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So How’d They Do?

Talking about the New England Patriots’ performance in the NFL draft, that is.

Welp, since we’ve been considering that answer over the last week and a half or so, we have some sort of opinion, no?

But ummmmm…nope!  WHO THE HELL KNOWS??!

I know, we could pretty much make that assertion after ANY draft in ANY sports league.  I mean, how do we know how these guys will pan out several years down the road?

We don’t.

And guess what?

No one does.

Not even Mel Kiper Jr.  Or the guys on Boston sports radio this past week absolutely ripping Belichick for his selections.  I usually listen to a fair amount of sports radio, to be honest.  Shocker, I know!  But I couldn’t even listen this week.

Listen, I know with absolutely nothing else going on in the sports world, they have to talk about SOMETHING.  And what kind of entertainment would it be if they just agreed with everything the local teams did?

Wouldn’t be much of a show.  They know that.  And we SHOULD know that.

So let’s look at things a little more realistically.  Acknowledging that Bill’s recent draft history has left a lot to be desired as well.

But as we said previously, what teams’ draft history is perfect?  Or anywhere near that?

Again, absolutely nobody’s.

I still can’t fathom how Bill still gets ripped for his first rounders the last two years, running back Sony Michel, tackle Isaiah Wynn and wide receiver N’Keal Harry.

I know I wouldn’t have taken a RB or WR where they stood in those drafts, nor an OT that projected in the pros to be an offensive guard.  And that players taken after them in their respective years have outperformed them thus far.  But what the hell do I know?  More than people that scout these players?  Nope.  And neither do you.  And neither does Mel Kiper Jr., for that matter.

No one knows how the player will fit in the system of the particular team that drafts them.  Or in the locker room.  Or how sensitive they are.  Or how they will take to coaching.  Or good how that coaching actually is?  Or how they will react with a truckload of dollars being thrown at them for the first time.  Or their response to facing adversity on the field which they never had to in college or high school.  Or all that.

But the people who work for those professional teams should have a better idea than you or me.  Or Mel Kiper Jr.

They should anyway.  But that’s why some of them lose jobs, I guess.

In any event, I am not giving up on the aforementioned first rounders.  Wynn and Harry have largely been injured.  Harry could not gain Tom Brady’s trust, not the first receiver to have that happen to him.  Michel was pretty good as a rookie, once he got going.  He regressed as a sophomore.  His line sucked though.  And maybe not having a fullback really did affect him.  I don’t love the fullback excuse, but again, what the hell do I know?

Perhaps the fact that he can’t catch the ball and therefore when he was in the game, it screamed “run”.  But then again, maybe the rope wasn’t long enough after a few drops?  Keep throwing to him.  And maybe it works eventually?  I don’t know.  You would think the defense wouldn’t be so geared up to stopping the run when he is in the game at the very least…I would think anyway.

I will say that I don’t see any of that burst that he supposedly came with from college.  But perhaps without a knee surgery this offseason we will finally see that in his third year.  Or maybe his knees, which everyone knew would eventually become a problem as a professional, are actually shot.

I’m giving him a chance this year anyway.  I mean, Damien Harris and Rex Burkhead are still around, so there are other choices.  But one is unproven and the other gets hurt all the time.  Plus Michel doesn’t exactly make much dough.  So let’s see what happens.

Back to this years’ draft.

Yup, another shocker right off the bat.  After Bill traded out of the first round (not a shocker), he took a Division II safety at pick #37.  WHAT???!!  With one of the top safeties in college, at a top school (LSU), still on the board.

I initially thought this was crazy.  Not to mention that safety did not appear to be an immediate position of need.  I figured that this guy could return kicks and slot right into the departed Nate Ebner’s special teams spot.  And that is the best of what we were looking at.  Wouldn’t be Bill’s first second round defensive backfield bust, as we all know.

But then I started looking into this kid, Kyle Duggar.  He was slated to go in the second round of many mock drafts, so maybe it wasn’t a big a reach as I initially thought?  Yes, later in the second round in the mocks that I saw.  But one had him at #43, so that was a little promising anyway.

So now, it didn’t appear that this was a similar pick to Tavon Wilson, projected in the 7th, taken in the 2nd.  Or Duron Harmon, projected to be undrafted, taken in the 3rd, to name a couple.

