I think I can provide a pretty good example of why. Our buddy Jason Cole over at Yahoo! just wrapped up his series of positional rankings with the defensive backs and linebackers. The Patriots came in 22nd on each respective list.
Here’s the thing, though — Those groups are stocked with youngsters and, if you’re really breaking down the aforementioned draft groups, this is where the leaps should be made. Let’s examine …
The Patriots made 11 Top 100 picks in the last two drafts. A jarring six of those are either linebackers or defensive backs: S Pat Chung (2009, 34th), CB Darius Butler (2009, 41st), ILB Tyrone McKenzie (2009, 97th), CB Devin McCourty (2010, 27th), OLB Jermaine Cunningham (2010, 53rd) and ILB Brandon Spikes (2010, 62nd). Now, go back another year to 2008 and you see the second highest draft pick of the Bill Belichick Era, Jerod Mayo, at 10th overall, and three of the four Top 100 picks the team had in that draft (Terrence Wheatley, 62nd; Shawn Crable, 78th) going to the defense’s “Back 8”.
All told, over the last three drafts, the Patriots had 15 Top 100 picks and nine were used on those positions. Which means the team has invested heavily there. And that’s without accounting for the extension Leigh Bodden got, or the signings of Brandon McGowan and Shawn Springs, or the trade for Derrick Burgess (whom they dealt another Top 100 pick for.)
It goes without saying the Patriots need to improve at those two spots. As you can see above, they’re making every effort to do just that.