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Ask PFW: Is the draft here yet?

Does Victor Hobson play inside, outside or both ? Given his age, and his stats, it seems like a pretty good signing. I hope he's productive, and his deal is cap-friendly for a few years.Howard Wolfe

Hi PFW! The Pats signed two linebackers this season. My guess is that Hobson may start at strong ILB next to Bruschi, who can alternate with T.J. Slaughter on run/pass plays. All is good. But, what do you think of Hobson and Slaughter as run stoppers? Thanks!Larry G.

All is good? I certainly don't feel that way when it comes to the linebacker position heading into the draft. Hobson has experience both inside and out, but my best guess is that he'll be put inside in New England. His deal is a one-year, veteran minimum salary with just a $40,000 signing bonus so it certainly is cap-friendly. He has good experience, size and is relatively young. But if he is such a good fit for the Patriots type 3-4 scheme, don't you think Eric Mangini might have been a little more interested in keeping him around in New York? He's clearly the fourth linebacker behind Mike Vrabel, Adalius Thomas and Bruschi right now, but I'm not sure what that means in terms of production. He's intriguing, but I'm not ready to count on him to start and be a productive part of a championship defense just yet. I'll be better able to assess that after watching him in training camp practices and the preseason.
As for Slaughter, I'm less enthused. He was out of football last year, is the smallest linebacker on the depth chart not named Larry Izzo and hasn't really been a starter for a team since 2002. He has some experience in the 3-4, but he's clearly more of a backup player and special teamer at this point who will likely be in a real battle for a roster spot come training camp. He is not big enough to be a stout run stuffer (the Patriots list him at 6-1, but I've seen him listed as short as 5-11). He does have a little versatility playing inside and out, but he's still a long shot to contribute at this point.
Andy Hart

I know everyone is sold on Vernon Gholston, Andy Hart and I am one of those people. However, I don't think we are going to see him at 7 for the Patriots unless we trade up. What do you think about drafting Keith Rivers? Do you think he could play the 3-4 system? My only question is his size in the 3-4 can he take on blocks and shed them? I have saw a couple different web sites that have him listed at different weights do you know what his is? If Rivers is there at 7 which he is going to be, that could be a pretty good pick for the Patriots, at least in my opinion, what is yours?
Big John Cavallo

Andy Hart is a genius. So if he's sold on Gholston than so am I! (Of course it seems like the rest of the world has been sold on Gholston since the Combine, as shown by the Dolphins reportedly negotiating with him on a contract to potentially be the No. 1 overall pick.) I'm not quite as high on Rivers. He's a very good athlete with good numbers. But I'm not sure he's an ideal inside linebacker in a 3-4, two-gap front. I do think Coach Belichick is looking for more athletic playmakers on the inside, guys like Jon Beason in recent years, and I think Rivers would fill that bill. NFLDraftScout.com lists Rivers at 6-2, 241. That's certainly big enough to play inside in the 3-4, but that doesn't necessarily mean his style of play is right for the scheme. But if Gholston is off the board, Rivers would be the next most intriguing linebacker prospect for the Patriots. Watching him on tape he plays with a real high motor, beats blockers with speed to the point of attack, plays fast, is a pretty big hitter and explodes through the ball carrier. He's impressive. If Gholston is gone, I'd be happy with a Rivers pick and would be interested in seeing him work his youthful, athletic style into the New England scheme at training camp.
Andy Hart

I'm an avid draftnik and a longtime Pats fan. One of the things I've always admired about the Pats is how they approach the draft. It seems to me that they start out the way most teams do by establishing a "value" for a player (i.e. giving a player a ranking) but then deviate from other teams by not especially going for need. In other words, in the coming draft where they're picking at seven I think that they will consider picking a player who, on their board, is rated seven or lower; almost regardless of position (I can't see them investing guaranteed money in a defensive lineman with what they have already contractually positioned themselves). If they don't see value there, I expect them to try and trade down. The problem is that, by most accounts (fallible as they may be) there seem to be only 5-6 players who seem to be consistent top-6 picks (both Longs, McFadden, Ellis, Gholston and Dorsey). So my question is: do you think they will be able to trade down or do you think they will try and trade up?Joe Paretti

