If there was one underlying theme for the Patriots in this draft — as for all teams that were not in dire need — it was to boost the roster’s weak spots and provide depth throughout the team in case of injury.
For the Patriots, that meant overhauling their receiving corps and addressing their coverage issues in the secondary and at linebacker.
In that goal, Bill Belichick achieved what he set out to do on Day 2, grabbing Marshall’s Aaron Dobson as well as Rutgers defensive backs Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon.
On Day 3, he upped the competition.
The team added TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce and projected 3-4 defensive end Michael Buchanan from Illinois, along with Rutgers middle linebacker Steve Beauharnais.
Then he traded for LeGarrette Blount, giving him a big back who can be a change of pace should Brandon Bolden not work out.
Not one of these guys — save for Blount — should be expected to contribute to the team in 2013. But that’s not the point, is it? The Patriots are building up the roster with multiple talented players to create the highest possible level of competition in camp. Players like Buchanan and Boyce, who have shown flashes of great talent in college, will get the opportunity to acclimate themselves to the NFL level and push the team’s starters in practice. Beauharnais, a solid and productive player in college, will have an opportunity to play behind a talented but often injured force in Brandon Spikes.
The Patriots have addressed a number of what-if scenarios.
— What if recent signees Michael Jenkins and Donald Jones don’t work out? Dobson and Boyce can step in.
— What if Bolden runs into more trouble? Blount can pick up the slack.
— What if CFL signee Jason Vega doesn’t work out? They have Michael Buchanan to turn to.
And the list goes on.
Depth is important in the NFL because of the vicious nature of the game. At times, it can appear that the team is stockpiling great players it has no intention of utilizing. The team signed rookie free agent T.J. Moe out of Missouri, who is from the Wes Welker mold. But the team already has Welker’s clone in Danny Amendola, who also played at Texas Tech. And then there’s Julian Edelman, who knows the position better than them all but has had trouble staying healthy.
Again, the more talented players, the more the team pushes and drives itself to do better and be better.
That’s the takeaway from the Patriots’ third day of the draft. They’ve cranked up the competition, hoping to sustain the high level of performance the Patriots nation fan base has come to expect.