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Did Patriots reach with Friday’s draft picks?

04.27.13 at 12:42 am ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots came out of their first day of the NFL draft with a couple of solid prospects who made sense for where they were selected. Marshall receiver Aaron Dobson has good size, good speed and very good hands (he didn’t have a single drop on 92 targets last year). Rutgers corner Logan Ryan will fit into the rotation right away and could eventually be a starter if Aqib Talib departs after this season.

Duron Harmon was projected to go undrafted. (AP)

Duron Harmon was projected to go undrafted. (AP)

However, there’s one question that should be on a lot of Pats fans’ minds: What was going on with the other two picks?

Although “value” is one of his favorite words in post-draft press conferences, Bill Belichick has never been one to care whether he’s taking a player at their slot or well before it. For example, Logan Mankins was not a projected first-round pick, but more of a mid-round guy. The Pats chose him at the end of the first round in 2005 and he’s been a four-time All-Pro. Last year, the Pats took a safety even the most sophisticated of draftniks never had heard of in Tavon Wilson out of Illinois in the second round.

On Friday, the Patriots again strayed from the scouting reports and big boards flashed across the screens of ESPN and the NFL Network, and took two players ahead of where they were projected. Southern Miss pass-rusher Jamie Collins went probably a round earlier than expected when the Pats took him in the second, but it was the selection of Rutgers safety Duron Harmon that surprised a lot of people — including Harmon.

Harmon, the 26th-ranked safety by ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. (carrying a grade of 35 out of 100), watched the draft on TV with his mother “as a fan,” and was prepared for any scenario — including the seemingly likely one that he would go undrafted. Then the Patriots took him, and unlike every other pick to that point, there was no highlights package, no long discussion about what kind of prospect he is. Harmon had a good sense of humor about it.

“I did laugh,” Harmon said. “My mother, she was very excited. She was like ‘Hold up, baby. Where’s your clips at?’ I was like, ‘Mommy, I don’t think they knew I was going today so I don’t think they had any clips ready for me.’ She was a little upset about me not having clips, but I think me getting drafted overtook her sadness about my clips.”

So the question is: Why Harmon was rated so low, and why did the Patriots took him so high? The answer is hard to find. He wasn’t invited to the combine. Scouts Inc. has a grade on Wilson, but they didn’t profile him as a serious prospect. So how, if he’s good enough for an NFL franchise to draft him, can he be such an unknown?

“To tell you the truth, I don’t know,” Harmon said. “Maybe because I just play with great players. You have Logan Ryan on the same defense as me. You have Steve Beauharnais, a great middle linebacker. Then you have Khaseem Greene, who is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year, so it can be easy for a good player to fly under the radar, but obviously the New England Patriots saw something in me that they liked and they went with it and took that feeling. I’m nothing but appreciative that such a great organization would have that much faith in me to come in and help the organization win games.”

What we do know is that he has good size at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds and that he was a two-time All Big East defender. He joins a safety group that has starters in his mentor, Devin McCourty, as well as Adrian Wilson. He’ll compete with Steve Gregory, Tavon Wilson and Malcolm Williams for playing time as the Patriots look to bolster their secondary.

As for the Patriots’ first selection, Collins was a good player on a bad team. He was a safety himself before moving to inside and outside linebacker and eventually defensive end, and the Patriots like the versatility that he brings both as a front-seven player and a special-teamer (he was even a gunner on the punt team as a sophomore).

Collins provides the Pats with another guy they can play both inside and outside linebacker, something they have with Jerod Mayo, Dont’a Hightower and, to an extent, Rob Ninkovich. Belichick loves that versatility, so at the very least Collins will be another piece for the rotation. It seems the Patriots also expect him to play some defensive end, though.

“Some guys just do one thing and do it well,” Belichick said. “There’s a lot to be said for that too. It’s similar but I would say different than Hightower, but there’s some similarities. Dont’a did that as well – played inside, played outside, played defensive end in their nickel package at Alabama last year. Jamie did that more by season than Dont’a did. He was more within the game he would do those different things. Yeah, there’s some value to that but there’s value to doing one thing well too.”

There were bigger names on the board at each position when the Pats picked Collins and Harmon, but you can’t knock a team for going after their guy and getting them. If they don’t pan out, that’s a different story.

Read More: 2013 NFL draft, Duron Harmon, Jamie Collins,
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