If Gholston is still on the board when the Raiders hit the clock, do you think a trade up surrendering our 1st, 2nd, & 5th round picks (witch adds up according to the trade value chart) is too much to give up for his skills and ability?Corrina Ball

I do think that trading down may be difficult on draft weekend as it seems many of the teams in the draft are looking to do just that and few are looking to move into the high rent district that comes with top-10 contracts. Therefore, if the Patriots lust after Gholston the way I do, I don't think moving up a spot or two would be out of the question. The money isn't a ridiculous jump and the package to get there (as Corrina shows) isn't either. If he's the best prospect for the team and the right fit, I think you do what you need to do to get him. But I don't know that Belichick is as high on Gholston and I don't think anyone other than Scott Pioli knows that at this point. I will say that I am all for trading up a couple spots to get Gholston. Of course if he goes No. 1 overall to the Dolphins that scenario flies out the window. In that case I would probably take Rivers and hope to get a solid corner in the second round. But Joe is right, the Patriots won't be backed into a corner by need and will look for value at every pick of the draft. Maybe that means drafting a tackle like Boise State's Ryan Clady or some other position altogether. I really think the first 10 picks in this year's draft are as unpredictable and interesting as in any year. It really is like one of those choose-your-own-adventure books I read when I was a kid in which every pick after the first could go in very different directions based on the previous pick. We will all be on the edge of our seats for much of the Saturday afternoon and evening of draft weekend.
Andy Hart

What's the latest on Adam Seward? And also, what about re-signing Rosevelt Colvin? Colvin played excellent against the Redskins and the Colts, two playoff teams. He still has two good seasons left in him and he's a quality locker room presence. With the lack of interest in him don't you think we could get him cheap considering he did win 2 Super Bowls with us his heart has to be in New England. And one last thing, do you have any inside information on David Givens? Even after last year David Givens is still my favorite wide receiver the Pats have had since they started their run as a superpower. Touchdown catches in seven straight playoff games, the guy was just solid for us and I wish he never left.Ryan Jasper

The Patriots will have to make a decision on Seward by April 18, the deadline for team's to sign restricted free agents to offer sheets. Bill Belichick left the possibility of that happening open in his comments at the owners' meetings, but we've gotten no updates of late. There was an interesting note on Seward and his future in Carolina on the web site CarolinaGrowl.com that I found interesting, with the writer assuming the Panthers would not match an offer to Seward and would actually prefer the fifth-round pick the team would receive as compensation.
"My guess is if the Patriots make Seward an offer, the Panthers will take the draft pick and run. Quite frankly, I'm not sure what Seward did to turn heads in New England."
Sounds like he hasn't exactly wowed people in Charlotte with his play in three seasons. I'd still be interested in taking a flyer on him given his relative experience and, at a minimum, special teams potential.
I don't think Colvin is coming back. The team already gave Hobson his number, No. 59, and I think both sides have moved on. There hasn't been a lot of reported interest in Colvin as he rehabs from injury. I think that will be his biggest hurdle, proving he's healthy and can play. There have been a few different rumors as to what his injury was and if it's a serious issue that will limit his availability for camp or next season that would clearly hurt his value on the market. And he really only won one Super Bowl as an active player in New England as he was on IR with his hip injury for all but two games in his first season with the Patriots in 2003.
As for Givens, he's had a number of major surgeries in his time with the Titans. He was released by the team and reportedly may take the year off in 2008 to heal and reassess his future. It's too bad, because I really enjoyed my time covering Givens and always found him to be a respectful, courteous guy and thought he was a very good playmaker for this team. I'm pulling for him to make a comeback but it sounds like he has an uphill battle to simply return to the field never mind the success he had in New England.
Andy Hart

