September 30, 2016

Three Pack: Okoye, Harrell and Tyler

The Patriots are always looking to upgrade their defensive line, and aren’t shy about using Day One picks to do it, often to great success. Even though we’d prefer they fry other fish with this year’s early picks, here’s a three-pack of first day defensive tackles, just in case.

Amobi Okoye, DT, Lousiville
Senior, 6’2, 302, 5.07
Ranked 13th overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/31)

The BSMW Game Day Mock Masher has Okoye just outside the top ten, and three of our mocks have the Louisville tackle going to the Rams at pick 13. Amazingly, though a senior, the native of Nigeria is just 19. He’s seen as having the bulk, strength and balance to be a solid anchor in the middle. A better run defender than a pass rusher, though he did rack up eight sacks this season by pushing the pocket. Said to be a bright kid (entered Louisville at age 16), good character and coachable. His upside has lifted him to the top of the draft. May not be the best fit for a 3-4.

NFL Draft Scout
John Murphy of Yahoo Sports
NFL Draft Countdown
For subscribers: ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

Justin Harrell, DT, Tennessee
Senior, 6’4, 300, 5.04
Ranked 38th overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/31)

The masher says Harrell slots somewhere in the early picks of round two, and as many as four mocks favor him to enter the first round with Indy at pick 32. He is another run defender, with good athleticism, quickness and strength to plug the middle and perhaps draw double teams. As a pass rusher, Harrell is said to push the pocket and use his long arms to disrupt lanes, but he’s not considered a real threat. Has struggled with leg injuries through career, and missed 10 games as a senior with a torn biceps. Team captain with a highly-emotional Bobby Hamilton-style make-up, apparently. I like that – it’s always good for a laugh (“You’re going to have a heart attack, Bobby!”). His injury history may push him down the board. Harrell might be more of a 3-4 end than tackle.

NFL Draft Scout
NFL Draft Countdown
For subscribers: ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

DeMarcus Tyler, DT, NC State
Senior, 6’2, 306, 5.18
Ranked 46th overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/31)

The masher places Tyler, known as ‘Tank’, in the early to mid-second round. Two mocks favor him to go to Chicago with the 37th pick. Perhaps the Bears would like a Tank that doesn’t take the name so literally. Pat Kirwan of nfl.com says Tyler is one of the better 3-4 nose prospects in this draft, though profiles indicated a lack of consensus as to where he’s best placed. Good size, strength and quickness, a space-eater that can tie up two blockers at the line. He’s said to be an intense guy that plays through every whistle. Not a movement guy or a real factor in pass rush. Two major concerns – character (once assaulted a cop after a night of clubbing) and intelligence (doesn’t have the best recognition skills, and he bombed a 13 on the Wonderlic). Those issues could drive him down the board on draft day.

NFL Draft Scout
John Murphy of Yahoo Sports
NFL Draft Countdown
For subscribers: ESPN’s Scouts Inc.

BSMW Game Day Roundtable

by Bruce Allen, Bill Barnwell, Greg Doyle, Tim Jordan, and Scott Benson
[email protected]

March came in like a lion and went out like a lamb for the Patriots, at least as far as free agency goes. The Patriots roared, uncharacteristically, through the early days of the period, securing a premier defensive free agent before turning again to the team’s offense with a dramatic facelift of the team’s receiving corps. Let’s bring in the Roundtable gang for a wrap-up on a busy month for the Pats.

The Patriots moved quickly and wrapped up Adalius Thomas in about a day, giving him the richest free agent contract in the history of the team. What impact will Thomas have on the Pats defense?

BA: According to Marvin Lewis, not much. According to everyone else, a huge impact, and exactly the player the Patriots needed right now. A linebacker who can do it all, including running with tight ends, which was a weak spot in the Patriots defense last season. He will play all over the field in Dean Pees’ defense, rushing the passer, dropping back in pass coverage and playing the run. While the team could still use an injection of youth at this spot, they’ve now got a guy who can step in and play this season as well.

BB: It depends on how they employ him. Thomas is a very good player, but what the Patriots need more than anything else is a linebacker who can move in space and is very good – not adequate, not embryonic, very good – in coverage. Thomas can be that guy, but if he is, the media and by proxy most fans will see him as a bust because he won’t have thirteen sacks. That doesn’t mean that he wasn’t a good signing, because he is, but more so that the Patriots just have a really dire situation at ‘backer.

GD: Thomas will have a big impact. I wasn’t high on the signing at first in the sense that I recognize he is a very good player, but I felt his age (29), the fact he is mostly an outside backer and I feel benefitted somewhat from the Ravens style made him not the ideal fit for the Pats. But in examining it further, I have gotten more excited about it. I like the contract, it was very reasonable. I like his versatility and I think he can in fact contribute inside at least sometimes and I like what I have learned about him both in interviews and stories about him. He seems like a Patriots type. So, in sum, I don’t expect him to be better than say Mike Vrabel or Roosevelt Colvin. But I do expect him to be on par with them and having another top flight defender will make a very good defense even better.

