…In Bill We Trust? Here we go again…
Yeah, I know it has been a week since the New England Patriot’s draft has concluded. Has it taken me this long to process the results? Nope. It would appear I feel the same way as most of you. Has it taken me this long because I was waiting to see who the Pats would bring on as undrafted free agents? A little bit, but not really. I don’t believe they have still announced who they are. But I see some lists…we will get to them later.
Since I wrote some pre-draft stuff, I feel the need to comment on what actually transpired. Though I think we may all know how this will go. Since what transpired obviously did not match up with what I kind of hoped they would do.
None of us should be surprised at how many trades Bill Belichick made during the draft. This should be the least surprising occurrence of the three days. The conspiracy theory of Bill making a ton of trades involving the pick received in the Jimmy Garoppolo trade, so that it would be hard to track what return they actually received? I can buy into that…a little bit anyway. I wouldn’t rule that scenario completely out. Was it the main focus? I don’t believe so. But don’t tell me Bill didn’t have something like that in mind.
The most surprising thing to me was that Bill did not auction off the #31 pick overall to the highest bidder. Teams are ALWAYS looking to move back into the first round and can offer enticing packages to get back into the end of it. Especially because the Pats already had used a pick at #23. Especially nowadays that the second round starts a day later, for whatever reason. Possibly because the teams get an extra year of team control for a first-round pick. In any event, Bill usually loves these sort of deals, where he could have picked up like 2 or 3 more picks for that one.
To top off my surprise, after not trading the pick, they selected a running back with it. Holy Jesus…a f’n RUNNING BACK!! This RB part has been talked about ad nauseam this week locally…as well it should be. Count me among the masses of the confused.
This offense does not need to spend major assets on the running back position. It just doesn’t. Think of all the guys they have picked up over the years for next to nothing. You know the names: LeGarrette Blount, Dion Lewis, Antowain Smith, Sammy Morris, Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead for starters and also Steven Jackson and Fred Taylor…ok, forget the last two. Then using no more than mid-round picks on guys like James White, Shane Vereen, Stevan Ridley and the like. And let’s not forget the last time that the Pats used a first round pick on a runner…the immortal Laurence Maroney! How’d that work out?
Sigh…Sony Michel may be a good running back. You just didn’t need to use that pick on him. I did watch most of the NCAA football “Final Four” last year. And I will admit, Michel looked pretty damn good. But I honestly think that the team could have gotten away with the combination of White, Rex Burkhead, Mike Gillislee and Jeremy Hill this coming season. And perhaps another veteran plucked off the wire later in the year, or a kid from the practice squad.
I would have bet my house that Bill would have traded that pick down for more picks. I would have bet my neighborhood that he wouldn’t have selected a running back with that pick once he kept it. Glad I didn’t do either.
Can’t say I am enamored with the selection at #23 either. Isaiah Wynn may very well be a good player too. But although he played tackle in college and the Patriots announced him as such, most of the “experts” think he will be a guard in the pros. Not to mention they already have 35 offensive linemen on the roster. Including grabbing the humongous Trent Brown from the Niners seemingly on the cheap. What are they going to do with all of these guys? Yeah, half of them are fringe players. But looking at the list, they won’t be able to even keep all of the half-decent ones.
Then in the second round…a “slot corner” in Duke Dawson. Maybe he is a good player too. But…
I was clear that I wanted defense, defense, defense and more defense…just like everyone else. I would have accepted taking a quarterback high if the Patriots had truly identified “the future”. The Pats had 5 of the first 95 picks. Seemed like a good chance to get some good defensive talent in tow. Instead, they only took three guys…the offensive lineman that may not have a set position, the running back that seems extraneous and a backup corner.
Their next pick was in the fifth round, Ja’whaun Bentley. A linebacker!! But one whose speed may not match up in the pros. Oops. Don’t we already have Elandon Roberts? Seems like the same guy. Ummmmm…speed at linebacker is kind of one big thing the team needs. Like…a BIG thing.
