothing makes better trade bait than a QB who probably won't quite make it down to a desperate team. The Pats have been fleecing people for years, trading down to pick up more 2nd and 3rd round draft picks. That's how they have managed to build some semblance of a defense so soon after scrapping pretty much everybody two years ago. They know that it never hurts to get more picks, and they'd certainly be willing to part with their pick at 28... for a price.

So much depends on who is willing to pay the Patriots. I think the most likely candidates are the Bengals and 49ers, and if one of them does make the leap back into the first round, Day 1 of the draft could easily end with high-pick teams panicking. If they do, Day 2 will open with a massive run on QBs, leaving QB needy teams in the teens scrambling to find somebody before the QB crop dries up. This would push some more worthy players down, and basically throw draft boards into a tailspin. In a word, what happens at 28 will be hugely important.

My advice come draft time is to pay close attention to pick 28. I've got a feeling something wild is going to happen there that will greatly affect the Jaguars' draft strategy. After all, Bill Belichick has never been afraid to stir up a little chaos. Spygate anyone?

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