And then, I realized that safety may be a bigger need than I thought.  Devin McCourty just re-signed for two years, but would it shock anyone if he is done after that?  Or even one year, with his brothers’ contract only having one year left?  Patrick Chung has been pretty good since he returned to the Patriots several years ago, but took a beating last season and may not be the same guy going forward.  Harmon is in Detroit.  Terrance Brooks and Adrian Phillips are best known for special teams.

If Duggar can adapt his game to this level over the next two years, adding to what he showed physically to get him to a second or third round grade, maybe he will be something?

Time will tell.

But what about other positions of need??  Or that LSU safety?

As for the LSU safety, maybe he looked good because his team was stacked?  Could be.

And the other “perceived” positions of need?  QB, TE, WR, OL, DT, LB?

Well, I thought they may take a QB.  But late.  Someone for the future, not someone to compete with Jarrett Stidham or, allegedly, Brian Hoyer.  I didn’t buy the talk that they were using a “premium pick” on a QB.  And that’s why they also let guys like Jameis Winston and Andy Dalton sign elsewhere.  I think they really believe in Stidham.  Yes, Cam Newton is still out there too.  But I just don’t see it.

Tight end.  They were not taking one that high.  Cole Kmet or no Cole Kmet.  He was supposedly the best of a weak tight end crop.  Doesn’t mean you have to take him.  Plus, they got two soon thereafter.  Maybe they aren’t that great either.  But maybe they will be similar enough to Kmet.

Receiver?  I honestly think they are happy with the guys they have now.  Hard to believe.  But I think, especially without Brady around, they expect Harry and Jakobi Meyers to establish a good rapport with Stidham and make a nice second year leap.  Or they are at least counting on it anyway.

O-Line.  The starters are back, including David Andrews.  So what you would be drafting here is for depth.  The Pats have a number of reserves coming back as well though, including two mid-round picks from 2019 that didn’t play a snap last year in Hjalte Froholdt and Yodny Cajuste.  And two guys they sent a draft pick for that barely played last season in Korey Cunningham and Jermaine Eluemunor.  So maybe they didn’t need to go too crazy here?  They did take a few late round guys that may be ticketed for the practice squad, so there’s that.

Defensive tackle.  Maybe they feel like another year in the system helps Byron Cowart, a fifth rounder from 2019.  And he seals up the 4th spot in the rotation.  Maybe one of the undrafted dudes makes it like Adam Butler did a while back.  Maybe they don’t care about stopping the run?  I’m not losing a whole lot of sleep about it though.  They move defensive ends, linebackers and even safeties around for run support.  So perhaps that is again the plan, despite it not working out all that great last season.

Linebackers.  The next two picks after Duggar were LBs…done.

So going through it objectively, does it seem like a bad draft at this very point in time?  No.  Not yet anyway.  If these players all suck, then it will be a bad draft.  But again, no one knows that now.

The Pats love versatility.  They got a whole ton of that in just about all of these guys.

And they got a kicker!  Who didn’t see that one coming?  The guy may have ummmm…made some questionable tattoo choices, but if he can kick I don’t think Bill cares.  If the tattoo is still there come the fall, methinks that will be addressed inside the locker room.  And that’s good enough for me.  For now, I will take the kid at his word though, that he was simply an idiot when he got it.  A stupid kid.  No crime in that.  That’s all too common nowadays actually.

In any event, supposedly this kid kicked plenty “in the elements”, which of course is important in Foxborough.  And probably a big reason that the bespectacled kid from Georgia wasn’t taken by them instead.  Though he wasn’t drafted by anyone so that probably says something as well.  If the kid doesn’t work out, then Nick Folk and yes, Stephen Gostkowski, will likely be available by the time they figure out if the kid sucks.

One thing I was surprised about was that Bill didn’t make any trades into the draft for next year.  He actually traded a sixth from 2021 as part of a trade in this years’ draft to move up.  But I guess that is neither here nor there.  He’s just going to move around a bunch in next years’ draft anyway.

