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Ask PFW: Playoffs, draft and more

Lots of topics to discuss in this week's Ask PFW mailbag.

How do you see our draft strategy panning out this year, given that we were more than happy to trade away our picks last year? Are we likely to utilize the second-rounder from Jimmy Garoppolo or can you see it being traded again?
Gary Slade

Obviously we're a long way off from the draft and a lot can change between now and then so it's difficult to project how the Patriots will proceed. My guess is after last year's small draft class the Patriots will take advantage of the added pick in the second round and use it rather than dealing it for a veteran. How they will use it is much more difficult to predict but I will say a quarterback could definitely be in play, depending on how things unfold earlier in the draft. There are several highly rated quarterbacks that will be available and if one falls that the Patriots like it wouldn't be too surprising to see that second-round pick used to take one.
Paul Perillo

I think that there are only two teams who have the talent to beat the Patriots even if Patriots "do the job" – the Steelers and Falcons. The Steelers have weapons to torment our secondary while the Falcons have an amazing running back duo who can run on our front seven all game long. Last year they lost Tevin Coleman early in the Super Bowl and then did some dumb things in the passing game, but this year, I wonder how can Patriots contain them, even if they beat the Steelers in a nail-biter? What are your roadblock to Super Bowl teams?
Sasha G.

I like the two teams that you picked, and honestly Pittsburgh is the only team I feel has the talent to beat New England. Upsets happen and you never know what can happen on any given week, but the Steelers have the balance on offense with Le'Veon Bell running and Ben Roethlisberger throwing to Antonio Brown (assuming he is healthy), JuJu Smith-Schuster and Martavis Bryant and a quality defense to match up with the Patriots. The Falcons also have the talent to match up, which we all saw last February when they nearly knocked the Patriots off in the Super Bowl. They basically brought that whole team back and even though they struggled most of the season they have the ability to cause problems. I'd also add the Saints into that mix with a quality veteran quarterback in Drew Brees who has already won on the biggest stage and wouldn't be spooked by the moment. Minnesota has a quality defense but I don't view the Vikings as being balanced enough to cause many problems. But obviously this is all well down the road.
Paul Perillo

Do you think that Steelers may have an easier time to play a completely toothless Jaguars than the Patriots playing a balanced Titans team, and although both teams should comfortably advance to the AFC title game, is there a concern of Titans safety getting either Rob Gronkowski or one of our receivers out of business as he did to Travis Kelce?
Josh Collins

Actually I don't think either team will have any trouble but I view Jacksonville as being a much tougher opponent than Tennessee. The Titans don't really do anything at an exceptionally high level. They are mediocre in most categories and they don't really have the ability to score points. While the Jaguars don't have a high-powered offense either, the Jags can rush the passer and shut you down defensively. Like I said, I don't view either team as any type of threat, but the Titans are probably only here because of the Kelce injury you mentioned and aren't formidable in any way. Basically I'd predict a boring weekend of playoff football in the AFC.
Paul Perillo


Completely hypothetical question here, but in the up and coming NFL draft, if he is still available when the Pats go to make their pick, what would you think of Baker Mayfield out of Oklahoma coming to New England as the new possible successor to Tom Brady?
Josh Sabbio

I think Mayfield is an exceptional college quarterback who put Oklahoma on his back and dominated this season. But I don't see his skill set translating all that well to the NFL. I won't say he won't make it because the game is changing and there are different ways of playing offense all the time. He's very small, listed generously at 6-1, and he ran an unconventional offense with the Sooners. He is very similar to Johnny Manziel, only I think Mayfield isn't nearly as athletic as Manziel is/was. Both ran around and made a lot of plays but it's tough to do that at the NFL level consistently. Mayfield will likely get his shot and could be taken in the second round, or even in the first, but I don't see him being a fit for an offense like New England's that requires a lot of discipline and precision. But we shall see.
Paul Perillo

On the whole Jimmy G. trade timing and result thing, I believe Bill Belichick intentionally made the decision to hold on to Jimmy until the last minute for insurance in case Brady went down to injury or age decline. If that had happened, Jimmy would have stepped in, and if he performed well, would have been franchised at season's end if unwilling to sign. That didn't turn out to be the case, as the GOAT was even then in the discussion for league MVP.  Making the best deal he could (to a non-conference foe for a reasonably high 2nd round pick) for Jimmy at the trade deadline, and getting an experienced backup at the same time was classic Bill. Am I missing something, or was this the GOAT Coach doing what he says he always does - what's best for the team?
Gil Lacroix

I disagree with your assessment of the entire situation. He didn't wait until the last minute, as you stated, but instead traded him at the deadline. The last minute would have been franchising him and then trading him which is how they dealt with Matt Cassel after the 2008 season. Garoppolo would have signed it in order to be traded so there wouldn't have been any worry about him holding out. That way the Patriots would have had the insurance of having Garoppolo for the entire season instead of being in a situation with Brian Hoyer, who isn't capable to winning games against quality opponents in the playoffs. So I don't believe it was a GOAT move at all, especially considering how little they got in return for a quarterback who was in high demand. The time to trade Garoppolo was at last year's draft when teams would have given at least one first-round pick and perhaps more. Or waiting it out to protect themselves against a Brady injury all the way through. By playing it in the middle they not only lost the comfort of having a quality backup but they also received very little in return.
Paul Perillo


If Josh McDaniels leaves as many expect, which OC can possibly coach Tom Brady without being yelled at by the GOAT QB who has even more stature and job security than ever?
Frank Ruffo

