By Ron Borges
The Patriots, like half the teams in the top portion of Saturday’s first round of the NFL draft, would like to do one thing when their name is called. They’d like to not answer. And not make a pick.
New England may be one team that can do it.
Selecting seventh, the Patriots have possible trade partners in New Orleans and Carolina and could even try to bluff the Ravens into thinking they’ll take Matt Ryan ahead of them when Baltimore is desperately in need of a quarterback and get something done there. But the Saints and Panthers scenarios are the most likely and each hinges to a great extent on whether Sedrick Ellis or one of the three top defensive end prospects are still around when New England selects.
If they are, the Saints would love to make a move up for Ellis even though they’d rather have Glenn Dorsey. If for some reason Dorsey slides all the way to New England (which I doubt) they will surely make a deal because as good a player as he is he doesn’t fit the requirements of the 3-4 front down lineman Bill Belichick demands but he will command a hefty price for New Orleans, who desperately wants the local product from LSU.
The Panthers need a defensive end they think can get to the passer. Their top three at the position, according to someone in the organization, are Chris Long, Vernon Gholston and Derrick Harvey. If one of them is still standing when New England selects the Saints will be tempted to make a call and the Patriots will surely listen because they believe the value picks will be gone if you’re selecting at No. 7 by then…with one exception..
In the end though, I think New England does what it usually does early in the draft – which is stand its ground and make a pick as long as Ellis is on the board. With offensive tackle Jake Long going to Miami, Dorsey to the Rams, Chris Long to the Falcons, running back Darren McFadden to Oakland and offensive tackle Brandon Albert to the Chiefs (who might also negotiate a deal with the Saints to allow New Orleans to get up and grab Ellis ahead of New England if they can), that puts the hated Jets on the clock and they would sorely have loved to select McFadden but in this scenario he’s gone so they opt for one of two players – quarterback Matt Ryan if head coach Eric Mangini and GM Mike Tannenbaum believe they’re on safe ground or Gholston, about whom there is a split opinion, if they’re not.
One scout I talked with this week called Gholston “the most overrated guy in the first round.’’ Others say he could be a star. Such divergent opinion is what makes the draft interesting and also difficult and dangerous for the guys overpaid to make those determinations.
With Dewayne Robertson having been traded away the jets could also use Ellis but the word is their debate is over Ryan to come up with a quarterback for the not-to-distant future, Gholston or USC linebacker Keith Rivers, who is a very solid guy and a very solid pick according to all reports.
Let’s give the Jets Ryan however to put the Patriots on the clock. In this scenario Sedrick Ellis is still available and the Saints are surely calling. Harvey and Gholston are also still available, which is why the Panthers aren’t. So do they deal out to move back to No. 10 and pick up a later additional pick if possible and maybe someone like Rivers, w ho in the end may be better than everyone taken ahead of him, or do they hold firm?
The bet here is they hold and take defensive tackle Sedrick Ellis. He becomes insurance down the road if Vince Wilfork becomes a contractual problem or eats himself out of the league and he offers some insurance in case Richard Seymour’s knee doesn’t fully respond to treatment.
On a team that needs help at inside linebacker, outside linebacker, cornerback and offensive tackle it might seem an odd choice but a solid front is the key to the Patriots’ 3-4 success and adding Sedrick Ellis makes them stronger in the most critical area – up front. Most importantly, he’s the best value left.
Unless, of course, when all is said and done linebacker Keith Rivers, bear in the weight room and solid citizen, ends up proving USC did the right thing when they let him wear the same number once sported by Junior Seau and Willie McGinest.