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Ask PFW: Where are the LBs?

What do we know about the condition of Ryan Claridge? Everything I've read about him indicates he was a high character guy and a smart player in college. Seems like he'd be a good fit in the OLB rotation in New England if that translates to fundamental situational football and if his health is up to speed. He's kind of like a "stealth" draft pick, but with a year of learning the system from the trainer's room under his belt.Andrew Avery

Actually, we don't know too much about at all Claridge. We know he was placed on IR with a shoulder injury last year, but then we barely saw him again the rest of the season. He spent very little time in the trainer's room that you're talking about so I'm really not sure how much of the system he picked up since he wasn't here going to meetings and such. I would expect him to be fighting for a job this summer, much like all of the current draft choices and young players. But to suggest he's anything more than your run-of-the-mill fifth-round pick at this point would be inaccurate based on what we know.
Paul Perillo

I got the chance to watch Bam Childress play in the preseason, and I thought he looked great. I was really excited to see him play in the finale as well. I thought he played well, hauling in three grabs for 32. Plus, he played well at defensive back. This guy has got determination, versatility, and some raw talent, any chance he could be a big time contributor?Greg Knopping

I happen to like Bam Childress too, Greg. But I just don't see him as much more than he already is. He overcame long odds just to hang around as long as he did last year, spending most of the season on the practice squad before getting activated late. He's a high motor receiver who caught most everything thrown in his direction during the summer. Another camp like that will make it difficult for Belichick to get rid of him, especially with such a thin group of receivers – even with the addition of Chad Jackson in the draft. But in terms of long-term career, I don't see Childress, at his size, emerging as much more than he is.
Paul Perillo

Given the picks in the 4th round, do you think Bill has something in mind at the linebacker position that no one knows about? I have to think either Beisel is better than we've seen so far or possibly a trade in the works.
Paul Tomlinson

I really couldn't tell you, Paul. I was surprised by the Garrett Mills pick – not because I don't think he's a good player because I do – but because I feel he's very similar to David Thomas. I know Mills can play different spots, but his skill set, regardless of position, still seems to close to Thomas' to warrant such a high selection. But evidently after the top linebackers were off the board Belichick didn't feel like the mid-round prospect represented value. I'm sure he didn't look at some linebackers he felt could help the team in the middle of the draft and chose to instead look elsewhere. Maybe Donnie Edwards (rumored to be on the trading block in San Diego) is in the plans, and/or maybe they feel Beisel will be that much better in his second year and now playing alongside Bruschi. It's difficult to say for sure, but I can understand the Patriots not taking linebackers just for the sake of taking linebackers. Now, if Bobby Carpenter were available at 21, it would have been very interesting to see what Bill would have done. Unfortunately, we'll probably never know.
Paul Perillo

OK, Do the Patriots really feel good about their linebacker corps, specifically their backup/developing linebackers like Tully and Beisel? Did I miss it in the Day 2 draft, were Hoyte and Robinson both taken before any of the Patriots 5th - 6th - and 7th round draft picks. And did we really need to go after 2 tight ends and not 1 single linebacker? and 2 DTs? Value smalue... sometimes you do need to feel a need.
Darius Dempsey

Let the linebacker analysis hit full stride! Like I said to Paul, it would appear as if the Patriots didn't feel the mid-round prospects at linebacker were all that good. Belichick said before the draft that he felt, overall, that linebackers were pretty good in this draft. But guys like Greenway, Hawk, Carpenter, etc. weren't available in the first round when the Pats picked. So rather than take the fifth or sixth best LB available, the Pats filled another glaring need and took the second best RB on the board. And I think the same holds true for WR at the top of the second round. Jackson was the second receiver taken while LBs continued to fall off the board. Once the draft hit the middle rounds, evidently Belichick didn't feel the players left at that position were worth taking. And since Hoyte and Robinson weren't drafted at all, I guess the rest of the league agreed with Bill. And the Patriots only took one DT – Le Kevin Smith. Jeremy Mincey played DE in college and will try to win a job playing OLB this summer with the Pats.
Paul Perillo

