Maybe the Mayans are right—maybe the world is coming to an end in 2012 considering that Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots actually traded up not once, but two times in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft.
For the first time since 2003, the Patriots traded up in the draft and by doing so they landed Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones and Alabama linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
These two prospects are without a doubt talented ones with a promising future, but how well do they stack up in my grade book?
Chandler Jones, Syracuse, DE
To be quite honest with you, I’m not very high on Chandler Jones.
For starters, I think that it was a terrible decision to trade up from No. 27 overall to No. 21 overall to draft Jones, as I believe that Jones would’ve been available at No. 27—so essentially I think that New England wasted their third-round selection in the trade.
As for Jones the prospect, I think he’s well-rounded and could develop into a decent player for the Patriots.
Jones has a great build as he stands in at 6’5” and weighs a solid 250 lbs and is equipped with some pretty long arms that can help getting after the quarterback. Jones has an interesting blood-line as his older brother plays for the Baltimore Ravens as a defensive end and his other brother, Jon Jones, is the UFC light heavyweight champion.
My biggest knock on the selection of Jones is that he’s extremely raw and should not have left school early.
The one thing that really stands out to me on this selection is that I have Jones as a strictly 4-3 defensive end, which likely indicates that there will be a lot of 4-3 alignment in the near future for the Patriots.
Dont’a Hightower, Alabama, LB
I love this pick—I seriously can’t say this enough. I really do love Dont’a Hightower as a prospect. He is the perfect linebacker.
Hightower was well worth trading the No. 31 overall pick as well as New England’s fourth-rounder to jump up to No. 25 to draft him.
The Alabama product is an incredible athlete that plays with great speed and is extremely powerful and has no problem shedding blocks and getting to the ball-carrier.
My favorite thing about Hightower is his versatility. I can see Hightower being able to play any position in the 4-3 as well as the inside linebacker position in the 3-4.
So moving into the future, New England’s linebackers are shaping up to be Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont’a Hightower—I love it.