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Ask PFW: Pats have plenty to pick from

With 11 draft picks at their disposal, the Patriots will have plenty of options when it comes to the draft.

There is again a justifiable speculation the Patriots may trade down one of their second-round picks to get picks in the fourth and fifth round where they have a hole. I really don't understand this hole-filling strategy. Isn't the ultimate objective of the draft to find as many playmakers as possible and not to fill the holes in the draft or is it?

Stan C.*

Let's not get all worked up about trades and moves around the draft board that the Patriots haven't even made yet. We can all assume logically that with 11 picks entering the draft that Bill Belichick will want to move around a bit, and yes, one of his reasons for that is he doesn't like to have long gaps between picks. But that doesn't mean he has to trade down in order to do that. It's quite possible that he will, but it's also possible that he could package some lower-round picks to move up a bit. Either way Belichick absolutely believes in acquiring as many players that can help the team as he can so there's no sense in panicking about any potential moves at this point. The good news is the Patriots have a lot of picks and that creates a lot of flexibility come draft time.
Paul Perillo

I was wondering if you could tell me about what the Patriots own third-round pick plus Arizona's second-round pick would get us in moving up in the draft. I understand there is a formula to figure out relative value of draft picks. I was just wondering if this would move us up to the bottom of the first round, or somewhere in the middle of the second round. Thank you for your wonderful zany and informative podcasts. They keep me sane during the offseason.

Gary Fiske*

Hinsdale, N.H.*

Trading a second- and third-round pick could move the Patriots up about 12 or 13 spots to the middle of the second round using the old draft trade value chart. That package could move New England from 60 to about 47 based solely on the numbers. Obviously some team situated higher than that might be willing to accept the picks in a trade, but based just on the chart the two picks could get them into the middle of the second round. The two second-rounders could get them a little higher – perhaps to the bottom of Round 1. It will be interesting to see how Belichick chooses to utilize his assets come the draft.
Paul Perillo

Remembering the home game in which the Patriots lost to Eagles by surrendering three return TDs and likely lost the first seed in that game, I question our special teams coaching. This performance was dismissed as a fluke under a well-respected coach, but I still ask - is it? How can a loss of a team's captain Matthew Slater result in such a complete breakdown? You would not see such a meltdown from almost any team in the league, and from the Patriots stocked with so much talent at special teams? I feel giving the coach a free pass in that game leaves me wondering that even with a championship-caliber roster, the Pats can blow it on special teams, and I would love to see any explanation as to why the loss of Slater caused such complete breakdown?

Ted L.*

Well first Slater played in the game you're talking about so I'm not sure why you claim thing fell apart without him. He finished with two special teams tackles against the Eagles. In terms of the performance, the special teams were awful that day to be sure. They allowed a punt return for a touchdown and a blocked punt for a touchdown. They also tried a rugby-style onside, mortar kick by Nate Ebner that the Eagles recovered at their 41 to set up a short field that led to another touchdown. Overall it was about as bad as it gets, and during that one particular game it did seem to represent a bit of a fluke as for the most part the Patriots were solid in the kicking game until then. That seemed to kickstart a second half of the season that featured some shoddy play on special teams for the Patriots – muffed punts, long returns and shaky coverage periodically reared their heads down the stretch. But I'm not sure why you feel these issues weren't discussed. The coverage wasn't as good late in the season as it needed to be and it was certainly a topic of conversation as the playoffs arrived, but Slater didn't have anything to do with the breakdown.
Paul Perillo

Why don't the Patriots just convince DeAndre Jordan to be their tight end for goal line situations?

Ozni Rhodes*

I don't know why I'm choosing to answer this but hey, it's the offseason. Just what exactly about your tight end do you not like in the red zone? Does Rob Gronkowski not score enough touchdowns for you? How about the addition of Martellus Bennett? Do you honestly think grabbing a basketball player and sticking him in the red zone would increase the already out-of-this-world production the Patriots get from Gronk?
Paul Perillo

I know the Patriots are considering drafting Glenn Gronkowski. Since he played fullback at Kansas State, do you think, if he is converted to halfback, that he could provide more productivity than LeGarrette Blount or Brandon Bolden as a power back?

