The Patriots wheeled and dealed all throughout the first day, trading down in the first round twice, trading up in the second, acquiring two more third round picks, and another fifth round pick, all while trading away a fourth and a sixth.
The team also made four (yes, four) selections in the second round. At 34, safety Patrick Chung from Oregon. After trading up, nose tackle Ron Brace from Boston College. At 41, cornerback Darius Butler from UConn. Finally, at 58, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer from Houston.
Let’s start with Chung. At over 5-11 and 210 pounds, Chung projects as a strong safety for the Patriots. I’ve fallen in love with him as the 34th pick. He reminds me a little bit of Rodney Harrison, a little bit of Brian Dawkins. Very strong player and a hard hitter. He’ll play in the box, but he runs in the high 4.4’s, and he is good in man coverage. He is a solid wrap tackler, but occassionally takes a bad angle. However, the two things that stand out most to me are his smarts/instincts as well as his character. He is a Patriot in every sense of the word. If you don’t believe me, watch this video. Chung will come in and immediately contribute on special teams, and as a third safety. He may very well be used in the box a lot, although I’m sure he’ll see some action in passing situations.
The Patriots traded their fourth and sixth round picks to the Oakland Raiders to move up and choose nose tackle Ron Brace from Boston College. Brace is absolutely huge at 6-3, 330 pounds. He was overshadowed at Boston College by B.J. Raji, but from a pure nose tackle standpoint, he may be as good as any in the draft. He had 32 bench press reps at the combine, so he obviously has great strength. He can pretty much take on any double team, and is a premier run stuffer. And while he lacks great agility and pass rush ability, he has many other intangibles that are required from nose tackles. The question about this pick, however, is what it means for free agent to be nose tackle Vince Wilfork. Yeah, Brace could play in a backup role to Vince, but he could also be seen as a fallback in case the Pats can’t work out an extension with Wilfork.
With the 41st pick, acquired in the Green Bay trade at 26, the Patriots selected UConn cornerback Darius Butler. I had Butler going to the Patriots at #23, and a lot of “experts” had Butler as the top ranked pure cornerback on the board. He likes to play off man, but has the fluidity and closing speed to be effective in both man to man and zone. He is also a playmaker, as he scored two touchdowns on offense for UConn in 2008. Butler will come in from day one and compete with Ellis Hobbs, Shawn Springs, Leigh Bodden, Jonathan Wilhite, and Terrence Wheatley for playing time, and should be a starter a couple of years down the road.
At 58, the Patriots selected Sebastian Vollmer who attended Houston but grew up in Germany. While the pick initially seemed like a big reach, after further review, it looks like a solid pick. Vollmer is nearly 6-8, and 330 pounds. While athleticism isn’t his specialty, he is a very hard worker, and showed off in the East-West game. He could still work to add some bulk. I don’t think he will see the field too much in 2009, but with Kazcur and O’Callaghan expiring after the season, he could take over as starting right tackle in 2010.
The Patriots will have a total of eight picks in day 2, with four in the third round. There are also still some good players on the board, including Andre Brown, Cornelius Ingram, Shawn Nelson and Jarron Gilbert. I would expect the Patriots to draft a defensive end at some point, and likely a wide receiver and/or tight end as well.