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Ask PFW: Shooting the breeze about the draft

This week's mailbag, as you might expect, is mostly about the upcoming NFL Draft.

I was wondering how you would rank the top OTs (Anthony Costonzo, Tyron Smith, Gabe Carimi, Nate Solder, Derek Sherrod, and Benjamin Ijalana). Different "experts" seem to all have them ranked in a different order. I also was wondering which one you think the Pat's might pick up early on in the draft. Thanks.
Sam M.

It's not surprising that those experts to whom you refer can't agree on a ranking because it's not a great year for tackles. That might be the most talented of the o-line positions this year, but there are by no means any sure-fire, franchise tackles – guys you would take in the top five picks. The Dallas Cowboys might stretch and take one at nine overall, according to many mock drafts, but otherwise, I'd expect the first tackles to be selecting in the bottom half of the first round.

Ranking these guys is difficult, but if you force me to, I'd put Costonzo first, given his experience, followed closely by Solder. Smith is young (only turned 20 in December) and underweight for the position, but has enormous potential, so I'd put him third, with Sherrod on his heels. Carimi would argue that he deserves the top spot (he said so at the Combine), but I'm not convinced. Ijalana has versatility to play tackle or guard, but he "wows" the least of this group.
Erik Scalavino

Due to the CBA [dispute], can a team trade draft picks for next year's draft choices? What are the chances that a guy like Da'Quan Bowers will be present for the 17th pick because of a lousy pro day? Also what are the chances of a guy like a Marvin Austin to get drafted at the end of the first or beginning of second round? He would be a reliable backup and could learn behind Vince Wilfork.Milosz Gajda

Hi PFW, thanks for your hard work! Let me start by saying I think the players and owners are both way too greedy and need to come to an agreement for the sake of die hard fans such as myself. I was wondering what you think of Da'Quan Bowers. I think it would be worth the risk if he drops to 28 to take him. Thanks for keeping this offseason interesting (no thanks to the players and owners).
Dave Sarro

Yes, 2012 draft choices are available for bartering this year. Teams supposedly can use them "at their own risk," because if the labor unrest to which you referred drags out into next year, there's a possibility (however remote) that there wouldn't be a draft. Highly unlikely, though, as I say.

As to your follow-up questions, it's virtually a guarantee that a blue chip prospect will fall in the first round. Happens every year, for various reasons. A bad pro day alone isn't justification for this, however. A bad pro day, combined with poor showings at the Combine and personal visits with teams, plus off-field issues, are generally to blame. Other times, a particular position isn't needed and there's a run at another spot, causing talented players to fall.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Bowers dropped, but if there are pass rushing outside linebackers still on the board at 17, I'd take one of them over him. If he's still there at 28, I'd consider him. Austin could surprise and be taken higher, but I would guess he'll be a second-day pick.
Erik Scalavino

Out of all the mock drafts in the Patriots Mock Draft Tracker, which one would you be most satisfied with? Also, would you be surprised if the Pats took two OLB in their first four picks? Thanks guys and keep up the great work.
Scott Macone

PFW's, of course. Look for it in the latest issue, on newsstands this week. And no, I wouldn't be at all surprised if New England grabbed two outside 'backers over the first two days. I'd expect it, actually, given the dearth of depth and talent at the position.
Erik Scalavino

Do you guys think that Cameron Jordan can stand up in BB's 3-4? He's a big guy, more typically DE size (though he's even a bit under-weight for that), but he runs a 4.7 40. I feel like he could be a "tweener" who can hunker down and play end while also standing up to play OLB, giving the Pats a sort of hybrid 3-4/4-3 look. Am I misdiagnosing his skill set?
Pascal Rawls-Philippe

No, you're not, Pascal. Yes, I do think Jordan can be an outside 'backer in Bill Belichick's scheme, and have been saying so for the past few months. He might need to drop a few lbs to play LB on the outside, and he'd likely be a "set the edge" player first, but I see potential in him to be a productive player in the 3-4.
Erik Scalavino

With the guard position relatively safe (with Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly). Do you see a second-round tackle being taken by the Pats? If so, who? Or do you think that Bill Belichick has to find one in the first round?
Griffin Yun

First of all, Griffin, the Patriots are anything but safe at guard. Mankins has been designated the team's franchise player, yes, but who knows if that will stand once the new collective bargaining agreement is finalized. For all we know, Mankins could end up a free agent. So, I'm not taking his spot on the 2011 roster for granted. I like Connolly, too, but it can't hurt to upgrade the position with a potential starter or another versatile player who can move either inside or out along the o-line. Depending on which names are still on the board at the 28th pick, I wouldn't rule out BB taking a tackle, but more likely, he'll wait till the second round, I'd say, to grab one. Remember, Sebastian Vollmer (the expected future left tackle) was a second-round choice. It would be difficult to justify taking a player who'll occupy the less glamorous right tackle position in the first round.
Erik Scalavino

G'day, guys! Love to hear your thoughts on my Pats mock. Trade pick 17 and 60 (and another late-rounder, if needed) to move up to Dallas or Washington in the first round to draft OLB/DE Robert Quinn, then DL Cameron Heyward at 28, best available OT at 33. This obviously depends on IF Quinn lasts that long. If not, does Ryan Kerrigan at 17 make sense?
Ben Peterson, Australia

