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2011 NFL Draft Grades: Three Head Scratchers

I am going to conclude my Draft winners and losers section with three teams whose moves puzzled me. These are moves I am not ready to say are terrible, but I think they perhaps should have gone in a different direction.

New England Patriots: There were some aspects of what the Patriots did that I really liked, namely the offensive line picks. A team can never go wrong solidifying its offensive line. I think once Nate Solder hits the weight room, adds meat to his frame, and learns technique, he is going to be very, very good. I also think Marcus Cannon was a great pick. He only fell to the fifth round because of the Hodgkin's Disease scare, which he is expected to beat. It is not hyperbole to say Cannon was a dominant player at TCU and manhandled J.J. Watt in the Rose Bowl. Those guys are going to be excellent. I like Ras-I Dowling. He might have been a first rounder had he stayed healthy.

The rest of New England's Draft left me kind of puzzled, though. It felt like they reached for two running backs. I am not sold either is a huge improvement on what they had. I kind of get the Ryan Mallett pick, but this is not really an Aaron Rodgers situation. Brett Favre was year to year then. Tom Brady is going to be around for a long time. There is a good chance Mallett never sees the field to increase his stock even to flip him off in a trade. That pick reminds me a bit of the Yankees and the Red Sox, both of whom have so many resources that they will take on a player to block him from going to the other team. I get the impression the Pats liked Mallett, felt like they could burn one of their many picks on quarterback, and the chance to keep him from going to Buffalo or Miami was a bonus. I'm not really sold on Mallett and was hoping he would go to Buffalo or Miami. He has kind of been the anti-Brady in college, not very good in clutch spots.

With all of the picks the Pats had, I thought it was odd that they did not address some of their big needs, like getting pass rushing help until the sixth round or a gamebreaker on offense, particularly at receiver. They had a chance with all of their picks to make a big move up to grab an elite player early and still have plenty of picks.

The trading down one slot to get a pick the Jets originally owned to poke New York in the eye was kind of funny. Remember, the name Markell Carter, the guy they took on that pick, who will become a staple of the talking points announcers will beat into the ground if he becomes a star.

The thing that prevents me from saying the Pats did poorly is people always seem to question their outside the box moves. I remember last year everybody got on them for taking two tight ends and Devin McCourty over Kyle Wilson. That worked out pretty well. I guess time will tell. What is funny, though, is a Pats fan friend of mine had pretty much the same thoughts. He also thinks Belichick is going senile. That I do not agree with.

Atlanta Falcons: Again, I'm not ready to say the Falcons 100% made the wrong move. It feels like the kind of move the Jets have made well through the years, throwing in all of their chips to get an elite talent. It also feels like a luxury move. The Falcons are close. They were not in a spot where they were one receiver away, though. They needed defensive help and did not get much. Maybe Julio Jones will be a star. There is a pretty good chance he will be one.I am still not sure about what they did.

Denver Broncos: This is not so much about their picks. It is more about them moving to a 4-3. After this Draft, their pass rushers are Elvis Dumervil, Von Miller, and Jeremy Beal, smaller athletic guys who would benefit from working in space. Is there a better reason for not having a 4-3 other than John Fox saying, "I've always run a 4-3?" When Bill Belichick got to New England, he saw he did not have the players to run the 3-4 he prefers. Eventually he got those players, but he went 4-3 until he did. Mike Tomlin was a Tampa 2 guy but kept Dick LeBeau's 3-4 zone blitzing scheme when he went to Pittsburgh because it was proven. The best coaches put their talent in positions to succeed.