McCourty Leads Patriots 2010 Draft Class

Make no mistake, this Draft was all about fixing the defense. Sure the Patriots added a couple of players to help out Tom Brady, but Defense was the focus at the beginning, in the middle and by the end. Here's a fist look at the Patriots 2010 NFL Draft class.

New England once again traded its way around the board to find value on the way toward adding 12 players. Most of the picks filled immediate needs at tight end, wide receiver, linebacker and defensive line. But first-round pick cornerback Devin McCourty left some scratching their heads. Overall the Patriots had a solid three-day effort, as Bill Belichick put it, "replenishing" the roster.

BEST PICK: Tight end Rob Gronkowski: The soft-handed product out of Arizona convinced New England doctors that he was healthy enough to warrant a second-round pick. Gronkowski fills a huge need and could be expected to contribute from day one.

COULD SURPRISE: Linebacker Brandon Spikes: A 5.06-second 40-yard dash time hurt Spikes' stock, but not Bill Belichick. He sees Spikes as a big, productive force on the inside who moves as well between the tackles as any linebacker he's seen in recent years.

A closer look at the Patriots' picks:

Round 1/27 -- Devin McCourty, CB, 5-11, 193, Rutgers

McCourty is a well-rounded corner with zone and man skills who was also considered one of the best special teams players in the draft.

Round 2/42 -- Rob Gronkowski, TE, 6-6, 265, Arizona

After sitting out 2009 with a back injury, Gronkowski left college early as one of the top tight end prospects. He has soft hands and can block, filling a huge hole in New England.

Round 2/53 -- Jermaine Cunningham, DE/OLB, 6-3, 266, Florida

Cunningham didn't have a lot of hype, but he fits the outside linebacker mold for the Patriots perfectly with the size, speed, athleticism and ability to play the pass and the run.

Round 2/62 -- Brandon Spikes, ILB, 6-3, 249, Florida

His 40 time hurt his draft stock, but Spikes' career at Florida showed he could flat out play. He was the captain of the defense, a force in the middle and a playmaker for the Gators. He'll play early on.

Round 3/90 -- Taylor Price, WR, 6-0, 212, Ohio

New England was the only team to work out Price, who had back-to-back 50-catch seasons in the Bobcats' run-first offense. He has good size and speed, but it could take him a time to learn the complexities of the Patriots' offense.

Round 4/113 -- Aaron Hernandez, TE, 6-3, 250, Florida

Hernandez won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end. More of an athletic H-back than true tight end, he'll find some opportunities in the Patriots' spread formations.

Round 5/150 -- Zoltan Mesko, P, 6-5, 230, Michigan

The Ray Guy Award winner fills an empty spot on the New England depth chart. The left-footed punter has a big leg and improving situational skills. The punting job is his to lose.

Round 6/205 -- Ted Larson, C, 6-2, 304, North Carolina State

A converted defensive lineman who has played only two years at center, Larson is a developing prospect.

Round 7/208 -- Thomas Welch, T, 6-6, 307, Vanderbilt

A former tight end, Welch started his final two seasons at tackle and has NFL backup swing potential.

Round 7/247 -- Brandon Deaderick, DE, 6-4, 296, Alabama

Deaderick started the last two years in Nick Saban's defense and is a developmental guy for the five technique in New England's 3-4 front.

Round 7/248 -- Kade Weston, 6-5, 317, DT, Georgia

Weston played inside for the Bulldogs but is a five-technique prospect for the Patriots.

Round 7/250 -- Zac Robinson, 6-3, 214, QB, Oklahoma State

Robinson is an athletic prospect from a spread scheme who could battle 2009 undrafted free agent Brian Hoyer for the backup job.

Draft Thoughts:
--Five picks and two trades after we all thought they'd make their first selection of the 2010 NFL Draft, the New England Patriots finally got on the board at No. 27 with -- surprise, surprise! -- a defender, though not the one many thought they'd snag.

Various mock drafts weighed in during the days leading up to the draft, with some experts guessing the Patriots would go with Texas defensive lineman Sergio Kindle, or perhaps his teammate, safety Earl Thomas -- either way, all eyes pointed to a defensive upgrade.

In the end, Bill Belichick traded out of the 22nd pick, acquired the No. 24th pick in exchange, and then dealt that selection, too, in order to scoop up Rutgers defensive back Devin McCourty with the 27th overall pick.

McCourty certainly fills a need on defense. The Patriots still haven't replaced Asante Samuel -- entering his third season with Philadelphia -- and they spent last year filling in the blanks on the opposite side, too, after trading away Ellis Hobbs.

According to scouting reports, McCourty (5-feet-10, 196 pounds) appears to be much faster than fundamentally sound, which is strange sine Belichick often preaches the virtues of solid ball skills -- a trait McCourty apparently lacks.

One thing he has going for him is his 4.42 time in the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, but he's rather thin and lacks the bulk (at least right now) to bang heads with stronger, taller receivers. As always, it's anyone's guess where he'll fit. Perhaps the Patriots went with a defensive back not only to address a need but to keep up with the proverbial "arms race" in the AFC East as well.

The Jets have asserted themselves as the best defensive team in the division thanks to the acquisition of cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who teams with Darrelle Revis for a formidable 1-2 punch. Once considered the most dangerous defense in the league, let alone the division, the Patriots have been spotty as they've tried to infuse more youth and speed.

With McCourty, they'll be faster and younger, but will they be better? This all depends on where he fits. Clearly, the Patriots didn't see much value at No. 22 or 24, nor did they think McCourty would be off the board if they traded down. In addition to adding another young defender, they also acquired a fourth-round pick from Denver and moved up from No. 119 to 90 in the second trade with Dallas.

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