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Ask PFW: Draft on tap

Posted Apr 23, 2013

Just two days to go before the 2013 NFL Draft. Like all teams, New England is putting the final touches on their preparations, while fans are clamoring to figure out who the newest Patriots players will be. Plenty of pre-draft queries fill out another offseason edition of Ask PFW!

It is impossible to predict who BB will draft, but if you were doing it who would you pick? And if you want to trade out of round one, go ahead.
Stan C.

My first inclination would be to trade – either down in this year’s draft or for a first-round pick next spring. But for this purpose, I’m going to pretend that isn’t going to be an option. So, I would be targeting either the best defensive end or the best cornerback on the board. I’ve been sticking with UCLA defensive end Datone Jones in some of the mocks I’ve been doing. While his stock is supposedly on the rise and he could be gone by No. 29, I think he’d be a great future left defensive end opposite Chandler Jones. He can play the run and the pass. He’s big and athletic and could bump inside on passing downs. Jones is more of an intriguing athlete than a finished product on the field, but I’d like to see him develop in New England. How about a bookend duo of Jones and Jones on the Patriots front?
Andy Hart

Why do you think BB has failed to get a consistent outside WR threat for TB. I know he has tried, however, it has not worked. All of the great QBs predominantly had consistent outside threats...i.e. Montana/Rice, Mario/Duper/Clayton, Manning/Harrison/Wayne...etc. I can't help to think if TB had a consistent threat on the outside, he would be wearing more bling. Your thoughts?
Mel Ford

Not all great QBs had great outside receivers. Favre? Elway? And Brady did have Randy Moss playing at an elite level for three years. But the overall question about developing a young wide receiver is still a nagging one. Sometimes I’m inclined to say it’s an issue with the complexity of the offense and getting young targets to learn it well enough to be on the same page as Brady, who’s been running the same scheme for his entire career. But the way that Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez came in and hit the ground running, even though it was at tight end and not receiver, would seem to shoot down that theory on some level. Maybe it’s just circumstantial bad luck drafting and scouting. I mean there have been plenty of misses at other spots like cornerback and even tight end, prior to the coop of Gronk and Hernandez. Really, I don’t think it’s any one thing. It could be a combination of scouting, drafting, failure to develop, coaching and a variety of other issues. Regardless, though, it’s something that really needs to change in the near future or it’s going to continue to hinder the offense.
Andy Hart

Do you guys know anything about Ryan Griffin? He is a QB from Tulane, and I saw the Pats taking him in the seventh round in a mock draft on nfl.com. He worked out for the Saints a while back, and I was just wondering if you thought there was anything there?
Ryan Dawson

We’ve actually had some discussions here at PFW about Griffin. He’s got pretty good size (6-4, 216). He was a four-year starter at Tulane. He’d be a late-rounder or free agent to develop. He has decent feet and mechanics, but throws a pretty ugly ball at times and seems to have questionable accuracy. He certainly will get a chance as a developmental option with some team this summer. Another name I’d throw in that mix would be Washington State’s Jeff Tuel. He’s had a lot of injuries, but there is a lot to like about his game as another developmental guy.
Andy Hart

It seems like there is a direct correlation between a defense's pass rush, and its secondary. Some say that if you have a strong pass rush it will force the QB to get rid of the ball faster, reducing the time the secondary has to stick to the receivers. With no time for the receivers to separate, the defense is there to defend the pass when the ball is released. Others say that a strong secondary takes away a QB's targets long enough for the pass rush to get pressure. With less than ten million in cap, the Pats can probably only serious fix one of these needs. My question is, which would be the better path for the Pats to take, improving the secondary, or the pass rush?
Ryan Heeny

What Ryan brings up is a working relationship between the two portions of the defense that Belichick has spoken about endlessly over the years. It’s not a theory, it’s a fact of life in football. And the coverage and pass rush have simply not worked in concert well enough in New England for quite some time. The responsibility for that falls on both areas. Right now I think the pass rush needs more work than the coverage. New England returns its top three cornerbacks from last season and has some other depth at the spot. Chandler Jones should be counted on as an impact pass rusher with a year-two jump. Rob Ninkovich is a solid complementary player in that area. And there will be some help from guys at linebacker and defensive tackle. But I still think short and long term there needs to be more help for the edge of the defensive front. It’s not really a cap issue at this point. It’s about what’s left in free agency and what will be available in the draft. Adding John Abraham – who’s long been rumored and reported to be coming to New England, but I’m still holding my breath – would help. But if he, or another proven veteran is not signed, then I think it’s imperative for the Patriots to add another pass rusher in the draft.
Andy Hart

