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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Jun 18 - 11:55 AM | Thu Jun 20 - 09:55 AM

Ask PFW: Lots of prospects in the running

Running back is a major area of focus in this week's Ask PFW mailbag.

My question is about creating space for young players. Do you see Alan Branch, Jonathan Freeny and/or Josh Kline being released or traded?

Gregorio Ladeira*

While it's never safe to assume you know what Bill Belichick will do in terms of constructing his roster, my guess is Branch and Freeny will be a part of the team in 2016 while Kline may be in for a battle. Of the three Branch would be by far the biggest surprise if he left. The Patriots picked up his option bonus last month to make sure he wouldn't become a free agent, so he's virtually a lock. Freeny was a valuable backup last year while also playing on special teams. He even saw playing time ahead of Jerod Mayo at various points during the season. It would be a surprise if he wasn't back. Kline may have his work cut out for him depending on how Jonathan Cooper works out. Cooper was a high draft pick and it's possible that Dante Scarnecchia can figure out how to get the most out of him. If that's the case and Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson continue to develop, it's possible that Kline could go. The interior line positions could be one of the more hotly contested battles of camp.
Paul Perillo

What do you think about Marshall's Devon Johnson? He has that big frame at 6-1, 250 also he rushed for 1,700 yards his junior year and as a former TE he could fill that H-back role we haven't had since Aaron Hernandez?

Jeremy Roberts*

I won't pretend to know a ton about Johnson but from the tape I watched of him he seems to lack the speed to be an impact runner in the NFL. His stats are eye-popping but that might just be due to his immense size. I don't see him making it as a running back and I don't think he possesses the agility to be a real threat in the passing game either. Obviously I haven't watched much of him but unless we're talking signing him as an undrafted free agent I'll pass.
Paul Perillo

I recently read an article about Navy's versatile QB Keenan Reynolds. I wasn't surprised to hear Belichick has personally worked him out given his affinity for Navy Alumni. His resume reads very similar to Julian Edelman's coming out of college. My question is do you see the Pats using a pick on this guy or chance it on the free agent market?

Joel Greyling*

My first reaction to all the hubbub regarding Reynolds and the Patriots is: why are we hearing so much about it? Generally the Patriots don't generate much publicity surrounding the players they're strongly interested in. Yet we've heard about every time Belichick and Reynolds have interacted it would seem. Certainly Reynolds is an intriguing prospect and his athleticism would seem to translate to another position. My guess is Reynolds will be available either in the seventh round or as a free agent. If the Patriots really want him it would make sense for Belichick to use one of his many late-round picks to make sure he gets him.
Paul Perillo

Is Jaylon Smith worth a second-round pick?

Robert Miles*

I hate to totally cop out on this answer but this is almost entirely a health-related question. If we're talking about "just" an ACL/LCL injury than absolutely yes. If there's nerve damage, as some have suggested, than that makes it a more difficult projection. Smith is a terrific player but if he is permanently damaged than I believe the second round is too high and I'd wait a bit. If the medical evaluations indicate that he should be expected to make a full recovery, I'd definitely take him in the second round and be patient for his return. My guess is someone will roll the dice and take him early in the second round.
Paul Perillo

With all of our offseason additions on both sides of the ball there is one position I haven't seen addressed yet. Why not ship the Chiefs a package of draft picks like a second-rounder and a fourth-rounder for Jamaal Charles? He would be a perfect addition.  I know he is 30 and used to carrying an offense, but that would only further the Patriots offense. He would only need 10-12 carries a game, is valuable in the receiving game and would keep defenses honest. What do you think?

James Holmes*

I will give you a ton of credit for your trade proposal for one main reason: normally fans come up with trades that tend to be one-sided for the Patriots. In your scenario I think you're giving up too much to get Charles. I bet if the Patriots wanted to make that move they could do so for one pick – probably just the fourth-rounder. But the reason for that, and one part that you left out, is Charles is coming off his second torn ACL. Who knows how effective a 30-year-old running back coming off his second serious knee injury is going to respond? That said, I'd love to make deal to find out. My proposal is simple – send Danny Amendola to Kansas City for Charles. The Chiefs need receivers and the contracts are similar. I say we make this happen.
Paul Perillo

Are we re-signing LeGarrette Blount?

Srikanth Ganesh*

According to Blount, absolutely yes. In fact, since the running back started dropping hints about returning on social media, he has since re-signed and will be back.
Paul Perillo

I was just wondering where you think Joey Iosefa fits into the equation this upcoming season? I know that he was signed to a futures contract, so the Patriots seem to think that he can contribute in some way. Does he become a James Develin counterpart at fullback? Does he become a human wrecking ball on special teams? Or does he wind up back on the practice squad for another season?

Jon Galvin*

Probably pretty much every way you suggested is a possibility, as well as not in the plans at all. Iosefa got some carries late last season when the team was in desperate need of a ball carrier and really didn't do much with them aside from one memorable trucking of Tennessee's Coty Sensabaugh. But he does possess a rare combination of physicality and speed and could factor into the mix on special teams and perhaps as a niche player on offense. The only way we'll find out is by watching OTAs and training camp to see if he's worth continued development. He's by no means a lock to make the roster but he's worth watching based on the amount of time the team invested in his last year.
Paul Perillo

With Tom Brady's suspension still on the table and assuming that he's suspended, is NE prepared to face those games? Is Jimmy Garoppolo good enough to lead the team and make use of all the offensive air weapons to at least a competitive level?

