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Ask PFW: Starting to feel the draft

I have recently had a rumor that the Patriots are looking to get LaVar Arrington. Is there any truth to this at all? I know the media feels like he is going to the state of Florida (Jaguars, or Dolphins).Amber Bennett

As far as I know, the Patriots have had no contact or shown any interest in Arrington. The Giants, Jaguars and Dolphins were considered to be the frontrunners to land Arrington but right now his asking price is too high. Would the Patriots be interested if his price goes down? Doubtful, but you never know. My money is on him ending up with either the Giants or Dolphins.
-Tom Casale

To the best of my recollection, Branch has yet to play all sixteen games. Is this accurate? How can we go into a season with such an unstable corps of WR? The past few years there have been some trades for draft picks, what are some potential trades that you foresee? Thanks and keep up the good work!Tim Beckley

Actually Tim, Branch played in all 16 games last year, starting 15 of them. He also played in 15 games back in 2003 with 11 starts. He has been a little injury prone over his career but 2005 was actually the healthiest season of his career. The receiving corps is unstable right now but don't expect that to be the case on opening day. Bill Belichick isn't going to enter the season with no receivers for Tom Brady to throw to. As far as trades go, I don't know of any that will happen for sure but with 11 draft picks at their disposal, you can expect the Patriots to be very, very active on draft day. I wouldn't be surprised if they traded up in this draft but it's just a hunch.
-Tom Casale

Is there any player out there who has caught your eyes from the smaller schools? I remember Gil Brandt was a genius at doing this. Not always going to the big schools for talent. Thanks.Bob Sulik

Well Bob, I'm no Gil Brandt but one guy I really like is New Mexico receiver Hank Baskett. He was very productive for a team that ran the ball most of the time, eclipsing 1,000 yards receiving on 67 receptions as a senior. The other thing I really like about Baskett is he's physical. Playing in a run-first offense, he became a very good blocker. Baskett said at the Combine he was proud of his blocking skills and at 6-3, he's a good red zone target.

Two other guys to watch out for are Chris Gocong – an undersized pass rusher from Cal Poly and Danieal Manning – a big, fast corner from Abilene Christian. Both players were extremely productive at the small school level, especially Gocong who finished his career with 42 sacks. At 6-3, 260, Gocong will probably end up as a 3-4 edge rusher in the NFL.
-Tom Casale

Hello, This is a great forum. I like the way the Pats build the roster, good to very good drafting with some veterans to round out the roster and enough depth to withstand injuries. It is sad to see favorites go but many greats have come and gone over the years and we wish all former Patriots well with there new teams (unless they are playing us). My question: Is the PFW team employees of the football club, like a PR division or are you an independent unit that works closely with the team?Chris Morris

I think you are looking at things with a very healthy attitude Chris. There is no reason to hate a guy like Adam Vinatieri just because he decided to sign elsewhere. Just root for him to miss kicks when he plays the Patriots but you don't have to despise him. Remember, we know little of what goes on in these negotiations and we also don't know these players personally. If you decide you want to root against Vinatieri, that's fine too but some of the e-mails we've received with the personal attacks on a player who did so much for the Patriots franchise are really uncalled for.

As for PFW, we do work directly for the New England Patriots. We are considered part of the media so we are treated like everyone else but we are employees of the Patriots. We fly to games on the team plane and stay at the team hotel when we are on the road. It's a pretty good gig.
-Tom Casale

Hey PFW I read your stuff every week. I have two questions regarding the secondary. I read the "possibilities at 21 running backs and defensive backs" article and saw that the Patriots are interested in Rich Marshall from Fresno State. From what I hear he's tough and a playmaker, but is he fast/quick? I did not watch any of his college films so I didn't know if any of the 3 INTs for TDs were a result of blocking by the defense or whether he just outran everybody. My 2nd question is why haven't the Pats pursued Charles Woodson yet? Woodson, although his past attitudes is less than favorable, is still an upgrade over Samuel and Gay.Andy notHart

Marshall is very quick for a cornerback. He's probably the most complete corner in the draft. He led the Bulldogs in tackles last year, so that shows how physical he is. His two interceptions of 100 and 75 yards were straight speed. He picked off the ball and he was gone. He also returned kicks in college, so that tells you what kind of game-breaker he is. Some people may not know a lot about him but when you break Marshall down on tape and compare him to the other cornerbacks in this draft, he's at the top of the list.

