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Ask PFW: Draft central

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Rey Maualuga. AP Photo.

With the draft now about two weeks away, what are five names of players you would be happy with us selecting at pick 23 that have a good chance of being there?Kyle M.

An excellent question to lead us off this week … not that having five chances to hit the pick is going to help us out all that much. But we'll give it a shot. Like most people I believe the biggest needs are on defense – outside linebacker and in the secondary. I feel the linebackers that could be available have more value than the corners, so I'll go with Everette Brown and Larry English for my outside linebackers. Brown has been in the 20s on some mocks so there's a possibility that he could drop. If so, I'd jump on him at 23. I really like cornerback D.J. Moore out of Vanderbilt but I think 23 is too high for him. Instead of taking the best corner there, I'd rather stick with the value. If one of the offensive tackles falls – Michael Oher or Andre Smith – either would be too good to pass up at 23. I'd also be thrilled to see Rey Maualuga available at that point. So, if you're looking for five guys who have a chance to be around at 23 I'd go with Everette Brown, Michael Oher, Andre Smith, Larry English and Rey Maualuga.
Paul Perillo

It seems like everyone has New England picking up an inside linebacker in the first round. I think New England should wait until the later rounds and pick up Scott McKillop so they can pick up a playmaking WR or CB. I think he plays a lot like Tedy Bruschi. What is your opinion on the Pats picking up McKillop?
Nathan Parsons

I actually like McKillop – he's a good tackler with good quickness and he's very active. I agree that he reminded me a bit of Bruschi in that he showed he could play in coverage as well. He's more of a mid-round selection, maybe the fifth. The only inside linebacker I'd take at 23 is Maualuga depending on what's available at that point. I wouldn't take a wide receiver at 23 and the only corner I'd take that high is Malcolm Jenkins, who won't likely be around at that point. There are a lot of quality players in this draft but many of them are grading out in similar fashion, which makes predicting where everyone will go even tougher than normal. I think outside linebacker is the spot for the first pick provided that one with a first-round grade is available.
Paul Perillo

I love Kevin Ellison. He looks like a Rodney Harrison-type that keeps WR scared. Why is he lower on the radar that some of the other safeties?Bill Smith

Here's another comparison that I'm on board with. When I watched Ellison's tape I immediately thought of Rodney (and no, it's not just because I love Rodney and compare all safeties to him). Ellison patrols the middle of the field in the same reckless manner that Rodney does, drilling receivers with his shoulder and constantly looking to send a message. Ellison is listed as a fourth-round pick, likely because his foot speed isn't quite what you'd like to see in a safety. I'd like to see more of him to see how he plays the run and how he handles the deep ball – not to mention how he fares outside of that immensely talented USC defense. But I think Ellison is a guy to keep an eye on in the middle rounds.
Paul Perillo

I just wanted to get your view on this choice most mock draft writers have made that really has me stumped. Many of them have us taking Clay Matthews over James Laurinaitis, why? Matthews has come from nowhere and has only about 10 starts to his name whereas Laurinaitis is a proven performer who has performed time and time again for Ohio State. Also Laurinaitis was clearly a star of the defense whereas Matthews was surrounded by talent at USC and could simply be an overrated product of the supporting cast and system. If I can see this from across an ocean why can't the so-called experts?
Chris Mellows

This is starting to get a little frightening because I'm usually the cranky guy who doesn't agree with anyone. But yet again I think the poster nails it. Laurinaitis would be a much safer pick in my mind than Matthews. I know most people have Matthews as an outside linebacker while Laurinaitis plays inside, but I believe both would be ILBs in the Patriots 3-4 scheme. I like both players' athleticism but I feel Laurinaitis is the more proven commodity. Matthews made some plays last year but Laurinaitis did so for his entire career. To be honest, I'd rather not take either player at 23, which would likely take them off the board for the Patriots barring a trade.
Paul Perillo

The Pats seem to be pretty unsettled at the QB position behind Tom Brady. What do you think the possibility of picking up another QB in a mid-round selection is? The more I look at the draft and where the Patriots pick I would love to see them grab Stephen McGee from Texas A&M. He's smart, knows the game and has a mental toughness about him. He is a project like Cassel was, but I like the fit for both McGee and the Patriots.
Ed Jameson

