September 29, 2016

Practice Squad (PS, I Love You)

 logoby Chris Warner
[email protected]

As opposed to NFL draft weekend, which moves at the pace of a Victorian novel (tortoise-like, with too much detail), the frenzy of signing undrafted free agents (UDFAs) gets us involved like a mystery: Where do we get our information? Once we get it, how trustworthy is it? What does it mean?

And why are we spending so much time with it?

As of this writing, New England has picked up seven UDFAs, reviewed below. After those, I’ve included a wish list for Foxboro this summer. My apologies in advance if any one of them has been picked up by another team in the interim.

The new Pats rookies, from the best available info:

P – Mike Dragosavich, North Dakota State

Why undrafted: He’s a punter. The term “specialist” gets thrown around a lot to describe punters, yet they aren’t too hard to come by, apparently. Also, name may prove difficult to fit on the back of a jersey.

PS, the Pats love: Averaged almost 45 yards per punt last year, with a long of 70. Dropped 11 punts within the opponents’ 20. Has experience with lousy weather.

OLB – Vincent Redd, Liberty

Why undrafted: While “Liberty” as a theme is immeasurable, Liberty the school is tiny. Redd played at Virginia but Coach Al Groh dismissed him over undisclosed reasons so he transferred. Lacks upper-body strength.

PS, the Pats love: Redd was named in this space last week as a potential Pats pick-up. (I’ve never been more proud. Sad, really.) He played in Groh’s 3-4 system in Virginia and has textbook size (6-5, 263) and speed (4.63 40) for the position. Might give sixth-rounder Bo Ruud a ruun for his money.

DE – Chris Norwell, Illinois

Why undrafted: Not overly productive (32 total tackles) for a less-than-great team. Lacks speed. Unflattering facial hair.

PS, the Pats love: Has ideal 3-4 end measurements (6-6, 295). Had strong games against Michigan and Iowa (five tackles each), and probably hit the Patriots’ radar while they watched films of players on those teams.

TE – Jon Stupar, Virginia

Why undrafted: Has suffered some injuries. Just under ideal height at 6-3. Not the most stout on the line of scrimmage. Only the second-best all-around TE out of UVA this year (Tom Santi was drafted in the sixth by the Colts. Which is fine. I never liked him anyway).

PS, the Pats love: Broke out in his senior season with 40 receptions (actually four more than Santi). Comes from a TE-friendly system. Has been called a high-character guy.

C – Ryan Wendell, Fresno State

Why undrafted: Small (6-2, 286) and slow (5.35 40). Lacks great strength and athleticism. Fresno State plays in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), which isn’t a top-tier league.

PS, the Pats love: Started all four years at guard or center. Has solid technique and knows how to use leverage in one-on-one battles. Could fit as a back-up lineman with position flexibility, much like Russ Hochstein.

RB – Kenny Cattouse, Troy

Why undrafted: Gained less than 800 yards for Troy. The Trojans share a mascot name with USC but not their reputation for talent. Unremarkable size at 5-10, 205. Last name has similar spelling to a place of ill repute.

PS, the Pats love: These Trojans don’t run much, but Cattouse still managed to gain 5.9 yards per carry. Also caught 37 passes for 235 yards (6.4 avg.), making him worth a look as a third-down back.

OT – Josh Coffman, East Carolina

Why undrafted: A little light at 292 pounds, Coffman lacks a reputation as a path-blazing lineman. Has played tackle for only two years: went to ECU as a tight end but took a redshirt season after his sophomore year to put on 40 pounds (Take that, “Freshman 15”).

PS, the Pats love: Coffman’s height (6-7) gives him a lot of potential. Though not powerful, he has good speed and quickness. His reach makes him a promising pass-blocker.

DL – Casey Tyler, Portland State

Why undrafted: Played well at the Division II level, but may not have the ability to measure up in the pros. Since when is Portland a state?

PS, the Pats love: At 6-5, 305, Tyler has the size to play a 3-4 DE or 4-3 tackle. Had 43 stops and three sacks his senior year. Possesses solid straight-line speed to get around the edge.

With only one or two spaces left for this spring’s 80-man roster, New England can keep slots open for potential free agents signings or fill them with fresh-faced rooks. Below, five UDFAs to mull over:

RB – Hugh Charles, Colorado

Why undrafted: Diminutive at 5-8, 190, he played for a losing team (6-7) and, as a starter, compiled less than 1,000 yards rushing in 2007. Also, has two first names.

PS, I love him: Gained 5.3 yards per carry and caught 24 passes. Strong (25 reps of 225) and fast (4.43 40), with insane leaps (36.5 inch vertical).

WR – Paul Raymond, Brown

Why undrafted: “Small” reasons, including his stature (5-8) and school. Just a coincidence, but again: two first names. Might be more of a track sprinter than a football player.

PS, I love him: Fastest guy in the Ivy League, which is a little like being the smartest guy in dummy camp, but whatever. Notable quickness and return experience make him a Bam-Childress-in-waiting, the type of player who hangs around and forces coaches to consider him.

OLB – Curtis Gatewood, Vanderbilt

Why undrafted: Played DE in college, but at 6-2, 242, lacks ideal size for a 3-4 OLB. Doesn’t have great upper-body strength. Name sounds like a preppy movie character played by James Spader.

PS, I love him: With his quickness, would perform well on special teams and could contribute in pass-rushing situations.

CB – Jonathan Zenon, LSU

Why undrafted: Slow and a little stiff. Not the best tackler. When spelled with an “X,” last name merely becomes an inert gas.

PS, I love him: Played for the champion Tigers; started for three years. Has the knack for being around the ball. High Randall Gay factor.

K – Chris Gould, Virginia

Why undrafted: See the “K” next to his name? He’s a kicker. Who drafts kickers? (Oops.) Also, needs to work on his accuracy.

PS, I love him: His older brother Robbie kicks for the Bears – very well, we might add – and spent the 2005 camp with the Pats. It says here that Belichick has rued cutting the older Gould in favor of keeping Adam “Veni, Vidi, Vici” Vinatieri, who a year later moved to the creatively-named Indianapolis (roughly translated: The City of Indiana).

We will know more by the end of the week. And by “more,” I mean “possibly something, but don’t get your hopes up.”

Getting Scooped: A Reaction to the Draft

logoby Chris Warner
[email protected]

As a Patriots fan, the 2008 draft felt like I arrived late to an ice cream party and the only choices left were French vanilla and rum raisin. I mean, it was a party and all, but I don’t plan on reminiscing much.

Once the Jets took Vernon Gholston, most of the excitement left the room. With few high-impact players left, the Pats did the right thing in trading down and filling a position of need. Linebacker Jerod Mayo seems like a solid footballer (if he didn’t, the headline would read “Stinko de Mayo”). The Patriots did what they could; the store just ran out of mint chocolate chip.

Below lies a quick review. Trades have been left out because if you really cared, you’d know them already. (Suffice to say the Pats get SD’s second-rounder next year.) Each pick comes with requisite second-guessing.

Round One (10 in round/10 overall) – Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee.

Second guess picks: Hard to say. Once Gholston got plucked, then Rivers, this looked like the way to go. The ESPN experts (aka Scott Benson’s dartgun targets) thought the Pats would pick one of the top defensive backs. Glad they were wrong. I would have been fine with a lineman like Branden Albert (OT, Virginia) or Ryan Clady (OT, Boise St.), but no complaints.

What’s to like: A productive guy (140 Tackles) out of the competitive SEC. He could be the most talented Patriots rookie linebacker since Andy Katzenmoyer … yeeesh. Let’s rephrase: he could lead a much-anticipated youth movement during the Belichick era.

Round Two (31/62) – Terrence Wheatley, DB, Colorado.

Second guess picks: Wait a minute… second round? In last week’s column I hoped to pick up Wheatley in the fifth (maybe I could work for ESPN). I would have considered either Charles Godfrey (CB, Iowa), a big-bodied corner from a friendly system, or John Greco (OT, Toledo), who looks and plays the part of a solid right tackle (cue the Nick Kaczur comparison).

What’s to like: Speedy corner had five picks and 10 passes broken up his senior season. Always considered him a sleeper, but I guess the Pats rustled him awake. He has demonstrated enough ability to help the team as a rookie; has experience as a kick returner, which makes their fifth-round choice even more confusing.

Round Three (15/78) – Shawn Crable, OLB, Michigan

Second guess picks: I found it ironic that, instead of a defensive end, the Patriots surprised fans by choosing an outside linebacker to play outside linebacker. (Okay, it’s not exactly a twist from “Gift of the Magi,” but I say it qualifies as irony.) Antwuan Molden (CB, Eastern Kentucky) might seem redundant after the Wheatley pick, so I’ll bring up Jeremy Thompson (OLB, Wake Forest) here as the DE who could’ve been an OLB contender.

What’s to like: Crable had 28.5 tackles for loss in 2007, a school record. He has size (6-5) and speed (4.64 40), plus character (team captain).  Crable will compete with Pierre Woods as Wolverine-in-waiting for backup OLB spot; he could be ready to pounce.

Round Three (31/94) – Kevin O’Connell, QB, San Diego State

Second guess pick: Many (including myself) saw him as a sleeper. Is round three too high for him? A name that popped out at me five spots later was Oniel Cousins (OL, UTEP), who has the size (6-4, 301) and speed (5.11 40) typical of New England linemen.

What’s to like: Big numbers for SDSU last year (15 TDs, 8 INTs, 3,063 yards). Tall at 6-6. With his ability to run, he could be the most athletic QB in Foxboro since Michael Bishop. I hope my comparison doesn’t doom O’Connell’s career.

Round Four (30/129) – Jonathan Wilhite, CB, Auburn

Second guess picks: Did I just hear a needle scratch a record? (Or, for the kiddoes: Did I just hear my ipod crash?) Of all the cornerback names I looked at, Wilhite’s rested on the outer ledge of noticeable. I had a better feeling for Orlando Scandrick (CB, Boise State). Also, DeMario Pressley (DT, N. C. State) looked like a strong backup DL (6-3, 301).