As for Woodson, there is a good explanation for why the Patriots haven't shown any interest in him. It's because he's one of the most overrated players in the NFL and his asking price is ridiculous. I'm sure some team will break down and pay him a lot of money but I doubt it will be a team coached by Bill Belichick.
-Tom Casale

Didn't the Pats offer Vinatieri a deal that would keep him the highest paid kicker in the game? Everyone is so quick to blame BB and SP for Vinatieri leaving but I blame him for being greedy. He just had to have that extra $500K a year? Like he couldn't get that from endorsement deals in the N.E. area? I have officially lost all respect for him. Although, seeing how he is getting towards the end of his career, it makes sense that he would want to take his candy ass inside a dome.Derek L

Adam Vinatieri will have a rude awakening when the 2006 season ends. He has traded off a one-time temporary influx of guaranteed salary to go to another team. By doing so, he is essentially cutting his additional revenue source of commercial endorsements, player related revenue income such as sales of jerseys, and endorsement bonuses he had with New England. He will soon realize that going to Indianapolis for an immediate increase of one million dollars, he will be leaving behind millions in New England. It is unlikely he will make another miracle winning goal kick at the Colts Stadium during any potential playoff that could make him an enduring hero with the Colt fans. I wish him well and am very sad to see Adam go, but I hope he falls on his rear end when the Colts play against us with Adam kicking for those bad guys. With the side revenues Vinatieri had here in New England and some televised nationally, any idea how much of a loss that will be for him and can he really make that amount in Indianapolis?Phil Cressey

Does anyone still remember vividly the expressions of Adam, his coaches, his teammates and his fans when he missed that field goal in the Denver game as the team tried to come back? Was that a very important field goal at the particular time in the game? IF he had made it, on the next Patriot drive close to the goal line, MAYBE T.B. would be more careful with the ball because another field goal would mean the lead. MAYBE the game complex would change and it could result in a win with \ another field goal. (Or MAYBE a long term contract from Patriot!) In any case, the truth is that "PAST performance CANNOT guarantee the FUTURE result", as it is often mentioned in all the prospectuses of mutual funds/companies. WILL you now INVEST some money (say, 3.5 millions, but not as signing bonus) for the future in, for example, Paul Edinger who is 28 and kicked little better than Adam beyond 40 yards? If there will be SOME games in which a 40 yard field goal would win or tie the game, do you choose Adam or Paul, even Adam HAS BEEN a highest paid best clutch kicker? 1-2 years from now? 3-5 years from now? In the cold/windy/snow N.E.outdoor? Do you think who would win more games for his team in the FUTURE, Adam or Paul, in N.E. outdoors? By the way I think Adam is very smart to take the Colt 5-year deal and to kick indoors. He will win few more games for the Colts than the last kicker did.Alex Ting

This is the last time we will talk about Vinatieri in this forum as it has been done to death. However, I just want to mention that Vinatieri is already a God in Indianapolis and he hasn't even attempted a kick yet. The fans there view him as the missing piece and I doubt he's having any trouble getting endorsement deals in the Indianapolis area. What do you think is going to happen when he makes his first big kick for the Colts? Fans are going to go nuts. I'm sorry; this whole thing about being a God in one area and staying for endorsements is a bunch of garbage. I live in New York and when I went home recently, Johnny Damon was on like 50 different commercials and that was before he even played a game with the Yankees. Go turn on a TV set in Indianapolis and my guess is you will see Vinatieri's face all over the place. And if he hits a big field goal to help the Colts win a Super Bowl, he'll be just as big in Indianapolis as he was here. New England isn't the only place where players can get endorsement deals and be considered an icon you know?

Comparing Vinatieri to Paul Edinger – a kicker where his last two teams decided not to keep him – is embarrassing. I don't care how many kicks he makes from 50 yards. Check out how many kicks he misses from inside 40 yards. The reason teams don't want Edinger is because he's too inconsistent. He'll nail a 50-yarder and then blow a 37-yarder. He isn't even on the same continent as Vinatieri when it comes to kicking field goals, so stop looking at all these stupid stats and watch football. Anyone who watches football on a regular basis and thinks the Patriots would be better with Paul Edinger should be committed. And as for the question on which kicker I would want to hit a game-winning kick, the answer is – and always will be – Adam Vinatieri. As for the question on which kicker I would rather have attempt a field goal outdoors, the answer is – and always will be – Adam Vinatieri.

