Sports Illustrated’s Peter King broke down the first round of the NFL draft with Mut & Merloni on Friday, looking at the trade the Patriots made and who they might target in the upcoming rounds.
King said he was shocked at the way the first round went, with just one quarterback being drafted.
“I am in St. Louis, and so I was with some of the Rams people kind of in the middle of that trade they made with the Bills, and the Rams all thought, we don’t know what they’re doing, but we think they’re going for [Matt] Barkley at 16,” King said. “I even texted Barkley’s agent, Jimmy Sexton, and said, I think you’re going to be very happy tonight. Instead I talked to him at 1:30 this morning and not only was he unhappy, I have no idea now where Matt’s going to go in the second round.
“If you’re Matt Barkley or Geno Smith, this draft has turned into your worst nightmare, really. I just think it was a very strange year for quarterbacks, a ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’ year for quarterbacks. And they don’t necessarily have a solid landing place this morning.”
Instead of taking the 29th overall pick at the end of the first round, the Patriots traded it to Minnesota for second, third, fourth and seventh-rounders. King said he thinks the Pats were hoping to take cornerback Desmond Trufant, who was selected by the Falcons, with that pick. However, he said he thinks the Patriots are perfectly comfortable with the players who will be available in the later rounds, especially since they’re in the market for a cornerback, of which there are plenty remaining.
“Whoever it was, clearly the Patriots got there and said, we don’t love what we’re seeing,” King said. “To me, one of the things I liked about that trade was, you know that the Patriots need, coming out of this draft, a corner, and you know they want to get a wide receiver. So to me, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that, say, their fourth or fifth corner is available at 52. And maybe their fourth or fifth wide receiver is available at, say, 59.
“And now they have the ability to take guys who they probably would have attempted to take late 1 or, let’s say the traded back a few spots, high in the second round. And now they’ve replenished spots in the draft that they didn’t have because of trades like the [Chad] Ochocinco and the Aqib Talib trade. I can’t sit here and say that it was genius or it was lousy, but I totally understand why the Patriots did it.”
On whether the Patriots will go for Tyrann Mathieu: “When I asked people about him before the draft, the one thing that I think is common theme is that you’ve got a very good year for cornerbacks. A very deep pool of cornerbacks. If you’re going to pick one — if you love Tyrann Mathieu, then you’re going to deal with — it’s like the Rams with Alec Ogletree. They know he’s got some problems, he’s got some knucklehead tendencies, but they have the confidence that within their house can deal with difficult players and keep them on the straight and narrow.
“I think Bill [Belichick] is exactly the same way. If Bill loves this guy, he’ll take him, and he’s not going to let all these things stand in the way of him taking him. But … if you’ve got a bunch of B+ guys, A guys, who never had any trouble and who are the equal as a corner of Mathieu, maybe not the playmaker, certainly, that he is, but if you’ve got all these really good players at the position who you’re not going to have to worry about at 10 on a Friday night, why would you not pick one of them instead of Tyrann Mathieu? That’s where I would fall on this. You’ve got enough things to worry about when you build your team. This is a guy who absolutely consistently got in trouble in college, consistently. When you have to transfer from a football factory, which I’m sure he got 93 chances to turn his life around and he didn’t do it, do you really want to take a chance on that guy? Again, Bill Belichick can handle it because he’s done that over the years. If you’re given the choice, why do it? I think there are cover guys who are his equal who are still left on the board.”
On whether Aqib Talib’s off-field issues would affect the Patriots’ willingness to draft Mathieu: “If you’ve already got one guy who you’d be a little bit worried about anyway, long term or even short term, I don’t know that you should add to that. I just think in general, a lot of teams in this draft, when you look at the top of the draft, the one thing about E.J. Manuel … one thing you’ll say about E.J. Manuel is that not only is he like an Eagle Scout, but he’s one of these guys who, like Russell Wilson, he just walked in the first day and he led everybody. And I think that because players are playing so early in the NFL, rookies, they want to come in and play on September 1 right away, I think it’s important that they can count on you to fit into a group and not be a problem guy.”
On wide receivers the Patriots might target: “I think the bottom line in their situation right now is if there’s a guy they’re targeting, they’ll get him, because now they have the draft ammunition to be able to move up to get him. That wasn’t the case yesterday at this time. If there was that one guy, there’s no question that they have the ability to go get him. The wide receiver position to me this year is as mixed in its analysis as I’ve seen it in a long time. There are some people who wouldn’t have touched Cordarrelle Patterson with a 10-foot pole. They think he’s too dangerous, he hasn’t had enough experience … he’s just not as mature as some people would like, but obviously, you look at him on tape and he’s like a thicker Randy Moss sometimes.
“But after Tavon Austin — you hate to praise the guy too much, but he looks to me to be a quicker version of Percy Harvin, who’s incredibly quick anyway. But after that I think there’s a tremendous amount of difference of opinion in who likes who at the receiver position.”
On a league-wide move away from drafting running backs high: “If you look at recent drafts, you say, what sense does it make to take a running back very high in a draft? … You look at Alfred Morris, you look at Arian Foster. You look at very late draft choices, you look at free agents. Running backs basically have become interchangeable parts, and that’s why I would have no interest in taking a running back, unless he was Gale Sayers or Barry Sanders or one of those guys, and I haven’t seen one of those guys in the last few years.”