What’s to like: Has good speed (4.37 40), but if he only started six games during his senior year, how can we tell what type of player he is? This is a situation where I’m hoping the Pats brass knows much more than I. (Of course they do. That goes without saying. In fact, I’ll just be quiet.)

Round Five (18/153) – Matt Slater, WR, UCLA

Second guess picks: Before this past Saturday, I probably could have named a couple dozen receivers I’d have liked. Matt Slater was not one of them, because he played mostly at CB. (Want a treat? Search online for Slater’s pro day results. You’ll more likely find Belichick blogging about his vacation.) WRs taken after Slater include Marcus Henry (Kansas), Josh Morgan (Va. Tech) and Kevin Robinson (Utah St.). And if Pierre “don’t call me boy” Garcon (Mt. Union) rips up the turf for the Colts this year, well… let’s just say that New England’s slogan for Round Five (“Koppen, O’Callaghan or Bust”) will remain safe from retirement.

What’s to like: Slater averaged 29 yards per kickoff return and scored three KOR TDs. He also had 25 tackles as a CB and special teamer. On a personal note, at least I’ll get to read columnist Bill Simmons’ upcoming references to “Slater,” Mario Lopez’s character from “Saved by the Bell.”

Round Six (31/197) – Bo Ruud, OLB, Nebraska

Second guess picks: He’s light at 234 pounds and will have difficulty taking on blockers in a 3-4 defense. If we’re talking linebackers, I liked Joe Mays (ILB, N. D. State) as a backup and special teamer, as well as Andy Studebaker (OLB, Wheaton) as a Pats apprentice. WR Garcon was also available later in the round.

What’s to like: Speedy (4.60 40), lanky (6-4) linebacker had 54 tackles and ran back two INTs for sixes as a senior. Should be able to contribute on special teams right away, even though New England’s special teams are already pretty strong and don’t necessarily need the rookie help. (Okay, okay. I’m just saying.)

That adds up to seven players; what they will add up to remains to be seen. Think of the face you make when you have a delicious scoop of ice cream. Did you make that face this weekend? I think most fans appeared as if they were tasting the gourmet stuff: unusual, maybe unexpected, but it was supposed to be good, so they nodded and acted appreciative. I mean, the ice cream maker knows a lot more than we do.

Tomorrow, a look at some undrafted rookies who I hope get a call to participate in New England’s camp.

Off The Clock

logoby Scott Benson
[email protected]

The 2008 NFL Draft is over for the Patriots, and it’s time to put the clipboards and highlighters away for another year.

The draft was more condensed this year but it still seemed to last forever. Especially day two, with the added round. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend for at least three months but by the time the Pats chose corner Jonathan Wilhite with the 129th pick, I’d had enough. As I lie in a semi-comatose state, the Pats completed their selections by taking a reported special teams ace (UCLA’s Matt Slater) and then finally, their third linebacker of the draft (Nebraska’s Bo Ruud, who will play inside).

The Pats had selected a total of seven linebackers in the previous eight drafts before this weekend, when they took nearly half that many in two days.

That’s the story of this weekend, at least for me. Did the Patriots draft for need, or what? Three linebackers and two cornerbacks in seven picks. We can agree that timing is everything, and location of selections also plays a role, but come on. They lose Asante Samuel and Randall Gay in free agency and then just happen to pick two corners in the next draft? They release Rosevelt Colvin and his contract and then just happen to draft another Big Ten defensive end who will stand up and rush the passer in the pros?

Most importantly, three players over the age of 35 led the defense in total snaps played in 07, including the two inside linebackers, and they just happened to spend the #10 pick on a player they saw as the best inside linebacker in the draft? And then took another one later, albeit a much longer shot?

I’m not finding fault with any of this. In fact, I love it. Do I love the individuals they picked? No idea. You can certainly see good qualities in the reports on each, and if you’re inclined that way, you can find something negative too. Those words are of no further use, though, because there will be plenty to judge when these players hit the field in late July. Any reasonable jury takes the summer off first, at least.

But you have to love the intent. It reassures me that the Pats aren’t going to squeeze one more year out of the vets before trying to address the inevitable – they cannot play forever. This time, they used real draft capital acknowledging that the inevitable is coming sooner than later. It reasures me that they weren’t content to add a couple of capable yet traveled one-year vets at the corner position, with their eyes fixed on 08 alone; they directed more capital that way in a draft that was said to hold several players of future promise.

The two positions that cried out for the most attention got exactly that. So in that sense, I couldn’t be more satisfied as a fan.

It’s also important to remember that part of the take this weekend was San Diego’s second-round pick in 2009, which you can guess will fall somewhere towards the end of the round, unless Norv surprises everybody and has a mediocre year. I’m being droll here.   

Still, most of the early reaction to this draft will be directed towards the individual players. Based on what I read about Mayo, I can see where he’d fit within the middle of the defense (the Junior role, clearly), bringing new speed and athleticism to the position. And come on….do you really think Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli just blew the 10th pick in the draft? Based on what? If there’s anything that these guys can do, it’s pick first rounders.

Wheatley does, as NFL Draft Scout opined, sound a lot like Ellis Hobbs, except maybe with better straight-line and short-area speed and quickness. If he can prove to be as durable as Hobbs (who played through various injuries by years end) then its possible Wheatley could be a factor right away. You can never have too many corners, as Mike Mayock instructs (more later).

Crable was touted as a Pats possibility all along, as the prototypical tweener that the Pats have transitioned in the past. Here’s the thing about this – I wonder how much influence Dom Capers is having on the Patriots, and on this draft. I admit I have a dog in this hunt. Will the Pats grant my fondest wish and move towards a faster and more aggresive, attacking defense? And look at these picks – a versatile, mobile linebacker to put in the middle, two blazers outside the hashes, and with this pick, the McGinest-elephant type that is best suited to go straight up the field to the quarterback. What do all these guys have in common?  

I read a few things on Matt Slater and decided to back out of those links because I had already convinced myself the Pats just drafted Hanik Milligan or Kasim Osgood or somebody. We should be so lucky that the Patriots mine instant special teams gold with a pick in the 150’s. But if you remember that Willie Andrews and Antwan Spann both played special teams roles last year, you can see an opening for Slater (son of THE Jackie Slater) this fall, if he comes as advertised.

The quarterback pick was typical Patriots – it kicked off a wild argument on the NFL Network between Jamie Dukes (who thinks the Pats should be trying to win NOW instead of drafting a quarterback that Jamie Dukes has never heard of) and Belichick-pal Mayock (who thinks Jamie Dukes is full of it). Man, the way Mayock got his back up at Dukes questioning Belichick – well, it was just one of those harmonic moments. I think I heard angels singing. And listen – Mayock was nothing short of brilliant all weekend. He was step for step with nearly every selection, articulating clearly why certain prospects fit for each team.

Often, he nailed it, and when he didn’t, Adam Schefter often did. Mayock was batting something like .900 over the first one hundred players that came off the board. Never has an NFL Draft analyst performed at anything even approaching this level – he was like Gretzky or Jordan out there. And then he pitches a nutty at Dukes that would have befitted even the most strident Pats partisan. I don’t think I’ll bother listening to anybody else from now on when it comes to the draft, or anything else, for that matter. I wonder what Mike thinks about my investments?

As far as O’Connell – it sounds as though we’ll have to be awfully patient with him, but promise exists here as well. He fits the physical profile of Pats quarterbacks, has the mental makeup they prefer (he was captain as a freshman?), and he adds the Cassel-like element of mobility. There will be those who claim he went too soon, and there isn’t much we can say until he actually does something. I don’t think the Patriots like Matt Cassel all that much anymore, frankly, so I expect O’Connell to stick around. They’ll never be able to slide him to the practice squad, not if the reports of his ascending pre-draft status are true.

I really think the Patriots took Bo Ruud to appease those local supporters of his brother Barrett, who was a pre-draft sweetheart of some Pats fans a few years back. I like that they’re listening to us. Let’s make them take an offensive lineman next time.

The Pats didn’t take an o-lineman, even though their own got rag dolled the last time we saw them. Branden Albert was seen as one possibility here, and I admit the thought occured to me that a huge, athletic guard to challenge Stephen Neal was appealing. As was the thought of one that may also challenge Matt Light, or Nick Kaczur. But in the end, was it a high priority when compared with other needs? No. They’ll be back choosing offensive linemen soon, I’m sure; maybe with the mid-to-early second round pick Norv Turner is determined to give them next season.

As Belichick acknowledged himself, the Pats also didn’t draft other staples like tight end and defensive line. There were some needs there, but with the seven picks they had, I’d argue the Patriots had their priorities correctly in order.

Now if these guys can just play.

That’s it for me for a few days. Chris Warner will be along shortly with his reaction to this weekend’s events, and maybe a few undrafted free agents for Pats fans to look for over the next few days.

Thanks to all who have checked in over the weekend and who still continue to visit this page some three months after the season ended. I hope you had an enjoyable draft and I look forward to chatting with you again when the mini-camps commence in a few weeks.

On The Clock: Stream of Self-Consciousness, Day Two

logoby Scott Benson
[email protected]
 

1:20 PM

The Patriots’ fourth round choice is CB Jonathan Wilhite of Auburn.

The Pats now have addressed their two most obvious areas of need by picking two linebackers and two cornerbacks in their first five selections.

Here’s what the draft pubs say about Wilhite.

Scouts, Inc.

Wilhite has the athleticism and toughness to become a quality sub-package corner or starter in a Cover 2 scheme. However, he’s been unable to stay healthy and he’s been inconsistent when he’s been on the field so he projects a fifth round pick.