Also, the field goal that Vinatieri missed against the Broncos was after Brady threw the big interception to Champ Bailey. If you are going to write in and criticize one of the Patriots all-time greats just because you're mad that he is now with another team, at least get your facts straight when you slam him. Brady threw the interception in the third quarter and Vinatieri missed a 43-yard field goal later in the fourth quarter.
-Tom Casale

So, the Patriots get no nationally televised game on opening weekend. Why is that? Is it because New England is considered a "small media market" or is it just a lack of respect for the Patriots regardless of their three Super Bowls wins in four years, or is it something else?Phil Cressey

First off Phil, the Patriots are considered a large market team, not a small market team because they are really in the Boston market. The opening game features the defending Super Bowl champions, which we all know is the Steelers. I don't think the Patriots are being disrespected, I think they are victims of their own success the past few years. The NFL likes change and the Patriots have kicked off the season the past two years. I think the NFL is just trying to get some new teams exposure, not because they hate the Patriots but because it's good for the league to put teams with a large national appeal like the Dolphins on prime time.
-Tom Casale

Please keep track of all these naysayers who have doomed the Patriots and cursed BB and SP for letting Adam go. List all the people who say they will "burn" their Patriots jerseys or not watch the championship DVDs anymore. It is March people! If we are in October and the Pats are 2-3 or worse, then maybe you can start worrying but enjoy your summer and have faith that the Pats will be ready to compete this fall. This happens every year only the names change. Maybe we have been spoiled. Maybe we need to load up on talent every year like the Redskins only to lose when it counts. Relax, go to the lake and know that BB will have them ready.Jay

Jay, I have already started a list of all the naysayers and non-believers. 1. Andy Hart…….
-Tom Casale

Patriot fans, hear ye ! Don't push the panic button just yet! The loss of signature players can best be summed up this way in the following synopsis: "People who have little and want less are happier than those who have much and want more. Now if that is not the truth, I don't know what is. To make a long story short the ultimate success to glory for the Pat's came when I wrote a letter to Mr. Robert Kraft prior to the hiring of Mr. Bill Belichick when Bill was still with the New York Jets. I firmly suggested in my letter to Mr. Kraft that if he had aspirations of ever participating in a Super Bowl then he should hire Mr. Bill Belichick As to whether he took my advice or not he did proceed to hire him. After Bill's first year came to a mediocre closure, I became impelled to sit down and to write him anywhere from an eight-page letter to an eleven page letter explaining many of my ideas that had to be implemented and adhered to for winning success in the NFL. The suggest ion of paramount certainty to become an incessant winner in the NFL was to avoid the players who were just playing football for the amount of money they could make, but to hire players who wanted to play football firstly, and money interests later. This suggestion was put to the test his second year when he took on an abundance of free agents and won the first of his three proceeding SUPER BOWLS. Believe me when I claim that it does take more than one team player to produce a winning Super Bowl team - it takes all eleven and then some. So my dear Patriot fans, don't despair, take heart and be well assured that the Patriot family and its organization will become triumphant in their endeavors to winning many more Super Bowls in the future. I don't hold to much hope that you will place this in your Ask PFW but I look at it in this respect: its the effort that counts!Paul Dreyer

Are you kidding me Paul? How could I not include an e-mail from the man who is responsible for the hiring of Bill Belichick and the success the Patriots have had over the last five years. I think I speak for Patriots fans everywhere when I say thank you Paul. I always wondered what the difference was in Belichick during his years with the Browns compared to his time here in New England and now I know. It was your carefully constructed letter telling him how to win in the NFL. Wait a minute, is that you Mr. Borges?
-Tom Casale

We didn't collapse when Parcells left and took Curtis. We didn't collapse when Woody, Patten and Andruzzi left for greener pastures. Believe me, we won't collapse as Adam, Givens and McGinest get their dollars. A vast, vast majority of the time coaches know more than the sportswriters and certainly more than the average fan. Coaches know their players better than the players know themselves. Let's all watch and see what the outcomes are before burning down the house. I'd like to think the GM and the coach know what they're doing, even if it stings our emotions. Say thanks to departing players, and move on. Hate to tell you people, but in 5-7 years, we'll be facing this situation again with Brady. Don't think so? Go ask Joe Montana or Jerry Rice.Frank DeJohn

