The 2012/13 Patriots season consisted of a strong performance from this year's rookie class, both draft picks and undrafted free agents. With a litany of poor draft picks that never panned out in recent years (Ras-I Dowling appearing to be the latest), it's encouraging to see how promising this year's rookie group looks. While first rounders Hightower and Jones grab the headlines, there were a few other rookies who flew under the radar and deserve a little attention.
As the second round of this past year's draft moved into the second round, I was hoping the Pat's would take troubled corner Janoris Jenkins, who was grabbed with the 39th pick by the Rams. Eight picks later, the Patriots selected relatively unheard of safety/corner Tavon Wilson. Wilson had showed up on almost no one's draft predictions, and if so was pegged as a late round pick. This pick left many Patriots fans scratching their heads.
But Wilson definitely showed potential in his rookie campaign, including a pick in his first NFL game (week one vs. Titans). He would finish the year with four interceptions, good for second on the team behind Devon McCourty. He also had two fumble recoveries and forty tackles and saw significant time in the Patriots oft-torched secondary. Wilson's playing time speaks to the team's apparent declining faith in Patrick Chung, who is beginning to look more and more like the second coming of the Big Bang Clock. Hopefully Wilson's clear play making ability will continue to develop and help to shore up the Patriot's secondary, their clear and consistent weak spot throughout the season.
Tough to make an assessment on Bequette, who appeared in just three games during the regular season due to injuries. Selected with the 90th overall pick out of Arkansas, Bequette impressed at the combine with the second fastest forty time out of all defensive lineman.
After a solid college career at Arkansas, the Patriots saw something they liked in the 6'5", 275 pound lineman, and neated to add depth after the departure of both Marc Anderson and Andre Carter. Hopefully Bequette can stay healthy next season and become a contributing force on the Patriot's improving D-line.
One of the more interesting stories of this year's Patriots team was Nate Ebner, a 6th round pick known at Ohio State for his superior special teams skills. He was also a standout rugby player at Ohio State and has gone on record as stating he would have continued with the sport had he not been drafted.
Ebner's freakish athletecism is more than evident in these highlights, and the Patriots hoped it would translate to the NFL. In his rookie year, Ebner finished up with 14 tackles, almost entirely on the special teams unit. We will see if he can live up to his reputation as a special teams master, and join the Patriots elite special teams class alongside Matthew Slater and Larry Izzo. I think Ebner has folk hero written all over him. @LiamPCunningham