TJ: The most oft heard comparison is to Willie McGinest, but Willie was bigger and, while versatile for his size, couldn’t do as many things as Thomas can. If reports out of Baltimore are true and he ends up being capable of learning new schemes and responsibilities quickly, he could have more impact than any free agent in the Belichick era. Belichick’s defense main goal is to confuse opposing offenses and adding a player like Thomas, with opposing centers and QB’s uncertain of his responsibilities from play to play, will make them an intimidating front. Each year, it’s reasonable to assume that by midseason the Patriots will have a very good defense. Based on the Thomas signing I’ve increased my expectation to “great defense”.

KT: As a fan, it is a great feeling when your team flies in completely beneath the radar and snaps up arguably the top available free agent of the year. It’s about as exciting a time as there can be during the offseason. The reality is I’m not sure Thomas’ impact will be all that great, at least for this upcoming season. We’ve been blessed here with some great outside linebacker play from the likes of Willie McGinnist, Mike Vrabel and Rosie Colvin. Really, the only time that position became a relative weakness was late last year when Vrabel was forced to move to inside linebacker and Tully Banta-Cain took over the vacated outside spot. Swapping TBC for Thomas is no doubt a huge upgrade from the end of last year, but the team still hasn’t addressed what I would consider the biggest weakness which is the inside LBs. One way of looking at it the Thomas signing is that if he is as good as advertised at OLB, it will raise the level of play of the entire front 7 enough to compensate for any weaknesses on the inside. Then there is also the whole buzzword of ‘flexibility’ – that the Patriots will be able to move Thomas around all over the field and confound opposing offenses. Whether this is true remains to be seen. It’s probably going to take some time for Thomas to get comfortable with the Patriots base defense before they can start moving him all over the place. And smart opposing offenses will certainly try to figure out ways to neutralize Thomas and go after the weaker inside linebackers. As a longer term move, however, particularly for when Vrabel and Colvin are gone, you can’t argue with it.

New England allegedly contemplated a poison pill offer to Dolphins WR Wes Welker, but ultimately surrendered 2nd and 7th round picks in this year’s draft to acquire him by trade. Will Welker prove to be worth the draft picks?

BB: I love Wes Welker, but no. Welker’s a very useful player: he’s a good short-to-medium receiver and he’s a solid special teams gunner /returner. Who does that remind you of? Right — Troy Brown, who he’s replacing. Troy Brown was an eighth round pick; Welker was undrafted. That’s not an accident; the point I’m getting at is that Welker is an easily-replacable and easily-findable player. You don’t give these guys big contracts, even though they’re useful, because there’s always one or two of them on the scrap heap. It would be easy to bring several undrafted or low-cost guys in for training camp, see who learns the playbook and buys in best, and get 95% of the player Welker is for the minimum. Giving up a second rounder for Welker is bad — the seventh rounder, which saved the Patriots $19 million in (granted, unlikely-to-be-earned) salary, was a godsend.

GD: I think so. Welker is young, sure-handed and will be a perfect slot receiver for the Pats system. He can also return kicks. He is a known commondity and the Pats rely on slot receivers, particularly on third down, more than a lot of teams. Throwing to them is also a strength of Tom Brady’s. Having someone you know can fill the role for years is definitely worth the uncertainty of 2nd and 7th round picks.

TJ: There are a few different ways to look at this. They had the flexibility to send a two and a seven because they got a good price for Branch. At the same time, it’s fair to wonder if this move represents a squandering of draft picks because the price was high. I’ll say this, I don’t think the dolphins would get that deal from any other team in the league for Welker. In that sense, it may be fair to question whether or not they negotiated as a front office effectively, especially in light of the balked “poison pill” offer which gave the Dolphin front office a peek at their cards. Now my unabashed fan’s take: Belichick has played against Welker for 3 full seasons and I’ll trust his scouting acumen over anyone else’s regarding what a player is worth to them. If you’re going to work a trade within the division a premium should be expected. It’s no secret that Belichick values versatility very much. This offseason he is showing just how valuable he thinks it is.

KT: It’s not just the draft picks surrendered that need to be considered, but also a substantial compensation package of 5 years, $18.1 million, and a $5.5 million signing bonus. No way has Welker’s NFL performance to date justified those dollars. By comparison, the 60th pick last year, Maurice Jones-Drew, received a 4 year/$2.75 million rookie contract, with a $1.2 million signing bonus. And frankly, if you could be assured of getting a player as promising as Jones-Drew with the 60th pick, this would be a foolish trade to make. On the other hand, there is no guarantee that a second round pick can actually play (and the Patriots don’t exactly have a sparkling track record with 2nd rounders in recent years). The lesson here for Pats-ologists may be that the Patriots are willing to pay much more for unrealized potential if that potential is actually demonstrated in the NFL rather than in the college game.

BA: His success against the Patriots is well documented and just getting him off of the Dolphins roster is a plus two times a year. I think he’ll be more productive than any second round pick would’ve been this season, and is a young veteran who should be just hitting his prime. He too can do a lot of things on the football field, which increases his value to the roster.

The Pats surprisingly signed free agent WR’s Donte Stallworth and Kelley Washington to low-risk contracts, and along with adding Welker, have completely remade their receiver group. So much so that Reche Caldwell (career high 61 catches in 06) and Jabar Gaffney (21 catches for 244 yards and 2 td’s in the playoffs) have become an after thought. How do you see the Patriots receivers corps taking shape?

