[ADMIN’S NOTE: This was originally written for last year’s draft. I am re-posting it without any changes because it’s so freakin’ funny.]
There are already plenty of sites and articles aimed at giving you greater insight into the top prospects’ strengths and weaknesses and even more forecasting when they’ll be drafted and by whom. So, instead of writing something player-specific with a limited shelf life, I wanted to give you a Patriots draft guide that will be as applicable 5 years from now as it is today. So, as much as I wanted to hunker down in front of YouTube, squinting at grainy footage of the backup left guard from Minnesota Mining & Dentistry College for hours on end, I saw a greater need. (That’s right. It’s not that I didn’t want to put in the effort, it’s that I… uh… okay I didn’t want to put in the effort.)
You know that relative that gets waaaaaaaaaaaaay more drunk than everyone else at family gatherings? That’s the draft. It’s Crazy Uncle Vito, devolving right in front of your eyes from the guy who taught you how to ride a bike to the guy drinking vanilla extract when all the beer is gone.
Every team is, in their own unique way, Crazy Uncle Vito. Choosing how big a risk they want to take until the night wears on and risk is all there’s left to take. The Patriots are no exception to this.
First Round – Almost Normal
Even Crazy Uncle Vito shows up to the shindig (fairly) sober. He’s charming. He’s happy to be here. He displays an almost normal-human grasp on the concept of “personal space.” You can let him interact with the kids without feeling like you’re one moment away from saying “oh god NO!” at any given time. In short, he’s as predictable as he’s going to be for the rest of the evening.
And so it is with the Pats. You’ll at least have heard of the player they take. And it’s almost a bonus to hear Kiper call one a reach at that spot (Seymour, Mayo, Mankins) because it’s a good sign they’ll still be around in 10 years. If a really good player falls a bit too far (Vince Wilfork, Malcom Brown) they’ll scoop him up. If a solid citizen with clear starter skills in an area of need is there (Solder, Hightower, Jones) they’ll pluck him and call it a day. If not, they’re trading back. Because Crazy Uncle Vito loves extra 4th- and 6th-round picks almost as much as he likes his Narragansett Lager.
Second Round – Where the Questionable Choices Start
The night is still young and so is Crazy Uncle Vito. Or at least he thinks he is. Everybody is still happy to see each other. The appetizers are being scarfed down. Everybody has found the beer, though Crazy Uncle Vito is a little ahead of the curve there. He’s a little louder than anybody else. The slaps on the back are getting a little harder. He’s dropped the first f-bomb in front of the kiddos but there is, at least, a “whoops” not far behind it.
In the draft, this is where the Pats sometimes get a little ahead of the curve. Taking a safety from football powerhouse Illinois (Wilson) who… um… might have been there a few rounds later. Taking “the other guy” from Boston College (Brace) or Florida (Cunningham). I’d also point out the injury risk guys (Dowling) but since one of them turned into a tight end for the ages (Gronk) it buys them a lot of leeway here.
Third & Fourth Round – Needs? We Have Needs?
The relatives who only see him once a year are starting to remember exactly why the word “Crazy” is permanently prefixed to “Uncle Vito.” He’s telling questionable jokes to the more reserved relatives. His hand is lingering a little too long on the shoulders and knees of the prettier nieces. He’s heading into your bathroom with a cigarette and a lighter.
This is about the point in the draft where the Pats seem to remember those positions everybody else thought they needed to address early in the draft. Oh you thought we needed another RB (Ridley)? Backup QB (Mallett)? Some younger WRs (Tate, Price… sigh)? A pass rusher perhaps (Bequette… again sigh)? Half the Rutgers secondary? C’mon, all you talking heads said we needed to fix that secondary…wasn’t that what you had in mind? *snickers evilly*
Fifth Round – The Unsurprising Surprise
There is, you always know, going to be that point in the night where Crazy Uncle Vito does something that only Crazy Uncle Vito would do. Offer a joint to one of the kids. Pee in the kitchen sink. Flash grandma. You don’t know exactly what it will be, but you know when it is coming and, when it happens, you will be completely unsurprised.
And just like Crazy Uncle Vito, the Pats are predictable here. If at all possible, the Pats are taking a specialist (Slater, Cardona, Mesko). Unless of course they already took him late in the 4th (Gost). Or unless there’s a guy battling cancer (Cannon).
Sixth Round – Where Miracles Happen
The reason why the family doesn’t just shun Crazy Uncle Vito from the gatherings, other than because he’s family, is because, for all the moments of unpredictably irresponsible (and borderline unforgivable) behavior, he’s the only member of the family who can also make a truly random-yet-transcendent moment that everyone talks about years later. The loud, lengthy fart that punctured a BBQ that had gotten too serious. The perfect drunken retort to the aunt who was getting a little too preachy. Getting people to laugh at your grandfather’s funeral. Whatever. They don’t happen often. But when they happen, you remember them forever.
And you will remember forever what round TFB12 was drafted in. That’s right. The same one as the rugby player with one year of football under his belt (Ebner) who likely sends Coach Vrabel a Rolex every year for Christmas for whatever it was he said to BB that got him drafted.
Seventh Round – Where Anything Else Happens
Going out in a blaze of glory (infamy? notoriety? felony?) is a given with Crazy Uncle Vito. Is he leaving in a police cruiser? On a Mardi Gras float? On little Timmy’s bicycle? Or does he wind up sleeping on the couch? Who knows! But it’s going to be fun to watch.
The 7th round is exactly the same way. Anything can happen here. A QB from Kent State? Check! A QB who barely started for his college team? Why not! Yet another Rutgers player? As if you could have too many. Players who mistakenly punch cops? Pfffft—he probably had it coming. You get the point. It’s my favorite round. With the Patriots, you feel like nothing is off the table. If they drafted a Zimbabwean cricket player here would it really surprise you? The winner of the Kentucky Derby? An inanimate Abdow’s Big Boy statue? Okay, I’ll stop now.
The point is—it’s a ride. Enjoy the ride. They aren’t going to take players we wanted. They are going to take at least one safety that will make Mel Kiper drink bourbon on air. So have fun with it. Make a drinking game out of it. Down a shot every time they draft someone from Florida or Rutgers. Pound a tall boy every time they pick someone who no longer has the knees he was born with. Because, in the end, they could draft eight belly dancers with heart defects and still win the division.