September 27, 2016

Introducing Patrick Chung

The Patriots introduced top draft choice Patrick Chung at Gillette Stadium today. I have a feeling we’re going to like this guy.

New England Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft Remarks At In Stadium Jersey Presentation:

RKK: Welcome everyone. We are thinking the last time we came up here and [were] not on the field was when we had Richard Seymour. We believe we did that here, so it brought back a positive memory. It’s interesting to us that this is the beginning of the 50th season of the Boston/ New England Patriots. Patrick [Chung] got a kick out of our logo that we had before [1993]. [The logo that] we started out as. It’s always exciting for us to have the first person that we’ve had in the draft come, and Jonathan [Kraft] and I present him with his new shirt. So think, 16 years ago was Willie McGinest and he’s still playing in the league, we believe, or at least he hopes to. We hope the same happens for our first pick in the draft this year, Patrick Chung. We’re very excited to have him with us. I know our folks did a lot of homework and were hoping that he would be available when we picked. We’re very impressed with his background. He’s actually, I think, the first player on the team of partial Chinese heritage as well as Jamaican. We understand that his mom was a great Reggae singer and had hits at the top of the charts, and we know that Patrick will be known for other kinds of hits. So it’s a great pleasure for us to welcome you here to New England and we would like to present you with your shirt.

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS FIRST DRAFT PICK PATRICK CHUNG PRESS CONFERENCE

PC: How are you all doing? Man, this is crazy right now. I’m glad to be here. I’m ready to go to work. I’ve been ready to go to work since I got that call on draft day. It’s go time.

Q: What are your impressions so far, now that you’ve gotten to walk around and have met everyone?

PC: I love it. I love the mood. You can tell it’s a big sports town. And the Patriots are a very good football team and they have been for numerous years, so I’m blessed to be on this team. I’m going to try to make the best impact I can.

Q: Do you feel any pressure being the team’s top pick?

PC: I know it’s a lot of responsibility – not pressure. I mean, you just have to come in and play and bring your A game every time. I’m going to do whatever Coach Belichick asks me. I am ready. I’m ready to go, ready to put some pads on.

Q: You are known as a leader and a hard hitter, which are good qualities. For you, what will be the biggest transition to the NFL?

PC: The biggest transition is that you have to be smart. Everybody is good on the field and you have to get your edge in the film room. [If] you study the film day in and day out, nighttime and morning, you will eventually get an edge on the players you’re playing against and that’s going to make the game easier. My philosophy is go hard in practice, super hard, until you can’t walk. It makes the game so much easier, so it’s all hard work. [I will] work on every aspect of my game and hopefully it works out for the best.

Q: Did you talk to [Oregon] Coach [Chip] Kelly about what to expect in New England?

PC: No. I haven’t yet, but I’m looking forward to that talk.

Q: What was your family’s reaction when you were drafted out here?

PC: They are happy. It’s a long flight, but they are happy. They’re happy regardless of where I went. Like I said, this is a great program. Mr. Kraft did a lot for this program along with Coach Belichick and the rest of the coaching staff. Man, it’s just a blessing right now. I’m honored. It’s a dream come true.

Q: Have you had a chance to talk to any of the fellow rookies or any of the other guys on the team?

PC: I talked to Darius Butler. He’s actually my roommate in the hotel. He’s not here yet, but I talked to him and we’re ready to go. We’ve been ready since Senior Bowl. I met him at the Senior Bowl and we’re ready to get things going. I’m ready to be a Patriot.

Q: Does going to the Senior Bowl help you meet other players? I know Ron Brace was down there too.

PC: I didn’t really get a chance to talk to Ron Brace too much. I know Darius Butler and Tyrone McKenzie. Those two guys I know the most from Senior Bowl. I know those guys are high energy, intense, passionate guys, so I know they’ll be good [teammates].

Q: Some of your attributes sound like Rodney Harrison’s. You have a long way to go, but do you see yourself as that type of player?

PC: Everybody is their own player. Mr. Harrison is his own player. I’m my own player. Brandon Meriweather is his own player. James Sanders is his own player. It’s just what you bring to the table, what you mean to the team, and what’s best suited for the scheme and for the defense [to] make the defense better. I will do whatever Coach asks me to, regardless of what it is.

Q: You mentioned that this was a dream come true for you. When did you start dreaming about the NFL and when realize it was actually possible for you?

PC: I was born in Jamaica, so I didn’t know football. I was all soccer. And then I tried out, first time playing football, freshman year of high school. My main concern was, ‘I just want to go to college. I just want to go to college.’ I got into college and I’m playing pretty good. I’m playing pretty good the next year, and then, ‘Oh man, maybe I can get to the next level.’ And it just hit me and that’s when I started going hard. I started thinking [that] I could start taking care of my family. My mom and dad sacrificed for me, and it’s time for me to return the favor and have them be proud to have their son graduate and be at the next level.

Q: Have you thought about what it’s going to be like to try to fit in with this defense. There are a lot of veterans that are already here and are established?

PC: I think it will be good – learning from some of the best. Hopefully they will teach me a lot of things and help me out with the process and help me develop myself into the player that I think I can be. It’s going to be show time.

Q: Do you know how the NFL game plans are going to compare to college?

PC: Oh yeah. It’s way more complex. Our defense was a lot more complex than other college defenses, so I think I have a little upper hand, but I know it’s complex. The NFL is a whole different ball game. You have to come prepared.

Q: Have you already gone through graduation and ceremonies?

PC: Yeah. I’m graduated, walked and ready to go.

Q: Was that just last week?

PC: No. I graduated in December. I walked last April, so I’m ready.

Q: Last year’s first pick, Jerod Mayo, won the Defensive Rookie of the Year. How do you follow that up?

PC: I’m going to do the best I can. He’s a great player and he deserved everything he got. I’m going to go hard and hopefully it works out. I’m just going to do the best I can and see where it goes from there.

Q: Do you think you can step in and contribute right away?

PC: That’s the goal I have. Like I said, it’s all hard work. I’m going to work hard every day: weight room, film room, practice field, everything. Hopefully I get the chance to get on the field and make an impact. Hopefully Coach gives me an opportunity and if I do, I’ll be prepared for it and I’ll take full advantage.

Q: What would it mean if you had the opportunity to get mentored by someone like Rodney Harrison?

PC: He is one of the best. He can teach me everything he’s learned over his ­- I don’t know how long he’s been playing for,  it’s in the teens. It would be a great honor for him to teach me everything he knows. When you learn from the best and you are practicing how the best have practiced, you have no choice but to become a leader and be the best player out there.

Q: When you look at some of the scouting reports and the criticism, is there anything that you want to do to prove them wrong?

PC:  We’ll see. There’re a lot of critics out there. I’m going to work. I’m going to work my hardest to [reach my] potential [so] that I have no critics at all. I’m just going to be working my hardest to get to my full potential.

Q: [On hitting hard]

PC: You can strike fear into people. You can change a player’s perspective on the game, but you have to know when to hit also. I’m just not a big hitter. You have to know when to hit, when to break down, tackle and bring him down, and you have to know when to take your big hits. I’m a smart tackler. But it could change the game – one hit could change the game. It could change the whole offense.

Chris Warner’s 2009 Draft Wrapup

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

The Patriots 2009 draft felt akin to a family reunion. Sure, they had a couple of slip-ups and invited some people you didn’t know, but overall, it was a good weekend.

