Alfonzo Dennard Found Guilty: Time For The Patriots To Explore Some Options
The secondary has always been a major issue for the Patriots. Belichick and his brain trust have always had some issues in that department, but after the trade to bring in Aqib Talib this season things were looking good. The Talib trade allowed coaches to move Devin McCourty to safety, where he looks much more comfortable, and it opened the door for rookie corner Alfonzo Dennard to make his mark.
Dennard was a 7th round pick out of Nebraska by the Patriots last April, and if it wasn’t for his legal problems he could have been a much higher pick. Dennard proved to be a great cover guy for this defense, which is something that we have been lacking in recent years.
News broke today that Dennard was found guilty of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest. He was however found not guilty on his assault charges on college student Ben Samani. For those of you that don’t know the back story, Dennard was out celebrating before the NFL draft and a fight broke out at a bar involving Dennard.
Clearly this is a major issue for the New England Patriots. Just when we thought most of our secondary issues were clearing up, they fog right back up. Reports say that Dennard could face up to six years in prison and he could face very little jail time, but his sentencing will be held on April 11. The Boston Globe said that Dennard admitted to resisting arrest, saying he swatted the officer’s hands away as he tried to handcuff him.
Six years or not, Belichick won’t stand for this and Dennard is probably not going to be with this team for the 2013 season and maybe beyond. We have seen how Roger Goodell handles legal issues in the past and he will not hesitate to suspend players from the league.
So, the question now is “What do the Patriots do next”?
First, Aqib Talib must become priority #1 this off season. The Patriots have to save whatever bit of this secondary they can and Talib is arguably the best option that they have to play corner. It has been reported that the Patriots are not going to use the franchise tag on Wes Welker, so they should use it on Talib and then work out an extension later.
If for some reason the Talib thing doesn’t work out, there are a few options that New England could explore through free agency. Players like Sean Smith and Brent Grimes are two of the biggest names available that would help this team. I also wouldn’t rule out a player like Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie either. I know Charles Woodson is also available, but if New England was to bring him in it would be to play free safety. That will only work if Talib comes back and McCourty moves back to corner.
The next thing the Patriots should look at is the draft and their strategy. New England only has 5 picks in this draft, but they still have their top 3 picks. The combine workouts start up this weekend and if you have the opportunity to tune in (Tuesday 2/26 is the date for DB workouts), I have some names to keep an eye on that could end up in a Patriots uniform in 2013:
Xavier Rhodes, Florida State – “When you’re looking at corner, a guy like Xavier Rhodes, who’s a corner and a safety, he’s a 215-pound corner from Florida State, he right now has mostly second-round grades as a corner or a safety, depending on what he runs.” – Mike Mayock NFL Network Draft Analyst
Johnathan Banks, Mississippi State – “Mississippi St. CB Johnathan Banks is exactly the type of tall, rangy cover guy that New England prefers. A ballhawk and true playmaker in the secondary, Banks would not only address a need for the Pats but also represents outstanding value late in the first round.” – draftcountdown.com
Leon McFadden, San Diego State – 4 year starter, durable and “McFadden plays with an edge and aggressiveness. He fights through blocks to make plays in run support and seems to just have an overall high football IQ.” – nepatriotsdraft.com
Tyrann Mathieu, Louisiana State – We all know an explosive kick returner would be nice to have and Mathieu just always seems to make a play (when he is on the field).
David Amerson, North Carolina State – “He went from being an All-American in 2011 after making 13 INTs to a forgotten prospect in the 2012 season…I expect Amerson to create some buzz when scouts eyeball him. This is a 6-2, 200-pound corner who could crack 4.4 in Indy and get some folks excited again.” – Bruce Feldman, Senior College Football Columnist (CBS Sports)
Other DBs to watch: Desmond Trufant (Washington), Robert Alford (Southeastern Louisiana), Logan Ryan (Rutgers), Matt Elam (Florida)
There are many other names out there and you can find most of them through different draft websites, but these are the guys who are versatile, durable and smart which s exactly what Bill Belichick looks for when he drafts. This year’s safety class is also a deep one, so don’t be surprised if we see a safety convert to corner.
But, after all this is the NFL draft and if New England Patriots fans have learned anything during Belichick’s time here it is that we never know what Bill will do.