McGee is very athletic and could be an interesting guy for teams looking to add a Wildcat dimension to their offense. Obviously Kevin O'Connell is pretty athletic as well, but McGee could be an attractive alternative come the third round. I just don't see the Patriots using picks that high two years in a row when they have more pressing needs than third-string quarterback. I don't feel the position is as unsettled as you feel it is. O'Connell is very highly regarded in Foxborough and should remain the backup. Whether or not Matt Gutierrez sticks around as No. 3 remains to be seen but either way I don't feel the Patriots need to invest another third-round pick on a quarterback unless they plan to use the player at multiple positions. Pat White would make sense in that scenario but I'm not sure McGee would offer as much value in that regard.
Paul Perillo

It seems that the trade rumors for Julius Peppers have come to a stop, do you see any way for the Patriots to trade for him if he signs the tender?John Opitz

There are some obvious obstacles that will make any trade for Peppers pretty difficult. You already hit on one in referring to his need to sign his tender. From there, there are still some expensive hurdles to overcome. What would the Panthers be looking for in return and how much would it take to sign Peppers to a contract. The Patriots won't likely want to pay him in excess of $16 million for 2009 so reworking the deal is imperative. My guess is things will remain real quiet until the draft. If something is going to get done my guess is that's when it will happen. I wouldn't rule it out at this point but the chances of it happening have to be considered quite slim.
Paul Perillo

If Aaron Curry is available at No. 3, the Pats will send their first and KC's second rounder back to them and select him. Heard it here first, what say you?
Pete Hart

Hopefully first and last … that's what say me. First of all, I understand that the top six or seven picks are starting to lose value because of the salaries needed to pay these players, but Nos. 23 and 34 aren't going to get you all the way up to No. 3. Curry is a nice player but I don't feel he's worth anywhere near the third overall pick anyway. Unfortunately, that's where most of the mock drafts have him projected. I'd be real disappointed – not to mention stunned – if the Patriots traded up that high to get Curry. If he started dropping for some reason and was available in the mid-teens, then maybe Bill Belichick would think about it. Otherwise, I love the Pats positioning for this draft and feel they have the flexibility to do pretty much whatever they want.
Paul Perillo

I know it's awhile till the start of training camp but my question is when does it usually start? My girlfriend and I are planning to make our first trip out there hoping we can catch a glimpse of the team and maybe get an autograph or two if that's possible. We've been Patriot fans for almost 2 decades now and any reply regarding this would make our day and planning much more easier.John T.

First of all, you've been together for almost two decades and you're not married. Dude, you're my idol! You're going to have to tell me how you pulled that one off. Anyway, training camp usually begins in late July. No official dates have been established as of yet but generally anytime after July 27 there's a pretty good bet that practices will be taking place.
Paul Perillo

Why does everyone at PFW think OLB is a bigger priority at this point than ILB? It appears to me that the Pats have a guy who while unproven, has some decent upside in Shawn Crable, another who if it weren't for injury I think would have shown he's capable of being a decent starter in Pierre Woods and a good situational player in Tully Banta-Cain all fighting for the outside job opposite Thomas. While at ILB you have Bruschi, who may still be a decent role player but can be seriously exposed at his age, and Gary Guyton, who I like but may still be a year away from fighting for the job next to Mayo. Am I wrong in my assessment of our talent or am I missing something here? I'd rather go into the season with our current OLBs than inside guys. Also, do you think it's realistic to think the Pats could trade two of their second rounders to move up to the 12-15-range in the first round for Rey Maualuga and then nab English with the 23rd?Joel Lindgren

I understand your point but I feel the outside spot is a larger hole right now for a couple of reasons. First, I do believe your assessment of our talent is a bit on the optimistic side. Banta-Cain and Woods have done nothing to show they're NFL starters at this point. That doesn't mean they won't be in 2009, but thus far they haven't been and each has gotten at least some chance – especially Banta-Cain. I'm not real comfortable with either one in the starting lineup. Crable is basically a rookie all over again. He did not take a single snap last year so how you could be comfortable with him and not Gary Guyton, who played a ton, is kind of confusing. The second reason is I feel it's easier to hide a problem inside than outside. With Jerod Mayo inside it's unlikely that teams will exploit us in the running game like they did in 2005 when Ted Johnson retired and Bruschi was on PUP while recovering from his stroke. In that case, Monty Beisel and Chad Brown couldn't handle the position. Mayo was a stud last year, so even with a less-than-his-best Bruschi the situation inside would be OK. Plus Guyton and Eric Alexander (as long as we're just plugging in guys who haven't proven anything) would around for depth.

