September 26, 2016

A Ridiculously Premature Pats Mock (Senior Bowl Edition)

Saturday night’s Senior Bowl provided draft-obsessed NFL fans a final glimpse of amateur-level football for the 2008 season (provided the Week 16 version of the Cardinals doesn’t show up for the Super Bowl). We now present the first semi-official Patriots Mock Draft of 2009, with the caveat that, in order to be eligible, each player must have been on a Senior Bowl roster.

The draft slots are based on what New England holds at this moment and ignore the hypothetical situations such as trading Matt Cassel for a first-rounder, getting compensatory picks, or Commissioner Roger Goodell making up for an 11-5 team missing the playoffs. As of this moment, the Patriots have eight picks in seven rounds, with an extra second-rounder coming from the San Diego Chargers.

First Round: Alphonso Smith, CB, Wake Forest – Yes, he missed an interception opportunity that would have resulted in a score, but even that play demonstrated his knack for running receivers’ route for them. Smith has the potential of a shutdown corner, and if one player can shut down half the defensive backfield, the entire defense benefits. (I know, I know: groundbreaking stuff.)

First Round, Scenario B: If Smith isn’t available, let’s hope Brian Cushing still is. The outside linebacker out of USC looked solid in coverage and stood up to blockers better than expected. Tutelage under guys like Mike Vrabel and Adalius Thomas wouldn’t hurt, either.

Round Two (a): Clay Matthews, OLB, USC – When all’s said and done, this might prove a bit high, but Matthews’ performance during Senior Bowl week showed a solid athlete with a hardcore work ethic. His father played for Coach Bill Belichick in Cleveland, which may or may not mean anything.

Why not Connor Barwin, you may ask? Though Barwin showed great athleticism, I can’t get over the fact that he made the roster as a tight end. While some may argue that his versatility only provides more value, I’d rather have a player dominate one position than fill in as a role player in several. Tom Brady doesn’t hold kicks; Randy Moss doesn’t return punts.

Please don’t misunderstand: I love Troy Brown, for example, but Brown playing defense said a lot more about the roster situation than it did about his talent as a cornerback. Of course, if the Patriots draft Cushing in Round One, I’d have them look for a defensive back here.

Round Two (b): Ron Brace, DT, BC – The biggest knock against Brace this week was that he wasn’t B. J. Raji, which is like poking fun at a Mercedes because it’s not a Porsche. (And if anyone can think of better cars to fit that analogy, please comment below. I was going to use a Buick vs. a Cadillac, but then I thought I’d sound like a 75-year-old man.)

Brace gets major bonus points for chasing down running Andre Brown 30 yards downfield after a screen pass. And for weighing 330 pounds.

Round Three: Tyrone McKenzie, LB, South Florida – I didn’t realize McKenzie played middle linebacker at Iowa State his sophomore year and had 129 total tackles. He transferred to South Florida and had 121 tackles, then led the team with 116 this past year. A little short for a 3-4 OLB at 6-2, McKenzie could take some reps in the middle. Didn’t notice him much during the Senior Bowl, but he showed good coverage skills when I did.

Plus, my mother’s maiden name is McKenzie, so I could buy her his player jersey.

Round Four: Jason Watkins, OL, Florida – you know, I keep hearing these rumors that Coach Belichick communicates with Gators coach Urban Meyer, so he’d get a full scouting report. At 6-6, Watkins has proven difficult for pass-rushers to avoid.

Formerly in this spot: Xavier Fulton, OL, Illinois. After watching tape of DE Larry English play Fulton like a cheap accordion during practice, then having Fulton follow that up with a weak game, he’s off the list.

Round Five: Kyle Moore, DE, USC – He weighs 270 pounds, small by 3-4 end standards, but Moore had a strong week of practice and seemed able to set the edge against opposing linemen. Solid developmental prospect here.

Round Six: Mike Wallace, WR, Ole Miss – I ask you: what on Earth does Wallace have to do to move up draft boards? He averaged over 20 yards per catch and over 24 per kickoff return in the SEC. In the Cotton Bowl, he had four receptions for 80 yards and a touchdown. Saturday, he blew past DeAngelo Smith for a 39-yard catch in the left corner of the end zone. (By the way, Smith’s stock fell so hard this week that it’s suing for whiplash.)

So, to recap: in Wallace we’ve got a successful SEC receiver/kick returner with good height (6-0), good speed and great hands. What the heck, move him up to Round Five.