With the Patriots having the most solid starting QB in the NFL, I think it is strange that they have not invested more in the way of a backup. To the best of my knowledge they have a 4-year backup from USC (granted he backed up some solid, NFL-caliber QBs), and a guy that could have played for a big-time university, but didn't. If Hawaii's QB Colt Brennan falls to the mid-rounds, what do you think the chances are the Pats to pick him up? He did lead Hawaii to our first ever BCS game, and although they had their weakest performance of the year that game (like the Pats in the SB), his impact on the team is undeniable. If I'm not mistaken, he was the most accurate passer in the nation, and broke some pretty impressive college records. I know he has fallen quite a bit on draft boards since the loss to Georgia, but Hawaii was simply outclassed by a team that may have been the best in the nation last year. I think Brennan is comparable to the top QBs in this year's draft, and if he could be had late on the first day, or even on the second, he could be a steal, especially for a team whose backups lack true college experience. Brennan may need a little work before becoming a bona fide NFL QB, but I can't see it as being more of a jump than the previously mentioned backups would have to make. Thanks for your insight. Aloha.
Clinton Kaneoka

Brennan is an interesting prospect and we've heard through the grapevine that the Patriots like some of his skills and what he brings to the field. You're right, his stock has fallen since the bowl game and through the offseason. He struggled at the Senior Bowl, lost a lot of weight due to illness and reportedly had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right, plant, hip earlier this month. All those factors could push his stock to the very late rounds of the draft or even into undrafted free agency. He had a very productive career in a quarterback-friendly system. He has a unique throwing motion, but gets rid of the ball with a quick release and is extremely accurate. We know the importance the Patriots system places on making quick, correct reads and delivering the ball accurately. Those are things that Brennan does well. So with his falling stock making him a huge value late on the second day of the draft or in free agency, I think there is a real possibility he Patriots would have interest in his abilities.
As for the current depth chart behind Tom Brady in New England. I think this is huge year for Matt Cassel. I think he will be in a fight as much for a roster spot as for the backup QB job. If he doesn't show improvement and make huge strides this summer I think he could end up as a training camp cut. That would mean the likes of Matt Gutierrez and another quarterback the team brings in would be battling for roles behind Brady. I have always been a fan of a veteran backup quarterback and would love to see the team bring one in to work behind Brady and provide some consistent, proven insurance in the chance the two-time Super Bowl MVP does eventually miss action due to injury.
Andy Hart

The physical size and abilities along with an apparent great attitude allows me to think Chris Long will be able to play the ILB AND OLB positions at a high level in a 3-4. His technique is impressive, there's no doubt that he can learn. Regardless of what player the Patriots may covet, if the coveted player is available after the second pick does this scenario make sense for both sides: what GM knows the value of Matt Cassel better than Thomas Dimitroff so the third and seventh overall picks are swapped, Atlanta gets Cassel with the Patriots receiving a 2008 second round pick. Getting the coveted player and filling the gap between the first round and second picks is my goal and this was the best I came up with. Is this beneficial for both teams and what would need to be added to better balance the trade? The Patriots like Cassel a lot or else he wouldn't be a play away from running the show for one of the top teams in the league while watching Chris Long makes me think of Ted Johnson and Mike Vrabel. If you like the trade what would you try to do to replace Matt Cassel? Thank you for your insights as many times this website has been the best source for certain information.Charles Hagey

I just don't think Cassel, a 2005 seventh-round pick, has much value right now. He's never shown the ability to perform in real game action. As I said in the previous answer, I think he's in a battle for a roster spot right now and my guess is as you said Dimitroff probably knows that and isn't beating down the door to take on an unproven backup. He's looking for a franchise passer, not his backup. You certainly aren't going to get anything more than a seventh-round pick for Cassel and I don't think anyone would even give that. He's not a guy like Matt Schaub (who Atlanta gave away, by the way) who showed he could play and had teams convinced he deserved a shot a starter. Cassel remains unproven, and if anything has probably shown some that he doesn't have the makeup to be a starter or even a proven backup in the NFL. He is what he is at this point, and that could very well be a lifetime backup.
As for Long, everyone raves about his makeup, ability and attitude. I'm not quite as high on him. I think he may have topped out in college thanks to his great effort. He played 3-4 end at Virginia, essentially Richard Seymour's spot in New England. So whether he plays 3-4 outside linebacker, 4-3 end or even 3-4 inside linebacker – his role at the next level is going to be something he's never done. That scares me a little. My guess is that he will be a good but not great OLB in an NFL 3-4 scheme. Time will tell. I wouldn't trade up to draft him. But if he somehow slips to No. 7, then I think he would be a very solid pick for New England.
Andy Hart