NFL Draft Scout

Compares To: JAMAR FLETCHER-Houston…Outside of nickel and dime packages, Wilhite does not seem to be a player destined for starting at the next level. He has excellent speed, but lacks field awareness and seems very hesitant to make plays vs. the run. He lacks playmaking ability and even though he has eight interceptions, he lacks natural hands and struggles to track the ball in flight. He has good recovery speed when the receiver gets behind him, but poor anticipation skills and a lack of instincts make him a liability playing in the zone. Outside of his timed speed, he would have problems joining a team, even as a camp player.

Another smallish speedster, with measureables almost identical to Terrence Wheatley. Doesn’t seem he has the same cover skills at all, though. Another thing: like Wheatley and every other Pats pick, Wilhite was tagged with the ‘INJ’ label on the draft profiles. The Pats clearly believe that each one of these players have recovered and moved on from those struggles. We’ll see if they are right.

That’s it for me for now. I’m hitting the couch for the rest of this. I’ll be back with a few wrap-up thoughts later on.

11:38 AM

The Patriots chose their first offensive player of the 08 Draft when they selected San Diego State QB Kevin O’Connell with the 94th pick.

O’Connell is a quarterback that often caught my attention as I read through draft materials over the last several weeks. Here’s what the pros say:

Scouts, Inc.

Overall: O’Connell’s play has substantially improved over the past two years and there is a high ceiling on his potential. He possesses the size, mobility and arm strength of an NFL starter. However, O’Connell is a developmental prospect that did not play the highest level in college and still has lots to learn in terms of footwork and the mental portion of the game. In order to reach his full potential at the next level, O’Connell will need a patient organization with a bright quarterback coach. O’Connell is worth the risk for such a team in the final few rounds but no higher than Round 5.

NFL Draft Scout

Compares To: MATT CASSEL-New England…O’Connell is a more mobile passer, but like Cassel, he is going to need time and patient coaching to add technique and mechanical refinement. He is a rare-sized athlete with great mobility in the pocket, but his delivery is a mess and his footwork leaves a lot to be desired. He forces a lot of throws and needs generate better touch on his short-area throws and improve the zip on his deep passes. If a team preaches patience and has an established veteran in place to allow O’Connell several years to develop, he could be a good one. Rushing him, however, might render any pick used on O’Connell a wasted selection.

How about NFL Draft Scout’s comparisons so far?

Looks like a long-term prospect who may push Matt Gutierrez to #2 and his draft likeness out the door. Or maybe the other way around, though that wouldn’t figure based on their play last year. As noted, I (and many others) often wondered if O’Connell would be a Pats selection , based on his size, measureables, leadership and production over the last couple of seasons. However, the draft pubs weren’t prepared for him to come off the board at this point in the process.

Another 30 picks and I’ll be back.

10:40 AM

My daughter calls the minute the Pats went on the clock.

So the Pats traded the 69th pick to San Diego in exchange for a second-round pick in 09 and a 08 fifth-rounder to replace the one they lost yesterday. Those of us who expected a third round three-pack will be disappointed today, but not so much next year.

The Pats have just selected Michigan OLB Shawn Crable with the 78th pick, adding the pass-rushing linebacker type that many expected in this draft. Here’s what the experts have to say:

Scouts, Inc.

Overall: After suffering a shoulder sprain in the fall of 2003, Crable redshirted his first year at Michigan. In his first three active seasons (2004-’06), he appeared in 34 games (eight starts) and notched 58 tackles, 14.5 tackles for losses and 8.5 sacks. As a senior in 2007, he started 12 of 13 games at strongside linebacker and turned in 90 tackles (including 28.5 for losses, second-best in the nation), 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. Crable spent most of 2004 and 2005 playing on special teams. Crable’s outstanding combination of size and speed are intriguing in terms of pro potential but he is a straight-line player so he may have to move to end where he will have to bulk up his considerable frame to become an every-down player. With that in mind, he projects as a fourth round pick.

NFL Draft Scout

Compares To: SHAUN PHILLIPS-San Diego…Crable is not as bulky as Phillips, but his frame has the potential to carry 260 pounds. He is a very good edge rusher and blitzer who relies a lot on his quickness to surprise a lethargic blocker. He lacks the sand in his pants to generate a good anchor and must do a better job of using his hands to protect his body from combo blocks and cut blocks. He is quick to see the play develop, but it is rare for him to come out of his area to make a play. He is too stiff in his hips to get good depth in his pass drops and struggles with ball recognition when playing in the zone, as he does bite on play-action. He will need to improve his lower body strength for the next level, as his only value right now is as a pass rusher.

It looks like the Pats liked Crable over Purdue’s Cliff Avril, another edge rusher that often mentioned in connection with the Pats. It’s also notable that all three Pats draftees entered the draft with the dreaded ‘can’t stay healthy’ tag from the draft publications.

Pick 94 is next, at least as far as we know.

6:45 AM

Every year there’s a debate amongst Pats fans as to whether the list of players the Patriots invite to Foxborough prior to the draft, such as our own Rumor Inventory, holds any special significance when the team goes on the clock to make their selections.

Most years, it hasn’t; yesterday it seemed to.

First round LB Jerod Mayo of Tennessee visited the team on April 11th (the only time he was formally linked to the Pats before the draft), and second round CB Terrence Wheatley of Colorado came to Foxborough at about the same time. Wheatley also spent time with the Pats at the Combine, and New England scouts later worked him out privately at Colorado, perhaps in part to determine if he would hold up physically in the NFL.

It’s almost certain that the Pats will break that trend with one or several of their picks today, but while there’s a lull, here’s the remaining players on the board who visited Foxborough before this year’s draft:

CB Charles Godfrey, Iowa 
DE/OLB Darrell Robertson, Georgia Tech

Short list. Both players are expected to come off the board early today, so maybe they’re still in the mix when it comes to the Pats, who have picks 6, 15 and 31 of the third round.

But since the Pats also drafted a player (Wheatley) who they had privately worked out, here’s a list of the other private workout warriors still on the board:

DE/OLB Cliff Avril, Purdue
CB Jack Williams, Kent State
OLB Marcus Howard, Georgia
CB Trae Williams, South Florida
QB Josh Johnson, San Diego
OG Mackenzy Bernadeau, Bentley
C Jamey Richard, Buffalo
LB Stanford Keglar, Purdue
CB Zack Bowman, Nebraska
LB Thomas Williams, USC
C Drew Miller, Florida
LB Durell Mapp, North Carolina
LB Hilee Taylor, North Carolina

For what it’s worth, coach Bill Belichick conducted the private workouts for both South Florida’s Williams and Florida’s Miller during his annual post-season sojourn to the Sunshine State. 

I’ll be back around 10.

On The Clock: Stream of Self-Consciousness

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

9:20 PM

The second round pick is Terrence Wheatley, the speedy but oft-injured cornerback from Colorado.

Surprise – most draft pubs had Wheatley slated to go in the third round at the earliest. The Pats continue to confound the draftniks.

Here’s the scoop on pick 62:

Scouts, Inc.

Overall: Wheatley suffered a right wrist dislocation in ’03, undergoing three surgeries over three years to repair the injury (including 2005, when he sat out the season and was granted a medical redshirt). In September ’06, he broke the metal plate in his wrist but continued to play (he had another surgery after the season). In ’07 he missed the Buffaloes’ final three games because of a hairline fracture in his foot. He also left games early in ’06 (concussion) and ’07 (knee sprain) but didn’t miss any more time as a result.Wheatley has the cover skills to develop into an effective sub-package corner and he is a lot tougher against the run than his size would indicate. However, his upside is limited by his lack of size and he is going to have problems matching up with bigger receivers. In addition, his inability to stay healthy at the collegiate levels coupled with his size raises questions about his ability to stay healthy over the course of a 16-game season.

NFL Draft Scout

Compares To: ELLIS HOBBS-New England…Like Hobbs, Wheatley is a solid shutdown cornerback, thanks to outstanding timed speed and a good understanding of route progression. He is fully recovered from wrist problems that hampered him earlier in his career and showed much better tackling form and power behind his hits as a senior. He has excellent timing and leaping ability competing for the ball in flight and brings added value as a kickoff returner. He makes good adjustments on the move and is an efficient cut tackler who knows how to lower and drive with his shoulder to take the blockers out of action. He will need to continue adding bulk to his frame, but that should not impact his exceptional acceleration. Like Hobbs, he is smart enough to play a variety of roles in the secondary and his versatility will be a plus earlier in his pro career.

I don’t know how some Pats fans are going to take that Hobbs comparison, but if I had to pick between the two of these blurbs, I’m favoring the second. Wheatley ran a blistering 4.37 forty recently, which may explain in part why the cornerback-needy Pats turned to a player with a spotty (oh, let’s face it, blighted) history with injuries. I’m guessing this pick doesn’t do a lot for Pats fans at the moment. I’ll reserve judgement, except to say that I kind of like Ellis Hobbs.

So if I’d told you a week ago that, with their first two picks the Patriots would add a linebacker and a cornerback, would you have been okay with that? That’s what they ended up doing, though by – characteristically – drafting players that had for the most part gone unnoticed by local draft chatters, namely me, who listed several other corners above Wheatley on the faux draft board posted here Friday. Naturally, this means less than nothing.

By the way, here’s something that does mean something – both Mayo and Wheatley were among the players to visit Foxborough in the run up to the draft, proving (like Brandon Meriweather before them) that sometimes those draft rumors aren’t just blowing smoke.

The Pats are going to be one of the major players right of the bat tomorrow, and there’s the added dynamic that for the first time, these will be third round choices. And they’ll be three big ones for the Pats, as they have just single choices in the 4th, 6th and 7th to follow. Will New England trade one or more of those third round picks for additional choices in the 4th or 5th, or will they lay all their cards on the table in the third round?

I’ll be here in the morning to find out. Before I go, I’ll just mention that Adam Schefter is saying that Bill Parcells may now be willing to deal Jason Taylor for a third round pick tomorrow after an earlier deal with Tampa fell through. Perhaps they’ll trade him to a team that just happens to have a third round pick to spare.