Three Part Question: 1. With Jeff Demps having one foot out the door, do you see the possibility of taking a flyer on Onterio McCalebb as an undrafted free agent or 7th Round guy? 2. I've read the possibility of the Pats doubling up at WR, just as they did at TE in 2010. Assuming Belichick makes some kind of move to accumulate more picks, whether it’s trading [Ryan] Mallet or [Jermaine] Cunningham or trading down. What are the possibilities that we see the Pats go for the Hat Trick at WR? Maybe Terrance Williams, Stedman Bailey and a utility project like Denard Robinson? Its time to infuse youth into the position. 3.Does Dane Fletcher's return nix the need to speed an early to mid round pick on a coverage linebacker? I liked what I've seen from him so far.
Thick Nick

Given the addition of Leon Washington and the re-signing of Julian Edelman, I don’t see the Patriots using one of just five draft picks on a kick returner. Maybe if McCalebb or another option were available as an undrafted free agent, as Demps was, then the team might add such a player. I do agree with your tone, though, that Demps is likely not going to be the future of the return position in New England as once had been assumed. As for the receiver position, I do think there is a chance that the Patriots take a pair of receivers, but doubt very much they would invest in a third, even if it were a unique guy like Robinson. The position needs some youth, clearly, but there are needs at other spots as well that simply can’t be overlooked. The way I look at it, one receiver drafted is necessary, two would be understandable and three would be too much of an investment at one spot. Finally, I’m a bad guy to ask about coverage linebackers. I don’t think they actually exist. Some linebackers are better in coverage than others, but none really make their money doing that. Fletcher showed some skill in that area, but I don’t think his return fills a specific need or necessarily eliminates the team taking a linebacker who might offer some ability in pass coverage.
Andy Hart

My goodness Andy! Your rotation for PFW is this time of year is spectacular. You got Day 1 of the start of the offseason and now have the Tuesday before the draft! Haha anyways, unlike last year I have no idea on any player personnel; I do happen to know we only have 5 draft picks. With that said, do you see us trading down? I know it is not always the best decision, but we obviously need more picks and from what I heard, the 49ers have plenty. The 49ers obtain somewhere around 15 draft picks this year and I think it would be a good idea to trade them for some. We could trade 1 for a possible 2, 3 and maybe 4? I know we need a deep threat, but with more picks the chances of that panning out greatly improve. Now I'm not sure if this is the best strategy but with only 5 draft picks, it can't be any worse right?
Kyle Rodgers

As I said earlier, I do think the Patriots might want to trade down this year. The 49ers might be a logical candidate due to their abundance of picks. But any team early in the second round might also be a possible trading partner. Teams trading into the 29 spot would be doing so for a specific player that they feel has dropped and is too good to pass up. That could be a quarterback. That could be a running back. Those two star-powered, skill positions are unique in this year’s draft. But really it could be any player that is sought by any team. It’s all about the right situation and the right timing.
Andy Hart

With Tom Brady getting up there in age, how about giving him the week off whenever the Pats have to face another AFC East rival and give Ryan Mallett the start? Because even a Mallett lead Patriots team would crush the likes of the Jets, Bills and Fins. If the game is being played away from Gillette maybe they could give the entire team off and just send the practice squad? Anyways, the Pats have a cake-walk into the playoffs this season with the division as weak as it is.
Fred Flinstone

With all due respect, this is a terrible idea. One of the Patriots biggest advantages in the AFC and playoff positioning is winning five or six games a year in the division. Why would you want to give up that immense advantage by playing Mallett over Brady? I think this is probably a sarcastic email, based on the practice squad line, but still. And if the Dolphins get decent play out of Ryan Tannehill at quarterback, they might be a better football team than people think. The Patriots have a potentially tough schedule outside of the division. I still think New England will win the crown again, but it may not be the cake-walk you think it will be.
Andy Hart

Hi guys. Big fan, long-time reader, born-again question-asker. I've been enjoying the Draft Review Podcasts you've been doing. I'm assuming the ones for the DL are right around the corner and hoping you guys show some love for my fellow Aussie, Jesse Williams. I would love to see him in a Pats uniform so he can eat up Darren Sproles in Week 6. Anyway, my question is, apart from Leon Sandcastle, do you guys think there are any "sure things" in this Draft class? Maybe not in the mold of an A.J. Green, for example, but perhaps thereabouts at all? Thanks again guys.
Mike D.