I agree with everything you said except for the part when you say coaches know more than sportswriters do. I have never read anything in any newspaper from any sportswriter in the country that would support that statement. For you to suggest that Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli know more than a football mastermind like Andy Hart is laughable.
-Tom Casale

I'VE FIGURED IT OUT!!!!!! This year is a throwaway. BB and SP are looking to the 2007 season. WHY?? COMPENSATORY DRAFT PICKS!! Between this year and next year's drafts, the Pats will have a LOT of picks, and high picks at that. (Heck, even another high pick when they lose 12 games this year since nobody but Brady Bruschi Seymour and Branch will be on the field). Losing Givens, Vinatieri, and Mac should return some high picks next year. I'm starting to be convinced that that's what BB and SP want.Nathan F

I'm going to go ahead and chalk this e-mail up to sarcasm. If it's not sarcasm, try cutting the dose of the cold medicine you're taking in half because it's making you loopy and dangerous for the rest of us to be around.
-Tom Casale

Got a simple question for you. Now with the compensatory picks awarded how many total picks and where do they fall in the draft. And can you trade you compensatory picks?Ken Schmitz

With the two additional sixth round picks awarded to the Patriots by the NFL, the team now has a total of 11 draft picks. Teams are not allowed to trade compensatory picks but with 11 selections overall, the Patriots have a lot of flexibility in this year's draft to do anything they want.
-Tom Casale

I understand to a limit why the PATS NATION is up in arms, but understand that free agency is only two weeks old. Every player signed by every team to date has been overpaid to various degrees. Sure, I would have liked to have kept Givens, McGinest and Vinatieri, but the smart management and ownership team that we have realizes that you can't always keep or get who you want. We have the best when it comes to those areas. Mr. Kraft has never been skimpy on money before but he spends it wisely. We are presently around 20 million under the cap. When the season starts, some existing players will have new contracts and there will be competent players in places of need (hopefully no more Monty Beisels). Every year key people are cut on June 1 and then again in training camp. If you have all your money spent prior to this time, you're out of luck. Sure one of these loses may backfire on us but in the long run it will work out. In Kraft, Belichick and Pioli I trust.Darrell Veilleux

I disagree with you Darrell about June 1st. Somewhere along the line fans started to get the idea that after June 1st, all these Pro Bowlers and great players are going to get cut. That's just not the way it works and especially this season with the inflated salary cap. Sure, every once in a while you'll get a good player released after June 1st because of salary cap issues but those players are few and far between. They're usually older players like an Eddie George who don't have much gas left in their tank. The June 1st date becomes less and less significant every year. Don't sit there and hold your breath waiting for all these great players to be available after June 1st because it's just not going to happen.
-Tom Casale

Hey guys! I first would like to comment on the WR position. I think people are making way too big a deal about the need for a clear-cut #2 receiver. I can't imagine the Pats paying a guy like Moulds the $4-$5 mill a year that he's asking when they wouldn't pay Givens the same. And given the fact that we went into BB's first couple of years with guys like Brown (a career 3rd WR at that point) and David Patten as top receivers, I would expect that we'll go into the season with a BUNCH on little-known could-be's and see who pans out. Obviously, injuries are a concern but I would think Graham and Watson could help fill the void. I also wanted to ask you about the possibility of franchising Seymour and then trading him down the road if we still can't get him signed to a long-term deal. Thanks for all the input! You guys are great!Joel Lingren

I don't agree with this at all. When the Patriots won their first two Super Bowls, they won with a good defense and a quarterback in Tom Brady who didn't make mistakes and made plays when he had to. This is a different team now and Brady is a different player. He is in the prime of his career and as he showed last year, he can put up big numbers if he has to. We all saw what Brady did with little help, can you imagine how deadly this offense would be if he actually had some receivers? I think people are right when they say a quarterback like Brady makes average receivers better. That is an accurate statement but in the same token, imagine how good Brady would make a receiver like Moulds look. We always hear that football is a business. Well, if this is a business, the Patriots greatest asset is Tom Brady and I think the smart thing to do is build your team around your best player. If Brady has two or three good receivers to deliver the ball to with his intelligence and quick decision-making skills, I think this offense would be unstoppable.
-Tom Casale

