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Ask PFW: Draft drawing closer

I was looking for your input on a bet I made with a buddy. I said Mike Hart will not get drafted at all in this year's draft. What do you think of this, should I be going to the bank anytime soon?Andrew Nesbitt

Unless you're planning on making a withdrawal to pay off your buddy, I wouldn't be making too many trips to the bank. While Andy, Tom and I are pretty much in agreement that Hart is a mid-level prospect at best and doesn't figure to be much a threat at the NFL level, it would be hard to imagine a scenario in which he wasn't drafted at all. I'd expect him to go sometime early in Day 2, possibly in the fourth or fifth round. He has the kind of character that teams will find appealing and he should be able to provide a team with a lot of versatility to help out in the running game, passing game, blocking and even on special teams. Hart was highly productive at Michigan, one of the country's highest-regarded programs. Players like that don't usually go undrafted and I'd be very surprised if that was the case.
Paul Perillo

I have always wondered why teams do not screen their players right after their season is over for injuries. This would prevent longer rehab from interfering with mini-camp.
Moses Ip

What makes you think teams don't do exactly that? Players are all subjected to exit physicals before they leave at the end of the season. It's usually at this time that teams and players decide on a course of action for injured players in terms of surgeries, rehab schedules, etc. There are times when players don't want to immediately have surgery after a season, whether it be for personal reasons or medical ones, such as swelling or other factors that might make surgery difficult. But all players are reviewed after the season as a matter of course.
Paul Perillo

What is the quarterback situation looking like? Tom Brady is the obvious starter, but what about the future and the backup quarterback? How do you think Matt Cassel will perform if he is forced to come into the game to spell Brady?Peter Kuo

Obviously Brady isn't going anywhere soon so the future quarterback isn't likely on the roster at this point. Brady should have at least five solid years left, probably more of he wishes to remain in the game, so any backups currently on the roster won't likely get a chance to run the show barring any significant injuries to Brady. As for the current backup situation, I think there could be some serious competition for the No. 2 job come July. Cassell has held the spot for the past two seasons while Matt Gutierrez came in as the No. 3 guy last year. Gutierrez impressed the coaching staff enough last summer to warrant a roster spot over veteran Vinny Testaverde. Based on that, I think Gutierrez will provide a serious push to take the backup job away from Cassel, who will be a free agent at the end of this season. But if you're asking me how I'd feel if Brady was out of action for a significant stretch, the answer is somewhere between nauseous and unsettled. Neither Cassel nor Gutierrez has shown anything resembling the capability of filling in for Brady. Back in 2001, before Brady became the starter, he showed some real promise during the preseason working with the starters so there was at least some evidence that he could play. Obviously no one envisioned what he ultimately wound up doing, otherwise the coaches would have played him right from the start that year. We don't have even that modest bit of evidence that Cassel or Gutierrez could do the job, therefore Brady currently resides with Peyton Manning as the two most indispensable players in football today.
Paul Perillo

With all of the signings that the Patriots have made at corner this offseason, Fernando Bryant seems the most suited to possibly be a starter opposite of Ellis Hobbs. But with the flexibility that Brandon Meriweather provides being able to play FS and CB, do you see a possibility where Meriweather could be moved to CB and start? Thus allowing the Patriots to possibly focus more on LB early on in the draft rather then a CB.
Brandon Andrews

I'm right with you, Brandon. I believe Bryant is the most likely candidate to start out of the three corners they've signed (Bryant, Jason Webster, Lewis Sanders) and I also agree with you that Meriweather will be in the mix at corner as well. As a rookie last year he spent most of the summer playing corner and only moved to safety after Rodney Harrison's suspension was announced. I like Meriweather's skill set in terms of speed and physical play. The question with him is how well has he picked up the system, and obviously only the coaches know the answer to that. It's difficult to learn the playbook for all young players so asking them to move around and play different positions makes that task even more difficult. But it can be done as Eugene Wilson showed as a rookie, moving from corner to safety. And Meriweather developed as the season went along last year, a sign that he was acclimating himself better to his surroundings. With a year under his belt and an offseason program thrown in, I don't think it's a stretch to expect him to compete for a starting job this summer. But whether that happens or not, I wouldn't expect the Patriots to take a corner with the seventh pick simply because there doesn't seem to be one worthy of taking that high. If they trade down and wind up in the 20s, then I could see corner moving back into the mix.
Paul Perillo

Do you feel the Pats got the better trade getting 2008's No. 7 pick for Joe Staley? I say if the Pats took Joe Staley, the 2007 Patriots would have gone down as the greatest team of all time.John Duffy

Let me get this straight, the difference in the Super Bowl was the play of Nick Kaczur at right tackle? Forgive me if I sound like a Patriots homer here, but what exactly did Kaczur do wrong that any of the other four offensive linemen (five if you count Russ Hochstein, who replaced the injured Stephen Neal) weren't guilty of? The Patriots trade with San Fran turned out to be terrific. They dealt the 28th pick for the seventh pick. Any way you look at it, that's a great trade. Staley turned in a solid rookie year and should be a good player. But there's no guarantee they would have chosen him if they stayed at 28, and the No. 7 pick should be an even better player. I just don't see where the play at right tackle made the difference between the Patriots going down as the best team of all time.
Paul Perillo

