The tail end of the first round had a little bit of everything when it came to the Patriots – at least when it came to social media. At various points in the night's final minutes, there were tweets indicating that the team had traded down into the second round and up slightly in the first.
When the round came to an end, Bill Belichick wound up staying put and selected Texas defensive lineman Malcom Brownwith the 32nd and final pick of the night.
We'll start by analyzing the pick, which addressed one of the team's three major areas of need (the others being cornerback and offensive line). Brown is a 6-2, 320-pound behemoth with quick feet and the athleticism to play multiple spots up front. Playing for Mack Brown during the early part of his Longhorns career he played inside on the nose and last year under Charlie Stronghe worked outside as a five-technique.
Belichick said those traits are rare for a man of his size, and while he wouldn't necessarily compare the two it was tough not to think of the man Brown will ostensibly replace up front when the coach described his game. Vince Wilfork had a similar skill set as a large man with uncommon agility, and Brown could only hope to enjoy similar success during his time with the Patriots.
"He played outside a little more this year and it was interesting to see a guy his size playing in space," Belichick said. "It was a little different than when he was inside. With his combination of talent and work ethic we felt like he was the best pick for us."
Certainly the Patriots needed another big body to compete up front. With Wilfork gone New England returns veteran Alan Branch, who re-signed in the offseason, and Sealver Siliga, who has battled injuries during his two seasons with the team. The other defensive tackles – Chris Jones, Joe Vellano and last year's top pick, Dominique Easley, are all considerably smaller and lack the bulk needed to stuff the run consistently.
In fact it was interesting to hear Belichick describe Easley as a 260-pound player who is much different in style than the 320-pound Brown. Easley was 280 pounds coming out of Florida and listed at 290 on the roster, so it's possible the team plans to change Easley's job description in the future.
In the meantime Brown should immediately factor into the mix for a role up front, and with Wilfork gone that was certainly something the defense badly needed.
As for the various reports, which both turned out to be incorrect, we can only speculate. The trade down seemed to make more sense, and it's possible Belichick planned to make the move before some players he coveted started moving off the board.
When the first report surfaced on Twitter the draft was sitting around No. 28 with Detroit. The Lions took Duke guard Laken Tomlinson, a player the Patriots were linked to in more than one mock draft. Miami wideoutPhillip Dorsett followed to Indy with Arizona State safety Damarious Randall (Green Bay) and Clemson linebacker Stephone Anthony (New Orleans) soon coming off the board ahead of the Patriots.
Perhaps Belichick liked a player or two from that group in addition to Brown, and suddenly the idea of moving down with the luxury of being able to select one of them was not quite as simple. Of course it's also possible the reports were simply erroneous and Belichick stayed put and grabbed his man.
The coach refused to get into hypotheticals regarding any deals. "Trades at this point in the draft are player driven," he said. "How motivated is the buyer. How motivated is the seller. Each one of those is individual."
View some of the best photos of Patriots first round selection (32nd overall) DL Malcom Brown.
In the end the Patriots probably made out as well as they could have hoped. Whether or not a trade was realistic perhaps will never be known, but by tabbing Brown Belichick filled a need with a talented player who should be able to help immediately.
And as is normally the case, he'll have plenty of ammunition at his disposal with eight more picks over the next two days if he wants to add to his total of 53 draft weekend trades during his Patriots tenure.