8:15 PM

Seven picks before the Pats return to center stage of the 2007 NFL Draft,.

So far the Pats haven’t traded up, and as a result, it looks like they will start tomorrow with three picks in the opening round (the 6th, 15th and 31st). Any trade up at this point would be very minor and probably wouldn’t involve a pick of that value.

It’s their iconoclastic nature that makes it difficult to know in what direction the Patriots are headed with their second round pick. Linebacker, not cornerback, was addressed in the first round, so will a defensive back be up next? Five of the top ten corners on Pro Football Weekly’s prospect list are already off the board, and maybe the Pats will choose from a short list of Oklahoma’s Reggie Smith, Iowa’s Charles Godfrey, Patrick Lee of Auburn, or Terrence Wheatley of Colorado.

Safety DeJuan Morgan of NC State is seen as another top secondary prospect, but most obervers saw him as a safety.

An edge rushing linebacker could still be a need (maybe Purdue’s Cliff Avril, or Georgia Tech’s Darnell Robertson), and NFLN’s Mike Mayock is saying that now is the time to get value at the receiver position. One possibility may be slot man and kick returner Dexter Jackson of Appalachian St., though Andre Caldwell of Florida could fit as well.

Tight end Martellus Bennett of Texas A&M offers versatility and upside.

6:24 PM

“Okaaaaaay, Jets fans!”

The little fellas have traded up to #30 in order to draft a tight end named Dustin Keller. You know the Jets and their ability to draft tight ends, especially early, so I’m sure we’ll remember this day for a long time.

The Jets fans seemed to like the pick, or I’m totally misunderstanding the red faces and clenched fists.

So much for Cason. He ended up as a first rounder too, to San Diego.

Pick #31 would have been next. Thankfully, the hole it left has been sandwiched by New York picks, and of course by now half the Jets fans have left, vowing never to return.

5:09 PM

First, a little contract conjecture in respect to the Patriots’ Jerod Mayo, the 10th pick in the 2008 draft.

The 10th pick of the 2006 Draft was Matt Leinart of the Cardinals, who got a six-year, $50.8M deal with $14M in guaranteed money.

Of course, that was a quarterback. The 10th pick in the 07 Draft was DT Amobi Okoye of the Texans, who signed a six-year deal worth $17.7M, with $12.8 in guarantees.

But first, where do the Patriots go next? It says here cornerback, where there are a number of second and third round prospects who are considered potential NFL starters. The question is whether they can sit tight and get their man at 62, or even 69, or if they’ll have to give up one of their three third-rounders to cut another suitor off at the pass. If I had to put money on someone, it would be Antoine Cason of Arizona, who the Pats seemed to take an interest in.

After that, they could still use some youth and speed at outside linebacker, and there’s a ton of waterbug wide receivers-kick returners that make sense in the middle rounds.

4:13 PM

It’s the apparent reach.

The Patriots have chosen LB Jerod Mayo of Tennessee with the 10th pick.

The Patriots actually used a first day pick on a linebacker. Before this, the earliest selection the Bill Belichick Patriots have used on a linebacker was Ryan Claridge, the 170th pick in 2005.

The buzz on Mayo to the Pats has been pretty strong the last few days, and now he’ll be expected to bring youth and speed to the middle of the Patriots defense. Here’s the quick skinny from the web sites:

Scouts, Inc.

Overall: Mayo has experience playing inside and outside linebacker at Tennessee. While he showed NFL potential in both spots, he seems like a more natural fit on the weak-side where he will get more protection. Mayo is far from a finished product. He is blessed with an outstanding combination of size, speed and athletic ability, which was on display at the combine. But in order to become a good starting linebacker in the NFL, he needs to be more consistent as an open-field tackler and learn to take on blocks more effectively. Mayo has too much potential to last long in Round 2 and that’s if he doesn’t sneak into the bottom of the first round.

NFL Draft Scout

Compares To: RANDALL GODFREY-Washington…During his prime, Godfrey’s ability to play on the outside or inside proved invaluable. While Mayo proved that he has the field smarts to handle middle linebacker, he might lack the bulk to do so at the next level, unless the team has big defensive tackles to absorb the blocks and protect him. With his range and closing speed, he could be a better fit on the weak side, whether aligned outside in a 4-3 or inside in a 3-4. He could be a perfect fit to team up with David Harris in New York’s 3-4 defense. Still, with his history of injury problems, one has to wonder if he can survive a full season at the next level.

Either there was another team lurking in the weeds of the next several picks, or the Pats couldn’t trade back any further without losing the shot at Mayo, who they clearly placed a priority on.

I’m going to let some picks come off the board for awhile, but we better stay on our toes – the Pats now have three third-round picks, and there may be someone else in the mid-first to mid-second range that they have their eye on.

4:06 PM

Pats are back on the clock again, as the Bengals have taken Keith Rivers, who was thought to be a top Pats prospect.

Who would the Pats consider here? McKelvin or one of the other corners? Albert or Clady? An apparent reach, like Jerod Mayo?

Or is another trade on the way? Is there anybody here that Dallas would want?

4:01PM

The Pats have traded the seventh pick to the New Orleans Saints. Details have not yet been announced, but it’s safe to assume the Pats are now choosing tenth. I’d like to think the Pats also got the 40th pick in return for the right to draft Sedrick Ellis, but it’s probably more like the Saints third-rounder, number 78.

Schefter just said the Pats gave up a fifth rounder (#164) for the 10th choice and pick #78. So after the first round, the Patriots pick 62nd, 69th, 78th and 94th. Unless they trade again in a few minutes.

The Ravens have traded #8 to the Jags, who selected Derrick Harvey, the DE/OLB from Florida. So it wasn’t him who the Pats were sliding back for.

3:45 PM

Thank God it’s finally here because I can’t keep this up.

“Okay, Jets fans,” says Goodell. You bleeping son of a……

It’s Gholston, and I think I just saw Ron Borges telling a bunch of Jets fans that they outmaneuvered the Pats.

I think I just heard some booing, so here we are. You can’t say this draft has fallen too well for the Pats so far, and the thoughts of a major deal are evaporating.

3:39 PM

Oh, Herm. Well, Dorsey is off the table, and now its likely that the Jets soon take Vernon Gholston away too. The good news is that the Saints weren’t able to move up to grab Dorsey, so they are still in the market for a DT. That keeps the trade options open for the Pats, who are moments away from being on the clock.

3:28 PM

I don’t know why I always think of Al Davis as being unpredictable when he does the same thing every time. The Raiders take McFadden, and Dorsey and Gholston are just two picks away. How likely is it that they go in exactly that order right now?

Herm, you have got to build from that offensive line out. You know that.

3:12 PM

I just realized this thing is going to run backwards if I keep putting the new posts at the top. Think of it like that reverse episode of Seinfeld, I guess.

No trade at number two. Chris Long is off the board. I wonder how real the Pats’ reported interest in him was. Now he goes to St. Louis, and its great tradition of defensive………oh. What is it about the Rams since they moved to St. Louis? I just tried to think of one great St. Louis Rams defensive player, and I couldn’t. DeMarco Farr? Holy smoke. Good luck with all that, Chris.

Now its Matt Ryan at three to Atlanta, and now the NFL’s crazy uncle hidden in the attic holds a ton of chips at four.

3:01 pm

Welcome to the second annual PD draft blog. NFLN is playing its intro package now, so I’m going to go watch for awhile. Adam Schefter is reporting that both Oakland and Kansas City are entertaining offers for the 4th and 5th pick from teams that want to draft LSU DT Glenn Dorsey.

There’s Goodell, and in a fit of mercy, he announces Jake Long right away. That puts them Rams on the clock and the Ravens at the door.

On The Clock: First Round Starts Early?

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

Various sources have reported early this afternoon that the first four picks of the NFL Draft have already been determined.

ESPN’s Michael Smith and NFLN’s Adam Schefter, among others, have reported that the Rams will select Chris Long, the Falcons will choose Matt Ryan, and the Raiders will grab Darren McFadden with the fourth pick.

Of course, this could all be a new kind of smokescreen too, brought upon by the later start.

If its all true, though, that leaves only the Chiefs and the Jets between Glenn Dorsey, Vernon Gholston and Sedrick Ellis, along with offensive linemen Branden Albert and Ryan Clady.

The linemen are significant in that Kansas City has been rumored to be in the market for one at the top of the draft. They could also take advantage of being presented with Dorsey, who is being called the best player in the draft, either through choosing him or trading their pick to someone who will. But if they elect to stand pat and grab their choice of Albert or Clady, that sets up a mindroasting ten minutes with the New Yorks, my friends.

If the Jets are offered their choice of Dorsey or Gholston, who will they take? And what will it mean for the Pats? If through a series of unforseen event Glenn Dorsey slides all the way to number 7, would the Atlanta rumor of the other day (three second round picks for #7) be revived? It was based in the Falcons’ reported desire to own both Ryan and Dorsey. Or would the Patriots find Dorsey irresistable after six others have not?

Schefter is back again, claiming the Rams say a deal with Baltimore for the second pick is close. The Ravens deny it. That would be for Ryan, which would change Atlanta’s direction, as well as, perhaps, New England’s.

One thing for sure, there every chance that Sedrick Ellis will be on the board when the Pats pick, and there are teams behind them that covet the Trojan behemoth. That may end up being the most realistic possibility.

Just a few minutes left now.

On The Clock: Rumours

by Scott Benson
[email protected]

I’m pretty sure that’s not the first Fleetwood Mac reference I’ve used here. Oh, well.

That’s another one, but more obscure.

Anyway, I actually went in to work for a couple of hours today, and apparently the rumors have been flying while I’ve been away.

First, if I follow the message boards correctly, the Patriots are trading up, trading down, and standing pat. They’re talking to the Rams about Chris Long, to the Chiefs about Vernon Gholston, to the Saints about Sedrick Ellis, to themselves about nothing in particular. Around them, their opponents jockey as well, positioning to do something hateful and vindictive to their division rivals, or others they despise for less quantifiable reasons.

