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Ask PFW: Draft postmortem

This week's mailbag, as you might expect, is mostly a reaction to New England's actions in the NFL Draft.

Dear PFW, I'm just curious as to why we didn't take a pass rusher earlier? I'm completely okay with picking up Ras-I Dowling in the second round, but what was the point of taking a tight end in the fifth round when we already have two beast tight ends and before that we drafted two running backs in a row? It kind of felt like the Pats were trying to avoid getting a pass rusher, because they had so many opportunities and kept passing. Please explain because I'm really confused and kind of bothered.
Kebba Robinson

You're not alone, my friend. I'm flabbergasted that the best this team's head coach and scouting department thought they could do in the OLB department was Markell Carter, a virtual unknown from a small program ... and not until the sixth round, to boot. Maybe he'll end up being a productive player, or even a star, in this system, but that's a lot to ask of such a prospect. This was the deepest pass rush class in years, and the deepest position in this year's draft. I find it hard to believe that Von Miller, Robert Quinn, Aldon Smith, or Ryan Kerrigan weren't worth trading up for, or even lesser profile names like Sam Acho or Greg Romeus weren't worthy of a selection. The Patriots certainly had their chances and the wherewithal to get one or two of these players, and I'm at a loss to explain why they didn't.  
Erik Scalavino

So, I have to say, I wasn't too excited about any of our picks in the draft. Why in the world did we draft another TE? What do you guys think? If free agency ever happens and say that it follows the rules in place now, who do you think would be a good pick up to help with the pass rush? Just still amazed that we didn't get a pass rusher. In BB we trust, I just don't like exiting the playoffs early like we have the last couple of years. Here's to another great season! Go Pats! (If there is one that is.)
Mike Duran

First, thanks guys for the great draft coverage! I'd also like to thank Andy for sucking me in with his Robert Quinn propaganda. Even though I'm disappointed we didn't take him, I do think we made some solid selections this year and put ourselves in a great position once again for next year's draft. My question - Being that we didn't select a pass rusher, and despite the fact that free agency is still extremely murky right now, what players would you guys highlight as potential free-agency pickups that could fill the pass-rushing void?
Stephen Bell

I think we were all shocked by the dearth of defenders selected by New England. Especially considering how slim the pickings are in the free-agent-OLB department. Tamba Hali is the cream of the crop, having played in a similar defensive scheme to New England's, but Hali was franchised by Kansas City, so the Patriots would have to trade a significant amount for him if they wanted him. LaMarr Woodley is also out there, but something tells me he's be too costly to acquire as well. The Patriots might decide to settle for a lesser commodity like Cleveland's Matt Roth.
Erik Scalavino

I felt like we had a decent draft. We took care of all our needs except for two: a deep threat at WR and a pass rusher. I really don't think not getting a WR was a bad thing since that will be easy to take care of in free agency, but pass rushing was more of a concern. Since we got Ras-i Dowling do you see us trading Leigh Bodden to pick up that pass rusher?
Jacob Mattson

Well, given the underwhelming results we've seen from New England's most recent second-round cornerbacks (Terrence Wheatley, Darius Butler), I'm not prepared to ship out an established veteran like Bodden before this Dowling kid even puts on a uniform – pass rusher or not. Secondly, it's not so "easy" to pick up a quality free agent, especially for a team that doesn't like to throw tons of money at free agents. I'd love for New England either to trade for Larry Fitzgerald or try to sign Sidney Rice, but both of those guys, in my estimation, would be too rich for the Patriots' blood, unfortunately.
Erik Scalavino

Once the lockout ends, do you think the Pats will go after Mark Herzlich? I think he will fit well with New England.
Ryan H.

Do you think there is any chance the Patriots try to sign Mark Herzlich as an undrafted rookie? The guy has a great attitude and work ethic.
Wesley Nickle

I was calling for the Boston College outside linebacker's name once we got to Saturday of the draft and round 4-7. I thought that was the perfect spot to take a flier on this guy, who, had he not had a successful bout with cancer, might've been worthy of first-round pick consideration. If and when teams are allowed to start signing undrafted rookie free agents, I certainly hope they target Herzlich.
Erik Scalavino

Hi, guys. Thanks for the draft coverage – it helps sustain me through the oh-so-long off season (let's pray it won't end up being even longer than usual). Is it likely that Fred Taylor, Sammy Morris, and Kevin Faulk all retire this year, leaving us with Danny Woodhead, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and the two draft picks? And how would you rate the pass rush skills/potential of Markell Carter (i.e., Can this guy help us this coming season?)? Hope you guys could shed some light on this. THANKS!
Erik Haukaa, Norway