So was this draft all this bad?  Again, we will see.  I expect the top 6 picks to provide some value to the team on the field in the upcoming season.  Perhaps their seventh pick (mammoth guard Michael Onwenu) makes the squad as well.  The last three guys are probably headed to the practice squad if they make it there.  That seems like a good percentage of picks sticking on the roster.  And then there is the undrafted player or two that always makes it.  Not bad on paper I would say.

We will just have to see how much value these guys actually add…long-term especially.  Come back in about three years and we can revisit…

Gronk…and the NFL Draft…

…well, let’s get these thoughts out there quickly, as the draft is almost here.

First on Gronk.

Similar to former QB (wow, that still seems weird to say!) Tom Brady, the Blowhard really wasn’t losing a whole lot of sleep on Rob Gronkowski’s status.

I mean, this is not even considering the nonsense Gronk has been into since he “retired”.  Wrestling, “acting”, pimping CBD oil, disastrous Fox pregame appearances…ugh…off the field, I’ve been wanting him to go away for quite some time.

None of that matters at all at this point, now that he is a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.

How do we feel about him returning to the field now?  And not back in a Patriot uniform?

Glad you asked!!

I don’t care.

I really don’t.

Listen, I LOVED Gronk when he was playing here.  Didn’t necessarily love some of his antics off the field when he was playing, similar to what he has done during his year off.  But while he was laying his body on the line, making huge plays and helping the Pats win games and ultimately Super Bowls, I just dealt with the silliness like everyone else.

Could he have helped presumptive new QB Jarrett Stidham this upcoming season?  Absolutely.  No question about it.

But let’s also face some facts.  He will be 31.  Seemingly not that old.  But he has taken an absolute beating over the years.  Amazing he has lasted this long, what with his back problems that started when he was in college and then the surgeries he has had as a pro.  Not to mention the other injuries he had, including the ones we probably never even knew about.

On a team that is retooling on the fly, with only one definitive other viable receiving option right now (a 34 year old, similarly banged up Julian Edelman), with Gronk once again facing double and triple teams (perhaps based on reputation as well), how enticing would a return to New England be for him?  And how effective would he be as a result?

In Tampa, he may be the third or fourth option.  More enticing for him for sure.  He also may be asked to not work as hard, as they have other capable tight ends on the roster.  Two for now, but at least one will be there in September.  The Pats have no other capable tight ends.  Hard to believe they will add anyone else there either.  A draft pick maybe.  But how reliable will that guy be this current season?

The beatings would continue if he came back here.

Let’s also face this:  Gronk was done with playing in New England.  And that’s ok.

Rumors have it that he was indeed dealt to Detroit for a first round pick before the 2018 season.  But threatened to retire.  So the deal never happened.

He only wanted to play with Brady.  So now he is unretiring to play with Brady.

And I am ok with that too.

I do wish, for the betterment of the team, that if Bill Belichick felt that trading Gronk for a first rounder was the best way to go, that it was allowed to happen.  But it wouldn’t have been the first time a higher up squashed something an underling wanted to do.  So be it.

I also don’t believe that Gronk is that unstoppable force anymore that he was throughout his career.  Injuries have taken their toll for sure.  Looked like throughout during the 2018 season anyway.  He will be an asset to the Bucs, no question.  And maybe win a game for them next season.  He will also most assuredly be better than any Patriot tight ends this year as well.  But it is hard to believe he will be an All-Pro again.  Time will tell.

Jason Witten took a year off and came back.  No great shakes in his return.  Yes, he is also much older than Gronk.  But I think we can draw some parallels.

I would have liked to have gotten more than a fourth round pick for him (while also trading a seventh rounder).  But he wasn’t playing for the Pats anyway.  Under any scenario.  And he could have unretired first, had his remaining salary go up against the cap to cause the Pats to have to frantically cut someone, trade someone or restructure one or more deals.

So there were a couple of sides to that story.

It seems to me that the end result made everyone happy.  We will just have to see how it plays out.  But I am not fretting the departure of Gronk.  Things will be ok.

Though I guess Bill would have taken that first rounder a couple of years ago over the fourth rounder now…

As for the draft, what will the Patriots do?

WHO THE HELL KNOWS?!

Haha…seriously though, what do I think?

Again, glad you asked!!