This is football, as they say on the commercials. I’m going to turn on the TV right now.

One thing, though – if the Patriots end the day with only two picks after all this chatter, wouldn’t it seem like a letdown? We’ll find out, I guess. One hour left.

On The Clock: These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things

logoby Scott Benson
[email protected]

The Saturday morning sun is peaking up over the hills of Central Maine, revealing a flawless blue sky, which today can only mean one thing: I’m staying inside all day to watch TV!

The NFL Draft is finally here, an oasis in the middle of a long off-season for 24-7 football fans. For Pats partisans, it’s a chance to move forward with hope after weeks of often-bitter reflection and regret. 

I know it’s the prevailing wisdom of casual fans to dismiss draft weekend as overwrought and overhyped, but today is a day to proudly let your geek flag fly, my brothers and sisters. And with that, I humbly offer a few of my favorite NFL Draft things.

COVERAGE

The Draft on the NFL Network – I love the NFL, so I love its network. I think. Frankly, it seems to be killing NFL Films, which isn’t good for anybody, and the whole shortwave game broadcast thing has been less than stellar. Actually, the programming kind of stinks most of the time too. Oh, let’s face it, the damn thing is irredeemable, except……for its draft coverage. The best thing about the NFL Network’s draft coverage is that its not ESPN. The fact that at least a few of us can watch the draft in peace justifies the entire enterprise. And we might even see some selections made, while on ESPN, Andrea Kramer interviews a roundtable of current players in ill-fitting dress shirts before kicking it over to Boomer for some standup. Have I mentioned how much I hate ESPN? I hate them. No, I really do. Which is the biggest reason, along with adept anchor Rich Eisen and analyst Mike Mayock, that I like the NFL Network. Call your local cable provider, dammit.

NFL.com – I’ve told the story a hundred times; I first started following the draft via Gil Santos on-the-half-hour-cut-ins on WBZ radio. Often, I hadn’t even heard of the Pats picks until Gil intoned their names. So imagine my continuing amazement at how much information is available us today, and that’s no better typified by the nfl.com draft website. Especially the draft tracker feature, which allows fans to read extensive profiles on each player as well as see a short video package for most. I mean, when I can watch Jacob Hester’s highlight reel at the drop of a mouse, you know we’ve really evolved as a society. This stuff is…..oh, how do I put this?…….awesome. Added feature: in no way connected to ESPN.

Reiss’s Pieces – If anything is happening with the Patriots today, especially behind the scenes, this is the first place you’ll learn about it. And you’ll learn about it in the straightforward, earnest manner of a guy that loves football just as much as we do. Novel concept, huh? Unfortunately, yes. And in not wholly unrelated news, no member of the Patriots working media has ever enjoyed more trust and respect from his readers. If checking Reiss’s Pieces is not part of your daily routine, then you’re probably not a Patriots fan. Mike will deliver the goods again this weekend. Keep him busy with your clicks.

Pro Football Talk – This is a love-hate thing for me, as I think Mike Florio is only slightly less crazy than Mike Greenberg, the Jets fan masquerading as an ESPN “personality.” And there’s times when Florio deserves a slap for the rapt conjecture he passes off as rumor. See his Friday night Matt Walsh entry as an example. He probably had been drinking, but that’s no excuse. The fact is, though, when it comes to league news of any type, you usually see it here first, and this weekend will be no exception. As long as you believe only about an eighth of what he posts, you should be fine.

Patriots Daily – If you’re looking for ill-informed, knee-jerk analysis of the non-Florio variety this weekend, this is the place. Hey, if we link our own page here, what happens? Do we pass through a portal in the universe? Time travel, maybe? Good. First thing I’m going to do is make sure Robert Kraft hires Bill Belichick the minute Parcells leaves for the Jets. Anyway, we’ll be around with periodic updates all weekend, putting the monkey-typewriter theory to the test.

PD ROUNDTABLE

The boys have gathered at the ol’ PDHQ in anticipation of today’s events, so let’s hear their thoughts. First, our own College Scout Greg Doyle, who offers his own Pats mock draft:

Here is my stab at a Patriots mock draft now that the day is here. I’ll assume no trades, since its hard enough as it is to try to pick this even knowing the picks they’ll have.

Round 1(7)-Keith Rivers, LB, USC-Just a solid player with versatility to play inside or out. Didn’t really play in a Patriots-type system, but it should be easier for a linebacker with his skills to convert than others. Good speed to get to the corners. Has been a defensive leader for the Trojans on a team loaded with talent and has even excelled on special teams, showing his commitment to winning. Thought to be of good character, tough and smart. Sounds like a perfect Patriot to me.

Round 2 (63)-DaJuan Morgan, S, North Carolina State-This could be a real steal. Somewhat under the radar due to the fact he only started one year at NC State (coming out after his junior year). Has a great size and speed combination and one of the hardest hitting safeties in college football. Good in coverage as well. Very hard working guy reportedly who loves football. Has played both safety spots. Also great on special teams with some blocked kicks. With Rodney Harrison getting near the end, this would be a great pick.

Round 3 (69)-Cliff Avril, LB, Purdue-Perfect size/speed guy to play outside in a 3-4. May be able to swing to inside linebacker as well. Good pass rusher and productive player.

Round 3 (94)-Jonathan Goff, LB, Vanderbilt-Strictly an inside linebacker with the size and strength to take on interior linemen. Stout run defender and excellent 2 down player who’d give the Patriots great depth. From Boston.

Round 4 (129)-Craig Stevens, TE, California-Good blocking tight end with decent speed and hands. With Ben Watson getting closer to contract time and David Thomas injury-prone, a young tight end will almost certainly be taken in this draft. Good work ethic is reported out of Stevens and was a team captain remarkably his last two years. Wasn’t used that much in passing game, but faster than you’d think.

Round 5 (164)-Chevis Jackson, CB, LSU-Good zone corner with tons of experience at a top level of college football. A little thin and not overly fast, but smart and with good instincts. Perfect for a zone scheme like the Patriots. Has returned punts.

Round 6 (197)-Josh Johnson, QB, San Diego-Very athletic quarterback with great tools. Played at a small school, needs a lot of work. But the talent is there and the Patriots worked him out recently. With Matt Cassel a free agent at the end of the year, another young QB needs to be developed.

Round 7 (238)-Andre Callender, RB, Boston College-Good combo running back at BC who caught 70 passes as a senior and ran for nearly 1,000 yards. Surprised scouts when he ran a 4.41/40 at BC’s pro day. Has the pass catching skills the Patriots will like and can return kickoffs as well.

Travis Graham, another PD favorite, has been thinking about the best direction for the Pats this weekend:

In my opinion, there are two needs that the Pats have to fill early in this year’s draft: A pass rushing specialist and a cornerback. I know many Pats fans feel that youth at the ILB position is a need (which it is), but I don’t think it’s worth the risk of a high draft pick. Not many ILB prospects in this draft have the ideal size of 250-270lbs to play 3-4 in the NFL. If teams want to draft a player with that size, they are going to have to pick a smaller lineman and transition him to ILB, which is a risky proposition due to the amount of pass coverage ILBs are responsible for in the NFL. I feel the best way to approach the first round of the draft is minimizing risk. No busts allowed.

So, that brings us to a pass rusher and cornerback. Everyone can agree that the Pats are thin at CB since losing Samuel. The free agent signings have been nice, but let’s face it, on paper they have a lot of JAGs at CB. Should the Pats address the position at pick #7 and be done with it? I don’t think so.

Recently, I’ve been subscribing to former New York Giants general manager George Young’s “Planet Theory”. The theory states,

“There is a finite number of athletic, 300-pound people walking around on planet Earth, and if you have a chance to grab one of those rare human beings in the draft, you’d better take advantage of the opportunity.”

To me, the key word is athletic. There are 300lbers available in the second round, but the quick ones that know how to use proper technique in the trenches are scoffed up early. Therefore, I don’t believe that a CB is worth an early first round pick, especially in the Patriots system where they aren’t asked to make plays- just prevent big ones.

This leads into the Pats need for a pass rusher. If you just watched the Pats first twelve games of the 2007 season, you’d probably buy into the “best DL in the league” mantra that was being thrown around last year. Things changed as the season progressed. The pressure that the DL applied to opposing QBs was reminiscent of the efforts that Henry Thomas and Chad Eaton used to put together in 2000 (one Misssissippi…two…). This is where the Pats need an athletic playmaker, and it just so happens that they have an open roster spot from cutting Colvin. An NFL 3-4 OLB pass rusher is much easier to project from college than a 3-4 ILB. They’re usually DEs in college that are athletic enough to occasionally drop into coverage.

In this year’s draft, there are a few players that would fill this hole for the Pats (ranked by yours truly):

Vernon Gholston
Chris Long
Derrick Harvey
Quentin Groves
Cliff Avril

There is a good chance that Gholston and Long will be gone by the 7th pick, and I don’t think it would be worth trading up for them due to the higher salaries and the cost of moving up (especially when the Jets are involved). Harvey should be available at number 7. It might be a little early for him, but if Pats are unable to trade down, I would have no problem taking him at 7. I think of Harvey as a poor man’s Gholston, he doesn’t have the measurables as Vernon, but he was just as productive and many experts believe he has a fuller repertoire of pass rushing moves.

Ideally, a trade down to the middle of the first round would be ideal to pick up Harvey or Groves and an additional pick, but the Pats would need to have the right player (Ellis? Ryan?) fall to them at 7 and the right team (Bangles? Panthers?) wanting to move up. This draft is supposed to be deep at CB, so I would have no problem waiting until round two and possibly moving up a little to grab the right one if necessary, but I can’t see using a high pick on one and missing out on an elite pass rusher because there are only so many of those guys walking the earth.

You get the last word for now, Trav. But, dear readers, there is much more to come throughout the next two days, and Chris Warner will be back on Monday to offer a wrap up of the whole thing. So I’ll talk to you later. In the meantime, you’re encouraged to add your own thoughts in our comments section.