Round Seven: Quinn Johnson, FB, LSU – Listen, I love Heath Evans. He’s a great utility back who has improved his blocking skills immensely since coming to Foxboro. It’s just tough to overlook Johnson, the prototypical fullback the Patriots haven’t had since Fred McCrary got hurt in 2003 and Belichick realized he could win without one. Johnson weighs in at 250 and usually leaves carrying the ball to others (he had 16 carries in his career) but he enjoyed a rushing TD on Saturday.

Undrafted Free Agents: Mitch King, DL, Iowa – A definite “high-motor” guy (which some could call an insult. I mean, think about it: Usain Bolt is the fastest man in the world, but no one calls him a “high-motor” guy) whose hard work (hmm), guts (uh-oh) and determination (Good God) might have moved him up some scouts’ draft boards.

If King gets the backing of Iowa coach and former Belichick cohort Kirk Ferentz, he could end up in Foxboro. And once he does, he’ll give 110 percent. (Cripes.)

Eric Kettani, FB, Navy – Coach Belichick’s a sucker for those Midshipmen. Kettani’s commitment to the armed forces prevents him from going into the NFL until 2011. Don’t be surprised if Belichick signs him to the practice squad like he did with Kyle Eckel in 2005.

John Phillips, TE, Virginia – A big target at 6-6, 250, Phillips caught 48 passes in 12 games this year for the Cavaliers (and don’t think I’m overlooking the Belichick/Al Groh connection). Not a great athlete, but could help out on special teams and in spot duty once Benjamin Watson and/or David Thomas get hurt.

And if you don’t think both or either of those guys will miss games, then I find your optimism adorable.

Corey Irvin, DL, Georgia – At 6-6, 300, he has the right size for a 3-4 defensive lineman. Coming from an SEC school, he has the proper pedigree. Irvin failed to rack up significant stats his senior year (34 tackles, three sacks), but did enough during Senior Bowl week to warrant a second look.

So, that’s a wrap on the 2008 NCAA football season. We’ll have more once the numbers from the combine are in, including a New, Only-Slightly-Less-Ridiculously-Premature Patriots Mock Draft and a look at some Under the Radar prospects.

John Lynch Says Belichick is the Best

(No, not the Governor of NH)

I thought we’d pass along this first hand account from a BSMW message board member who recently had the pleasure of speaking with former NFL safety John Lynch, who had a long distinguished career with the Buccaneers and Broncos, and who had a cup of coffee last preseason with the Patriots.

The other day I was going to a dreaded corporate offsite where one of the guest speakers was going to be John Lynch. Prior to him speaking I had gotten up to stretch/walk around a bit and as I was walking around I floated to the back as Lynch was showing up, and I ended up standing back there with him for about 5 minutes or so. He actually spoke to me first, wanted to know how many speakers we had prior to him, if the crowd was getting tired etc. I told him he’d likely be a breath of fresh air if he spoke about football.

For some reason it occurred to me right then that this guy had played for 3 SB winning coaches (Dungy, Gruden, Shanahan) and a few weeks of preseason for a 4th (Belichick). I mentioned it to him and he replied “well, 5 actually if you count my last year at Stanford with Bill Walsh. A coach who went to a SB drafted me (Wyche) and my coach prior to Walsh at Stanford went on to coach in 2 NFCCGs (Denny Green). I then asked him a question that at first I immediately regretted as it sounded stupid on the surface, as he obviously played for an amazing group of coaches: “who was the best coach you played for?”

I admit his answer stunned me. Without skipping a beat, he said, “Coach Belichick.”

He went on to say he learned more about football and a winning organization in the 3 weeks or so that he was with the Patriots than anywhere else. He added that the last exhibition game, he and BB spoke prior to the game and both agreed that it wasn’t going to work and Lynch informed BB that he would retire. BB offered to allow him to play with the starters, one or two series and then done, but Lynch asked to play the whole game, realizing this might cost BB the chance to look at some guys that might stick, but BB played him. Lynch said he had a blast playing with a bunch of young guys he barely knew.

Pretty cool stuff. The board member also added that in his speech to the group, Lynch spent as much time talking about his time with the Patriots as he did about his time either in Tampa or Denver, which is pretty remarkable, considering he won a Super Bowl in Tampa.

Deconstructing The Shrine

Last Saturday night, college football hopefuls put on their best, last amateur efforts. After running to a commanding 17-3 lead, the East squad held on to outlast the West, 35-29. As one might expect, the game had mixed results for its participants.

A positive performance from the East West Shrine Game might foreshadow NFL success (as it did with Marques Colston in 2006), or not (as with David Ball in 2007). Here are a few players who stood out, for better or worse.