I think this entire storyline has been entirely overblown. Brady and McDaniels exchanged words on the sideline during a game. It happens. I've seen it many times. I don't believe that's an indication that Brady has become too big for the team or that no new offensive coordinator would be able to relate to him. Brady is obviously quite secure in his position with the Patriots but that doesn't mean he has suddenly become difficult to deal with on or off field. Replacing McDaniels if he takes another job won't be easy but not necessarily because of the next coordinator's ability to coach and relate to Brady.
Paul Perillo

It feels the Pats aren't running as much up tempo offense this year compared to previous years, despite the great success in two-minute drills they've enjoyed. Wondering if you think it is communication with guys in their first year in the system, difficulty getting drives started, an effort to manage the clock and protect the D or maybe something they intend to use as a playoff surprise. With Brady's ability to read D schemes, the quicker pace seems to offer great advantage and given the fitness and conditioning demands with their limited substitutions, I don't know why I'm not seeing it more.
Brian Sisco

I do agree with most of the reasons you stated that the Patriots haven't used much up tempo this season. I would also add that there are differences between the two-minute drill and up tempo, no-huddle offense during the regular part of the game. During the two-minute drill there is very little substitution and not much running game, so it's not the same as up tempo where balance is still in play. But as I said I agree with you that there probably is some desire to protect the defense a bit by holding onto the ball rather than risking quick possessions. I do believe we will see it more in the playoffs, however, especially if the offense gets Chris Hogan and James White back into the mix, as expected.
Paul Perillo


Love your column. And respect your opinions. This week I was surprised by your DE question. The answer to which Patriots DE would you would want back regardless of price has to be Richard Seymour. At the time of his leaving he was arguably the best or one of the best 3-4 defense DEs in the league. With him they beat the Giants in 2011.
Andy Cooper

Not sure what the original question was but I can wholeheartedly agree with your assessment of Seymour. If we're talking about a player the Patriots let go that we could have back, regardless of price, Seymour would be a great answer. I remember the 2009 season, the first without him, and the trouble the Patriots had stopping the run in the playoff game against Baltimore when Ray Rice ran crazy. Seymour was a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame and I wouldn't be surprised if he advanced further in the process next year.
Paul Perillo

This question is for Paul (my attempt to crack the all-powerful PFW trio). Regarding that ESPN report, how do you think the very tight-run organization suddenly allowed to leak such intimate information as for example BB being told to trade Garoppolo and then upset and demoralized after the meeting with Robert Kraft? I mean, somebody had to be there to witness it and then have the guts to leak it?
Jeff Stewart

Clearly we are not in a position to witness these kinds of events and as a result can't really discuss them with any degree certainty. To answer your question, it's basically impossible to know who exactly would be willing to talk to a reporter regarding such things. But I'm also not naïve enough to dismiss it as a possibility. If Belichick was indeed upset about having to trade Garoppolo, a fact that Kraft disputed later, then it wouldn't be stunning to learn the coach wanted to get his side of things made public. But I want to state again that we have no idea how these anecdotes got shared with ESPN and whether or not any of them are true.
Paul Perillo


It was awesome to see that Ty Law and Randy Moss have been named Hall of Fame finalists. Hopefully they get the nod and both make it in this year. Speaking of HOF candidates, I do have a case for Wes Welker. I realize he doesn't have the flashy numbers and all the hype like most HOF have. Lately it seems the HOF has been a Hall of Been Very Good or Hall of Longevity. During his playing days and even now people often refer to players as the next Wes Welker or playing the slot positon like Wes Welker or teams are looking for that Wes Welker type of player. He played the game at a high level all the time. He defined or re-defined the slot receiver positon. Shouldn't that be HOF worthy? Wes Welker changed the game and a positon and we will be talking about him for years to come. Any thoughts? Do you think he is HOF worthy?
Michael Vaughn

I think you make a very compelling case for Welker and you are correct that he played at a high level for a long time. And I even think you undersold him in one regard – that he doesn't have the flashy numbers. He actually has great numbers in terms of receptions and that's likely the reason he will receive some consideration. However, I don't believe he is a Hall of Famer because I never really felt he dominated the game. He was very productive when he played with Brady and Peyton Manning, which obviously helps quite a bit. I have tons of respect for Welker and how hard he played. If he gets in I wouldn't complain about it. But I don't view him at the elite level.
Paul Perillo

I remember Bill said that he wouldn't coach into his 70s and I believe he is getting close to that age. If he were to retire at the end of the year, which coordinator would you hire as head coach? Would you give the GM title as well or give that to Nick?
Monty Borrowman

Belichick is still just 65 so he's not quite entering his 70s yet so no need to panic at this point. Belichick also said this week that he "absolutely" intends to return to the Patriots next season. But to play along with your question, it would be tough to have either coordinator replace Belichick because there's a great chance that both McDaniels and Matt Patricia will be moving on to head coaching positions elsewhere. Even if they knew Belichick was leaving, under your premise, I'm not sure staying to replace a legend at the tail end of Brady's career with the other coordinator likely leaving would be such an enticing situation. But if forced to pick, I'd go with McDaniels as the replacement.
Paul Perillo

With Malcolm Mitchell designated to return and assuming he does, who do you think is more likely to be cut to make way Phillip Dorsett or Kenny Britt? I know there could be injuries elsewhere and also they could go back to just two tight ends and try to get Jacob Hollister to the practice squad, but I can't see them keeping seven receivers including Matthew Slater.
Len Carmody

First, I'm not sure Mitchell is going to get activated at all. I believe he's practicing as an insurance policy in case one of the other receivers gets injured. This is also assuming that Chris Hogan is healthy and ready to go in the playoffs. If he's not, then he could move to IR to make room. I don't believe Dorsett or Britt would be released to make room because I feel Belichick has plans for both in the future. There are plenty of candidates to be let go to make room for Mitchell if Belichick chooses to go in that direction.
Paul Perillo

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