Five more picks in the sixth and seventh round…not sure we even need to talk about them. Mel Kiper loves the 6th round receiver/punt returner…yay. Just cuz Julian Edelman worked out in the 7th round, doesn’t mean this guy will. LB, QB, TE, DB the other picks…yaaaaaawn.
You may ask, “Well, what do the undrafted free agent pickups look like? A handful always seem to make the team, right?” Again, no signings appear to have been announced. But I’ve seen one list of 10 dudes. We already know that I have no idea who these lower rated guys are. But my only real comment is that list includes not one, but TWO punters. And still no kickers. As a result, I can’t get all fired up about any of these guys.
So there you go. I’m in the same boat as the masses. Not excited at the draft haul. But yet again, we are all probably wrong. Everything always seems to work out, no matter how bad it looks. There will be more moves. There is no way the team can keep all of their guys at various positions. Maybe they can get draft picks for some of the guys they choose to move on from. Maybe there will be bigger deals on the horizon. Of course no one really ever knows what Bill is thinking.
We are in a period of tremendous future uncertainty here folks. We all know the end is near for Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and it certainly seems like Rob Gronkowski. Robert Kraft will most certainly pass the team along to his son Jonathan soon. But dig a little deeper. Of the 84 roster players listed on Spotrac.com, only 13 of them are signed in 2020 and beyond. Take away the 9 draftees, that is 13 of 75 that are locked up long-term. Seems light. Sure, there could be extensions coming…especially perhaps for guys like Malcom Brown and Danny Shelton, who just had their fifth-year options from their rookie contracts declined, making them unrestricted free agents after this year.
There is no question that this team will be markedly different over the next couple of years. HOW different is what scares me…
…ok, so on to the draft chatter.
Let’s be honest, none of us really know how any of these college kids are going to perform in the professional ranks. Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, Mike Mayock and all those other yahoos may THINK they know. But they don’t know either.
So I’m not going to pretend that I know. I for damn sure don’t. I really don’t even follow college ball too much anyway. I do take joy in Boston College losing whenever I can. But other than maybe a final score, I don’t pay much attention to their actual games. Or certainly their players. What I do know is where the New England Patriots have needs. And we can focus more on that in this space.
I’m not going to do a roster breakdown at this point here either. God knows we do enough of that here already and don’t need another one on top of those.
So anyway, the Patriots have 2 picks in the first, second and sixth rounds and single picks in the third and seventh round.
What do they need? Welp, a little bit of everything, I guess you could say.
What would I do? Glad you asked!
I’d say the top need is linebacker. Someone that can cover, someone who can rush the passer, basically just anyone that is GOOD. Dont’a Hightower is the only player listed at linebacker that really seems to have any talent at all and we know he gets hurt all the time. The team will tell you that Kyle Van Noy is a good player and that other players such as Elandon Roberts are on the rise. But us Patriots fans know better than that.
They should honestly use a bunch of their picks in this draft on linebacker/pass rusher types. Adrian Clayborn is someone who shouldn’t hurt. And the return of Derek Rivers should help as well. But loading up here in this draft, even in the lower rounds, should definitely be explored.
The defense actually should essentially be the entire focus of this years’ draft. The team lost a few key guys on offense in Brandin Cooks, Dion Lewis, Danny Amendola and Nate Solder. But the offense will be just fine. The presumed returns from injury of Julian Edelman and Malcolm Mitchell should offset the loss of Cooks and Amendola. And I love the Jordan Matthews signing. Running backs are fungible in New England, as I have said. I hope Rex Burkhead can stay healthy because I said all of last year I wanted to see more of him. Jeremy Hill may pan out here as well.
Left tackle? People are panicking over the loss of Solder. I am not one of them. He is about as average as you can get. He did a decent job for several years there, but no way was I giving him a huge contract to stay. Antonio Garcia was drafted in the third round last year to basically replace Nate this year. The blood clot messed up that plan. That being said, if he is the real deal and needs this year to get his strength back and to be eased back in, can’t they just stopgap here for a year to get by? I think they can. LaAdrian Waddle is no superstar. But I am thinking between him, Cole Croston, Andrew Jelks, Matt Tobin, a mid-round draft pick this year and perhaps Garcia himself as the year rolls on, they can piece it together at left tackle. Add in supposed “offensive line whisperer”, coach Dante Scarnecchia, I am not as worried here as most people.