I like your idea of trading up for Quinn, and Dallas or Washington (more likely the latter, in my estimation) would be reasonable partners. New England would have to get up there, if they really want Quinn, because I don't see the Houston Texans passing him up at 11. I'd be OK with Heyward at 28 as well, although I'm somewhat intrigued by Muhammad Wilkerson from Temple at that position, too. A tackle at 33 makes sense. So, overall, I like your scenario ... Good on ya, mate! Your backup plan works, too, provided Kerrigan hasn't already been taken, which many mocks say he will be.
Erik Scalavino

I keep hearing over and over the Pats finally need to turn these picks into play-makers from every Tom, Dick and Harry. They say trade up to get a star difference-making player. They say we do not have space on the roster, and we need to win now. While I agree, I was wondering what you thought about this idea. Why not be more aggressive? I was adding up our picks value and think we could come in the ballpark of getting the 10th pick for our 28th,33rd, and 125th, and then our 17th and 74th for the 13th pick. This leaves us with 2 of the top 13 picks in the draft, plus a 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and 6th rounder to play with. What do you think? Also, I keep seeing Cam Newton as the number one pick by the Panthers. This is completely absurd to me. I do not see the Panthers getting much better in one year. So why draft a reach with potential when you could take the best player in the whole draft this year(who is not Cam Newton) then finish last in the league again and get Andrew Luck next year?
*James Sammons *

I like the aggressive draft tactics, James. It would certainly make our jobs at PFW much more entertaining on draft weekend. I'd be stunned if it actually worked out that way, though. And I'm with you on the Andrew Luck suggestion. I think Newton is destined to be a bust, and not the kind you find in Canton.
Erik Scalavino

Hey, guys, the Patriots need to add a WR in the draft because they are thin after Branch and Welker. Because they have more immediate needs in the early rounds (OLB, OT, DE), a late round WR pick makes sense. Vincent Brown (SDSU), Greg Salas (Hawaii) and Tandon Doss (Indiana) all look intriguing to me. Brown had a bad Combine, but looked great in college. He could be a sleeper pick in Round 4 or 5. Which receivers do you see as prospective Patriots? Thanks.
Bob Malloy

So, it's sleeper receivers you're looking for, eh? I'll give you a couple of names to consider in a minute, but first, some comments on the ones you threw out there. Brown's tape was average. He seems capable, if not spectacular. I like Salas. He has a nice size/speed combination and doesn't shy away from contact. Haven't seen any tape on Doss yet, but here are some other names to remember: Denarius Moore, Tennessee, and DeAndre Brown, Southern Miss. Moore, in particular, looks like a Patriots-type player to me.
Erik Scalavino

I know teams can't talk to free agent rookies with the lockout. Why doesn't [Patriots owner Robert] Kraft either buy a UFL team or work a deal with the Hartford team to draft players for that team and when the lockout is over the Patriots can sift though the gems and buy their contracts?
Ed Trivisonno

The more important question is, why are you so concerned about undrafted rookie free agents? I know at least one makes the Patriots roster almost every year under Bill Belichick, but that's more coincidence than anything substantive. Those kinds of players certainly aren't worth the trouble you're asking ownership to go through to find bottom-of-the-roster talent.
Erik Scalavino

I was wondering, instead of using a high draft pick for a running back, if the Patriots looked into Tiki Barber. I still see potential in Barber. I see the Patriots need to use their first two rounds for pass rushers and a wide receiver.
Andrew L.

The Patriots brass always does its due diligence on players, young and old. So, I'm sure they're aware of Barber, the former Giant's situation. If I were making the decisions, though, I wouldn't waste my time on him. I'd be looking for the next big thing in the draft this year. I don't see potential in guys who are several years into retirement who then want to return suddenly for what appear to be purely financial considerations. Plus, he wasn't universally admired in his former locker room in New York. The last thing the Patriots need is a divisive figure in their midst. Remember what they did to the last guy who made waves around here?
Erik Scalavino

Hi guys!! I know your busy and all with the football info/work and whatnot, BUT why no updates on who is visiting us for workouts and look overs?? I could be wrong, but I haven't seen any updates or names on what rookies are coming to town for a look-see? Might give you all a new thing to post on with the lull in football info and action going on and possibly quite some time! Just a suggestion you did the "who's visiting" section last year, so, why not this year too?? Keep up the good work guys ! And thank you for all you do! ;-)
James Grady

Tsk, tsk, tsk … Oh, James, how disappointed I am in you (especially someone who's visited our radio studio)! Yes, you are wrong. Very wrong, indeed. Are you not aware of **the PFW blog**, my friend? We've been on top of this all along.
Erik Scalavino

Dear Erik, can you please tell Andy to stop calling me?
Robert Quinn

I tried, Robert, I really did. But it's no use. The man has an unhealthy obsession with you. And, I'm afraid, it's only going to get worse if the Patriots actually select you in the draft. Just be ready for it. In fact, as a precaution, you might want to talk to an attorney now about filing a restraining order.
Erik Scalavino

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