Will the Patriots be laying it on the line with the No. 7 pick?
E-mailers to the mailbag explore that possibility this week, focusing on both the defensive and offensive lines.
There are two schools of thought.
On the defensive side, some like the idea of continuing to build depth on the line, while others don't see it as a pressing need and would rather see a defensive back or linebacker.
On the offensive side, some favor adding a top prospect based on what happened at the Super Bowl - the Giants running through the Patriots up front -- while others prefer to look at the line's overall body of work and don't see it as a top need.
We'll get right to the questions...
While I agree that taking a CB with the No. 7 pick is unlikely (why else let Samuel walk away?), I wonder if picking another defensive lineman makes sense as you suggest. Sure, there is value there, but the Pats already have a number of excellent d-linemen with expensive contracts for the next two seasons. Will they really want to add another player with a VERY expensive contract to that group or would the money be better spent on another position?
Antti Vanhanen, Helsinki, Finland
A: Antti, I'd start by saying that I wouldn't be against selecting a cornerback at No. 7 if the player was the next Champ Bailey (No. 7 pick, 1999). But since there is no one in this corner class that seems to be a clear-cut top choice, that would be the main reason not to go that route - not simply because if the team wanted to keep a top corner, it could have paid Asante Samuel. As for the defensive line, I see exactly what you are saying. When you look at the Patriots' roster, there appears to be no pressing need there. The point I would make is that top defensive linemen are rare breeds and when you are in position to select one - which in and of itself is rare - it can be smart business. We've seen what a top line can do for a team with Seymour-Warren-Wilfork. The final aspect that I think is important to consider is that while Wilfork might have two years left on his contract, my hunch is that he's going to be looking for an extension before that deal expires. As we've seen from contract situations (e.g. Asante Samuel, Deion Branch, Ty Warren), they can go in several different directions. Taking a top lineman would give the Patriots a buffer in that all-important area. In the end, I'm of the belief that good defensive linemen are like pitchers in baseball - you can never have enough of them.
Hi Mike, suddenly there is a lot of buzz about the Patriots possibly selecting Branden Albert. So do you think this is a smokescreen, internet bologna, or is there something to it? At first, I laughed at the idea of taking a guard in the No. 7 spot but upon closer inspection, it might make sense. Albert rates very highly (a future All-Pro by many draft experts), he seems to be a high character guy, there is that Al Groh tie-in, and the Patriots like to stock their lines with big & athletic bodies. While we could use help at CB and LB, I have learned to expect the unexpected from Pioli and team -- and the No. 1 reason why we lost the Super Bowl (my opinion) was the horrible play of the backup guards after Stephen Neal got injured. Adding this kid to a line of Kazcur, Mankins, Light and Koppen could be nasty! What do you think?
Matt DiAntonio, Plymouth
A: Matt, it seems to me that some of the buzz around Albert is from mock drafts on NFL.com from Pat Kirwan and Mike Mayock, and I think part of the reason is he tested well at the combine, and another reason is that guard is usually the one of safest positions in the first round -- especially if the player has potential to kick out to left tackle. I remember talking to Bill Belichick prior to last year's draft and he was saying how if a team wanted a good player later in the first round, guard Ben Grubbs (Ravens) was one player certainly worthy of the pick. In the end, I still think the Patriots will go defense. I also subscribe to the idea that what happened in the Super Bowl was more the exception than the rule, and that the Patriots' line is solid. But if the choice is an offensive lineman, Albert is probably as safe as it gets.
How many returning players do we have and how many have we signed in FA? I ask because I'm curious as to how many roster spots we actually look to fill in the draft. Obviously guys can get hurt, or cut, etc. but with all the talk about the Pats trading down, it makes me wonder if we swap picks with someone at 12-14, and get another third rounder, will we even have roster spots for the guys we draft? I guess they'd look for more picks next year vs. this year? I mean, last year we ended up not being able to keep several prospects that ended up getting playing time elsewhere. Kareem Brown was the one that really bothered me.