As for your trade, in terms of value it would be realistic. The first two second rounders should be enough to get you in the 15 range. If they opted to do something like that I'd love your picks. Chances are Belichick doesn't feel the same way, however. Most experts say this draft is littered with quality players between 20-40 so why not hold onto those picks and just take good players?
Paul Perillo

I have written a couple of times and haven't seen one of my questions posted yet so I will keep trying, I must say I love reading ask PFW and can't seem to get enough of it. Anyway I have a question about Western Illinois' Jason Williams. You guys didn't offer any feedback on him in your draft prospect report and he seems to fit the bill along with the fact that a lot of teams are interested in him N.E. being one of them. Also what do you guys think about us taking Utah's Shawn Smith with the 23rd pick? I don't think he will be there come the second round. I think he is the best corner in the draft this year and a lot of teams that pass on him for a bigger school corner will regret it. I would appreciate it if you answered these questions. Thanks for your time and keep up the good work the off-season would be horrible without you.
Jason Catoloni

Usually whining about not getting your questions answered is the best way to ensure that it winds up in the deleted box, but I'm feeling generous today. Maybe it's because I'm agreeing with so many questions and that's so out of character for me. Of course, it may be because I really disagree with your assessment of Sean Smith and that allows me to return to my curmudgeon-like ways. Smith is huge at 6-4 and he's quite athletic. But from what I've seen he's a little slow and tends to have trouble turning his hips. A lot of plays I watched on tape had him trailing in his coverage only to be bailed out by underthrown passes where he showed his athleticism with terrific diving deflections. I call this Otis Smith coverage. Otis may have been My Man but he always to be trailing his man and tended to get away with it because the passes always seemed to be off the mark. I saw a lot of that while watching Smith. He could be a late first-round pick but I liked Malcolm Jenkins, Alphonso Smith, D.J. Moore and Darius Butler more than him and not all of those guys will go in the first round. Oh, and I must confess, I know nothing about Western Illinois' Jason Williams other than the fact that he plays linebacker.
Paul Perillo

I have been reading the evaluations of the linebackers in this year's draft class and noticed a lot of supposed weaknesses followed by comments of good athlete, smart, hard working player. It led me to the thought, do any you remember what they thought of guys like Tedy Bruschi and Mike Vrabel when they were first drafted?Ray Boucher

Sure, but comparing them to the linebackers in this draft is apples and oranges. Bruschi and Vrabel were defensive linemen in college, not linebackers. Moving Bruschi to linebacker was a major project that took the better part of five years. After a Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit in 2002 when he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown he actually said he finally felt like a true linebacker. That was his seventh year with the Patriots. Vrabel was a hybrid defensive end/OLB type coming out of Ohio State but at the time that wasn't as common as it is today. Both guys were typical third-round picks in that they had talent but also questions about how they'd fit at the NFL level.
Paul Perillo

As we get ready to see what will happen with this year's draft I was wondering if any of the previous Mr. Irrelevants have actually played significant minutes for their teams? Thank you.
Mike Thomas

The Patriots actually had one who played a pretty large role back in 1994 named Marty Moore. He was drafted last that year and wound up starting at inside linebacker and remained with the team through 1999 before returning in 2001. He played in 96 career games with 10 starts. Jim Finn, a running back out of Penn, was taken in 1999 by Chicago. He wound up having a decent career as a fullback with Indianapolis and the Giants. He played eight years before injuries derailed his career. Other than those two, there haven't been many Mr. Irrelevants who have stuck around for more than a cup of coffee.
Paul Perillo

So I'm still feeling like the Pats got burnt on the Matt Cassel trade. I can't get over both Cassel and Vrabel for just one second-round pick. This isn't Patriots-type business. Is there a chance that the Pats and KC are anticipating a second trade on draft day that will benefit the Patriots more than KC to balance the deal out some? I can't help thinking there is more to it. Sorry I know you're getting thousands of these.
Charlie Bourque

Actually Charlie, we haven't gotten anything on this trade in weeks. Yours is the only one. Look, I obviously can't convince you since time has done nothing to change your opinion. Could the Patriots have gotten more than they got had they been able to wait it out? Yes. Could the Patriots have afforded to wait? That depends on your priorities. The Patriots obviously felt that signing players like James Sanders and some of the free agents they inked was more important than waiting around to see what happened to the Matt Cassel market. It's clear that Cassel wasn't as valuable as some people thought. First, he was due almost $15 million at the very minimum and perhaps much more if the new team signed him to an extension. Second, it was costing the team something in return as well as that money. By comparison, Jay Cutler is under contract for three years for Chicago and is due just $6 million for the first two of those years. So it made sense that the Bears were willing to part with more in terms of compensation to get him since it wasn't costing them much money. I don't believe there is any pre-existing deal between the Patriots and Kansas City left on the table. Any dealings between the two at the draft would be purely coincidental in my opinion.
Paul Perillo

