The Patriots' draft is in the books and there seemed to be three main topics on the minds of readers:
1) Did the Patriots reach for Tennessee linebacker Jerod Mayo at No. 10?
2) Why do the Patriots keep drafting shorter cornerbacks?
3) What was the story behind selecting a quarterback - San Diego State's Kevin O'Connell - in the third round?
We'll get right to the questions this week.
Hi Mike, if Vernon Gholston were still on the board at 7th, do you think the Pats would have taken him or traded down? My hunch is they would have taken him because there is a big drop off from Gholston and the other LBs. Once again, the Jets probably went into the draft thinking if Darren McFadden were not at 6th, they will take whoever the Pats want. Second question is do you think the CBs situation has been answered? Third, do you think Mayo will start immediately?
A: Tough hypothetical, Jeffrey, because I wasn't in the draft room to know how the Patriots rated Gholston vs. Mayo. They play different positions (outside linebacker vs. inside linebacker) and fill different needs, and I think the Patriots had locked into Mayo from the start of the draft. Had Gholston been there, it would have made the decision to trade down a bit more difficult. If I had to take a stab at it, I'd say the Patriots would have done the same thing -- taking Mayo in a trade down, and landing Shawn Crable with the additional draft pick acquired -- vs. sticking at 7 and taking Gholston. The 2-for-1 approach, while saving some money, seems like their kind of move. At cornerback, I think they could go into camp feeling good about what they have. They might consider adding a Ty Law, but I don't think they have to. As for Mayo starting immediately, it wouldn't surprise me.
When the Patriots traded down to the number 10 pick, I kept thinking they may have even traded that pick to get more picks later in the draft. Did any team inquire about that or were they sold at that point to snag Mayo?
Rick, Louisville, Ky.
A: There were a lot of discussions throughout the first round, Rick, and the Patriots did have offers to consider for the 10th pick. One would have knocked them into the second round and given them a 2009 first-round pick. But in the end, they stuck with it and selected Mayo, which probably speaks to how highly they thought of him. I think the offers they were considering would have put them out of range to grab Mayo, as the Lions (15) were ready to pounce.
How could they have picked Mayo that high? He would have been available at 20, never mind 10. For a team that says they NEVER draft on need, this pick made me sick. He may end up helping them out, and I'm not sure who I would have picked otherwise, but Mayo was so far down my list it shocked me. I think, when they traded back, they wanted Harvey, and Jacksonville blew up that plan. I just don't see Mayo worth the No. 10 pick. What do you think?
A: I can see why some might have this opinion, Jan, as many of the media mock drafts and projections had Mayo as a late first-rounder. Even Mayo himself was surprised at being the No. 10 pick. I had a conversation with a scout I trust implicitly the day before the draft, and I told him the player I was having the toughest time placing in the mock draft was Mayo, because he seemed to be rising late in the draft process. I ended up putting him 29th so I was way off. Here is what I think happened: Mayo left school after his junior season, so I think a lot of teams were doing "catch up" work on him in the offseason, unlike the seniors in the draft who they knew were available and thus they could accelerate the scouting process on them. Mayo had a solid combine workout, which started to raise his stock. Then teams started studying him more closely and realized he had the size/speed/smarts/intangibles combination that is top-notch. I know the Lions loved him at No. 15 and were ready to take him. But as Mayo's rise up the board was unfolding, I don't think most media members -- including myself -- caught up to it. And thus, the perception was that he was a late first-rounder. On the other part of the question, I don't think Harvey was a target. Too much of a risky projection as to how he'd fit in the 3-4 defense.
Hi Mike, awesome job on the draft coverage. I have to say I disagree with your Pats draft recap with you "Pats Quick on their Feet" article. To me, the Pats traded down wisely but failed to get the best LB in the draft (Keith Rivers) who was taken just ahead of them. This left them no choice but to take Mayo, who was not projected that high. So the "value" was poor here. We won't know for a little while, but IF Keith Rivers turns out to be a terrific LB, the Pats will look pretty stupid missing on that one to save $5 million won't they? Also, their next pick was for Terrence Wheatley. My thoughts here are that I can only hope he turns out OK. By my count he was the 7th corner taken. Even in a deep draft for CBs this doesn't seem to bode very well in my opinion. Combined with the poor draft last year, they really need to hit on some players this year. Here's the question I'd like someone to ask Bill: "Bill, if Keith Rivers were NOT picked just ahead of you, would you have picked him or still picked Jerod Mayo?" - if he says I would have picked Keith, then he is all but admitting that moving down meant yes they saved $5 million in cap money BUT also had to settle for second best. Your thoughts?
