No. 21 - Chandler Jones - DE - 21st overall (Trade w/ CIN)
The New England Patriots traded up from No. 27 in a surprise move, to the say the least, and improved their pass rush immediately with the selection of Syracuse defensive end/linebacker Chandler Jones. Jones is a physical specimen at 6-foot-5, 266 pounds, and possesses the versatility to play in multiple schemes. Jones didn't post insane numbers in college, but his ceiling is as high as any pass-rusher in the draft. Jones will have to make an impact right away, as the Patriots let Mark Anderson, who recorded 10 sacks last season, sign with division rival Buffalo. Pro Bowler Andre Carter, who also recorded 10 sacks before a season-ending leg injury, remains unsigned. His career may be in danger.
It's amazing that this was the first of two trades that Bill Belichick made today - and both were, uncharacteristically, up the draft. In any case, it's a great situation for Jones. He has the potential to contribute right away, and he's staying local in New England. Jones is an intriguing athlete who should provide a spark for this defense. With the selection of Jones, and later Alabama inside linebacker Dont'a Hightower, the Patriots perhaps hinted to more of a 3-4 look for the upcoming season. Regardless, Jones can play traditional DE in the 4-3 or stand-up in a 3-4. Plus, he can get to the quarterback; that is the key anyway. This was certainly the first of two very good picks for the New England Patriots.
No. 25 - Dont'a Hightower - LB - 25th overall (Trade w/ DEN)
The New England Patriots traded up for the second time in the first round (from No. 31 to 25 - DEN), both a rare and bold move by the Patriots and Bill Belichick, and selected the hard-hitting, aggressive Dont'a Hightower. Hightower, who is primarily an inside linebacker, but can play outside in any scheme, was coached by Belichick-favorite Nick Saban at Alabama University. He was the vocal and physical leader of their National Championship-winning defense. Hightower certainly brings tenacity and versatility to an already improved front seven. I can only imagine the combination of Pro Bowler Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, and Dont'a Hightower.
Hightower flat-out lays people out, but also has the unique ability to rush the passer from up the middle and possibly off the edge. Standing large and intimidating (6-foot-3, 265 pounds), Hightower will provide the Patriots with a multitude of schemes and personnel advantages. He is more of a value pick then a need pick, but how often have we seen Belichick target a Nick Saban-coached player. Hightower possesses a great attitude and strong character, and these are aspects that Belichick has always valued deeply. It was also a fantastic move because the Ravens might have selected him just a few selections down. In conclusion, the Patriots improved their defense with two splashy picks in the first round.