As is Bill Belichick’s habit, the Pats traded picks like baseball cards at school recess (boy, I feel old). New England ended up with two extra second-round picks for 2010, a year expected to yield more top-tier talent than this one. Now they have a dozen rookies to contend with, along with undrafted free agents, signings of whom we’ll report as the week continues.

For their Day One picks, they batted about .750. Although I didn’t feel great about Patrick Chung (second round, 34 overall), they did need safety help and got a solid hitter from the Pac-10. He could very well turn into another “Jerod Mayo pick” from my perspective: someone who didn’t wow me on film but who could fit into New England’s system and produce beyond expectations.

I really liked picks 40 and 41, Ron Brace and Darius Butler, respectively. At 330 pounds, Brace could become the backup nose tackle that Vince Wilfork has never had (with all due respect to the svelte, 295-pound Mike Wright). Butler could have gone at the Pats’ original pick of 23 and had solid support. At 41, he seems like a gift.

Even after some time to digest the Sebastian Vollmer pick at 58, it still looks like a reach. Skimming through all my draft magazines, I haven’t seen him ranked higher than a “Dude-Who-Might-Get-A-Few-Bucks-For-Showing-Up-To-Camp” ranking. He’s definitely a wait-and-see guy, although he does have nice size at 6-foot-7.

On to Day Two. I’ve split up the picks into four basic categories depending on my reaction to each.

LOVE ‘EM

Trade Wins: New England swapped two separate third-round picks to Jacksonville and Tennessee for each team’s 2010 second-rounder. Always seems like a good idea.

Hi, I’m A Mac: Taken in the third (37 overall), Tyrone McKenzie fits a position of need. He’ll move from outside 4-3 linebacker at South Florida to inside in the 3-4 at Gillette. McKenzie has tallied over 100 tackles each of the past three years, and he has played just about every linebacker position. He showed strength in his testing (bench pressing 225 pound 27 times) and in his personal life (working an 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. hotel job to support his mother).

I’m posting the nickname now in case he starts at the other inside spot: Big Mac with Mayo… Tough to handle together.

LIKE ‘EM

Leaving Ellis Island: You can question the results (two fifth-round picks resulting in a lineman and a long snapper), but trading away Ellis Hobbs seems like the right thing to do given the amount of cornerbacks expected in camp.

Thanks, But I Just Tate: You can’t argue that Brandon Tate has had success on special teams; however, you can argue whether or not he’ll be able to continue that after his knee injury last autumn. (Funny how people debate injuries they’ve never seen on men whom they’ll never meet.) I like the pick because the North Carolina receiver’s got huge potential and, with the Pats pass-catchers already in place, he can take a year to heal and learn the offense. Some risk, but I like the ratio to reward here.

Pryor Encounter: I like the selection of Kentucky’s Myron Pryor for his value (sixth, 207). The backup defensive tackle checks in at six-feet, 319 pounds and has shown some power off of the snap. I thought he might go higher than this due to his standout performance at the East-West Shrine Game. Now the Pats have three nose tackle candidates tilting the scales at 319 or more. Bad news for the training table chefs, good news for the defense.

My Other Brother Darryl: As a 6-3, 300-pound defensive lineman, Darryl Richard of Georgia Tech fits as a backup defensive end in New England’s 3-4 alignment. For the Patriots’ last pick of 2009 (234), they get someone with a chance to contribute. Can’t ask for much more than that.

UM, WHAT?

Rich Man, Poor Man: As someone who sought out “Patriots-type” linemen in this year’s draft, the pick of Rich Ohrnberger (fourth, 123) threw me. The Penn State product gets credit after a second look, due to his speed (5.1-second 40-yard dash) and strength (32 bench reps). Still, when a lineman gets summarized in draft magazines in one sentence or less (also called the “Vollmer ranking”), it’s safe to say he could have lasted until the fifth round.

Taking The Bussey: After the Pats appeared to reach on Ohrnberger, their next pick (fifth, 170) went to another barely-ballyhooed lineman. George Bussey did make the All Big-East Team last year. That’s a good thing, right?

Yes, they needed offensive guards and tackles. Yes, they have a different ranking system than just about anyone else. I’ll hold comment and try to remain optimistic.

I’M NOT UPSET ANY MORE

Everything’s Jake: Yeah, Jacob Ingram is just a long snapper out of Hawaii. Yes, he got plucked in the sixth round (198). Sure, I started pouting like a six-year-old who dropped his ice cream after I read his name. But when I considered that the team wanted competition for free agent Nathan Hodel and that Ingram was considered the best in college, a compensatory sixth-rounder became a reasonable spot for him.

How Good Will Ju-Ju Be? The selection of Kent State QB Julian “Ju-Ju” Edelman (that’s actually a nickname) seemed bizarre, especially considering other options in the seventh (232). Edelman will make the switch to wide receiver in the NFL. At only 6-foot, 198 pounds, he’s undersized, but his quickness (a remarkable 3.91 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle) and production (passed for 1,820 yards and ran for 1,370 last season) should get him a look as one o’ them Wildcat wonders.

That, dear readers, summarizes New England’s draft dozen for 2009. Thanks for reading and keeping us going with your comments and emails. More on incoming players once the roster gets filled out, probably later this week.

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]

Scott Benson’s 2009 Draft Wrapup

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff

First things first – on behalf of Chris, myself and the whole PD team, thanks for your interest this weekend, and throughout the last month. We’ve had a really encouraging uptick in traffic and we hope it’s because you’ve found something to your liking here at the revamped PD.

I sum up the Pats draft this way; they started on Saturday afternoon with six picks in the top 100, and within twenty-four hours and three rounds they turned that into six players and two second round choices next year.

I think those two second-round choices, acquired by flipping two thirds in this draft, will be a big story at this time next year. For now though, I’m encouraged that the Pats used several of the picks they kept to work on the continued rebuilding of their defense.

I mentioned it this weekend – I felt like Patrick Chung was a solid fit for the defense from the first time I read about him. I’m sure not kicking on that one, nor Darius Butler, the zone corner who many Pats fans wanted and ultimately got. Nor can I find any particular quarrel with the choice of Ron Brace, the stout run-plugger who makes all kinds of sense as a Wilfork rotational fill-in, if not his successor if the worst was to happen.

I know the Pats draft the best player available but it didn’t hurt that those picks were two defensive backs and a defensive lineman. This was something about this draft: I didn’t have any problem following the Patriots logic as they made their picks.

I liked that the Pats spent three picks in rounds two, four and five on offensive linemen, even if the players they chose weren’t ones we were anticipating. The focus on the position was needed, given the contracts of the picks’ new teammates. The biggest German export since the Shamwow interests me, because he’s enormous, he’s solid between the ears by all reports, and if he can move his friggin’ feet at all, he can play right tackle for this team. I hope to learn his name soon and we can talk more about him then.

I also understood the Brandon Tate gamble in the third round, despite the knee and his Combine piss test transgression. Mike Mayock described an explosive kick returner who was just coming into his own as a receiver before he was hurt. If he is a virtual red-shirt this season, he’ll have to emerge (in 2010) just as the Pats will be confronting a number of receiver contracts (Galloway and Aiken after 09, Moss in 2010).

