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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Wed Feb 21 - 04:00 PM | Thu Feb 22 - 09:55 AM

Ask PFW: Pondering the Patriots draft

Three days, two trades and nearly one dozen draft picks have left Patriots fans with plenty of questions coming out of the 2015 NFL Draft.

I'm sure the same question will flood your mail bag this week...I don't get the 2nd-round pick of a SS with limited speed and coverage skills. BB had a shot at a top receiver (Strong) a guard (Cann) a corner or two (Williams) Drafting Tavon Wilson cost us a starting lineman like Peter Konz, I see this the same way. Can you explain? I also thought Michael Bennett was too attractive to pass up as late as the 6th round. Are there character concerns? Think of a three-man DT rotation of Dominique Easley, Bennett and Malcolm Brown.

Great job every week guys, you make my Tuesdays!
Andrew , Chicago IL

I, too, was surprised by the Jordan Richards pick in the second round. And certainly comparisons to the Wilson pick are a natural reaction. I won't pretend to know a lot about Richards' play. He was, though, universally considered a late-round pick. His 4.5-4.6 40 time isn't great, but not horrific. By all accounts he's a great worker, leader, teammate and has a high football IQ. Do I have my doubts? Yes. As for Bennett, I don't really have an answer for his drop in the draft. He was considered a second- or third-round pick. He's the son of a military family and I'm not aware of off-field issues. Some question his fit in the NFL and his motor on the field at times. Still, he had a big drop. That said, I wasn't overly upset the Patriots passed. I was focused elsewhere and think they did a nice job on the defensive line as it is.
Andy Hart

From BB post-draft comments, I found no indication that either of the right guards Patriots drafted, Jackson or Mason, can play left guard. Also, Mason is a raw run blocker with no pass protection experience. Thus we have LG position not upgraded and given how tough D-lines Patriots will face in this season, I wonder if Patriots could have taken one less defender and instead a LG? If so, why not take LG in second round, while picking Richardson and LS a round later and not drafting Dickson who is likely a practice squad candidate?
Stan Cohan

Stan, take a breath and relax. Just because Jackson and Mason played right guard in college doesn't mean they can't play left guard in the NFL. Logan Mankins played left tackle in college and then left guard in the NFL. Sebastian Vollmer played left tackle and now stars on the right side. Guys switch sides all the time. My guess is that at least one of those guys, probably both, will be capable of playing left guard if needed. And let's not forget that Dan Connolly could still certainly return to the left guard spot for at least one more year. I like the two guard picks and think there is a good shot Jackson will be fighting for a starting job as a rookie. Mason may have a longer transition, but he's an intriguing prospect as well. All Belichick was saying that he hasn't really seen them play left guard yet. Don't read too much into that or jump to negative conclusions. Save that job for us in the media!
Andy Hart

Some columnists are describing Patriots draft as boosting pass-rush, but I see the background of some defenders drafted as being more proven in run stopping. Would you agree?
Keith L.

I would agree with you, Keith. I don't think the Patriots really picked any dominant, front-changing pass rushers. I see more well-round players who are capable against the pass as well as the run. That's not to say I'm in any way down on the draft. I just think people are getting a little caught up with the whole theory that to overcome a lack of depth/talent in the back end of the pass defense the Patriots are putting together some dominant defensive front. Sorry, but I don't see any J.J. Watt, Lawrence Taylor, Andre Tippett or Jason Taylor types in the mix. And even if I did, I don't think you can win simply with a front. Good to great defenses generally have good to great coverage ability in the back end. It is what it is.
Andy Hart

Few questions.1) We did not pick a WR in the draft, does this mean the Patriots think Dobson can contribute this year?

2) Why did we use all of our draft picks (no trades into next year or moving up in draft)? With 11 picks in this year's draft and a big free agent signing class (number-wise) there will be a lot of cuts in a few months and is this an indication that none of the lower-round picks in the last 2-3 years (Buchanan, Boyce, Z. Moore, Bequette) have not (and will not) panned out.

