Thursday, April 21, 2011

Patriots Draft Preview

Nothing wakes the Hendrie half of the Collective up in the morning like a New England Patriots Draft Breakdown (maybe a couple of pots of coffee). This breakdown will look at each positional unit, analyze the needs of that unit, and project some solutions via the draft.

Bottom line:

Over the last two drafts the Patriots have acquired 14 rotation players. Add in that they have 6 picks in the top 100 this year, and the Patriots will have the luxury of moving up/down within the draft and picking the best player available. Although the Patriots have positioned themselves well going forward, they still have serious needs at offensive line, running back, defensive line, and outside linebacker. Based on Belichick’s past history, we would be surprised if he pulled the trigger on an outside linebacker with any of the picks we are currently slotted in. The only viable option would be to move up (Redskins pick at 10 makes the most sense) and take Robert Quinn. But other than that, the Patriots will most likely address their other needs early.


It would be a waste of time to talk about the value of Tom Brady. He is the best in the business, and there are no signs of him slowing down. It would be a huge surprise if Brady isn’t elite for at least the next three seasons. Brian Hoyer is one of the most underrated Patriots. He is smart, accurate, and knows the system. It would seem that the Patriots would not be thinking of a quarterback in rounds 1-3, but recent workouts of Jake Locker and Ryan Mallet might point to the contrary. When Locker was worked out we had thought there was a slight chance the Patriots might take him with the 33rd pick, but when the Pats worked out Mallet it became clear that the Patriots are experimenting with some gamesmanship. There is ZERO percent chance that Belichick picks a dumb Arkansas quarterback. This is a classic example of the Patriots trying to get some pathetic franchise to trade their 2012 #1 for the 33rd pick. After rounds 1-3, we wouldn’t be suprised if the Patriots picked a quarterback to put in as a solid third stringer. A Ricky Stanzi pick in the 4th or 5th round wouldn’t be out of the question. He is a Ferentz player who won 27 games he started in college.

Running Back:

This is the most underrated need that the Patriots have. It is shocking how NFL draft experts have downgraded this position as a “secondary” need for the Patriots. Although outside linebacker might be a more pressing issue, running back is shockingly bare in regards to depth and elite level talent. People are delusional if they think the “law firm” and Danny Woodhead are long term answers. Don’t get us wrong, these two guys are great players to have on your team, they do the little things, run hard, protect the football, and provide versatility. Its just that they should be the #2 and #3 backs on a team not the #1 and #2. Add in the fact that Kevin Faulk, Fred Taylor, and Sammy Morris are not guarantees to be back in 2011, let alone further in the future, and it becomes clear that running back is a massive need. We would love to see the Patriots pick Mark Ingram (because he is violent and awesome) with either one of their first round picks, and wouldn’t hate a Ryan Williams pick with the later of our two second round picks.
BJGE: Specializes in ball control and commercial litigation

Wide Receiver
This is a position group that is really hard to evaluate. On one hand, the Patriots have one of the best receivers in the league (Wes Welker) and a solid outside guy in Deion Branch. When you take into account elite tight ends, it looks like adding pass catchers would be a luxury pick rather than a pressing need. On the other hand, there is no player on the Patriots roster that stretches a defense. The Patriots have invested high picks and time in both Brandon Tate and Taylor Price in the hopes of turning them into that coveted down field threat. This is where it gets tricky. Do the Patriots invest another high pick trying to get say, a Leonard Hankerson, or do they continue to hold out for Tate and Price? We say that the Patriots should stick with the current roster. This draft has no sure things at wideout where the Patriots will be drafting. The only scenario which we would endorse would be one where the Patriots traded up and took Julio Jones. That seems extremely unlikely at this point though.

Tight End:

This position is set for years to come. Rob Gronkowski is a top 5 tight end, and Aaron Hernandez is an elite H-back. We could see the Patriots drafting a blocking tight end like Andre Smith out of Virginia Tech in the later rounds, but even that seems unlikely. Alge Crumpler still has at least one more year of being an elite blocking tight end and father figure.

