FOXBORO -- Once it became clear that Malcom Brown would be there at 32, the Patriots weren’t waiting around to play “Let’s Make a Deal.”
There were definitely irons in the fire. A trade with the Texans that would have moved the Patriots out of the first round was reported to have been consummated. But it appears that was contingent on Brown’s presence.
And first, the Indianapolis Colts and their GM Ryan Grigson had to screw up their pick. Which they did. An Indy team that allowed 177, 246 and 234 yards rushing to the Patriots in their last three meetings didn’t see fit to add a defensive tackle to their team with the 29th pick. Instead, they took a fast little wideout from Miami named Phillip Dorsett.
So the Patriots pulled all deals and waited. And there was Brown, a 320-pounder from Texas who has the build to play in the middle of the defensive line but has shown the versatility to play out toward the edge as well.
Every draft expert on NFL.com had Brown off the board by the 23rd pick. Mel Kiper and Todd McShay at ESPN had him gone by then, as well.
“I think this is one of those drafts where you see guys in those mock drafts . . . one draft has him at 15, another guy has him at 65, the same player,” shrugged Bill Belichick late Thursday night after making the pick. “I don’t know. It just seems like there’s a lot of spread on a lot of players in this draft. I don’t know. I don’t really put a lot of stock into that.”
Asked if the Patriots would have bailed on the pick if Brown was off the board, Belichick grimaced and said, “I don’t know. He was there. We don’t sit there and have those discussions. If Phil Simms was there, would we take Phil Simms? I don’t know.”
Phil Simms is too old.
“I’m just saying,” said Belichick. “Throw up a thousand hypothetical questions, I don’t know the answer to any of them.”
Nobody’s going to swallow the notion that the Patriots didn’t discuss their options at 32 if Brown wasn’t there. What else were they going to talk about? But as far as Belichick was concerned, the fact Brown was there made any rehash of possible trades moot.
Given Brown’s perceived value heading into the draft, the likelihood other teams came knocking is high. But the Patriots weren’t budging.
They had a chance to pick a player that NFL Draft expert Nolan Nawrocki lauded in so many ways. Among Nawrocki’s listing of Brown’s attributes were these:
“Played a variety of techniques . . . good eyes and instincts to locate the ball quickly and knife through the backfield . . . very good athlete for the position . . . active hands to play off blocks . . . very good balance, quickness and movement skills -- is seldom on the ground. Plays with violence in his hands. Can dig his heels in the dirt and neutralize the double team.”
One of the comparisons of Brown is to Vikings defensive tackle Sharif Floyd, the 23rd overall pick in 2013, a very good player out of Florida.
For the Patriots, Brown’s versatility is a huge plus but the biggest need he’ll fill will be as a middle-of-the-defense run-stopper. With Vince Wilfork now a Texan, the Patriots need people to approximate his production and playing time. Sealver Siliga is the first in line, but after Siliga, there really wasn’t a squat, powerful body with Wilforkian dimensions. Brown has them.
It was an easy pick. It was an obvious pick. The best deal for the Patriots on Thursday night was probably all the ones they didn’t make.