Rick Caldwell, Lowell
A: Rick, the Patriots currently have 60 players on their roster. They can bring a maximum of 80 to training camp, so you're looking at eight draft picks and 12 free agents (mostly rookies) to round things out. Doing the math, and accounting for the fact that not all 60 players currently on the roster are locks to make the team, the Patriots clearly have the room and it looks to me like the present situation is designed at injecting the team with more youth. Taking it one step further, I think trading for picks in the next year's draft - which some personnel men call "futures" -- is good business.
With so much talk about the Pats trading down, would they ever trade UP to get someone they want (Gholston comes to mind)? Also, I have heard numerous places (ESPN included) that the Patriots have interest in Sedrick Ellis from USC in the 7 spot. Personally, I think this might be a bit of deception on the Patriots part, since Ellis is not quite big enough to play NT in the 3-4, and probably not fast enough to play end. He seems like a much better fit in the 4-3. What do you think about Ellis possibly ending up with the Pats, and how would he fit into their 3-4.
Chris M., Boston
A: This topic has come up a few times in recent weeks, Chris, and my feeling is that while nothing would surprise me, I still find it unlikely that the Patriots would trade up. I'm still of the belief that the team is more likely to move down rather than up. I've heard the theory that perhaps the Patriots will leapfrog the Jets to get to the No. 5 spot, but if I was prognosticating, I'd put longer odds on that happening. As for Ellis, one scout told me that he thinks he could fit as a nose in the 3-4. He'd also add to the versatility of a team like the Patriots that is multiple, shifting between 3-4 and 4-3 alignments. While my knowledge of these prospects is limited - and I rely more on the opinion of scouts and scouting reports - my general feeling is that Ellis is one of the safest picks in this draft.
Hey Mike. I am wondering on if the Pats will take Keith Rivers. I hear he has some great measureables. I am just wondering what you think the Pats will do with the 7th overall pick and maybe if they'll trade down.
Ethan Wendling, Macungie, Pa.
A: I think the Patriots will try to trade down, Ethan, but my hunch is that the teams in front of them - the Chiefs at No. 5 and the Jets at No. 6 - will also be looking to move down, which will make it tougher. I envision the Patriots having a small card with a few players names on it going into the draft, and I think Rivers will be on it. A lot will depend on how it all falls in picks 1-6. The other question is if Rivers' Wonderlic score - reported as a 16 by the Chicago Tribune - might be a reflection that it will be hard for him to adjust to the Patriots' complex defense. I don't have the answer to that one.
I think that Chris Long is scary ... in the sense that he may be a bust as a first-round talent. He lacks elite speed and gets pushed around against bigger guards and possibly may not be able to cover according to ESPN. He's Justin Smith, the former Bengal, all over again. I couldn't imagine anyone besides the Raiders screwing up and drafting him in the top 10. I pray the Patriots don't draft him or Gholston. I am afraid of Gholston being just a workout warrior bust. I personally can get behind only Ellis or Rivers and I've been reading a lot about the Bengals and Saints' interest in Sedrick Ellis enough to trade up. That'd give the Pats a chance to not over-draft Keith Rivers.
A: Appreciate the thoughts, Russ, although I think the Patriots would be thrilled to see Chris Long on the board at No. 7. In fact, as much as I've said I think the team would like to trade down, he might be one of the few players that they would be enticed to keeping the pick to select. Gholston, I don't have as good of a feel for. Some scouts say he disappeared in some games. I'd agree on Ellis and Rivers as being safer picks you can "get behind." I think both will be solid pros.
I don't see the Patriots drafting Vernon Gholston if he falls to them because he does not always give his 100 percent. I see the Patriots picking cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, unless they trade with the Cowboys for their both first round picks and their second round pick. Do you agree? Could you see the Patriots Doing this?
