Grading the draft: New England

Once again the New England Patriots found themselves selecting at the end of the first round as a result of their Super Bowl championship. Unlike previous years the Patriots did not have the luxury of multiple first round selections this April. Blessed with a talented roster the Patriots had few holes to fill on draft weekend.

Logan Mankins was considered by many to be a late first day selection. Mankins, who played left tackle at Fresno State, displayed enough intelligence to convince the Patriots that he could immediately start at guard. His performance at the Senior Bowl and the skills he showed blocking in motion really excited scouts and pushed Mankins up draft boards.  A nice sized prospect, he offers versatility, athleticism and starting potential. Third round selection Nick Kaczur, from Toledo, also offers the team a prospect that can play multiple blocking positions and start as a rookie. The teams other third round choice, Ellis Hobbs, is a player that fits nicely into the Patriots system. The talented Hobbs was one of the draft's most underrated corners and should see significant action as a rookie. The Patriots opened the draft's second day adding another Fresno State Bulldog, safety James Sanders. Sanders could be a special teams ace for the team while he improves his pass coverage skills. The nice sized safety offers the Patriots good upside and will excel as a run defender. In the Patriots system UNLV linebacker Ryan Claridge could be a steal. Claridge projects well as a pass coverage linebacker and shows much versatility.  A shoulder injury last season suppressed his draft stock. Matt Cassell and Andy Stokes, the teams final selections, will both be practice squad players if they have strong training camps. Cassell played quarterback behind Matt Leinart at USC. Stokes, "Mr. Irrelevant" in this years draft, will have to overcome stiff competition to make the Pats roster.

Given the success of their current regime it is difficult to argue with anything the Patriots do. Adding depth to their linebacker corps while also rebuilding their defensive backfield and offensive line with young players demonstrates the organizational efficiency under which this team operates. Expect several of these unheralded prospects to be solid starters for the team in years to come.

RD  Player Pos   School   Notes 
1   32 (32)   Logan Mankins   OG   Fresno State  
3   20 (84)   Ellis Hobbs, III   CB   Iowa State  
3   37 (100)   Nick Kaczur    OT   Toledo  
4   32 (133)   James Sanders   S   Fresno State  
5   34 (170)   Ryan Claridge   OLB   UNLV  
7   16 (230)   Matt Cassel   QB   USC  
7   41 (255)   Andy Stokes   TE   William Penn  

UDFA Signings: DT Michael Wright, S Ray Ventrone, RB DeCori Birmingham, RB Earl Charles, FB Kyle Eckel, OG Ryan Krug, OG Mike Lorenz, LS Travis Conway, PK Robbie Gould, LB Andre Torrey, WR Michael McGrew, DT Santanio Thomas, P Rhett Kopp, running back Earl Charles, defensive lineman DeMarco McNeil (from '04 draft), and defensive lineman Santonio Thomas.

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