April 23, 2014

Patriots Daily Draft Review

by Patriots Daily Staff

Chris Warner: Impact players? Maybe a couple. Solid guys? Plenty of them. Value picks? Looks like it.

Successful draft? Time will tell.

Dan Snapp: The days after draft always feel barren. There’s so little to do. You can scour the Internet for proof – and you can always find this proof somewhere – that your guys were steals and rivals’ guys were reaches. But in reality you have a spectrum of five months to never (Alas, Shawn Crable, you peaked in your leaping-over-linemen Michigan photo) for any evidence of what they’ll truly yield.

There’s extra emptiness this draft when it dawns that the biggest need – pass rush – still went woefully neglected.

Chris: The Pats’ spring haul resembles most things in life: we have little idea of how it’s all going to pan out. Below, your humble PD staff (hah!) shares what they like, don’t like, and still don’t quite understand.

Before we get into detail, the picks, by round and overall selection:

1 (27) – Devin McCourty, DB, Rutgers (5-11, 193)

2 (42) – Rob Gronkowski, TE, Arizona (6-6, 264)

2 (53) – Jermaine Cunningham, OLB, Florida (6-3, 266)

2 (62) – Brandon Spikes, ILB, Florida (6-3, 250)

3 (90) – Taylor Price, WR, Ohio (6-0, 200)

4 (113) – Aaron Hernandez, TE, Florida (6-2, 245)

5 (150) – Zoltan Mesko, P, Michigan (6-4, 240 – whoa!)

6 (205) – Ted Larsen, C, N.C. State (6-2, 304)

7 (208) – Thomas Welch, OT, Vanderbilt (6-6, 307)

7 (247) – Brandon Deaderick, DE, Alabama (6-4, 314)

7 (248) – Kade Weston, DT, Georgia (6-5, 317)

7 (250) – Zac Robinson, QB, Oklahoma State (6-2, 214)

Second, the trades, by round:

1 – 22 to Denver for 24 and a fourth (119); later, 24 and 119 to Dallas for 27 and a third (90).

2 – 44 and a sixth (190) to Oakland for 42; 47 to Arizona for 58 and a third (89); 58 to Houston for 62 and a fifth (150).

3 – 89 to Carolina for a 2011 second.

7 – 229 and 231 to Washington for 208.

Now, our rankings, more or less, based on what was overheard in our respective living rooms during the exhaustive, 72-hour bonanza that was Draft Weekend 2010:

WOOHOO!

Chris: Though no single selection caused me to exult, I’m thinking about giving 2010 a top grade overall. Needs met, playmakers found, potential gathered. Yes, I would have liked a few different picks here and there (a running back late, a defensive end earlier), but this draft provided more potential playmakers than last year’s, which was solid.

Greg Doyle: I’ll say Spikes. I have been all around the gamut on him. I thought he was one of the best linebackers in college football when I merely watched him play. But then, I admit, the whispers got to me. I started hearing about a history of ankle problems. Then the slow 40 times. I admit, they got me to severely downgrade him and not even seriously think of him until possibly the final day. But my immediate reaction upon them taking him? YES! That is a football player! Maybe it’s my Patriots bias, but I don’t think so. I was similarly down on Gronkowski and while I may have lightened up abit on him, I still have reservations I’ll explain below. Spikes? There is just no way a guy that productive, that passionate, that much of a playmaker and that smart won’t do well for a Bill Belichick coached team. He’ll likely become a 2-down plugger. That means he is the guy taking on the lead blockers most of the time and it’ll free up Mayo to take less of a beating and be more of a playmaker. The inside now with Mayo, Spikes, McKenzie and Guyton as a nickel backer (the perfect role for him) now looks stocked with young guys with potential.

Dan: Mesko – The perfect storm of need, talent, and right round converge. And then they all sold some game jerseys. Some think the Pats grab these special teamers too high – Ghost with a 4th in ’06, Ingram in the 6th last year, and now a fifth for the Zoltan – but one round too early is a negligible price to pay if that player eliminates a need at the position for the next four years.

Scott Benson: Brandon Spikes, definitely. They didn’t make that pick by some textbook measureable or abstract projection (see tight end Meathead Stivic, two picks earlier) but by pure football-playin’ track record. They didn’t make that pick based on the best player available theory but on raw, bald-faced need. If this guy doesn’t play more defensive snaps this fall than everyone but Jerod Mayo, I’ll eat my fucking hat. I also loved Aaron Hernandez because of the same things. I love that they didn’t pass on a tight end that can find space AND catch/run just because he didn’t meet some in-line blocking metric. Aren’t they already paying the offensive line a shitload of money to do that? Anyway, if I had my druthers, every single pick every single year would be just like these two.