GD: I think Caldwell and Gaffney still fit in the plans. Both showed good things at different points last season. The problem is, they are more short and mid-range receivers. They can occasionally get deep, but getting downfield isn’t the strength of their games. Stallworth and Washington bring more downfield potential, though both will come to camp with at least some questions about them, both personally and health-wise and will have to prove themselves to at least some degree. I see all four guys on the roster, Welker as the slot guy and Chad Jackson likely starting on the PUP list for 6-10 games due to his knee injury.

TJ: Truthfully, my lucky isn’t lit by any one of these signings, but taken as a collective group I am optimistic that this will be difficult offense to stop. They are going into training camp with five veteran wideouts, two that have been coveted by the coaching staff since their college days, and another that has been one of a division rivals most effective weapons against them historically. The offensive philosophy is similar to the defensive one, they want to be unpredictable, to have threats that can exploit a defense, to have players that can do different things from play to play. They get that with this rash of signings, plus maybe the best training camp competition at the position that they’ve had since 2000.

KT: I wonder if the radically revamped receiver corps has anything to do with the hiring of Nick Caserio as the new wide receivers’ coach. Caserio is late of the player personell department, where he worked closely with Scott Pioli in “shopping for the groceries.” I’m sure he brings something of a different perspective to his new job as a position coach, and his experience may make him a superior advocate for himself with the front office than was his predecessor. Caserio probably still has a direct pipeline to the front office. It’s also likely that, due to his time in the front office, Caserio has superior knowledge of other teams’ receivers, as compared to Josh McDaniels and the other position coaches, who are more focused on their own players. I suspect that Caserio’s fresh perspective and somewhat unique experience for a position coach is a primary factor in why there will likely be an almost complete turnover of the teams’ receiver corps this offseason.

<BA: I think Caldwell was always slotted as a second or third receiver, he was just forced into a bigger role last year. If he’s got the right attitude, Stallworth becomes your top receiver and I think Gaffney showed enough that he might actually move up to be the second receiver. Welker is your slot receiver and Caldwell, Washington and Chad Jackson will likely battle for playing time. The other piece is Troy Brown, who is recovering from knee surgery, but still wants to play, and Bill Belichick said this week that he is in their plans for 2007. Could the Patriots enter the year with six receivers? I think that it is possible that Jackson starts the year on the PUP list, just to make sure he is healed from the ACL injury. That will give the team six weeks or so to have all seven of those guys on the team if they want, and then if someone gets hurt or Jackson isn’t able to play they’ll still have depth. As they say in baseball, these things have a way of working themselves out.

BB: I think the first question is whether Chad Jackson takes up a roster spot or spends the year on IR. Assuming that Stallworth and Welker are locks to make the roster (and I think they are), and splitting the difference on Jackson and saying he goes on the PUP list to start the season, that leaves enough space for Gaffney, Caldwell, and Washington to all make the team. The difference between the group will be their desire and ability to play special teams. Washington has said that he’s happy to play on special teams, and he was competent as a Bengal on special teams in ’06. Caldwell played on special teams with the Chargers, and I honestly don’t remember him showing up on special teams one way or another in 2006. Gaffney, on the other hand, doesn’t do special teams — it’s one of the reasons he was cut by the Eagles in the first place. That makes him the odd man out.

Any thoughts on tight end Kyle Brady and running back Sammy Morris, role players signed to the offense?

TJ: I think the Patrick Pass era has come to an unceremonious close and they’ve upgraded with Morris. Again, he’s versatile; he plays above average special teams, can catch passes (37 last year, 3rd highest total of his 7 seasons) , and is an adequate runner to spell the starters. He always seemed to play well against the Patriots in that role and I see no reason to expect anything different now that he’s a wearing a silver helmet. As for Brady, they needed to replace Graham’s blocking and Belichick’s always liked him going seemingly back to kindergarten. I didn’t even know he had such a reputation as a blocker until reports of his signing. I guess it’s OK, but as a fan it feels like waking up next to the rebound girl with funny teeth and no self-esteem after an anticipated, but difficult, break up with a broad who had it all. It’s not Snaggletooth’s fault things didn’t work out, but that won’t stop me from comparing them.

KT: Morris should help if they ever find themselves in the situation they were in in 2005, where Patrick Pass and Heath Evans were getting an inordinate share of rushing attempts due to injuries. Morris should be able to carry the load effectively as a primary back for one or two games at a time if Maroney is out. They have missed having a capable every-down backup for the past few years. They were smart to go out and target Brady, who is a totally different type of player than Ben Watson, David Thomas and Garrett Mills. They now have a pretty well rounded tight-end group to work with.

BA: Brady gives you the blocking you lost with the departure of Daniel Graham, but at a fraction of the price. With Benjamin Watson here, David Thomas coming up, and the new receivers, the team really needed the blocking tight end. Sammy Morris gives you the Patrick Pass role, a versatile running back who can be effective when used correctly.

BB: Same sort of moves as the Welker trade and signing — useful but relatively-easy-to-find skill sets. The reason this move is better is because of the short contracts and the cheaper salaries. Brady’s not really worth $5.4 million, but the Patriots will make that back just selling T. BRADY jerseys instead of BRADY ones (courtesy to Aaron on that one).

