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Replay: Patriots Unfiltered Thu Sep 29 | 04:00 PM - 11:59 PM

Patriots Mailbag: Sizing up the draft from a Patriots perspective

With just over two weeks to go, fans are locked in on the NFL Draft and which prospects would be the best fits for the Patriots.

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After trading for DeVante Parker and probably trading away or releasing N'Keal Harry, the Patriots will likely have a receiving corps of Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Nelson Agholor, Jakobi Meyers, and Ty Montgomery, plus the tight ends. Because Agholor isn't signed beyond this season, would it be worth drafting a wide receiver like Jameson Williams or John Metchie who is coming off an injury and could use a red shirt season to learn the playbook (something even accomplished receivers like Reggie Wayne have struggled with) and be mentally up to speed to replace Agholor and play a lead role as WR1 next season? - David Beckett

I think these are some good long-term questions at the position that you bring up. While I'd expect Williams to be gone by 21, I don't mind investing a pick on Day Two on someone like Metchie, even if he might start the season off on PUP, and I wouldn't stop at just one WR pick. Parker and Bourne are the only two under contract past this season, so investing multiple picks this season, when they'll be tied with Mac Jones for the remainder of his rookie deal at least, makes a lot of sense. It does give me some concern with someone like Metchie that he would likely miss camp and really be trying to catch up all season long. There are other prospects in the similar range like Christian Watson, Wan'Dale Robinson or Khalil Shakir that might be making a big jump from their small schools but could at least be projected to jump right into the action in early May for OTAs. With the number of needs the Patriots have, taking a risk on an injured player in the first round seems a little too much. Go with the sure immediate thing there. ­-Mike Dussault

Hey gang! As we've seen through free agency the division (namely Buffalo and Miami) have made some splashy acquisitions to presumably make it even tougher to compete against multiple times next year. Would love to hear your initial reaction as to whether to be more competitive the Patriots need more explosiveness on offense or a stronger defense through Free Agency and the Draft. Obviously would love to see both improve but if you had to choose, what gets them closer to winning the division? -Josh O'Neal

Right now, I'm really focused on defense even though everyone is so hot on getting big named wide receivers. Say what you will about the 2021 Patriots offense but they're returning just about everyone and the only truly critical hole right now would appear to be at guard. If the season started tomorrow they could field a pretty good offense that will hopefully look significantly better after the experience they all got last season. The D is more concerning to me at this point because the 2021 defense was at its best when Kyle Van Noy, Dont'a Hightower and J.C. Jackson were at their best. Now it looks like at least two of those players are gone and it's likely all three won't be out there. While the team has made some moves to solidify things defensively with acquisitions like Mack Wilson, Malcolm Butler, Jabrill Peppers and Terrance Mitchell, while also bringing back Devin McCourty and Ja'Whaun Bentley, there are a lot of questions with that group, be it injuries, age or overall potential. The defensive line and edge positions have been the only spots on the roster that have not been addressed. I wouldn't rule out some more free agent additions later down the road for those positions, but I think a large part of 2022 is going to be hoping last year's additions make strides and that they can get similar contributions from this rookie class like they got from the last one. An impact rookie for the defensive front is atop my want list. -Mike Dussault

Kentucky wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson
Kentucky wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson

Love your show - How beneficial do you think the pre-spring practices are, like Mac Jones and the wide receivers are currently conducting? -Tim Ware

It has to help, especially now that everyone is on the same page and can practice with the kind of purpose they'll need when OTAs start up. Last year was mostly a collection of new weapons around a rookie quarterback, and they didn't even really seem to find their stride until mid-way through training camp when it appeared to come together against the Giants in joint practices. Again, I think fans can be overly dismissive of how much impact continuity can have when it comes to improvement. The fact that the Patriots' starting quarterback and nearly all of their their most important receivers can already be working together is a big plus. -Mike Dussault

I still don't understand why the Patriots got only a 5th rounder for Shaq Mason. His contract seemed very reasonable for a player of his quality. Did the Patriots have a problem with him? -Stuart Bassler