I’m not sure whether Tyrone McKenzie is an outside or an inside linebacker, but he’s played a few different spots and been productive and durable. He seems to have some range, which should work in his favor.

But I know that they could all fail, miserably, while players like Clay Matthews and Rey Maualuga shine like diamonds. Chung could be a step too slow and Brace could get fat and Butler could be a brittle, inconsistent corner. Tate could rehab yet never be the threat he once was. The rest could simply be trains that passed in the night. We’ve all seen enough to know that.

But as noted, I did see a certain logic to what they were doing; their first two picks were in the middle of the defense, followed by another young corner for the rebuilding secondary. I don’t know what else we would have asked them to do there.

Oh, yeah….I remember. The pass rushing (but capable of dropping into coverage) outside linebacker…the “new Vrabel”, if you will. I guess in some places (ahem) it was considered one of the team’s biggest needs going into the draft. What did the Patriots end up doing about that?

Nothing. Which in some ways is the biggest story of the draft. The Patriots think they are going to get the production they need to compete for a world title this fall from Pierre Woods, Tully Banta Cain, Shawn Crable and Vince Redd. Maybe even Tyrone McKenzie too.

The door is still open for more Jason Taylor talk, even Julius Peppers talk, but I think its as big a waste of time as its ever been, as I’m pretty much convinced that once again the Pats re doing the thing we least suspect – they’re going to play with what they have.

That says to me they’re expecting somebody – or somebodies – to take a big step forward this year, even if we don’t. And this is the crux of it: they didn’t fall for the draft magazine cover boys like we did. They didn’t think any of those guys were going to be any more productive in their defense than the guys they already have. That is the decision, or it seems to be. You can kill them for it now, but it will be draft hype-driven hot air until they get on the field. There will be plenty to judge then.

These past few months have been fun. Even though we ended up doing fairly well this year (five of the first six picks were on our draft boards) it’s a futile gesture usually. We could never presume to know their picks head of time – it’s really the game of guessing that makes it fun, plus we feel like we’re learning something in the process.  

I’ve said it before – mostly, it’s a way to extend the football season by three months. And you know that can’t be bad.

The rookie camps will soon be here, followed by the vet stuff later on, and we’ll be watching all that, but this is the time of the year when we typically dial it down and try to enjoy the summer. We’ve got a lot to work on with the site over the next few months, so we’ll be around and posting new stuff, but for the most part we’re going under the caution flag while we get ready for another season. We, like Bill Parcells, reserve the right to change our minds, however.

Seriously, as I mentioned before, we really appreciate your visits, and we’re hoping we’re picking up some new friends with all the new traffic. In any event, friend new or old, thanks for your support of Patriots Daily.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

Are You Ready for the Summer?

Posted by the Patriots Daily Staff

The draft may be over for another year, but here’s a list of coming events for Pats fans to look forward to:

Next weekend – Rookie Mini-Camp

Late May, Early June – Organized Team Activities

Mid-June – Pats Mini-Camp

We’re sure we don’t have to pause here and remind you these events are all closed to the public but we will anyhow.

Late July – 2009 Training Camp opens

This one isn’t, and maybe we’ll see you there.

Obviously, as Pats news happens, we’ll be here to weigh in with our thoughts, and maybe you can do the same in our comments section. Until then, have a great summer.

Day Two Running Dia-Blog

9:30 PM – CONTINUING DAY TWO COVERAGE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION OF THIS POST.

I don’t know about you, but I thought yesterday was great fun.

The Patriots didn’t make a first round pick for the first time since 2000, but did make three trades that left them with eight selections in the top 100 of the draft. And thanks to Friday’s trade up rumors, they were in the thick of it from the top ten through the sixty-fourth selection late last night.

It’s pretty clear now (it always is, after the fact) that the Patriots went into the draft thinking that its real value was in its second and third rounds. That there wasn’t a dime’s worth of difference between the top prospects and those on the next level down. Unless you’re counting real dimes.

Only time will tell if they were right, as they passed on chatted-up prospects like OT Michael Oher (once), LB Clay Matthews (twice), LB James Laurinaitis and LB Rey Maualuga (three times apiece). 

Even as they backed away from first-round contracts, they had no such trepidation on second-round deals as they selected four players in the second for the first time in my memory, and probably ever.

I did a little fist pump when they chose Patrick Chung, the strong safety from Oregon, with their first selection (#34, making it official – it was Cassel and Vrabel for Chung, though having the 34th pick was certainly a key to their first-round trade backs, and the addition of two more Top 100 picks). He was a favorite here throughout the process, for the obvious Rodney Harrison-replacing reasons.

The Pats will now have three front-line safeties under extended contracts, and each of them will be 25 or younger.

Ron Brace was another who caught our attention as he has all the size and run-plugging qualities needed for a 3-4 nose in the Pats system. This isn’t a sexy pick but it addresses a need, both for depth as well as protection against the unlikely event that Vince Wilfork cannot be resigned after next season.

I heard from quite a few Pats fans who would have warmly welcomed Darius Butler as the team’s 23rd pick, so they have to be thrilled to see him picked at 41. Mike Mayock has consistently said Butler was the best zone corner available, and Pro Football Weekly had him rated as the 14th best player in the draft.

No one else did, evidently, but no matter – what’s interesting here is that the Pats add another young corner to the Wheatley/Wilhite combo last year, which should give the team a cushion behind the Bodden-Hobbs-Springs veteran group. We’ll see if this leads to an improved secondary next year, but at the least, they have some depth to protect against the possibility that both Hobbs and Bodden leave after next year.

By the way, you cannot fault the Patriots for not addressing their secondary this off-season. Two front-line veterans and now a second-round corner have been added.

It will also be fun to see what the Pats do with  Butler – he’s two-wayed as a receiver at UConn, and he can return kicks. I’d say there’s a decent chance that Chung, Brace and Butler will all find their way to the field next season.

That may not happen with Sebastian Vollmer, the developmental tackle chosen with pick 58. Like Shamwow Vince says, you know the Germans always make good stuff, but ten bucks to you if you saw this one coming in the second round. He is incredibly massive, but I guess the question will be his feet and mobility. He’ll probably play on the right side, at least until they find out. The Pats were right to grab a tackle yesterday, and we’ll see if Vollmer has the stuff to be the starter when Nick Kaczur plays out his contract.

Now the third round begins with the Pats in possession of the 9th, 19th, 25th and 33rd picks. I favor some receiving help, perhaps an inside backer, a d-end developer, and as always offensive line. Follow along with us in the comments section below.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

Annual Draft Weekend Running Dia-Blog

7:20 PM – CONTINUING COVERAGE IN THE COMMENTS SECTION

If you’re looking at this from the front page, just st follow the link in the above header and scroll to the bottom of the post to find the comments for this post.

Now that Chris Warner is here and ready to weigh in, I think it would be more efficient if we moved the rest of today’s draft coverage to the comments section. That way Chris won’t have to wait for me to post my thoughts before he can get on and post his.

It also gives you guys the chance to dive right into the middle of it and give us your reaction to a draft that has seen two Patriots trades already, before the first round is even complete.

I hope you’re enjoying the draft (I am, after that last trade – EIGHT PICKS in the next two rounds! That HAS to be unprescedented.) and you’re ready to get all interactive. Remember, you’ll find the rest of our running commentary below.

