The New England Patriots once again fell short of their goal of a Super Bowl championship. Their offense was one of the best in the league during the second half of the season. Tom Brady remains a solid fantasy quarterback while Benjarvus Green-Ellis emerged as a decent option at the running back position. Green-Ellis is not an explosive option though so that is something the Patriots could be looking for. The wide receiver position is another position that could use an upgrade. While the offensive line and quarterback can cover-up some holes, a go-to receiver like Randy Moss in his prime is a much needed addition. Deion Branch and his supporting cast are not game-breakers. The offensive line has always been a focus point for New England so anytime they take a lineman it should be no surprise. I will breakdown the Patriots 2011 NFL Draft in this fantasy recap.
Round 1 (17th Overall) - Nate Solder - OL
Solder was one of the best available offensive lineman in the draft. The Patriots continue to make sure they build their offensive line. He is solid in both run and pass protection even though some questioned his lack of bench reps at the combine. He is the future at left tackle but will be used elsewhere on the line until then. Solder is a great add for the offense overall.
Round 2 (56th Overall) - Shane Vereen - RB
Vereen is a big play running back with great hands. He was taken a little earlier in the draft than expected so there must be something that Coach Belichick likes. Danny Woodhead did a decent job last season but Vereen will be the guy to take over for Kevin Faulk as more of a home run hitter as well. He is not an every down back due to his smaller size but will fit nicely on third downs or passing situations.
Round 3 (73rd Overall) - Stevan Ridley - RB
Ridley is a physical between the tackles runner. He came from a running back by committee offense in college so sharing time will not be an issue. The Patriots have always rotated backs so with guys like Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris or Kevin Faulk likely gone he could see some playing time. Green-Ellis is likely to see more of the running down carries but Ridley could replace him in the future.
Round 3 (74th Overall) - Ryan Mallett - QB
Mallett was a surprising pick by the Patriots. He has a big arm but lacks mobility and has some character questions. With Brady entrenched for a while, Mallett will not likely ever play for New England. Belichick likely took him to prevent an opponent from getting him and possibly trade him down the road for some decent value.
Round 5 (138th Overall) - Marcus Cannon -OL
Cannon is a first round talent who is currently under going treatment for cancer. The cancer is said to be treatable so he could be worth the risk. The Patriots have the luxury of taking a chance on Cannon with their abundance of picks and depth at offensive line. Cannon has the physical tools to be a very good NFL offensive lineman and just needs work on his blitz and stunt pick-ups which has always been a strong suit in New England for teaching young guys.
The New England Patriots continue to build their offense upfront first. Solder and possibly Cannon will be future long term starters on the line. The Patriots also picked up a few more running back options in Ridley and Vareen who could be contributors down the road. However they did not address the play maker needed on the outside. Branch did a decent job last season but is still a step slow and the down field option is needed to keep defenses honest. New England will still be one of the top offenses in the league for years to come with their coaching and the focus of a great offensive line.
Grade = B
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