NFL Draft 2011: New England Patriots – Rounds 2 & 3
By Andy Lindberg
The New England Patriots selected four new players to join their successful franchise and here is some more information about each player.
Round 2: Pick 33
Name: Ras-I Dowling
Overview: This isn’t a bad pick for the Patriots. Clearly New England did not think great pass rush value was available in the second round and figured if they were not going to put a ton of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, shoring up the secondary would help. Dowling had a tough time his senior year with injuries, but the Patriots have never shown hesitation to draft a banged up player to let him recover. Dowling had 8 career picks for the University of Virginia and it is possible he can make an immediate impact as a number 3 or 4 corner behind Leigh Bodden and Devin McCourty. Players like Dowling usually have to prove themselves on special teams, but Bill Belichick must think highly of Dowling to select him 33rd overall in the draft.
Round 2: Pick 56
Name: Shane Vereen
Position: Running Back
Overview: I like the selection of Vereen. Even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a fantastic year for New England, the Patriots need some depth at the running back position. Much like last year’s draft when New England selected two tight ends in the second round, this year the Patriots took two running backs. Vereen was the first and had a very good year for Cal as a junior rushing for 1,167 yards and 13 touchdowns and caught 22 passes for 209 yards and three scores. He’s got a low center of gravity and should be able to help New England when needed. I don’t anticipate a ton of playing time unless the Patriots decide upon platooning their running backs, but Vereen will be a very capable option behind the “Law Firm” and Danny Woodhead.
Round 3: Pick 73
Name: Steven Ridley
Position: Running Back
Overview: I watch a ton of SEC football being an Alabama Crimson Tide fan and Ridley is a bruiser. He looks for contact and can wear out a defense. In the toughest conference in college football Ridley ran for 1,147 yards and 15 touchdowns, including a 159-yard game at Vanderbilt and 123 yards against Tennessee. In the Cotton Bowl against Texan A&M he torched the Aggies for 105 yards on the ground and a score. I believe (partially biased) that Ridley is a better runner than Vereen, but it will be an interesting battle between the two in the pre-season (if there is one) for who comes out higher on the depth chart.
Round 3: Pick 74
Name: Ryan Mallett
Overview: I will fully admit (again, I’m an SEC fan) I was completely stoked when New England selected Mallett. Not only do I believe Mallett is a steal, but also a first round, NFL ready talent.
Who better to put behind Tom Brady to learn? No offense to those who wanted Jake Locker or possibly Blaine Gabbert, but Locker and Gabbert couldn’t hold Mallett’s jock strap in college. Again, Mallett played in (and torched) the toughest defensive conference in college football. In 2010 he threw for 3,869 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 picks.
Mallett ended his career with 69 touchdown passes and threw for 30+ touchdowns two years in a row in the SEC. However, what stands out the most (aside from his laser, rocket arm) is his size. Ben Roethlisberger is 6’5” and 241 pounds, making Mallett one inch taller and 12 pounds heavier. He has good awareness and with a lockout possible, the Patriots are preparing for the future of their offense without Tom Brady about a year sooner than anticipated.
Mallett was drafted to eventually take over as the starter after Brady leaves. Mallett will be under phenomenal tutelage and this pick for New England may prove to be one of the bigger steals of the draft in a few years. To editorialize some more, I believe this to be a great pick, if that wasn’t already very obvious.