New England Patriots: Patriots Draft Special

Draft video: Sizing up Jace Amaro

May, 1, 2014
May 1
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At the recent ESPNBoston.com Patriots draft party, our panel broke down Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro as a possible option for New England.

Trevor Matich called Amaro a matchup nightmare who, in combination with Rob Gronkowski, could present some problems for opposing defenses.

"No matter who you put on him, he's going to be faulty in some way that Amaro has the skills, size and strength to beat them," Matich said.

But Mike Reiss wonders if Amaro fits the mold for the type of tight end Bill Belichick prefers, saying Belichick is likely to ask "Is Amaro just a big receiver? And if he is just a big receiver, do I really value that in Round 1?"

Draft video: Gauging wide receivers

April, 30, 2014
Apr 30
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Will the Patriots be tempted to take advantage of the depth of wide receivers available in the upcoming draft? That question was posed to our panel at the recent ESPNBoston.com Patriots draft party.

Field Yates wonders if there's room for a rookie receiver to make an impact given the Patriots seemingly have five locks at the position on their roster (Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins, Brandon LaFell). Yates suggests if the Patriots pick a receiver, it would more likely be in the later rounds as a possible depth position.

Trevor Matich switches gears a little, turning the focus on tight ends, particularly Notre Dame's Troy Niklas. Matich says Niklas, a converted defensive end/linebacker who has been playing tight end for only a couple of years, has "great explosiveness" but also has the strength to be an effective blocker. "He could be a fantastic complement to [Rob] Gronkowski," Matich said.

In terms of improved production at receiver, Mike Reiss says the key is the development of second-year players such as Dobson as opposed to expecting any rookie to make an impact.

Video: Assessing Wilfork's health, role

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
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When considering the possibilities for the Patriots in the upcoming draft, the topic of Vince Wilfork's health came up with the panel at ESPNBoston.com's recent draft event.

The main question was whether or not Wilfork, who is coming off a torn Achilles, will be able to be an every-down player. Tedy Bruschi said that given the current Patriots roster, Wilfork will be needed to play every down, but that may not be a problem.

Bruschi said the offseason is hugely important for Wilfork. "He's so much of an athlete that he can come back in the best shape of his life and almost resurrect his career so he has another mini-career with the Patriots."

Mike Reiss brought up the notion held by some that a big nose tackle is less important these days with teams playing so much in sub packages, but disputed that idea, citing the Patriots' loss to the Broncos this season when Denver running backs gashed the New England line.

Draft video: Breaking down defensive ends

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
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As part of the recent ESPNBoston.com Patriots draft event, our panel looked at potential selections at defensive end.

The discussion began by looking at a pair from Notre Dame, Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix III. While Tuitt was hurt in 2013, Trevor Matich liked what he saw in 2012, borrowing a phrase from Dante Scarnecchia in saying Tuitt was a "rolling ball of butcher knives." Nix also had injury issues in 2013, but Matich said when healthy "he's hell on wheels." Matich said Nix can be an anchor at defensive end, but also can be disruptive, calling him a play-maker.

Next up was Dee Ford of Auburn, a favorite of our Field Yates. Matich classified Ford as a specialist pass-rusher with "a lot of different moves."

Pats Draft Special: What's the top need?

April, 23, 2013
4/23/13
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In this clip (above) from our Patriots Draft Special, Trey Wingo poses the question that is first on the mind of fans: What’s the one thing the Patriots have to get out of this draft?

To ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, the answer is an easy one: “I look at the team and I see them complementing in the draft at various positions. But I see a major hole at outside wide receiver that needs to be filled.”

ESPN Analyst Trevor Matich picked two big play receivers who would fit that need and potentially be available for the Patriots: Justin Hunter of Tennesee and Aaron Dobson from Marshall.

YOUR TURN: How would you rank the Patriots' draft needs? Click HERE to set your own Patriots priorities and see if your fellow fans agree.

Pats draft special: End for Brady/Belichick?

April, 22, 2013
4/22/13
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In this clip from our annual Patriots Draft Special, Mike Reiss, Tedy Bruschi and Trevor Matich discuss how much longer Tom Brady and Bill Belichick will be together in New England. Here's one highlight:

Reiss: Talking about Brady’s contract extension “If you asked Tom Brady honestly how long do you want to play, he’d say to that point, plus. I think he wants to even play beyond that. Of course the question is can he play beyond that? One thing I’d say that BB has said over the years that resonated with me is when you get to that point in your career the end can come quickly. It drops off fast … we haven’t seen that, but we have to be aware that that’s the case.”

