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Ask PFW: Mocking the draft, Gronk and more

As a first time emailer I like to say what a great job you guys do and how you make being unable to make games bearable. So, if you had to pick a player that we could sign in the draft that would be totally unexpected by most fans who would it be?
Robert Brewster
Chelmsford, UK

Thanks for joining us and hopefully you can come up with some easier questions to answer in the future, Robert. It's really tough to come up with a name that would really qualify as being totally unexpected for the Patriots to draft. The team could pick a player from virtually any position so finding one that would truly qualify as unexpected is almost impossible. But I'll offer up a pick. South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst. Tight end isn't the most pressing need on the roster (assuming Rob Gronkowski isn't traded) and the rookie crop at the position isn't great. But I could see a mid-round pick being used to find a young, athletic tight end to develop for the future and Hurst might fit that mold. Again, the Patriots could pick any position so calling one player a surprise is tough.
Paul Perillo

With the draft coming this week, the Patriots appear to be facing continued uncertainty regarding the level of commitment from Gronkowski. His latest press conference is being portrayed in the press as a total rebuke of Bill Belichick and the Patriot Way. How do you think this situation is best handled? Do they reward him with a better contract to bring him back into the fold? Do they trade him and risk further tension with Tom Brady? Do they ignore him and see what happens when the mandatory practices begin? Finally, due to this uncertainty, do the Patriots invest a Day 1 pick on a tight end?
Gary Madera
East Hanover, N.J.

Great questions Gary and ones that don't have simple answers. I'll start by saying I have no idea about the level of communication between the team and Gronk since the Super Bowl. My guess from afar is there hasn't been much if any. Assuming that's the case, the Patriots need to figure out what exactly Gronkowski wants. If it's more money (that would be my guess) then it's time to start talking. I would not let the actions at the press conference influence my thoughts at all. While I agree it was not flattering for anyone involved, I also believe that business is business and it's best to not let any personal feelings get in the way. Emotions can sometimes have a negative impact on decisions like this so it's best to leave them out. I think there's a legitimate chance the Patriots could trade him if he indeed wants more money and indicates that he won't be participating unless he gets it. He's coming off a productive season and could get some significant value in return. I would not then use a first-round pick on a tight end. Maybe third round or so, but I don't like the top guys as first-round options. The part that this doesn't really address is how it may impact Brady. Unfortunately, with Brady heading toward his 41st birthday I feel it's more important to worry about the long-term health of the organization and if Brady is unhappy with things I don't feel that should stop the team from doing what it thinks is best. Personally, I would try to work on a solution with Gronk to keep him, give him some more money and let him ride it out with Brady for one or two more years.
Paul Perillo

Pro football Focus has Bradley Chubb falling out of the top 10 mainly due to the scramble for QBs. If he's there when possible trade partners like the Raiders and Redskins are picking, what would it cost to go get him? Would 23 and 43 be enough, even though it's probably an overpayment on the value chart. I think any chance to get such a talent would be worth it.
Len Carmody

I think your trade scenario would work in terms of value – maybe needing to add something to get to Oakland at 10, but I honestly don't see PFF's scenario of Chubb falling out of the top 10. I am not a mock draft expert and don't make my living trying to predict where everyone will fall. But even if we take five quarterbacks and put them in the top 10, that leaves five other players. In that case, let's say Saquon Barkley, Roquan Smith and Quenton Nelson all could reasonably be expected to be among those five. Minkah Fitzpatrick? Denzel Ward? Derwin James? All possibilities for sure. But I just can't see all of these players being taken before Chubb, although stranger things have happened.
Paul Perillo

I love Gronk and the way he has fun, but the timing of the event and the location of the press conference was all wrong for me. While other captains from last season (Devin McCourty, David Andrews, Matthew Slater and Dont'a Hightower) were present for the voluntary workouts and presumably working very hard, Tom Brady was doing his own routine – I have no problem with that as he has definitely earned the right and respected players like Mike Vrabel did the same – but Gronk appearing in Gillette Stadium like that seemed like it was sending the wrong message to his teammates and coaches. What do you guys make of Rob Gronkowski's press conference?
David Beckett

