Based on your experience and knowledge of how the Patriots operate do you think the team would be more inclined to acquire Josh Rosen, trade up for TE T.J. Hockenson or Noah Fant and perhaps one or two more prospects and be satisfied or would you say they are probably more inclined to draft for a combination of quality/quantity then ideally add this draft to last year’s group returning to possibly form what might be a whole new generation of youth and stability. If even say three of the aforementioned from last year's draft contribute a lot then add in say 5-7 additional players out of their 12 picks would that not lay the foundation for continued success for the foreseeable future?
I always expect Bill Belichick to be very active in the trade department and I’m expecting more deals involving established NFL players using the abundance of draft picks the Patriots have. Belichick talked last week about the scouting process being easier when dealing with NFL players over the college game, and I expect him to look that way once again, whether it be for Rosen or perhaps a receiver or tight end (Minnesota’s Kyle Rudolph has been talked about in various reports). Trading up in the draft for Hockenson is a possibility as well, assuming he doesn’t land in the top 10 as many are starting to project as of late. The Patriots won’t be able to go from 32 to the top 10, but if the landing spot is closer to 20 then I think there’s a chance. I also believe last year’s class should help, particularly Ja’Whaun Bentley. In terms of how much help, that’s tough to say considering most of the 2018 class never saw the field. Expecting 5-7 players from a draft class seems ambitious though. That would be a lot of hits in the draft. I expect Belichick to move, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he moves up, but it’s hard to tell without knowing how the board unfolds.
In view of Josh Gordon’s possible return and Rob Gronkowski’s possible recall later, what is your choice for first pick for the Patriots, wide receiver or tight end?
I don’t think Gordon or Gronk will factor into the Patriots draft plans at all, especially Gordon. The Patriots can’t rely on him even being reinstated, let alone to be a dependable piece to the offense if he is. Gronk’s situation is a little different, but my assumption would be the team knows if there is even a chance that he’ll return. Personally I won’t be shocked if he stays retired and has had enough. We shall see. But to answer the question I feel both positions are equally dire and in need of some young talent. I’d go tight end because I feel Hockenson, Fant and Irv Smith are all worthy of being selected last in the first round. There are several interesting wide receivers as well, but I feel there’s more depth at that spot and the second or third round could yield a quality player there. Either way, tight end or wideout, the Patriots need some bodies.
A previous writer asked about running back depth, mentioning T.J. Yeldon (who I also like) would be a good pickup for the Patriots. I think that Jeremy Hill, depending on his health, and possibly LeGarrette Blount (as long as he runs straight ahead and not sideways) would be bigger, short-yardage options. Of the three, which one(s) do you think would be the best fit for the Patriots? Do you think the Patriots will sign any of them?
The Patriots reportedly has Yeldon in for a visit last week but I’ve always looked at him as more of a passing back. He does have some size at 6-1, 223 pounds but he’s never really been much of a red zone threat with just six rushing touchdowns in four seasons in Jacksonville. He has caught 50 or more passes in a season twice, so he does have ability. In terms of a power back, I’d re-sign Hill if he’s healthy. I think he would have filled that role nicely last season if not for the torn ACL. Sony Michel did a nice job at the goal line last year when called upon and he should improve with some experience. I don’t have any interest in Blount at this point as I feel the Patriots have plenty of better options already on the roster.
Do you think the 2019 schedule will influence draft selections? 2019 looks to be very competitive and a number of the young QBs will be better--KC, Houston, Cleveland, Ravens, Eagles, Dallas and dare I include the Jets?
Funny, I feel like the 2019 schedule is shaping up as a fairly routine one for the Patriots, especially with most of the tougher opponents coming to Foxborough. But regardless of how tough or easy the schedule winds up being, teams don’t draft with the opponents in mind. I’m sure there are times when a team’s division can influence a pick. As an example, if you’re playing against the Patriots twice a year you might load up on defense if you don’t think your team is capable of outscoring them. Or like when the AFC South teams worried about keeping up with the Colts when Peyton Manning was there. But as a rule I feel teams try to find the best players to fit their systems and can contribute to wins regardless of opponents. There is probably some thought given to adding to the secondary in free agency in a year when you will be facing a lot of strong quarterbacks and things of that nature, but I’m not sure Belichick will draft differently because the Eagles and Cowboys are on the schedule instead of the Bears and Packers. At some point, if you want to win it all, you need to have players who are capable of beating everyone.
I suspect that Pats may trade for T.J. Hockenson if he drops out of top 15-20, and if they can't get him, they will draft Jace Sternberger at the bottom of the second round. What do you think about this plan?