GD: Brady is an outstanding blocker, though I wonder about his age. At 35, he has to fall off at some point in his level of play. He has missed 9 games in 12 years, which is a great record for health but also means he has taken a lot of pounding. I expect him to be a role player and with two other good tight ends also getting time, Ben Watson and David Thomas, Brady should be a good fit as a part-time player. Morris I like a lot. He is just a competent, good football player that does nothing great, but lots of things well. He is known for playing very hard on special teams. He is known for his blitz pickup. He can catch a pass occasionally and although not a burner, he runs hard and can do that as well. I like that signing.

Veteran tight end Daniel Graham signed with the Broncos. What will this loss mean to the Patriots?

KT: I’m sure Graham caused defenses a lot of problems, because he was not merely a blocking tight end. He was also an effective if somewhat underutilized receiver. Kyle Brady may possibly be in Graham’s league as a blocker, but not as a pass-catching tight end. His presence and location on the field may allow defenses to better key on the running game.

BA: The Patriots loved Graham’s game and his demeanor and presence. He will be missed in the locker room. On the field, I think they really needed the blocking tight end, but weren’t going to break the bank for that skill. Graham gets to go home to the team his dad played for with a boatload of guaranteed money. He battled injuries throughout his career, and matching that offer just didn’t seem to make sense for the team. He should be a bigger part of the passing game in Denver, and it will be tough to see him on the other side when the two teams meet up.

BB: Not much. He’s not really someone who stands out and makes someone watching say — geez, I really wish we had Daniel Graham on that wham block, not Kyle Brady/Garrett Mills. The impact is going to be pretty low.

GD: Its a big loss. Graham was a great blocker for the Pats, could catch difficult passes and was captain, so obviously respected by his teammates.

TJ: It blows. Graham, despite passing accolades upon his departure, never got the credit he deserved as an all-around TE here in New England. He was a great locker room leader (voted Captain last year), “devastating blocker”, underrated pass catcher, physically gifted, and Brady’s go to guy for pre-game headbutts. He’s also been responsible for some huge plays in his time here (TD against the Jets in last year’s playoffs, started the final drive in Indy with a 25 yarder) and finishes behind Russ Francis and Ben Coates for TE TD’s in Oatriots history. He was also a very big part of Corey Dillon’s franchise record breaking rushing year in 04. Graham wasn’t on the field as much as we would have wanted as fans (the only thing I could posit as a reason not to pony up for him), but he was a great Patriot and an instrumental part of the historic 03-04 run. Also, owner of one of the smoothest goatees in the NFL. Denver, team known for their love of TE play and smart personnel decisions, is undoubtedly happy to have him for the next 5 years. Each offseason brings additions and subtractions, Daniel Graham was by far the biggest subtraction this time.

FA CB Nate Clements was rumored to get as much as $22 million in bonus money from the Niners. Thomas will get about $22 million in his first two seasons with the Pats. How will the growth in the salary cap, and the events of this free agency season, impact the Pats ability to sign Asante Samuel?

BA: Hard to say. Asante is saying the right things at the moment, but you know he’s looking at those deals and thinking that he belongs in that group. He did tie Champ Bailey for the AFC lead in interceptions, and likely is looking to get paid like Bailey and Clements. I have some confidence though, that the two sides will be able to do something here. Samuel’s agent Alonzo Shavers doesn’t appear to be the type to go nuclear on the Patriots.

BB: It’s a little disappointing that Pioli wasn’t able to foresee the spending levels in this market and lock up Samuel and Deion Branch for what would be, now, relative pittances. Branch wanted $39 million for six years. That’s basically what Welker’s offer sheet was going to be for. Again — I love Wes Welker. He is about 55% of the receiver Deion Branch is. As for Samuel, I’d be more concerned about getting him to sign his franchise tender first. No guarantees he will yet.

GD: I was surprised the amount Clements got. It will surely make it more difficult to sign Samuel, but Samuel is simply not as good a corner as Clements. So, I don’t expect he’ll get as big a deal. Still, the entire market for corners is inflated more than most positions, so Samuel, if signed, will sign one of the larger deals in Patriots history should he elect to return. I wonder if he is really that good? Or is he just a good, not great, player who had a single great year?

TJ: On paper, it doesn’t look very good, but fans can take heart that there has been no reports of bad blood and both parties seem to be approaching the situation positively. If I had to guess today, I’d say he’s heading into the season with the one year franchise tender – a good deal (according to this year’s market) for the team. Past that, you hope that a long-term deal can be worked out that is tenable for both sides during the season. The Patriots have managed the cap well and with increases it’s possible, but when you consider that their public pronouncements of “finding inefficiencies in the market to exploit” as a personnel philosophy it’s not likely. Samuel is peking as a player at the right position at the right time. They’ll be nothing to exploit in his next contract. Assante is getting paid, most likely by another team.

KT: We should keep in mind that it wasn’t until last June that there were any real hints that there was trouble-a-brewin with Deion Branch. I have a hard time believing that Samuel might give up the nearly $8 million in salary due this year in order to leverage a contract extension from either the Pats or a potential trade destination. But, the ridiculous money Clements received this year might change his perspective somewhat. There is also the precedent set by New England last year, when they allowed holdout Branch to seek out a trade partner who would meet his demands on a contract extension. The Patriots need to be very careful what they say to Asante and his representatives during negotiations. The last thing they need is another round of union grievances and threatened litigation.

