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Sizing up the draft
ok, i posted this because it had some good articles about draft, i bolded what i thought was benficial to us the fans and the cowboys;
Sizing up the draft
It's wall-to-wall Patriots draft talk in this week's mailbag
Boston.com article page player in wide format.
By Mike Reiss
Globe Staff / April 14, 2009
Email| Print| Single Page| Yahoo! Buzz| ShareThisText size – + The Patriots will be major players in this year's NFL Draft, with 11 overall selections, six of which come in the first 97.
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At this point, the team is in the final stages of the scouting process, as this week marks the final time that clubs can host prospects on visits at their facility (Friday is the final day).
Who might the Patriots target?
Let's get right to the questions. ...
Hi Mike, the info on draft prospect visits to Gillette is interesting to read on Boston.com, as is reports of Patriot coaches working out specific players at their college pro days. Any chance you could provide a "master list" of all of these just before the draft? I think if you simply assembled all of your blog entries on prospect visits to Gillette, and Pats coaches visits to work out specific prospects into a single document that could be downloaded/printed out, it would be a very useful reference tool for those of us monitoring the draft on draft day.
A: Walter, I'll focus just on the visits that have been reported in the Boston Globe and on Boston.com. Since teams are allowed just 30 out-of-town visits, I feel like that list is more manageable when considering how extensive the overall scouting process can be. The list of visits should be kept in the proper context, as a visit can simply be for a final medical check, to possibly ascertain one final bit of information before placing a grade on the player, and can even rule a player out at times. Also, there is plenty of misinformation out there, where a visit is thrown out there but isn't necessarily accurate (e.g. plans can change, or someone could be fueling an agenda to promote a player). I feel pretty confident in this list as players who have visited or been scheduled to visit the Patriots:
DE Robert Ayers (Tennessee)
OLB Connor Barwin (Cincinnati)
S Patrick Chung (Oregon)
CB Vontae Davis (Illinois)
S Louis Delmas (Western Michigan)
WR Brooks Foster (North Carolina)
DE Jarron Gilbert (San Jose State)
DT Adrian Grady (Louisville)
DE Ziggy Hood (Missouri)
CB Malcolm Jenkins (Ohio State)
QB Stephen McGee (Texas A&M)
LB Tyrone McKenzie (South Florida)
CB William Moore (Missouri)
OL Rich Ohrnbeger (Penn State)
TE Bear Pascoe (Fresno State)
OT Andre Smith (Alabama)
WR Brandon Tate (North Carolina)
QB Pat White (West Virginia)
LB Jason Williams (Western Illinois)
Hi Mike, it seems that Bill Belichick is far more involved in scouting this year then in the past. I do not remember him doing this many visits to the different schools?
A: John, I'm not sure if Belichick is that much more involved, but given that this is his first draft without Scott Pioli, it makes sense that he's taken more time to sort out the reshuffling of the personnel department. It looks to me like the roles are pretty well defined -- Nick Caserio leads the personnel wing, Floyd Reese is taking care of contracts, and Belichick is the bridge between those two. Even before this restructure, Belichick has annually taken a trip to Florida as part of the pre-draft scouting process. Maybe I'm missing something here, so it's a question I'll be interested to hear Belichick answer on April 21 when he holds his pre-draft press conference.
Mike, could you provide any insight on what type of benefit Belichick gets by seeing a potential draftee in-person? Do the players participate in combine-like drills for the coaches? Is it partly a result of college game film not being precise as an NFL film would be? Lastly, would Belichick having to do a "see for himself" indicate there is still a ways to go in building the front office/scouting departments back up to a higher comfort level with him due to attrition in the past years?
A: Brian, I don't think there is any substitute for face-to-face contact, so I think it starts there. It's like Belichick said at the combine this year -- he values those 15-minute interviews because you can learn things about these prospects, even in that short period of time. In terms of the drills, they are often combine-like in those private workouts. But Belichick also could go over game film with the players, ask them questions about what they were thinking on certain plays, ask them to dissect some schemes/plays. I think that's quite helpful in the evaluation. As for Belichick attending a private workout, I don't view it that there is still a long way to go in building the front office/scouting department. I think Belichick has always taken an active role in the evaluation process, in different forms. Probably more so than most other NFL head coaches, but I don't know that for sure.
Mike, with so much energy going into looking at the linebacker positions in the draft for the Pats, can you review what you consider the best options at the Pats positions and given their scheme? We hear a lot about Cushing, English, Sintim, Matthews and others, so can you clear up who fits and who may not? Should be a fun draft after a nice free agency period and a long time to scout it for a change.
