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Ask PFW: Feeling a draft

This week’s Ask PFW mailbag has fans questioning how the Patriots handled the 2018 NFL Draft.

I want to give credit where it's due, I do believe the Hoodie is the greatest coach of all time. That being said his scouting & drafting is by far not the greatest. It seems we are much better at picking up players from other teams than selecting players in the 2, 3 or 4 rounds that really stick around. As many 5, 6 & 7 picks that we acquire some of them stick around. My question is the college scouting department much smaller than other teams or is the focus on FA & RFA? Oh thanks, you guys are the best!

Tim Bartlett

The reality of the last two decades is that Bill Belichick has had a lot of success building teams both through veteran additions – trades and free agency – as well as the draft. He's had home runs, singles and strikeouts in both areas. I have a lot of respect for what he does and a ton of respect for the work his scouts do in both college and pro scouting. New England has large, comparable staffs in both areas. They are talented professionals, many of whom in the past have gone on to run other teams. The reality, though, is that adding veteran talent can be easier to assess because those guys have longer resumes including playing football in the NFL for a number of years. College players, high or low picks, are more projections. Those guys have never played in the NFL. They've never done things in pro schemes. They have not proven themselves as professionals – on or off the field. That's why it's harder to predict how those guys will fit or perform down the road.

Andy Hart

Based on our RB depth, do you see the Pats trading someone like Gillislee for a LB? Does he still have some trade value? Do you think the Pats have any interest in free agents like Eric Reid or Kenny Vaccaro now that the draft is done?

Tyler Flanagan

I don't think the Patriots ever stop building the roster. As much as they have a pretty stocked depth chart in the secondary, the value on guys like Reid and Vaccaro only grows the longer they go without employment. I have heard a number of people, dating back to the Combine, try to connect New England as a possible landing spot for Vaccaro. Reid is a guy who I thought was an absolute stud coming out of LSU, but of course people have wondered how much his political activism is hurting his value. Even with veterans like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon atop the depth chart and the possible development of practice squanders David Jones and Damarius Travis, I wouldn't rule out the Patriots adding a veteran safety with experience and, more importantly, growing value. As for the running back position, even heading into the draft I thought it was a spot that could see a guy – most likely Gillislee – as an option for a trade at some point. Gillislee is only a year removed from leading the NFL in yards per carry with the Bills. It didn't work last year in Foxborough. With the addition of Jeremy Hill and, now, Sony Michel, I think Gillislee may face an uphill battle to make the team and barring any injuries could be a trade chip later this summer.

Andy Hart

After the dizzying shell game Belichick played with the Garoppolo pick, I'm sure you'll get a lot of these questions. What did he turn Jimmy G into? I have it scored like this: Duke Dawson, Christian Sam, a '19 2nd round and a '19 3rd pick. Both picks probably get traded next year, adding to the confusion. How far off am I?

Billy Andrews

I believe you have it correct. But, I'm not a big fan of this game that most fans and media types like to play. Garoppolo was traded for a second-round pick, the 43rd selection. That's it. Belichick could never have projected the trades that came after. And they really aren't relevant to the specific discussion, in my opinion.

Andy Hart

Although I have many questions regarding the draft, I'll ask you one. The Duke Dawson pick didn't surprise me, but what did was Nick Caserio's explanation of the pick. I believe on two instances he led his answer by citing Dawson's ability or experience playing safety. Is there a chance the Patriots drafted Dawson with the intention of converting him to a safety to perhaps replace Jordan Richards with someone who can actually play the game of football? It seems we have a decent stable of CBs at the moment, so it would make sense to me.

Connor Haley

Yes, Caserio brought up Dawson's versatility a number of times when talking about his time at Florida. Beyond the usual praise of such versatility, which we know the Patriots covet, it was in relation to the number of talented defensive backs (including cornerbacks) that Dawson played behind for the Gators. Right now I would guess that Dawson is slotted (pun!) to begin his career in New England as an option as a slot cornerback, which he was to close out his career at Florida. Ideally, he'll excel in that job which is an important one in the modern NFL. If he doesn't, then maybe the team will lean on his versatility elsewhere. As for Richards, I do think days and playing time on defense may be numbered. Beyond the returning three veteran safeties, I would keep an eye on the special teamers Jones and Travis.

Andy Hart

With Chung slipping due to age and Richards being the least productive player over 3 years and not cheap anymore, can we expect Patriots to cut him and trade one of their 2019 picks for a SS, perhaps even a year "rental"? That would be my only roster wish.

Stan C.

As I said in the previous answer, Richards clearly will be in a battle for his roster spot and any sort of role on defense. But, I think the contract extension given to Chung shows the team believes he has something left in the tank. I thought the veteran was up-and-down at times a year ago, and wasn't great over the last couple weeks of the playoffs. But I'm not ready to put him out to pasture yet and I don't think the Patriots are, either. But as I said earlier, with guys like Reid and Vaccaro on the market there are still options and possibilities at the safety position.

Andy Hart

When the Patriots trade for a player, is there some point in that process that they are allowed to speak with the player before finalizing the deal?

