With Bill Belichick holding just five selections heading into the 2013 NFL Draft — and no picks in the third, fourth or fifth rounds — speculation was that New England would be looking to trade down from the 29th selection in an effort to add more picks.
In a draft that’s been seen as much deeper than top-heavy in terms of overall talent, Belichick achieved his goal late in the first round when he worked a deal with the Vikings that turned that 29th pick into four selections later in the draft.
Looking to move up to select Cordarrelle Patterson, Minnesota sent second- (52), third- (83), fourth- (102) and seventh- (229) round picks to the Patriots. In one fell swoop, Belichick went from five picks to eight selections.
The move certainly left Belichick and director of player personnel Nick Caserio plenty of options heading into the second day of the draft. With four picks in the second and third rounds, the team was still able to target top remaining players at key spots of need such as wide receiver, defensive end and defensive back.
And really, beyond Belichick’s affinity for lots of picks that allow him to move around the board via trade as well as supplement his roster, Patriots owner Robert Kraft may have hinted at New England’s intentions prior to the draft.
“It’s going to be very hard for someone who gets drafted to come in and start on our team,” Kraft said. “You never know … maybe there are 2-3 players who have an opportunity to do that. The NFL is a business about quality depth management; I’ve been saying that since the beginning. If you want to be successful year in and year out in this business, you have to have depth and you have to have a plan. It doesn’t happen by remote control.”
With the four picks in the second day of the draft, including two from the trade with the Vikings, the Patriots targeted obvious needs on Friday night. That began in the second round when New England selected Southern Mississippi defensive end/outside linebacker Jamie Collins with the 52nd overall pick. Collins played safety, linebacker and defensive line during his college career. The 6-3, 250 pounder had 10 sacks last season and will have a chance to compete right away for at least a sub role on the Patriots defensive front.
Seven picks later Belichick and Caserio targeted the biggest need on the offensive side of the ball by picking Marshall wide receiver Aaron Dobson at No. 59 overall. The 6-3, 203-pound target had 57 catches and three scores last fall, and didn’t drop a single throw.
Dobson almost landed in New England when he was choosing colleges a few years back. Dobson, who was also a very good high school basketball player received a scholarship offer to Northeastern University.
“I actually liked Boston, liked it up there, liked the school,” Dobson recalled in a conference call with the New England media. “But I just ended up leaning toward Marshall for football.”
Continuing to go down the list of needs, New England addressed cornerback with its first pick in the third round with the selection of Rutgers Logan Ryan. The All-Big East corner starter 27 games with the Scarlet Knights, a program Belichick has praised often over the years for producing quality, NFL-ready talent.
The final pick of the second day of the draft in New England was most shocking. Belichick stuck with the Rutgers program to pick up two-time All-Big East safety Duron Harmon. Harmon wasn’t considered a draftable prospect by many analysts, never mind a third-round target, but Belichick included the safety when he said his team got good “value” with all its selections.
“We were able to improve our team with the four players we selected,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how it works out.
“I felt like we got good value for the picks we had.”
Pats get running back from Bucs
Late in the day during the latter rounds of the draft, reports began circulating in New England that the team was working to trade second-year former undrafted free-agent kickoff returner and running back Jeff Demps. The former silver medalists in the Olympics in England last summer spent last fall on injured reserve after joining the Patriots in training camp. But this spring the former Florida star informed the Patriots he was returning to track competitively and planned on pursuing a career in both sports.
Apparently New England, which signed veteran kick returner Leon Washington this spring, wasn’t on board with that plan and shipped Demps, along with a seventh-round pick (229), to the Bucs in exchange for running back LeGarrette Blount. Blount is a former 1,000-yard rusher who fell out of favor in Tampa Bay and was replaced last year by impressive rookie Doug Martin.
Belichick shows support for Watertown police
It wasn’t unusual to see coach Bill Belichick come to the podium after the second round of the draft wearing a hooded sweatshirt with cutoff sleeves. On Friday night, Belichick stood behind the mic wearing a blue Watertown Police Department sweatshirt with a Patriots logo emblazoned on it. Asked about the sweatshirt, Belichick made his feelings on the attire and its relation to the recent Boston Marathon bombings quite clear.
“Just want to support Watertown Police and the unbelievable job they did,” Belichick said of the department that caught one of the suspected bombers. “Just supporting the people that protect our freedom.”
A closer look at the Patriots’ picks
Round 2/52 — Jamie Collins, DE/OLB, 6-3, 250, Southern Mississippi: After trading down in the first round, New England targeted one of its biggest needs with the versatile, athletic pass rusher Collins with its first selection. Collins played safety, linebacker and defensive end, putting up 10 sacks with his hand in the dirt last fall. His exact role on the New England front is unclear, but he will boost the playmaking potential of the defense.
Round 2/59 — Aaron Dobson, WR, 6-3, 210, Marshall: With the team undergoing nearly a total overhaul at the receiver position, New England added a bigger receiver with impressive hands to Tom Brady’s attack. Dobson has decent speed and production that should allow him to compete for playing time immediately this fall.
Round 3/83 — Logan Ryan, CB, 5-11, 191, Rutgers: Bill Belichick has often praised the Rutgers program over the years for producing NFL-ready talent and tapped into that pipeline for a cornerback to add depth to the back end of the Patriots defense. Ryan was a key part of Rutgers’ impressive overall defense last fall.
Round 3/91 — Duron Harmon, S, 6-1, 200, Rutgers: Sticking with the Scarlet Knights — where Belichick’s son and current Patriots assistant coach Steve Belichick played — New England had a surprising selection of the safety who many had slotted as a late-round or free-agent prospect. Harmon was an All-Big East performer and Belichick praised him for his communication in the secondary.
Round 4/102 — Josh Boyce, WR, 5-11, 206, TCU: Looking to hit pay dirt with a mid-round speed burner, the Patriots targeted Boyce as a potential deep threat on the outside. Though recovering from foot surgery for a Jones fracture, Boyce ran a 4.38 40 and was a big-play machine for the Horned Frogs.
Round 7/226 — Michael Buchanan, DE, 6-5, 255, Illinois: After doubling up at wide receiver early in the draft, New England went for a second defensive end with Buchanan to add a boost to the pass rush. Buchanan had 7.5 sacks in 2011 and was the Illini Defensive Player of the Year last fall with 4.5 as a long, athletic edge presence.
Round 7/235 — Steve Beauharnais, ILB, 6-1, 240, Rutgers: Apparently three’s a charm when drafting Rutgers players as the Patriots closed out the draft with another Scarlet Knight. Beauharnais started 26 games over his final two seasons at Rutgers, but projects as a potential backup and special teamer at the next level.