COOL.

Chris: I liked the Gronkowski pick (They filled a need! Finally!), and I enjoyed the aggressive way they traded up to get him. I also gave the ol’ nod to Hernandez filling out the TE spot, as well as Mesko in the fifth and QB Robinson rounding out the seventh (called by PD’s own Greg Doyle in his mock draft, by the way). Strong investments, all.

Greg: That was my reaction to the Hernandez pick. Being a big SEC fan and with the success of Florida as a program, I saw him play a lot and he is very good. I thought he was one of the top 3 tight ends in the draft and to get him in the 4th round is excellent. He has great hands, can move after the catch and is pretty quick for his size. I think he’ll fit into this offense as a “move” tight end from day one.

Dan: Spikes – Just felt etched in stone this guy would be a Patriot. Production, toughness, leadership and a fortuitously bad 40 time to drop him within their grasp.
Gronkowski – I admit it, the measurables wowed me. I was thinking Kyle Brady before Belichick said “Kyle Brady” when asked afterward for a comparable. Yeah, yeah, the back. I know. I’ll blithely choose to ignore that for the time being, and just keep repeating “Kyle Brady, Kyle Brady”.
Hernandez – Belichick hedging his bets on Gronkowski by grabbing a guy rated almost as high (and in some instances higher). Hope it also signals a new commitment to the tight end in the passing game.

Scott: I flipped when they made this pick (it’s all there on Twitter – I’m not proud of it), but after a couple of days I’ll put Devin McCourty in this group. Nothing I read anywhere over these last several weeks contradicted that this was a solid, versatile player with promise who deserved to be picked in the precise range in which he was chosen. And nobody ever said the Patriots don’t need to get better in the secondary. If he comes along like Darius Butler, for example, then what the hell would be wrong with that? Besides the whole Jerry Hughes thing, I mean. I also liked that the Patriots picked a punter bigger than the late Reggie Roby.  As a tribute, Zoltan Mesko should wear a wrist watch while kicking. And by the way – isn’t it funny that after all the bitching about Chris Hanson, they picked a punter that is a left footed, directional, rugby-style kicker who lives on hang-time? I think it’ll be funny when this eventually dawns on the people who are still crying for that Todd Sauerbrun blast-it bullshit.

OKAY.

Chris: The Cunningham pick satisfied another need, which I appreciated; it just felt like it took a long time to get there (see my above Gronkowski parenthetical). The trade to the Panthers for a second-rounder made a ton of sense, but I wonder if we’ll end up wishing we had another pass-rusher this season instead of a high pick in 2011? Regarding Larsen and Welch, I only kept track of the latter because, once again, Greg “Bull’s Eye” Doyle picked him in his mock (nice job, Greg!). Though I wished they’d gotten D-line help sooner, I thought Deaderick and Weston provided a couple of pleasant late-round surprises.

And just as an aside, “Gronkowski Parenthetical” would be an awesome alternative band name.

Greg: The Deaderick pick seemed very logical. Played in the same system and really was graded higher than a 7th rounder. He was a productive guy who isn’t much of a pass rusher but a stout 3-4 end run defender. He’ll fit in and to find that in the 7th round is great.

Dan: McCourty – This poor guy gets his parade rained on because he’s not an outside linebacker. And when you think about it, a pretty damn good response to Santonio Holmes and Brandon Marshall entering the division. I saw this stat this morning: “Leading tackler among NCAA cornerbacks.” So yeah, I’m on board. But would it really have killed them to draft Jerry Hughes?
Cunningham – The pros: hard worker, great program, BB’s ties to Meyer for the inside scoop, and mostly, that he has the right capital letters following his name. But this is it? Even if he proves a capable rusher, it’s still a position of need. Which is more of a concern: Gronkowski’s back or Sergio Kindle’s knee?

How about this, Bill? Make the “Scheme vs. Production” Zen riddle your own little Darwinian experiment and draft both Hughes and Kindle. While you’re jotting down arm length and optimum frame notes alongside nuthatch sketches in your journal, maybe at least the pass rush will finally evolve.