Any random thoughts to close with?

BB: Anyone but Julian Tavarez?

GD: I have a few thoughts on the draft. One is I really like Paul Posluszny, the linebacker from Penn State. I think he can fill the Bruschi role with the Pats, but is more athletic than Bruschi and can perhaps bounce both inside and outside in a 3-4. He is a great character guy, a good athlete, a leader and definite NFL starter. What’s not to like at a position of need for the Pats? I believe that they may elect to trade down with their second first rounder, number 28, to the mid-second rounder and accumulate another second rounder for next year. That would be similar to what they did in 2003 when they traded down with Baltimore and took Eugene Wilson. They also picked up an extra first in 2004, which turned into Vince Wilfork. Baltimore ended up with Kyle Boller. I expect a further stock-piling for next year with some of this year’s picks. If they do utilize 28, look for safeties Reggie Nelson of Florida or Brandon Merriweather from Miami to be the guys. Of the two, I like Nelson better. He is bigger, better character and seems to be more polished than Merriweather. If they trade into the second, I see them taking Josh Wilson, a solid, very fast, but slightly short corner from Maryland. Occasionally I allow myself to get carried away about finding a running back to team with Laurence Maroney and I see Marshawn Lynch slipping to them, but more likely they’ll wait to the third round, or trade up into the late second, and take one of the second-tier backs like Michael Bush from Louisville, Chris Henry from Arizona, Darius Walker from Notre Dame, Brian Leonard from Rutgers or Lorenzo Booker from Florida State. I do believe they’ll take someone to team with Maroney.

TJ: I am trying to reconcile the complexion of next year’s WR corps and figure out if they truly are looking to draft one (they’ve been linked to first rounders Meachem and Rice). Throw in recent reports of Troy Brown “having a role with (the Patriots) next year” and you’ve got something worth wondering about. That gives them Stallwort, Caldwell, Gaffney, Washington, Welker, Brown, and Jackson without any draftees. This makes me wonder about other variables that will effect this group: Brown may be in a non-playing capacity, Jackson may spend a good portion of the year, or the whole year, on the PUP, a FA with fanfare could most definitely not see the end of training camp, and we may have seen the end of either Caldwell or Gaffney just as we were getting to like them (depending on whether or not you hold a grudge for the Indy game). The safe assumption is that this team wants to see a better unit and is looking towards depth and competition to help achieve that.

KT: I suspect that if you liked the “run & shoot” Patriots of 2006, you are going to absolutely love the 2007 edition.

BA: Great offseason thus far. Looking forward to what the draft holds, and then rookie camp, minicamp and finally training camp. I think the team has done well in filling holes thus far, and should look to the draft to try and get talent and youth on the defensive side of the ball, hopefully in the linebacker and secondary positions. A few other minor free agent signings might be in order too, for depth. In the summer, leading up to training camp, the salary cap isn’t really an issue, so players can be signed and the cap can be worked out later.

People Are Talking: Rufus Alexander, OLB, Oklahoma

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Year: Senior Height: 6’0 Weight: 228 40 Time: 4.79 Stats: NCAA

BSMW GAME DAY BOARD (as of 3/25/07) – Rank: 60th Mock Median: 51.0 (3 mocks) Lo: 32 Hi: 69 Most Frequent: N/A

BSMW SUMMARY (as of 3/25/07)

Alexander had a private workout for the Pats earlier this month, according to Albert Breer of the Herald. Rob McCartney of Rob’s Scouting thinks Rufus is a first round player; the others think he’ll fall towards the last half of the second round. The profiles say he’s a smaller, quicker linebacker with strong pass coverage skills and the ability to make plays sideline to sideline with speed, quickness and agility. He’s been productive – Alexander led the Sooners in tackles in 05 and 06. He’s not a particularly physical player, the profiles say, and can get swallowed up inside. The prevailing wisdom is that he may need to bulk up, without losing his quickness, of course. He sounds to me like a fit for a team like Indy or Tampa, with their smaller, more mobile perimeter-style linebackers. It’s hard to see – based on the profiles – how the Patriots would use a player like Alexander. Maybe it’s to move him to safety, as one profile suggested.

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People Are Talking: LaMarr Woodley, DE, Michigan

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Year: Senior Height: 6’1 Weight: 266 40 Time: 4.68 Stats: NCAA

BSMW GAME DAY BOARD (as of 4/15/07) – Rank: 45th Mock Median: 44.0 (4 mocks) Lo: 25 Hi: 59 Most Frequent: N/A

BSMW SUMMARY (as of 3/25/07)

The Pats have been linked to Woodley at the Senior Bowl, Michigan pro day and a subsequent private workout. Fair to say there might be interest? The profiles say Woodley is at his best when he’s turned loose up the field, where he is a disruptive pass rusher with power and a quick first step. A strong, solidly built guy and a big hitter who has continued to improve as a run defender. Competitive, persistent, always seems to be in on the big play. Played two seasons as a rushing OLB, before moving to end as a senior, where he earned the nation’s top lineman and top defensive end awards. The profiles think Woodley’s not tall or massive enough to stay at end, and will have to move back outside. Even then, they question whether he has the top end speed and fluidity to be an every-down linebacker. The very definition of a tweener. A consistently productive career on a pretty big stage ought to count for something. Is he first-round material for the Pats? Our multi-round mocks are split – one has him as low as 25th, another as high as 59th. So the first round could be a stretch, but Woodley could be in the mix if the Pats somehow trade back with one or both of their first round picks.

