Bill Belichick Didn’t See Many Quality Players in Draft and 19 Other Patriots Thoughts


Bill Belichick Didn't See Many Quality Players in Draft and 19 Other Patriots Thoughts Now that the NFL draft is a few days old, it's been a little easier to take a breath and analyze the activity from the weekend. But before that, let's take a quick second to reflect on the most important event of the week and how it needs to affect the NFL in the future.

1. The NFL's opening Sunday is scheduled to be on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11. If the regular season is delayed due to the lockout, every single person from each side will have to look themselves in the mirror on that date and put things into some real perspective.

2. Check out Shane Vereen's 2010 highlight video. One thing that immediately stuck out came at the 4:05 mark, when Vereen outraced UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers to the pylon to score a touchdown. Ayers, of course, was linked to the Patriots during the pre-draft process but was drafted by the Titans.

3. Had a good talk with Mark Herzlich on Monday afternoon, and he had a definite tone of frustration in his voice, yet he still managed to give off an inspiring message.

4. When asked if, in any way, the sting of going undrafted was eased by the notion that everyone on the football planet believes he'll be in someone's training camp this summer, he laughed and responded, "I hope the GM's know that."

5. I joked during the draft that the Patriots could select USC tight end Jordan Cameron to try to make up for passing on Cal defensive end Cameron Jordan. And then the Browns drafted Cameron but called Jordan, thinking he was Cameron. So there's that.

6. It's a good thing the Browns had a great draft, or they'd be getting ruthlessly killed for that phone call mix-up.

7. The fact that Da'Quan Bowers fell out of the first round was mildly surprising, but it shows how poorly teams have graded Bowers' knee. Because of that, I don't think any teams should be criticized for passing on him. With that said, even with the knee issue, the Buccaneers were reportedly considering drafting Bowers at No. 20. So the fact that they got him at No. 51 was interesting.

8. The biggest pre-draft issue with tackle Nate Solder was his strength. When asked if there was anything he needed to address about his 21 bench reps at the combine, he said, "I’ve never really paid too much attention to analysts. I've always felt that I'm a strong, powerful player, but I always have things to develop and get better at."

9. Solder could have played basketball at Dartmouth, but he opted for the football scholarship at Colorado. Considering the fact that only six basketball players have ever been drafted out of Dartmouth — none higher than the second round, and none at all in the last two decades — Solder made the right choice to stick with football.

10. Remember the crazy ending between LSU and Tennessee last season? Well, Patriots third-round draft pick Steven Ridley was the guy who scored LSU's game-winning touchdown after the Tigers got a second chance due to Tennessee's penalty for too many men on the field.

11. Ridley still gets excited when talking about that ending. "Tennessee was wild," he said. "That was the biggest swing of emotion I've ever had in my life. I've never won and lost a game at the same time, but that happened that day in Death Valley. And anything can happen there."

12. Want any more evidence that Ridley is a bulldozing running back? It was a pitch play to the left side, and Ridley quickly cut to his right to avoid a linebacker who knifed straight into the backfield. Then, while stumbling forward toward the goal line, Ridley was stood up by defensive end Corey Miller, who had four inches and 30 pounds on Ridley. Ridley fought through Miller and four other defenders to get that final burst into the end zone.

13. To prepare for the lockout, the Patriots gave out their veterans' phone numbers to the new draft picks over the weekend. Solder, Vereen, Ridley, Ras-I Dowling (pronounced "Ross-I") and Ryan Mallett were all able to visit Gillette Stadium before the end of the draft, but the Patriots could only contact Marcus Cannon, Lee Smith, Markell Carter and Malcolm Williams over the phone before the lockout was back on.

14. Williams was a huge unknown in the draft, and he said he never even expected to get picked, which is a huge rarity. (Really, I don't know if I've ever heard a drafted player say they didn't think they'd get picked.) But he's not completely obscure. He got a scholarship to play at Oklahoma, but he didn't qualify academically, so he had to attend junior college before transferring to TCU.

15. There's been an uproar in New England over the Patriots' trade with the Saints that allowed them to draft Mark Ingram with the 28th pick. One way to look at it is the Patriots traded Ingram for Vereen and a 2012 first-round pick, but the Pats clearly weren't interested in taking Ingram. Two players I'll keep an eye on are defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson (taken by the Jets at No. 30) and Cameron Heyward (No. 31 to the Steelers). I thought both of them would have been a better fit than Ingram.

16. I don't really know why it's overly surprising that Bill Belichick passed on Ingram. Belichick has stockpiled a collection of backs since Corey Dillon's injury derailed the offense in 2005, and Belichick has clearly shown he doesn't want that to happen again. Since Ingram has knee questions, it would give Belichick even more cause for concern since he's behind the eight ball before even taking a hit at the NFL level.

17. Belichick definitely answered a question about Solder's future, saying he'll be a left tackle in the NFL. But the New England head coach wasn't as clear about Cannon, who could conceivably play any position on the line except center.

18. By taking Solder (a raw player who would benefit from a season to develop), trading the 28th pick for a 2012 first-rounder, adding cornerback depth with Dowling at No. 33, two running backs, a quarterback who won't ever see the field if all goes according to plan and an offensive lineman who just began chemotherapy, Belichick showed that he believed two things about this draft class.

19. First, there weren't a lot of quality, NFL-ready prospects in the draft, because Belichick drafted for depth more than immediate need. The one exception might be at running back, which was overhauled like the tight end position in 2010.

20. Second, he was hardly impressed with the level of the pass rushers who went in the second and third rounds, at least not enough to change his thinking in regard to that position. Does it make him right? No, but it adds some legitimacy to the theory that the secondary crop of outside linebackers weren't really all that solid. It will be worth monitoring the careers of Jabaal Sheard (No. 37 to the Browns), Akeem Ayers (No. 39 to the Titans), Brooks Reed (No. 42 to the Texans) and Bowers, among others.

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