Disappointments:

Chase Daniels, QB, Missouri. Daniels threw behind at least two wide-open receivers on plays that could have netted his team first downs. Though no passer looked spectacular Sunday, Daniels seemed well behind the rest of the group.

Jorvorski Lane, FB, Texas A&M. Listed as 6-2, 270 on his college player page and estimated at 285 this past season, Lane showed up at the Shrine Bowl looking like his training equipment consisted of a couch and a keg. He got stopped three times inside the five-yard line. He also caught a few short passes, only to be tackled immediately, seeming to lack the quick feet that had set him apart. If Lane fails to train better, the combine could prove disastrous.

Marko Mitchell, WR, Nevada. Tall, somewhat slow receiver who let the ball slip through his hands twice. A possession receiver without hands has a name: Undrafted Free Agent.

Fun to watch:

The East Offensive Line. The East bolted out to a 17-3 lead due in large part to their production on the ground. When Nebraska back Marlon Lucky got the Offensive MVP award (seven carries, 68 yards, one touchdown), he needed to thank the following: Ryan Durand, Syracuse; Jamon Meredith, South Carolina; Cecil Newton, Tennessee State; Augustus Parrish, Kent State; and Matt Slauson, Nebraska.

Undersized Receivers. Most impressive was Jarrett Dillard, WR, Rice. After a quiet first half, Dillard showed why he holds the record for most NCAA career touchdown receptions (60) with an array of catches that kept the West offense in the game. On his 35-yard TD catch in fourth, he got DB Morgan Trent to bite on an in-fake. Great hands, good quickness. For his part, Deon Butler, Penn State, had three catches for 69 yards. Proved difficult to cover one-on-one, and made one nifty catch in traffic where he had to stop and come back for the ball. Mike Thomas, Arizona, now at the Senior Bowl, didn’t get many chances but did make a couple of receptions.

Gartrell Johnson, RB, Colorado State. Johnson picked up where he left off in the New Mexico Bowl (where he had 285 yards rushing vs. Fresno State), powering the West’s first field-goal drive with a 39-yard burst up middle. Not the fastest, but gets to the second level quickly and displays the ability to run through would-be tacklers.

Tyrell Sutton, RB, Northwestern. Sutton had ten rushes for 37 yards and one TD. He also averaged over 27 yards per kickoff return and displayed an unexpected knack for gaining tough yards after the initial hit. Pencil him in as a change-of-pace back and special-teamer.

USC Linebackers: Not the same USC for each. Kaluka Maiava, Southern California; Jasper Brinkley, South Carolina. Maiava sniffed out a misdirection play inside his own 10 to tackle Sutton for a loss. Brinkley showed surprising speed considering 2007’s knee injury, dropping back into coverage and making several tackles after receptions. A successful test of his side-to-side agility at the combine will boost his stock greatly.

Brinkley could work as a two-down linebacker and could provide some position flexibility given his size (6-2, 275). At 6-0, 230, Maiava’s too small for a 3-4 alignment.

Eye-openers:

Javarris Williams, RB, Tennessee State. Like much of the rest of the country, I’d never seen Williams play. He’s the real deal, running for 56 yards in the game, including one TD and one 11-yard bolt on third and six that sealed the East win. At 5-11, 220, Williams proved he could play with the big boys (heck, he’s one himself) and benefited as much as any player from this game.

Myron Pryor, DL, Kentucky. A last-minute replacement for Sammie Lee Hill (Stillman), Pryor had a sack and stopped Lane on a goal-line stand. He proved to be one of the few defensive linemen to stand out during the contest.

Keith Fitzhugh, DB, Mississippi State. This safety was all over the field, breaking up passes and stopping the run.

An eye-opener whom I missed:

Michael Tauiliili, ILB, Duke. Tauiliili, whose name should never appear on Wheel of Fortune, got the Defensive MVP Award for his game-high 13 tackles, few of which were noticed or mentioned on the television broadcast.

Plays that may have changed minds:

For better … In Fresno State’s loss to Colorado State in the aforementioned New Mexico Bowl, TE Bear Pascoe seemed to live up to his name, lumbering around the field and knocking folks over with his big paws. His catch in the third quarter belied that, as Pascoe raced downfield and leapt between two defenders to haul down a deep pass. He showed strong blocking skills, too.