A: Carl, in most media mock drafts, Rivers was rated ahead of Mayo, so I can see why there would be the perception that the Patriots got the second-best linebacker. But I think the key here is remembering that each player fits into each team's system differently. In this case, the Patriots believed Mayo was a better system fit than Rivers. So while Rivers might go on to become a star in Cincinnati, that's a different system, and there is no telling if he would have had the same success in New England. I'd also point out the Patriots' track record with first-round picks, which is quite solid under Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli, so I personally have to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one. I think second-round pick Terrence Wheatley is a good pick as well, assuming his previously injured wrist is not an issue.
Why would the Pats trade their first third-round pick with Dan Connor still on the board? Seems like a good fit and value in the third round.
A: Ira, the Patriots had Michigan OLB Shawn Crable on the phone and were ready to select him with that third-round pick, but the Chargers came in late with the trade offer that they felt was too good to pass up. So I don't think Connor was a consideration there. My sense is that while Connor might have been good value for teams that played a different style of defense, he wasn't a system fit for the Patriots.
Mike - the trade out of the Pats first pick in the 3rd round doesn't surprise me. However the choice of trading partner DOES surprise me. There were undoubtedly a lot of teams thinking about the highly-rated players that went undrafted on Day 1, and with the early pick the Pats were in the driver's seat. However, getting San Diego's second pick in 2009 is at least now, only a movement if six to eight spaces up the board if the Chargers finish like they did in 2007. So I am wondering if the Patriots have "projected" the Chargers to perform more poorly in 2008 and thus take a chance on getting a much better pick (like the serendipity with San Francisco this year). Otherwise, it seems better to take the "bird in the hand" and get immediate help rather than defer with such a shallow gain. Thoughts?
Derryl, East Greenwich, R.I.
A: Interesting point, Derryl. I don't think it has anything to do with a projection that the Chargers won't be as good. I think it's just Belichick's and Pioli's standard belief that anytime you can move up a round and add a future chip, 99 times out of 100, that's a move you have to make. It's not just the idea that you might only move up a few spots, but it's the idea of reallocating your resources and helping sustain a long-range vision. Because the Patriots have a deep roster, they have more flexibility to make moves like that. Acquiring future picks is generally good business, because it gives you another chip to maneuver the draft board, or perhaps, acquire a veteran player. I thought the trade was one of the highlights of the team's draft, contributing to the sustained-success vision of the Bill Belichick/Scott Pioli regime, and it turns out they got the player they were going to select anyway (Shawn Crable).
As someone who drinks the kool-aid ("In Belichick I trust"), I like the fact that the Pats draft guys for their system and follow their own board instead of listening to all the "experts". That being said, I think a lot of the negative comments about the Patriots' draft this year comes not from the players so much, but on two things - why did they take the QB in Round 3 and why did they think they needed to trade up in Round 5 to get Slater? Heck, I was shocked that Slater even got drafted at all? Did the Patriots have to make those moves at those points in the draft?
Jim, Las Vegas
A: Both moves raised some eyebrows, Jim, but at the same time I can see why they did it. The quarterback pick was 94th overall, just a few picks away from the fourth round. So I think context here is a big thing. If I said before the draft that the Patriots would take a quarterback in the fourth round, I don't think too many people would have challenged me on that. Also, O'Connell was the fifth quarterback taken in the draft. The way the draft board is stacked, the Patriots saw great value in that -- instead of, for example, taking the 18th defensive back. I'm sure they also believe they need an upgrade from Matt Cassel, and that plays a part in it, too. Cassel is also entering the last year of his contract. As for Slater, the Patriots gave up a fifth-round pick and seventh-round pick to move up in the fifth. That's a minor trade, considering the team's roster is deep and that any player they would have selected in the seventh round would be a rookie free-agent type anyway.
Mike, do you think the Jets played into the thinking a bit on the O'Connell pick? QB was bigger need for them and they had lost out on Ryan, Henne and Brohm.
A: No, Len, I don't think the Jets had any part in the pick. Probably the biggest thing is that Henne and Brohm went 56th and 57th, and then there was a 36-pick stretch in which no quarterbacks were selected. So the Patriots get on the clock and probably saw that gap and figured that was good value. If they waited until their next pick - 129th overall - they risked losing someone they had rated highly at the position.
Do you think the Patriots grabbed O'Connell because they know Brady's shoulder is shot from carrying his supermodel's dog and luggage all over the globe?
A: I sense some sarcasm here, Ron. No, I don't think it was a factor. Probably more of a factor was that Matt Cassel is entering the final year of his contract and they not only are planning for his potential departure, but probably want to upgrade the spot as well. Also, about 60 different quarterbacks started at least one game in the NFL last year, a reminder that the health of starters at the position is tenuous.
Do you think the Pats will use O'Connell at any other position besides quarterback?