You’ve heard all the rumors:  Trade up for Tua, trade down for picks, trade picks into next year because the coronavirus will limit the offseason programs and perhaps even training camp itself, trade Joe Thuney, trade for O.J. Howard, take a quarterback high to compete for the job…etc.

Oh and “Bill never takes a running back in the first round”, then he takes Sony Michel in 2018.  And “Bill never takes a wide receiver in the first round”, then he takes N’Keal Harry in 2019.

We could go on all day.  The only thing that is certain is that Bill will take a guy that will really only be able to play special teams in the NFL in the 5th-6th round.  That doesn’t include the kicker that will likely be drafted in the middle rounds.

Nothing would surprise me.  Nothing.

Another hot take is that “releasing Cody Kessler is a real sign the Pats will definitely take a QB in the draft”.

It is??!

Why?

They have like 24 open roster spots.  They could go sign a Cam Newton or Jameis Winston eventually if they wanted to.  Or trade for Andy Dalton.  Or…gasp…re-sign Kessler eventually if nothing else materializes.  They could re-sign Kessler as a fourth arm, even if they do sign, trade or draft another dude.

But I don’t see them taking a QB as automatic.

If they take someone high, it may be an admission that the team does not believe that Stidham is the long term guy.  And what would that do for his confidence?

I could see them taking a QB late, a Danny Etling type.  Practice squad type guy to roll the dice on.  But I don’t see them trading up for anyone.  Or taking a guy relatively high.  Jake Fromm?  Perhaps.  But what is that, 4th-5th round?  Unlikely a threat to Stidham.

I really do think they are rolling with Stidham and Hoyer this season.  For better or for worse.

As for the actual picks, my opinion?  As it stands, the Patriots have 12 draft picks.  They will wheel and deal like they normally do.  Even with everyone drafting from home, fantasy football style.  Might not be as easy.  But I bet a lot of the legwork has been done already (e.g. the deal will likely happen only if a player is still available in that certain spot).

It will be fascinating to watch.  Mainly because it is the first “post-Tom Brady” draft.  Also because, well, there is nothing else going on in sports.

Specifics?  Best I can do is:

They WILL draft a kicker.

They MAY draft a QB, but mid to late rounds.

They WILL draft a lot of fat guys on the line, on both sides of it.

They MAY trade a pick or two into next years’ draft.

They WILL not trade up in the first round.

They MAY stand pat in the first round (instead of trading down) and take a non-skill position player.

They WILL entertain offers for G Joe Thuney, but won’t give him away.

They MAY make a real player deal or two (Howard?  Another veteran on the outs with another organization?)

That about sums it up.  About as an expert analysis as you will get East of Mel Kiper Jr.!

One last thing, there WILL be some technical difficulties during the draft.  May be minor, as the NFL did a trial run the other day to work out the kinks.

But seeing that this event is going to break television records apparently, would anyone be surprised if the hackers were heavily involved?  People are talking about coaches or team reps losing internet access, blue screens, miscommunications with Roger Goodell and issues along those lines.

Wouldn’t shock me to see a little porn being thrown up on the screen at some point during the telecast.

Just sayin’…

So Where Do They Go From Here? Part II

No need for any preamble here.  We will jump right into the “non-Brady” positions:

Running back:

Under contract:  Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, James Develin (FB), Jakob Johnson (FB)

Free Agents:  None

Comments:  Now that we have vomited up all those words on Brady, how much can we say here?  Well, in this section, not much.  All of these guys but Michel and Harris will be entering the final year of their contracts in 2020.  If Harris is ready to contribute after essentially a redshirt year (read:  learning how to pick up blitzes), then that could make Burkhead or (gasp!) White expendable.  I doubt it on White, but at a 4.6 mil cap hit, maybe he gets an extension.  Burkhead’s 4 mil cap hit could put him in jeopardy, but honestly, I’d find a way to keep them all around.  Remains to be seen how Develin recovers from his neck injury, so that could factor into any decision making at this position.  Michel isn’t going anywhere, despite his largely disappointing play to start his career.