Chris Guay

Depends on the trade. Sometimes a team trading a player will give permission for that player to talk to the other team, usually regarding restructuring of a contract. Other times, though, that opportunity is not afforded and the trade is made first. But, trades can also be voided if the player does not report to a team or if he fails the physical by the team acquiring him.

Andy Hart

Hello! The draft is in the books and HC Bill Belichick did what everybody expected: surprised everybody. Both first-round picks went to the offense, front seven woes were not (yet) addressed. Now I am pretty much puzzled, whether new arrivals (mainly DE Adrian Clayborn and DT Danny Shelton) are supposed to fix the front seven problem? Is the development of last year's picks (DEs Derek Rivers and Deatrich Wise) sufficient to improve the front seven? Is the loaded receiver corps (including under-utilized TE Dwayne Allen) going to lead to trades to improve the DE and LB spots? I personally smell trade in the air... What is your take? Shall we see trade(s) targeting veteran DEs (and maybe LBs) during the coming month?

Thank you in advance!

Richard Farkas

I would definitely think there will be at least one trade, maybe a couple, between now and the start of the season. A running back or a receiver, maybe an offensive lineman, could be used to recoup something of value or need. But, I do think internally the team is probably looking at some of the options you swiftly blew past – the Shelton/Clayborn additions and the evolution of guys like Rivers/Wise/Adam Butler/Keionta Davis and others – as possible reasons to feel better about the front seven. And don't forget the return from injury of Dont'a Hightower. Maybe that's false hope on the team's part. Or maybe it will be realized. We will start to find out in training camp practice this summer. Stay tuned.

Andy Hart

Hey guys I hope you enjoyed the draft and thank you for all you do keeping us Patriot fiends well informed. There is a whopping 12 receivers on the 90-man roster at the moment (including undrafted free agent signings) who do think/hope makes the team and do you foresee the Pats keeping 7 WRs on the roster this year? Edelman and Hogan may be the only locks the rest is kind of a free-for-all. I am intrigued with Riley McCarron and the rookie Braxton Berrios, I am hoping one of them can potentially be a really good slot option since our beloved Danny Amendola is with the Fish (I had physical pain typing that last sentence, and some nausea). What do you think of these two?

Michael Pizzoli

There is no question that Berrios, who had a nice, breakout senior season at Miami very much looks the part of the next Patriots slot receiver and bears some resemblance to Amendola himself. That said, I think you are overlooking some other options, including Jordan Matthews, who when healthy has had very nice production in the NFL. If Matthews is healthy I think he's a lock to make the team. The same can probably be said for Malcolm Mitchell after his missed his entire second season. Had Berrios not arrived, I might have given McCarron a better chance to hang around. Kenny Britt can't be ruled out after an offseason in the system. Then, the wild cards, are the special teams guys in Cordarrelle Patterson and Matthew Slater, though the former could be called on to contribute on end-arounds and catch-and-runs if he makes the team as a kick returner. Right now I'll guess that Edelman, Hogan, Matthews, Mitchell, Berrios, Patterson and Slater make the team. But that's an early guess, don't hold me to it!

Andy Hart

I've read several comments about Isaiah Wynn being too short to play left tackle. If I'm right, he stands just under 6- 3, which is a few inches under the average for an offensive lineman in the NFL. He does have fairly long arms (longer than Joe Thomas) and apparently big and powerful hands. My question is about the height of different positions on the offensive line. I know the guys on the interior can have more leverage if they are shorter so they don't get 'stood up' and pushed back so easily, but what are the advantages and disadvantages of different heights as a tackle, and how does it differ according to scheme?

David Beckett

Tackles in the NFL, and in New England, generally are 6-6 or taller these days with plenty in the 6-8 range. That generally comes with longer arms. That allows those guys to get greater extension to deal with elite pass rushers, first getting an early punch on them and then forcing them to take wider angles to the passer. It's not to say shorter guys can't play tackle. Matt Light was pretty darn good at 6-4. But the ideal numbers at the position say that the taller guys are more well-regarded in terms of the draft and have an advantage over many of the edge rushers they face, many of whom are also 6-4 or taller with long arms.

Andy Hart

Typical BB draft. The only question is LB Sam. With Roberts and Bentley, why do they need a third slow LB especially one with maturity, learning and attitude issues?

Brian Patton

Sam was a guy who many had more highly-rated than Bentley, who arrived in New England a pick/round earlier. He also downplayed the scouting reports that questioned his practice mentality. For now, I'll take him at his word. As fifth- and sixth-round picks, respectively, neither is a lock to make the team or a sure-fire NFL contributor. Also remember that linebackers can be key contributors in the kicking game beyond whatever role they may have on defense. Many thought linebacker was a key need for New England, so they went out and go two, even if they came on the third day of the draft.

Andy Hart

We all realize that QB Etling will likely be on the practice squad as a possible replacement to Hoyer next year. My question is, why not try Chad Kanoff in the 7th round?