Do you see the Pats using Chad Jackson as trade material to either move up in the draft to get Vernon Gholston or to solve other defensive issues? If not, what do you see Jackson doing for the Pats?Mark Davis

OK, now I'm going to venture in full-blown homer territory. (Andy, stop giggling. I said homer, not the other thing.) I think Chad Jackson will be the starter opposite Randy Moss on opening day. Now everyone's laughing. Here me out. Moss is the clear-cut No. 1 while Wes Welker will remain in his role in the slot. Jabar Gaffney is back but I feel he's better suited to the slot as well, meaning he comes on the field in four-receiver sets, much like he did last year when Donte' Stallworth was here. That means the Patriots are looking to replace an outside guy and I believe Jackson's skill set makes him a better fit for that than Gaffney. The problem is Jackson needs to prove that he's able to stay healthy and that he can be consistent enough with his route running and discipline in order to earn such an important job. I'll admit I'm not sold on that, but this is an important year for him and may represent his final chance to prove himself in New England. Desperation can sometimes prove to be a huge motivator. In terms of the Patriots using him as trade material, my optimism aside what has he done to generate any interest from other teams? He's barely played in two seasons as a second-round pick. That won't exactly have teams burning up the phone lines trying to acquire him. I just don't see Jackson garnering much on the trade market based on his two seasons of work.
Paul Perillo

What do you think of the Patriots drafting Steve Slaton in the middle rounds of the draft? I know Laurence Maroney showed us what he had there near the end of the season but what if he goes down again. Slaton would probably take a couple of years to form into an NFL starter but until then he could probably be a good backup for Maroney.Zack Ross

Slaton can flat our fly, there's no question about that. But he's a little small (5-9, 197) and he's been banged up throughout his career at West Virginia. It's not so much the amount of games that he's missed, but moreso it's about him missing large chunks of big games with various injuries that scares me. I don't think he'll be a go-to guy as a pro because of his size, but your point about him being a backup would obviously eliminate those fears. I believe he has the chance to be a dynamic playmaker in the right situation, and probably will make for a dangerous return man right from the start. I'm just not sold on his toughness, and that might be unfair considering I'm only watching from afar and not familiar with his entire story. He'll go in the third or fourth round.
Paul Perillo

One of the big concerns last season was that if Brady got injured, the Pats didn't have any other QB with any kind of experience. Last time I checked, no teams had picked up Trent Dilfer or Tim Rattay. I know that these guys aren't starters, but wouldn't one of them be a more than capable backup? I would feel more comfortable with Dilfer stepping into a game than Matt Cassel.
Mark Power

I'm pretty sure Dilfer's career is over. He hasn't officially filed his retirement papers but it looks like he's headed to a career in TV. But even if he doesn't call it quits I don't see him or Rattay as being any upgrade over Cassel or Gutierrez. Dilfer and Rattay have experience over those guys but they don't have experience in the Patriots system, which could be just as important. I also believe those players proved they were limited players when they got the opportunity to start. I'd rather take my chances with the unknown and hope one of the current backups develops into a legitimate option rather than rely on a guy I know can't do the job for any extended period of time.
Paul Perillo

What are you're thoughts about Illinois LB Jeremy Leman, and do you think he'll be a good fit for the Pats? I think he's a good player and we can get him in the late-round picks.Jorge Joya

I really liked Leman during his playing days at Illinois. He's the classic overachiever who plays hard but I think he's very limited athletically. Watching him he's a tough player who tackles well but seemed to be a bit slow at times. These limitations, plus some injury problems, I believe will cause him to go undrafted. He will wind up in someone's camp as a free agent and will probably fly around on special teams and make life miserable for some veterans, but I don't see him as being a legitimate candidate to fill a role at inside linebacker at the NFL level.
Paul Perillo

I think that if Gholston falls to us, that the pick becomes a no-brainer. But if he doesn't, I have a trade that might make sense. We trade our No. 7 pick to the Eagles for their No. 19 pick, their third-round pick and Lito Sheppard. We could use the Eagles pick for Ryan Clady, Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, Keith Rivers or Antoine Cason, depending upon who drops to 19. The Eagles couldn't sign Donte' Stallworth and they couldn't get Larry Fitzgerald. But they could get the No. 1 receiver on their board if they make the trade.
Ed Enman

Another trade proposal from Patriots Nation that I would be absolutely in favor of. Not too sure how Andy Reid would feel about coughing up two draft picks and a Pro Bowl corner for the No. 7 pick, but definitely sign me up. Let me start by saying that I feel Sheppard for the No. 7 pick would be a pretty even trade in my mind. But no question when you add in the Eagles first-round pick (No. 19) with Sheppard the scales become a bit uneven. I'd say Sheppard and the third-rounder for the No. 7 pick sounds about right and I'd make that deal if I were the Patriots. But in terms of the players you're interested in, I'm on board. Tom has been trumpeting Cason for a while now and I think he'd make a lot of sense considering need and a potential late first-round pick.
Paul Perillo

