AFC East: Ray Maualuga
Mark in Champaign, Ill., writes: Tim -- With the compensatory picks now allotted, the Pats have 12 picks. In my view, there is no way BB exercises all of those picks. To do so would be tantamount to throwing assets to the wind, simply because there are not 12 openings on this, still a very deep and talented roster. My prediction: The Pats will trade some picks to move up in one or more rounds to acquire a player or players of interest, and will also trade a pick or two for (higher value) choices in future drafts. Bottom Line: Don't be surprised if the Pats acquire only 7 or 8 new players on draft day. Your thoughts?
Tim Graham: The Patriots actually own 11 draft picks at the moment. Some rundowns floating around in cyberspace haven't deducted the fifth-round selection they sent to the Eagles for Greg Lewis.
Eleven draft picks still are a lot, and the Patriots simply won't have enough room on their roster to add that many players. To use them all would be wasting assets. That's why I do agree the Patriots likely will package multiple picks to acquire a player or make trades to push some of those picks into 2010.
Tim in Goodlettsville, Tenn., writes: Tim, As a Vandy follower during the Cutler years I never saw evidence of the player criticisms being leveled. I'd be the one of the first to say to JC, "Shut up and play the game," if it were merited. I also believe that due to his college experience, Jay was better suited to early NFL success than either Young or Leinart. The Hunchback of ND could have won under center at TX and SC. Are you hearing any any positive words floating around about the issue? Thanks, Tim
Tim Graham: You probably won't like my answer, but while I was at the NFL owners' meeting last week in Dana Point, Calif., Jay Cutler might have been the most popular topic of discussion. I spoke with several owners, general managers and coaches. Nobody I talked to came to Cutler's defense. They raved about Cutler's physical ability, but the general perception was that he needed to man up and get over his wounded feelings.
Eric in New York writes: what are the odds of jay cutler reaching the jets? What would be better, to draft a qb or go after cutler?
Tim Graham: If the Jets can go into the draft certain they can land one of the top three quarterbacks -- Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman -- then they should jump on one of them. The more we learn about Cutler, the more toxic he seems. Jets safety Kerry Rhodes this week spoke out against Cutler. Rhodes doesn't respect Cutler and insisted he's not alone in his feelings.
Leroy in Atlanta writes: Do you think that Ted Ginn Jr. can ever live up to the expectations of the Miami fans and Media? I think that because of where he was drafted and because of us passing up Brady Quinn,nothing he ever does, short of being a perinial Pro bowler, will ever validate him.
Tim Graham: Any criticism of the Dolphins' decision to draft Ted Ginn ninth overall is warranted. He doesn't need to be a perennial Pro Bowler. Not even close. Lee Evans hasn't been to one Pro Bowl, yet he's a bona fide No. 1 receiver for the Bills. But Ginn does need to be significantly more productive. He had one more reception than Greg Camarillo, who played only 11 games, and two more than Davone Bess. Neither Camarillo nor Bess was drafted.
Steve in York, Pa., writes: LT Peters - I don't see how giving him more money will help with his production. He gave up 11 sacks last year in only 13 starts. His best year was in 2006, so please, as a Bills fan move on.
Tim Graham: You're not alone, Steve. A lot of Bills fans are fed up with Peters. But he still is a valuable player despite his disappointing season. If the Bills were to move on, replacing a player at such a critical position would be difficult. If I were a Bills fan, I wouldn't be so eager to see Peters split.
Team needs: Outside linebacker, inside linebacker, tackle.
|John Pyle/Icon SMI|
|If the Patriots are unable to acquire Julius Peppers, USC linebacker Brian Cushing could be an option.|
Dream scenario: The Patriots will have the opportunity to acquire contributors at essentially any position they choose. They hold four selections from No. 23 to No. 58, giving them flexibility to go any number of directions from pick to pick.
After addressing cornerback by signing free agents Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs, the one glaring hole -- for now -- is at outside linebacker. The Patriots sent Mike Vrabel, a Pro Bowler two seasons ago, to the Kansas City Chiefs as part of the Matt Cassel deal. Pierre Woods, a third-year pro who wasn't drafted, is next in line for the job.
One of the more significant recent story lines, however, affixes an asterisk to outside linebacker as the Patriots' biggest need. They have been linked to Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers, who would switch to outside linebacker in Bill Belichick's 3-4 defense.
Plan B: The Patriots really can't go wrong whichever direction they choose. After the 23rd choice, they also own the 34th and 47th picks. They have flexibility to go after any number of positions.
A run-stopping inside linebacker is another focal point. Tedy Bruschi is on the downside of his career. He'll turn 36 before training camp. If the Patriots select an inside linebacker such as Southern California's Rey Maualuga (if he slides to No. 23) or James Laurinaitis, they could end up with the NFL's greatest young tandem. They drafted eventual defensive rookie of the year Jerod Mayo 10th overall last year.
Scouts Inc.'s take: "The Patriots are loaded. They've had a tremendous offseason. Them and Pittsburgh are clearly the best two teams in the NFL right now. They've done a tremendous job of making their weakness, which was their secondary last year, more than formidable. They have these four picks in the top two rounds. They're going to have some luxury items there. They might be able to grab the offensive tackle of the future or a receiver that they're shocked is still there. They've set themselves up extremely well to draft the best guy on their draft board. They don't have to attack any cornerback or one position at all." -- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: Belichick runs the show from top to bottom.
Now on the clock: Minnesota Vikings, March 25.