After months of speculation on what the Patriots will do with the seventh overall draft choice, we will finally have some answers come Saturday.
The NFL draft begins at 3 p.m. ET this year and if the Patriots keep the No. 7 pick, they are expected to make the selection about 3:50 p.m. ET.
The team's second-round pick isn't expected to be made until around 9:30 p.m. ET.
A reminder: In a change from past years, only the first and second rounds are scheduled for Saturday, with rounds 3-7 coming Sunday (starting at 10 a.m.).
This week's mailbag is filled with possibilities for the Patriots at No. 7. Do they trade down? Do they trade up? If they stick at 7, who do they pick?
For those who are all "drafted" out, there are other team-related questions toward the middle and end of the 'bag. One line of questioning that surprised me was regarding defensive lineman Richard Seymour.
For those who can't get enough of the draft, we have scheduled a draft-specific chat on Boston.com for Thursday at noon ET.
Let's get to the questions.
What do you think the Pats will do with their 7th overall pick? Trade it or keep it? Who might they draft?
Tom, East Greenville, Pa.
A: Tom, based on the opinion of people I talk to - and I say that because they know these players a lot better than I do - this is not a very good spot for the Patriots. Naturally, a lot will depend on the six players drafted before the No. 7 pick and I'm sure there are a few scenarios that the Patriots would be OK with. Yet my sense is that they will be working hard to trade down. The reason it is not a great spot is that the money that the No. 7 pick will command (around $18 million in guarantees/bonuses) should yield a top-caliber player, at a key position, with little risk/questions. After all, this player will be the third or fourth highest paid player on the club, receiving a contract similar to Adalius Thomas. I see USC defensive lineman Sedrick Ellis and Virginia offensive lineman Branden Albert as the safest choices, so if the Patriots keep the pick, I'd start my list off with them. Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston would also be on the list.
Mike, with all of the stories circulating this year about how high draft picks are too costly, what are the chances of the Patriots again being on the cutting edge of player acquisition? It's been standard practice for the team with the number one overall pick to try and negotiate a contract with their desired player before the draft - and Bill Parcells is doing it this year. What is to stop the Patriots from doing the same thing with the #7 pick? What's to stop the Patriots from targeting a player that the "experts" think will be drafted in the middle of the first round. The Patriots could conceivably go to that player, and get them to agree to a contract that is less than the #7 pick typically gets, but more than the player would have gotten at his expected draft slot. Is that possible?
A: In theory, Zack, this would be a stroke of genius for any team concerned with the costs of signing a top-5 or top-10 pick. I think the biggest issue, however, would be that the agent community would not go along with this. One thing to remember is that if an agent signs a below-market deal this year, it will be used against him or her when recruiting clients the next year. So I think the agent aspect of this would also be a major factor to not allowing it to happen. On a related note, which would restrict this from happening, here is the official rule from the NFL regarding draft-pick negotiation outside of the team with the No. 1 pick: Clubs may have discussions with draft-eligible players or their reps prior to the draft about non-financial matters. However, no club (other than one with first choice) may engage in contract negotiations with a draft-eligible player before the draft or in any discussion with such a player or his rep regarding salary or other terms of compensation that a player may expect or anticipate.
With the economics of top 10 picks being what they are and if the Patriots can not get the player/cost value they'd like at the 7th slot, would there be enough trade-off value from a cap perspective for the Patriots to simply exchange their first round pick with a Carolina trading backwards for no additional compensation and then either selecting at that slot (lessening the salary cap impact) or perhaps more readily find trading partners from there if they wanted to stockpile picks in rounds where the value is greater to them?
A: I think this thought is a bit extreme, Horace, but I happen to agree with it. While there would not be any additional draft-pick compensation coming back to the Patriots in this scenario, they would gain from reducing their economic risk. I wouldn't be surprised to see a deal like this in the coming years if the structure of the draft, and the rising cost of rookie salaries, does not change. This theory ties into a brief conversation I had with Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen at the NFL owners meetings a few weeks back about draft-value charts. Allen's team picked No. 4 last year and I asked him, based on that experience, if he felt that top-5 picks were un-tradable due to the high salaries. He disagreed with the premise, saying something to the extent of: "If teams want to give them away, there are teams that will take them." So in the end, I think teams are still interested in top-5 picks, but the change comes in what they're willing to trade to acquire them. On the flip side, my feeling is that what teams are willing to accept as compensation for those top-5 picks has changed as well.
With the topsy-turvy and contradictory mock drafts, there seems to be a good chance for trades happening. Who do you think are Pats natural partners? (Safe to say that Jets and Colts will not call the Pats).
Shriram. Chennai, India
A: Shriram, I'd put the following teams as most likely trade partners:
The Cowboys have two first-round picks later in the round. I looked at the values of the picks according to the NFL's chart, and it appears that the Pats' pick is about equal to the two picks the Cowboys have. I could definitely see the Pats making a deal for the Cowboys' two picks. Do you think it's likely the Cowboys would go for it?
