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Ask PFW: Drafting a plan

There's still no CBA and no one knows when that will change but that hasn't stopped fans from wondering which direction the Patriots might go in the draft. This week's "Ask PFW" mailbag offers plenty of suggestions.

I know mock drafts are fairly inaccurate at the best of times, especially concerning our picks since it is an almost certainty we will not be picking in our current slots, but I was just wondering why so many mocks have us taking a receiver in the first round. Sure we need a deep threat, but o-line and pass rush are clearly deeper needs. I trust your opinions over most draft 'experts' when it comes to our strategy on draft day, so do you see us taking a WR anywhere near the first couple of rounds or do we bide our time and show some faith in Brandon Tate and Taylor Price?
Dathai Quinlan

Mock drafts are very difficult to put together and I agree that most aren't going to be accurate. People that put them together, like us, try to forecast both what a team's needs are and the players that might be available that would be a good fit. Combining those two things is next to impossible and therefore, unless a person has some inside information regarding a team's plans, it's pretty tough to gauge what a team might do once you get beyond the first few picks. That said, I could see wide receiver being a fairly high priority for the Patriots. I wouldn't expect Bill Belichick to take one in the first round, but I wouldn't be surprised to a receiver in the second or third. The Patriots lacked depth at the position for the last two years and have a lot of the same type of receiver with guys like Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Julian Edelman. Tate and Price are possibilities but I haven't seen much to make me comfortable, especially from Tate. Price didn't get the opportunities but Tate had plenty and generally didn't do much with them. Aside from an occasional big play, he didn't contribute much as a receiver. There are bigger needs to be sure, but receiver is definitely an area that needs to be addressed – whether it's through the draft or free agency (if the latter ever happens).
Paul Perillo

Why did the Pats give up so fast on Ted Larsen? He was good enough as a rookie to start 11 games for a good Tampa team.Bill Tullish

Larsen got caught up in a numbers game and I'm sure the Patriots wanted to keep him around all year on their practice squad but obviously that didn't happen because he signed with the Bucs. The Patriots had decent depth along the interior offensive line with Stephen Neal, Logan Mankins, Dan Koppen, Dan Connolly, Ryan Wendell and Quinn Ojinnaka (who has the ability to play guard and tackle). That left no room for Larsen and he was cut. Honestly I can tell you that he did very little to stand out during the summer in camp, although he would hardly be the first offensive lineman that I would say that about. Obviously it would be nice to have another young option on the interior of the line with Neal now retired, Mankins disgruntled and the need for some quality depth. But it's tough to criticize anyone over losing Larsen, who did a nice job as an injury replacement in Tampa.
Paul Perillo

I have been asking this question for two months now - why was our offensive line overpowered in the playoff game against the Jets?Ted T.

I'm pretty sure I've answered this question a few times already, and maybe the reason you keep asking it is because you don't like the answer. I don't believe the offensive line was overpowered against the Jets. New York's defense dominated the game because of ifs ability to cover – not because of the pass rush. Of the Jets five sacks, only one was the result of heavy pressure. The other four were all examples of coverage sacks where Tom Brady had plenty of time to survey the field but couldn't find any open receivers. Eventually the Jets got to him but not as a result of the line being overpowered. As a comparison, it was nothing like what the Giants did in the Super Bowl XLII in Arizona.
Paul Perillo

Why did the Pats let Mike Woicik go to Dallas?
Peter Collins

Woicik's contract with the Patriots was up and he was free to go anywhere he wanted. He got an opportunity to go to Dallas and he took it. I'm not sure if Belichick or the organization tried to persuade him into staying but I also don't think the team didn't welcome him back. I look at it just as I would for an unrestricted free agent. Woicik wasn't under contract and he sought a better deal for himself. Sometimes there is no bad guy in cases like these.
Paul Perillo

Wondering if they will be having the draft party again this year. I went last year and it was great. Let me know the date and how much or when the tickets will be on sale.Kim Roderick

The Patriots will once again hold a draft party on Thursday night, April 28, at 7 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. Tickets will be available at and are priced at $65 each. It will feature updates from the front office and coaching staff, appearances by Patriots alumni, a visit to the field and a dinner buffet. There will also be raffles and a mock draft contest.
Paul Perillo

I want Belichick to draft Robert Quinn. I am sure that every other Patriots fan agrees with me. What are the odds of trading some picks in order to get Quinn?Adrian Sandoval

It will likely take multiple picks to move up to get Quinn and I don't think that would be the worst idea I've heard. I believe pass rusher is the team's greatest need and Quinn is at the top of the list. I think he's going to be a terrific player and he's drawn comparisons to Julius Peppers and DeMarcus Ware. That's enough to sell me. However, if the price gets too high, and it certainly seems like it will, then I would suggest waiting around a bit to grab one of the many other prospects at the position. Most GMs agreed at the Combine that this was a deep year for edge rushers and the Patriots should be able to get a quality player (Ryan Kerrigan, Alden Smith) closer to their current spots of 17 and 28.
Paul Perillo

