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Round: 1, Pick: 27 (Overall: 27)
Devin McCourty (CB) -- Rutgers: When grading a draft pick only a few hours after it is made, the best gauge seems to be to assess opportunities and if they were capitalized on. Moving back five spots and picking up a third-round pick (90th overall) brings the Patriots' grade up because the team is still getting a high-caliber player with four-down impact while picking up extra ammunition. But given the Patriots' needs in other areas -- namely in the defensive front seven -- one has to consider whether Penn State's Jared Odrick (28th, Dolphins) and Texas Christian's Jerry Hughes (31st, Colts) might have helped more. One also has to ask whether receivers Demaryius Thomas (22nd, Broncos) and Dez Bryant (24th, Cowboys) could have been groomed into future No. 1 receivers when Randy Moss's contract expires. Those questions, of course, will be answered over time.
Round: 2, Pick: 10 (Overall: 42)
Rob Gronkowski (TE) -- Arizona: The Patriots get extra points for leapfrogging the Baltimore Ravens in a trade to secure Gronkowski, one of the draft's top tight ends. That's one example of why Bill Belichick likes to stockpile picks, so he has flexibility to go get his man if the situation arises. Gronkowski didn't play in 2009 after undergoing back surgery, so the Patriots are assuming some risk. But if Gronkowski's back isn't an issue this could be a steal that solidifies a position that has been a trouble spot of late.
Round: 2, Pick: 21 (Overall: 53)
Jermaine Cunningham (OLB) -- Florida: It's no fault of his own, but in a draft in which addressing pass-rush help seemed like it should be a top priority for the Patriots, Cunningham was seldom mentioned by prognosticators as a likely early-round option before the draft. Now he'll have a chance to prove those prognosticators wrong in making the challenging transition from defensive end to outside linebacker.
Round: 2, Pick: 30 (Overall: 62)
Brandon Spikes (ILB) -- Florida: When nose tackle Vince Wilfork says, "I am so excited about this one; now that's a football guy," the selection has some powerful backing. While some teams overdraft players who test well at the combine, this is the opposite end of the spectrum as the Patriots seem to feel that Spikes plays faster than his slow 40-yard dash time. He should add toughness to the middle of the defense.
Round: 3, Pick: 26 (Overall: 90)
Taylor Price (WR) -- Ohio: The Patriots acquired this pick as part of their first-round trade-down with the Dallas Cowboys, in which they moved from 24 to 27 and still got their man in cornerback Devin McCourty, while improving their position from the fourth round (119th) to this spot. That maneuvering alone gets a tip of the cap, and the selection of a young, versatile, speedy receiver seems like a good use of the asset.
Round: 4, Pick: 15 (Overall: 113)
Aaron Hernandez (TE) -- Florida: When an award-winning player with solid on-field production like Hernandez slips to the fourth round, there are often non-football concerns that clubs have factored when placing a grade on a player. But from a pure football standpoint, this looks like a strong pick as Hernandez projects as the third tight end behind Alge Crumpler and Rob Gronkowski, and is a different style of tight end in terms of being almost like a wide receiver. When considering that three other tight ends were selected in the next 12 picks of the fourth round, it's a sign that the Patriots have a solid feel for others' needs and when to strike.
Round: 5, Pick: 19 (Overall: 150)
Zoltan Mesko (P) -- Michigan: The Patriots' best selection of the draft for two reasons: 1. They created this pick in a trade with the Texans that sent a second-rounder (58) to Houston for a second-rounder (62) and this fifth-rounder (150). 2. At this point in the draft, any prospect would be a fringe player to make the roster and Mesko, the top punter on their board, fills a significant need. This is another example of how the Patriots have a nice feel for the draft because the other top punter, Brent Bowden, was selected in the early sixth round, which could have left New England without a punter had it waited until its pick late in the sixth for Mesko or Bowden.
Round: 6, Pick: 36 (Overall: 205)
Ted Larsen (OL) -- N.C. State: This was considered a weak draft at center, with a large gap between top-rated center Maurkice Pouncey and the rest of the pack. Larsen was considered one of the better options among the pack, so it would seem that this pick rates out highly from a value perspective. The Pro Football Weekly draft preview, for example, rated Larson as a fourth-to-fifth round pick.
OL Thomas Welch, Vanderbilt (208); DL Brandon Deaderick, Alabama (247); DL Kade Weston, Georgia (248); QB Zac Robinson, Oklahoma St. (250): At this point in the draft, the Patriots are likely thinking about prospects that will be on their practice squad, and the picks come at positions the team didn't address earlier in the draft. Welch, Deaderick and Weston have NFL-caliber size and in some ways, they define what this draft was about for the Patriots, a team that became bigger and more physical. Working with a quarterback/athlete like Robinson also seems like good business.
Patriots work the draft board and come away with quality. Pass-rush improvement remains a question mark.