6:53 PM – BENSON: PATS TRADE AGAIN; ONE MORE SECOND ROUND,  TWO MORE THIRDS

The Pats have traded pick 26 of the first round, and the fifth round pick (162) they acquired  from the Ravens earlier, to the Green Bay Packers in return for their second (41) and two third round choices (73, 83) in this draft.

The Patriots will now drop, essentially, nine more spots in the draft (and that fifth rounder) and got a two and two threes for doing so.

New England now has the 34th, 41st, 47th, 58th, 73rd, 83rd and 89th choices in the next two rounds. They now have thirteen picks and eight in the top 100.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

6:52 – WARNER: BUTLER OR EVERETTE BROWN FOR PATS

I’d love Everette Brown or Butler here. Wonder if BB has someone in mind. Wouldn’t have minded Vontae Davis, but we’ll get an up-close look at him this year for better or worse.

The question remains: exactly how much do the Pats need a pass-rusher or defensive back?”

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]

 6:35 PM – PATRIOTS TRADE BACK FROM 23

The Patriots have traded their first round pick, the 23rd of the first round, to the Baltimore Ravens for the 26th selection of the first round, and a fifth round pick (162) this year. It appears that Baltimore will choose Michael Oher (they just did).

Considering that the Miami Dolphins have all but committed to Darius Butler, it appears the Patriots will decline the chance to select the regional product. The USC linebackers are still there.

 The Pats now have twelve picks in the draft, and they’ll be on the clock again in a second.

5:49 PM – MOVIN’ ON

We’re at the 17th pick (Browns, from Jets) and it won’t be long before the Pats have to decide whether to keep or trade the 23rd selection.

Five more teams pick before New England but those who were excited by the offensive tackle talk yesterday will be interested to know that Michael Oher is still on the board.

So are Rey Maualuga, Clay Matthews, Everette Brown, Robert Ayers, Brandon Pettigrew…..also Pro Football Weekly’s 14th ranked player, CB Darius Butler. Is this breaking his way?

Cleveland just traded again, with Tampa Bay, who is taking Josh Freeman (one ahead of Josh McDaniels at 18). Three quarterbacks and three offensive tackles in the first seventeen picks, as Butler gets one closer to the Pats.

Chris Warner is back from spring football. Hopefully we’ll hear from him soon.

Denver just took Ayers at 18, getting a player that Maycock says will be the best defensive player in this draft three years from now.

Cleveland is up for the third time today at pick 19.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

3:10 PM – LESS THAN ZERO

Bill Belichick just finished telling the NFL Network that there is a “less than zero chance” the team will trade into the top ten of the draft.

Belichick also told the network’s draft coverage that there have been preliminary conversations on all of the team’s four first day picks. Belichick called chances that he would trade down from 23 “pretty good.”

Talk about a buzz kill, though – Mike Mayock has apparently been telling today’s viewers that this is one of the worst drafts in recent memory (I swear I never heard him say this once over the last three months), and when asked by host Rich Eisen about Mayock’s claim, Belichick said “I’m not going to disagree with Mike on this one.”

“Who are we going to trade up to get (in the top ten), Mike?,” Belichick laughed in response to a subsequent Mayock question on the trade up rumors. “You don’t like anybody up there either.”

It’s under an hour before the draft starts and it is beginning to sound like it could be a lot longer than that before the Patriots make a pick.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

2:29 PM – MISSED NUGGET

Just looking at Florio’s page again and noticed that I missed an interesting piece of information last time through.

In a bit about Adam Schefter re-emerging as a Sprint draft correspondent, the former NFL Network ace says that the Patriots are no longer considering trading up in the draft (presumably he means in the first round).

If Schefter is right, it could mean that LSU DE Tyson Jackson will be picked third by the Chiefs (Pioli again!), and the Pats will focus elsewhere, probably on picks 23-58, where they’re due to pick (roughly) every ten picks. You have to believe a first round pick next year will be part of their draft haul today.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

2:02 PM – RUMORS

Back from work now and I see that there has been continued speculation as to the Patriots’ intentions today.

Mike Reiss has his typically reasonable analysis of the supposed Top Ten trade up, suspecting that the Pats may have been taking measure of the market with their inquiry of the Jacksonville Jaguars, owners of the supremely desirable selection number eight (it’s the new number one pick). Mike figures it wasn’t the only call the Pats made.

I can see that. They did kind of lowball that offer (if the report is accurate), coming up a couple hundred shy of a match on the value chart. They had to know that would be rejected, especially before the draft. I’m not sure what their intent is, but can we all agree it isn’t to stand pat at 23?

Mike Florio speculates that the Pats may also be looking to trade out of the first round entirely. Strangely, I could see that too. Speaking of strange, there’s been a Chris Mortensen sighting.

Elsewhere the Patriots Twitter is tweeting vague, SOS-style messages, like “Already a lot of rumors flying around”.

Well, what rumors, you tight-lipped bastard? Do you intend to share any of those rumors with us, or is there another goddam website that I have to visit to get the rest of this?

One good thing I found out from Twitter is that Belichick will be on the NFL Network at 3:00 p.m. On that one, it’s all I needed to know.

Let me ask you something, though.  If Twitter is supposed to be this latest, greatest, revolutionary Internet-based communication tool that everybody has to have, why do all their web pages look like shit?

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

7:46 AM – MORNING HAS BROKEN

For the past couple of years we’ve culminated our draft coverage with a running real-time dialogue on the events of the big weekend, as they happen. Now that the 74th Annual National Football League Selection Meeting is finally here after months of anticipation, we’re ready for another weekend of bad computer posture, not enough sleep, too much to eat and drink, and a string of stream-of-consciousness blog posts that we may live to regret.

Not really – short of the actual games, this weekend is as good as it gets for NFL fans. I’ve been looking forward to this morning since last December, when the Jets went belly up for the Dolphins and the Patriots 2008 season ended.

I’ll be here throughout the day and evening and into tomorrow, and my colleague Chris Warner will join me after he attends – get this – a spring football game today. I tried to tell him we can stop looking at prospects now, but he wouldn’t listen.

I’m also hoping you’ll join us by leaving your comments below, or dropping me a line at [email protected]. We’d love to know what you’re thinking as the weekend unfolds.

The big day – after all, the Pats have four first day selections – begins with more reports that New England is trying to trade into the Top Ten. There was a lot of talk yesterday, after Peter King’s initial report, that a move could be for an offensive tackle, but Jason Cole says a Pats trade up would be all about LSU DE Tyson Jackson.

I understand that the right (and by right I mean correct) offensive tackle could start for the Pats for the next 8-10 years, even longer, but I have to say I’d be more excited today by a bold move to secure an impact defensive player like Jackson, a Seymour-Warren style end ideally suited for the Pats three-man front.

I guess it will come down to what Kansas City does in the number three slot. The buzz is that nobody wants picks 2 through 7 in this draft (cost), and that Scott Pioli would like to trade back. If he doesn’t find a partner, the rumors are that he could try to replicate his Seymour-Warren success with Jackson. That means (presuming Cole is correct) any trade involving the Pats will assuredly happen on the fly, depending on the end’s status.

I also wonder about Malcolm Jenkins. If the Jackson thing breaks wrong for them, might the Pats still try to move up to secure the Buckeye swingman, the best defensive back in the draft?

