The New England Patriots traded up for once. And they enjoyed the experience so much, they did it twice.
For the first time since 2003, the trade-happy Patriotsmoved up from No. 27 to No. 21 in the draft to select Syracuse pass rusher Chandler Jones. (They gave up the No. 93 pick in the draft to trade up with the Cincinnati Bengals.) Minutes later, the Patriots moved up from No. 31 to No. 25 to take Alabama linebacker Dont'a Hightower.
"As the players came off the board, we were able to execute a couple trades there and still hang onto our two second-round picks," Patriots coach Bill Belichick told The Associated Press. "I thought if we moved up, I wasn't sure that we would be able to do that, but it worked out that way."
New England has never truly replaced Willie McGinest and Mike Vrabel at outside linebacker. Year after year, the Patriots seem unconcerned about the position while guys like Mike Wright, Tully Banta-Cain and Andre Carter lead the team in sacks. Players like Eric Alexander, Jermaine Cunningham and Gary Guyton have played roles far too big to be comfortable.
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Jones is such a Patriots pick. He is "scheme-diverse" and can play with his hand in the dirt or on the outside. He is a massive man like McGinest, yet can make plays and cover in the open field. Mike Mayock said Jones will be the best defensive player to come out of this draft despite having just 4.5 sacks in 2011 at Syracuse.
Hightower can play inside and out as a linebacker on a 3-4 or 4-3 defense. He can make plays in the backfield and is a sure tackler. And he comes with a strong reference from Bill Belichick's buddy, Nick Saban. Combine Hightower with Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes, and the Patriots' linebacker crew looks pretty fearsome.
The Patriots finally addressed their most glaring need. They finally found two disruptive front-seven players after ignoring the pleas of their fans for so long.
After trading down for years, Belichick finally found two players he thought were worth trading up to take.