A: A few other e-mailers asked a similar question, Ryan, but right now I see O'Connell as a pure quarterback. I don't envision him like Brad Smith, the former Missouri product who plays receiver/quarterback for the Jets. I'll keep an eye out for any sign of this at the team's rookie minicamp this weekend to see if there might be any indication of this.
Watching Belichick's press conference on Sunday, he was talking about Pierre Woods as if he was an All-Pro. I don't mean to bash Woods, as I know he plays a valuable role on special teams. But if Shawn Crable can't get on the field more than Woods, I think we'd consider him a bust. Why is Bill so high on the guy if he won't play him?
A: I'd put this one in a different context, Earl. The way I understood Belichick's comments were this way: He was asked if Crable reminded him at all of Carl Banks, a top-notch linebacker he had coached with the Giants. Perhaps thinking that it was a lofty comparison to make, considering Crable has not played a down in the NFL and Banks was a top player, Belichick chose Woods as his comparison. I wouldn't read too much more into that.
I think the Pats did well with the draft. Maybe it is reasonable to think that Mayo, Crable, Wheatley, Slater, and possibly O'Connell will make the team. But do you think there will be any regrets not drafting an offensive lineman, given the Super Bowl? Still wonder if Ryan O'Callaghan and Russ Hochstein could have stemmed the blue tide somewhat (as in Game 16) or if this is just wishful thinking? What would a bruiser like Jeff Otah have done for NE?
A: Had they selected an offensive lineman, Bevan, it wouldn't have surprised me. But I don't think it's crippling that they didn't land a lineman. It also tells me that they are confident that starting guard Stephen Neal, who was knocked out of the Super Bowl with a knee injury and had also battled shoulder problems, is doing well. Otah projects solely as a right tackle and the Patriots usually like their linemen to have some flexibility to play two positions. He probably would have bumped O'Callaghan off the roster and I think the Patriots like O'Callaghan.
Hey Mike, I'm sure you'll get a lot of e-mails wondering why we didn't pick an OL, but honestly, I'm glad we didn't. The Super Bowl was an aberration, and the o-linemen are all signed for several years. I think we addressed need (although BB wouldn't admit that), but I actually think every one of our picks will make the 53-man roster, unlike last year. What do you think?
A: I could have seen the Patriots going either way with a lineman, Bill. In fact, the team could have selected just about any position in this draft and I could have understood it, which speaks to the depth of the roster. When it comes to the o-line, names like Ryan O'Callaghan, Wesley Britt, and Billy Yates are probably good to keep in mind. Those players are top backups who the team has invested multiple years to develop, so the Patriots probably felt those players are equal, if not better, to any draft picks they would have selected in the second-to-mid-to-late rounds. And the fact the team didn't go o-line in the first round, for a starter-caliber player, reflects that the coaching staff agrees with you that the Super Bowl was an aberration.
Is this draft a case of Bill B believing he is just smarter than everyone else? It seems like the Pats picked 3 or 4 players (Wheatley, Wilhite, O'Connell, Slater) way ahead of where others projected them, meaning maybe they pan out, but could they not have gotten them later or as free agents (especially Slater)?
A: I think it's always risky to look at where players are projected, Arnie. The reason is that a lot of those projections don't take into account that the value of players varies team by team depending on a team's system.
Last year the Patriots drafted CB Mike Richardson out of Notre Dame in the sixth round, and if you remember he played extremely well throughout the '07 preseason. Then when roster cuts came around he was placed on injured reserve and we never heard about him through the rest of the season. My question is twofold: first, what was the nature of Richardson's injury and has he made a full recovery to your knowledge? Second, do you think that the Patriots sometimes place promising rookies or undrafted free agents on the IR list even if they don't have a serious injury as a way of 'redshirting' them so that they have a year to develop and learn their system without taking up a roster spot? I sense that this was their plan with Richardson.
A: I remember Richardson hanging in there as the third corner in the third preseason game last year at Carolina, and thought he had done enough to sneak onto the back end of the roster. But in the locker room after the game, his right wrist/hand was wrapped as he had hurt it while making a tackle. So I think he was indeed injured. As for the team placing promising rookies/undrafted free agents on injured reserve as a way of "redshirting" them, it is technically against the rules. That being said, I think every team in the NFL probably does that to some degree.
These Mel Kiper grades are interesting for a group of football players who haven't played a down. Can you go back and grade Kiper's grades after the draft class has had a chance to perform in the league?
A: Mosi, I'm not going to waste your time, or my time, by even referencing any grades from the NFL Draft. I feel like grading a draft the day after the picks is misleading and contributes to a general misunderstanding about what the draft process is all about.
Did anyone ask Bill Belichick how he decides when to trade up? SI.com seemed to be shocked the Patriots would trade up for Matt Slater because he would have been there anyway. Do the Patriots know if other teams are interested in their guy or is he just the top player on their board and want to make sure they get him?