Whatever happens, those who Twitter will be the first to know, as the Pats are expected to announce their picks – even ahead of TV – via the free service at twitter.com/realpatriots. Which is cool and everything (I guess) but for me nothing will beat Mike Reiss and Chris Gasper on the indispensable Reiss’s Pieces.

Maybe you can squeeze us in there every once in awhile too, as we offer our humble thoughts on the breaking stories while quietly hoping our personal draft boards (Day One, Day Two) don’t prove to be ridiculously inaccurate by the time it’s over.

I’m actually headed into work for awhile now (I crush it in a quiet office, friends) but I’ll check back with you later on.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

Get Your Patriots Draft Picks Live on Twitter

The Patriots announced today that they will be announcing their draft picks this weekend via Twitter – the social media networking tool that is taking the world by storm.

You can monitor the official Patriots Twitter feed at http://twitter.com/realpatriots.

Here is the release from the team:

PATRIOTS TO “TWEET” DRAFT PICKS

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots will use Twitter to announce their 2009 draft picks in real time. Each of the Patriots’ picks during the NFL Draft this weekend will be announced at Twitter.com/realpatriots, the official Twitter feed of the New England Patriots.

Following the draft, the “RealPatriots” Twitter feed will be used to distribute official Patriots information, including player transactions, player appearances and other official announcements from the team’s public relations staff.

“We might even get a few draft picks out via Twitter before they are announced on TV, so any Patriots fans following the draft closely are encouraged to begin following RealPatriots on Twitter,” said Patriots Vice President of Media Relations Stacey James. “Of course this is the first time we are attempting this, so it should be interesting.”

Patriots.com, the team’s official website, also has a Twitter feed available at Twitter.com/patriotsdotcom, where fans can get additional analysis and updates from the Patriots Football Weekly staff along with links to updated content.

Making History: A Look At Drafts Past

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

Though it’s been said that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it, sometimes repeating history isn’t such a bad thing. In honor of the Patriots’ better-than-average run over the past nine years, we’re naming 2009’s picks after previous selections.

(For a handy reference, New England’s drafts under Bill Belichick were recapped round-by-round in a PD column from January).

Round One (23 overall), The Jerod Mayo Pick

Last year a debate raged over what linebacker the Patriots would take: Keith Rivers or Vernon Gholston. New England traded down a couple of spots to number 10 overall and nabbed Mayo, a guy projected at 20 who did nothing more than earn Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.

Candidates: Amid the blood feud between the Connor Barwin/Larry English/Clay Matthews/Rey Maualuga camps, wouldn’t it be something if the team picked up Clint Sintim (Virginia) or James Laurinaitis (Ohio State)?

Round Two (34), The Wes Welker Trade Pick

Named for the 2007 trade that got New England rolling toward a record-setting season of offense (the Moss trade came two rounds later), number 34 gets exchanged for a veteran who will provide immediate help in an area of need.

Candidate: To Carolina for Julius Peppers. Salary cap be damned.

Round Two (47), The Bethel Johnson/Chad Jackson Pick

Hey, they can’t all be gems. This pick goes to the overrated receiver who will view the Patriots playbook as an inconvenience, yet show just enough ability to keep fans expecting a breakthrough that never comes.

Candidates: Kenny Britt, Rutgers; Hakeem Nicks, North Carolina

Round Two (58), The Eugene Wilson/Terrence Wheatley Pick

Here’s hoping number 58 provides the Pats with a rookie who shows the ability to contribute right away (minus any injuries).

Candidates: Mike Mickens, Cincinnati; Rashad Johnson, Alabama

Round Three (89), The IR Pick

Here’s a list to make you shiver: Shawn Crable, David Thomas, Guss Scott, Brock Williams, J. R. Redmond. Of their third-round picks, only Ellis Hobbs (2005) has avoided significant injury issues.

Candidate: Chase Coffman. The Missouri tight end already has a broken foot.

Although I don’t consider myself superstitious, I feel it’s best we continue.

Round Three (97), The Asante Samuel Pick

Samuel left New England for the sunny, cheery climes of Philadelphia. His production in the NFC led to the Patriots getting the highest compensation possible (a small consolation, but consolation nonetheless). Will the team try to fill Samuel’s shoes? I say no and seek to bolster the defense with a pass rusher instead.

Candidates: Paul Kruger, Utah; Lawrence Sidbury, Richmond; David Veikune, Hawaii

Round Four (124), The Jarvis Green Pick

Green made his career as a backup defensive lineman ready to replace any starter at any time. New England would be happy to get a similar performance out of a rookie found here.

Candidates: Corvey Irvin, Georgia; Ricky Jean-Francois, LSU

Round Five (170), The Matthew Slater Pick

With Kelly Washington and Larry Izzo gone, the Pats could repeat the Slater pick and nab a special-teamer whom few fans have ever heard of before.

Candidate: Dudley Guice, Northwestern State. Guice – unlike Slater – actually has the potential to contribute as a receiver.

Round Six (199), The Justin Rogers Pick

Unheralded out of SMU, Rogers showed flashes of potential as an outside linebacker during 2006 preseason contests. Dallas plucked up Rogers after he was cut from the New England roster, a fact lamented by many Patriots fans. (As a backup, Rogers has managed 34 tackles in the past two years. Judge that however you wish.)

Candidates: Brandon Long, Michigan State; Pierre Walters, Eastern Illinois

Round Six (207), The Tom Brady Pick

Oh, you want a Hall of Fame player with the team’s second pick in the sixth round? What are you, high?

Candidates: Tom Brandstater (Fresno State) is a skinny QB who won at the college level. Believe me, if I could predict stuff like this, I’d be at a racetrack somewhere paying off the mortgage.

Round Seven (234), The Matt Cassel Pick

In honor of a player who might take years to turn into something but could make it worth the wait, this pick must also get overlooked despite his time on a highly-ranked team.

Candidates: Chris Crane, Boston College; Andy Brodell, Iowa; Tyler Lorenzen, UConn

That’s all we’ve got for your pre-draft enjoyment. Thanks for checking in with Patriots Daily. Now snack up, settle in, and savor the weekend.

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]

Patriots Daily Day Two Draft Board

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

picDrafting on Day Two seems like a version of that arcade game where you have to use a mechanical claw to grab a stuffed animal: You can get in position to get what you want, only to have something go wrong at the last minute. Also, even when you acquire your target, it might fail to live up to expectations. (There’s my analogy for the day. You’re welcome.)

Early Day Two (Picks 65 through 118): Looking at the PD Day Two board (PDF below), these picks signify New England’s chances to ensure depth at any position valued as a Day One priority. Should Mike Mickens, Jarron Gilbert or Rashad Johnson fall to the third, watch the Pats snap up one of them. Each projects as an eventual starter in the Patriots system.

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Despite the lack of immediate need, Cornelius Ingram and Pat White gain value for their future potential.

Riser: Arizona’s Mike Thomas. Run fast. Catch ball. Return kicks. Repeat.

Sleeper: Linebacker Jason Williams got some ink after his don’t-blink-or-you’ll-miss-my-40 pro day, but news about the Leatherneck (yes, that’s Western Illinois’s mascot) has died down since then.