Erik, I like that you spell your name in the proper Scandinavian way. Now, to your questions: 1) I expect Taylor and Faulk to retire. Morris probably will, too, but he could end up playing somewhere else. Of the three, he might have some tread left on his tires. 2) None of us at PFW had ever heard of Markell Carter till he was drafted. Until we see him in pads and on the practice field, we won't be able to give you any legitimate assessment of his skills.
Erik Scalavino

Hello, guys. First off, I loved the coverage of the draft. Great work. My question is about undrafted free agents and how the lockout affects or changes what would normally happen with them after the draft. I understand that with the lockout back on, the teams have no communication with the recently drafted players until that is resolved. But does that also mean they can't contact undrafted prospects to express interest in bringing them in for camp (whenever that maybe) or a tryout, or must that be put on hold until the labor situation is resolved (hopefully very soon)? Thank You.
Joe Biela

Under lockout conditions, as we've stated before in this space, no football transactions of any kind can take place. That includes contact with players (current or future), signings of free agents, and trades of players under contract, among many other things. So, no, teams cannot approach undrafted rookies until such time as the lockout is lifted or the labor mess is resolved.
Erik Scalavino

*Hey, from all the way from Sydney, Australia! I'm looking for the positives in this year's draft. I'm still reeling from not having any defensive front seven in the draft!!!! I would like to hear about our two new running backs [Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley]. Differences between the two? Are either a home run threat? Fingers crossed for a lockout lift and a successful rookie season for all! *
Brett Wills, Australia

Vereen is more of a draw/toss/screen kind of back, who runs well in space and has good hands and can return kicks and punts (think Kevin Faulk, only slightly bigger and younger). Ridley is more of a between-the-tackles kind of runner, a traditional ball carrier in the Sammy Morris mold who might have some versatility in the backfield. Neither is likely to be a regular feature back, but both look to be younger, complementary versions of the committee-type backs the Patriots have had in recent years. 
Erik Scalavino

How does the process of the draft work? How do teams call in their picks from their "war room" and how does the name get to the Commissioner? Also, what if the prospect says "No" to being drafted by the team? Thanks!
*Jack L. *

Each team has a couple of representatives stationed on the floor of Radio City Music Hall in New York, where the draft is held. Once a team has decided on a player to select back at their headquarters, they phone the reps in New York, who then put the player's name and information on a card. That card is then handed to the Commissioner, who then walks to the podium to announce the pick. It is extremely rare for a player to decline being drafted.

The first player ever drafted (Jay Berwanger, also the first Heisman Trophy Winner) was drafted by Philadelphia Eagles back in 1936, but chose not to play pro football. Several decades later, John Elway told the Baltimore Colts, who owned the first pick in the 1983 draft, that he would not play for them. They drafted him anyway, then traded him to the Denver Broncos. And just a few years ago, Eli Manning refused to play for San Diego Chargers, who drafted him first overall before trading him to the New York Giants for Philip Rivers, taken fourth overall in that same 2004 draft.

Typically, players don't say "no" to being drafted, but when they do, as you can see, it's because the player is a premier prospect who's trying to use his leverage to wind up in a city of his choosing.
Erik Scalavino

Hi guys, great job on the draft coverage. I have a quick question for you. I have heard numerous comments referring to defensive linemen who can play '5 Technique.' What does this mean? Thanks!
Graham Smith

I actually used this as a "Football 101" item about a year ago. Here's what I wrote back then: "In most defensive systems, numbers are assigned to defensive linemen as shorthand to indicate where they line up before the snap and what their responsibilities are after it. The numbers typically range, inside to outside, from 0 (where a player lines up face-to-face with the opposing center) to 9 (where the player lines up on the outside shoulder of the tight end). In general, the even numbers indicate that a defender is lined up face-to-face with his opponent, while odd numbers refer to a gap in between the offensive line. For example, "5 technique" usually means that a defensive lineman is situated between the offensive tackle and the tight end before the snap. The defender then either tries to penetrate the line or read and react once the ball is snapped, depending on the size of the gap and/or the defensive scheme on a particular play."
Erik Scalavino

Wow, as usual, this year we have been privy to the ups and downs of the Patriot draft methodology. During the process I have noticed a recurring trend. Do any of you guys feel that the hobbies of the draft picks have anything to do with them being drafted by New England? It seems most of our players and new draft picks are avid hunters. Does that help them fit in with the current players? Thanks for all your coverage throughout the year!
Victor Fuster

It's certainly curious. We noticed that, too. Nate Solder, Ryan Mallett, Stevan Ridley, and Marcus Cannon all professed their love of hunting when we spoke with them over draft weekend. Could just be a bizarre coincidence, but I'm sure the folks at Bass Pro Shops here at Patriot Place are licking their chops!
Erik Scalavino

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