…and for worse: Playing left tackle, Alex Boone, Ohio State, gave up pressure to high-motor DE Nick Reed. Nothing against Reed, but if Boone can’t get his hands on a player of Reed’s caliber, he’ll have some long Sundays trying to pass-block the NFL’s speed-rushing ends.

The “Facts of Life” category (“You take the good, you take the bad”):

Lawrence Sidbury, DE, Richmond. On the West’s final drive, Sidbury hit the QB late, but then made up for it with a strong rush that forced Mike Reilly to overthrow Mitchell in the end zone to preserve the East’s lead. Sidbury will play in the Senior Bowl.

Stryker Sulak, DE/OLB, Missouri. One play after his neutral zone infraction, Sulak strung out a play and tackled the opposing running back for a minimal gain.

Bradley Fletcher, DB, Iowa. Late in the fourth, he was called for pass interference on Dillard, putting the ball on the East’s five. Fletcher then made a great play in the end zone to swat a pass out of Dillard’s hands.

Would have liked to get a better sense of:

Jarron Gilbert, DL, San Jose State. Came in with plenty of praise as a hard worker, but he was hard to notice on this broadcast.

Middle Linebackers Worrell Williams, California; Robert Francois, Boston College. Both have the right size for 3-4 middle linebackers and both produced in college, but neither did enough to stand out on Saturday.

Darius Passmore, WR, Marshall. With a name like that, you’d think he’d have Caughtmore.

(I hesitate to tell you how proud I felt of that comment.)

Sammie Lee Hill, DL, Stillman. As alluded to above, Hill suffered a strained hamstring during the practice week in Houston and had to sit out the game. I would have liked to have seen what the 328-pounder could do in the middle.

Come April, New England should have at least three picks in the first two rounds. With the Shrine Game as an indication, they can also find some help on Day Two.

Over the next several weeks, Chris Warner’s NFL Draft coverage will appear periodically on Patriots Daily. He can be reached at [email protected].

Making The Rounds

With the Pats out of the playoffs and undergoing the front-office pains of success, New England football minds have begun looking toward the team’s off-season tasks, including prepping for the draft. Hopefully, you had a chance to warm up your scouting muscles by checking out the East-West Shrine Game last Saturday afternoon. Check out this space later this week for a Pats-centric review of the game.  In the meantime, take a look at the rosters. Some potential late-round Patriots picks may lurk there.

While most draft reviews go year-by-year, this one will take a look at how the Pats brass has fared in each round. To keep it simple, we look at the players drafted and how many are still with the team to come up with a “success” percentage. 

Before we get started with the rounds, one comment on 2007’s draft: worst ever. And no, I’m not forgetting that the Patriots traded for Wes Welker and Randy Moss; I’m saying that the choices New England made in 2007 reeked.

Think about it in terms of a birthday party: You get ten gifts. The first one (Brandon Meriweather) has potential, so you’re excited about it. The next two (Welker, Moss) make you ecstatic. Then the ensuing seven presents include used socks, a wedgie and a jug of spit. Do you feel good about your haul? Overall, maybe you do, if you focus on the first three and forget about the rest, but it ticks you off when you have to write thank-you cards for the last few.

Okay, enough with the metaphor. Let’s get on to the rounds. (For details regarding traded picks, here’s a helpful link on the Patriots’ website).

First Round

2000: None (pick went to NYJ for BB)
2001: Richard Seymour, DL, Georgia
2002: Dan Graham, TE, Colorado
2003: Ty Warren, DL, Texas A&M
2004: Vince Wilfork, DL, Miami; Benjamin Watson, TE, Georgia
2005: Logan Mankins, OL, Fresno State
2006: Laurence Maroney, RB, Minnesota
2007: Brandon Meriweather, DB, Miami
2008: Jerod Mayo, LB, Tennessee

Total Picks: 9
Still With Team: 8
Percentage: 89

Say what you want about the later rounds, the Pats know how to pick early. Graham is the only player not on the roster; he left for a lucrative contract with the Broncos. Seymour, Wilfork and Mankins have all been voted to the Pro Bowl, while Warren has rounded out one of the finest defensive lines in the NFL. You can argue for a miss regarding Maroney, but using history as an indicator, whomever the Patriots pick first should start and contribute at a high level.