Don’t Overlook: He’s gotten lost in the dust kicked up by Day One bandwagons, but part of me feels partial to Paul Kruger, especially after his Q&A with PD. Biased or no, you’ve got to love a 6-4, 260-pound guy whom Sporting News compares to Mike Vrabel. Kruger has played every position in the front seven, even tackle.

Mid Day Two (Picks 119 through 191): We get into a more balanced mix of defense and offense in this range. Hard to figure where to put injured players like Brandon Tate and Josh Mauga (I’m avoiding commenting on Tate’s positive marijuana test, even though part of me finds it hilarious) and where to slot the small-schoolers vs. the big-timers.

This part of the draft displays the conflict between Patriots need and overall draft rating. Perhaps Stephen McGee shouldn’t be this high (speaking of high, what about that Tate fella? Ba-da-boom!), but if they want him, they’ll need to pick him here. Some might rank Tony Fiammetta lower; still, with Heath Evans’ absence, his value as a blocking fullback/special teamer scoots him up the board.

Riser: Even after his Utes went undefeated, it took Brice McCain running a 4.33 40 and a 3.99 20-yard shuttle to get attention. Tons of value with this cornerback pick.

Sleeper: Virginia’s John Phillips had 48 receptions in 2008. If Bill Belichick resists an early tight end pick, he could get a productive guy here.

Don’t Overlook: Offensive lineman Joel Bell out of lil’ Furman. He’s light for his height (6-7, 315) and fast (5.11 40), making him an ideal apprentice for the New England O-line.

Late Day Two (Picks 192-256): Some surprise value could reside in this area, although with 11 total picks available, the Patriots will have to monitor their rookie intake on Sunday morning and consider trading these toward the future. The top three in this column (Curtis Taylor, Don Carey, Sammie Stroughter) have the potential to step in right away on special teams while contributing on offense or defense over time.

These picks also contain the real sleepers. Anyone who had Tom Brady here and pegged him as an NFL starter nine years ago deserves some praise (but mostly scorn, because that person is lying).

Risers: With a solid combine and good week of practice at the Senior Bowl, Carey has a lot of NFL eyes on him. Michigan State’s Brandon Long earns a mention here after his pro day, when the 6-2, 253-pound outside linebacker conversion project ran a 4.61 40 and put up 32 bench reps.

Sleeper: After Coach Belichick attended UConn’s pro day, most onlookers discussed the top picks, including pass-rusher Cody Brown. Well, Julius Williams is bigger (252 pounds vs. 244 for Brown), faster (4.62 40 vs. 4.74) and stronger (36 bench reps vs. 26). Not to say that better testing ensures a better player, but wouldn’t you take a hard look at this guy in the sixth round?

Don’t Overlook: As one of my favorite PD Q&A subjects, this is my last chance to promote receiver Dudley Guice, and I’m taking it. The Northwestern State (La.) product ran a 4.40 40 and jumped 41 inches at his pro day.

Well, after scouring scouting reports, combine numbers and pro days, PD has put up, so now we must shut up.

Until we comment on the draft, of course.

Chris Warner can be reached at [email protected]

Patriots Daily Day One Draft Board

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff

picI have to stop doing this now.

I have to stop with the compulsive surfing for profiles and highlight videos, with the random buying of magazines…all of it. I have to stop with the making of lists, the changing of lists, the changing back of lists, the throwing away of lists, the starting of new lists…..I have to get away from the lists all together.

And the TV! Just how freaking long is this Path to the Draft? This thing’s been on longer than Guiding Light. Naturally, it only makes me crave more.

Such is the life arc of the unabashed draftnik – you know, guys like me, Chris, Larry Johnson…the cool guys.

If you’re still reading at this point, you’re a cool guy too.

Anyway, the point of this post is supposed to be that today we have a PDF draft board of all the first day prospects that we’ll be looking for tomorrow night. We also have Chris Warner’s second day board here.

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Why PDF? Because I can’t figure out how to display a chart in Word Press, mostly, but also so that I can print them out. It’s a long story.

I suppose you could print them out too – I’d really like to hear that story, though.

Keep in mind that these boards are stacked vertically, by pick range, and feature only the players the PD War Room has determined suitable for the Patriots’ consideration, or they shall feel our wrath.

Okay, now that I now only the draft-geekiest people remain, let me tell you what happened to my draft board.

Move up

So we wrote all these First Day/Second Day pieces over the last month, pointing out the prospects we liked in the pick range we liked them, basically stacking our boards, until I still changed mine all around after we finished.

I moved Malcolm Jenkins into the first column because I haven’t heard anybody say he isn’t the best defensive back in the draft by a fair margin. He’s not falling to 23, so he gets a bump. I moved Darius Butler into the second column, because I’m at the point where I believe everything Mike Mayock says, and he says Butler is the best zone cornerback in the draft.

Elsewhere I bumped Brian Robiskie up a column because I’d like to see the Pats get a young receiver that turned out to be reliable, and again it was Mayock who convinced me that I had Louis Delmas all wrong, so he gets a column jump too. That said, the Patriots won’t draft a single defensive back on the first day.

Move down

Serious USC slide in the final days. It may be just subterfuge, but they’re getting dogged something awful. I can’t help but be influenced by that, so naturally, a downward move. I can’t be advocating a trade up for Clay Matthews if he’s going to be on the board at 23 anyway.

I also pushed down Eban Britton because a right tackle in the first round just seemed like less and less of a good idea.

Add ons

I didn’t include James Laurinaitis in my initial group of linebackers because of how incredibly average he’s supposed to be. But everybody agrees he’ll know your defense and be in the right places and do the right things once he gets there. I’m thinking in the grand scheme of the draft, getting a reliable starter with the 34th pick would seem about right.

I also added Larry English because that’s all the commenters at Reiss’s Pieces ever talk about.  I still don’t understand why everybody doesn’t prefer Everette Brown.

Final thoughts

Who am I kidding? I’ll be all over this site tomorrow.

In the meantime though, Bill Belichick’s press conference left me with the impression that a trade up could happen on Saturday, so anticipation could be a little greater than usual. How many times have you heard about him talking about trading up as high as ten? Will they pick there for the second year in a row? Probably not, but it’ll be fun waiting for Rich Eisen to say “…and we have a trade…”

I can’t help but feel this will end up being all about defensive line and linebackers. A secondary emphasis on offensive line. All the ball handling positions coming later, including defensive back.

That’s how I feel right now, though. Check with me later.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]

Greg Doyle’s Seven Round Patriots Mock Draft

picby Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff

Predicting the draft is tough enough, but it’s even tougher for the Patriots. People who follow the Patriots and the draft closely probably do a pretty reasonable job estimating the players the team is interested in. But just interest alone doesn’t get the player drafted by the Patriots; he has to be available as well, and surely there are always other teams interested. This is especially true now with all the former Patriots coaches and front office personnel spread throughout the NFL.

I know I have been doing my own draft lists for years and usually get 1 or 2 players who end up drafted by the Patriots. Sometimes the players I pick in the late rounds have ended up as undrafted free agent signees in New England. And undoubtedly, every year the Pats will surprise you in the early rounds (Ben Watson) and late rounds (Matt Cassel) with off-the-radar picks. But, since this is mostly for fun and good conversation, let’s give it a try and see how we do projecting!