The only thing that Sandcastle is sure to do is annoy me as an overdone joke that wasn’t really funny the first time. But that’s another rant for another day. I don’t think there are many sure things in this draft. In fact the only positions that I think have sure things are the offensive and defensive line. I think Luke Joeckel is sure to be a very good tackle, though probably not truly elite. I think Chance Warmack will be a very good to great guard. On the other side of the line I think Star Lutulelei, Sheldon Richardson and Sharrif Floyd are all pretty much locks to be Pro Bowl-caliber players. Beyond that, there are no other guys, or any skill position players, I’m willing to call “sure things.”
Andy Hart

Thanks for all the great work you guys do! I have a few questions leading up to the draft. I feel the Pats biggest needs are another pass rusher and a receiver. Why not trade out of the first round, get two second round picks and maybe something in the 4th,5th, or 6th, and pick up Margus Hunt and Justin Hunter? Also to bolster the receiving corps, why not take a flyer on Titus Young? If anyone can coach him its BB. Thanks!
Ian B.

With the Pats desperately needing some receivers why don't they sign Titus Young? We know of his problems but at least give him a chance to compete in training camp and see what he has to bring to the team short minimum contract 1-2 year deal. We have nothing to lose. Who knows he might just be able to pick up the Pats up-temp offense.
Marshall Elim

I’m all for trading down and adding picks, but it takes two to make a deal. It will be interesting to see if the Patriots can find a trading partner willing to give up equal value in a draft where it seems that most teams want to trade down. I thought Young was a problem coming out of college and didn’t like him then. I like him even less now. He’s been run out of town in two NFL cities, two teams who’ve dealt with a lot of questionable characters over the years. I think Young is simply far more trouble than he’s worth.
Andy Hart

With receiver being a key position of concern for the Pats this offseason (exacerbated by the Pats failure to retain Wes Welker or land Emmanuel Sanders), why did the Pats not make a move to secure the services of Victor Cruz over the past week?.. It may have cost a first-round draft pick and chewed up around $7 odd mil per season in cap space, however they would have landed one of the NFL's most exciting young WRs (1,092 rec yards and 10 TDs in the 2012 season). The draft is a talent lottery - with no guarantees of performance at the pro level. Surely the security of proven productivity at the NFL level beats a rookie prospect at pick No. 29? Consider the Pat fans elation and anticipation of the 2013 season with the prospect of Brady to Cruz down the sideline.
Michael McMillan

Hey, long time Italian fan here! Love all the work you guys do every week replying our questions! My question is: do you see any possibility to see Belichick trading for Victor Cruz? I know it will cost a lot of cap (and probably it's an unrealizable idea) but in my opinion Cruz can be a great weapon for NE offense! Thanks again for you work and I hope that you will reply my question!
Matteo Gaggiotti

Why did we not go after Victor Cruz? The guy can flat out ball and score from anywhere on the field. Yes he'll cost coin, but with a guy like him, we'd have a piece of the puzzle we haven't had since '07
Tom Peterson

First of all, the restricted free agent market hasn’t led to much movement in recent years. New England’s offer sheet for Sanders was a rarity these days. Second, it would have taken a huge amount of cap space and a draft pick to even sign Cruz to an offer sheet. That would have taken up cap space waiting while the Giants decided whether to match or not. And by most accounts, it doesn’t sound like the Giants ever had any plan of letting Cruz go. Add in the fact that he’s a slot guy and not the ideal outside target that most seem to think is the Patriots biggest need on offense, and it just seems like going after Cruz wasn’t a realistic option for New England.
Andy Hart