Hey guys this is my first time asking a question but I do enjoy these Q and As. Anyway, I've heard a lot of talk about the Patriots needing an inside and outside linebacker. I think that the Pats should take Maualuga if he falls to them, but if he doesn't, take Laurinaitis. That solves your inside linebacker problem. Then for outside linebacker with the No. 34 pick get Clint Sintim. He seems like a perfect fit for the Pats and has a good chance of falling to the second round. What do you guys think?Antonio Delanie

I think there are worse scenarios for the Pats then the two guys you like. Personally, the only pure inside guy I'd take at 23 is Maualuga. I like Laurinaitis but I don't love him. I think he'll be a steady, solid pro but not a game-changer. I'd like to think I could get more in the first round. Sintim is interesting because he's played in a true 3-4 at Virginia and has at least a base knowledge of the system playing for Al Groh. I'm not sure he's physically gifted enough for No. 34, but either of the other two second rounders would make sense. I like both players – I'm just not married to either of them.
Paul Perillo

There seems to be lots of talk about contract extensions for Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Logan Mankins and Jarvis Green. But if they go to an uncapped year won't Mankins and Jarvis Green still be restricted free agents? And then they could use the two tags on Wilfork and Seymour. Do you think this is part of the thinking? Obviously this is moot if they can hammer out a new collective bargaining agreement.
Mike Anastasio

Jarvis Green would be unrestricted under any arrangement since he'd be entering his ninth NFL season in 2010. Mankins would be affected since the uncapped year means players need six years to hit unrestricted free agency and Mankins will complete his fifth in 2009. But overall I understand your point and I do believe that these differences will affect teams moving forward. If the two tags are at their disposal, I would think Wilfork would be a prime candidate for one. Seymour would have to show an increase in production in order for me to want to use the other on him. Otherwise, I'd be content to let him hit the market.
Paul Perillo

Since the draft is fast approaching us I was wondering what you considered to be the Patriots best draft? I saw a report on another site that named the 1977 draft as the Patriots best and I highly disagree with that. My feeling is 1995 is most likely the best. Second where would you rank the 1993 Drew Bledsoe draft for the Patriots?Don C.

Let me start by saying that we'll be publishing our all-time top 10 list of the best draft classes in Patriots history very soon. Please look for it on "Patriots All Access" and right here on Patriots.com. Personally, I'd consider the 1973 class with John Hannah, Sam Cunningham, Darryl Stingley and Ray Hamilton the best. I'd also consider 1976 with Mike Haynes, Pete Brown, Tim Fox and Doug Beaudoin to be right up there. I like the 1995 class that you mentioned as well. And 1977 definitely deserves a mention although I'd put these three ahead of that. As for 1993, Bledsoe, Chris Slade, Todd Rucci, Vincent Brisby, Corwin Brown and Troy Brown represent a terrific all-around draft class – definitely top 10 material. I don't want to give anything away at this point – make sure you keep an eye out for that list.
Paul Perillo

I really think Larry English, Everette Brown or maybe Aaron Maybin would be the Pats choice. I would like to see your opinion on both Everette Brown and Aaron Maybin? Are they reasonable options or are they too good to drop down? Also, I know if Maybin is the choice he will play linebacker is that the same if Everette Brown gets picked by the Pats?
John Jones

I actually like all three players a lot. I feel both Brown and Maybin will be gone by the time the Patriots pick, however, so that would leave English. The question is, do the Patriots feel he represents value at No. 23. I really like all three as edge pass rushers with the potential to serve as outside linebackers in the NFL. Clearly that's how all three would be used in New England. I like Brown more than Maybin, although it seems like the draft experts disagree with me on that. Overall, I'd take any of these three at 23.
Paul Perillo

Quick question for you guys. With Heath Evans now with the Saints, do you see the possibility that the Pats take a FB in the late, late rounds?Kacper Kosinski

Honestly I don't. I just don't see fullback as having enough value in the today's NFL. The Patriots have basically been without one for years using Heath Evans and various offensive linemen in the role over the past several season. Evans is not a true fullback but has some characteristics. I could see the Patriots using two running backs together at times if they feel the need for a fullback but I don't think it's worth investing a pick, even a late, late one.
Paul Perillo

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