Round 1(23): Alphonso Smith, Jr., CB, Wake Forest

Smith is in my opinion one of the top two corners in the draft, along with Ohio State’s Malcolm Jenkins. He can’t shift to safety due to his size and the knock against him is he is too small to be a top corner. So why does he fit? Because he is tough, physical, smart and has the ability, small size and all, to be a great corner, along with being an electrifying return man. Sort of a more talented version of Ellis Hobbs, who is a good corner in his own right. With both Hobbs and Leigh Bodden becoming free agents after this season, and Shawn Springs at 34 years old, it’s likely the Pats will want to bolster their corner ranks. They can’t go wrong with a sure-fire starter in a tough, physical and athletic guy like Smith, who also is a good character guy. Here is some of what we wrote about Smith last September on Patriots Daily: “A bit undersized at 5’9″ but is physical, fast and with pure athletic ability. Blankets receivers in coverage and college receivers generally can’t get much separation from him. Really impressive how he sticks his head in against the run and also can make big plays in coverage. Has 15 career interceptions. Looks quicker than everyone else. Has returned kicks and played special teams well, including blocking kicks. Probably second to Malcolm Jenkins as the second best senior corner in next year’s draft.”

Round 2(34): Evander “Ziggy” Hood, DE, Missouri

Many of the commercial draft publications have Hood as more of a 1-gap style defensive lineman. This, of course, is a style the Patriots rarely play, as they are almost exclusively a 2-gap team. The reason many are making this projection is that Hood has excellent speed, quickness and experience in a 1-gap type of system. This does not mean, however, he doesn’t have the skills to play 2-gap. And being quick isn’t a negative in a 2-gap system so long as you have the requisite other skills. And Hood does. Hood has the size, strength and coachability to adapt to the Patriots 3-4 2-gap style. He is strong, nobody disputes that. And he checks in at at a stout 6’3″ 300 lbs., perfect size for a 3-4 end. His speed and quickness will be looked at as an added benefit for the Patriots, as he can contain the edge and become an effective pass rusher. It is my opinion Hood has been underrated by some commercial draft sites and is a very good prospect. This does not mean necessarily he has been underrated by NFL teams, however, and the Patriots would likely be thrilled to get him at 34, helping with an area of need as Vince Wilfork, Richard Seymour, Jarvis Green and LeKevin Smith all become free agents after this season.

Round 2(47): Andy Levitre, G, Oregon State

Again, with Logan Mankins a free agent after this season and Stephen Neal turning 33, the Patriots will likely try to bolster their guard ranks. There’s a lot to like about Levitre. A team captain, a hard worker, light on his feet enough to play in the Patriots screen-filled offense; he seems to have 10 year NFL starter written all over him. He is also strong and coachable. Has also played every position on the line except center, including goal line tight end.

Round 2(58): Pat White, QB, West Virginia

With an abundance of 2nd round picks, this is somewhat of a luxury pick. White is a great athlete who is also a winner with good intangibles. He is extremely quick as a runner. Reports are numerous that the Patriots spent quite a bit of time evaluating him. White has the skills to convert to wide receiver and also be an effective returner. He does have some good QB skills, such as a strong arm, but is a bit thin and short to be a traditional QB. With the Patriots also showing an interest in Texas A&M’s mobile QB Stephen McGee, one wonders if they are toying with use of wildcat formations this season.

With White, they could incorporate this occasionally (saving Tom Brady’s knee some snaps), while also utilizing White as a returner and receiver. It’s a great way to save an extra roster spot if he can cover and return kicks and also serve as the backup QB on the game day roster, while also providing emergency WR depth. I’m guessing that is what they have in mind. Here is what we said on Patriots Daily about White last October in a “College Scout” column: “White is a very fast, athletic, game-changing type runner. He ran for over 1,300 yards just last year alone. He’s done well as a passer in college, but is likely looking at a career in the NFL as a receiver. He has the speed and athletic ability to make the transition and be a good one.”

Round 3(89): Mike Thomas, WR, Arizona

A quick and fast slot receiver who is fearless and has great hands for catching passes in the middle of the field. Though short, he is an outstanding leaper. With Wes Welker taking a pounding every year, an understudy would be a nice luxury to have. Thomas fits the bill. He can also return kicks and is among the fastest receivers in the draft.

Round 3(97): David Bruton, S, Notre Dame

A big, physical safety who played for Charlie Weis at Notre Dame. Bruton hits and plays hard and is a solid tackler in space. Also known as one of the best special teams players in the draft. To top it off, he tested very well at the Combine, showing speed and skills on the three cone and short shuttle drill which indicates he can be a good coverage guy despite his 6’2″ 219 lb. frame. Belichick demands this from safeties in today’s NFL. Was a team captain for Weis’ squad.

Round 4(124): Antonio Appleby, LB, Virginia

Played middle linebacker for Al Groh at Virginia. Has classic inside linebacker size at 6’3″ 245. Some think he wasn’t quite as productive as he should have been, but had a solid college career. Physical in attacking blockers and decent athleticism to move side to side. Might fit nicely in the Patriots system next to Jerod Mayo, as a physical plugger which is essentially the role he played in college. Originally went to Virginia as a defensive lineman. Here is what we said about Appleby in a “College Scout” column last November: “He has played well, has good speed, strength and is a solid tackler but he has not played spectacularly. He does play in a system very similar to what the Patriots play. I think projecting forward, as the Patriots like to do, his upside is in front of him and with NFL coaching he could be an excellent player.”

Round 5(170): Augustus Parrish, T, Kent State

Originally recruited to Kent by Dean Pees. Parrish is an agile right tackle prospect with a good speed and athletic ability combination. Needs to improve his strength, which could come from year round commitment in a NFL training program. Played well at the East-West Shrine game, according to many scouts. Brother was an all-league linebacker for Kent when Pees was the head coach there. Experienced, with 35 career college starts. A little light for a tackle at just over 300 lbs. and probably needs to add about 10 more lbs.

Round 6(199): Brandon Long, OLB, Michigan State

This would be a project as the inexperienced Long only started one year at Michigan State. Was not even mentioned as much of a prospect and was omitted from many draft guides, but absolutely ripped it up at the Michigan State Pro Day, recording some of the best scores in all drills of anyone at his position. He checks in at about 6’4″ 250. Seems to be the type of player a 3-4 team like the Patriots or Steelers could convert to an athletic, pass rushing, disruptive outside linebacker. Has special teams experience. When looking back at his one year as a starter, he was pretty good. Probably would be a bit more highly regarded if he had two years of starting experience, with the improvement that usually comes in college with that. But projecting forward, he is as talented as you can find for this position. Played mostly defensive end in the Spartans system, but has played some linebacker (particularly in high school) and has the athletic skills to do so.

Round 6(207): Sammie Lee Hill, NT, Stillman

A pure nose tackle who would provide depth behind Wilfork (who, as mentioned earlier, is a free agent after this season). Hill went to a small school and needs coaching badly, but he is a surprisingly good athlete and quick for his 329 lb. size. Has very good strength to hold the center of a 3-4.

Round 7(234): Marcus Thigpen, RB, Indiana

An extremely fast burner who fits as a returner and a change of pace/third down back in the NFL. With Kevin Faulk getting up there in years, Thigpen could develop into that role. Has great pass catching skills and was originally a WR at Indiana. Had 78 career catches in college and also ran for over 1,600 yards. Team captain. Also had over 2,000 career return yards. We profiled him back in the fall on “College Scout” and said “Not an every down back at 5’9″ 199 (and looks smaller) but his 4.22/40 speed is sure to attract some NFL teams.”