Offensive Line:

The Patriots need to bring in young blood into this unit fast, otherwise it could get ugly in the next few years. Assuming Matt Light stays on, interior line should be the focus in 2011. Stephen Neal retired, Dan Koppen is fading fast, and Logan Mankins missed 10 games last year over a contract dispute. The dream scenario would be for the Patriots to get Mike Pouncey with one of their first round picks.This would allow him to fill in for Mankins in year one, and eventually move to center when Koppen completely falls off. The Collective also likes John Moffit as a middle round pick. He is a road grader, grows a nice beard (a patriot offensive line qualification to be sure), and can play guard or center. Tackle looks to be the teams #1 need in the 2012 draft. The Patriots will be able to get high quality tackles like Matt Reynolds or Nate Potter next year. Both players seem like perfect fits. Looking into the future, the Patriots only have one long term answer along the O-Line and that is Sebastian Vollmer. Whether he will be able to man the 
John Moffit looks like a Pats O-Lineman to us.
Defensive Line:

Defensive line is an area where the Patriots need to acquire some depth. Although Vince Wilfork is the best in the business, and Ty Warren is a top 10 defensive end, this unit has very little after those two. Belichick clearly thinks Ron Brace can be a stud, but Brace’s on field results have been inconsistent to say the least. Gerrard Warren and Marcus Stroud are extremely short term solutions, and Brandon Deaderick is better as the 5th lineman in the rotation, not the third. The Patriots could go with Cameron Heyward with either the 28th or 33rd pick. Heyward has the pedigree, toughness and production which makes him a steal this late in the draft. We don’t see the Patriots getting Ryan Kerigan or Cameron Jordan. Neither of these two guys feels like Patriots players. There is a chance that the Patriots trade up if Muhammed Wilkerson is available. He would be a great 5 technique guy, and would be the next great Patriot defensive end, following in the footsteps of Warren and Richard Seymour. The depth of this years defensive line crop gives the Patriots some serious flexibility. We would not be surprised if they go with “their guy” in the second round.


The biggest need on the team (assuming Matt Light re-signs for a few more years). Well, we should clarify, Outside ‘backer is our biggest need. The Pats seem pretty set on the inside. Our inside linebackers include a superstar, a specialist and two undrafted guys who fly around making plays. Jerod Mayo (10th pick in 2008) might as well book his tickets to Hawaii for the next decade. Move over John Ogden, the Pro Bowl will soon be referred to as the Mayo-Classic. He is the total package who will continue improving. The other starter is RFH favorite Brandon Spikes. This half-man/half-alligator is an unstoppable force against the run. Despite the fact that he is slower than a Hendrie brother, Spikes provides our base defense some much needed sturdiness and gives it some bite. His confidence and desire to punch people after the whistle has a noticeably positive effect on our D and reminds us of Rodney Harrison when he first showed up in Foxborough.  For our sub-packages we have Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher. These two undrafted, overachievers are fast, smart and versatile. Although the interior is set, we would still be excited by a mid round selection of Casey Matthews, one of the most underrated players in this years draft.
Only Arnold can stop Brandon Spikes
The Patriots are in dire straights when it comes to their OLB’s. By far the position with the least talent. The one player we have confidence in is Jermaine Cunningham (2nd rounder in 2010). He is absolutely a rotation player that has a lot of upside. Will he ever be a dominant player behind the line of scrimmage? Maybe, maybe not. However, we would be surprised if a Defensive Coordinator ever needed to game plan against him. Rob Ninkovich is hard to hate. He is active and can make plays (see two INT’s against MIA). However, he is undersized and has a skill set best suited for dropping back in coverage. Other than Cunningham and Ninkovich, we just have disappointments and unknowns. Tully Banta Cain came back to New England in 2009 and had a great year (10 sacks) and subsequently earned a free agent deal. TBC then proceeded to have a dreadful 2010 campaign where he couldn’t seal the edge or get any pressure. If he doesn’t show up to camp ready to play, look for him to be cut. With his salary cap number, he is the epitome of dead weight. Then we a have few journeymen like Eric Moore and Marques Murrell. These two, although they performed admirably and might stick on the 53 man roster, are depth options at best.

