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Ask PFW: Let the draft talk begin

Now that the Combine is complete, all the talk is about the NFL Draft and potential future Patriots. We answer questions about that, looming free agency and much more in this edition of Ask PFW.

I want to know what you guys think the legacy of our 2007 team will be? The general consensus seems to be that the season will be remembered as a failure. I however think that after a few years the team will be grouped with the other great Pats teams of the decade that won three Super Bowls, four AFC Championships, and set NFL records for consecutive overall and regular season victories.
Andrew Grigg

Overall the 2007 season was a failure. In my opinion the Patriots will be remembered for being the greatest regular season team that didn't win the Super Bowl. You can talk about records all you want but setting records doesn't mean a darn thing if you don't win the big game. Just ask Peyton Manning. The Patriots are still the team of the decade but if you are talking about 2007 all by itself, it will always be viewed as a disappointment in my opinion. The '83 Redskins (14-2), '90 Bills (13-3) and '01 Rams (14-2) were great regular season teams that set a lot of records but they are most remembered for losing the Super Bowl. I'm sorry to say that the majority of people outside New England will remember the 2007 Patriots in the same manner.
-Tom Casale

With the free agency period looming, do you seem the Patriots possibly looking around for linebackers to add this offseason. Particularly backers who have played previously in a 3-4 defense such as a Clark Haggans or Calvin Pace. Another name I'm curious about is Victor Hobson, would he be of interest to maybe add depth as well, more so at ILB, due to his size?
Brandon Andrews

Brandon, the two linebackers that intrigue me the most are Haggans and Hobson. Like you said, both guys have experience playing in the 3-4 and would seem to be a good fit here in New England. Hobson, in particular, is appealing because I think he's a guy who could come in and play both inside and outside, kind of like what Adalius Thomas did this year. The Pats lost out to Dallas on Zach Thomas but reports were they offered him a pretty comparable deal. However, Thomas ultimately chose the Cowboys because he's from Texas and the idea of playing close to home – along with a generous contract – was too much for Thomas to pass up.

Even though they didn't land Thomas, it showed me that the Patriots are going to be aggressive when it comes to pursuing linebackers that fit their system and both Hobson and Haggans fit the bill. Like I said, Hobson is a player I think could come to New England and really make an impact because of his versatility, so he would be at the top of my list.
-Tom Casale

What are your thoughts on Eugene Wilson? Keep him or let him go?
Brian Bimschleger

If Wilson is willing to take a huge paycut and play for close to the veteran minimum, I wouldn't mind having him back in New England. If not, I think there's a strong chance we'll see Wilson wearing a uniform that includes the colors green and white in 2008. According to the Boston Globe, Wilson will be playing elsewhere in 2008. On the bright side, his missed tackles should be easy to replace.
-Tom Casale

Do you think that the 3rd round of this draft is where we could really clean up? I'm looking at either a Tom Zbikowski or Beau Bell and Simeon Castille or Steve Slaton for our 3rd round pick. Is this too far fetched? Also is this not as good of a 3rd round as I'm thinking it is?
Zach D

Well, let's take these guys one at a time. I have absolutely no use for Slaton in the third round. This is an extremely deep running back class and there will be much better players available at that position in the third round. I know Slaton was a big-time college player but I don't see that transferring over to the pro level.

I am a fan of Zbikowski but that's a little too high for him in my opinion. He really struggles in pass coverage and I think he's more of a second-day pick at this point.

Castille could be a possibility here, depending on what the Patriots do in the first two rounds. The team needs some good, young defensive backs to develop and this right about where I would project Castille to go, so I think it would be a good choice. Plus, he has the versatility to play either corner or safety, which could make him appealing to the Patriots. Although, as I'm writing this I see Castille just ran a 4.7 at the Combine, so safety it is.

My pick out of the options you gave would be Bell. He's a tremendous athlete who would be coming into a perfect situation with the Patriots because Bell is a little raw but he wouldn't be asked to start as a rookie. He also would have the opportunity to learn from some great veteran linebackers. Bell didn't perform well at the Senior Bowl but I think he has enough physical ability to be a good NFL linebacker, especially in a 3-4 scheme.
-Tom Casale

I live in Michigan and became a Patriots fan after following Brady from college to the pros. I wanted to bring up the possibility of drafting another Wolverine.Jake Long. I have seen his ability at Michigan on a weekly basis. What people don't seem to realize is that Long is a much better run blocking tackle than he is a pass blocking left tackle. With the weakness on the right side of the line I feel such a high draft pick would be well spent on Long. With Light at left tackle Long at right tackle the patriots would present enormous problems for opposing defenses. Long is big enough and quick enough to provide the patriots the option of running isolation plays away from the strength, and an even better set of bookends than last season. What do you guys think about Long?
Brian Wood