The only thing I would disagree with about your assessment is giving Brady a free pass for missing. Brady was in Qatar for a Best Buddies event. He knew the dates and chose to be away. Him working out on his own is no different than Gronk doing the same. I have no doubt that both will be in shape and ready to go when need be, but neither is with his teammates in Foxborough working together, as has generally been the case in the past. I agree that Gronk taking part in the press conference did not make for a good situation. I thought it was borderline disrespectful. But I also don't give Brady a pass. If you stay choose to stay away from offseason workouts that's the players' prerogative. But I don't differentiate from those choosing to do so.
Paul Perillo

There has been a lot of conversation related to filling Nate Solder's role and there are no clear cut candidates on the Patriots roster. I believe that Dante Scarnecchia can find that guy on our roster. Stay away from the tackles in the draft. Not a strong group. Therefore, keep the picks as they are and draft Rashaan Evans, Hayden Hurst, Justin Reid, Sam Hubbard and Luke Falk. This gives us a speedy linebacker, a smart safety, an athletic tight end, an edge rusher and a quarterback that has great upside. What do you guys think? I would really like our boys to actually hold on to those picks in the first three rounds and not trade.
John Lafond

Like it, don't love it. I love Evans and Hurst. I don't like Reid and Falk. I'm fine with Hubbard. But the bigger problem with this entire scenario is the unlikely nature of being able to draft all five. I like Evans' versatility at linebacker and believe he offer a great complement to Dont'a Hightower if he's available. I also like Hurst's athleticism at tight end. I'd rather take a shot at Mike White as a developmental quarterback but I understand a lot of people are trying to talk themselves into Falk. I just don't see it. He seems like a system guy with limited NFL-caliber skills. Reid came across as a highly intelligent player when speaking to him at the Combine but I may be spooked by the whole Stanford safety thing after Jordan Richards. We shall see. But overall an interesting mock draft by you, John.
Paul Perillo

Why this big need for a QB? Try as they might most teams whiff in drafting a QB. After the top five are gone. How many teams have a starting caliber QB backing up? Remember Ryan Mallett, Kevin Connor, Matt Cassel and Brian Hoyer have started but would you call them franchise QBs? Maybe Luke Falk, Mike White or one of the others will develop into a decent backup QB. But don't hold your breath waiting for the second coming of Jimmy Garoppolo. Brady was the No. 1 QB last year and has just completed his best three-year stint ever, even with four games suspended. Maybe when he retires there will be a QB to chase. This year I would take Lamar Jackson if he fell to 23 but not Mason Rudolph. Falk is slow on his reads, Kyle Lauletta doesn't have a strong arm. Rudolph is a poor man's Andy Dalton. None should go in the top 70. So why waste a valuable pick with such a high chance of failure?
David Brown

This is great analysis but it's a little contradictory. I actually agree with your idea that taking a quarterback this season is not a necessity (although we're in the minority there, David). If there's a quarterback the Patriots love, then take him if they're in position to. Otherwise, I agree it's not urgent unless they know this is Brady's last year. As you said, he's coming off an MVP year so there's no reason to believe his play will drop to the point where he needs to be gone in 2019. More likely he'll drop off slightly and allow some time to draft his successor. And in the meantime it's also possible that a stopgap veteran will be available – like Kirk Cousins, Alex Smith, Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater all were this offseason. If there's no one available in the draft that you love, then don't force it. However, if you truly want to find Brady's successor in this draft then I don't think it makes sense to wait. Most quality quarterbacks are first-round pick, and high in the first round at that. There are exceptions, like Brady himself, but not many. If Belichick really likes one of these guys he should move up to get him.
Paul Perillo

Let's imagine a crazy scenario. Gronk is traded this week just before draft. So what value has Gronk for another team ready to trade with Pats, early first round, late first round? Second round? Multiple picks?
Ludovic
Versailles, France