For everything I've read and the opinions I've heard, I only want to say this is free agent, more money, whether the club let him leave or not, I stuck by my team, and I didn't make a penny from it!! If Damon or Adam are living below the poverty line I see going where the money is but I didn't leave my team for a Super Bowl ring!!! As fans, when we say the Pats are the greatest we mean it and we fill those seats!!! Aren't all of them glad we're not after "more" or who would have been watching, praying, rooting all those years when we didn't have the "Dynasty"???
TracieLyn Proud

I'm confused. Why should you have made money from the Patriots success? I'm sorry, I just don't get the e-mail. You say you didn't make a penny from the Patriots success. Why should you? As far as Vinatieri and Damon, you can't compare them to everyday people. We are dealing in millions of dollars here and in Damon's case, we're talking more than $10 million. Are you telling me $10 million shouldn't matter to someone because they already have money? Give me a break. I'm sick and tired of hearing that. These guys have the right to make as much money as they can and in Damon's case, we are talking about an enormous amount. I suppose he should have stayed for much less just so he could be a rock star and because you didn't "make a penny" from the Patriots dynasty. I'm sorry, but I'm sick of fans getting on players backs because they want to be paid as much money as possible. I'm sorry to tell you but that's the way the real world works. If you want to hate these guys fine, but stop complaining because they took more money to do their job. You know, because the rest of us would do the exact same thing if given the opportunity.
-Tom Casale

Can somebody please explain to me the lack of respect given to Washington State RB Jerome Harrison? I'd take this guy in a heartbeat but nobody that I know of is giving him his due. Look at his stats. Look at the teams he played against. Look at his size and 40 times. Physically, he is almost identical in every way to Reggie Bush and just a shade behind in on-field production, yet all I read is he's not as good as his numbers. Well, why not? I don't have access to film on him but wouldn't he look great in a Patriots' uniform or am I missing something?Bob Girard

I wouldn't compare Harrison to Reggie Bush because Bush is a very special player but I agree with you on Harrison. I think he's an underrated player in this draft. I wouldn't expect him to come in right away and carry the load but I think he would be a good change-of-pace back and receiver out of the backfield. Then in a year or two, you never know, he could emerge as a quality starter. We've looked at Harrison on film and while he's not in Bush's class (nobody is), he would look good in a Patriots uniform. Harrison could provide the much needed speed and big-play ability the running back position is lacking.
-Tom Casale

There are two sides to every story, right? I keep hearing comments like, "McGinest should have retired a Patriot," "I was so sure that Vinatieri would be back with the Pats," "Why couldn't Bill pony up the dough to keep Givens just as he's coming into his prime?" Yeah, these are heartbreakers, and the responses seem to be nearly as rote as the questions: "In Bill we trust" and "It's a business." And it is a business, no doubt. And Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick have done a great job running the business that is The New England Patriots. But my question is this - why would anyone want to root for a business? It's almost like those ridiculous Peyton Manning commercials - "Let's go insurance adjusters, let's go." There's a reason we watch sports - it's because the teams and the players move us emotionally. If I want to root for a business, I'll buy stock in some multi-national conglomerate. But if I'm going to root for a team, I like to think that key components aren't going to be stripped away at any time because "it makes good business sense." I'm not saying that bad players should be kept around for sentimental value but McGinest, Vinatieri, Law, Troy Brown... these guys still seem to have some proverbial gas in the proverbial tank. I know it's hard to question Coach B given this five- year run but at some point, doesn't it bear asking? If all that matters is the bottom line, how can fans be expected to give their hearts and souls to the team?Morgen Selmer

I think this is a great e-mail. One of the best we've gotten since I've worked here. All I can say Morgen is the Patriots of the future may never be as special as the Patriot players who helped win those Super Bowls. A close friend of mine is a big Cowboys fan and while he wants them to win the Super Bowl every year, he admits it will never be like it was in the early 90s. To Dallas fans, that was a special time and those were special players. That's the way I think you need to look at it here. Those three Super Bowl titles in four years was a special time in Patriots history. If New England wins the Super Bowl three or four years from now, it will still feel great but it probably won't be as magical as the four-year run this team has had. The 2001-2004 Patriots are one of the greatest teams in NFL history, so New England fans will always have a special place in their heart for them. They did what no other Patriots team can ever do again – they won the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl title. My advice is: continue to support the players who left even though they're no longer playing for the Pats and every year root like heck for New England to win the Super Bowl. As a fan, you can't do anything more because like it or not, this is a business. Now, "Cut that meat." Thanks again for the well thought out e-mail.
-Tom Casale

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