Hunter Roberts*

I have no idea if the Patriots are interested in Glenn Gronkowski but if they are I would highly doubt that they'd consider him a true running back. He's a fullback who has blocked and caught the ball but I don't see him as being capable of carrying the load as the lead ball carrier in a way that Blount has done at times in the past. I don't think he'd be more productive than Bolden either. It will be interesting to see how Gronkowski is used in the NFL but my guess is some team will try to create a role for him – perhaps similar to Heath Evans, who caught passes and earned the occasional opportunity to carry the ball as well.
Paul Perillo

With a number of free agent signings in the last several days, why hasn't the most pressing need for offensive line help been addressed?  Last season's guard acquisitions were not good. After reviewing some of last year's games, it was apparent that the new offensive linemen were overpowered- lacked strength, agility and necessary technique.  They appear to be backup caliber at best. I still like Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer, but there is no quality depth at tackle. The jury is out on Bryan Stork and David Andrews. Why aren't we seeing urgency to address this TOP priority?

Joyce Rogers*

Maybe it's because they don't see the line as the top priority that you do. I certainly don't. The offensive line played poorly down the stretch last season to be sure. Injuries were part of the problem but the performance also wasn't great. I agree with your assessment of the depth at tackle and would like to see the Patriots draft a tackle relatively early to serve as the top backup. Otherwise I don't agree with your assessment of the young guards. I like both Shaq Mason and Tre' Jackson and believe with Stork, Andrews, Josh Kline and now Jonathan Cooper the Patriots could potentially have six players to fill three spots. That seems like plenty of depth to me. And most importantly the return of Dante Scarnecchia should help bring some stability to the area as a hole. There's no question the offensive line was a problem in 2015 but the fact is there's a very good chance that the same starters that opened the year will do so again in 2016 assuming everyone is healthy.
Paul Perillo

With the new signings of Chris Hogan and Nate Washington, and possibly drafting a WR, what do you think will happen to Danny Amendola? I liked the way he played, has a nice groove with Tom Brady and converts a lot of third downs. I was also wondering if you think they will bring back LeGarrette Blount? I hear he wants to stay and he is the big-bodied back we need during the cold months and to pound the ball down the field, in goal line situations and fourth-quarter clock management.

Jesse M.*

I think Amendola could be expendable but not necessarily because of Washington and Hogan, although having some added depth at the position doesn't hurt. Amendola has a big price tag with a cap number of $6.8 million this season. My guess is the Patriots would like to lower that number, but at this stage there's no urgency to do so. If the sides can't work out a solution I could definitely see the Patriots letting him go. That would be somewhat risky because I feel he provides some nice insurance for Julian Edelman, who has frequently battled injuries during his career. I don't see Amendola sticking around without taking a pay cut so it will be interesting to monitor this as the offseason progresses.
Paul Perillo

Very happy with all the additions so far! Nevertheless, I really think we could use some depth at the cornerback position, a position that hasn't been addressed so far in free agency. Not a lot of talent left in FA except perhaps for Jerraud Powers, a player I would like to sign with us. Perhaps re-sign Terrell Brown. Considering this, do you think Bill will look for CB depth in the draft? Or do you have more confidence than I have in our CB depth chart? I believe we were really lucky last season that our starting corners survived the injury bug.

KJ Fokkens*

You pretty much have read the minds of Team PFW because we're all in agreement with this post. I'm not in love with Powers but otherwise this is spot on. The Patriots were extremely fortunate neither Logan Ryan nor Malcolm Butler missed any significant time last year and rolling the dice that would be the case again would be unwise. I expect Belichick will look to the draft to add some depth to the position, and I wouldn't be surprised if Brown or some other veteran is added to the mix. Darryl Roberts is a player many have pointed toward as a potential depth piece but I honestly wasn't impressed with his camp before he went on IR with a wrist injury during the preseason. I expect New England to add some corner help in the draft.
Paul Perillo

Following the recent trade of Chandler Jones, I believe Patriots Nation now has the mindset that we will eventually extend the contracts of linebackers Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower. I am curious how PFW feels about keeping Jabaal Sheard and Malcolm Butler as well. I look at a team like the Broncos who somehow managed to sign a core of Chris Harris, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, Von Miller, T.J. Ward and Derek Wolfe. I'm hoping the Pats will do the same with our big four.

