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Ask PFW: First draft

Posted May 1, 2013

Fans weigh in with their thoughts on the Patriots draft as well as some moves that could still be made in the latest edition of "Ask PFW."

With the Jamie Collins pick, who do you see losing a spot? It's possible he's there to take over for Rob Ninkovich at RE. However, I see him bumping Brandon Spikes to the sideline. We need more speed in our linebacker corps and Collins is just the guy to do it. I see Spikes as being a guy to be brought in for goal line situations and 3rd/4th and short.
Mike Aboud

I don’t think Collins will unseat anyone initially. But once he gets acclimated to the defense and the league, I see him as more of an edge threat – either at outside linebacker dropping into coverage occasionally or as a true defensive end. I do not see him taking Spikes’ place as an inside linebacker. Collins is very athletic and versatile and I believe he could carve a role either as a pass rusher or maybe even a coverage linebacker in sub packages. The interesting thing is, at the end of the season Ninkovich and Spikes will be free agent (unless they’re extended before then). Collins could replace Ninkovich if necessary, and I could see Dont’a Hightower moving inside to replace Spikes with Collins taking over on the outside if that scenario unfolded. Until then, I expect to see Collins in sub packages rushing the passer.
Paul Perillo

Do you see the picks of Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce as possible complements to each other or insurance policies in the likely case one of them may not pan out? The Patriots desperately need more outside threats, so I was very happy to see them make some moves to address that area of the offense.
Rick Goodwin

I don’t see why it’s likely that one of them doesn’t pan out, but I do agree with your overall premise that having two instead of one is good insurance. Personally I’m more intrigued with Boyce, who is a speedster and big play guy who can play on the outside as well as in the slot. I’m enamored with his potential and I believe he could be a big-play guy right from the start before potentially growing into a bigger role. Dobson may have a bigger role initially but I don’t believe he’s as gifted as Boyce and may not have as much upside. Either way, it’s nice to have two young receivers who can play on the outside to develop into the offense.
Paul Perillo

I’m wondering if you could provide any additional insight into the drafting of Duron Harmon in Round 3. We know the mantra of the Patriots is to draft for “value” so if they really liked Harmon and knew that he was not highly regarded, why not draft someone else in Round 3 and take Harmon later in the draft (e.g., 4th or 7th or if worried about him lasting until 7th, package two 7's to trade up a bit)? That would be the value maximization strategy. Now BB & Co. might give you some pablum about drafting based upon their evaluations and not worrying about other teams evaluations, but is that the case. Look at the 2010 draft when the Pats traded down twice in the first round to grab Devin McCourty just before there was a run on corners (nicely played) and when they traded up to jump the Ravens and grab Rob Gronkowski (nicely played). So the Pats definitely evaluate where other teams are coming from to some extent -- but do they only evaluate other teams' needs and not try to assess other teams' boards?
Eric Kirschner

We were all curious with the Harmon pick but let’s not pretend we know where he was rated on other teams’ boards. Of course the Patriots evaluate what they believe the other teams will do and they try to establish how they feel other teams will set their boards, but you do realize that’s an impossible task, right? There is no way any team can know how any other team is feeling about any particular player. If Belichick wanted Harmon in the third round but felt he could wait, all it would have taken is one team to take him and then you lose the player. You credited Belichick for waiting in prior drafts but how would you have felt if they weren’t able to trade ahead of Baltimore to take Gronkowski? Would you still be praising them for accurately reading the board but not being able to execute to get their player? I doubt it, and I wouldn’t be either. It’s also much easier to read what other teams might do earlier in the draft than it is at the end of the third round. Bottom line here is if the Patriots liked Harmon then they were right to pick him. I’m skeptical just like you because I’m not sure he was worthy of such a selection, but I don’t question the method.
Paul Perillo

My question is in regards to the Jamie Collins pick. Do you think that, seeing as how the game is being played more and more in space, that Coach Belichick might use more 3-4 defense? 4-3 is still our base, but seeing as how Tommy Kelly and Armond Armstead are the only new DTs on the team (as I write this), can you guys see more LBs on the field at times?
Mike D.

My question is with this draft and the free agents we have signed do you see us going back to running a 3-4 as our primary defense next year? Do you think a 3-4 would do a good job of hiding how bad Brandon Spikes is against the pass?
Mike Anderson

Anytime Belichick is involved I can always see schemes changing on both sides of the ball. We’ve seen him use the 4-3 and the 3-4 and at times both within the same game and season. I don’t think they’ll be totally a 3-4 next season but we may see more of those looks than we did last year given the addition of Jamie Collins, depending on how quickly he can contribute. I’m not sure the scheme does anything to help Spikes in coverage – either way he’ll be inside whether it’s the middle linebacker in the 4-3 or an inside guy in a 3-4. He likely will not be asked to cover as much depending on how other players, such as Dane Fletcher, pan out.
Paul Perillo

Please, do NOT even consider signing Tim Tebow. He is way more trouble than he is worth. I can't believe Andy even brought the idea up again in his article on Monday!
Jack Johnson

So ... can we now bring in Tim Tebow as a multi-dimensional fullback?
Don Blakeborough