I hope Robert Quinn at 17 and Justin Houston at 28. Gabe Carimi at 33 if he falls that would be awesome and by the way.
Jalen Morris

I'm not sure any of your wishes will come true, especially Quinn at 17. I don't see him dropping that far, and Carimi seems to be a first-round pick who won't be around at 33. Not certain about Houston either. He's another one of those edge guys who could be valuable if there's a run at the position earlier in the draft. Overall, I like your idea of grabbing pass rushers and offensive linemen – I'm just not sure the specific guys you mentioned will be around at the time the Patriots pick.
Paul Perillo

Why are so many experts predicting the Patriots take Cameron Jordan with the 17th overall pick? He is too big and slow to play coverage as an OLB and not big enough to play DE in Belichick's 3-4. He's 6-4 and 285 -- that is smaller than Mike Wright. J.J. Watt is the prototypical 3-4 DE the Patriots need.
Daniel Hebert

I was 100 percent on board with you as I read your question but then I realized I was misinterpreting your overall meaning. I share your opinion about Jordan and can't understand why everyone seems so infatuated with him. I don't think he's big enough to be a prototypical 3-4 end either. But my larger concern with this is the desire to take a 3-4 end in the first place. That's why when I saw your J.J. Watt reference I was thrown off. If defensive end is such a huge priority then I'm not sure why the Patriots traded Richard Seymour a couple years ago. It doesn't make much sense to trade away a player and then feel the need to use such a high draft pick shortly after. But overall I share your lack of enthusiasm for Jordan.
Paul Perillo

I thought that with the current labor situation, there is no free agency until a new CBA is agreed upon and signed. Why are we seeing free agent signings such as O.J. Atogwe, Bob Sanders and Jeremy Shockey?
Jonathan Collin

It's true that there is no free agency until the labor situation is settled. That's because the pending free agents technically don't become free until the new league year begins, and that won't happen until a new collective bargaining agreement is formulated. However, when a player is released he immediately becomes a free agent and therefore doesn't have to wait. Each of the players you mentioned was released by his former team, as was Marcus Stroud, who the Patriots recently signed.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering how you foresee the proposed NFL rookie salary cap working. For example, I assume that first-round picks would get more than second; in descending order but what about positional differences? In other words if a QB is the first overall selection wouldn't he get more than if, let's say a center is chosen. If this is the case wouldn't you have to set up some kind of grid with position on one side and number chosen on the other? That then brings up the question of how your rank each position. Once again I'm assuming that QB is number one but what's the difference between OL and DL or WR and DB?
Joe Paretti

I'm not sure it would work that way. The spots are slotted now and they would continue to be in the future, the difference is the numbers will go down to more reasonable salaries. Positions aren't factored into this equation. There are times when a quarterback might get a little more than a tackle if chosen No. 1 overall, but there are no differences for other positions and I'm not sure exactly how the new rookie wage scale, if indeed one is agreed upon, would work. There would be slots for each pick but position will have nothing to do with how much a player gets.
Paul Perillo

I have a question about the CBA. If there was to be a holdout this season would Robert Kraft have to lock Patriots players out or could he let them go through training camp and team practices to help get us the competitive edge?
Jacob Matson

If there is a lockout no players would be allowed to work out at their team facilities. Kraft would have to stick with the rest of his fellow owners and prevent the players from doing anything at Gillette Stadium. That would be the case throughout the offseason and into the summer if the lockout continued. If there winds up being a lockout, no team will be getting any competitive edge.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering if the Patriots would draft two DEs? Perhaps one with the 17th pick and maybe trading up for another? I would love to see a tandem of J.J. Watt and Cameron Jordan playing for us next year. Thoughts?Dubey R.

I can't say I would share your enthusiasm for such a plan. As I mentioned earlier, I don't see defensive end as a position that needs to have such high resources devoted to it. If I'm wrong about that then I would really question the Seymour trade two years ago. If his absence created the need for two players to be taken in the first round, then maybe there was a better alternative than trading him. I liked the trade at the time but I figured the pick from Oakland would be at least in the top 10. And I certainly didn't envision having to replace Seymour with the draft pick itself. I'd rather use two high picks on pass rushers off the edge. Guys like Robert Quinn, Ryan Kerrigan, Von Miller, Alden Smith, Justin Houston – whichever guys Belichick deems the best for the team's system. I feel there are higher priorities than defensive end.
Paul Perillo

You guys were talking about NE moving up to get Robert Quinn from UNC. I believe that the best thing we can do in this draft is bring in an immediate difference maker at the OLB position. I know Von Miller can do that for us. I say if he falls to seven we move up and take him. How was Miller at the Combine, and what are your thoughts on him?
Shawn Sanhu