Chris McCaul*

Without question the Patriots could sign all of these players if they so choose but what is less certain is how much they'd be willing to spend to do so. In the case of the Broncos, Denver was willing to pay top dollar for the secondary, franchised Miller, gave Wolfe a pretty reasonable deal prior to free agency and then was fortunate that Ware agreed to a pay cut. Butler, Collins and Hightower all could be looking to earn top-of-the-market deals. In the cases of Butler and Collins, neither has made huge money at this stage so the next contract will be important. I'd like to see the Patriots step up and sign all three. Sheard could be tricky depending on the type of season has this year without Jones. If his production jumps he could be an attractive commodity on the free agent market and therefore be tougher to sign. There also will be other starters like Logan Ryan and Duron Harmon who will be set to hit the market as well. But the cap dollars to sign them all will be available; it's just a matter of how much of that space the team is willing to devote to these players.
Paul Perillo

The midseason acquisition of Jonathan Bostic appeared to be a great pick up but I was disappointed that he rarely saw the field. He was coming off an injury when he arrived, did that contribute to his lack of playing time or did he not pick up the defensive scheme well enough for the coaches to have confidence? Or is there another reason for his lack of contribution down the stretch. How many tackles did he record?

Frank Folino*

He was coming off an injury at the time of the trade but that wasn't the reason he didn't receive more playing time. He was active the last 12 weeks of the season and saw action in 11 games – so it wasn't health related. He did not receive much if any playing time on defense, however, as he recorded just one tackle all season. He did play some on special teams, making two tackles, but clearly he didn't make much of an impact in New England. Perhaps he was limited in his knowledge of the system and with a year under his belt he'll be better-suited to contribute in 2016, but Jonathan Freeny was the top backup behind Collins and Hightower a year ago.
Paul Perillo

Am I the only one who likes the Donald Brown signing? From everything I've seen, he has the same skill set as Matt Forte, only isn't quite as good as running between the tackles, nor as productive out of the backfield. I don't want to use the phrase "poor man's" but he does seem like a cheaper version of the same type of player, at a fraction (about 1/4) of the salary cap room and salary.

David Beckett*

Wow, that's quite a stretch. I think Brown's parents would blush at the comparison between Forte and Brown. Yes they are both running backs who can catch ball but the similarities basically end there. Forte has been one of the most productive backs in the league while Brown has been a fringe backup who's averaged less than 4 yards per carry in five of his seven seasons. Brown will get a chance to come in a fight for a roster spot but by no means is he the answer to the Patriots woes in the running game. Yes he costs less than Forte, but considering Forte's very modest contract even that isn't such a big deal. Maybe Brown can surprise and earn some carries for the Patriots this season but I don't see him comparing to Forte at all.
Paul Perillo

Why are people so focused on the Patriots getting a fast receiver to "take the top of the defense" when Tom Brady does not have great arm strength or deep ball accuracy? Brady is not effective in stretching the field vertically, and would in my opinion be better served with a big, outside receiver like Brandon LaFell who is not necessarily fast.

Will S.*

I agree with your overall point here. I don't feel the Patriots need a receiver who can stretch the field as much as they need some threats on the outside. In Chris Hogan and Nate Washington I feel they've acquired a couple of receivers who could possibly fit that sort of role. Instead of a deep threat I want to see the offense add some targets who can operate outside the numbers and possibly take some of the coverage away from the middle of the field. Like I said, I'm with you on this and it seems the Patriots agree.
Paul Perillo

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