After spending the first round wheeling and dealing their picks, the Patriots finally snapped up a player in this year's draft, and it's pretty safe to say the pick came as a surprise to most - at least, if the comments on my post about Patriots draft needs and safeties are any indication.
Patriots fans said they expected the Patriots to focus on linebacker and defensive end with their first-day picks. Chung, who stands 5' 11", was also called too small.
Well, so was Tedy Bruschi before the Patriots signed him, too. Ellis Hobbs is another good indication the Patriots are unafraid to go with shorter DBs.
As I wrote in my post on safeties, the Oregon defensive back was one of several very good safety prospects in this year's draft, but his stock was said to have gone up around the league following a solid performance in the combine (40 in 4.54 and 25 reps in the bench press).
I hate to use this word, but it would seem the "intangibles" are what's most attractive about Chung. Multiple scouting reports I've seen describe him as intense and aggressive. He also reportedly has strength in the zone defense, which the Patriots have emphasized recently.
I know the conventional wisdom is that the Patriots don't draft for need but for quality players. I also know that Tom Brady has been listed as questionable on the weekly injury report practically throughout his NFL career. Gamesmanship - and playing things close to the vest - are the Belichick trademark (witness the way this draft has gone!)
By picking at this position early, to me the Patriots are giving a solid indication that Rodney Harrison's days in the league are numbered if not over. It's not just that they picked a safety - they picked a tough, intense, aggressive safety with leadership potential. They wouldn't say so, but I think the Patriots had a very specific use for this young player in mind when they added him to the team.
He will have some huge shoes to fill. I don't know that anyone, especially not a rookie, will ever fully replace Rodney in our secondary.
Whoever Chung succeeds on the depth chart, he is, essentially, what we got in return for Vrabel and Cassel. What's the verdict, Pats fans?
P.S. You can see highlights from Chung's career at Oregon on YouTube.