On The Clock: One Man’s Draft Board

logoby Scott Benson
[email protected]

It’s Draft Eve, and I’ve come to hang my stocking by the chimney with care.

But first…..do you think Roger Goodell will one day be the worst commissioner in the history of professional sports, or do you think he already is? I don’t want to go off on a rant here, but come on, this week they reach a deal with G. Gordon Walsh? Like the draft would have been ruined by a supposed dark cloud hovering over the league? Come on. That’s only if you give quarter to the Peter King Family, aka the mainstream NFL media, the fussbudget bastards. As far as I’m concerned, they’re the dark cloud hanging over the league, considering Walsh is most probably going to present them all with “not much” in a couple of weeks. Anyway, point is that once that first pick goes off on Saturday, nobody gives a squat about Walk Through-gate. Other than ESPN, I mean.

Goodell makes me very nervous, as someone who bought the NFL Films sales pitch a long time ago. I mean, Pete Rozelle would have handled that dust up over that camera with a couple of well placed phone calls on Monday morning. He wouldn’t even have been late for lunch. The current guy is still holding press briefings eight months later like he’s Chuck Heston at a NRA rally. When pick 31 comes up on the board on Saturday, is he going to walk up there and remind people he stripped it away? Maybe bump chests with Chris Mortensen? Criminy.

So, as I was about to say, I’ve got these draft boards.

I’ve mentioned before – something about the NFL Draft makes me want to make lists. So in the course of my extensive draft readings over the last two months (you know, in my study, fireplace going, brandy, ascot), I took note of the guys who seemed to have the characteristics the Patriots seem to value in their draft picks, seemingly. I guess what I’m saying is that I cannot emphasize the word ‘seem’ enough.

Between you and me, I’d prefer that you look at the chart horizontally before vertically. As you’ll see, the seven rounds are represented, and players are slotted in by round. If you look at the chart top down, you’ll see the players by position, by round. The first chart we’ll look at will be offense, and the defense will follow.

It’s a guess. The players picked were chosen as a matter of personal taste and my limited understanding of what the Pats may be trying to do. The rounds are an even looser guess, recognizing that many of the players will be choosen earlier than I have them here. The idea was to approximate where the Pats may be in the position to draft them, and even then, you have to account for possible trades.

Yeah, it’s futile. I know. But this is the way I look at it; so what?

Here’s my offensive guys. Don’t blame them.

If you’d rather look at the chart without scrolling, click here.

Summary: Why are all these offensive players on my draft board? I’m like Matt Millen over here. Generally, I looked for quarterbacks who were said to have good size, smarts, poise and the requisite physical tools. Still, aside from Henne, they’re all developmental guys. For runners, I looked for quick receiver types, but I’m also a sucker for a good running back story. Hence the mixture of bruisers like Mendenhall and Stewart, and productive all-around types like the mid-round group of Choice, Rice and Hart. At the receiver position, Sweed stuck out as a highly skilled worker with good makeup, and after that, it’s all quick waterbugs with good feel for the slot and kick returns, with Dexter Jackson rising to the top. At tight end, the thought was two-fold; potential starter-types early, and versatile do-everything guys with heft later on. As with all the linemen, we’re looking for brawn, brains, athleticism and toughness. It’s hard to resist the thought of tossing the sizable and athletic Albert in the Pats o-line mix, where he could compete for a starting job in a number of positions (how about right guard?). Cherilus could battle for the right tackle spot right away. One wag compared Greco (Nick Kaczur’s successor at Toledo) to Logan Mankins, and he’s been on the list ever since. Yes, this has been a very scientific process. The rest of the list is a mix of take-a-shot developmental types (Cousins and Dunlap – come on, you have to draft a guy who calls himself King) and the usual multi-position suspects that would add depth. As you can tell, in a draft that’s supposed to be loaded with tackles, I went heavy with the guards (not a strength, evidently). I prefer to think of myself as a bold visionary unafraid to buck the trend, you know, like when Bill Tobin drafted Trev Alberts.

And now the defense.

Once again, the non-scroll version.

Summary: I think we’re all hoping that the Patriots don’t end up using the 7th pick tomorrow, given the visions of draft bounties dancing in our heads. So this chart is heavier in the middle rounds, where we hope New England will exercise multiple picks. I probably should have put Long in with the OLB’s (Vrabel vibe) as the rest of the column is filled with guys that seemed to fit as 3-4 ends. I’d love to see the Pats come away with a legit backup to Vince Wilfork, so here’s a few that may fit that bill. At OLB, I focused on college ends that will transition to situational pass rushers off the edge, though I also looked for some coverage potential and versatility as well, particularly at the bottom of the board. On the inside, priority one was the strength to shed blocks and fill inside, but Mayo rose to the top by offering athleticism as well. Next are the cornerbacks, where I looked for quickness over speed (though there’s some wicked 40 times in there) and awareness, as Pats corners work as part of a unit instead of out on an island. I’ll say it now; nearly every one of these guys is slotted too late (Flowers, for example, could go in the first), and it’s because I didn’t have enough room to put them all at the top of the board. Keep an eye on Godfrey and Castille too; both are listed in some publications as safeties, but they may fit better as corners in New England. Last but not least, there’s a small handful of in-the-box safeties with enough athleticism to handle some coverage responsibilities too.

That’s it for today. Tomorrow morning, the Roundtable guys will be here with some pre-draft thoughts, and of course, I’ll be here throughout the day as the first two rounds unfold. Bottom line: it should be a hell of a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to it.

On The Clock: Let’s Make A Deal

logoby Scott Benson
[email protected]

In 2006, the Oakland Raiders selected Jim Thorpe Award winner Michael Huff of Texas with the 7th pick of the first round. Huff, who has since gone on to start 32 straight games at safety for Oakland, was rewarded with a six-year deal worth $43 million, including $15 million in guaranteed money.

Last spring, the Minnesota Vikings owned the 7th choice, which they used on Oklahoma runner and Heisman finalist Adrian Peterson, the soon-to-be NFL Rookie of the Year. Peterson signed a five-year deal worth $40.5 million, with $17 million of it guaranteed. 

Given all that, it seems safe to say that this year’s 7th selection will ultimately sign a 5 or 6 year contract worth approximately $40 million and guarantees approaching $20 million. At an average of seven to eight million dollars per annum, the rookie would immediately become one of his new team’s highest paid players before he’s ever taken an NFL snap.

Hence, the almost foregone conclusion among Patriots fans that their team will find a way to avoid a contract of that magnitude in a draft that is seen as bereft of pure Top Ten players. Why pay the 7th pick more than $40 million when you can get a roughly comparable player at half, or even a quarter of the cost?

But can the Patriots trade back? That’s the question.

Over the last five drafts, there have been just five trades involving Top Ten picks. Only one has occured since 2004 (the 07 Atlanta-Houston swap that involved an exchange of Top Tens). That means only two of the last 30 Top Ten picks (or roughly 7%) have been acquired by trade.

Even worse for the Pats prospects, no middle-tier team has moved into the Top Ten since 2003.

Still, even with this grim data, history tells us that it’s not impossible for New England to deal out of that 7th slot next weekend. But if they do, what kind of return can Pats fans expect?

To find an answer to that question, let’s review the last five draft day deals involving Top Ten picks:

DRAFT: 2007
TRADE UP: ATLANTA, FROM #10 TO #8
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#10), 3RD YEAR QUARTERBACK MATT SCHAUB
TRADE DOWN: HOUSTON, FROM #8 TO #10
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#10), 2ND ROUND (#39), 2008 2ND ROUND (#48)

SUMMARY: These picks are in the right neighborhood for a comparison to the Pats present situation, but the presence of Schaub (an 04 3rd rounder) in the deal makes such a direct comparison difficult. While they got an experienced quarterback who was ready to play right away (let’s say he was the equivilent of one of those second-rounders), it sure looks like Houston gave up at least a second round pick for the right to trade back two slots. Not what Pats fans want to hear, but again, Schaub’s value makes it hard to draw any real conclusions here.

DRAFT: 2004
TRADE UP: NEW YORK GIANTS, FROM #4 TO #1
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#4), 3RD ROUND (#65), 2005 1ST ROUND (#12), 2005 5TH ROUND (#144).
TRADE DOWN: SAN DIEGO, FROM #1 TO #4
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#1)

SUMMARY: Again, a tough comparison for a few reasons. First, it involved two teams in the Top Five, but secondarily because this was the Eli Manning/Phillip Rivers trade. The Chargers and Giants actually drafted the two players and swapped them after the picks. This indicates that at least recently, it takes extraordinary circumstances for these top end deals to happen. But if Manning and Rivers cancel each other out here, it looks like the Giants gave up a 04 third-rounder, and a first-rounder and fifth-rounder in the 05 draft for the right to move up three spots. Once again, though, the Manning-Rivers spin to this trade makes it hard to draw any conclusions.

DRAFT: 2004
TRADE UP: CLEVELAND, FROM #7 TO #6
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#7), 2ND ROUND (#37)
TRADE DOWN: DETROIT, FROM #6 TO #7
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#6)

SUMMARY: Eureka! A trade involving the 7th pick! Now we’re getting somewhere. The Browns made the move up to target Kellen Winslow, who the Lions were probably threatening to draft themselves. Detroit gets an additional 2nd round pick in exchange for taking a pass on the Miami tight end. This four-year old deal is probably the most encouraging example for Pats fans who are hoping their team can trade back and grab another first day pick for their trouble. The fact that the trade was engineered by Matt Millen gives pause, though.