Second Round

2000: Adrian Klemm, OT, Hawaii
2001: Matt Light, OT, Purdue
2002: Deion Branch, WR, Louisville
2003: Eugene Wilson, DB, Illinois; Bethel Johnson, WR, Texas A&M
2004: Marquise Hill, DE, LSU
2005: (No pick)
2006: Chad Jackson, WR, Florida
2007: (No pick – traded for Wes Welker)
2008: Terrence Wheatley, DB, Colorado

Total Picks: 8
Still With Team: 2
Percentage: 25

Not great, but factoring in the loss of free agents Branch (to Seattle) and Wilson (to Houston) bumps up the less-than-specific “success” rate to 50 percent. Hard to get over the disappointment of Johnson and Jackson. If the Pats draft a receiver with a president’s name, look out. (Taurus Johnson, you’re off-limits. And while we’re at it, stay away, Ernest Jackson, Kenny McKinley and Michael Washington, all of whom can be seen here on ESPN’s helpful draft site).

As far as the current roster, Light made the Pro Bowl while Wheatley showed off some of his athleticism before getting hurt midway through the season. (I won’t even bring up the Welker trade, because it’s a trade, not a pick. I’m just saying.)

Third Round

2000: J. R. Redmond, RB, Arizona State
2001: Brock Williams, DB, Notre Dame
2002: (No pick)
2003: (No pick)
2004: Guss Scott, DB, Florida
2005: Ellis Hobbs III, CB, Iowa State; Nick Kaczur, OL, Toledo
2006: David Thomas, TE, Texas
2007: (No pick)
2008: Shawn Crable, OLB, Michigan; Kevin O’Connell, QB, San Diego State

Total Picks: 8
Still With Team: 5
Percentage: 63

Okay, then. Redmond’s contributions are best remembered by watching the original “Three Games to Glory” DVD, when his short receptions drives going in the Snow Game and the Super Bowl. Hobbs and Kaczur are starters. In three years, Thomas has played in 32 games and caught 21 passes (eh), yet still gives hardcore apologists hope that he will become the pass-catching tight end the Patriots haven’t seen since Jermaine Wiggins in January 2002 (again, check out the DVD).

With all the talk of drafting a pass-rushing outside linebacker this year, Crable may be the “rookie” the Pats need after missing 2008 with an injury. O’Connell has potential that turned into expectation this year following the exploits of the former seventh-rounder who ended up starting at QB.

Tied for the fewest picks (along with Round Two), ol’ Round Three reminds us that quality beats out quantity. Only the first round has more players still with the team.

Fourth Round

2000: Greg Robinson-Randall, OT, Michigan State
2001: Kenyatta Jones, OT, South Florida; Jabari Holloway, TE, Notre Dame
2002: Rohan Davey, QB, LSU; Jarvis Green, DE, LSU
2003: Dan Klecko, DL, Temple; Asante Samuel, CB, Central Florida
2004: Dexter Reid, DB, North Carolina; Cedric Cobbs, RB, Arkansas
2005: James Sanders, DB, Fresno State
2006: Garrett Mills, FB, Tulsa; Stephen Gostkowski, K, Memphis
2007: Kareem Brown, DL, Miami
2008: Jonathan Wilhite, DB, Auburn

Total Picks: 14
Still With Team: 4
Percentage: 29

The year 2003 epitomizes this round and its hit-or-miss nature. On the one hand, they drafted Klecko, an undersized defensive lineman who never made the transition to a 3-4 linebacker and now plays fullback for the Eagles (his third team). On the other, Samuel nabbed 26 interceptions in six regular seasons and became one of the top corners in the league. As one might expect from mid-range picks, several players barely missed making the roster (Mills, Brown); some got time to improve but never did (Davey, Klecko, Reid, Cobbs); a few started and/or contributed regularly (Robinson-Randall, Holloway, Green, Sanders, Wilhite) and one got invited to Hawaii (Gostkowski).

Not a special round, but one in which the Pats could find some promise. Makes sense, given the location.

Fifth Round

2000: Dave Stachelski, TE, Boise State; Jeff Marriott, DT, Missouri
2001: Hakim Akbar, DB, Washington
2002: (No pick)
2003: Dan Koppen, OL, Boston College
2004: P. K. Sam, WR, Florida State
2005: Ryan Claridge, OLB, UNLV
2006: Ryan O’Callaghan, OL, California
2007: Clint Oldenburg, OL, Colorado State
2008: Matthew Slater, WR, UCLA

Total Picks: 9
Still With Team: 3
Percentage: 33

I always get a kick out of the fact that New England drafted Stachelski and Marriott before Brady. Despite having a higher percentage than the previous round, the fifth saw its picks contribute little before leaving Foxboro. Round Five has earned the nickname “Koppen or Bust.”