Bruschi (laughing), responds to Reiss’ comment about it dropping off quickly.

Bruschi: “It does drop off quickly (laughter), yes. It’s a matter of one day you’re in training camp ... in my case you’re looking at yourself on film ... I remember watching a splicing of film when we were running a defense in training camp in 2009 and it was similar to what we were running in 2004, and it was spliced in ... You’d see the 54 of 2009 and then the 54 of 2004 and you’d say, ‘man, that guy’s good’ and then, ‘man, that guy’s slow.’

To hear more from the panel, watch the video above.

Pats Draft Special: Eye on WR position

April, 15, 2013
4/15/13
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In the wake of losing receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the Steelers, the Patriots’ outlook at receiver remains murky. Of the five receivers with the Patriots last season, only Julian Edelman (21 catches) is under contract for 2013.

So how will the Patriots upgrade at the position? The draft seems like their best option.

“They have to find a receiver in the draft, which they haven’t done since 2002 when they drafted Deion Branch and David Givens,” Mike Reiss said at ESPNBoston.com’s Patriots Draft Special (video above). “Their track record at the position isn’t very good. There’s no real answers out there in free agency right now. It tells us the importance at that position.”

Bill Belichick’s track record drafting receivers says it all.

2002: Deion Branch (second round) and David Givens (seventh round)
2003: Bethel Johnson (second round; traded up)
2004: P.K. Sam (fifth round)
2006: Chad Jackson (second round; traded up)
2009: Brandon Tate (third round)
2010: Taylor Price (third round)

“Based on that track record, what confidence should they have they’re going to get one?,” Reiss asked.

ESPN analyst Trevor Matich had some good news for the Patriots. He thinks receiver is one of the deepest positions in the draft. His advice for Belichick?

“What they really need is a receiver that can stretch the field,” said Matich, who added that a big play receiver would make defenses think twice about clogging the middle of the field to deal with with tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Pats Draft Special: DB signings in focus

April, 11, 2013
4/11/13
6:57
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In the second in a series of video segments from our annual Patriots Draft Special, ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Tedy Bruschi and Trevor Matich discuss the impact Adrian Wilson will have on the Patriots’ defense and what Aqib Talib has added to the defensive backfield (embedded above):

* Reiss on Wilson’s impact: “One word: toughness. I don’t even know if he’ll be a starting safety in the base defense, but when you consider the spread passing game is so prevalent, the Patriots were in a sub defense with 5 or 6 defensive backs 57 percent of the time last season. If he’s your top sub defensive back he’s a 57 percent playtime player. He brings you toughness. In my opinion, that is a big ingredient that has held this team back in some of those big time playoff games. He brings attitude ... Not the same ability as Rodney Harrison from where Harrison came here in 2003, but I think that’s an ingredient the coaching staff did want to add this offseason.”

* Bruschi on the trickle-down effect of adding Wilson and re-signing Talib: “If Wilson does man that strong safety spot at times and with the signing of Talib, Devin McCourty gets to stay at safety. You’ve got to leave him one place. Do you know how hard it is to play safety one down and be asked to play cornerback the next down? That’s hard to do.

Patriots Draft Special: Class of 2012

April, 10, 2013
4/10/13
2:02
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In the first in a series of video segments from our annual Patriots Draft Special, ESPN’s Mike Reiss, Tedy Bruschi and Trevor Matich review the 2012 draft class. Here are a few quick hits from the nearly 6-minute segment (embedded above):

* Bruschi on defensive lineman Chandler Jones: “He started out with a splash. I think that staying healthy and realizing the length of the season and stating to understand how much he’ll be depended on (will be important in Year 2). You’re the pass rusher, you’re the guy, the No. 1 guy that teams will be not only looking to scheme against but the Patriots will be looking to you to be productive in terms of sack numbers.”

* Reiss on linebacker Dont'a Hightower: “The question to me is can he stay on the field on third down? He’s a solid defender against the run, first and second down, but when they go to those sub packages, can he hang?”

* Matich on safety Tavon Wilson: “He’ll have an opportunity to either really rise up or really be discarded, depending on whether he can learn (to not make the same mistakes he made last season).”

Our NFL draft preview kicks off

April, 6, 2013
4/06/13
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Nearly 1,000 Patriots season-ticket holders packed the Putnam Investments club inside of Gillette Stadium on Saturday afternoon as part of the ESPN Boston 2013 Draft Preview, hosted by Trey Wingo of ESPN and featuring a panel comprised of ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich (a former Patriots first-round draft choice), colleague Mike Reiss and longtime Patriots linebacker and current ESPN NFL analyst Tedy Bruschi.