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BSMW Game Day Big Board, v2

The mocks have been updated through the end of last week, so here’s the latest version of our mock draft masher.

We’re now up to nine mock drafts, including:

DC – Scott Wright, NFL Draft Countdown (3 rounds)
DST – DJ Boyer, Draft Stock (2 rounds)
YS – John Murphy, Yahoo Sports (2 rounds)
RS – Rob McCartney, Rob’s Scouting (1 round)
PFW – Nolan Narwocki, Pro Football Weekly (1 round)
MK – Mel Kiper, ESPN (1 round)
DSC – Rob Rang, NFL Draft Scout (1 round)
ScINC – Todd McShay, Scouts, Inc.(1 round)
F.COM – Mike McCollum, football.com (1 round)

The mash columns are the same:

MDP – Median Draft Position
#M – Number of mock sections
Lo – Low selection
Hi – High selection
MFDP – Most Frequent Draft Position
##MF – Number of times selected
TEAM – Team currently holding most frequent slection

A couple of players are emerging as particular favorites – both 25th ranked Paul Posluszny and 26th ranked Aaron Ross are four-time mock selections for the Patriots.

Here’s the others that are being picked for the Pats:

DC – Posluszny (24), RB Brian Leonard (28), DE/OLB Brian Robison (91)
DST – ILB Patrick Willis (24), Ross (28)
YS – DE Jarvis Moss (24), S Tanard Jackson (28)
RS – Ross (24), WR Sidney Rice (28)
PFW – DE Quentin Moses (24), WR Anthony Gonzalez (28)
MK – Willis (24), S Reggie Nelson (28)
DSC – Posluszny (24), OT Tony Ugoh (28)
ScINC – Ross (24), Posluszny (28)
F.COM – Posluszny (24), Ross (28)

We’ll be back in mid-April with a final version of the masher. Until then, share any thoughts at [email protected].

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People Are Talking: Greg Olsen, TE, Miami

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Year: Junior Height: 6’5 Weight: 254 40 Time: 4.51 Stats: NCAA

BSMW GAME DAY BOARD (as of 3/25/07) – Rank: 18th Mock Median: 18.0 (9 mocks) Lo: 14 Hi: 27 Most Frequent: 14 (Carolina, 4 mocks)

BSMW SUMMARY (as of 3/25/07)

The Pats have allegedly had a private workout with Olsen – the mocks see him going in the teens, potentially to Carolina at 14. But three others think he will be available when the Pats pick at 24. Would the Pats actually draft another first round tight end, especially this year? Olsen is another in a long-line of high-profile Miami tight ends. The profiles describe an expert route runner and receiver in the intermediate area. Good hands, knows how to get open, can run after the catch. He’s seen as an average blocker, but the effort is apparently there. He’s not as big and strong as the profiles might like, and he’s had an injury history (shoulder, wrist, concussion). Others suggest he’s not the most consistent player, and he might be coming out too early. Draft rumors have linked Olsen to the Jets, who pick 25th. Is the Patriots contact with the tight end an effort to gin up interest in the 24th pick, from another team targeting Olsen?

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Three Pack: Ugoh, Blaylock and Grubbs

Dan Koppen is signed through 2011, Matt Light through 2010, and Logan Mankins, Stephen Neal, Ryan O’Callaghan, Nick Kaczur and Billy Yates through 2009. Will the Pats invest an early pick on an offensive lineman? You never know, which is why we offer this three pack of top prospects.

Tony Ugoh, OT, Arkansas
Senior, 6’5, 301, 5.06
Ranked 37th overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/24)

Ugoh is getting some play as a possible choice in the latter part of the first round, including Rob Rang of NFL Draft Scout, who has him going to the Pats at 28. After reading the profiles, I can’t get behind that idea. Sounds like a guy that will take awhile to develop, if he ever does. He has to move from tackle to guard, and bulk up. Seems kind of limited from a mobility standpoint, particularly in pass protection, but more to the point, has been described as “lethargic” and “ambivalent” at times. It is speculated he liked track (he threw the discus and shot for Arkansas) better than football. Does this sound like a fit to you?

NFL Draft Scout, John Murphy of Yahoo Sports, NFL Draft Countdown

Justin Blaylock, G, Texas
Senior, 6’3, 320, 5.10
Ranked 33rd overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/24)

Blaylock is another guard that could be among the final few picks of the first round. I like to see words like “durability” and “consistency” and “productivity” when I’m looking at the profiles. He just sounds like one of these guys that will be in the league fifteen years. Physical, aggressive presence in the run game, though there are typical concerns about his mobility as a pass blocker. He seems to be able to improve on his weaknesses, though. He played some 40 games as a tackle before switching to guard last season, so the thought is he may be able to play either position. With this versatility and his track record, he will most likely prove to be a solid pick at this stage of the draft.