If you’re a new Patriots fan, you haven’t heard of any one of these guys drafted before Koppen in 2003. Sam and Claridge appeared as solid, athletic picks, but couldn’t overcome injury and insult (struggling to pick up the system). While the jury might still be out on O’Callaghan, they did return a verdict on Oldenburg: guilty of not being able to play in the NFL.

So now we come to the Slater pick, one that seems no less bizarre after the 2008 season. Slater had 13 special teams tackles and several mediocre kick returns, including a fumble vs. the Steelers. While few gems could be found in this part of the draft last April, New England could have considered receiver Josh Morgan. Not sure if they were looking for a wide receiver, a safety or a special teams ace, which confuses me still: can’t special teamers be developed from undrafted rookies, like Pierre Woods or Gary Guyton?

“Well,” you’re saying, “maybe Slater will return a couple of kicks for scores next year.” Sure. Maybe I’ll win the lottery and buy a minor league baseball team and re-name them the “Chris” and put my likeness on their hats. Maybe.

All I’m saying is, I can only go by what I know so far, and so far, Slater’s failed to produce.

Sixth Round

2000: Antwan Harris, CB, Virginia; Tom Brady, QB, Michigan; David Nugent, DT, Purdue.
2001: Arther Love, TE, South Carolina State; Leonard Myers, DB, Miami
2002: (No pick)
2003: Kliff Kingsbury, QB, Texas Tech
2004: (No pick)
2005: (No pick)
2006: Jeremy Mincey, OLB, Florida; Dan Stevenson, OL, Notre Dame; LeKevin Smith, DL, Nebraska
2007: Justin Rogers, OLB, SMU; Justise Hairston, RB, Central Connecticut; Corey Hilliard, OL, Oklahoma State
2008: Bo Ruud, OLB, Nebraska

Total Picks: 13
Still With Team: 3
Percentage: 23

Known in New England as “The Brady Round,” the Pats have had few other keepers here (and, really, nobody cares about any other sixth-rounders). While they avoided picking in three draft years, they made up for it in three others with three picks each. This “wide net” approach resulted in Brady and Smith sticking around, while Rogers got cut but picked up by Dallas to become a steady special teams player.

All of these players produced in college; few of them knew how to continue those contributions at the professional level. Ruud can improve this round’s rep a lot with a strong second year, even as a special teams player who makes the game-day roster on a regular basis. It is, after all, merely the sixth round. The Brady Round.

Seventh Round

2000: Casey Tisdale, OLB, New Mexico; Patrick Pass, RB, Georgia
2001: Owen Pochman, K, BYU; T. J. Turner, LB, Michigan State
2002: Antwoine Womack, RB, Virginia; David Givens, WR, Notre Dame
2003: Spencer Nead, TE, BYU; Tully Banta-Cain, LB, California; Ethan Kelley, NT, Baylor
2004: Christian Morton, CB, Florida State
2005: Matt Cassel, QB, Southern California; Andy Stokes, TE, William Penn
2006: Willie Andrews, DB, Baylor
2007: Oscar Lua, LB, Southern California; Mike Elgin, OL, Iowa
2008: (No pick)

 Total Picks: 15
Still With Team: 1
Percentage: 7

As one might expect, Round Seven has the lowest percentage of players still with the team. Going back a few years, though, reveals the misleading nature of this stat (and of this entire column, but really, it’s too late now). At one point Pass, Givens and Banta-Cain all started in New England. Andrews could very well have stayed with the club as a special teamer had he avoided an impression of “Goodfellas” and a subsequent Bob Kraft boot in his backside.

I can’t remember how that Cassel thing worked out.

When it comes to picking this late, we can give the Pats a pass (no pun intended), but a quick look at their undrafted rookies makes one wonder what they’re missing with their later picks.

These are more or less in chronological order: Stephen Neal, OL; Tom Ashworth, OL; Matt Knutson, OL; Shawn Mayer, DB; Eric Alexander, LB; Randall Gay, DB; Wesley Britt, OL; Antwain Spann, CB; Kyle Eckel, RB; Santonio Thomas, DL: Mike Wright, DL; Corey Mays, LB; Pierre Woods, OLB; P; Matt Gutierrez, QB; BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB; Vince Redd, OLB, Tyson Devree, TE.

Even taking into account that the Pats bring in about a dozen rookie free agents each year, having 17 of them eventually make the roster means that their scouts are doing their jobs. And that, dear readers, is the wonder of the draft: sometimes the good stuff comes afterwards.