DRAFT: 2003
TRADE UP: NEW YORK JETS, FROM #13 TO #4
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#13), 1ST ROUND (#22), 4TH ROUND (#116)
TRADE DOWN: CHICAGO, FROM #4 TO #13
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#4)

SUMMARY: The holy grail. A middle-tier team (the Jets) gives up multiple picks to move into the #4 spot. The Bears got two first-rounders and an additional fourth for moving back 9 slots in the draft. Once again, a move inspired by one team coveting a certain player (Dewayne Robertson). It’s only a bonus that the Jets are now killing themselves trying to dump him. Considering we’re talking about the fourth pick the draft, not an exact match where the Pats are concerned. In addition, it’s now been five years since this trade and the salary structure of these early picks have grown exponentially since. Would the Bears still pull down the same return on the fourth pick today?

DRAFT: 2003
TRADE UP: NEW ORLEANS, FROM #17 TO #6
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#17), 1ST ROUND (#18), 2ND ROUND (#54)
TRADE DOWN: ARIZONA, FROM #6 TO #17
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#6), 2ND ROUND (#37), 4TH ROUND (#102)

SUMMARY: Another mid-tier team (New Orleans) reaching up for a player (Johnathan Sullivan). The Cardinals netted an additional first-rounder, but they had to move back 17 spots in the second round, and give up an additional fourth round pick to jump back into the late teens. This is roughly the type of move back that most expect the Pats to attempt. Two affordable first-rounders in the late teens or early twenties (5 yr. deal, $2-$3 million in annual salary, about half of deal guaranteed) would be an affordable but potentially effective alternative to the $40 million for a top ten pick. The associated manuevering and loss of a fourth ended up working out okay for Arizona: they selected Florida State WR Anquan Boldin with that #54.

So a deal is certainly possible, but is it profitable? Detroit got a second rounder for moving one spot in 04, but how much would that sort of deal help the Patriots financially? It would add another second-round contract, but in truth, the relief they would get for moving two or three slots in the rookie pay scale could be significant. Last year, the difference between the seventh and tenth pick (Amobi Okoye) was about $23 million in total value and $4 million in guaranteed money. The lower they drop, the lower the return, but a move back to 9 or 10 and the addition of a third round pick is perhaps one scenario. #9 Cincinnati is said to covet USC DT Sedrick Ellis, and maybe a Pats threat to pick Ellis themselves would scare a third-rounder (#77) out of the Bengals, who have a compensatory third to replace the pick they lose under this scenario. This would save the Pats about half the salary commitment on their first round pick and give them the 62nd, the 69th, the 77th and 94th selections. They could even lose that 94th pick to buff up their second day plate, where they have only one choice per round.

Foremost in mind at the moment, however, is the first pick, and coincidentally, the fate of Boston College’s Matt Ryan. The Patriots have to be hoping that Ryan slides down to them, passed over by Miami, Atlanta, Kansas City, and even the New York Jets at #6. Baltimore, choosing immediately after the Pats at #8, seem like a logical landing spot for the Eagle. That makes the #7 spot of interest to any teams (Carolina at 13? Chicago at 14?) that may also covet Ryan, the top quarterback in the draft. Of course, those same teams could also have interest in spots 3-6. That move from the mid-teens to the top six or seven has most recently come at the cost of at least an additional first round pick. Neither the Bears nor the Panthers have that to give, at least not this year (they do both have extra third round picks, though). I don’t have any idea whether either one thinks getting Matt Ryan is worth giving up their first round pick this year and next. Does he inspire that sort of passion?

Maybe he does.  A recent rumor floated by the draft site the Great Blue North Draft Report speculated that if Ryan was still on the board when the Patriots go on the clock, the Falcons would ship their three second round picks to New England for the right to select Ryan at 7.

If not, maybe Chris Long, Darren McFadden or another top pick will find themselves tumbling next Saturday, driving up the value of the Pats selection. You never know. It’s been commonly assumed that Dallas, and specifically Jerry Jones, would do something with their two-first rounders situated squarely in the tenties (#’s 22 & 28), probably because Jones is thought to have impure thoughts about a McFadden-Marian Barber tandem. Again, who knows. The Cowboys don’t have much to deal with, comparatively, beyond that extra first. What else would they have to do to move all the way to #7? There’s no recent prescedent, so that means we have to consult the dreaded trade charts.

I say ‘charts’ because there’s rumors that the old Jimmy Johnson chart from the 90’s has been updated to reflect the rookie salary impact on the early picks.

The old chart places a value of 1,500 on the 7th pick, and the two Dallas picks are valued at a combined 1,440. That makes for an easy swap: an extra first for dropping 15 slots in the first round. Maybe the Pats squeeze out a fourth rounder (#126) to even the scales. 

The new version, however, tempers that considerably. Because it is intended to more accurately reflect the financial burden of the earliest picks, the Cowboys two picks are now worth a combined 1,690 points, or some 120 points more than the #7th selection (1,570). It’s not clear if teams are actually using the updated version, but if they are, now it’s the Patriots giving up the extra choice, possibly one of their two third rounders (#94, still worth about 120 points).

Granted, there’s probably a dozen variations on this theme, but does it seem to you like there’s a major trade in the Patriots future? The small ones, like sliding back a small handful of spaces in the heat of the draft day moment, seem more advantageous at this point.

Still, once you start in with these trade value charts, it’s hard to stop. You keep coming up with these elaborate scenarios. Here’s one. If the Pats were somehow able to swing the trade back to the middle teens, it could provide a domino effect that would give New England their best chance at a major draft haul. Let’s look at a couple of recent trades for examples.
 
DRAFT: 2007
TRADE UP: NEW YORK JETS, FROM #25 TO #14
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#25) 2ND ROUND (#59), 6TH ROUND (#164)
TRADE DOWN: CAROLINA, FROM #14 TO #25
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#14), 6TH ROUND (#191)

DRAFT: 2007
TRADE UP: DENVER, FROM #21 TO #17
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#21), 3RD ROUND (#86), 7TH ROUND (#198)
TRADE DOWN: JACKSONVILLE, FROM #17 TO #21
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#17), 6TH ROUND (#191)

DRAFT: 2003
TRADE UP: PHILADELPHIA, FROM #28 TO #16
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#28), 2ND ROUND (#58)
TRADE DOWN: SAN FRANSISCO, FROM #16 TO #28
GAVE UP: 1ST ROUND (#16)

So from this was can estimate that the return on trading back from a mid-teens pick to one in the twenties is probably a second or third round pick, depending on how far you move.

Stick with me, here. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Carolina really wants Matt Ryan, things break the right way and the Pats trade back from 7th to 13th next Saturday, picking up a fourth rounder in 08 and a first round pick next year in the process (the rough equivilent of the 03 trades involving the Bears and Jets, Saints and Cardinals). They get out from under the financial obligations of the 7th pick, grab an additional second day pick, and perhaps most importantly, set themselves up with two firsts in 09.

But instead of choosing a player with the 13th pick, the Patriots trade back again, this time with Green Bay, picking at #30. Green Bay’s got their eye on someone (pick one – maybe one of the corners?), so they surrender one of their two second rounders (#56) and their third (#91) to jump way up.

At that point, the Patriots would have traded twice, and been left with six picks in the alleged sweet spot of this draft: #30, 56, 62, 69, 91 and 94. Plus an additional fourth rounder, and, last but not least, a first round pick in 2009. I suppose it says something about Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli that we think them capable of something that audacious.

To close, here’s a list of teams that may be active on this weekend’s trade front by virtue of their multiple picks:

KANSAS CITY: With the trade of NFL sack leader Jared Allen to Minnesota on Tuesday, the Chiefs become the belle of the Playa Haters Ball this weekend. The Chiefs now have two first rounders (5 & 17), one second (35), and three third rounders (66, 73 & 82). Herm-iffic!

Others with multiples:

ATLANTA: Three second round picks (34, 37 & 48) and two thirds (68 & 98, which is compensatory and can’t be traded).
GREEN BAY: Two seconds (56 & 60).
MIAMI: Two seconds (33 & 57).
CAROLINA: Two thirds (67 & 74).
CHICAGO: Two thirds (70 & 90).
JACKSONVILLE: Two thirds (71 & 89) and three fifths (143, 158 & 159).

On The Clock: The Buzzword Is ‘Value’

logoby Dan Snapp
[email protected]

Were he to ever waste a precious second worrying about what fans think, Bill Belichick would hate “In Bill We Trust”. The honor brings more demands than plaudits. Like he doesn’t have enough to worry about.

Belichick has spoiled us. And being the spoiled children that we are, we expect a treat each time we go to the store. So at draft time, there are certain entitlements to be fulfilled.

We insist the Patriots nail their first round pick every time, regardless of where in the round they’re picking. It’s their own damn fault, really. They reaped rewards with Richard Seymour, Daniel Graham, Ty Warren, Vince Wilfork, Benjamin Watson, Logan Mankins, and Laurence Maroney (too early to know with Brandon Meriweather), so we’re well within our rights to demand the same each year.

Magnanimous as we are, we’ll offer some scant leeway. We’ll permit a second round screwup  from time to time, so long as it’s not habit-forming (and don’t think we forgot about the trades up for Bethel Johnson or Chad Jackson). It’s nice to see the early whiffs in the third round (Brock Williams, Guss Scott) rectified later with the Ellis Hobbs and Nick Kaczur picks. Not to nitpick, but when can we expect another David Givens seventh round surprise?

Fans are fickle. It’s the offseason, and there’s little else to talk about. So we obsess about the lean second day crop in ’04 or the “one-man draft” of ’07 (I know, I know: “two-man draft”).

The ’07 draft needs no justification. The Pats traded away a first, second, third, fourth and seventh round pick, and got in return the seventh overall pick this year, Wes Welker, a high third rounder, and Randy Moss. The underlying message from the team was clear: this draft stinks, but we still got value for our picks, and stocked up for what’s slated to be a great draft next year.

Next year is here, and expectations are running high. There should be no future considerations deals this year. From what the draft resources tell us, this is the draft to restock your offensive line, your cornerbacks, and to find another running back, so the Pats need to play their hand. The loss of the 31st pick severely hampers their leverage and flexibility to wheel and deal, but they’re still a player, what with the top ten pick and the extra third from Oakland.