I liked when [Donte] Stallworth was there because he was a good fit in our team. Who do you think can replace him and have the same impact and role that he had in the team?Cedric Ramos

Stallworth's role with the offense actually lessened a bit down the stretch as Jabar Gaffney got more key reps last season. I liked Stallworth, but I don't think he was ever a great fit for the offense especially playing opposite Randy Moss. With all due respect, I think Stallworth is a poor man's Moss. He excels down the field and making big plays, and I don't think he was a great route runner or has the best hands for the intermediate passing game. Moss filled the big-play role with the offense and is clearly more gifted so Stallworth's impact was a bit limited.
With Moss and Welker back for 2008, they will clearly have their same roles in the offense. My guess is Gaffney will also have the same type of role he filled out late last season as a No. 2/3 target with versatile skills and a good rapport with Brady. The guy I'm going to be watching all summer is Chad Jackson. He has the measurables to be a playmaker and anyone who's read this site in the past knows how much I loved it when the team drafted him. I believe my quote at the time was, "He'll be a Pro Bowler by the end of his rookie contract." That hasn't worked out. He's had hamstring and knee injuries. He has yet to make an impact on the field and hasn't shown his 40-time speed in game action. This is a make-or-break year for Jackson. If he's healthy and finally "gets it" I think he could slide into a role on this offense. If not, I think he's in a real battle for a roster spot and his time here could come to an end. He looks the part of NFL wide receiver, now he just has to play the part in game action.
Andy Hart

Do you believe that the New England Patriots will select Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as the 7th pick in this years draft?Joseph Kanaan

I don't like all this talk about the Patriots even considering drafting a lineman, offense or defense with their number 7 pick. They have plenty of depth at defensive line and three Pro Bowlers on the O-line. I think it is pretty clear with the loss of [Asante] Samuel and [Randall] Gay, and the aging of their linebackers that they should either go CB or LB with their top pick if they decide not to trade down. The signings of [Fernando] Bryant, [Jason] Webster, [Lewis] Sanders and [Tank] Williams will help but it doesn't give them a top notch corner, just depth. In conclusion, would Leodis McKelvin be the top choice for the Patriots at the number 7 spot?T.J. Greel

These two emails pretty much sum up the decision I think the Patriots will have when on the clock at No. 7. Clearly we all feel CB and LB are the team's biggest needs at this point. But the real question is whether the prospects available in this draft are worthy of the value of the No. 7 pick. Rodgers-Cromartie and McKelvin are both interesting prospects. Based on the limited film I've seen of the two, I liked what I saw from McKelvin. But he's a guy that didn't have big interception numbers at Troy, has questionable ball skills and sort of came out of nowhere. He's a big-play guy on special teams. But I wouldn't want to draft him at No. 7 or pay him the money that comes with that slot. Rodgers-Cromartie is another guy who came out of nowhere. He's got great size and playmaking ability, but jumping from Tennessee State to NFL as a supposed elite corner is a big step. So I don't think either guy, or any of the corners in the draft, are worthy of the No. 7 pick. They certainly aren't going to come in and be as good as Asante Samuel. As I've said all along, my guy is Gholston. Trade up to get him if you have to. And if he's gone, then I'd really have to analyze the guys on the table when the Patriots pick. I'd consider a tackle like Clady. But there is going to be a tough decision to be made in the 10 minutes that draft rules allow and that's why Belichick and Pioli make the big bucks, to make those tough decisions. And I make the small bucks to either praise or criticize those decisions later. Isn't this a beautiful world?
Andy Hart

