The New England Patriots had the opportunity to land one of the most talented players in this year's Draft and they decided to pass, not once, but twice. They may have their reasons, but Tom Brady should be wondering what gives.
When the first round of the NFL Draft rolled by Thursday night, the Patriots found themselves on the clock with a decision to make; should they choose a talented player with the 22nd pick, or trade down for more?
The Patriots could have addressed their wide receiver concerns with either Thomas or Bryant. The team's current wideout group has to be a concern; especially considering Wes Welker is still recovering from a serious knee injury. Aging veterans Torry Holt and David Patten, if they make the roster, will be vying for a role as No 3 or 4 in the group at best. Adding Thomas, or Bryant - two players we've confirmed they were interested in - would have added an entirely new dimension to the receiving corps.
Making A Case For Bryant
After speaking with Bryant's representatives, it was apparent that a number of GMs and decision makers at NFL clubs believed Dez Bryant has what it takes to be an elite NFL player. What was also apparent was that some teams felt taking a WR early in the Draft could turn into a mistake they didn't want to make. Teams had the WR position slotted lower than where both Bryant and Thomas ranked on the boards. This was an indication that team needs trumped the BPA 9Best Player Available) formula, at least when it came to that particular pair.
Talented players can be found in every round of the NFL Draft, but the top half of the first round is where all of the blue chip, Hall-of-fame-worthy types should be taken. Certainly a few slide down the boards a little but, but by and far, the majority of top half picks pan out.
According to many reports, Bryant's background indicated that he might have difficulty staying on the straight and narrow path required to be successful in the NFL. Sources confirmed to Patriots Insider that although there might be concerns in the media, those questions were addressed in a positive manner with the NFL clubs expressing interest. According to Bryant's reps, those who meet the receiver like him. The background concerns, we were told, we not an issue that would prevent a club from taking him.
So why not take Bryant?
For Denver it was simple, they had their guy in Thomas. Thomas will replace the recently departed Brandon Marshall as a target for Broncos signal callers (whomever gets the job) Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn, Tim Tebow.
For New England the story is different, they didn't get a first round target. And it may have been a move they'll regret later on.
Randy Moss may (or may not) have a few years left as a top WR in the NFL. New England has no one on the roster to fill his shoes once he does decide to hang up the cleats. Drafting Bryant could have been the perfect solution. Imagine Bryant and Moss on the same field together. Picture the former trouble-prone Moss, teaching Bryant what to do, and what Not to do in the pros. There would be no better tutor for the talented youngster.
Instead, New England opted to move back, not once, but twice passing on Bryant.
According to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, the team targeted Rutgers DB Devin McCourty in the first round, and managed to pick up extra picks while still getting their man. Last time we looked, the Patriots defense didn't have as many holes in it as the team's receiving corps.
Bryant could have turned the Patriots offense from a potent group to an outright deadly one. Defenses around the NFL typically have one very solid corner, a good second corner and a solid nickel - at least the defenses designed to slow down the pass. By selecting Bryant (or Thomas), the Patriots could have put a strain on every defense they faced. Picture the unenviable job of a defensive coordinator charged with slowing down an offense led by Tom Brady with Moss, Welker and Bryant at his disposal. Lump in Julian Edelman until Welker is back, and mix in a tight end or alternate like Torry Holt and you could see how that one move would have increased the value of defensive backs league wide.
Before the Draft, we asked former NFL Scout Daniel Jeremiah (movethesticks.com) to giveus his impression of Bryant. What were told is that Bryant has a world of talent if he can keep his off field issues in check. Speaking with another NFL personnel staffer who wished to remain anonymous, Bryant does indeed have Moss-like qualities. He could be the next big thing if he stays focused.
What's next for New England is that they added a guy named Taylor Price in the third round of the Draft. Who you ask? There were other options such as Golden Tate, Damian Williams, or Arrelious Benn all players supposedly considered top wideouts
Tate was not a serious option according to a source close to the Golden Domer. New England checked in on him, but not like Benn and Williams who had more received specific interest from the Patriots.
Price is over 6 feet tall and 200 pounds. The Patriots have smaller, quicker receivers on the roster already. They need a more physical target fro Brady, someone who is willing to go get the ball.
Tate, 5-foot-10, and Dexter McCluster 5-foot-9 were both potential options if they fell, but other teams saw value there and took them off the board while New England mulled over TE and defensive LB options.
So Price is the answer - for now. Teamed with Moss, Welker, Edelman plus veterans Holt and Patten, the Patriots feel comfortable with their lineup. The Patriots do have other option, Brandon Tate, the receiver/returner who sat out most of last season battling injuries.
Dallas Gets Their Main
Tony Romo should be a happy man. With Bryant on the roster, he now has a legitimate target to get the ball downfield, and hopefully won't have to deal with the drama T.O. brought with him while in Dallas.
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