Ex-NFL GM Charley Casserly — who isn’t exactly a Patriots apologist — wrote about the possibility in his CBSSports.com column reviewing the draft. Here’s his look at New England’s haul:
First pick: Devin McCourty — The Pats filled a need by adding a cornerback in Devin McCourty. I had McCourty rated as a late first-round pick, so the Pats got good value for him. I liked his ability to press, his quick hands and aggressiveness on the press, too. I also thought he played well in zone defense. I thought he showed potential to play man to man, but did not see a lot of that in the tapes I watched. If he looked good in a workout doing man-to-man techniques, I would probably have raised his grade. He needs work on his ball skills.
The pick I will watch the most — I really like Rob Gronkowski. I rated him a late first to an early second-round grade. He has excellent size and showed the ability to block and be effective as a receiver, a rare combination in a college tight end nowadays. I will watch to see if he should have been a first-round pick and what kind of play speed he has.
McCourty, of course, was the safe pick. Dez Bryant, Kyle Wilson and Jerry Hughes all had higher ceilings, but the Patriots went for the surer thing.
Gronkowski was more of a gamble. I know of at least one team that took Gronkowski off its draft board because of his back issue (the nerve damage is the problem), and the fact that he didn’t play in 2009 made him a tougher evaluation. But it seems like, from an on-field standpoint, he could be a real home run for the Patriots.
So as Casserly wrote, he’ll be an interesting one to watch.