Tight end? A lot of “experts” and fans are advocating going after another “franchise” tight end, because no one knows what Gronk is going to do, now apparently year to year. And he is getting older. And he is injury-prone. And all that. That’s easier said than done of course. How many franchise-altering TE’s are available out there similar to Gronk? Or Aaron Herna…oops, nevermind. But you get the point. Maybe that guy is already here in former 2nd round pick Troy Niklas. Ok, maybe not, but he was certainly worth the flyer. In any event, I’m not going crazy trying to find the next Gronk. That seems like an impossible undertaking to me.
Defensive Backs? Wouldn’t hurt to take a corner. Unless you think Cyrus Jones is going to make a difference. I would say most of us don’t though. I think between Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones, you have a solid base. But there are still plenty of question marks. At safety, I believe they also have a good base in Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Duron Harmon. I know, the Super Bowl doesn’t inspire confidence in any of these guys. But these players should be ok. I’ve heard whispers that some dude named Ryan Lewis, a corner who spent all year on the practice squad, has some promise. But who the hell knows about that? Maybe add a decent prospect or two in the draft. And leaving Jordan Richards off the team in September would go a long way as well.
It’s also time to bring in some competition for placekicker Stephen Gostkowski. But you don’t need to do that during the draft. Or do you?
As I said above, I would use most of the picks on the defensive side of the ball. There is one wild card though…and it’s a big one. That would be the proverbial “quarterback of the future”.
All the draftniks say this is the deepest quarterback draft in some time. If you say so. Again, who really knows? Does anyone really think all these top 3-4 guys are franchise guys? Baker Mayfield was just a mid-round guy a few months ago…perhaps comparable to colossal bust Johnny Manziel. Now there are rumors he will go #1 overall? Yeah…
So Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Kyle Lauletta, Luke Falk, blah, blah, blah…can any of them even play in the NFL? No one knows.
That all being said, if the Patriots have done their research, analysis and all that and they themselves have determined who that “next franchise guy” is going to be, my personal opinion is that they should do whatever it takes to get him.
They had that guy in Jimmy G. QB is obviously the most important position on the field. Brady will be 41 before next season starts. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times: There is just no track record for 40-plus-year-old starting NFL quarterbacks. Not a good one anyway. Yes, Brady is a legend. Yes, he was MVP last year. Yes, he threw for over 500 yards in the Super Bowl last year. Yes, defenses cannot breathe on a QB these days, so the QB lifespan is indeed longer than ever. Don’t give me the Guerrero stuff, but Brady is admittedly a different animal.
But…he could also fall off a cliff. Like a lot of them do. And then you are left with Brian Hoyer.
Who wants that?
If they have identified their quarterback of the future, go get him.
Those other gaps can be filled in other ways. It’s a smart enough organization, I am not worried about that.
So in summary, what will they do? Well, it’s doubtful they will take all 8 picks in the end, as we know Belichick likes to make deals. They could have 5 or they could end up with 11. If they take the 8 as it stands, I’d do 1 QB, 4 defensive front seven players, 1 corner, 1 OL and 1 TE. Maybe 2 OL instead of the TE.
And zero special teamers. Please.
…New England Patriot NFL draft coverage of course!
Yeah, I know…the Boston Bruins just won their first-round NHL playoff series and the Boston Celtics will try to do the same tonight. We will get to them soon and catch up on all that, I promise.
But I have a hair across my arse first…
All of this nonsense going down with the players in Foxborough…as well as with the players that have departed Foxborough.
Listen, all us Patriot fans know Coach Bill Belichick is generally an arsehole. In public for sure, and presumably inside the locker room as well, based on what we hear…and have heard for his entire tenure here. I’ll never understand why he has to be a total jerk to reporters just trying to do their job. But the way I see it is, as long as he wins like 13 games a year, goes to the AFC Championship every year and a Super Bowl roughly every other year, I can live with the stupid personality he shows us.
