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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Tue Apr 16 - 02:00 PM | Wed Apr 17 - 09:55 AM

Patriots Mailbag: Crafting a Perfect Patriots Draft, Free Agency Reactions

With the bulk of free agency wrapping up, Patriots fans are turning their attention to how their team can hit a home run in the draft.

Mailbag_Maye

As free agency winds down and most of the impact players find new homes, the draft is fast approaching, and with it, the chance to truly make the kind of long-term impact additions that New England so badly needs.

With the third-overall pick, it seems like a consensus is setting in, with quarterbacks Drake Maye and Jayden Daniels easily the most popular two choices for the team by the prognosticators. But are there other ways for the Pats to hit on their three biggest needs – quarterback, tackle and wide receiver – even if they don't stay at three and take a QB?

There are plenty of permutations and prospects to consider. Let's dive into this week's mailbag!

I have been listening to all of your discussions on not signing an X receiver, or not going after this target. Whilst the roster has been improved to my mind, man for man it is not a step upgrade. However we have to see how Mayo and 20 new people get a better tune out of this roster than the coaching chaos of the past two season. How do you read it?
Mike Wallis

It's a great question. The coaching staff is a lot bigger than it was previously with a lot of experience across a lot of different schemes. But I think at the core of it will be Alex Van Pelt's offense and a similar offshoot of what the defense did under Bill Belichick, with Mayo and Demarcus Covington putting their own spin on it. I think it's a great staff for the variety of experiences that it offers. You have young coaches who have been involved with the hot offenses around the league, but you also have older more experienced coaches who have more of a cross-section of different experience as well. When I look at a lot of the staff, using people like Eliot Wolf, Van Pelt and Scott Peters as examples, I think these are well-groomed execs and coaches who are deserving of these opportunities. It will certainly be a different approach to what we've grown accustomed to over the last 20 years, but I think they have given themselves a great chance to be successful, even if impatient fans are already screaming from the rooftops.

If the Pats trade out of the third position in the draft, they'll gain more draft capital and perhaps the opportunity to improve more quickly, but that might land them in NFL purgatory where they never get really good and find themselves drafting perennially in the middle of the first round with few opportunities to draft real difference makers. If the particular difference maker you really need happens to be a quarterback, the challenge becomes even more daunting. Isn't it better to grab and, if necessary, protect a young quarterback while you build around him?
David Howell

The third overall pick boils down to one thing for me. If they believe in Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels they have to make the pick. The quarterback is the hardest piece of the puzzle and, as you pointed out, it's hard to believe they'll manage to get back into the top five unless things go really wrong. It would be hard to pass on either of those guys unless they truly don't think they'll develop into plus starters. But I can't lie, this would be a perfect draft if you had a pick at 10thoverall and 20th overall and needed to fill holes at tackle and wide receiver. You could hit that draft out of the park with those two picks considering the depth and talent at those two positions. Unfortunately, the Patriots need a quarterback and until they have that piece it's going to be a grind. Brissett is a great piece to hold the fort and help develop a young quarterback, there's no need to rush him. It's hard to preach patience in these parts after their long-running success, but that's what it's going to take to not only rebuild the core of the team but to also attract and develop elite talent.

I would be intrigued if the Pats traded with the Vikings, obtained two first-round picks, and were able to get Odunze AND Penix (I'm a bit biased because I am left-handed!). But Penix makes me curious: how might the offense/offensive line be (re)structured if the Patriots were to choose a lefty as their QB? Couldn't a lefty be a benefit because that means right tackle Onwenu - easily their best lineman - would now be protecting the blind side? Or does Onwenu move because he is best served on the QB's non-blind side? Do lefties change the way AVP might have to design throws or hand-offs?
Bryan McGrath

That's a great detail to point out and honestly, I already have concerns about Onwenu's ability to protect the edge as a tackle. Put in a lefty and he's now protecting the blindside which would exacerbate my concerns. My colleague Evan Lazar pointed out that Onwenu could always go back to right guard if it doesn't work, but he's certainly a very solid right tackle and after last year I think anyone would take very solid, while allowing the team a chance to get extended looks at Sidy Sow, Jake Andrews and Atonio Mafi at the guard spots.

However, for me, I'm basically a Maye, Daniels or bust guy for this draft. I respect Penix's game and was blown away by some of his performances this year, but I think this team needs as close to sure things as they can get and I'm not convinced Penix is a sure thing. In my opinion, he'd be best on a team that doesn't need him to step in ASAP. I'd consider late fliers on Joe Milton or Jordan Travis but with no expectations for them. At this point, Maye's the one I want the most overall. But the Day 2 guys, like Penix, Bo Nix or Spencer Rattler don't really move me.

I'm curious what you think about Reagor and Boutte and their chances of making the team? I'm rooting for that to happen along with a rookie WR(draft) Also, where do you see Smith-Schuster and Thornton fitting or not fitting in/trade/release, value? Who will make room for the rookie wide receiver they draft? (Let alone potential free agent/trade addition possibilities) How does this wr room shake out?
D. Favreau

This is one I've really been pondering since the addition of Osborn last week. On the surface it would appear that they have a quality slot in Pop Douglas and then a bunch of Z-receivers that will line up off the line of scrimmage and not truly threaten a defense in a gameplan sense. That said, if you plug in a promising outside receiver in the draft the offense would suddenly really make a lot more sense. I doubt they take Marvin Harrison or Malik Nabers but man, with one of those guys at the X spot they might be cooking with gas. The most possible and appealing option could be trading back up into the first round for someone like AD Mitchell, but even he could be gone before 20th overall.

