With the 32nd pick in the 2nd round (64th overall) the Patriots selected Stanford DB Jordan Richards. Check out a few of favorite photos.
The Patriots second-round selection had barely been announced by Ty Lawbefore a feeling of déjà vu permeated Gillette Stadium. The tabbing of Stanford safety Jordan Richards, who some draft prognosticators opined would be a sixth-round pick, immediately brought back memories of Tavon Wilson, who was a similarly surprising second-round pick back in 2012.
Both Richards and Wilson flew well under the draftniks' radar but obviously did something to catch the attention of Bill Belichick. While Wilson hasn't exactly exceeded the performance most had him pegged for, appearing almost exclusively on special teams during his three years with the team, it far too early to determine exactly what will become of Richards.
Nolan Nawrocki's "NFL Draft Preview" called Richards "a super-smart and dependable box safety lacking ideal foot speed and athletic ability to match up with NFL receivers, yet smart and tough enough to get by playing angles." While the rest of Richards' summary projected him as a fifth- to sixth-round pick, the scout's take indicated he could play in the league a long time based on his intelligence and that he was "the type of guy Belichick would like."
Intangibles aside, the need to take an extra safety, especially one that was projected to go much later, seemed curious. Like Wilson, Richards appears ticketed for a role as a special teams player with the upside of perhaps blossoming into a third safety with proper development.
Again, why the need for such a player with the 64th overall pick?
There were other options available, not the least of which might have involved a bold move up the board. With picks at 64, 96, 97 and 101, Belichick had flexibility. Only the pick at 97 (compensatory selection) could not be dealt, but moving the others would have been more than enough to leap into the top 10 of the round. At that point Belichick could have targeted a specific player with more ability than Richards.
Even by staying put he had more options. Instead of filling a need with a player such as South Carolina guard A.J. Cannor with a talented running back like Miami's* uke Johnson* or even grabbing a wide receiver like Arizona State's Jaelen Strong or Kansas State's Tyler Lockett, each of whom went in the third round, the Patriots again went outside the box in a second round that hasn't been kind as of late.
Beginning in 2006, the second round has become a bit of blind spot for Belichick. But while swings and misses such as Chad Jackson, Terrence Wheatley, Ron Brace, Darius Butlerand* aron Dobson* have been frustrating, the recent penchant for rolling the dice in Round 2 has been downright strange.
[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="325876"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Few outside of Foxborough felt Wilson, Jermaine Cunningham or Ras-I Dowling were worthy of their draft slots, and when those players failed to prove the outsiders wrong the disappointment has intensified. Richards appears to be in that mold, although Belichick not surprisingly doesn't see it that way.
"We always look at the board, look at the options and do what we think is best, and that's what we did," Belichick said. "Richards has played both free safety and strong safety and been a real productive guy. He's a guy you'll like having around here."
Even if that's the case, it would seem Patriots fans could have gotten that opportunity by waiting until Saturday to hear his name. And as usual Belichick made sure he'd have plenty of chances to call names on the final day when he dealt the 96th overall pick, the first of his two third-rounders, along with a seventh-rounder (219 overall) to Cleveland in exchange for a fourth (111 overall), a fifth (147) and a sixth (202).
That leaves New England with seven picks on Day 3 and 10 picks overall. But none of those selections offers the potential of the second-rounder that netted a safety few believed was a second-day pick. Even if some of the aforementioned needs are filled with some shrewd picks on Saturday, it would seem an opportunity was lost.
"With the trade we have seven picks [Saturday] and they're spaced pretty evenly," the coach added. "If we hold onto them. We'll see how goes."