Analyzing The Foxboro Carousel

This offseason has been another of attrition for the coaching staff and front office of the New England Patriots. Here are some of our thoughts on what’s been happening, and what could happen:

Move: Offensive Coordinator Josh McDaniels leaves to become head coach of the Denver Broncos

Analysis: Obviously this is a big loss for the Patriots. They’re losing the playcaller for an offense that set records in 2007 and which was near the top of the NFL in 2008 despite losing an MVP quarterback in Tom Brady and inserting a QB who hadn’t started a game since high school. Very impressive.

Our site co-founder here, Scott Benson weighs in on the loss of McDaniels this way:

I think it’s silly to suggest that because Bill Belichick is in charge these departures will not have a recognizable impact on the 2009 Patriots. It seems inevitable.

McDaniels was clearly at the top of his game as an NFL coordinator. The incredible 2007 (most regular season points in history, most touchdowns in history, Brady’s 50 TD’s, Moss’s 23, both records) backed up by 2008’s patchwork success (Cassel’s development into an actual threat, supplemented by the team’s best rushing season in 23 years) says enough to me. You can’t argue that McDaniels produced at a high level throughout his tenure as Pats OC.

Ascribe that production to Tom Brady, or Bill Belichick, but I’m saying it’s also the work of an organized, prepared coach with full command of his resources. These things don’t happen by accident.

I still hear complaining about the Super Bowl. You know one thing I remember about that Super Bowl? An offense that had been humiliated all day going on a five minute, eighty yard drive to score the go-ahead touchdown with just under three minutes left. For all the grief they took, they crawled off the mat and scored a touchdown – for the lead – on their last real possession. Make ONEEFFINGPLAYONDEFENSE – which, of course, the Patriots can’t do – and you’re seeing the Tom Brady to Randy Moss touchdown highlight for the rest of your life.

How can we take this – a repeat of their ultimate fate the year before – and conclude that it was Josh McDaniels who lost the Super Bowl for the Patriots?

Here’s the thing that really gets me about losing McDaniels. There was something interesting about having a very young coach with a lot of experience at the shoulder of the veteran Bill Belichick. You’re lying if you don’t admit you’ve thought at least once of McDaniels becoming the eventual successor to Belichick, who would presumably assume a Parcells-like luxury box job at some undetermined point in the future. Who do they have now that offers the same promise?

That’s a good question…as far as replacing McDaniels, it’s been the Patriots way for the most part to promote from within when it comes to coordinators. Romeo Crennel left, Eric Mangini was promoted. Mangini left, Dean Pees was promoted. Charlie Weiss left, McDaniels moved up. If you recall though, the McDaniels move wasn’t immediate. The Patriots actually went a season without a named Offensive Coordinator. McDaniels could be seen calling the plays in, but he didn’t have the title. The second year after Weiss left, McDaniels got the title.

Given that history, we can’t see the team going outside the organization to replace McDaniels. So don’t plan on Mike Martz, Mike Shanahan or any other big names coming in. How about internally? The two names most often mentioned are tight ends coach Pete Mangurian and receivers coach Bill O’Brien. Mangurian served as offensive coordinator under Dan Reeves in Atlanta, while O’Brien was an OC for Duke and Georgia Tech prior to joining the Patriots staff. A longshot could be linebackers coach Matt Patricia, who actually started his Patriots coaching career as an offensive assistant.

Another possibility is that Bill Belichick simply takes on a larger role with the offense, essentially serving as the OC, while grooming one of the other coaches (O’Brien?) to take on the role in the future, much like he did with McDaniels. That might actually be the most likely scenario.

Move: Special Teams Coach Brad Seely moves onto to Cleveland to join Eric Mangini’s staff as Assistant Head Coach and Special Team coordinator.

Move: Patriots hire former Denver Special Teams coach Scott O’Brien (Though they haven’t officially announced this.)

Analysis - Here are some thoughts from Patriots Daily contributor Greg Doyle:

If Scott O’Brien is the new special teams coach, that is a good hire. I remember reading an article about him at the time the Pats played Carolina in the Super Bowl (I believe) and O’Brien was the Special Teams coach there. Belichick was saying how he didn’t know him from Adam when he interviewed him for the Cleveland Special Teams job back in ’91 but gave him an interview on a recommendation. So the guy comes in and immediately starts showing Belichick these charts and graphs and things he had done and makes this overwhelming presentation.

