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Patriots 2013 Draft Review

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New England focuses on depth in weak draft

The New England Patriots draft strategy in recent years has involved a lot of wheeling and dealing. Coach Bill Belichick seems to take particular delight in trading down and accumulating more and more future assets. While it certainly makes sense as a long-term strategy, in the short term it can feel a bit frustrating. We want to see the team take shots at top-level players, rather than being content with quantity over quality.

However, in a draft such as this one a draft that is viewed as a relatively weak one at the top the strategy of accumulating value makes a lot of sense. So it should have come as no surprise that New England traded out of the first round; they got a handful of picks from the Minnesota Vikings and fleshed out a draft in which they initially only had a few picks.

The first Patriots picks of 2013 came in the second round. New England wound up with a pair of picks in this round. The first was used on defensive end/linebacker Jamie Collins out of Southern Miss. While his team went 0-12 last year, Collins flashed large degrees of athleticism and versatility as he lined up all over the defensive side of the field. He's got pass-rushing ability as well as some coverage skills. He's the kind of multifaceted talent that today's NFL defenses require.

The second second-rounder was spent on Aaron Dobson, a wide receiver from Marshall. One of New England's greatest needs going into the draft was at wideout; Dobson is a big target with speed and good hands. He's got a chance to develop into a strong downfield threat. Additionally, Marshall receivers have thrived in the past when on the receiving end of Tom Brady passes two of the greatest Patriot pass catchers (Troy Brown and Randy Moss) were Marshall alums.

The Patriots had two third-round picks as well. They opted to focus on the defensive backfield another position of need with both picks. Coincidentally, they also focused on the same school. Cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Duron Harmon are both products of Rutgers. Ryan was considered a top-50 talent by many evaluators, so New England scored by grabbing him at 83. He's got good tackling and coverage skills, though his initial contributions will be on special teams. Ditto Harmon, although he is actually viewed as a bit of a reach in the third round. Most think that he's little more than a special-teamer and rotation guy, but Belichick and company have scored with that sort of player before.

In the fourth round, New England went back to wide receiver, choosing Josh Boyce from TCU. Boyce is a gifted athlete, but he sports some question marks he had some issues with dropped passes and failing to play up to superior competition. Still, he's got the size and speed to make him worth a bit of a gamble at this spot.

The Patriots didn't select again until the seventh round. Michael Buchanan, a hybrid end/linebacker from Illinois, is one of those players who probably would have gone earlier had he declared for last year's draft. He can get after the quarterback and has tons of potential the perfect roll of the dice in the seventh round. With their final pick of the draft, New England went back to Rutgers, selecting linebacker Steve Beauharnais. He's another versatile player the kind Belichick loves but he'll have to produce on special teams to earn a roster spot.

(In addition, the Patriots packaged a seventh-round pick with running back Jeff Demps to acquire Tampa Bay back LeGarrette Blount. Blount has some noted attitude issues, but New England has had some good luck with former head cases. He might not be a star, but he's well worth the gamble.)

Attempting to grade a team's draft immediately afterward is a fool's errand. You need a good five years to really get a sense of how a draft class has played out. However, by all accounts, it looks like the Patriots played their hand reasonably well. We'll just have to wait and see how many if any of their 2013 selections become team mainstays. 

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