What surprised me was not picking a KR. We can't have our starting WR returning kicks. Otherwise a good draft.
Nader Behbehani

I did think the Patriots would use a mid- or late-round pick on an outside receiver. But I don't think the lack of such a pick really says anything about Dobson. He was a non-factor a year ago and the offense was very good. The group returns its top three WRs and top four pass catchers. That's good depth. If Dobson can add to that, great. If not, no big deal. I do think on some level a lot of the draft picks – Jordan Richards, Geneo Grissom, Trey Flowers, Shaquille Mason – could push other young developmental guys off the roster this summer. Guys like Tavon Wilson, Bequette, Buchanan, Jordan Devey and others have more competition today than they did at the start of last week. As for the kick return duties, I'm not terribly concerned. It hasn't been an area of strength in quite some time in a league where the value of that role has been diminished, even when given to a variety of different players. Danny Amendola, LeGarrette Blount, Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and others are all capable. And who knows which young player might be able to prove himself in that role this summer.
Andy Hart

Hello, Overall I was very happy with the Patriots selections in the draft.  Getting some talented pass rushers and beefing up the O-Line is a great start. However, like many, I am still very concerned with our DBs. I hope our Super Bowl hero, Malcolm Butler, can continue his progress and break into the starting lineup. My question, do you think Coach is really satisfied with the likes of Arrington and Co. or could there be a late trade AKA the Aqib Talib deal a few years ago? Thanks for the great job!
Larry from BroncoLand.

I would and never will rule out a trade I just can't predict one to happen, either. I don't think it's easy and the Talib trade worked about as well as anyone could have expected. But finding high-level cornerbacks is seemingly becoming more difficult by the year. Teams that have starting-caliber corners tend to hold on to them if at all possible. I do think that the Patriots like the group of Arrington, Butler, Fletcher and McClain a bit more than we seem to as media/fans. Time will tell if that faith is rewarded or misplaced. There is no question the cornerback position – which has lost a combined total of 29 2014 starts from the spot this spring – is going to be the story of the summer and maybe the story of the defense throughout the season.
Andy Hart

A couple of questions about the O line. Tom Curran mentioned in a telephone interview about Dan Connolly not being the long term answer for the Pats. As far as I can tell they haven't re-signed him. Any word on a contract with him?

Second question is who would be the backup for Soldier in the event that he becomes injured? I don't see anyone slated in the depth chart as a backup.Happy with the draft -- added some good depth and the obligatory head scratcher in the second round!

Keep up the good work!
Dwight from Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan

Connolly has not re-signed but he's also not signed elsewhere. So the door is certainly open for a return. My guess is the two sides have a differing view of the veteran's value right now. The player likely is shooting higher and the team coming in lower. Still, my gut tells me he could be brought back at any point. Then Tre' Jackson, Ryan Wendell and others could compete for a single guard spot. While Connolly isn't the long-term answer, he certainly could be a solid starter for the next year or so. Solder's backup would likely be Sebastian Vollmer, the right tackle flipping sides. Then someone like Marcus Cannon would slide into the right tackle spot.
Andy Hart

Check out our favorite photos of Patriots seventh round pick (247th overall) Darryl Roberts, a Cornerback out of Marshall.

Hi guys. Great job you do. All fans appreciate! Especially here in France (yes there are fans here too!). I wanted to ask a question about Roberts but there will be some others I am sure. So about La'El Collins, I wanted to know why no team took 7th round risk on him? (We all know 7th round is just a bet!) If something is wrong with him at the end, OK the pick will be lost. But if nothing is wrong with him it would be a steal pick! I suppose your answer will be that no team wanted to give a bad image by doing that…
Mr. L

Certainly in the current landscape of the NFL's sensitivity to domestic violence and off-field issues, PR was a major consideration with Collins on draft weekend. In case anyone is unaware of the LSU lineman's situation, his name was connected to the murder investigation of his pregnant former girlfriend, though he was not labeled a suspect. He met with Louisiana police this week, but nothing has been definitively cleared up at this point. Collins had been projected as a potential first-round pick. He went undrafted. He supposedly had threatened that if he were drafted on the third day of the draft he would sit out a year and re-enter the draft next spring in an attempt to return to his elite prospect status. That may have scared some teams away from taking the chance, although the issue itself was likely more of the problem. Regardless, Collins is now an undrafted rookie free agent reportedly visiting with the likes of the Bills, Dolphins and others before he decides who to sign with. Because he went undrafted, he cannot sit out and wait for next year's draft. His draft eligibility is gone forever.
Andy Hart