A: Bob, this is really what I think the best part of the draft is -- studying the college players and projecting how they fit the scheme of your team. At linebacker specifically, this is a great challenge because few college clubs run a 3-4 scheme. I'll run through what I think of some top prospects that might be available at 23 after reading the Pro Football Weekly Draft Preview and talking with evaluators:
Robert Ayers (Tennessee): Projects to outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense and rose to the occasion against top competition. Only started to come on in his final season.
Connor Barwin (Cincinnati): Has shot up draft boards late. Projects to outside linebacker in the 3-4. NFL teams are judging him based on only one season, because he was a tight end the first three years of his career, and with that comes added risk.
Everette Brown (Florida State): Some concern about his height (6-foot-1). Projects to outside linebacker for 3-4 teams. One of the draft's top pass rushers, with a quick first step.
Brian Cushing (Southern Cal.): More of an inside linebacker possibility in the Patriots' 3-4 scheme. A potential replacement for Tedy Bruschi down the line, but I'm not sure he fits the take-on profile to fill that role in this defense.
Larry English (Northern Illinois): Strong possibility he'd make the transition from college defensive end to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. One of the top pass rushers available. NFL teams must feel comfortable about the level of competition.
James Laurinaitis (Ohio State): Inside linebacker for 3-4 teams, but the scouts I spoke with think he's a better fit for the 4-3. The take-on style required in the 3-4 isn't his forte.
Ray Maualuga (Southern Cal.): Pure inside linebacker for 3-4 teams. Not considered a safe pick, but smarter than some give him credit for. A good blitzer on third down.
Clay Matthews (Southern Cal.): Could be way off on this one, and it seems he's the popular pick in the mock drafts, but I have my doubts that he's a system fit as a full-time outside linebacker in the 3-4. He is a pass-rush threat on third down, however.
Clint Sintim (Virginia): Projects at outside linebacker. Is an easier player to scout because Virginia plays a 3-4, so you actually see him doing some of the things he'd be asked to do in New England. Has some burst in the pass rush.
Hey Mike, this is one of the most exciting times of the year to be a Pats fan because I think the Pats have set themselves up to go just about any way in the draft. Here's the thing though, everyone is talking about them picking up a big stud LB in the first round, but do they already have the guy on the roster? I remember Tedy Bruschi's first couple years and was thinking he was only going to be a special teams guy. Wow, can you see them winning all the championships without him? With all the write ups and mock drafts published, who do you look to as the most on the mark evaluator and rating of players based on position?
A: Stephen, this is a good point, and it all comes back to expectations. If Mike Vrabel was at the outside linebacker spot, I don't think too many people would have questions. But since the potential replacement has yet to prove it in the NFL -- similar to Asante Samuel in 2005 when he became a full-time starter helping to replace Ty Law -- it's natural to question how that position will unfold. Of the possible replacements at linebacker, I'm most curious to see the progress of 2008 third-round pick Shawn Crable at outside linebacker and 2008 rookie free agent Gary Guyton at inside linebacker. They both could be long-term answers -- players often make the biggest jump from year 1 to 2 -- but they'll have to prove it on the field. As for the mock drafts and the most on-the-mark evaluator, the two resources I rely on most are the Pro Football Weekly Draft Preview (by Nolan Nawrocki, initially started by Joel Buchsbaum) and Rick Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News.
John McClain, the superb pro football writer for the Houston Chronicle, is predicting the Pats will take Connor Barwin with the 23rd pick, 1st round. Most experts I've read see him as a second-rounder. Word here in Houston is that the Texans are fixed on grabbing Clay Matthews, Jr. with the 15th pick. Given the contract status of Benjamin Watson and David Thomas, I think it is quite likely the Pats could opt for Brandon Pettigrew, Oklahoma State's big tight end, with pick No. 23. What do you think?
A: Steve, the first question I'd have on that one is this: Do the talent evaluators feel confident that Pettigrew could process the Patriots' system? Few question Pettigrew's size and blocking ability, and most like his ability to catch the ball in the short areas of the field. I think the one area that teams have a question is how he processes information, and the Patriots ask a lot of their offensive skill-position players in that area. Ideally, I think the Patriots would like to go defense with their top pick, but if Pettigrew is there, the board leads them to him, and they feel confident with their answer to the above question, I wouldn't be surprised.