Wide receiver:

Under contract:  Julian Edelman, N’Keal Harry, Mohammed Sanu, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Quincy Adeboyejo (Futures), Devin Ross (Futures)

Free Agents:  Phillip Dorsett

Comments:  Bye bye Phil.  At least I hope.  But there is work to be done here.  Is there going to be space on the roster?  You have to figure Jules, Sanu and Harry are locks to return.  Despite Sanu’s ineffective play down the stretch.  Maybe the ankle injury was worse than we knew.  Maybe an offseason in the offense will help.  Hard to believe the Pats will give up on him.  Jules isn’t going anywhere.  Hope he heals up and they can lessen his load a bit next year.  Harry needs to take that next step.  Meyers may also get that chance.  There should be one more quality veteran added here as far as I am concerned though.  And I am not talking about the return of Gunner.

Tight end:

Under contract:  Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo

Free Agents:  Benjamin Watson

Comments:  Great career Ben and thank you for your service.  I will never forget you chasing down Champ Bailey in 2005.  But the only thing that needs to be said about this group is that they all should be flushed and the personnel has to be completely revamped here.  Will Rob Gronkowski come back for one more run?  It’s only a matter of time before we start hearing that nonsense.  But I will say I won’t rule it out.  Hopefully, he won’t do all that garbage leading up to any kind of announcement.  But after a year off, it would not shock me if he felt awesome and wanted to give it one more go.  I’m not banking on it, however.

Offensive line:

Under contract:  Isaiah Wynn (LT), David Andrews (C), Shaq Mason (RG), Marcus Cannon (RT), Korey Cunningham (T), Hjalte Froholdt (G), Yodny Cajuste (T), Najee Toran (Futures)

Free Agents:  Joe Thuney (LG), Ted Karras (C), James Ferentz (C), Marshall Newhouse (T), Jermaine Eluemunor (G) (Restricted)

Comments:  A return to good health for Andrews will be a huge boost…if indeed that is the case.  I don’t know where he stands with that though.  From people who actually analyze offensive line play, Karras was “ok”.  But the main criticism was that he “couldn’t block at the second level”, which seems important…especially for Michel.  Since, you know…Michel can’t seem to gain any yards on his own.  Have to imagine Thuney will get megabucks elsewhere and since the team is already paying one guard (Mason) a lot of money for the next 4 seasons, it’s doubtful they pay a second guard even more.  Mason had his problems last season and hopefully, they were injury related as many have intimated.  Wynn was hurt for a great deal of the year, but maybe he finally plays a full season next year.  Perhaps that is at Thuney’s old position since that’s where many felt he belonged when he was drafted.

Cunningham was rarely active after being traded for late in the preseason.  Seems like a waste.  But maybe offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia knew he was a project and was preparing him (and Eluemunor?) for 2020 instead?  Maybe Froholdt and Cajuste learned something in their year off and can apply that on the field in 2020 as well?  Cannon was kind of putrid this season and at his high cap number could be a casualty.  Especially if any one of those jamokes can contribute something going forward.

The bottom line was that this group was not very good this year.  Whether help comes from one or two or three of these guys from within or the outside, this position will be crucial to address.  Especially if the aforementioned 43 year old QB returns.  Kind of goes without saying I suppose.

Specialists:

Under contract:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Jake Bailey (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Brandon Bolden (ST), Brandon King (ST)

Free Agents:  Matthew Slater (ST), Nate Ebner (ST), Nick Folk (K), Justin Bethel (ST)

Comments:  Slater will have a contract if he wants one.  Bethel maybe too.  Hell, Likely Ebner as well.  I will say that I’m really not too worried about the gunners in any way, shape or form.  I AM worried about the kicker position though.  Does Gostkowski’s hip heal enough in order to justify the 5 mil cap hit on technically the last year of his deal?  Folk actually kicked pretty well for a fraction of that.  Mike Nugent sucked for likely that same fraction.  And Kai Forbath didn’t inspire confidence in his one game.  4 kickers this year after only 3 the last 23 years…with one of those for only 8 games.  I ask the people that wanted Gostkowski gone the past few years, how you feeling now?  Perhaps there is an open competition next summer between Gostkowski (if he is ready to go), Folk and some kids, perhaps a draft pick?  We will see how that goes.  But we cannot have any more Mike Nugent’s running around Foxborough.  Not if the Patriots expect to compete.

Next:  The defense.

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