Victor Galicia*

Personally I'll believe Brady will be suspended when the Patriots are actually playing a game and he's not on the field. But until then we really have no way of knowing if Garoppolo is capable of filling in for him because he's never played a meaningful snap in his two years with the team. Garoppolo has looked good at times during the summer and in mop-up duty two years ago in Kansas City, but until he plays in a real game that matters we won't know how he'll respond. The good news is he will have plenty of help at his disposal on offense should he be forced into action.
Paul Perillo

So with all the great free agents we have picked up this offseason, who are you most excited to see?

Ethan Charles*

This one's easy for me – Martellus Bennett. The idea of having two talented and athletic tight ends intrigues me to no end. I can't wait to watch Rob Gronkowski and Bennett working together with Tom Brady to make this offense a matchup nightmare. That should be the case especially in the red zone. Maybe Chris Hogan would come in second, but really Bennett is my only real option here.
Paul Perillo

Do you think/know if the Patriots are interested in Ronnie Hillman? I think he is a really good player with great potential - but at what price. Or would you rather see them go after a running back in the draft?

Severin Kristensen*

It certainly doesn't appear as if the Patriots have much if any interest in Hillman. He's been available for more than a month and I haven't seen any reports tying the Patriots to the former Bronco. At this point it seems Hillman might in fact be headed back to Denver as reports indicated the sides have been talking about a possible return. Hillman is a decent back but doesn't have the size I'd like to see the Patriots add to the backfield. I'd rather see the team look to the draft than sign an average player like Hillman.
Paul Perillo

Bill tends to take a bit of a flyer in the second round, and this year we have two (always look on the bright side). With Braxton Miller's obvious athletic qualities and possibly high ceiling, is he worth a shot if he's still on the board?

Darren Fagan*

I think Miller is going to generate plenty of interest in the second round and I wouldn't be stunned if the Patriots are one of the teams interested. I could see Belichick viewing him similarly to the way he looked at Percy Harvin coming out of Florida several years ago: as a tremendous, versatile athlete learning to play. Personally I'd pass because I don't see much refinement in his game as a receiver but it would not shock me if the Patriots felt otherwise.
Paul Perillo

With the draft just around the corner many prospects have been linked to New England. One person I found interest in was Cyrus Jones from Alabama. He seemed to be a solid corner for a good college team. He also was productive on special teams as a punt returner. It would seem to me to be a very Patriot move to draft him. Not only to give the cornerback position depth but also to give some depth to punt returners, especially with Danny Amendola's future in New England uncertain. What are your thoughts on Jones, do you see a better prospect, and if there is interest in Jones, how early do you see New England drafting him?

Matthew Haff*

I would have a hard time disagreeing with anything you wrote. I like Jones and I agree that his versatility would be attractive to any team, not just the Patriots. I could see New England using one of the late-seconds on him or perhaps even waiting until the third. Many of the experts have him rather between the third and fourth round but if Belichick likes him we know he's willing to take him sooner rather than later. It would definitely fill a need as I feel corner is the team's biggest entering the draft.
Paul Perillo

Any chance the Patriots draft a QB that could backup Jimmy Garoppolo after Brady retires?  And any shot they draft a kicker in the later rounds?

Larry Pearce*

I think the Patriots will almost certainly draft a quarterback but not necessarily to back up Garoppolo. Belichick has drafted eight quarterbacks during his 16 drafts, and with Brady potentially facing a suspension it might make sense to add one just in case. But beyond the suspension there's no need to have a backup waiting around to sit behind Garoppolo possibly three years down the road. I also don't think there's any need to draft a kicker. Stephen Gostkowski is as good as any kicker in the game at this point and shows no signs of slowing down, although Roberto Aguayo of Florida State is as good a prospect as we've seen in a long time.
Paul Perillo

I saw that this last week you said you could see Jonathan Cooper playing all 16 games or none at all. In the case of the latter, is there some sort of compensation with Arizona if Cooper fails to make the squad or not play any games? And if there are, could you see BB putting Cooper on the back burner for this year to get that extra compensation?

Ashton Stelljes*

There is no further compensation for the Patriots should Cooper not make the squad. My guess is Andy was referring to the possibility that Cooper has yet to establish himself as a regular player in the NFL despite his lofty draft status. Therefore it's possible that he puts it together with Dante Scarnecchia coaching him and he becomes a regular. There's also a chance he's simply not as good as advertised and either sits or gets cut. But the Patriots won't be entitled to any additional compensation either way.
Paul Perillo

I've been reading stuff that just makes me crazy! So l'm hoping to vent a little, and maybe educate some a little. First up is Von Miller. Oh, he was so dominant. Does anyone remember that he was beating up on our No. 3 or 4 tackle? His comment about the ball was not funny. How would he like it if Brady made a joke about bribing the PED test specimen collection official?

Howard Wolfe*

Von Miller was as dominant in the postseason as a player can be. He killed the Panthers in the Super Bowl every bit as much as he killed the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game. You don't have to like him but to suggest he was only good because he played against Marcus Cannon is silly. He's been a really good player for a long time now and it's not because he plays against backups.
Paul Perillo

With the patriots having two second-round picks, do you think it's possible that they could trade up to get a running back like Derrick Henry?

Justice Shells*

I'm not sure they'd have to trade up to get him but if they did then I wouldn't be interested. If Henry fell into the Patriots lap at 60 or 61 then it's possible I could be persuaded to take him but I'm not overly interested. He's not exceptionally quick and I worry that he'll have a tough time avoiding tackles in the backfield before he gets going. Henry is an impressive athlete for his size but now he'll be trying to avoid players who are every bit as big and athletic as he is and I'm not sure that will go well.
Paul Perillo


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