Scott: I’m putting Jermaine Cunningham right here, as in “okay, getting someone who can raise hell on the edge is your biggest need, and is critical to your defensive prospects in the short and long-term, and if you don’t hit this right you’ll go a long way to another year(s) of maddeningly passive third-down defense, and you’re telling me that Jermaine is the tonic for this, so…..okaaaaaaay. We’ll see if you do any better than you did with Crable.” I’ll add to this group everybody picked after Mesko. I know, I know…. “Tom Brady was a sixth round pick.” Yeah, for every one of those there’s six hundred million Oscar Luas. I guess what I’m saying is who cares. If a once-in-a-lifetime player shows up after being picked in that range, I’m okay with finding out about it when it happens. I’m not spending any time on it beforehand.

WAIT: WHAT?

Chris: Their first pick, McCourty, fit this category on Thursday night. A solid overall player, sure, but some of the pass-rushers available at the time looked mighty enticing.  Now, when it comes to Spikes, I have to admit I got confused. One could argue that his 5.04-second 40 unduly soured me, but it does bring up the question of his ability at the NFL level. I’m looking forward to him proving me wrong.

Greg: Gronkowski has everything you want in terms of size and athletic ability. But the injury stuff scares me. He’s got a bad back for crying out loud and a big part of his job is going to be to help block 320 lb. guys in the running game. I know it’s easy for us to say, well, they had to check out his health thoroughly. And yeah, they obviously did. But you know what, I remember sort of taking that approach with Terrence Wheatley a few years back, a guy with a friggin’ metal rod holding his wrist together. That SOUNDED like a concern to me, but I got swept up in the “well, if they used a 2nd rounder on him, he must be healthy….” Know what? He has had injury problems since he’s been here and undoubtedly that has slowed his improvement and now, even when healthy, he can’t get on the field. I just don’t want to see a repeat of that with Gronkowski.

Dan: Price – No idea about this guy, and given the Pats were his only workout, that may be true for the rest of the league. This is one of those “In Bill We Trust” picks, hoping Belichick had Chad O’Shea put the guy in witness protection, wheat farming in Idaho ’til the draft safely ran its course.

Scott: No real comer at right defensive end (that’s an ’11 thing, evidently), and Taylor Price is the only wideout picked. I do like that Price is going to play outside the numbers instead of inside them – not everyone can be a slot receiver – but he certainly wasn’t in the upper echelon of prospects there. This causes me to reflect back on a realization I had a week or two ago – even with all the picks they had, they were probably not going to scratch every itch. There were (are) quite a few, after all.

OH, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!

Chris: Despite a nice highlight reel vs. Tennessee, I watched Price play a couple of times this year and failed to come away impressed. Of course, I’m bitter that the Pats missed out on a PD favorite, Andre Roberts, whom we all chose in our mock. Also kept waiting for a big running back late (Joique Bell, Wayne State, or even LaGarrette Blount, Oregon/Boxing School).

Greg: I didn’t really have a problem with any pick in that regard. The Price pick is a pure talent thing. He has it. And he did play in a Neanderthal offense. It’ll likely take him some time to get up to speed on something like the Pats offense. If any pick gave me that reaction, I guess it’s the Larsen pick which proves to me that Dante is held in such high regard by Belichick, he’ll be allowed at least one pet rock in the draft each year (last year he got three: Ohrnberger, Vollmer and Bussey… guys he worked out personally and that he liked). I don’t have a problem with the pick, it just makes me laugh when it comes to O-linemen Dante is doing the personnel now and picking somewhat obscure guys he thinks he can work with.

Scott: Four words: Meat-head-Stiv-ICK. At least when Rob finally proves that his Charles Atlas physique won’t hold up any better to the NFL than it did to Division 1, he’ll be marginally entertaining as That Guy who sits in the stands with a replica helmet and no shirt on. WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF.

Stay tuned to PD this week for a rundown of Patriots rookie free agents.

Pats Pre-Draft Visits and Workouts

by Scott Benson, Patriots Daily Staff
April 21, 2010

With the 2010 NFL Draft just hours away, let’s take a final look at the list of college prospects that have had significant contact with the Patriots over the last several weeks.

For these purposes, we define ‘significant contact’ as either a prospect site visit to Foxborough, or a private workout with Pats coaches and scouts. Interviews at post-season all-star games, the Combine, or at college pro days are not tracked. We’ve only included contacts that could be confirmed by media report (links).