Max Getz

I'm just gonna throw it out there, but I'm guessing they liked Danny Etling more. Kanoff went undrafted. He also obviously played at a much lower level of football at Princeton than Etling did in the SEC at LSU. Etling takes care of the football, only throwing two interceptions last year. He comes from an offense more known for its running than throwing the ball, so there could be untapped NFL upside. He had a pretty impressive workout throwing the ball at the Combine. Our friends at had Etling as the 17th quarterback in the draft, whereas they ranked Kanoff at No. 41. But, really, all we know is that New England (Belichick/Caserio) liked Etling more than Kanoff. Which is all that matters.

Andy Hart

When will the defensive genius build a great defense?

John Gray

Atlanta Patriots Fan Club

There is a very negative tone to this email, which I guess is to be expected after the Super Bowl loss and a draft that left many fans wondering why there weren't more high-end picks on defense. I could point out that the Patriots have a top-five scoring defense last fall, a year after having the No. 1 unit in the NFL. But that would be a little disingenuous on my part. I would just say that I think there is talent on the New England defense. Is it going to be "great" or the best unit in the league in 2018? Probably not. Could it be better than it was last fall with additions like Shelton, Clayborn and McCourty adding to the returning mix? Yup. It will also be interesting to see how Brian Flores puts his stamp on the unit as a playcaller and de facto defensive coordinator as the team works to fill the void left by Matt Patricia's departure. I would also say that I think it's even harder to build an elite defense in the NFL these days with way the game is played/officiated.

Andy Hart

Hello again. I appreciate all of the extra time you all put in to keep us fans informed. My question a few weeks ago focused on the loss of Lewis in our backfield. Apparently Belichick had a plan already, selecting the first RB I remember the patriots taking in the first round in years. Now we have Michel, Burkhead, White, Hill, Gillislee and Bolden (I don't count Develin since he really is a fullback and a quality one at that). How does the addition of a multidimensional back like Sony Michel shake up things going into training camp? Do you think this addition immediately bumps someone off the roster entirely or do you think Bill will make room in other ways?

Robert Hayes

First, I love the Michel addition. I think he is almost a lock to make some key plays in the Brady-led offense if he's healthy. I think he could fill in for the free agent loss of Dion Lewis, who was the key player at the position at the end of last year. Michel's arrival does put added pressure on guys like Bolden, Hill land Gillislee in terms of a roster spot and roles. My guess is that at least one, maybe two, fail to make the team. Bolden was cut early last year only to return and is a trusted special teamer but his time could be running out in Foxborough. And if Gillislee can't show he's capable of more than his 3.7-yard average and seven games being inactive last fall, his future in New England will be very much in doubt.

Andy Hart

Howdy. If the Colts made Luck available for trade, would you trade for him? If so, what would you give up for him? Thanks.

Kenny T.


I would trade for Luck if I knew he could throw. (Maybe Josh McDaniels could help me with that question?) I still think he's a talented NFL passer with top-five QB potential. Heck, I'd give up a first-round pick for him and then some conditional picks. Imagine if he was the guy who replaced both Manning and Brady? That would be quite an addition to the story of their rivalry.

Do you thing Brady should get the corn cob out of his ass and remember it doesn't matter how much you get paid you need money for the rest of the team. You have 5 rings because you're the best, swallow the pride and don't let the other high contracts make you feel second. They are always going to try to be you just like you. There was a day you wanted to be Montana and now you are the number one. You had help. Remember the team.

Larry Kothe

Not sure exactly what this email was trying to get across. It's clearly in regards to the offseason storylines emanating from New England regarding Brady. But, the quarterback said this week that he's playing in 2018 and even said he's "negotiated" with his wife for two more seasons as he still holds out hope of playing into his mid-40s. He's under contract for two more years. He said he's "absolutely" happy with those he works for and with. He also emphasized how much of a team game football is and how important every other member of the New England organization is. It sounds a lot like the Brady I've heard for decades, which should be music to the ears of Patriots fans everywhere. Brady's back. Gronk is all-in. And the Patriots are the favorites in the AFC. All is right.

Andy Hart

Does the fact that the Giants drafted Kyle Lauletta mean Belichick will be the new HC of the NYG sooner than later? Just sayin......

David Norse.

No. Just sayin……

Andy Hart

Hi. How much did last year's draft (considering that injuries caused most draftees to sit out the year) affect this year's selections? It seems that Garcia, Langi, and Rivers could almost be considered rookies as they sat out the entire season last year. I feel that could be a big boost to NE getting better in 2018-19 season--and is something that not many people are talking about. Dietrich Wise's performance was the only positive thing they got out of the 2017 draft to date.

Gil T.

This is definitely one up-beat takeaway from this year's draft. You could surmise that New England didn't like a lot of the top prospects in the front seven. You can also surmise that the team likes the additions it made this offseason and might have some hope that guys like Garcia and Rivers will be contributors after lost rookie seasons. Now, it's a pretty optimistic approach considering both are coming off significant health issues while still transitioning from a lower level of college football. But if Garcia is the starting left tackle in 2018 and the same is said for Rivers at defensive end, it will be big boost to the team. And will make people forget possible complaints regarding this year's draft class that have come in long before the players even get on the practice field.

Andy Hart

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