Hi guys, while researching Jordan Richards I found out his father played at Tufts University, I was wondering if Andy played with him?Thanks,

Um, I'm not sure if this is a joke or not. How old do you think I am?! Richards' dad was a Jumbo in the late 1970s. I was in the late 1990s. But an injection of some Jumbo blood in New England can't hurt! Yeah, 'Bos!
Andy Hart

Two questions: 1) two good OL prospects both really right guards. Mason was drafted as a center, and given his build that might be his best position. From what you've seen of Bryan Stork, is it possible the Pats would shift him to left guard? Does he have the pass-blocking skills to play there? I would feel better if Dan Connelly re-signs.2) Loading up with guys who sound a lot like Rob Ninkovich. Pats will be paying a lot more to Jones next year. If one of the rookies pans out, do we say good-bye to Rob?
Dave P.

Another email with concerns about drafting two guys who haven't played left guard. I'm not worried. And I do not think that Stork has much of a future as a guard. I think he's a pure center. I don't get why we would project that Stork – also taken in the fourth round -- could move to left guard but Jackson or Mason couldn't. Mason is a little shorter than ideal for guard, but we'll see how that pans out when he gets on the practice field. He's clearly more of a developmental pick than Jackson, who seems to be far more pro-ready given the offense he played in at a high level at Florida State. As for Ninkovich, I do think some of the picks made on the defensive front were made with an eye on him aging and probably needing to be replaced in the future. He's been so durable – he's started all 16 games in each of the last four years -- but heading into his 10th season it may not be realistic to expect that to continue and for him to be able to continue to play as much as he does and play at a high level. The draft brought some developmental options who might be able to give Ninkovich a breather in the short term and, who knows, replace the solid veteran over the long haul. But that's still probably a couple years away, especially for a guy who just tweaked his deal with a reported $3 million signing bonus this spring.
Andy Hart

A question for Andy - Based on what you have seen, now that the Patriots have a potentially effective nose tackle in Malcolm Brown, does Joe Vellano have any chance of returning to his position from his final year at Maryland as a 3-4 defensive end if he drops down to 280lbs? It is hard to imagine Joe getting any playing time at DT with all the new additions and a healthy Easley. What say you?
Ralph Colucci

I do think that Vellano's chances for playing time at defensive tackle are slim. He did get plenty of reps as a 3-4 end last summer in training camp – when he actually played basically wire-to-wire in preseason games with reps at end and tackle. That said, he probably faces an uphill battle as a 3-4 end, too. First, the team isn't a base 3-4 team anymore. Second, there is pretty good depth at end at this point as well. Vellano is a scrappy, feisty guy, but he will face major competition to retain his roster spot this summer. He's really a backup player regardless of where he plays and in which scheme. But I'll be pulling for Meatball to make the squad.
Andy Hart

Hey guys in my opinion I think this was one of the best drafts we have had in years so much depth in each position it was like Belichick was a kid in a candy store!!... My question is do you see Malcolm Brown and Easley being the starting DTs this year and used on all three downs they both have pass rush abilities and can penetrate opposing Olines?...Also how do you see Matthew Wells being used? He looks like a strong safety but was a productive cover LB in college. Maybe if he puts on weight he can be a Jamie Collins type hybrid and used in sub packages?
Jeremy Roberts

I certainly think Brown and Easley will compete for starting jobs. At this point, crazy as it may sound, I think there is a better chance of Brown starting than Easley. Brown doesn't have any known injuries as he starts his career and is a very versatile guy with an NFL-ready big body. Easley has to prove he can be healthy and ready for regular action. That said, Easley has a better chance to be a three-down player given his athletic pass-rush and penetration skills. Brown might play three downs at times, but the influx of sub packages will see him come off the field more often. As for Wells, I think he'll be a hybrid safety/linebacker type. His first reps could come as a Money player, the sixth defensive back, in dime packages. It's a linebacker-like role that should suit his skills and experience. I'm not sure he'll ever be an every-down safety. He's probably a special teamer, sub guy. I certainly wouldn't compare him to Collins. And if he did add weight I'd be worried that would cut into his speed and athleticism. 
Andy Hart

