BOSTON (CBS) – The NFL Draft is finally here, with New England Patriots fans still wondering what their team will do over the next three days.
No one is ever quite sure what Bill Belichick has up his cut-off sleeves come draft day, and the 2013 draft has an interesting element to it in regards to the Patriots. New England has just five picks this year – the lowest number of picks in franchise history. That will likely change, given that Belichick has made 50 draft day trades in his 12 seasons in New England.
But will they trade up (as they have 17 times since 2000) or trade down (15 times since 2000)? Will the Patriots go after some stud talent early in the first round, or turn their early picks into multiple later round picks? Those are answers we won’t know until after the draft gets underway at 8 p.m. Thursday night, and even more likely into the weekend.
Here are the five picks the Patriots have to work with heading into the 2013 NFL Draft:
– 1st Round, 29th Overall (assigned pick)
– 2nd Round, 59th Overall (assigned pick)
– 3rd Round, 91st Overall (assigned pick)
– 7th Round, 226th Overall (acquired in Aqib Talib trade)
– 7th Round, 235th Overall (assigned pick)
** The Patriots 4th round pick was traded to Tampa Bay in the Talib trade; 5th round pick traded to Washington in the 2011 trade for Albert Haynesworth; 6th round pick traded to Cincinnati in the 2011 trade for Chad Johnson**
Unlike many teams, the Patriots don’t have many glaring needs heading into the draft. They could certainly use depth in many areas, including wide receiver, the defensive line and defensive backfield, but they are drafting more for depth than instant impact.
With that comes the biggest question on everyone’s mind on Thursday morning: who will be called with the 29th pick?
The pundits are all over the place when it comes to who the Patriots could pick in the first round, though most are predicting they go with a defensive back. CBS Sports experts have a pair of defensive tackles in Sylvester Williams of NC State and Star Lotulelei of Utah, along with wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson of Tennessee (though many have him as a Top 15 pick) and corner Jamar Taylor of Boise State heading to New England. ESPN Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. has the Patriots taking Washington corner Desmond Trufant – who he notes as a versatile corner that can help a winning team immediately — while his colleague Todd McShay has them selecting UCLA defensive end Datone Jones. Prediction Machine also goes the corner route, with the Patriots selecting Illinois’ Terry Hawthorne.
98.5 The Sports Hub’s Mike Lockhart (host of the Fantasy Football Show) has a full breakdown of the first round on fantasybuzz.net, and has the Patriots selecting Florida International safety Jonathan Cyprien — a physical safety with good size and speed. Lockhart notes that Cyprien made 45 starts at FIU, so his durability isn’t a concern.
While the Patriots appear set at corner, with Aqib Talib and Kyle Arrington both re-signed and Alfonzo Dennard avoiding jail time, but it’s a position that can always use depth. If there is an instant impact corner waiting at 29, expect the Patriots to jump at the position that has given them issues the last five seasons.
Gallery: Patriots 2012 Draft Picks
That is, of course, if the Patriots actually make that pick. They could turn that first rounder into a pair of later round picks, or even a first rounder for 2014 and an additional late rounder this season. It must be killing Belichick to know that, as of Thursday morning, he’ll only be making two selections on Day 2 (rounds three and four) and just two more (both in the seventh round) on Day 3 of the draft.
The Patriots may be starting with just five picks, but expect that to change at some point Thursday or Friday.