Strategy, Scheme, and Super Sleepers
posted at 4/22/2010 12:53 PM EDT
I just posted this at another Patriots forum I frequent, so I thought I'd share here, as well. Enjoy.
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Draft Day! :D
Every year, highly touted prospects either rise or fall in the eyes of prognosticators and talent evaluators. Sometimes, the fall is unwarranted, and the team that rolls the dice wins big. Other times, however, the pre-draft machinations prove their worth and identify a bust in the making. The question, arises, then, should we take the chance with some of the big-name fallers, or in a deep draft should we take safer picks?
Last year, if I had told you we could trade back in the second and conceivably walk away from the draft with Dez Bryant, Jermaine Gresham, Carlos Dunlap, Arthur Jones, Brandon Spikes, and Jonathan Dwyer in the first four rounds, and still have a few picks left over, who would have believed me? Further, who would have complained? Yet I can easily see a scenario wherein all those guys are available. Is it worth the risk, taking on all these high risk/high reward young men?
If we do gamble on these players, why not hedge our bets with late round sleepers? We've all posted lists of our favorites, and I went so far as to create a "roster" of players projected to go undrafted to illustrate the quality depth of this draft, so I won't belabor the point here. Quite simply, we have the chance to get contributors and possibly even starters in the later rounds. Does this make us bolder earlier on, or do we continue to go for safe picks and gamble in the later rounds when the investment is much, much lower? Hm. Things to ponder.
My last thought concerns our scheme in the next few years, and is a bit of a departure from the discussion of value to my own musings on the team's defensive philosophy. Smarter Patriots fans than I have expressed the opinion that we'll see more 40 fronts this year, including a lot of big nickle looks, and thus our prototype linemen, ends, and 'backers may be slightly different from what we're accustomed to seeing. I'm in full agreement, but I still don't know what that looks like, practically speaking. I have a few ideas, though, and I'd love to get some feedback.
One of the most intriguing players in this year's draft, for me, is Earl Mitchell. He's 6'2, #296, and ran a 4.7 at the combine. His ten yard split (1.55) was better than almost any linebacker this year, inside or out (only Jamar Chaney and Dekoda Watson, verified workout warriors, ran faster--and by faster, I mean 2/100ths of a second). He was originally a running back, so he's got great change of direction despite pedestrian cone and shuttle times. Watching him run through drills, he's far more fluid than most of the linebackers tested. I fully believe he could play 3-technique in any of the pass-rushing iterations of the 40 front, or drop back and play Mike in a 34 scheme.
Several other players are scheme/position diverse, such as Carlos Dunlap, who I believe could play 43 DE, 34 DE, 3-tech, and 34 OLB. Tyson Alualu, one of my favorite linemen in the draft, can play 43 end, 3-tech, NT, or 5-tech (has experience at each of those positions in college, and produced at a high level). Another guy to keep an eye on is the fashionable small-school guy Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, whose great size, excellent speed, smooth backpedal, and penchant for ball-hawking could see him smoothly transition between either safety or corner, allowing us to more effectively disguise coverages.
Essentially, I'd like to see a group of highly versatile players who will allow us to dramatically shift our defensive look from snap to snap. Yes, it will require hard work on their part, and more moving parts means a higher chance of something going wrong, but after a year or two of tweaking, we could see one of the best units in all of football. And that's pretty darn exciting, if you ask me!
C'mon, Bill. Let's make it happen.