I obviously put these two together if for no other reason than to showcase the polarizing nature of Tebow. These were not the only posts we received on Tebow this week – and the others were pretty much split down the middle in terms of pros and cons. Personally, I want no part of Tebow because I’m not sure he offers much. People assume he can contribute as a fullback or H-back type but have we seen him catch the ball or block? Does he have the durability to hold up in that role? I know he showed he could run as a quarterback as a member of the Broncos so I think he could add something in that department. Otherwise, he can’t throw so he offers little as a dual threat and as I mentioned, he hasn’t been asked to do the things that would make him “multi-dimensional.” By all accounts Tebow is a great teammate and person, but I’ll pass on Tebow the football player.
Paul Perillo

I know everyone will be asking about the draft picks so I'll skip to what I think is the best pickup so far in LeGarrette Blount. This guy is huge and runs like a bulldozer, I have seen him hurdle defenders in the open field and he can catch as well. I’m hoping he can turn things around for himself and we wind up with a much younger version of Corey Dillon.
Russell Obremski

I liked the Blount trade if only because the Patriots gave up nothing to get him. Jeff Demps wasn’t going to be part of the Patriots plans after declaring his intentions of participating in football and track. So getting something in return for him was wise. But Blount hasn’t been leaping anyone in the open field for a while and basically found himself glued to the bench last year while Doug Martin ran wild. Blount looks slow and plodding to me and he strikes me as the type of back who needs a lot of carries to get in a rhythm. He’s not likely going to be that guy in New England with Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen already here. He could earn a roster spot ahead of Brandon Bolden depending on how Belichick chooses to go. But I would be surprised to see Blount emerge as a key contributor in anything other than a goal-line role – and I actually felt Ridley was terrific in that department last year.
Paul Perillo

Hey long time reader from Auburn, California. Love your work. I have a few questions. 1) What are the odds of the Pats keeping LeGarrette Blount and what role would he likely play? 2) With the additions of Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce what is likely going to happen with Donald Jones and Michael Jenkins? and finally 3) Do the Patriots have enough in cap space to potentially add a veteran such as John Abraham if not only to teach some of the younger D lineman?
Chris James

As I just mentioned, I believe Blount has a chance to earn a role on the roster if he can beat out Brandon Bolden but I don’t expect his role to be significant. As for the wideouts, I think Jones will likely make the cut while Jenkins is sent packing. Jones is younger and has the versatility to play inside and outside. I don’t think he’s a difference-maker, but as a third or fourth option he could provide value. Jenkins is slow and has had trouble getting open. Unless he fits in perfectly with Brady and the offense I don’t see him making much of an impact. In terms of cap space, the Patriots have plenty of room to sign someone like Abraham. In fact, I’d be stunned if he or another veteran pass rusher is not signed. Many reports have indicated that Abraham is pretty much set to join the team and I’d be surprised at this point if that didn’t happen.
Paul Perillo

Why is everyone OK with trading away Ryan Mallett? I think after just his short time with the team he is already a solid backup, after we got rid of Brian Hoyer. We all need to face facts: Brady is 37 and will (unfortunately) retire. We need a kid to step in and keep the train rolling. I’d like to see him get real time this year. Close teams out early like Buffalo, and give the kid some time. Am I alone in this one? Love the show/blog. Keep it up.
Kyle Moyer

Based on the feedback we receive from fans, I’d say you are pretty much alone. Mallett has never played a meaningful snap so there’s no way to know just how good he is. But the Patriots watch him every day in practice and they have an idea of his talent level. When Brady retires the Patriots will obviously suffer a drop-off at quarterback whether it’s Mallett or anyone else. If New England can get a mid-round draft pick for him, I’d say that’s a trade they should make.
Paul Perillo

No new QBs for the Patriots from, either, the draft, or from any of the UFA QBs out there? Tom Brady isn't getting any younger, and he's more susceptible to getting injured, as he continues to get older. The Pats without Brady playing is a team in big trouble, without some reliable backup QB/QBs behind Brady.
John Moore

This is a topic I’ve never quite understood. John’s feelings are no different from a lot of people who worry about the backup quarterback. First, Ryan Mallett and Mike Kafka are currently on the roster along with Brady. I don’t see the Patriots taking more than three to training camp so I wouldn’t expect an addition. Obviously if Mallett gets traded then the situation might change. But to be clear, if something happens to Brady I’m not convinced there’s a backup quarterback candidate currently available that I would feel any better about than I do with Mallett and Kafka. Which is to say, I don’t currently feel great about the Patriots without Brady. The same could be said of the vast majority of teams in the NFL at this point, with few exceptions. Most teams with strong starting quarterbacks would be candidates to miss the playoffs completely if forced to go without their top guys for a long period of time. Maybe Mallett or Kafka could step in ably for a week or two, as could some journeyman veteran who could potentially be brought in. But over the long haul I don’t see a veteran being able to accomplish much more than the guys already here.
Paul Perillo

How is Stevan Ridley recovering and should we take the LeGarrette Blount trade as a sign that he isn’t doing so well with the recovery process?
Mike Maxey

I assume you’re talking about the concussion Ridley suffered in the AFC Championship Game loss to Baltimore. As far as I know he hasn’t been dealing with any lingering effects from the hit but if he were there’s no reason to believe the media would know about it. The Patriots do a good job of keeping that stuff under wraps, and I would think that would be especially true with a head injury. But even if Ridley is dealing with some problems, I don’t expect Blount to have a huge role. I think Belichick thought he had a chance to add a player for a fair price and he did so with the thought of seeing what Blount could provide. Nothing more, nothing less. If Blount pans out, perhaps he’ll take some time away from Ridley and the other backs but I’m not counting on that.
Paul Perillo

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