Jorge N., Mexico City
A: I don't see the Patriots selecting Rodgers-Cromartie at No. 7, Jorge. My feeling is that they'd think it's too risky, as Rodgers-Cromartie is a challenging projection because of the level of competition in which he played (Division I-AA). I also don't think the Cowboys would give up both their No. 1 picks, plus a second-rounder, to move up. That trade seems lopsided in favor of the Patriots. Maybe the two first-round picks get it done, but even that might be too rich for the Cowboys.
Any chance the Patriots would take Darren McFadden if he's still available at No. 7? I LOVE Maroney, especially with Morris, Evans and Faulk, but wouldn't we be UNSTOPPABLE with a Maroney-McFadden based running game? Perhaps that would free Faulk up to be used more for the passing game, etc. In my eyes it would elevate our running game to the level our passing was at last year.
Rick, New Haven, Conn.
A: I don't see it happening, Rick. In the end, I think there are too many questions surrounding McFadden off the field that will lead the Patriots to going in a different direction.
I just read that Miami is negotiating with Long (OT) and Gholston. Are you surprised? Most talk about the other Long and Ryan as the potential top picks. Do you think Miami is really deciding between OT Long and Gholston?
A: Rick, I am not surprised, and I don't think Miami has narrowed its choices solely to Jake Long and Vernon Gholston. I think it is smart business by the Dolphins to ensure the top pick is under contract before the draft. I was surprised the Raiders didn't do it last year, which contributed to JaMarcus Russell's holdout. As for the Dolphins' pick, if I had to do a mock today, I'd still pick Chris Long.
What do you think about the Patriots picking up a good linebacker in the draft? I think that if they can't get Gholston or Ellis they should trade down and then maybe pick up a cornerback. I also have heard rumors that Pacman Jones could still be a viable option in a trade. What have you heard?
David Ernest Lagasse, Chula Vista, Calif.
A: David, one aspect I feel strongly about is that the Patriots' past drafting won't dictate this year's selections, so just because the team hasn't selected a linebacker higher than the fifth round does not, in my opinion, have any impact on their decisions on April 26-27. I do think the possibility is good that the team will land a linebacker in the early rounds, as this class looks pretty good. As for Pacman Jones, I don't think he is a viable option. The Patriots have no plans to pursue him and, regardless, it looks like Jones will wind up in Dallas.
Mike, what are your thoughts on the Patriots swapping 1st round picks with Cincinnati (our 7th for their 9th) and trading Chad Jackson for Chad Johnson? In your opinion, is this a scenario that either the Patriots or Bengals would go for?
Sean Fitzgerald, Newton
A: I think the Patriots would jump at that trade, Sean. On the flip side, I don't believe the Bengals would make the swap, because it appears lopsided to me in favor of New England. I think the Patriots would have to significantly sweeten the pot for that deal to take place.
Hi Mike, for early-round draft picks, does the NFL collective bargaining agreement dictate the terms related to things like the number of years, minimum salary, guaranteed payment etc., or is this up to each team? Also, is it unheard of to trade a top-round pick a few weeks/months after the draft? Thanks for your great work.
A: Dave, the collective bargaining agreement does dictate some things. For example, picks 1-16 can sign for a maximum of six years, while picks 17-32 can sign for a maximum of five, while second-round picks and lower can sign for a maximum of four. The minimum base salaries for players are also pre-determined. But as a hypothetical - because I think I know what you're getting at - there is nothing that binds a team from paying the money that the club in the same spot the previous year did. It would probably lead to a holdout, and if multiple teams did it, charges of collusion. On the last part of the question, it is pretty much unheard of to trade a top pick only a few weeks after the draft.
Could you give some insight on LB Victor Hobson's skills set. He will most likely play inside LB for the most part, and with that comes covering the TE's correct? How do you think he measures up against covering the mid-field.
