FOXBORO, Mass. — The Patriots appeared to make a conscious effort to draft team captains in 2010, and that trend continued right away in the 2011 draft, as they opened things up by taking Colorado tackle Nate Solder with the 17th pick.
The 6-foot-8, 319-pounder played in every single snap in the 2010 season and was Colorado's team captain and MVP, as well as a consensus All-American. Solder only allowed five sacks in 1,400 called passing plays during three seasons as a starter, according to his Colorado bio.
Solder is a massive player who is still in the development stages, despite his collegiate credentials. With his size, he can Sebastian Vollmer will give the Patriots more than 13 feet of starting tackles when that day comes. Solder is extremely athletic, though his 21 bench reps at the combine were a concern. He might be better off sitting on the bench for a season.
It depends entirely on Matt Light, who is a free agent but could very possibly still return to New England for another season or two. Ideally, the Patriots would retain Light and let him fight for his job in 2012, and Solder would eventually team up with Vollmer. Solder could definitely start on a need basis in 2011.
The Patriots passed over a slew of tremendous defensive players with the 17th pick to take Solder, who I thought might have been available in the late 20s. California defensive end Cameron Jordan, Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara and Illinois defensive lineman Corey Liuget were all on the board, and the Patriots also passed over Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo.
And while the door is still very much open for Light to return, this at least presents the Patriots with a big question about the 10-year veteran who won three Super Bowls in New England.
"I think that was an end-of-the-game situation. One of the backups was in there just to kneel the ball. … It's funny. When they told me I missed two snaps, I had to think about what happened. I don't remember missing those two snaps."
–Solder on missing just two snaps in three seasons at Colorado.
Photo via Flickr/Monica's Dad