Hi guys. I still think corner is a bigger need than receiver: 1. If either Talib or Dennard misses time, Arrington moves from covering slot receivers to covering outside receivers. Asking Arrington to cover outside receivers is asking for trouble - big trouble. 2. If Arrington moves outside, who replaces him in the slot? Marquice Cole? Are you kidding?! 3. People mention 2006 as being a year the Pats don't want to repeat regarding receivers. However, the Patriots lost the AFC Championship Game that year - because the defense blew an 18-point lead! 4. In 2007, the Pats had the greatest deep-threat receiver in NFL history (Randy Moss) and the greatest possession receiver in NFL history (Wes Welker) but still failed to win the Super Bowl. So, just how important is receiver? I'm so tired of hearing about that position. Just because a position is one of the most exciting positions doesn't mean it's one of the most important. We're very near crisis at corner - one injury away!
Joe Theban

I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with this assessment. The way I see it right now, the Patriots have at least four cornerbacks (Talib, Dennard, Arrington and McCourty) with the skills and experience to start at cornerback. The team doesn’t have a single receiver who’s experienced with the team, and only one – Danny Amendola – that I think is a lock to start if healthy. There are options with experience elsewhere, but I don’t have a lot of faith in some of the other options on the receiver depth chart and haven’t seen them do it in a New England uniform. Both are needs over the long term, but I think the receiver spot is a bigger need for the here and now. Almost all positions are problems if injuries hit, but the lack of talent and depth at receiver at this point before any injuries even have a chance to crop up is a concern.
Andy Hart

What are your thoughts on the Pats potentially drafting Lawrence Okoye. As a UK based fan I have been following his progress and he seems to have real potential. We all know BB likes to have a project and he is an incredible athlete who could help our pass rush although I think his size may be suited more to a 3-4 system. His stats at the Regional Combine were very impressive. Could he be worth a 6th or 7th round pick? Thanks
Greg Brown

I don’t know much about Okoye other than reading about his impressive measurables. He’s obviously a world-class athlete, but not sure that means he’s ideal to jump into the NFL. He’s obviously a project, but even those rarely pan out. That’s what makes what Stephen Neal did so darn impressive. Many other guys simply aren’t up to the challenge, even some truly elite athletes. On a year when the Patriots have just five picks, not sure that using one on a non-football player makes sense.
Andy Hart

When the team brings in players for workouts do they assume all the costs?
Ellen Gilbert

Yes, as far as I know, when teams bring players in for workouts they set up the travel plans for that player and assume all the costs. That’s one of the things that Nancy Meier – New England’s Director of Scouting Administration and unsung matriarch of the entire Patriots football operations department – handles with immense skill and experience as the longest tenured full-time member of the staff.
Andy Hart

Do you see a kicker as a potential draft pick in the seventh round to replace Gostkowski due to his salary cap hit for next year?
Jacob Mattson

No. While I think a kicker will be brought to camp to push Gostkowski and maybe develop down the road, I think that guy will be an undrafted player. I’m not willing to say that Gostkowski has to go because of his cap hit. The Patriots don’t have enough picks to use one on a kicker this spring. Plus, many teams find a kicker through the undrafted route. Drafting kickers has been more of a trend in recent years, but is by no means a necessity to find one. Remember Robbie Gould?
Andy Hart

Hi guys. I know Julian Edelman was not a traditional pocket passer in college, but I am surprised he has never shown up in a pass play. It seems like it would be a great "trick" play sometime when then needed big yardage or a score when behind. Thoughts?
Jack Gordon

I have seen Edelman line up in potential trick plays in practice, and once in a game but that play was wiped out by a penalty if my memory serves me correctly. Though I haven’t seen him throw much, I don’t think it’s a real strength. Plus, the Patriots haven’t been in position for such a desperation type play too often during his time in New England. And there hasn’t been a need to use a lot of trick plays in recent years, given the impressive success of the normal offense. Maybe we’ll see his versatility on a trick play on offense at some point, but he’s already displayed that over the years on defense and special teams. He’s an impressive athlete who’s made big plays for the Patriots in all three phases of the game, even if the former college QB hasn’t gotten the chance to show off his arm.
Andy Hart