You would think that with all that success and that kind of cachet, the players would just deal with it as well.
Not this year. And that’s foolish.
The two biggest stars on the team now have been not so subtly hinting about their dissatisfaction this offseason. And most of the guys that have left have had something to say as well.
Tom Brady is likely pissed because Bill won’t let his personal trainer, Alex Guerrero, travel with the team and come into the building and all that. That’s what we assume it all comes down to. Brady also apparently is a more positive person these days and Bill’s negative methods wear on him now. And Tommy did not like Jimmy Garoppolo around either, we know that much. Rob Gronkowski isn’t having fun anymore. And the Guerrero issue may affect him as well. Waaaaaah…waaaaah…waaaah.
I’m not stupid enough to say that Belichick is responsible for the success that both of these guys have had in their respective careers. But he sure played a pretty big hand in both, no?
Bill kept Brady as the fourth QB his rookie year, then handed him the job even when the $100 million man Drew Bledsoe was recovered from his injury. Bill protected Tom with a running game and defense early in his career, as Brady developed. Then opened things up when Brady proved completely more than capable. Bill drafted Gronk when other teams were scared away by his back issues and has dealt with all of his injury issues throughout his career.
Please do not misinterpret this last thought. Brady and Gronk are legends of the game. They worked hard to become the players they have become. Take nothing away from them for that. But Bill also had to play a huge role for them to become what they are now as well. This much cannot be denied.
Anyway, if Bill lets everyone do their own thing as far as training goes, why have any trainers on the Patriot staff? He really has to have his own program (which also has seemingly worked here) and if players want to supplement with their own things, they can do that on their own time. I know, because these two guys are legends, maybe exceptions can be made in their cases. I get it. But still…Bill can’t have 53 players doing 53 different things. He needs his program and his staff to oversee things and make sure everyone stays on track. That’s what I think.
The departing players may be even worse. God love Danny Amendola. Clutch. Money. Use any word you want. I also don’t blame him for taking guaranteed money, also seeing that he took pay cuts every year here to stay. That all being said, he remains brittle and needs to be babied somewhat. And if everyone is healthy, where is he on the WR depth chart? Anyway, he said some stuff when he left town…although it wasn’t completely inflammatory, it still bugged me anyway.
Danny mainly questioned Malcolm Butler not playing in the Super Bowl. We all have. We don’t know if playing Butler in the big game would’ve made a difference. People think that the Pats automatically win the game if he does. I don’t necessarily buy that, though of course, it shouldn’t have hurt them. But let’s all please let that go. We don’t really know if Butler would have made a difference. Bill is never going to tell us why he did it. We’ve all been bitter about it since that day. But now it’s time to move on. The players should too.
Butler was actually complementary when he left. Good for him. He got his dough too. As Jeremy Roenick would say, “that’s great for him, twice-fold”. Most of the departing players you know wanted to say more and likely bash Bill some more than they hinted at, but kind of toned things down in the end. One guy that should have taken the high road like Bulter is Dion Lewis. Here’s a guy who’s injury-prone to start with, is a bit player the first two years of his career, out of football the following two, then picked up off the scrap heap by Belichick in 2015. Then Bill gives him a 2-year extension after Dion got off to a flying start, then he gets hurt again. Plays half seasons in 2015 and 2016. The organization babies him early in 2017 and he has a huge second half. Then we hear that he was upset about his lack of early season usage and then about his lack of usage in the Super Bowl. And took some other thinly veiled shots on his way out the door too.
Good riddance Dion. Bill saved your career and then made you a ton of money. Glad you enjoyed it here. Whatever. Running backs are fungible here in New England.
Maybe there is a compromise with Guerrero to make everyone happy this coming season. Maybe Bill also tones the act down a bit for the current crop of players, I don’t know. But the way I see it, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Keep doing what you are doing Bill…keep winning those games and most of us could care less about these whiny ballplayers…
Welp, I was going to talk a bit about the draft here but got a little carried away. I’ll add some thoughts on this in another piece…