Other Patriots Prospects

As noted, picking the draft is tricky business and especially tricky with the Patriots. Trying to read the tea leaves from press reports, coaching affiliations and our own impressions is an imperfect art. Without a doubt the Patriots will select players in which their interest had previously been unknown. So I tried to take a fresh look at the list of players at each position and pick one guy at each who I may not have considered as Patriots targets and haven’t seen fans or commercial draft guides associating as their type of player. Basically reconsidering the conventional wisdom. So, without further adieu, here is my list of potential Patriots we may not have thought much about:

QB Jason Boltus, Hartwich

Has the type of athleticism and arm strength that may attract the Patriots as their next long-term QB project.

RB Brannan Southerland, Georgia

I originally had Southerland in my mock draft and took him out. So this is the one guy on this list I actually did recently consider. With Heath Evans gone, the Patriots may look to this traditional 250 lb. fullback as a replacement. Very hard-working team captain and good special teams player. Can catch as well. Would be a priority free agent if he goes undrafted.

WR Quinten Lawrence, McNeese State

A speed burner and track star who did catch 99 balls in college. Needs a year or two to learn the NFL and get stronger, but has great ability and pure speed. Andy Brodell is another guy from Iowa who might be a priority free agent for the Pats.

TE Davon Drew, East Carolina

It’s probably a mistake that I left a tight end out of my mock draft as the Patriots will likely take one. Drew is a late round guy who is a good combo of pass catching and blocking ability with upside at both. Decent speed and good size.

OT Ryan McKee, Southern Mississippi

A very athletic tackle who needs to bulk up. This is the type of project the Patriots have developed at tackle in the past in Tom Ashworth, Brandon Gorin and Wesley Britt. In other words, a guy with natural athleticism who needs to get stronger and/or improve their techniques for a year or two before getting on the field.

OG Seth Olsen, Iowa

A late-round type who has some skills to work with. Plays hard.

C Rob Bruggeman, Iowa

A very strong, smart center who has great experience and toughness.

DE Jeremy Navarre, Maryland

A lunch pale type defensive end ala Mike Wright who is probably a free agent type. Former linebacker has some athleticism.

NT Antonio Dixon, Miami

Has the size to play the middle. Decent athlete.

OLB Robert Francois, Boston College

Didn’t become a full-time starter until Brian Toal got hurt his senior year, but played well. Has tested well also and is a good athlete who made plays down the stretch for BC. Has size to play in the Patriots system.

ILB James Bryant, Louisville

A talented kid with 6’3″ 250 lb. size, but he had a rocky college career. Started at Miami and transferred to Louisville his senior year. Probably won’t be drafted, but has a lot of talent and came out of high school as a top prospect. Character concerns, but may be worth a look as a free agent.

CB Gregory Toler, St. Paul

A small-school corner (like Leigh Bodden) with great athletic talent and good cornerback size. Very productive in college as a man against boys and has the skills to play well in the NFL. Could be a sleeper late round pick.

S DeAngelo Willingham, Tennessee

Can play both corner and safety which the Patriots would like. Up to 217 lbs, but tested well at his Pro Day. Was a JUCO player who only played at Tennessee 2 years but has quickly improved and has shown good talent. Late round possibility for the Pats.

Greg Doyle can be reached at [email protected]

Stacking the Board with First Day Quarterbacks and Running Backs

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff

picIf you’re anything like me you tend to glaze over when the subject turns to first day quarterback and running back prospects in next weekend’s draft. For Patriots fans, that’s when we shell a peanut.

After all, those are two of the team’s four strongest positions, along with defensive line (contracts notwithstanding) and wide receiver. Why spend a lot of time thinking about prospects the Patriots won’t end up drafting?

They’re not going to take a quarterback in the first two rounds – not when they have one of the best on the planet backed up by a guy they just spent a third round pick on last year. Most people I know expect the Pats to draft a quarterback this year, but not on the first day. Better that pick should come later, when the reward has a better chance of outweighing the risk.

They’re not going to take a first day runner either – not when they have Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor signed for the next two seasons. The team may be contemplating a future without Kevin Faulk, who plays out his contract this year, but that seems like more of a day two job, given their needs and the draft landscape itself.

So why spend a lot of time thinking about prospects the Patriots won’t end up drafting?

Because they’re the Patriots. And they might.

Early First Day (trade up)

I cannot imagine the maelstrom if the Pats trade up to get a running back or quarterback in the top 20 of this draft. It’s one thing to draft a good football player – regardless of position – if he drops to you. Trading up – in exchange for one or more of your high-value second-round picks, even in the face of more immediate defensive needs – is another.

Mid First Day (picks 23 and 34)

I’ve been saying for some time that RB Knowshon Moreno is the most Patriot-like running back in the draft. I like that he can carry the mail between the tackles and threaten the perimeter as both a runner and receiver. I like his balance and vision when running the football and his athleticism and quick burst in tight quarters, and to the outside. I like that he has a good feel for the passing game, and especially that he attacks pass-blocking and blitz pickup with relish. I like that he has off-the-charts intangibles when it comes to character and competitiveness. I like that even as a junior, he leaves behind a legacy of consistency and productivity as a collegian. All this far outweighs concern that he lacks true breakaway speed.

Even though the Pats would have at least three players ahead of him for the time being, only a fool would leave a versatile, productive character guy like Moreno off his board. Even if he re-ups after this season, Faulk will soon enough be approaching the twilight of his career. Taylor and Morris are both over 30 and Maroney is one lingering shoulder injury away from a ticket out of here.

Speaking of productivity (you kind of have to go back a paragraph on this particular segue, but believe me, we talked about it and damn it, it relates to this sentence), few can match RB Donald Brown of Connecticut, who posted 2,000 yards in 2008.

I’m not as pumped about Brown as I am Moreno, but that two grand and this highlight reel give pause. On the tape we see Brown is roughly the same size as Moreno (who played in the same New Jersey high school league as the Connecticut star), but Brown seems to run with a lower center of gravity (it’s almost like he’s hovering). You have to be impressed with that vision and those quick bursts that take him into the open field, and often, to the end zone. I think that’s a testament to his instincts, agility and balance as a runner. Everything about him says good kid and hard worker, which is nice. Couple of things – like Moreno, he lacks the desired ‘breakaway speed”, he wasn’t asked to do much blocking or pass receiving in college, and his skills at both are considered marginal. You can’t get on the field in New England by being marginal in the passing game.

Brown has been projected to sneak up as high as late first round, but most feel he’ll be on the board if the Patriots keep that 34th selection. I wonder, though, whether I would have even listed him here if Bill Belichick hadn’t shown such interest in the U Conn pro day.

That’s all, folks. There wasn’t another first day back – including Chris Wells, the big, fast Buckeye with the iffy makeup – that left us wanting more. This is may be the point where the Pats ought to shell a peanut or two.

So now we’ve covered all the position groups from first day and second day perspectives. On Friday, we’ll offer our final Patriots Daily Draft Boards in downloadable PDF form, suitable for framing.

Scott Benson can be reached at [email protected]