Belichick has chosen to address the OLB position through free agency during his tenure in New England. He signed Mike Vrabel, Roman Phifer, Roosevelt Colvin and Adalius Thomas in free agency (he also pursued Julius Peppers last off-season). And he turned Willie McGinest into a stand-up linebacker from his previous in-line DE position. We are on record as loving Robert Quinn like a family member and would love to see him with a flying-Elvis on his helmet next year. Will this happen? Probably not. Look for us to pick up someone like Chris Carter from Fresno St. in the late second or with a 3rd rounder if he’s still available. He is a Pat Hill player who can play in a base 3-4. Carter (or someone like him), won’t be the answer though.


Arguably the most stable, stacked unit on the team. There is common saying among NFL GM’s: You need “3 for 2”. This just means that, due to injuries and the plethora of defensive packages out there, you need 3 players for every two positions. The Patriots have this in the secondary. We have three top-level safeties in Pat Chung, Brandon Meriweather and James Sanders. Chung is burgeoning superstar who excels in the box and in man coverage. Meriweather is your typical “center-fielder” who can come up an deliver a blow. Sanders is one of the most underrated players on the team and is always in the right spot.  Add in the fact that we have a promising young player in Sergio Brown and both Brandon McGowan and Jarrad Page are free agents but might be back.

Cornerback is almost just as promising. Devin McCourty might not be the best corner in the league. But he was the best corner in the league last year. And he was a rookie. So we are going to go ahead say he is the top dog. stating across from him is Leigh Bodden. Bodden is coming off a tough shoulder injury (he missed all of 2010) but is expected to make a full recovery. However, he is going to be 30 at the start of the season, so his career is quickly coming to end. If healthy, these two give New England as strong of a starting corner duo as there is in the league (despite what the mainstream media might tell you). Of course, most of the time there are more than just two CB’s on the field. And this is where Kyle Arrington comes in. When Bodden went down, Arrington shocked the world and won the starting job (considering the fact he went undrafted out of Hofstra in 2008). He does everything well and nothing great. He’s as good of a special teamer as there is in the league and will find a way to get on the field no matter who is technically above him the depth chart. Jonthan Wilhite was also a pleasant surprise as a 4th-round pick out of Auburn in 2008. He lacks size and ball skills but he is a capable nickelback who specializes on covering the slot receiver. Then there is Darius Butler. The player we are most interested in seeing this year. Butler was a high second round pick in 2009 out of Uconn has loads of natural ability. If he can find a way to put it all together, look out.

We would be shocked if Belichick uses anything higher than a 4th round pick on the secondary this year. Meriweather and McCourty are former first round picks. Butler and Chung are former second rounders. Bodden received a good free agent deal before the 2010 season. The Patriots have used a lot resources in the secondary of late and it has paid off. It should be noted that Meriweather is potentially in a little hot water as he was rumored to have been involved in a shooting this off-season. This may change things, but we are not privy to any of the actual information.


Gil Haylon said...

Not sure I'm as much of Robert Quinn lover as the Hendrie bros. I'd bet that the Pats end up with either Adrian Clayborn or Cam Heyward at some point with their first 3 picks.

John Hendrie said...

A really good call on Clayborn and Heyward. And I always fall in love with a defender every draft. Quinn is the guy this year.

William said...

Great image- just 2 changes I would make:
1) there should be more stains on Belichick's hoodie, and
2) Palpatine (post industrial accident) is actually better looking.

Other than that, the likeness is uncanny!