Ken, Oak Lawn, Ill.
A: I'd lean toward "no" on this one, Ken. The only way my thoughts would change is if the Cowboys truly coveted a player, such as Arkansas' Darren McFadden, and I don't have that information. I'd also add in the consideration that the Jets (No. 6) are probably in the same situation, looking to trade down, so there is competition. The other point I would make is that the draft-value chart is different depending on the team. There is no universal chart. My feeling is that the No. 22 and 28 picks might have been the required compensation a team needed to move up to No. 7 in the past. But I believe the compensation for the No. 7 pick is less today based on the economic risk of the pick. So a trade with Dallas might only yield the No. 22 pick and a lesser-round pick these days.
Mike, I've seen several different 'draftniks' say that there seems to be a general consensus that six players have separated themselves talent-wise from the rest of the class. Sort of the Elite 6 of the draft. What they also seem to imply is that we all should know who these six are. Well, enlighten me if you would to who these six are. The Longs and McFadden are the obvious ones, but after that I could convince myself of about five others.
Nate, Levittown, Pa.
A: Nate, the top six would seemingly be DE Chris Long, OT Jake Long, QB Matt Ryan, DL Glenn Dorsey, RB Darren McFadden and either DL Sedrick Ellis or DE/LB Vernon Gholston. McFadden is an interesting case, as it's possible he might not go in the top six because there are few teams up top who need a running back. Dorsey is also interesting as his health is a concern to teams looking to manage the risk that comes with the big contract at the top of the draft.
Hey Mike, Do you think Derrick Harvey looks like Roosevelt Colvin?
A: I have not seen too much of Harvey play, Jake, so I can only base my opinion based on what personnel evaluators tell me and what I read in scouting reports. I had one scout tell me that he feels Harvey is one of the "cleanest" picks in the first round, meaning he is a player with some of the fewest questions/risk. That might be different from the Patriots' perspective, however, because any time you are projecting an end to outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, there is additional risk. The feeling was that Harvey would be a bit rich to select at No. 7, though.
Mike, I big fan of Oklahoma's LB Curtis Lofton. Are the Pats interested in him? And, do you think he will be available for the Pats in the second or third round?
A: Jim, the Patriots had Lofton at Gillette Stadium as one of their 30 pre-draft visits, and I don't think that was a smokescreen. I think there is some level of genuine interest with Lofton. My hunch, however, is that he will not be available with the late second-round pick.
Mike, I was wondering if you think the Patriots may address the safety position in this draft, and when they might do it. After 2008, the only safety the Pats have signed up is Merriweather. Rodney is close to retirement and I can see a team like the Jets or Phins overpaying for Sanders, an UFA. That could leave us with a big hole in the secondary. If the Pats trade down in the first a guy I have had my eye on is Kenny Phillips out of Miami. Almost every write up I have seen on him claims he could be the next great Miami safety and he seems to be great in both coverage and against the run. It looks like his stock has slipped into the 2nd half of the 1st round due to a poor combine and injuries in his junior year. Could he be a steal?
A: Steve, this safety class, by most accounts, is one of the weakest in recent years. Phillips is probably the only first-rounder and he will probably go in the back half of the round, perhaps even slipping into the early second round. I don't see the Patriots going in that direction, instead targeting the mid-to-late rounds for a safety, if at all. I think in Sanders/Meriweather they have a combination that will grow together in future years, and I envision Sanders re-upping with the team on an extension before the Dolphins, Jets or another team could bid on him.
What are your thoughts on Jamie Silva from BC as a later round pick for the Pats (maybe their second third round pick at No. 94)? I watched him a lot this year and he is all over the field: intercepting the ball, batting down passes, and smacking guys in the mouth. I know he probably needs to bulk up a bit, but he could be a serviceable special teamer this year and hopefully step right in next to Meriweather when Rodney retires. How can you not like a safety that looks like Triple H?
A: Silva is the type of player that scouts pay the ultimate compliment by simply saying: "football player". He might not measure up well when it comes to height, weight and foot speed, but he makes plays. I was told the third round might be a bit high for him, but he could be an option a bit later in the draft.
I was looking at what happened to last year's Patriots draft class. I think only 2 players are still with the team -- Brandon Meriweather and Mike Richardson. I also thought it was pretty interesting that all of the other players that were drafted in 2007 are now playing with the Pats biggest on-field competitors: the Jets, the Colts and one player now plays for Dallas (Justin Rogers). It seems like last year's draft class was horrible and that this will come back to haunt them very soon. Your thoughts on this? The other thing that becomes apparent when you look at the draft year over year is that it is obvious that the Bill Belichick places a premium on offensive and defensive linemen. He builds the team from both lines outward - which to me is the right way to do it. So this leads me to think that their first pick this year will be a lineman OR a defensive end in college that they will convert to a linebacker. Your thoughts?