It's tough to really fleece a team when you're the one that is looking to move one of your own players. I don't think the Patriots had much leverage when it came to Mason because they needed to open up some cap space to fill out the holes around the rest of their roster. I also don't think there was any kind of other issue with him. Going into the offseason I had Kyle Van Noy, Mason and Jonathan Jones listed as players who could be due for some kind of contract re-work. Van Noy was outright released while Mason was traded. Jones could still be someone who either gets an extension or a re-work to keep things balanced out. When players come to the end of big deals and their cap hits get out of whack with the rest of the roster, you have to keep an eye on them. Mason was an excellent Patriot, but I think it's a position they've had success with cycling through and there are plenty of potential immediate starters in the draft. -Mike Dussault

The Pats traded a 5th round draft pick for Shaun Wade last year, I understand he was hurt for most of that year, but obviously BB saw something in him to trade for a player that was to have a lost year. Why don't I ever read about him as part of the defensive backfield equation for this year? If he can contribute and with the additions from FA, not to mention Jonathan Jones returning from injury, doesn't it seem that the group of Defensive Backs that we have look better than people assume? -Roy Mahan

Wade is an interesting one because I was surprised the Patriots didn't draft a cornerback last season, but by acquiring Wade it showed they at least had some idea that the spot would be a need. Since we didn't get to see any of him at training camp, he's a bit under the radar, but there should be some intrigue surrounding him as a potential outside cornerback, a position where the Patriots really could use an influx of youth and athleticism. Wade faded in his final year at Ohio State after being highly regarded from his first few seasons, so there was some potential there. Obviously he didn't do enough in his practice time behind the scenes to be part of the equation against the Bills in the playoffs when the Pats had to call up practice squad DBs to play. We'll see if he's anywhere near competing for meaningful snaps this spring. ­-Mike Dussault

Salutations du Québec ! I'm a huge Pats fan from Montréal. I always enjoy reading you, you are always interesting and relevant. Last season I had a big crush for Rhamondre Stevenson, most of the time he was explosive and spectacular. Knowing that he is our number two RB behind Damien Harris, what can we expect from him next season? Merci beaucoup! -Christian Chasse

There is a lot to be excited about with Stevenson this season, I think he's a great complement to Harris as both are hard-chargers but Stevenson has a little more power compared to Harris, who has a little more breakaway speed. Still, both are dynamic backs that should provide an excellent one-two punch. My questions for the group are does James White still have some great football in him after ending last season with an injury? Does J.J. Taylor have a jump in him in Year Three? He seemed like the odd man out last season and it's hard to tell if the staff has any high hopes for him in the future. And how does Ty Montgomery fit in? I wouldn't be surprised to see the Pats take a pass-catching back in the draft. Notre Dame's Kyren Williams and Georgia's James Cook are two favorites. -Mike Dussault

Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean (17)
Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean (17)

There is a lot of talk about the upcoming draft and the need for a corner. I feel that we need an edge to edge linebacker and a big defensive run stopper. As far as receiver, I think Calvin Austin III would be a difference maker in this offense. He is small but electric. Would be a great slot guy. Big guys up front that can apply interior pressure can counter an average secondary especially with the amount of safety/linebacker hybrid players that are on the roster (Dugger, Phillips, and Peppers) What are your thoughts? -John Lafond

I think there are quite a few needs and that's what makes draft projections so tough this year. I can make an argument that cornerback and edge are the two biggest needs, they were spots where impact starters were lost and not replaced. But if you want to throw a run stopper like Jordan Davis or UConn's Travis Jones in there, I'd be fine with that too. For me it comes down to finding athletes who can directly make sense in taking on Josh Allen and Tua Tagovailoa. Those are division quarterbacks who the Pats went 1-4 against last season. This defensive rebuild has to happen with those two players and their offenses in mind. As for Austin, he's one of many wide receivers that would get me excited for the dose of explosiveness that they would bring. -Mike Dussault

My question is "If both Georgia defensive mainstays Davis AND LB Nakobe Dean are still available for the Patriots to select at 21, do you believe they would pick anyone other than one of those two?" For me, I can't stop hoping for 4 years of Christian Barmore and Davis bulldozing interior offensive lines, but felt Davis' eye-popping Combine would surely take him out of the mix several spots earlier than the 20s. -Steven Eckert