Hi Mike, Mel Kiper's most recent mock draft had the Patriots selecting Donald Brown from UConn and I have read in a few places that the Patriots appear to have some interest in him. I like the selection, and I know Belichick certainly wants to build his team with the best players available, but where would all 5 RBs fit in? Would Brown's selection ultimately lead to the end of Maroney and if so, how much value might he have coming off of a season-ending injury?
A: Sam, Brown has a lot of boosters among scouts because of a combination of being a solid player and a solid teammate. If he was the choice, I think the Patriots would keep all five running backs (they kept 5 RBs last year as well). As for Maroney's value, I still believe he is worth more to the Patriots than the team would receive in a trade (likely a conditional mid-round choice based on his production and staying healthy).
Mike, do you think if the Pats select a quarterback somewhere in the draft that one of the QBs currently on the roster is sacrificed when the team cuts the roster to 53 and then ends up being signed by either the Broncos or Chiefs?
A: Tim, I think it will depend on who it is that the Patriots draft. If it's a seventh-round, developmental-type quarterback who could wind up on the practice squad, then I'd be less decisive with the answer. If it's a signal-caller like Texas A&M's Stephen McGee in the early to mid rounds, I'd say yes. I agree that whichever quarterback gets cut -- likely Matt Gutierrez -- he'd probably head to Denver without passing "Go" and collecting $200 (bad Monopoly reference).
Mike, any chance you see a stalemate at the top of the draft? It seems no one wants top 5 picks any more since the cost is too much with signing bonuses being in the tens of millions, plus there doesn't seem to be any true standout players that warrant a top 5 pick. What do you think the odds are that we see a team or two pass on their designated draft slot and wait a few picks in order to get "their guy" a little cheaper? Is it possible that Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City, etc., sit there in a staring contest waiting for the first team to flinch? I guess it's the twisted side of my mind asking this because I can imagine a scenario where the league has egg all over its face as Seattle is on the clock and no one has pulled the trigger on a pick yet. If this were to play out would the first team to pull the trigger still have to pay No. 1 money or would it be based on their actual draft slot?
A: Paul, nothing would surprise me, especially with a guy like Scott Pioli sitting there at No. 3 with the Chiefs. And part of me thinks the NFL higher-ups would like that, given that a rookie wage scale is one of the hot topics in the upcoming labor negotiations. I do think Detroit and St. Louis will make their picks at 1 and 2. While it would be smarter financial business to pass, I can also understand how it's hard to sell that to their disgruntled fans. Hypothetically, if this happens, the team making the first pick would tell the agent "Hey, we were just picking in the No. 4 slot, so we'll pay No. 4 money." In turn, the agent will say "Yes, I know you were in the No. 4 spot, but he was the first player taken, and he should be paid that way." It has all the makings of chaos, with holdouts galore.
Do you think they will keep all three second-rounders or use one to move up in the first round? Is there enough cap room to sign them all?
A: Brian, I don't think cap room will be a major factor for the Patriots in signing their picks. They'll be fine. In terms of using all three second-rounders, if a team offers a first-round pick in 2010 for one of those, I think the Patriots will likely jump at that deal.
If the Pats are sitting there on the clock at 23 and Belichick doesn't see the value there that he might like and he decides to trade down, what do you think he could expect in return? Another 2 this year and a 1 next year?
A: ASB, this will be contingent on how bad the team wants to trade back in to 23. The first comparable trade I thought of that provides a bit of a parameter for this was last year's Eagles-Panthers swap. The Eagles traded the 19th overall selection to the Panthers. In return, they received a second-round pick (43rd), fourth-round choice (109th), and a first-round pick the following year.
Hi Mike. I read the other day that one NFL team exec is convinced that the Pats will choose Butler with their No. 1 pick. Probably a good choice but I had a different thought about who they should draft. I know they need a strong pass rushing OLB but they also need a safety badly who can cover well. This is, as I understand it, a deep LB draft so why not take a safety like Louis Delmas, if still available, with the No. 1 and an OLB in round 2? Some "draft experts" think he has Bob Sanders type of potential. If the Pats could get someone like that to lead the DBs, I think it would be a very smart move. What do you think?
A: Paul, I do think the Patriots would like to come out of this draft with a safety, and Delmas (Western Michigan), William Moore (Missouri), and Patrick Chung (Oregon) are a few players to keep on the radar. This is not considered a very strong safety class, however, and I don't think any of those players are worthy of a first-round pick. I do think you've hit on a key point -- the need for a pass-rush boost. The Patriots ranked 26th out of 32 teams on third down last season and part of that was a so-so pass rush. Mike Vrabel was still tough on early downs -- good luck running to his side -- but he didn't have the same pass rush explosion in 2008 as he did the year before.