What can you guys tell us about the linebacker situation? Was the plan to allow Hoyte to fall out of the draft and then make him a priority free agent, or are the Patriots going to fill their linebacker-roster spots with Mincey and in-house talent? Perhaps a training camp competition between Mincey and Banta-Cain?Chris Brownlee

And the beat goes on. Again, since Hoyte wasn't drafted evidently 32 teams didn't think he was as good as our resident experts Tom Casale and Andy Hart did. No big surprise there. You send them to the Combine and they come back wearing whistles around their necks carrying clipboards and stopwatches. I guess they still have a lot to learn. Anyway, there will certainly be some competition between guys like Mincey and Banta-Cain – and no doubt some others.
Paul Perillo

Do you guys really work in the Pats organization/subsidiary? After comparing whom the Pats actually drafted with all your mock predictions for Day 1 as well as your Day 2 suggestions, you weren't in the same ballpark. I guess the PFW staff must actually be affiliated with the Revs. I expected a bit more insight from you on the "thinking" of the Pats draft war room.
Joe Ditato

Sorry Joe, didn't know you were Mel Kiper Jr. This email is so ignorant I just felt I had to put it in just to embarrass you. First of all, the guy PFW liked for the Patriots at No. 21, Bobby Carpenter, went to Dallas three picks before they could take him. Maybe they would have passed on him, maybe not. We'll never know. Second, we said from the start that running back was a priority need for the Pats and Maroney and DeAngelo Williams were our two top choices (after Reggie Bush). Lo and behold, the Pats took Maroney. And by the way, we also felt Chad Jackson was a possibility at 21 depending on who was available. Belichick said they contemplated taking him at 21 but chose to wait and traded up for him at 36. So maybe, even though we didn't accurately predict everything that happened in the draft, just like absolutely every other draft prognosticator in the country, we did have an idea of some of the things the Patriots eventually did. I don't know what ballpark you live in, but thanks for the kind words anyway, Joe.
Paul Perillo

Thanks for all your coverage on the draft. It was very informing for us Patriots fans who don't follow college football that closely. I thought Day 1 of the draft was outstanding! But after day 2 of the draft, we still are hurting at the linebacker position. Because of the lack of depth at linebacker can you see the Patriots shifting their base defense from a 3-4 to a 4-3?Ed Enman

Thanks Ed, I guess not everyone shared Joe's opinion. As for the 4-3/3-4, I think the Pats system will stay the same, meaning Belichick always like to have the flexibility to play both. Yes, the LB depth appears thin, but if they switched to the 4-3 then the DL depth wouldn't be that great either. We'll see plenty of 3- and 4-man fronts this year to be sure.
Paul Perillo

First of all, another fantastic draft by Bill and Scott. With the addition of Maroney, Jackson and Thomas, the offense looks like it could be something special. Brady has to be a happy camper today. Since the team did not really address its defensive needs, most importantly linebacker, do you see an expanded role for Tully-Banta-Cain this year? He's a good pass rusher and seems like a guy that, after a few seasons transitioning to linebacker, may be able to take over for Willie on the outside. What are your thoughts on the 4th linebacker?Pat Yegian

I think Banta-Cain will get the chance to compete for a more prominent role. I also think Beisel could be the starter inside next to Bruschi while Mike Vrabel moves back to his outside spot. I think this starting four would actually be OK, but my concern would be depth if and when injuries creep in. Beisel wasn't quite the train wreck he was made out to be last year. He didn't play that well and he certainly didn't handle the off-field part of things very well, but he improved late in the year in a limited role and could be a much better player with another year in the system.
Paul Perillo

De-fence. Get it? God, I slay me. To my question: Loved the draft, but clearly it sorted out as offense all the way. Now I'm not a big fan of drafting on "need" over best value, and from the looks of things, neither are the Pats brain trust. My question is whether this might - MIGHT - be an indication of confidence in the rookie campaign of Hobbs, the progress of Samuel, and the prospective rebounding of Eugene Wilson (plus Gay and Reid.) And that's just the defensive backs - might this also be some small vote of confidence for the Claridges and the Banta-Cains of the world? I know, I know, we still have the rest of free agency, the June 1 cuts to sort through, and Eric Warfield to consider - but is it a possibility that there are tea leaves to be read here?
Dan Halberstein