It's funny that this somehow doesn't seem as crazy as it once did, but something tells me that Gronk wants more money and the Patriots may be reluctant to give him some more after doing so last year. So in the event that this leads to a trade, I believe the Patriots should be able to get a late first-round pick for him at least. Perhaps a team picking between 15-25 or near that range would be interested. Those are teams that were outside of the playoffs but many of them were close, which may mean they feel a player like Gronk could put them over the top. In that case, a trade like that might make sense. I still don't want to see it, however.
Paul Perillo

One aspect of the draft I don't understand is the signing of undrafted free agents after the draft. What interests me is the fact that undrafted free agents get upward of a five-figure signing bonus, and a six figure guarantee in some cases. The Patriots Harvey Langi, after signing with the team last year, earned a $15,000 signing bonus, and a $100,000 dollar guarantee. My question is why do teams not simply draft a player like Langi in the seventh round instead of trying to signing him as a UDFA? Is it simply the case if a UDFA fails to make the team, the team prefers the smaller dead cap hit vs. the one that comes with a four-year rookie deal for drafted players (not including first-round picks, with a fifth-year team option)?
MacKenzie Kirkey

There certainly are times when the players themselves can benefit from not being drafted and wind up earning slightly more cash than seventh-round picks. That extra money comes from the simple fact that they are free agents and therefore could potentially go to the highest bidder. Seventh-round picks are slotted and obviously have no leverage in terms of being able to shop their services to another team. The players drafted are generally considered better players and therefore are selected so teams can guarantee they get that player's rights. You can assume you'll be able to sign a player that you've been in contact with, but there are no sure things once the draft ends. If the Patriots wanted to make sure they got Langi, they would have drafted him. Obviously they were comfortable risking losing him – they also only had four picks last year – and wound up getting him anyway.
Paul Perillo

Patriots not only have several important holes to fill, they also have several aging players and also players with expiring contracts. I don't see any value in moving up in the first round and trading away the draft capital. In fact, I would prefer them to trade some desperate team their 31st pick (plus sixth-rounder) for a second-rounder, a fourth-rounder and second-rounder in 2019. Would you take such approach or reach for some QB?
Collin Frazer

I definitely see both sides of this equation. The Patriots probably feel the need to find a potential successor to Brady, and if they want the best chance for that they likely need to move up to get him. But they also have the need for some young talent on the roster after basically missing out on first-round picks in three of the last four years (Dominque Easley in 2014 and none in 2016 of 2017). I like your trade scenario and would be in favor of such a move – adding two seconds plus a fourth for 31 and a sixth. That way you can stockpile some picks and in this particular draft many are suggesting there is very little difference between No. 25 and No. 50. If that's true there's a chance the Patriots could get three quality players in the second round while adding a second-rounder in 2019. Now, getting someone to do that won't be easy.
Paul Perillo

I really hope that Patriots do not throw a boatload of picks to move up for Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Lamar Jackson. None of these QBs is near the sure thing while the Patriots need to plug a whole bunch of holes. Do you see them going for one? And if so, who might that be?
Phil Button

Hi Paul, my not so crystal ball says that all of the top-rated QBs are drafted early on, Patriots staying put at 23 and then trading their 31st pick (plus 6th-round pick) for second and fourth-round picks and possibly a pick in 2019. IF they do that, who would you like to see them taking at 23?
Peter Marcus

Obviously no one is a sure thing so to suggest not making such a trade for that reason doesn't really tell us anything. There is risk with any player at the top, especially a quarterback. I happen to think Darnold and Rosen will be successful in the league but I am by no means sure of that. I can definitely envision a trade trying to move up into position to grab one, and since various reports have tied the Patriots to Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Jackson it could be any one of them. I'll predict Rosen if this happens. In terms of picking at No. 23, I would love to Alabama linebacker Rashaan Evans. I believe he has the versatility to produce next to Dont'a Hightower and make an impact.
Paul Perillo

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