A: On last year's draft, Carl, I see it from the 50-50 view. I think those who look at it and see only two picks (Meriweather, Richardson) are short-sighted in that Wes Welker and Randy Moss should be added to that haul, as they were acquired with draft picks (second round, fourth round). And to a lesser extent, I'd add rookie free agent quarterback Matt Gutierrez in there, as he shows promise. I also think there were fewer spots to be earned by rookies, as the team was pretty deep. Also, the overall talent in the draft was weak. Yet on the flip side, I think the Patriots probably made a mistake waiving Justin Rogers. And when I see the Giants get great production out of a rookie class that included a fifth-round tight end like Kevin Boss, it makes me think the Patriots could have done a little better with their second-day picks, regardless of the factors mentioned above. As for the second part of the question - about building from the inside-out - I agree with the theory but I think the Patriots - who have certainly done that defensively - might get a bit too much credit in that regard on the offensive side. The only first-rounder on the offensive line is Logan Mankins. Matt Light is a second-rounder, Dan Koppen was taken in the fifth round, Stephen Neal was a developmental prospect and Nick Kaczur was a late third-rounder.
Everyone knows that the Pats like their LB's big, at least 250 pounds. However, they did talk with a smaller LB, Zach Thomas, during the offseason. Does this show a change in philosophy, a change which might lead them to Keith Rivers at pick #7?
A: I don't think it shows a change in philosophy, Andrew. While Thomas doesn't fit the prototype, I don't think the team would have altered its fundamental scheme based on his acquisition. As for Rivers, I had one scout tell me No. 7 would be a bit rich to select him. I remember last year, the Patriots had some questions with how well some top linebackers ran, and I think they might be thinking the same thing with Rivers (4.6 speed in the 40).
Hi Mike, some mock drafts have us picking Keith Rivers at pick No. 7. I also read that his Wonderlic score was low (16, according to the Chicago Tribune). The Pats defense is complicated and runs on super bright ball players. Would the Pats really draft someone with a low Wonderlic? If so, how do they figure out how well the player will do in their system?
Richard, Los Gatos, Calif.
A: I don't know the answer to the question, Richard, other than to pass along that I sought out the answer by talking with former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson last week. He believes the Wonderlic is not the best measure of a player's ability to play inside linebacker in the Patriots' 3-4 defense. He said his Wonderlic was low and one team even asked him about it in the pre-draft process back in 1995. But in the end, he showed he could play in the scheme despite that low Wonderlic score. If Johnson's case is to be applied to everyone else, I guess we can say it doesn't matter. My hunch, however, is that some teams might object to that line of thinking.
Richard Seymour has been an All-Pro performer and a key component of the Patriot's defense for many years. However, he has a very high salary cap number. Do you think that the Pats will ask him to restructure his contract, seeing that it is high?
A: Dave, I don't think the Patriots will ask Seymour to restructure his contract. Part of the reason is that there are only two years left and it calls for salary cap charges of $6.8 million in 2008 and $9.7 million in 2009. Because there are only two years remaining in the deal, it will be nearly impossible to restructure without Seymour taking a pay cut. I don't see Seymour taking a pay cut.
This was from SI.com: Richard Seymour's postseason: 12 quarters, zero quarterback pressures or sacks. New England has to address that. Your thoughts?
A: Jim, while I'd agree that Seymour's performance dipped in 2007, and even a bit in 2006, I'm surprised that anyone would suggest that Seymour should have his contract restructured or that the team needs to address Seymour's situation. He is one of the best defensive linemen in the NFL and has been hindered by a bad knee the last two seasons. One e-mailer suggested Seymour should be traded to the Vikings, who are considering a trade for Jared Allen. I would not endorse that deal.
Hey Mike, I was wondering what your thoughts were on the Patriots trading the No. 7 for Lito Sheppard? I heard that the Eagles are looking to move him now that they have Asante. I know he is a four-time Pro Bowler and is a shutdown corner, which in my opinion, the Pats don't clearly have. I know he has been prone to injury the past couple of years, and this is all contingent on who falls to No. 7. I don't know the cap hit on him or even if we could afford it, but do you think we might see another Randy Moss type deal with him?
Grant, Columbus, Ohio
A: I'd be against trading the No. 7 straight-up for Lito Sheppard, Grant. My argument would be that Sheppard is looking for a contract extension, so to acquire him, you're not only giving up the No. 7 but also the cash. If the Patriots were going in that direction, I feel they should have kept Asante Samuel. One possibility I'd be in favor of - if the Eagles would consider it - is flip-flopping spots in the first round (7th for 19th) and third round (69th for 80th) with Sheppard going to the Patriots. I'm still not sure that would get the deal done.