NFL Draft Scout, John Murphy of Yahoo Sports, NFL Draft Countdown

Ben Grubbs, G, Auburn
Senior, 6’2, 311, 5.18
Ranked 32nd overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/24)

Grubbs may have the most upside of this group, because when I hear the words ‘Alan Faneca’ uttered in comparison, I figure Grubbs has a chance to have a similar pro-bowl career. The profiles say he has the power for the trenches and the athleticism to get downfield. Really came on as a leader during a dominating senior season. Aggressive, durable, hard worker. Started as a defense tackle, then moved to blocking tight end before settling in at left guard, where he became a front-line prospect. The Patriots offensive line seems to be one of the most settled positions on the team, but with his potential, Grubbs may have real value in the latter part of the first round.

NFL Draft Scout, John Murphy of Yahoo Sports, NFL Draft Countdown

Three Pack: Ginn, Meacham and Jarrett

Here’s a group of first-round junior receivers who could – through some calamitous, indescribably cruel and vengeful act of God – end up in the mix for the Pats’ 24th and 28th picks of the first round.

Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Ohio State
Junior, 5’11, 178, 4.35
Ranked 18th overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/21)

OSU officials are hoping that Ginn will become the first receiver in school history not to go completely bat shit crazy upon turning pro. Had a prolific college career in an elite program as both a returner and receiver. Sounds like a vertical threat more than a complete receiver who will also make plays in traffic. There’s no question he’s been a home run hitter, though, especially as a punt returner. Has a foot injury that’s keeping him on the shelf for the workout season and it seems to be driving his draft position through the floor. Why the Patriots should consider spending a first round pick on an injured specialist is beyond me.

NFL Draft Scout, John Murphy of Yahoo Sports, NFL Draft Countdown

Robert Meacham, WR, Tennessee
Junior, 6’2, 214, 4.39
Ranked 23rd overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/21)

If you liked Donte Stallworth and Kelley Washington, you love Robert Meacham! Blowout season in 06 with 1300 yards and 11 TD’s. Sounds like the prototypical BIG RECEIVUH! Even I have to admit the package of size, speed, athleticism and productivity sounds great. Is there a more speculative position than receiver, though? We’re already backlogged on the ‘what ifs’ with Chad Jackson, Stallworth and Washington. Given the team’s needs, and given the direction of the off-season to date, it just seems like the wrong year to be talking about Meacham.

NFL Draft Scout, John Murphy of Yahoo Sports, NFL Draft Countdown

Dwayne Jarrett, WR, USC
Junior, 6’4, 219, 4.57
Ranked 26th overall on BSMW Mock Board (as of 3/21)

Jarrett sounds like an amalgam of Ginn and Meacham, really – the productivity in an elite setting, combined with the great size and ability to play all over the field and not just on the perimeter. Jarrett apparently doesn’t have the speed of the others, but it hasn’t kept him out of the end zone (all-time PAC 10 leader in TD’s). Sounds like he has a lot of ability, but OSU has nothing on USC when it comes to flake receivers. Jarrett’s already drawn unfavorable comparisons to Mike Williams in the attitude department. Sounds like a real charmer – a slacker with a big ego. And that, my friends, is the last time we shall speak of Jarrett this spring.

NFL Draft Scout, John Murphy of Yahoo Sports, NFL Draft Countdown

BSMW Game Day Draft Rumor Inventory

Today we submit Version One of the BSMW Draft Rumor Inventory. We’ve been keeping track of the draft prospects the Pats have been interviewing and working out since draft season began with the college all-star games in January. They’re listed below, along with the first source of the rumor, type of contact (see key below) and finally, Scout, Inc.’s estimation of the player’s draft value (by round).

The common perception is that the Patriots never draft the players they are reportedly ‘talking to’. That will undoubtedly be true for most of the players listed below. But just last year, the very same contacts occured with eventual draftees Chad Jackson and Jeremy Mincey, so sometimes the rumored interest ends up being not so rumored after all.

At the very least, a look at this inventory in total may give us an idea where the Pats are headed. For example, they’ve been linked to a total of 17 players who carry either a 1st or 2nd round grade. 11 of them are defensive players. 8 of them are outside linebackers or converted defensive end types. That might give us a hint as to their first day intentions.

Here’s a key for the rumor chart:

AS – Interview at a college all-star game
CB – Interview at the Combine
PD – Scouts attended a Pro Day for the player
WK – Scouts conducted a private workout
VIS – Player visits team

The X marks the spot, or spots, as it were. A player like Michigan DE Lamar Woodley, a possible 2nd rounder, has had several contacts with the Pats, according to the buzz. Draw your own conclusions.

The Inventory will be back with an update in mid-April. If you see ommissions, or have corrections, dial [email protected]. Until then, here’s what we’ve got.