Jeffrey G., Northridge
A: Jeffrey, the first thing to look at is that Hobson has considerable playing experience (5 years), with two years in a similar system. So right off the bat, he's been competitive. He's also shown some burst as a pass rusher, mainly as a blitzer, so I think he'll add some value there. The big question will be how he plays on the inside, working to shed blocks as guards and centers fire out at him. That's different than what he did the last two years in New York. His pass-coverage responsibilities will also differ and he might find himself matched up against running backs more regularly. Hobson isn't considered fast, so that could be a tough matchup for him.
Regarding the Victor Hobson deal, I'm surprised he signed for such a low amount. He's a relatively young player and has good experience. What is his situation - coming off injuries - not as good a player as I thought - just really wants to play for the Pats?
A: Probably the biggest thing, Kevin, is that there wasn't a great market for linebackers who didn't rush the passer this year. The Bears' Lance Briggs is a good example of this. One would have thought he would have received more interest, but he eventually re-signed with the Bears, probably for less than he envisioned. Hobson probably figured he'd receive more interest too, but since he didn't, he inked a one-year deal in which he will look to have a big year and put himself on the market again, hoping that things change. Some have asked 'then why didn't the Jets want him for that price?' My answer has been that it is often hard for the incumbent team in those situations. I'm sure the Jets would have loved Hobson to come back at a minimum deal, but Hobson probably felt he couldn't walk back in that locker room doing that - it's something about giving five years to an organization and feeling devalued. Although they are different circumstances, I'd put the Patriots in the same situation with Rosevelt Colvin right now.
I haven't heard anything about Rosevelt Colvin since he was released, do you think there is any chance there could some future discussion about bringing him back?
A: There is always a chance, Gerry, but I would rate it as slim at this point. I don't think Colvin can pass a physical right now, so the first step would be him getting to that point. I know it's probably risky to look too much into it, but Victor Hobson was issued Colvin's No. 59, and I think that is probably telling that Colvin isn't coming back.
I was just thinking about how much it's going to hurt all of us when that 31st selection comes up and we think about the "sliding" high-value player we might have picked up if not for Spygate. Plenty of people have commented on the reputation damage caused by the scandal, but I'm curious about whether any of the players or team executives have commented on how that forfeited pick will negatively impact the team's ability to replenish talent and sustain the team's excellence? If not, perhaps you could provide your thoughts on how big of a loss it is in the long-term?
A: Naturally, Vincent, not having the pick negatively impacts the team's ability to replenish talent and sustain the team's excellence. But I don't think it's crippling and I don't think the Patriots feel that way either. In terms of comments from the Patriots - there might be more insight on Wednesday as Bill Belichick's pre-draft press conference - I have not heard anything regarding how the pick will impact the team's ability to replenish talent.
Why have there been so many one-year contract deals being signed not just by the Patriots but throughout the entire league. Is this because of the possibility of there no longer being a salary cap within the next couple of seasons or is this just a trend of low-risk, high-reward deals that teams around the league have been signing free agents to?
Brandon, Warwick, R.I.
A: Brandon, I'd say it's more of the latter. Even if teams were operating with the idea that there might not be a collective bargaining agreement in a couple years - with no salary cap - I still think we'd see varied approaches. For example, one could look at Oakland's spending binge - long-term deals for defensive lineman Tommy Kelly, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, receiver Javon Walker and safety Gibril Wilson - and theorize that perhaps the Raiders are spending all that cash with a go-for-it-now approach because there might not be a cap. So I don't think it's any black-and-white type of answer on this one.
With David Givens having been released by the Titans, do you see any interest by the Pats since he already knows the Pats system?
Bert Forest, Norwood
A: Givens' health is the big issue, Bert, as he had a serious knee injury. I don't think he could pass a physical right now, so I'd put him in the Colvin category - nothing can happen until he's healthy again. If the Patriots find themselves in a pinch, and Givens is healthy, I would imagine he'd be on their short list.