So what will they do?

Everything about the way the team has drafted this decade screams, “Move down!” They have moved up twice in the first round – up 11 picks in ’02 to grab Graham, and up one pick in ’03 to nab Warren – but “value” is the Patriots buzzword. If the draft is as deep as we’re being told, and with such uncertainty on who the premium players are (and for such a high cost), the logical course is to trade into the teens, assuming a trade partner is there.

If no partner is in the offing, expect a big body at seven (Sedrick Ellis on defense, Brendan Albert on offense). As predicated last week, we don’t know the players well, but we can go on the Patriots’ patterns. Selecting that high, I think the Patriots will opt for the rare physical specimen, like they did in ’01 with Seymour.

The Jets are important, just not for the reasons people think. Much as Belichick and Eric Mangini detest one another, neither’s going to sacrifice what’s in the best interest of their team out of spite for the other. But since both are 3-4 teams in the top ten, they’re targeting the same people. Unless the Jets are eyeing quarterback Matt Ryan, the two teams will be fighting to race down, not up, the draft.

This draft has that “building a champion” feel, like the ’86 one where the 49ers found seven starters despite not having a first round pick, or the ’91 draft that netted Dallas eight starters. With seven picks in the top 103, this could be the draft that makes the Falcons. Same goes for Kansas City, with six picks in the top 100 after the Jared Allen trade.

For the Patriots, the ’86  49ers analogy is an apt one. Joe Montana turned 30 that year, and that draft restocked the Niners for a second run. This is the Patriots’ opportunity to do the same for Tom Brady.

On The Clock: Acorn Hunting

logoby Chris Warner
[email protected]

Not sure if you’ve been made aware of this, but the NFL Draft is coming up. It’s a shame no one in sports journalism pays attention. Those draft gurus work so hard. I mean, think about having to make predictions that end up mostly wrong, with everyone watching. And then doing it all over again, year after year. Can you imagine paying someone for that?

(Yes, of course we’re jealous.)

When we talk about the Patriots’ drafts during the Belichick era, it isn’t long before a certain sixth-round pick enters the conversation. While it makes sense to laud the Foxboro front office for their savvy in picking Tom Brady, a quick review of the entire 2000 draft shows their human side:

2nd – Adrian Klemm, OT
3rd – J. R. Redmond, RB
4th – Greg Robinson-Randall, OT
5th – Dave Stachelski, TE
5th – Jeff Marriott, DT
6th – Antwan Harris, CB
6th – Tom Brady, duh
7th – Casey Tisdale, OLB
7th – Patrick Pass, RB

I mean, really: Dave Stachelski? The intention here isn’t to downplay the greatest sixth round pick in NFL history. It just shows that, as an old coach used to say, even a blind sow finds an acorn once in a while.

Here goes a list of prospective late-round/undrafted rookies in whom the Pats could show some interest. Please don’t consider these as predictions, because they’ll be wrong, and then I’d have to take your money.

SecondaryTerrence Wheatley, Colorado. Small, fast and tough, Wheatley has displayed solid coverage (11 careers INTs) and kick returning skills (24.8-yard avg. in 2007). Despite his noteworthy speed at the combine (4.37 40), his height (5-9) and injury history (foot) could keep teams away and make him a late steal.

Secondary secondary pick: Nate Lyles, Virginia. Had 68 tackles last year. He’s a gamer who overcame a neck injury in 2005 to become a team leader the past two seasons. Belichick will get a spot-on scouting report from Virginia Coach Al Groh, who has a history with him going back to their time with the Cleveland Browns.

DB Honorable Mention: Scorpio Babers, Sam Houston State. Sure, I could tell you that he had ideal measurements (5-11) and speed (4.36 40) for a cornerback prospect. I could tell you that his broad jump went 10 feet, four inches. But all I really want to tell you is that his name is Scorpio! Do you think he’s emotional and stubborn, yet self-confident? Should his fortune go on the scouting report, along with his off-the-field issues? So many questions.

Linebacker Jameel McClain, Syracuse. Maybe another Oscar Lua in that he stops what’s in front of him but has trouble in coverage. Looks like a team player who gets credit for switching in college from linebacker to end based on his team’s needs. As they say, necessity is the mother of versatility. Wait: that’s not right…

LB Honorable Mention: Bryan Kehl, BYU. Small for an outside linebacker in the Pats’ defense (6-2, 242), but has the speed and quickness to break in as a special teamer and eventually gain playing time in coverage packages. At 24, he’s an older rookie, which makes some teams hesitate. I have no idea why.

Defensive LineFrank Okam, Texas. Slow as a glacier and similar in size (6-5, 347), Okam has the potential to take on blockers in New England’s 3-4 scheme. Since 2004, the Patriots have lacked a second nose tackle/leviathan in the Ted Washington/Keith Traylor mold. Okam stands a long way from that level, but he’s worth a late-round look if available.

Honorable Mention: Bryan Mattison, Iowa. Good speed and versatility makes this player a solid choice for backup defensive end. Played under Kirk Ferentz (another hire of Belichick’s while at Cleveland), which might garner him a second look.

Wide ReceiverDexter Jackson, Appalachian State. If you told me you’d heard of Jackson before ASU’s upset of Michigan last September, your pants would ignite. At 5-9, 185, this diminutive ball of lightning gets open and catches passes as well as punts. If Jackson ever feels the size thing getting him down, he can look at Wes Welker and smile (as many of us Pats fans do).

Because Jackson’s stock has risen almost as much as Tom Brady’s investment in scarves (I mean, seriously, all he needs are a leather pilot’s helmet and goggles to complete the outfit), we include two honorable mentions for this position:

WR Honorable Mention 1: Kevin Robinson, Utah State. A weak 40 time of 4.65 will keep him waiting on Day 2 of the draft, but his quickness and pass-catching ability should get him a look at camp. Also had great success as a punt and kick returner, as seen in this 100-yard treat vs. Hawaii last year.

WR Honorable Mention 2: Chaz Schilens, San Diego State. Measured 6-4 and showed freakish ability at his pro day, including a 4.38 40 and a 43-inch vertical. The Pats have drafted athletic wide receivers who didn’t pan out (“Simmons and Johnson” isn’t the name of a law firm), but if they got Schilens into camp, he’d be fun to watch. Speaking of watching, if you’re in the mood for a grainy highlight video, here’s one right here.

Offensive LineMike Gibson, Cal. This former teammate of Ryan O’Callaghan takes the Heart and Guts train over the Athleticism Express. At 6-4, 305, he fits the physical profile of Patriots linemen and has shown the type of position flexibility New England seeks. Seems to have the nasty attitude necessary, a form of praise reserved for pro football and few other lines of work. (I mean, wouldn’t it feel awesome to put “nasty attitude” on your resume?)

OL Honorable Mention: Shannon Boatman, FSU. A junior college transfer who has yet to live up to his potential, yet what potential he has: at 6-6, 315, he ran a 4.95 40-yard dash. I’d like to see what he could do after two years under line coach Dante Scarnecchia.

Tight End Craig Stevens, Cal. While many faux drafts (I feel they don’t “mock” as much as they seem fake) have the Pats picking Notre Dame’s John Carlson, Stevens has been rated as a better blocker (most 225-pound reps of any tight end). His underwhelming stats stemmed from playing with an NFL-caliber receiving corps (DeSean Jackson, Lavelle Hawkins, RB Justin Forsett).

Honorable Mention: Mike Peterson, NW Missouri State. Short at 6-2, 250, Peterson would play H-back to free up Benjamin Watson and David Thomas in the passing game.

Running Back – Hugh Charles, Colorado. Justin Forsett’s a target for the Pats mid-round, but Charles shouldn’t be overlooked for any team seeking a small, strong and fast halfback who can be gotten for the price of a phone call and a preseason meal plan. Like Patrick Cobbs in 2006, he’d be the darling of camp. Unlike Cobbs, he can fly. Watch him during a Buffaloes track meet.

RB Honorable Mention: Andre Callender, Boston College. Not dynamic, but with Matt Ryan at QB Callender caught 72 passes in 2007. (Of course, an oil drum on wheels could catch passes with Ryan at the helm.) Callender has potential as a backup and special-teamer in the Patrick Pass mold.

QuarterbackMatt Flynn, LSU. He won’t wow you slinging it, but he won’t kill you, either. A prototypical dink-and-dunker who managed his team to the national championship, he’s got good athleticism but doesn’t seem to defer to it too much.

QB Honorable Mention: Bernard Morris, Marshall. A QB working in a halfback’s body. Isn’t it about time we brought back the Michael Bishop era?

Some other potential picks of note:

DE/OLB conversion projectTrevor Scott, Buffalo. An unknown for most of his career, his story broke after a stellar pro day that had him running a 4.54 40 and putting up 225 pounds 32 times. If he’s still available late, the Pats could pounce, although don’t they already have their conversion project in Pierre Woods?

Awesome OLB candidate, if only… – Vince Redd, Liberty. Redd has the rare size and speed of a Pats-prototype OLB (6-5, 260, 4.56 40), but the locals will put up a red flag because Coach Groh booted Redd out of Virginia.

Just for the heck of it, look out forDT Jason Shirley, Fresno State. If not for off-the-field troubles (note: cars plus drinking equals bad), his size (6-5, 330) would make him a mid-round pick or higher. Also has a noteworthy coaching background from Pat Hill (worked at Cleveland under Belichick, blah blah blah).

The Chris Henry freakishly athletic back you hadn’t heard of – Lavarus Giles, Jackson State. A big back at 6-1, 220, Giles runs track and was timed at a 4.4 40. Why would the Pats be interested? Ask them: they had reps in attendance for his pro day, according to this blogger.

Guy to root forOLB Tommy Blake, TCU. Blake had been projected as a first-round pick until his senior season, when he had to take a medical leave due to bipolar disorder. Seems like a decent guy with a terrible problem, but recent signs of his improvement have been positive on the professional and personal front.