A: The Patriots do keep tabs on which teams are hot for specific players. In some ways, they are like reporters, gathering information in this regard. Here is what Belichick said about the trade up to grab Slater, from his interview on sports radio WEEI's "Big Show" on Monday: "We kind of saw him sliding in the fifth, and we felt like if we waited until the end of the round, that was kind of the range where those fast players were going, good special teams players, so rather than taking a chance on it, we moved up in the fifth and took him."
Mike, seems to me that Pats drafted players to play on special teams, the same role they had in college -- i.e. Ruud & Slater. Usually a later-round player is drafted for special teams even though he was a starter for his college. That is interesting. Your thoughts? Also I don't have a problem w/ Wheatley of Wilhite except they're clones of Hobbs. Love the speed but not the height as we know what happened to Hobbs in SB. The division seems to be getting bigger WR's. Why are Pats remaining small?
A: I had a couple of thoughts on the special teams focus, Peter. My first is that the Patriots' roster is pretty stacked, to the point that the team has the luxury of targeting special-teams type players. Ruud, however, I'd put in a different category than Slater as he started and was a productive defensive player at Nebraska. Slater was more of a pure special teams guy. I'd also add that with the AFC East looking like it's getting better -- and with Buffalo annually having a top special teams unit under Bobby April, and the Jets/Dolphins employing the same type of big/physical special teams units as New England - the focus is probably well placed. As for the small cornerbacks, I thought Patriots VP of player personnel Scott Pioli made an interesting point on a television interview with Comcast's Michael Felger on Monday night. Felger asked an insightful question during Comcast's draft show about the size of cornerbacks, and Pioli answered by saying that size isn't everything. Most of the time, the smaller corners have what the team is looking for. "Part of it is that the bigger a player gets - the taller or longer sometimes a player is - the less fluid they are in changing direction," Pioli said. "When you're looking for a corner, they have to be reactive athletes -- to see changes, know what's going on, plant their foot, and drive toward the football. The longer, taller bodies have more difficulty being reactive type athletes."
How much cap space did the Pats save with their trade down to #10? What was the difference in pay between the 7th pick last year and the 10th pick last year?
A: Last year's No. 7 pick, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, received a six-year deal with $17 million in bonuses/guarantees. Last year's No. 10 pick, Texans defensive lineman Amobi Okoye, landed a six-year deal with $12.75 million in bonuses. So considering the deals are slotted, it's a savings of about $4 million.
When all the pundits predict who is going to take whom in the draft not one mentions who the agent is for the player. I feel that is an important part of the draft, because I am sure that there are some agents some teams will absolutely not do business with regardless of who they represent. Would you agree with that statement?
A: I would agree with that sentiment, Leon. I think the Patriots qualify. I believe sometimes they will pass on a player if they feel they might have trouble signing him.
Based on what you know right now, who would you project to be on the starting day roster for CBs and LBs?
A: Gary, I'd put Junior Seau and Tedy Bruschi at inside linebacker, with Jerod Mayo rotating in. But like I said, I wouldn't be surprised if Mayo starts. Then I'd put Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel at outside linebacker, with Shawn Crable and Pierre Woods rotating in. I think Victor Hobson will also be in the mix at both spots. At cornerback, I'll go with Fernando Bryant and Ellis Hobbs, with Terrence Wheatley as the third man in. Obviously, this will change if Seau is not re-signed. Injuries are also a factor.
Mike, during the NFL Draft how are teams notified of the player chosen before their selection? I ask because a team's time limit would expire and the TV commentator would say the a selection was made, but the selected player's name/position/school is not announced from the podium to the attending draft audience (& TV audience) sometimes 1, 2, 3, 4 or even 5 minutes later, but the next team is already on the clock to make their selection.
A: I don't know the exact answer to this, Andrew, but it could be that they're keeping their draft board updated by computer. Another possibility is that the team has two officials at the draft, and one of them might be reporting the picks back to the office as they occur.
When was the last time (if ever) that BC had 2 players picked in the 1st round?
A: The answer, JJ, is 2002. That was when running back William Green (Browns) and offensive tackle Marc Colombo (Bears) were selected in the first round. Brown was 16th, Colombo was 29th.
I'm trying not to be too much of a homer, but I can't believe that all these no-name safeties and linebackers taken in the sixth and seventh rounds are better than Jamie Silva (first team All-American, big hitter, playmaker) and Jo-Lonn Dunbar (leader, playmaker, "football player"). Is it their speed? I'd take either guy in the Patriots camp in a heartbeat.
A: Erik, I think Silva's speed hurt his draft stock. For Dunbar, it was probably his size. My feeling is that Silva landed in a good spot in Indianapolis.