One of my main hopes this offseason was that the Patriots would replace James Sanders with a genuine playmaker (Sanders's 3 year cumulative totals as a starting safety: 1 sack, 4 INT, 1 FF, 9 PD). So my question to you is this: If you were Bill Belichick, would you A) Stay with Sanders knowing you have a steady but limited safety; B) Go with Shawn Springs at safety and give up some toughness but add speed and playmaking ability in your center field; or C) Would you draft a safety in the first two rounds in the hopes that he could beat out Sanders sooner rather than later? I know he's tough and smart, but a 5-foot-10 safety with 4.7 speed just doesn't cut it in today's NFL.
A: Richard, I'm going to take the liberty to write up a different choice. My answer would be D) In today's NFL, with the way defenses spread the field and injuries mount, you need a minimum of three safeties ready to play on a moment's notice. Given that the Patriots have two you can win with -- Sanders and Brandon Meriweather -- it would be smart for them to draft someone, possibly as high as the second round. Ideally, that safety can check the opposing tight end, which was a Rodney Harrison specialty.
Hi Mike, do you think the Pats would take a shot on Pat White in the second round? I am not a huge fan of the "Wildcat" approach but he is a great athlete and could add a nice dynamic. He may add value as a third down back down the road as well.
A: Scott, count me among the intrigued at this possibility. I wrote about White in Sunday's Boston Globe, noting that the Patriots scheduled a pre-draft visit with him this week at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots also worked out White privately. I think White could add value in a variety of areas -- slot receiver, kickoff/punt returner, Wildcat quarterback. Another benefit: Normally a team has two quarterbacks active on game-day, with an emergency option at No. 3 who doesn't count against the 45-man limit (if he takes a snap before the fourth quarter, the first two quarterbacks can't return to the game). The No. 2 takes up a spot, but usually doesn't contribute on game day. In the case of White, he'd technically be the third on the depth chart in a long-term situation -- behind Tom Brady and Kevin O'Connell -- but could be slotted as No. 2 on game-day and provide bang for the roster spot in that role.
Hey Mike, with the draft quickly approaching, I have a scouting question for you. Let's say, for example, the Patriots were interested in Robert Ayers from the University of Tennessee. Knowing that he played with Jerod Mayo, would Belichick and staff ask Mayo for his opinion on Ayers? Also, following the "best player available" philosophy, could you see the Patriots taking Knowshon Moreno if he slips to 23?
Andrew, Manchester, NH
A: Andrew, I'd say "yes" and "yes" on these questions. The scouting process is all about kicking over every rock and learning everything possible about these prospects. So it only makes sense to ask Mayo about a former teammate. "What was he like the locker room? Does he work hard? Do you see him fitting with what we do?" The answers might not carry much weight, but they're a piece of the overall puzzle. On Moreno, I think the Patriots' preference is to go defense, but I don't think they'd go away from the draft board if Moreno is clearly the pick for them.
Hi Mike, given all the guys coming up for free agency next year, would it make sense to trade 1 or 2 this year, for some picks in this year's draft? This might seem crazy, but what about sending Seymour to someone for a 1st and 3rd round pick? Extract some value this year for him, in case the Pats can't re-sign him next.
John, Dallas, Texas
A: John, I see what you are saying in terms of the strategy of trading a player a year before he hits free agency. I'd counter with a few thoughts: First, I don't think the Patriots would want more picks this year (they have 11 already; 6 in the first 97), so anything they'd be targeting would probably be next year. Second, if you trade a player like Seymour, you better feel confident in who fills in for him and the Patriots' top replacement (Jarvis Green) also has a contract that expires after this season. Also, I thought Green had a down year in 2008. Finally, I think the Patriots have a roster capable of making some considerable noise in the playoffs and thus I don't see why they'd want to trade one of the better defensive players for future chips when it could mean the difference between a Super Bowl appearance and an earlier exit in the playoffs.
Hi Mike! Can you please explain for me why the NFL has chosen to not allow teams to trade compensatory draft choices?
Scott, Brookline, NH
A: Scott, I'm not 100 percent sure what the reasoning is behind that. My assumption is that the picks are awarded by the NFL to help teams overcome losses in free agency by adding new players, so allowing them to trade those picks would run counter to the purpose for which they were awarded.