I'm not a fan of Long as a top ten pick. I agree with you that he's a much better run-blocking tackle. There lies the problem. Tackles that get drafted that high are paid to pass protect first and foremost. Long had a tremendous Combine and he's a certain top five pick. However, I see him as a right tackle in the NFL and we've talked to other people who follow the draft closely and they agree with that assessment. I think the high-end for Long is he turns out to be a Matt Light-kind of player. That's not a bad thing but Light was taken with the 48th pick, not in the top five. Also, I think most people would agree that Light is a good tackle, not a premier one. And remember, that's what I believe is the high-end for Long at left tackle.

I've never been a fan of taking tackles in the top five because I think more often than not, teams will find a guy from Appalachian State in the fourth round that turns out to be a better player. I know I'm in the minority but after watching Vernon Gholston abuse Long the last two years, I have a hard time believing he can constantly match up with the quicker pass rushers in the NFL.
-Tom Casale

I've read that the Falcons are trying to deal DeAngelo Hall. Meanwhile, it looks like Asante Samuel will be gone, leaving a vacancy in the secondary. Even though Hall has had character issues in the past, so did Corey Dillon and Randy Moss. If the Pats don't like the defensive backs coming out of the draft, do you see Hall as a possible fit in New England?
Ben Zaitchik

Sure, I'll send the seventh pick to the Falcons right now for Hall. Done deal, it was a pleasure doing business with you. The Patriots kind of got unlucky in this draft when Rey Maualuga and James Laurinaitis decided to go return for their senior seasons. I think sitting at seven, the Patriots probably would have selected Maualuga, who is an absolute beast. But now New England has this high pick and no one to draft. I think there are good corners in this draft but are any really worthy of the seventh pick? If the Patriots deem that Hall won't be a problem off the field – and they have a great track record of making the right decision on these type of players over the years – I would trade the seventh pick for a proven elite NFL corner in a heartbeat.
-Tom Casale

Hello, I was wondering with the salary cap rising every year, is it a challenge anymore for teams to stay under it?Todd St. Amour

I think it will always be the same Todd. Good organizations will always spend wisely and use the cap to their advantage, while organizations with bad leadership will do just the opposite. Think about it. Let's say the salary cap was $100 million. Teams like the Patriots would still sign the players they wanted at market value contracts that benefit both the player and the team. Meanwhile, Daniel Snyder would be going hog-wild, giving guys like Ty Law outrageous, over-valued deals. I think you can make the salary cap any number you want to and organizations with smart leadership will make good decisions, while organizations like the Redskins will continue to make bad ones.
-Tom Casale

I don't know about you guys but the Patriots secondary is a huge concern for me. Rodney is great but age is a factor and injury. The cornerback and FS are all up in the air right now. Are there any free agents the Pats should look at? Maybe draft a CB and sign Ty Law? Thanks and keep up the good work.
Kenny Sawyer

I'm not a big fan of bringing in Law. I don't think Law is ever going to settle for the money comparable to his play, which at this point wouldn't be a lot in my opinion. Also, I think the Patriots do a great job of balancing their roster with hungry veterans like Junior Seau and budding young players like James Sanders. I just think Law is a guy that already has three Super Bowl rings and is also on the downside of his career. He would help, but not as much as some think in my opinion.
-Tom Casale

Do you guys think the Patriots will draft a running back to provide some insurance behind Laurence Maroney next year?
Josh Tempton

Well Josh, don't forget about Sammy Morris, who was having a very good year for the Patriots until he was lost for the season in October. I kind of like where the Patriots are at right now with the running back position. Maroney came on at the end of the season, Morris played well, Evans is a versatile back and solid special teamer and Faulk is still a big weapon in the passing game. I don't expect the Patriots to take a running back early but a few names to keep in mind are Owen Schmitt, Jacob Hester and Justin Forsett. Schmitt is a piledriving fullback who can be used as both a runner and blocker, Hester is a chain-mover and effective short-yardage back, while Forsett is a smaller back who is not only strong for his size, he's a very good receiver out of the backfield in the Faulk-mold. If the Patriots do draft a player at this position, I think it will be a complimentary back in the middle rounds like the guys I mentioned above.
-Tom Casale

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