Thanks for keeping Pats fans in the loop especially during the offseason!Having the last name Aiken, I have watched with interest over the years as guys with the same last name (no relation -- that is, that I know of) have come and gone (remember Kamar and Sam?). The latest Aiken -- Danny, the long snapper -- has been with the team for several years now and, with the exception of the time he snapped the ball over the punter's head in the 2013 AFC championship game in Denver, performed well. I sensed that all was not well in Aiken-world last year when the team released him then picked him up again. Which brings us to BB's comments at the draft about the pick of Joe Cardona -- what BB described about a "need based" pick. He mentioned several times that they needed a snapper. Are Danny Aiken's days over?Another question: I know we've had two Branches on the Pats -- Deion and Alan -- and two Gronks (Rob and Dan). Is any last name so well represented over the years as Aiken?Thanks,
Mark Aiken, Richmond, Vermont

I do think Aiken's days in New England may be numbered. He's an unsigned free agent right now and my understanding is that he may not be fully healthy at this point. Belichick did talk about Cardona as a need pick and as the best long snapper in the draft. If he can come to a resolution on his commitments to the Navy, Cardona sounds like he may have an inside lane to the job. Aiken has been very inconsistent the last couple years. Maybe some of that had to do with injuries. Maybe not. When he was released, no other team was interested enough to sign him. That probably says something. There are a lot of last names that end up on the roster with some frequency. Aiken is a dark horse. Brown (Troy, Chad, Kareem, Sergio and Malcom) is more common in the Belichick era. That's all the research I did on this topic, though. I'm still waiting for a Hart to join the Patriots roster fun!
Andy Hart

Thanks for all the excellent reports you posted over the draft. Of all the players we selected over the weekend, I'm most intrigued by Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers and the versatility and intangibles they bring. Last year, we saw Chandler Jones move inside to DT on some snaps and a variety of mix-and-match situations involving Akeem Ayers, Jones, Rob Ninkovich, Jamie Collins and Dont'a Hightower, with some dropping into coverage, others staying on the line to stop the run and the rest going after the quarterback, changing from snap to snap. I know it's early, but will they be primarily used in sub-packages, perhaps when Malcom Brown is off the field and we have a front seven with no big bodied defensive tackle and more defensive ends/athletic tackles and linebackers like Dominique Easley, Ninko, Jones, Hightower, Mayo, Collins, Jabaal Sheard – players to pressurize the opposition quarterback and track the tight ends, running backs and slot receivers? That would, in an ideal world, make things much easier for the defensive backs.

Speaking of which, the more I see and read about Jordan Richards, the more I see him taking reps from Patrick Chung as the season goes on, perhaps even moving around and playing in some nickel or dime formations – sometimes because the safety/cornerback positions are interchangeable following pre-snap movement by the offense – so we may not have an elite cornerback, but we have plenty of highly skilled and very versatile players on the defensive side of the ball who can adjust to whatever the opposing offensive coordinator/quarterback tries. Am I being overly optimistic?
David Beckett

I think you are being somewhat accurate and somewhat optimistic. I agree with your optimism in the front. I think Matt Patricia has a boatload of intriguing, versatile, athletic options to work with in the front seven. I really like the Grissom pick and think he might end up being a steal in this draft. (Others, though, think he was a big reach.) Health, as always, will be a factor. So, too, will be the swiftness with which the rookies pick things up and prove themselves ready for regular season action. But the group is fun to think about. I am not, however, as optimistic in the back end. I don't think Richards has any real cornerback ability, but rather is more of a hybrid with the linebacker position, if anything. He's a bit slower for a safety, getting by more on his head rather than his body. Could he take some reps from Chung? Sure. But I think those would be more in-the-box reps and not as much about coverage.
Andy Hart