Andy and Erik were quite impressed with Miller at the Combine and from what I've seen of him I share their views. He's a little thinner than Quinn and that's one reason why we like Quinn more. Miller might have a tough time setting the edge against the run and those types of things that Belichick will be looking for, but he can get after the passer and will definitely be a high pick and someone worth trading up for. No. 7 is an area that I'd be interested in at least discussing, and Miller is a player definitely on the PFW radar.
Paul Perillo

What do you think about the Pats going after any of these guys? Some got cut, some were non-tendered, and some appear to be available in exchange for a pick or two via restricted free agency (assuming new CBA has same rules as current CBA). AJ Hawk? (any chance of him not resigning with Packers?). Legedu Naanee? (bad year, good potential - might be good in a BB scheme as that No. 3 I keep hearing we need) . Vernon Gholston? (don't you think working with BB might unleash some of that immense talent that never seemed to manifest while he was in a Jets uniform?) - DeAngelo Williams? (Just think of it like trading up in the draft to get an every-down Pro Bowl RB in exchange for your 1st and 3rd - I'll take the proven guy over the rookie in this case) (PS - I'm admittedly not 100% familiar with exactly how restricted free agency works). Clinton Portis? (The Hardest Working Man In Show Biz! He's been so beaten down, both physically and mentally, by running behind such a terrible offensive line in Washington - and he's still put up good numbers. Maybe he'd be revitalized running behind a line that can make even BenJarvus Green-Ellis look like a Pro Bowler!) - Kris Jenkins? Tommie Harris? (I know the addition of Marcus Stroud makes this unlikely, but hey - can never have enough fatties clogging up the middle) Thanks guys, keep up the good work! Even though it's a long offseason, we still need our football fix.
Bryan Donoghue

Wow, that's quite a list. Without going into much detail on each guy, obviously Hawk did in fact re-sign with Green Bay. Naanee is an interesting player but is similar to a lot of the receivers the Patriots already have. He's a little taller at 6-2 but he's done the majority of his work out of the slot and the Patriots have that spot covered with Welker and Edelman. And they don't necessarily need a No. 3 guy – they need a deep threat/bigger wideout who can make big plays and stretch the defense a bit. Gholston I would definitely take a flier on. There's obvious athleticism there but he lacks desire – which was the same negatives attached to him coming out of Ohio State. I'm not sure it's about coaching since Rex Ryan has unleashed more than his share of production on his defenses, but I'd be willing to offer him a minimum contract and see what he has. Williams is terrific but would cost a boatload of money to go along with those draft picks. Unlikely. I have no interest in Portis. He does have the versatility that the Patriots look for in their backs, but injuries have really taken a toll the last couple of years. New England has had enough injury-prone running backs recently. (As an aside, not sure Benny looked like a Pro Bowler last season). Jenkins is a nose tackle and would be behind Vince Wilfork, so I wouldn't make that move. Harris hasn't really played in any three-man fronts so I don't think he's a fit. There, I think I touched on them all.
Paul Perillo

So in 2009 the TE position was broken. Belichick saw this and decided to fix it through free agency and the draft. Though I realize that it is not common to hit two home runs like he did on Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, do you think he will employ the same strategy this year when looking at the OLB position? I would love to see the Pats pick up Ryan Kerrigan with the first pick in round 1 and Brooks Reed with the second pick in round two. It seems crazy to pick the same position in both rounds, but considering the extra picks in each round, they could easily pick up an OT and DE (or whatever they target) as well, and still get two pass rushers with great potential. I see Kerrigan as fitting the Mike Vrabel role right away as an every down LB, while Reed can start as a third-down rusher and eventually evolve to an every down LB. The player who gets forgotten in this scenario is Jermaine Cunningham, but it couldn't hurt to have three young potential playmakers for two positions. The three-for-two strategy seems to be working well in the ILB position.
Brad Hunter

I wouldn't be opposed to using two high picks on OLBs in this draft. I don't really like Reed much, but I understand your larger point is taking two guys at the same position. I could see Belichick doing that in an effort to get exactly what you described – three players at two position to offer some flexibility. It would obviously take some time for these players to develop, but I like the idea of bolstering a position that is badly in need of some talent and depth.
Paul Perillo

I must admit I have never been much of Vikings fan besides the NFC Championship game two years ago. My verdict is still out on Sidney Rice. Though I do remember one the best catches I have ever seen over two defenders and a horrible throw for a TD this year. I think he would be a great fit and would address one of our other issues going into the draft, your thoughts?John Himmelberger

I love Rice and believe he would be a perfect fit in the Patriots offense. He's a dynamic playmaker with big-play potential – especially if you consider that Tom Brady would be throwing the ball to him. Having a guy like that to keep secondaries honest would open up the middle even further for Welker and Branch, allowing them to move the chains like they did in many games last year. Rice would add another dimension to the passing attack and make defending it much more difficult. He'll obviously be tough to get, but I think Rice would be worth the investment.
Paul Perillo

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