First off great work especially with all the draft questions. Everyone is asking the same questions and have the same concerns come draft day. Patriot fans and media are suggesting defensive backs, wideouts, d line depth, o line depth, which are all fair concerns. This draft is weak up top but has good depth. I suggest the Pats take what they really need, a potential successor to Brady. I know if the Pats can get EJ Manuel in the first round it’s a steal and a godsend for him to fall. We can’t miss this opportunity. I have him rated now as the number 2 QB in the draft, but with way better upside than Geno Smith. This guy is amazing and has the it factor. We have to take advantage of this, he can be elite ready in 2 years. If no one else can see this, you read it here first. EJ Manual is the future a hidden gem and will surpass all QBs drafted in the last 3 years.
Marcus Clinton

Wow. This is another email I can’t agree with on a number of levels. I don’t think the Patriots “need” a successor for Brady right now. He may be on the back nine of his career, but I’d like to see the team actually address other needs and try to win the Super Bowl while Brady is still around. I certainly can’t see the team taking a quarterback in the first round. I don’t think there is a sure-thing starting quarterback in this draft, so for a team that doesn’t absolutely need a quarterback to go after one early would be crazy. I think Manuel is an intriguing talent and athlete. But he’s never put it all together as a quarterback. I also don’t think he’d be a “steal” in the first round. He’d be a disastrous reach for the Patriots at that point. And I assure you it would be the most widely criticized pick of the Belichick era. I’m all for thinking outside the box, but this idea can’t even see the box.
Andy Hart

With the lack of talent at DT why don't the patriots sign John Abraham? I know he is getting older, but he still had 10 sacks last season. A two-year deal for solid pass rusher in Abraham would be a good move in my opinion.
Joseph Kellar

Abraham is a defensive end, not a tackle. And the team visited with Abraham, who remains an unsigned free agent. There is clearly interest on both sides. I still hold out hope that the veteran pass rusher lands in New England, because I do think he has something left in the tank and could help out the defensive front.
Andy Hart

Would you like the draft pick of the Honey Badger in the second round and draft somebody like J. Hunter with the 29th pick
Robert Davis

Am I the only one that hopes we take a flyer on the Honey Badger if he is there at the right time in the draft?
Matt Mroczek

I’ve been clamoring all offseason for the Patriots to add playmakers. That’s what Tyrann Mathieu is, so I’d be hypocritical to shoot down the idea of drafting the Honey Badger. He claims he’s cleaned up his drug problem and is focused fully on football now as the most important thing in his life. There are questions as to what position he’d play in the NFL given his size and skills, but I’d still like to see how Belichick would put him to use in New England. As a third-round pick I’d love him. In the second round I’d like him. Any earlier than that, as some have suggested, and I think it would be a reach and a dangerous pick.
Andy Hart

I think Andy will agree with me with my idea that the Pats will trade out of the first to stack picks for later rounds. Which would be more likely though? Pats drafting first round or trading for 3 or 4 picks from teams like San Fran, or Cleveland who have a lot of picks? BB doesn't risk high draft valued players so getting lots of them is more their style.
Jacob Gobeille

To a degree, Andy does agree with you. Andy thinks in an ideal world Belichick would find a trade partner willing to move into the 29th spot in exchange for a package of other valuable picks. But Andy isn’t sure just yet that is going to happen given the uncertainty of the draft and the varied opinions on the various prospects. In general and based on history drafting in New England, Andy does believe that Belichick would prefer to have a variety of multiple draft picks. And in this particular draft, Andy hope Belichick gets his wish.
Andy Hart

Why would you not draft a wide out in first round? Your defense is fine right now, work on the defense in the 2 round or 3 round. Trust me, dog, it will work. You need wide outs and then draft like 2 more wide outs in the 7 and 8 round and boom you got wide outs. Fans happy and u also
Vishal Pandey

Vishal, your draft guru credibility took a hit when you suggested taking a player in the eighth round. There are only seven rounds of the NFL draft. I also find it hard to say the defense in New England is fine right now. I still think there is plenty of work to be done on that side of the ball. But I do agree that the receiver depth chart needs an addition. I just don’t know that it has to come in the first round. There are a number of very good receivers in this draft who could go in the second or third round. There is depth and value there. I don’t even have a solid feel for who the top receiver in the draft is, although I’m very much in favor of projected second-round pick Terrance Williams. I also don’t see the need to draft three or four receivers. Two, maybe. And I will be absolutely stunned if the Patriots do not take at least one receiver in the first three rounds of draft weekend. Stunned!
Andy Hart

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