I’m happy that the Patriots drafted two offensive lineman, Nate Solder and Marcus Cannon. Mostly because it’s sort of what I predicted. (If I were smart, I’d have continued with my age/experience theme and predicted they’d draft a couple running backs, too. Kevin Faulk, Sammy Morris, and Fred Taylor are a combined 104 years old.)
But I really wanted the Patriots to draft an outside linebacker, and they did in the sixth round. My first impression of their pick, Markell Carter? He looks and sounds like a sharp kid. He played defensive end in college, common enough for guys transitioning to OLB in 3-4 NFL defenses. Carter also played TE in high school, which speaks to his versatility. With his experience as a receiver, we may even see him lining up as an eligible receiver in short yardage situations, as Mike Vrabel did. (I’ll never forget Vrabel catching that touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXVIII.)
Assuming Carter works hard and stays healthy, I could easily see him developing into a consistent edge rusher. I haven’t watched all of his tape from Central Arkansas, obviously, but from what I can tell, he can get to the quarterback in about three seconds or less, which is good. While he doesn’t appear to be as strong as he probably needs to be, he’s most effective when sliding or spinning around protection, which is the technique that Vrabel would often employ to great success. Certainly a speeding, sliding, spinning edge rusher is exactly the kind of pressure the Patriots need to be able to bring consistently. After all the comparisons I’ve made already, is it too soon to say Markell Carter could be the next Mike Vrabel? (Fine, fine, it’s too soon.)
As for their other picks, I’m glad they picked up two offensive lineman, and their running back selections seem to be pretty good. Ryan Mallet could turn out to be a really smart long-term pick, either as a quality backup, or as trade bait after a year or two in the Patriots system. Also, after reading and listening to all of their interviews and conference calls, I couldn’t help but think that these kids have already gotten a crash course from Belichick on how to handle reporters in trademark Patriots fashion.
Smith: It was just so humbling and so rewarding.
Dowling: Just try to perform to the best of my abilities.
Vereen: I just see myself coming in as a player looking for an opportunity to play.
Spoken like true ten-year veterans of the Pats.
Moving on to more important things, I’m not sure I’m all that comfortable with the Patriots-hating that’s been going on around here. I won’t respond in kind, as easy as that would be.
Plus, I can think of a few reasons to root the Giants:
Belichick had his first real success in the NFL with the Giants. If it weren’t for them, he probably wouldn’t be who he is today. The history between the two organizations runs deep. So if my second-favorite team is Belichick’s second-favorite team, that’s OK by me.
The Giants are New York’s non-Jets team.
The Giants are rarely a direct threat to the Patriots (except when they are — sigh).