Belichick hired him in Cleveland to coach the Special Teams and said he ended up being one of the best coaches he ever worked with and they became friends. That was O’Brien’s first NFL job and Belichick said he went on to become one of the best Special Teams coaches in the league. I think Belichick liked Seely too and he did a good job, but after a couple bad plays this year maybe felt it was time to shake things up and try some different schemes, fresh ideas on special teams, etc. O’Brien is also thought of as a top Special Teams coach, so after all the defections the past few years from the coaching staff, front office, I feel like at least they are adding one long-time, well-respected NFL coach and that is good. At least there is a little positive addition rather than all the subtraction. Its a good thing plugging in young coaching assistants as they prove themselves, but I think if they have to go with too many there is too much of a lack of experience on the staff, so I am glad they at least added one veteran coach.

(The link has been removed from the DenverBroncos.com, but O’Brien’s biography is still on the site.)

As to why Seely and the Patriots decided to part ways…maybe it was just time? Seely was one of the few here who pre-dated Belichick, and perhaps he had his sights on bigger opportunities that he didn’t think he could get here. This season saw a few gaffes on Specials Teams, and it appeared from afar that Belichick and Seely might’ve had some disagreements on the sidelines. By getting the Assistant Head Coach title from the Browns, perhaps Seely gets a bigger paycheck and better opportunity to become a head coach someday…if that is what he wants.

Other Moves: It seems like Dom Capers was a one-and-done here in New England, and his departure opens up another spot on the coaching staff. I for one, would love to see Romeo Crennel come back here and have a spot on the staff. The special assistant/secondary position vacated by Capers would seem to be a nice fit for Crennel, should he even want to work next season. The Browns will be paying his salary for the next few years, so Crennel might just want to take some time off. He’s been quoted as saying that he’d only work in the “ideal” situation next season, hopefully he might feel that coming back to New England might constitute just that.

Having another veteran defensive mind on the staff would be a great asset, especially as the team looks to get younger on that side of the ball. There will need to be plenty of teaching and instruction to the younger players, and who better than RAC to get through to them on Belichick’s defense?

Defensive Assistant Josh Boyer is another possibility to fill the secondary coach role, having served in that role in college before joining the Patriots.

Scott Benson also weighs in on the loss of Scott Pioli to the Kansas City Chiefs:

I’m surprised, mainly because Pioli had convinced me that he would stay on the job at least until the day the Pats held the league title again. A message board friend suggested today that Pioli might have passed on job offers last year in the hope that the Pats would grab their fourth title in 2008, enabling him to go out on top (and most marketable). Probably seemed like a good bet at the time. And I thought I felt bad when Brady went down against Kansas City (hey, wait a minute…).

Anyway, Pioli is inarguably a major figure in the history of the team. No other ‘general manager’ in team history accomplished anything approaching his success. He was widely credited with responsibilities ranging from the draft to pro scouting to contract negotiations. Neither he, nor Belichick, ever did anything to discourage the media from portraying their success as a partnership.

At least with Pioli, it appears that they were grooming his successor, even if he is being thrust into the role earlier than first expected. Today’s piece by Mike Reiss on Nick Caserio paints him as exactly the type of smart, hard working guy you would need in that role, someone who has been in both the front office and on the coaching sidelines.

Summary: The Patriots have already sustained losses this offseason that are going to sting for a bit. Regardless of who the replacements are, there is at the very least going to be a “transistion” or “breaking in” period that is going to have to be endured. The flip side is that perhaps an injection of “new blood” is appropriate at this time, especially in the special teams area. In any event, we’ve got a lot to talk about and observe this offseason.

Pioli Now Head Chief

After weeks (years) of rumors, it appears that Scott Pioli has finally taken the leap and accepted the challenge of building a football team without Bill Belichick by his side.

ESPN is reporting that Pioli has agreed to become head of football operations for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The report also says that director of player personnel Nick Caserio will be named to replace Pioli with the Patriots.

In addition, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that special teams coach Brad Seely appears set to join Eric Mangini’s coaching staff in Cleveland.

We’ll have some more thoughts and analysis on all these departures soon…

ESPN: Broncos To Hire McDaniels

It appears that the Patriots have suffered their first loss of the offseason, with the news tonight reported by Chris Mortensen of ESPN that the Denver Broncos have come to an agreement with Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels to become their next head coach, replacing Mike Shanahan.

(Hey, can we get Shanahan to replace McDaniels as OC?)

Here’s Mortensen saying what sold the Broncos on McDaniels:

The Denver Post also has a report on the story, with the added nugget that McDaniels plans to bring Dom Capers with him. Capers, who served as special assistant/secondary coach with the Patriots this season, was something of a mystery man during his brief stay in Foxboro.