I agree all around. I like Hockenson but I don’t want to move too far up in the first round to get him. Around 20 or so would be fine with me, but not too much higher. I like Sternberger’s ability to catch the ball and I’d love him at the bottom of the second round. Sign me up for your plan, Mark.
We need a TE so we can get Irv Smith from Alabama.
We’ve talked a lot about tight ends already this week, about trading up for Hockenson and waiting to the end of the second round for Sternberger or someone else. I feel Smith would be a great option for the Patriots if they decide to sit tight end pick at No. 32. I like Smith’s mobility and athleticism. He can make big plays in the passing game, and while he’s not the blocker that Hockenson is, he has the ability to be an impact receiver. I’d take Smith at 32 if he’s available.
With Gronk retiring and Brady getting old, do you think that the New England Patriots will ever be like the 2007 Patriots? And who should we mostly recommend getting in the free agency?
I’m not quite sure I understand what the question is here. What is “be like the 2007 Patriots” and how does that relate to Gronk and Brady? Are you asking if the Patriots can be dominant and go undefeated in the regular season like in 2007, then my answer would probably be no. That was a special season when a lot of things came together and worked out … unfortunately until the bitter end. I also wonder if the point here is about the aggressive nature to that offseason when the Patriots added a number of impact, big-money acquisitions that were a big part of that team. At this stage of the offseason I believe that ship has sailed as well. Of course there’s still the draft and the possibility of adding players through trades to bolster the team. In short, there’s a lot of time between now and September when the season starts.
What backup do you see to play behind Isaiah Wynn at left tackle?
I would expect the Patriots to draft a tackle at some point with the idea of having him compete for the backup job. There are a few candidates returning up front as well, including Cole Croston, Dan Skipper, Cedrick Lang and Ryker Matthews. That group could also see an addition such as Ulrick John, who spent last season on injured reserve but is currently a free agent. Adding a tackle in the draft could also serve as a potential replacement for Marcus Cannon in 2020, but at the very least would add some depth for this season.
I know it does not appear to be a pressing need but the safety position worries me. It is a matter of age and speed, and strangely enough, of communication. I also am mildly concerned about Tom Brady having taken up Twitter (not because of his joke ). They tell me that its use weakens one's ability to concentrate.
Folger Mac Fadden
Safety is certainly one of the team’s secondary needs. Patrick Chung is dealing with a couple of significant injuries and may or may not be ready to go in training camp, although the reported contract adjustment the team gave him recently shows how much he’s valued and respected in Foxborough. Devin McCourty talked openly about retiring during Super Bowl week, so it’s obviously possible that this is his final season. Duron Harmon remains in the mix as well, and we should get to see more of Obi Melifonwu during training camp to see if he fits in. But the Patriots could use a young body to groom for the future and add some depth in the present. I just feel there are more pressing needs earlier in the draft.
It’s probably not unfair to say that Derek Rivers now has had two red-shirt years with the Pats since he wasn’t suited up for most of the games this year. When he’s been on the field, his body of work hasn’t impressed. Is there any hope for him to become a contributor?
Rivers hasn’t gotten many opportunities to play during his time in New England, mostly through no fault of his own. The torn ACL he suffered during his first training camp not only took his rookie season but it had to impact his second year as well. At times he looked like he might be earning some opportunities as an extra edge rusher but that never materialized on a consistent basis. The coaches have been very supportive of him and Belichick has said more than once that he has a bright future. With that in mind I’m going to hold out hope that he gets more chances to play in Year 3 to show us if his athleticism can translate to production on the field. Rivers has some tools to be successful if he can get over the hump. Obviously this is a huge season for him.
This year’s draft for QBs looks very weak. What are the chances the Patriots just don’t bother drafting a QB this year even if it might be 80/20 Brady’s last season?
I agree with your assessment of the quarterback class this year. I don’t think it’s an overly strong group, but I would also be surprised if at least one or two don’t emerge as pretty solid players. The question is, which ones will succeed and where will they be selected? That’s tough to gauge but assuming there’s at least one the Patriots like it depends on how it all falls. Reports indicated that Duke’s Daniel Jones and West Virginia’s Will Greer visited Foxborough for pre-draft meetings with the team. It’s certainly possible that New England would have the opportunity to draft either one if they were interested. I like Greer more than Jones but honestly I’m not sold on either. Greer seems to take a lot of chances with the ball and plays at times with a gunslinger’s mentality. I don’t like that profile in the Patriots offense. But clearly I’m not the one making those decisions, and if Belichick likes one who is available it would make sense. My feeling at this stage is the Patriots will draft one but not high enough to be considered a possible replacement for Brady down the road.