There are those that will tell you that any interest on the part of the Pats that is made public is simply a ruse, or a ‘smokescreen’, to mask their interest in another, unnamed player.

As we’ve asserted many times before, that’s just untrue. Last year, Patriots Daily tracked visits by Patrick Chung, Brandon Tate, Tyrone McKenzie and Rich Ohrnberger before they were selected by the Patriots. In 2008, pre-draft contacts with Jerod Mayo, Terrence Wheatley and Shawn Crable were also noted.

Okay, so maybe there are some mixed reviews there, but that’s not the point. When the Pats make their picks later this week, it’s likely that two or three of the selections – if not more – will come from this contact list.

Note – if you see any that we’ve missed, please speak up in the comments section, and include a link to the reported contact.

Team Visits – Offense

QB Tim Tebow, Florida
RB Montario Hardesty, Tennessee
RB Charles Scott, LSU
WR Dez Bryant, Oklahoma State
WR Arrelious Benn, Illinois
WR Eric Decker, Minnesota
C Maurkice Pouncey, Florida

Private Workouts – Offense

QB Tony Pike, Cincinnati
QB Mike Kafka, Northwestern
QB Zack Robinson, Oklahoma State
QB Rusty Smith, Florida Atlantic
RB Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech
RB Manase Tonga, BYU
RB Dexter McCluster, Mississippi
RB James Starks, Buffalo
WR Andre Roberts, Citadel
WR Mardy Gilyard, Cincinnati
WR Scott Long, Louisville
WR Taylor Price, Ohio
TE Dennis Pitta, BYU
TE Aaron Hernandez, Florida
TE Nate Bynam, Pittsburgh
TE Scott Sicko, UNH
OT Nic Richmond, TCU
OG Phil Costa, Maryland
C Jim Cordle, Ohio State
OT Daniel Baldridge, Marshall

Team Visits – Defense

DE Brandon Graham, Michigan
DE Corey Wootton, Northwestern
DE Daniel Te’o-Nesheim, Washington
DE Hall Davis, Louisiana-Lafayette
DE Chris McCoy, Middle Tennessee State
DT Dan Williams, Tennessee
DT Tyson Alualu, California
DT Brian Price, UCLA
DT Cam Thomas, North Carolina
OLB Sergio Kindle, Texas
OLB Jerry Hughes, TCU
ILB Jamar Chaney, Mississippi State
LB Donald Butler, Washington
CB Kyle Wilson, Boise State

Private Workouts – Defense

DE Antonio Coleman, Auburn
DE Alex Daniels, Cincinnati
DT Al Woods, LSU
DT Torell Troup, UCF
DT Arthur Jones, Syracuse
DT Corey Peters, Kentucky
DT Aleric Mullins, North Carolina
DT Jeff Owens, Georgia
DT Ricardo Mathews, Cincinnati
LB Brandon Spikes, Florida
LB Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech
LB Ricky Sapp, Clemson
LB Kavell Conner, Clemson
LB Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
LB Dekoda Watson, Florida State
LB Matt Mayberry, Indiana
S Earl Thomas, Texas
S Kam Chancellor, Virginia Tech
S Myron Lewis, Vanderbilt
CB Kareem Jackson, Alabama
CB Chris Cook, Virginia
CB Dominique Franks, Oklahoma
CB Nolan Carroll, Maryland
CB Robert McClain, Connecticut
CB Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest
CB Sherrick McManis, Northwestern
P Brent Bowden, Virginia Tech
P Zoltan Mesko, Michigan

Even if the Pats don’t select any of the players from this list, the direction of their efforts may tell us something. For example, by our count, the Pats have made ‘significant contact’ with 66 draft prospects. 39 of them, or nearly 60%, are defensive players.

Of the defensive contacts, more than half were defensive linemen (18 contacts). Linebackers represented 28% of all defensive contacts.  20% of contacts were with cornerbacks. Safety was apparently the only defensive position not focused on (just 2 of 39 contacts).

Nearly half of the 27 offensive contacts were either running backs (22%) or receivers (26%). Oddly, only 4 of 27 offensive contacts were with tight ends, a position that is considered a top need for New England. Offensive line contacts were concentrated on late round or priority free agent prospects. The Pats also looked at 5 quarterback hopefuls, including Tim Tebow.

This would seem to indicate the Pats will focus on their front seven and their offensive skill positions in this draft.