Bottom line with the current depth chart is that it will be all about competition. Is Bourne healthy enough to go Week 1? The only thing I feel assured of is that Douglas and Osborn will be the two most likely to secure significant roles immediately. Thornton and Smith-Schuster are huge question marks and I could see both of them going either way. Thornton's speed and Juju's experience can't be ignored but there are nine receivers currently on the roster and at least half of them won't make the team.

I get tired of reading all the letters of people complaining about not spending a lot of money in free agency. When was the last time a team dove heavily into free agency and won a Super Bowl? Or were there more teams like the Washington Redskins with Dan Snyder?
Mel Carreira

I think the Patriots are being patient and methodical with their cap space and some of the comments from earlier in the offseason might've set some false expectations. After what happened in 2021, when the team spent a record amount of cash and got only a one-year, temporary bump, I'd hope that some fans would be a little less upset and a little more understanding of what a rebuild actually looks like. Even offering Calvin Ridley a monster contract is little solace to those who wanted multiple big moves. I like the message they're sending though. They're securing a much-needed new core with solid players who were not major problem pieces of the recent declines, in fact, they were just the opposite. Three-year deals for Owenu, Henry, Bourne and Jennings show they want to prioritize their own good players first and foremost. That has been missing in recent years. All four of those guys were among the few brights spots over the last two years. With very few players signed beyond 2025 the team had to secure who their leaders will be going forward and I think they've done that. Taking care of your own guys while taking selective swings on big-name talent is a winning formula. But the bottom-line reality of it all is that the Patriots must start stacking great drafts. They must reestablish an internal pipeline of impact players to build around. Until that happens it won't matter what they do or don't do in free agency.

I like the signing of Jacoby Brissett to be the starting QB. My question is more observation over the last 20 years or so regarding young QBs. It seems teams are not allowing QBs time to develop the way they did in the past by having them sit for at least 2 years and often 3 (Jordan Love, Aaron Rogers for recent examples.)

Now they draft a kid and throw him to the wolves and most end up bombing out because of it, (see Mac Jones as an example as well as most of the 2021 QBs.) Why are teams so hell-bent on throwing young not ready QBs out there like this? Is it the Brady, Manning effect; QBs that were ready to start early? I say those QBs are the exception and all others should be given a few years to develop. I also suspect part of the problem is that QBs rarely start more than one or two years in college before turning pro now.
Scott Cayoutte

It's hard to give them a few years. As soon as you take them the clock is ticking and you must take advantage of having that rookie QB under a manageable contract. That's something the Pats didn't do with Mac. But Mac won the starting job as a rookie and deserved it. It's a balancing act of knowing when the kid is ready but not throwing him to the wolves too quickly. The sooner he can get experience the better, but it can't be an untenable situation around him that hurts his development. In that regard Brissett is perfect but if you draft a quarterback at third overall and he has to sit more than a significant chunk of his rookie year, you're starting to waste his rookie contract time. Now, if it's a later round kid, one who isn't really even expected to be a starter then it's a different story. That's why I say teams should draft a quarterback almost every year. You never know what could happen when late-round guys get a chance to sit like you're saying.

Huge Patriots fan down in Harrisburg, Pa. I'd like to see New England select MHJ @ #3 then select an OT in the 2nd & 3rd Rounds, TE like Theo Johnson or Brevyn Spann-Ford in the 4th, Joe Milton in the 5th, S/LB James Williams and DT Jordan Jefferson in the 6th and end the draft by taking RB Jase McClellan in the 7th. What are your thoughts?
Larry Pearce

Sorry Larry but I don't like it. The tackles get into developmental territory by the second round, quite possibly not even ready to step in on Day One. So then the only impact piece you're adding to the offense is a wide receiver who could be limited by the quarterback position and the overall protection. There are other ways to hit on two of the big needs. I do like many of the names you mentioned, at least three of them are already on my big board, but I think they need to do better for the offense in the early going.

I think you're making the right decisions so far in FA. Keep it going! Also, what good is Harrison if you don't have the right QB to get him the ball? Plus if you don't draft a QB at #3, the fans will freak like never before. Remember when Led Zeppelin tickets went on sale at the Garden back in the 70s ? The fans destroyed two Green line T trains and 25% of the garden seats were destroyed. That was just for tickets! What do you think will happen if you try to get more picks instead of a QB which we don't have? It won't be good & I wouldn't want to be you.Phil Collins

I agree with Phil here on MHJ, as I wrote above, however, if the Patriots do pass on a QB I think fans might be appeased by the selection of not just one, but two high-round potential studs. That's why I see the only potential moves as either taking Maye/Daniels or trading down to make sure you get Day 1 impact players at tackle and receiver. Any other plan doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And I love that you brought up Led Zeppelin at the Garden in 1969 because if there was one concert I could go back in time to attend that would probably be it. I would've rioted too if I missed out on seeing that band at the height of their powers at my favorite all-time venue.

I get everyone wanted the 92+ million dollar WR in Ridley. How sure are we that he is that much better than an early round 2 pick at WR or a trade into the bottom of the first WR? They should draft a QB at #3 unless the guy they want is gone, then trade down a smidge, QB, LT, and pass catcher, is what they need. There are a few tackles I like and numerous pass catchers I like, including the TEs. I wouldn't of liked getting Ridley (a great #2) for 90+ million. I think the Titans regret the pick long term.
James Brinton

I would've really liked getting Ridley but I hear your point. I similarly see him as a great #2, and not exactly the kind of coverage-dictating problem for defenses that could truly change the equation. He would've elevated the offense for sure, but at a hefty price and, as you said, I'm not entirely sure there isn't an early Day 2 option that could have a ceiling to the level of Ridley's or above it. Otherwise, I'm with you lockstep. QB, OT, WR. Make it happen, Patriots.

DISCLAIMER: The views and thoughts expressed in this article are those of the writer and don't necessarily reflect those of the organization. Read Full Disclaimer

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