I know I'm not the only one that was absolutely angered by the Jordan Richards pick. Here we go again. The Patriots love wasting early picks on safeties that have no business being drafted where the Patriots seem to draft them. Too many players that come to mind that were there for the taking. I was feeling so good how the draft started with Malcolm Brown falling to the 32nd pick. I slept so good that night. Then comes the 2nd round. Here we go again! Why, oh why would you not take the starting LG AJ Cann? He got drafted 3 picks later. Don't we want to protect the franchise QB? Do the Patriots not have a need and open spot at LG with Dan Connolly not being re-signed? How do the Patriots talent evaluators get this wrong again!

In a pass happy league, you draft a safety who is weak in coverage at least 3 rounds early? I will go to bed angry tonight!
Erik Sivertsen

Are the Patriots trying to stockpile 2nd round reaches at safety who could've been had in the 6th round?
Shawn M.

Hopefully Erik wrote this email on Friday night of the draft and hasn't been going to bed angry for the better part of a week. Richards is clearly going to be a hot topic coming out of this draft and into the early stages of his career. He obviously has some high expectations placed upon him as a second-round pick. That's just the reality. Second round picks are expected to be key contributors on either offense or defense, preferably starters. It's not his fault. He didn't pick himself. But the Patriots also didn't select Richards because they love wasting picks. My guess is that Belichick thinks he can help the team and fill an important role. We'll have to see what that role is and how it plays out. The memory/career of Tavon Wilson has people hating Richards before he even lands in Foxborough. That's not really fair to him. Give him a chance to prove what he can do. And even if the pick doesn't work out the venom should be focus on the guy making the pick and not the player. Also, don't let one questionable pick poison what otherwise seems like a pretty good draft at this early point in the evaluation process.
Andy Hart

Hi, before the draft you always said this or that player is "not worth" a first or second round pick. Is it just about status or a question of money? Are their rules how much money a player makes as a 1st or 7th round pick? Maybe a silly question, but as a fan from Germany I am not so familiar with all the rules. Thanks, keep up the good work!
Thorsten Geil

The higher the pick, the more money the player makes – both in guarantees and in overall value. But it's also about stature. You don't look to take a backup in the first round. You don't take a special teamer in the first few rounds. The higher the pick the more money he makes and the more expectations to contribute he faces.
Andy Hart

When you'll read my question, the draft will be done so what is your overall assessment of this year class of Patriots rookies? To be more precise, do you think they'll have an impact straight away this year? Thanks for the good job.
David Aubertin

I like the draft. Immediately after the conclusion of the seventh round I graded the 11 picks as a B-plus. I still feel that way. The team added potential starters – Malcom Brown and Tre' Jackson – at two key positions of need. Surely I would have liked to have seen the team add a corner prior to the seventh round, a guy who might be able to contribute as a rookie. Jordan Richards may look like a reach in the second round. But I also like the depth guys added on defense who have some intriguing upside. Trey Flowers has potential. As I said earlier, I think Grissom could be a very interesting guy given his versatility in a scheme that loves/maximizes versatility. Time will tell, but I think Brown, Jackson and Grissom will all have impacts as rookies. That's not too bad. It could certainly be better than the contributions from last year's rookie class. 
Andy Hart

With the money the Pats saved on Mayo's reworking, are they likely to tie Hightower down to a long term contract ASAP or will they try to tie down Collins to an early extension - maybe a Gronk-like deal keeping the original contract in place - as he's only going to get better and more expensive. That would leave them with the 5-year option for Hightower to give them another year to get it done. Or will they just play them both out this year and then let Mayo walk and use those funds for extending one or other?
Len Carmody

By rule, Collins cannot be signed to an extension until after 2015, his third NFL season. I won't be surprised if the Patriots seek a long-term deal with Hightower. But that may not be easy to get done. That money could also be put to use trying to ink Nate Solder – who is playing on his own fifth-year option in 2015 – to a longer contract extension. I'm sure there are a lot of irons in the fire at this point, though Collins, can't be one of them.
Andy Hart


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