As much as I'm impressed by Davis' otherworldly size and athleticism, I would have to go with my number one Top 50 Big Board player Nakobe Dean. I know there are questions about Dean's size while Davis' size would fit nicely in at defensive tackle as a complement to Christian Barmore. Simply put, Dean is a football player who could quickly play all three downs. He has the kind of ability to decipher RPOs and the speed to blow them up. To be honest, if everyone from Georgia was available, I'd go with Travon Walker, in my opinion he would be a perfect fit for the Patriots defense and fill what is probably their biggest need on defense, a young, tough three-down lineman who can do it all. Walker could probably play anywhere in the Patriots defensive front seven and could be a moveable chess piece from week to week. As much as I like Dean, there is quite a bit of depth at the off-the-ball linebacker spot, even if it's unproven depth. There's a lot of draft capital there that probably deserves a chance to play. -Mike Dussault

Do you think that it would be more valuable to have our offense solidified by drafting a top-end WR talent now, and then focus on the defense afterwards, as opposed to slowly building them both up simultaneously? Looking at teams that have taken this approach in the past (ie, Kansas City), it appears as though it would be a viable template for success. Obviously, the talent level is drastically different than the players on a team like KC, but do you think that sort of path over the next couple of years would get this team back into contention more quickly? -Ryan Wolfe

Building an NFL roster is certainly like more like "Whack-a-Mole" than it is a steady, focused process where you simply pick a player at a position of need then cross that need off. Injuries are a big factor as are guys who simply flame out or surprising players who suddenly ascend to unexpected heights. That said, I think the positions of need are multiple and obvious as I've already written a few times here in the mailbag. Cornerback, edge and guard are positions where the departures are greater than the arrivals, so I'd start there. But that being said, the wide receiver classes have been too good in recent years and the Patriots have essentially stayed out of the market since taking N'Keal Harry. With long-term uncertainty at the position and the exploding salaries in free agency, the Patriots would be smart to lock in some targets for Mac Jones now and on rookie deals. That will enable them to be more proactive in free agency with value signings without having to overpay at a position where prices are getting stupid. You just don't want the team to be too focused on BPA (best player available) because there are some well-stocked spots like safety and tight end, but otherwise it will be hard for them to stray too far from a significant need. -Mike Dussault

Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99)
Georgia defensive lineman Jordan Davis (99)

I have seen the Patriots squander a lot of drafts in the past, I have also seen them make great players out of hungry undrafted rookies. In your opinion wouldn't it be greatly beneficial for the Patriots to trade up with let's say the Detroit Lions that have openly said they will be glad to trade down. To get a stud of a player? Possibly Sauce Gardener, Derek Stingley JR, Devin Lloyd, Jermaine Johnson II, or Jordan Davis? If the Patriots did trade up (highly unlikely) which player do you think would be the best player to grab? -Marc Hopper

Well again, I doubt they could get high enough to get Travon Walker but I really think he's the best defensive fit in this class. But otherwise, it's not like last year when they really needed to make sure they got a quarterback, and there are so many needs I think that they can afford to play the waiting game and see how things fall out in the first round. It's not hard to see one of the very best cornerbacks, tackles or linebackers falling through the cracks, perhaps even one of the wide receivers, though I think there are some very intriguing Day Two options that I would probably prefer there. I do think they need a player with some game-changing talent and those usually come sooner than later on Thursday night, so hopefully they find a nice balance between 21 and whatever comes after. Don't rule out a trade down either, an extra Day Two pick would really be valuable. -Mike Dussault

I am a huge Edelman fan and I'm just wondering if you guys could expound on what made him so great. Obviously, he didn't start off great, so what did he do to become as good as he was? -Destiny Peabody

This one could definitely be worth a long post but let's start with his elite quickness. I think that's the skill that gave scouts the hope he could play receiver. But having an awesome three-cone time and actually running routes and catching the ball are different things and somehow Edelman was able to do enough as a rookie that they threw him right in there for Wes Welker in Week 2 against the Jets. Next up is his toughness, he battled through extensive injuries through the first four years of his deal, and that's why he didn't have much interest in Free Agency in 2013. That season it appeared Danny Amendola was the one who would replace Wes Welker and Edelman was somewhat of an afterthought. But together they really fueled the offense in its biggest moments for the next four Super Bowl appearances. By 2014 Edelman had mastered the Patriots offense and delivered some key championship moments. His clutch gene really came out then, the final piece along with his quickness and toughness that made him the all-time player he became. -Mike Dussault

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