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Ask Shalise: Did looming lockout affect player performance?

Posted by Shalise Manza Young, Globe Staff  April 13, 2011 06:37 PM

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With all the picks the Pats have and the way they wheel and deal, how do you see them using their top 3 picks? Will they take 3 good players and pay them or make a deal for a guy in the top 10? Thanks.
Al, Washington, N.H.

Al, you’ve almost asked me to predict the lottery! I’d venture to say there was no one who could have predicted the draft moves the Patriots made over the last couple of years – trading out of the first round entirely in 2009, trading down in the first round before taking surprise pick Devin McCourty in 2010 – and that only increases the difficulty level when it comes to trying to predict something already so unpredictable.

My gut feeling is this: assuming there’s no resolution to the labor issue before the draft and therefore no new collective bargaining agreement and expected rookie salary cap, I would be surprised to see the Pats move into the top 10 because of the current cost of signing a player taken that high. I can see them moving up a couple of slots to take a player they really want if they think another team is about to take him, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they trade the 28th or 33rd pick (the one at the top of round two) to a team desperate to fill some holes. Washington, for example, has no picks in the third or fourth round and has a lot of needs, so they likely are looking to acquire more picks.

I am not getting the draft pundits saying the Pats need defense, defense, defense (because) Ty Warren and Leigh Bodden are coming back, the young players are taking the next step, etc. I understand taking the best player available, even if it is defense, especially to help the pass rush, but what about this offense? Are they relying on Deion Branch to stay healthy? Assuming Brandon Tate and Taylor Price take the next step potentially without camp this summer? Offensive line retirement/age? Two undrafted running backs on the roster? This team can win by outscoring opposing teams. That has been proven. Fix the OL. Get a game breaker at WR or RB. To my eyes, those are top priority, even over a rush the passer defensive player.
Ronk, Warwick, R.I.

New England will have two healthy starters returning in Warren and Bodden, Ronk, but I think when most pundits talk about the Pats taking a defensive player, it’s with a focus on outside linebacker/pass rusher and there’s a lot of talent at that spot this year.

However, as Bill Belichick has said on several occasions – and as noted by reader Keith here – the Patriots will take the best player on their board when their turn comes, regardless of position.

For me, offensive line is as big a need as this team has: Matt Light is a free agent, Logan Mankins is unhappy, Stephen Neal retired. That would be the first place I’d go offensively in the draft. In terms of receiver, there was talk before last season that Tate would emerge, and that didn’t happen. That’s not to say he can’t this year; and at this point Price is an unknown. It will be interesting to see if Julian Edelman bounces back in 2011 as well.

What are the chances of the pats picking up Noel Devine? I know he’s on the small side but he's a spark plug.
B.D. Dove, Oakland, Calif.

Devine measured in at 5-8, 179 pounds at the Combine, B.D., and the Patriots aren’t scared off by smaller backs – witness Kevin Faulk and Danny Woodhead. But while Devine totaled more than 4,300 yards at West Virginia, he’s projected as a fifth-round pick or later and might be best suited as a third-down back (he averaged 30 catches a year in his last three seasons), which is likely Woodhead’s role.

All that said, Devine is capable of breaking big plays, so as a third-day (fourth to seventh rounds) prospect, he’s intriguing.

Let’s say there is no football and the Pats draft (going to wing it here) LB Akeem Ayers of UCLA, and let's say they don't trade #28 and they take OT Anthony Castonzo of Boston College. For the purpose of this exercise let’s say they trade the first pick in round two for a first round 2012 draft pick and then take their pick at 60 and trade up with whatever it takes to move up a bit and get RB Ryan Williams of Virginia Tech. (Those are my pet players who I've seen play and I love them all.) Now those are some pretty talented football players, but with the teams unable to talk to their picks and get them working in their system, isn't there a larger risk of picking a player that is potentially a really good player and have him show up 50 pounds out of shape in 2012? And is there concern that these players might have some brain drain and will that cause their learning curve to be longer? Am I all wet here? Sorry for the long question but I needed to flesh it out.
Jeff Stanley, Bath, Maine

Let’s see if we’re on the same page, Jeff. One of the major worries for teams during the lockout, even with experienced players, is whether they’re staying in shape and working as hard as they can away from the watchful eyes of their team. I’m thinking in particular of a guy like Brandon Deaderick – as a seventh-round rookie last year he wasn’t on top of things enough to make meetings on time and such and was suspended by the team late in the season. Left to his own devices, is he diligently staying fit?

But – Deaderick has already been drafted and signed his contract. Guys who are drafted and then have to wait until there’s a new CBA in place to sign their contract and get their money have a little more to work for (Deaderick, of course, can be cut but he does have a little money in his pocket).

It is a messy situation for all involved, to be sure: where players would normally be making some money during this time through workout bonuses and a nominal stipend, now they’re paying out of their pocket to private training facilities (I’ve heard $1,000 to $2,000 a month). Draftees typically receive loans from their agents for pre-draft training, and now they will likely have to extend those loans for post-draft training until players can join their teams.

And there certainly will be a much steeper learning curve – typically the playbook is one of the first things draftees get. Now, who knows when they’ll receive them?

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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