If anyone has been watching Iowa State they would know that Mike Humpal owns the defensive side of the ball every single play. He is sideline to sideline and he truly punishes ball carriers. I have never seen him take a play off in any game. I've noticed he isn't ranked very highly amongst the other linebackers, even though he had a great combine. Do you think he'd be a good second-round steal to give us a solid future linebacker?Corey Yacco

I really liked Humpal from what I watched on tape, but I have to tell you first off that I wasn't watching any Iowa State footage when I saw him. Humpal played at Iowa and definitely showed some speed and tackling ability from what I saw. He was used in coverage a lot, which should help his transition to the pro game as a potential outside linebacker, and he plays hard. But he's just 6-2, 242 pounds and that might not big enough to play the outside for the Patriots. It's probably because of his size that most draft prognosticators don't consider him a potential draft pick. But like Leman he'll likely end up in camp somewhere and make it tough for someone to cut him.
Paul Perillo

With the loss of several receivers this offseason and the eventual failing of the passing game in the Super Bowl I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up leaning on the running game a little more next year, creating more balance. However do we really have enough depth at running back? We have Maroney, who struggles with injuries and has only carried the load when the passing game was opening holes up for him, Sammy Morris, who couldn't step up and take the starting job, and Kevin Faulk, who is really a third-down receiver. So would we be looking to the later rounds of the draft as a means to add depth?Chris Hague

I'm not sure I feel adding depth at running back is as big a need as you do. Maroney came on toward the end of the season, and when Morris was healthy he proved to be more than capable as a backup. That tandem should be fine heading into 2008. With Faulk still thriving in his role as the third-down back, I don't see the need to add a running back with a significant pick. If someone is available in the later rounds that the Patriots feel is too good to pass up, then I'd understand a pick like that. But taking Darren McFadden or Rashard Mendenhall at the top, as good as those players are, wouldn't be the wisest course of action in my mind.
Paul Perillo

Now that the pain from the Super loss is slowly subsiding, I would like to have your take on what went wrong. Specifically, why couldn't the Pats score more than 14 points? More specifically, if you single out the Giants ability to put pressure on Brady why: 1. Were they more successful than the other teams they faced and 2. Why couldn't the Pats adjust in the second half?Joe Peretti

The problem with your questions is you can't take out the Giants ability to put pressure on Brady. That was by far the biggest factor in their ability to slow down the Patriots offense. If you take that away, my feeling is that Brady & Co. likely would have put up their normal 35-plus points. But New York did hound the quarterback all game long and that prevented the Patriots from getting into any sort of offensive rhythm. The Giants also did a nice job of containing Laurence Maroney and the running game so the Patriots couldn't turn in that direction to keep the pass rush off. As for the adjustments, I disagree with you. I thought Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels tried a lot of different things. They used multiple tight ends and tried to run the ball, they spread the field with multiple receiver sets, they used the shot gun, they even tried some hurry-up with the no huddle with both long passes and short stuff sprinkled in. For the most part, the Giants did a great job of shutting everything down. Even the first touchdown for the Patriots came on a terrible play by the Giants in the end zone where the linebacker interfered with Benjamin Watson when he was in decent position to make the play without committing a penalty. That came on third down and would have led to a field goal. The only drive that looked "normal" from the Patriots perspective was the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter when Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo admitted he made a mistake by not continuing to apply pressure to Brady. As difficult as it is, sometimes you simply have to credit the other team for playing better and I think that's what happened in the Super Bowl.
Paul Perillo

Adam Seward is restricted free agent, has been for a visit at Foxborough and we've yet to hear anything. What gives? As of press, he has turned down the Carolina Panthers offer and is waiting for an offer. We know BB looked very closely at him in his college days. The man is 25 and a low risk. He has 3-4 experience and at worst could be a back-up\contributor to special teams. At best, he could be the next Mike Vrabel.
Manuel Fernando

Seward is an interesting player considering the Patriots early interest. Usually a team meets with a restricted free agent, offers a contract and then has to wait to see if the original team chooses to match the offer sheet. Obviously that hasn't happened yet for the Patriots and it will need to soon if it's going to. Teams have until April 18 to sign a restricted free agent to an offer sheet. It's possible that Seward wasn't interested in whatever offer the Patriots made – if they in fact made one. It's also possible that the Patriots lost interest after talking to him. For whatever reason, no movement has been made thus far. But overall I don't see him being the next Mike Vrabel. Vrabel was a solid backup in Pittsburgh playing behind some very talented linebackers with the Steelers. Despite that, he found a way to make plays and was a part of the team's defense right from his rookie year. Seward hasn't made much of an impact on the Panthers defense at all, which might be due to the system not being a good fit for him. But I think your best-case scenario might be a tad unrealistic.
Paul Perillo

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