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People Are Talking: Jarvis Moss, DE, Florida

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Year: Junior Height: 6’6 Weight: 250 40 Time: 4.70 Stats: NCAA

BSMW GAME DAY BOARD (as of 4/15/07) – Rank: 23rd Mock Median: 21.0 (4 mocks) Lo: 17 Hi: 33 Most Frequent: 21 (Denver, 3 mocks)

BSMW SUMMARY (as of 3/19/07)

When the Patriots signed premier free agent linebacker Adalius Thomas, I automatically assumed Thomas would fill the edge spot first vacated by Willie McGinest, then Tully Banta Cain. That could still be the case, but Thomas’s versatility could be a factor as to why the Patriots have spent so much time this spring looking at players that match the prototype for a pass rushing 3-4 linebacker. Anthony Spencer of Purdue and Lawrence Timmons of Florida State are two such players the Patriots been eying, and Moss is a third. The profiles say Moss is a Kearse-like speedster that can be a pass-rushing threat due to his explosiveness and pass rush moves on the edge. But unless I’m reading this wrong, Moss doesn’t appear to be a well-balanced player that would also be a factor against the run. Appears to have thrived due to athletic ability more so than position skills. The profiles claim his size and lack of bulk will hold him back from contributing as anything other than a pass rush specialist, at least in the early stages of his career. If we can rely on the profiles at all, we can surmise that Moss would move to linebacker with the Patriots. If so, he’ll have to overcome inexperience (started only 13 of 26 college games), some health questions (missed a good bit of his early career as the result of a staph infection) and some character blips (was suspended last year for violating team rules). Still, the promise of an impact pass rusher has placed Moss squarely in the first round; the mock consensus is that he’s a good bet to go in the top 20. You have to wonder if the Pats interest in Moss may have cooled; after meeting with him at the Combine, there are no reports that team worked him out when they visited teammates Reggie Nelson, Marcus Thomas and Earl Everett earlier this month.

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People Are Talking: Joe Staley, OT, Central Michigan

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Year: Senior Height: 6’5 Weight: 306 40 Time: 4.75 Stats: NCAA

BSMW GAME DAY BOARD (as of 3/16/07) – Rank: 39th Mock Median: 33.5 (4 mocks) Lo: 28 Hi: 38 Most Frequent: 38 (Arizona, 2 mocks)

BSMW SUMMARY (as of 3/19/07)

The profiles say the former tight end (started four games as a freshman) may be the most athletic of the OT prospects. Profilers claim Staley’s speed, quickness and agility give him the tools to start as a LT in the NFL, and his 4.75/40 at his recent work out have intensified the pre-draft buzz. He’s seemingly been productive in the running game (CMU had three 1,000 yard rushers during his career), and is known for his endurance and durability, which are very good things, if you can play. I also read that he’s a smart kid that works at the game. The concern is that he IS a former tight end that added an alarming 80 lbs. to his frame during his college career, a nouveau big, if you will. As a result, the profiles fret that he may struggle with the power game, as he is left, in the immortal words of Pro Football Weekly, without enough “sand in his pants”. There is also concern about the level of competition at CMU. I’ve heard the sniping about Matt Light, namely that he can’t block five-time Pro Bowler Jason Taylor, and I suppose that if the Patriots share that concern, Staley might be a fit, perhaps at #28. Admit it – it wouldn’t be an outrageous pick. As for the mocks, NFL Draft Scout says Staley goes to Pats at 28. Others agree that if he isn’t picked in the first round, he’ll go quickly in the second. The Pats attended Staley’s pro day and, suitably impressed, will dispatch OL boss Dante Scarnecchia for a private workout.

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The Usual Suspects: Paul Posluszny, OLB, Penn State

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Year: Senior Height: 6’1 Weight: 238 40 Time: 4.70 Stats: NCAA

BSMW GAME DAY BOARD (as of 4/15/07) – Rank: 22nd Mock Median: 22.0 (8 mocks) Lo: 15 Hi: 38 Most Frequent: 20 (Giants, 4 mocks)

BSMW SUMMARY (as of 3/17/07)

Here’s what the profiles have to say about Posluszny: another product of the Penn State linebacker factory, Posluszny is said to be a smart, tough player and leader. Highly productive (set a school record for career tackles) and decorated (winner of both the Butkus and Bednarik Awards), he was named captain of the Nittany Lions as a Junior. The profilers say Posluszny can play any linebacker position – he flourished on the outside as a junior before moving inside as a Senior. The consensus is that he dipped after the change in positions, but some of this is attributed to his recovery from a knee injury suffered during the 2006 Orange Bowl. He settled in as the year went along, and some profilers now consider him to fit best as an inside player in the pros. Not off-the-charts great in any one area, but solid in every area. Maybe not as smooth in defending the pass as he is the run, the profilers claim, but he will be competent. His high football IQ (he is said to know every assignment on the field), solid skills and zeal for the game (will play through pain – is that supposed to be good?) is said to be the difference. He is not especially big, but is seen as a player than can add heft while retaining his quickness and range. The mocks see Posluszny as a certain first-rounder, falling somewhere in the late teens to the late twenties. Two mocks see him going to the Pats with either of their first-round picks, but 5 others say he’ll go to the Giants at #20. Like Adam Carriker, who we took a look at yesterday, Posluszny seems to be one of those players with the intangibles the Patriots like. It’s hard to tell what they’re thinking at the moment – the Patriots have not been linked to Posluszny at any post-season all-star games, the Combine or individual workouts.

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John Murphy of Yahoo Sports rates Posluszny third among this year’s outside linebackers
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