Pats fan from Canada here. Just wondering how concerned you think [Jets head coach Eric] Mangini will be about the Pats when making his pick at #6. Or will he just pick solely according to need, regardless of who he will be leaving on the board for the Pats at #7? An example would be not picking Gholston (if he is still available at #6) knowing that there is a good chance the Pats would take him at #7 and the Jets would have to face him at least twice a year for the next 10 years. Thanks for your time and as always I look forward to Tuesday.Steve Lawlor

If Mangini is smart, and I think we all believe he is, he'll do what's best for his team when drafting and not worry about leaving a guy on the board for the Patriots. If he takes a guy just so the Patriots can't have him, I think he'll be fired very soon. That's a terrible philosophy to have and I don't think any successful coaches (or even too many failures for that matter) draft that way. As his mentor Belichick taught him, I think Mangini will do what is truly in the best interests of his team. That's taking the player best suited to the Jets scheme and needs. The rest of the chips will fall where they may.
Andy Hart

What do you think of the Pats trading up in the second round to grab Xavier Adibi from [Virginia Tech], while grabbing the CB [Antoine] Cason in the first round?Dan DiSchino

My pal Mel Kiper Jr. thinks Adibi is a little overrated and I have to agree with him. Adibi is a smaller, run-around kind of linebacker. I don't think he fits a 3-4 scheme. I do think he'll have a productive NFL career with a speed-based, 4-3 team. He's not a real polished playmaker entering the league, but his natural abilities are worth a look as a late second-round pick or early day-two selection.
As we've said many times here on Patriots.com/Ask PFW we love Cason. He's probably the most polished, surest bet at corner in the draft. But his upside/value is probably not worthy of the No. 7 pick. If the Patriots trade down in the first round I'd love to see Cason in a New England uniform. He's good in zone coverage, has great feet, keeps a solid base in his back peddle, makes plays on the ball and has done some returning. I like his game, but he just doesn't warrant a top-10 selection.
Andy Hart

Dear PFW: Will the PATS take Mendenhall at number 7 if no trade down opportunities exist and other can't-miss picks (Chris Long, Dorsey, etc) are off the board? Looking at the highlight films he seems like the only value pick at number 7. He seems to catch the ball better than [Laurence] Maroney, he has great speed, elusiveness and apparently good power. He reminds me of Walter Payton. Am I overstating it? I know the PATS have a 1st round pick invested in Maroney. He is good, but I expected more. I'm not sure if [Josh] McDaniels doesn't know how to use him, or if he just can't breakout. Sammy Morris is good, but likely declining. With Mendenhall the PATS would be set. Yes or No?
William Newton

Comparing Mendenhall to Payton is clearly overstating it. I love Mendenhall as much as anyone. He's actually my second favorite prospect in the draft after Gholston. But he was the lead dog for just one year at Illinois. He's got a lot to prove before the words Walter and Payton go anywhere near his name. Based on what Maroney did to close out last year, I would be surprised to see the Patriots take Mendenhall at No. 7. That would be a lot of money and two high picks devoted to one spot with the team having other needs to fill. More likely, New England would try to entice a team a bit lower in the draft to move up to get Mendenhall before some other team can snag him. I think Mendenhall will have a better NFL career than Maroney, and better than Darren McFadden too, but I don't think it will be in New England. If Maroney can stay healthy (still a pretty big if) and do what he did over the end of last year for a full season the Patriots are pretty well stocked at running back. I fall in love with players in the pre-draft process so I would probably consider taking Mendenhall, but I don't think the Patriots will.
Andy Hart

I'm not a mock draft junky, but after scanning through a few, I saw very little consensus on who would fall where in the top 10. People are saying the Dolphins could take any one of six people with the first pick, for instance. Is there really that much parity in the top 10, or do the mock draft writers just have no idea what's going on? I have a hard time believing a guy like Chris Long could either go 1 (Miami Herald) or 8 (Yahoo!). Yahoo also had us taking McKelvin @ 7, which threw me for a whirl. Make it make sense PFW!Will B.