I think people will start to read into things like you have and ultimately wind up missing the point. By not selecting a linebacker in the first round, Belichick is not saying that Ryan Claridge is ready to step in. He's simply saying he didn't feel a linebacker was worthy of being selected over Laurence Maroney. For all we know Belichick could be scared to death of the prospect of having Banta-Cain in the starting lineup. Or maybe he feels TBC is ready to go. But unless he felt there was a linebacker with the potential to step in and make an impact why would he just take one for the sake of taking one? Like I've said before, if Bobby Carpenter was available and he took Maroney instead, then maybe we could debate the merits of the pick. But five or six LBs deep as compared to one RB … I'll take the RB every time if those are my two choices.
Paul Perillo

Do you think that the drafting of Dave Thomas and Garret Mills could mean that Daniel Graham is gone next year? Also did anyone draft Oliver Hoyte?Paul Gallant

First, no one draft Oliver Hoyte despite the constant pleas of Casale and Hart. Second, and more importantly, the TE situation could indeed have ramifications beyond this year. Graham's contract is up after 2006 and with Thomas and maybe even Mills around that could give the Patriots some added leverage in their negotiations. If Thomas can play, it would make Graham's potential loss a little more bearable.
Paul Perillo

Well just wanted to know, what did the Pats get out of the deal trading a pick in the 5th round to the Browns?
John Pimental

Actually, not much. The Pats got wide receiver Andre' Davis last summer and, unfortunately, Davis got hurt and didn't contribute much with the exception of one big catch for a touchdown against New Orleans. Then he left this winter as a free agent.
Paul Perillo

So, when you look at the Pats two first picks, RB and WR, you start to see that their offensive picks were also defensive. Lots of people had the Colts picking Maroney, and the Pats obviously had him rated really high. When they asked Maroney whose style of play is close to his, he answered Edgerrin James of course. With a lack of good running talent in the draft after the first few guys, the Pats dealt a blow by subtraction to the Colts who were forced to take Addai - a good back who only started his senior year because someone in front of him got hurt and he's also had injuries. You could make a case the Pats did the same by taking Chad Jackson - they made the move up in the draft to get to 36 before (I think) Denver was picking at 37 - they took Denver's pick (Chad Jackson) and Denver's hand was forced to trade that pick for Javon Walker. Not that Walker is a lesser talent by any means, but we did throw a wrench into their draft plans. Did I also mention that Denver was the only other team that really heavily scouted Laurence Maroney and Shanahan is really high on him? So am I misreading all of this? And if not, why haven't the local media put it together to talk about it? Have you seen it discussed? Or even the ESPN draft coverage? Isn't this the 'game-within-the-game' that they're supposed to be enlightening us about? Am I way off base here?TS

I think you're points are fair when considering the trickle down effect, but to suggest the Patriots "planned" on this is a bit of a stretch. The Patriots took Maroney because they felt he was a good player, not because they wanted to keep him away from the Colts. That's just an added bonus. Same with Jackson. If Corey Dillon were 25 and coming off his 2004 campaign, Belichick wouldn't have taken Maroney simply to keep him from becoming a Colt. That wouldn't be very wise. So while your points are probably true to an extent, I really don't believe they played a very big role in the choices.
Paul Perillo

Allow me a question on the draft. I think that Patriots have accomplished their goal of drafting "value" this year. I admire their move up to get a quality WR. My question is, why Pats for the 2d year in a row did not make a similar move to get CB in round 1. Last year, they let M. Jackson to be drafted by their chief rivals Colts helping them secure 1st seed. This year, they did not pursue T. Hill, who could have been T. Law. Maroney is badly needed to help out Dillon, but I think T. Hill would have been even a greater value. What do you think?
Adam

Tye Hill was gone before the Patriots picked. I'm not sure if they tried to trade up to get him, but maybe the price to do so was too high. Again, maybe they had no interest in him at all, but my guess is they did and simply couldn't get him.
Paul Perillo

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