Hi Mike, in your opinion what are the chances the Patriots will try and trade their first-round pick for Chad Johnson? I've heard that Bill is an admirer of him and I think Johnson actually may accept a one-year Moss type deal to play for a winner. However, it's another story as to whether Johnson could accept the Patriot way and whether he could accept sharing the ball with Moss and Welker.
Patrick, Raleigh, N.C.
A: Patrick, I do think the Patriots would have interest in Johnson, but I believe the Bengals when they say Johnson won't be dealt. The salary cap hit for trading Johnson is high, and the Bengals just paid him $16 million in bonuses over the last two years. If Johnson agreed to pay back some of that money, then I'd explore this deeper. But until that happens, I just don't think Johnson will be on the market.
What is happening to Ty Law? Has he been talking to the Pats? Do you think he will be a Patriot?
John, Owosso, Mich.
A: The last time I spoke with Law, a few weeks ago, he was visiting with the Jets and made it sound as if his signing was imminent. That didn't turn out to be the case. He is still a free agent. What this tells me is that what teams such as the Jets and Patriots are offering is less than he is willing to play for. So he's content to wait things out, perhaps into training camp, to see if teams will sweeten their offer.
Why no news about Takeo Spikes? He is a veteran that I feel would work perfectly for the pats for a two- to three-year period or more. I had thought as soon as he was released he would be picked up but no news on him. Is he still injured so teams are backing off for a later signing? He and Victor Hobson could be huge additions to the linebacker corps and allow for the draft to be more focused on other needs such as the secondary or more depth.
A: Andrew, I had previously heard that the Patriots had no interest in Takeo Spikes. While Spikes has high name recognition, I don't think the Patriots viewed his skills and overall package, at this time of his career, as a fit. I assume that has not changed.
Mike, this may be an old question, but what is the inside NFL talk on why the Patriots played so poorly in the Super Bowl. It seems clear the offense deserves a lot of the blame probably equally between the OL and the coaching staff not able to make effective adjustments in the second half.
Patrick, Palmyra, N.Y.
A: It's not odd, Patrick, as many folks are still talking about the Super Bowl. When I was out talking to a group in a local town earlier this month, it was one of the first questions asked from the audience. I have also noticed it specifically in the agent community while making calls regarding draft possibilities. Also, coaches and scouts at the combine and owners meetings talked about it. In a nutshell, the most common "talk" is that quarterback Tom Brady picked a bad time to have his worst game of the season, the offensive line struggled considerably, the coaching staff didn't do enough to adjust and counter the Giants's attack, the fourth-and-13 call to go for it and forego a 48-yard field goal was odd, and the defense couldn't come up with the one stop it needed to close out the game.
It was reported that both Webster, and Bryant were highly praised by their former coaches as excellent players. If this is the case how could they not work out something a little better than one year deals at low compensations to match the Patriots? I know this might rebuild their reputations for better future deals, but why receive such praise and then having that coach let the player go? I know you said yourself they will challenge for starting roles, yet they are not exactly sure-fire starters. I suppose I am looking for some reassurance, or just trying to buy into the idea that linebacker is the role that needs to be addressed. What are your thoughts?
Jeffrey, Northridge, Ca.
A: My first thought, Jeffrey, is that most of the time you're going to hear positive thoughts from former coaches on players no longer with the club, so those need to be placed in the proper context. Obviously, there are some drawbacks to the player, or they'd still be with the original club. Bryant's situation in Detroit seemed to be more contract-related. Webster, in Buffalo, was seemingly injury-based. Lewis Sanders, in Atlanta, got caught in a coaching/scheme change. There are no assurances with any of them, just that they'll have a chance to compete for a job. On the plus side, they bring experience. I think one aspect that works in the Patriots' favor is that they are a winning organization, and sometimes, if all things are equal, that can sway a player to sign with them over the original club.
On the schedule, how come no team out West comes here and we have to go out West?
A: That is part of the rotating scheduling formula that the league instituted in 2002, Dave. The Jets also have four trips out West. Opponents and locations are pre-determined to ensure that every team plays each other - home and away - in a certain timeframe.
Mike, I know that Oscar Lua has been released but do you see the Patriots inviting him to camp this summer?
A: Tim, I don't see Lua coming back to camp unless there is an emergency situation.
Hi Mike, since the Pats will have two back-to-back West Coast games in this coming season, I wonder if they will stay on the West Coast between the week to prepare for the game. I know it's uncommon.
A: I think the Patriots will stay out West, Jeff, similar to what the Dolphins did in 2004. My feeling is that it gives the team the best chance to win, which is primarily what that decision will be based upon. In the Boston Globe Sunday Football Notes (second section), Dolphins president Bryan Weidmeier spoke about how the Dolphins managed that trip.