It's a combination of prospect parity mixed in with the fact that most mock draft writers don't really know what is going on. We all have different sources and talk to different people but few teams (especially the Patriots) are crazy enough to let their draft day hopes become public knowledge. That said, this year's draft lacks a consensus top pick and there are a lot of variables with the top prospects. I do think it's going to be very interesting to see how the top 10 picks shake out. It really could go in a lot of different directions with each subsequent pick.
Andy Hart

Do you think the Patriots will take a late round quarterback to possibly develop him to be a suitable backup for Brady or possibly take over after a few years. Do you think they could draft Josh Johnson or Colt Brennan?Andrew Hammond

I do think there is a good chance the Patriots end up with a quarterback, either a late-round pick or a free agent. As I said, I think Brennan is a guy to keep an eye on who could be a real viable candidate. I don't feel the same way about Johnson. He looked terrible throwing the ball at the Combine. I know some people are high on him, but the film I saw of his play was just of him throwing bombs down the field. That's not exactly the Patriots game (even with Moss and what the team did last season). Brennan, or an accurate, reliable decision maker like him, is the type of guy I see coming to New Englnad.
Andy Hart

What do you think of Chris Johnson, the running back/receiver/kick returner out of East Carolina. He's has explosive speed, (4.24 at the Combine )and think he could make an immediate impact on Special Teams, returning kicks. Also, I think he could be Faulk's future replacement. Backing up Maroney, playing the slot receiver sometimes. Think he'd fit well with the Patriots organization. He's projected to go somewhere in the 2nd round, and I'd be all for the Patriots trading up to get him. I'm hoping that Matt Ryan will still be on the board when the Patriots are on the clock. If that happens, I could see them dishing the pick to Detroit or Chicago and getting their 1st rounder 2nd rounder. Draft Cromartie or Jenkins with the 1st round pick and Chris Johnson with the 2nd round pick. Thoughts?Cole Williams

Johnson definitely has the speed to be a playmaker at the next level. He's -- as Bethel Johnson's college coach once told me about the A&M playmaker – scary fast. I do think if the Patriots draft a running back it will be a third down back to groom to replace Faulk in a year or two. Johnson could fill an immediate role as a kick returner, taking pressure off guys like Maroney and Hobbs who have done it in recent years. He could learn from Faulk, work on the ever important blitz pickup and contribute on offense as he's ready down the line. I wouldn't trade up to get him and might not even take him in the second round, but if he happens to be there in the third I think it would make a lot of sense. As they say, you can't teach the type of speed he possesses.
Andy Hart

I was wondering who the first African American player on the Patriots was and what year did he play?
Gemma McWaters

Running back Ron Burton was the first ever Patriots draft pick in November 1959 and as such could be considered the team's first African American player.
Andy Hart

Hello. I am just wondering why Tom Brady and Randy Moss's game winning touchdown against the Giants in week 17 wasn't on the ballot for the pats play of the year. It won the game, giving New England the perfect 16-0 regular season record. it also gave Tom Brady his 50th passing TD, and Moss's 23 TD reception. Two individual records were broken on the same play, plus the perfect regular season. How couldn't it have even made the ballot. It surely would've won.
Hogan Smith

Easy Hulkster, don't go ripping your shirt off in frustration over this one. The current voting on Patriots.com is for the Special Teams Play of the Year. As such, Ellis Hobbs' NFL record 108-yard kickoff return is leading the voting at this point. In the coming weeks other categories such as offense and defense will be up for voting on the site. I'm sure the Brady-to-Moss score will be one of the candidates for Offensive Play of the Year. Then all the winners from the various categories will be pitted against each other in voting for one overall Play of the Year. Be sure to check out the voting each week and make sure your voice is heard, brotha. And don't forget to say your prayers and take your vitamins.
Andy Hart

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