[+] EnlargeESPN Boston NFL draft event
Field Yates/ESPNBoston.comTrey Wingo hosted a panel featuring Mike Reiss, Tedy Bruschi and Trevor Matich.
The fans were treated to an engaging and insightful program that focused on the upcoming draft as well as the Patriots franchise, with several unique anecdotes shared from the panel.

The nearly two-hour event featured a rundown of topics that included a discussion of the Patriots cornerback and wide receiver positions, the impact of new safety Adrian Wilson, a debate on the Patriots' toughest competition in the AFC East and where the team stands in the AFC, plus videos of both head coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady "miked up" for sound during the 2012 season.

Matich offered his evaluations of several draft prospects, including wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson out of Tennessee, defensive tackle Jesse Williams from Alabama and defensive end Margus Hunt of SMU. He noted the impressive depth of this class at several positions, which should put the Patriots in good shape if they stay at pick No. 29 or attempt to trade back into the second round to accumulate more picks.

Bruschi's insight and analysis was one of a kind (and the crowd was thrilled to see the popular linebacker, as always), as he delivered the perspective of a player who played for Bill Belichick and understands what it takes to contribute to a championship team. He and the panel agreed that the team will be in good shape to compete in the AFC with both Belichick and Brady in place for the foreseeable future.

As always, Reiss' comprehensive understanding of the franchise's current state as well as his perspective from covering the team that dates back to before Belichick was hired as the coach shined through. Wingo and the panel encouraged audience participation, which included "fact or fiction" and "over/under" exercises. The receptive crowd had the opportunity to ask questions to the panel to close the program.

Video segments from the event will be posted in the coming weeks.

Video: How Rd. 1 QB run would help Pats

April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
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In the latest video from our SportsCenter Patriots Draft Special (watch above), NFL analyst and former Patriot Tedy Bruschi says Patriots fans should be rooting for a lot of quarterbacks to come off the board early in tonight's first round of the draft. Why? Let him explain ...

"The more quarterbacks that are selected before [the Patriots' pick at No. 17], the better the players that will drop down to them," says Bruschi. "So go ahead and take the quarterbacks, take the quarterbacks, take the quarterbacks because that will mean better offensive tackles and defensive linemen [available to the Patriots] ... that will give the Patriots even more flexibility than they already have."

Video: Pats' biggest need? Pass rusher

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
4:39
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What’s the Patriots’ biggest need in the upcoming draft? That was the topic in our latest video from the SportsCenter Patriots Draft Special from over the weekend. All of our panelists -- ESPNBoston.com’s Tedy Bruschi and Mike Reiss, ESPN draft guru Todd McShay and Patriots Football Weekly’s Andy Hart – agreed that there was no bigger need on this Patriots team than acquiring a premier pass-rusher.

“Fifty percent of the offensive snaps are coming out of sub packages. What does sub packages mean? It means all the receivers are coming onto the field, they’re spereading teams out,” Bruschi explains. “How do you counteract that type of offensive pressure? No. 1 you have to be able to cover. Defensive back-wise [the Patriots] are firm there.

“But the other way to stop those spread-out attacks is you have to get to the passer. You need that difference maker that’s going to be there in those critical situations because in those critical situations they’re going to throw the ball.”

Video: Talking Pats draft philosophy

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
3:26
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In the latest in our series of videos from our SportsCenter Patriots Draft Special (watch above), our panelists -- ESPNBoston.com’s Tedy Bruschi and Mike Reiss, ESPN draft guru Todd McShay and Patriots Football Weekly’s Andy Hart -- discuss the Patriots’ draft philosophy.

Will the Patriots move up in the draft? Will they move back? Will they stand pat and make their picks? Or will they move out of the draft and stockpile picks in the future?

Reiss, for one, thinks the Patriots -- consistent with Bill Belichick’s “big picture” philosophy -- will trade at least some of their nine picks this season into the future.

“The thing to think about next year, in 2012 they have just 5 picks,” Reiss said. “I can’t remember another time in Bill Belichick’s 11 years as coach that they’ve gone into the draft with such few picks the next year. I have no doubt that he’s going to try to add on to those this year.”

Video: Measuring progress for Patriots

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
11:25
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In the latest in our series of videos from our SportsCenter Patriots Draft Special (watch above), our panelists -- ESPNBoston.com’s Tedy Bruschi and Mike Reiss, ESPN draft guru Todd McShay and Patriots Football Weekly’s Andy Hart -- discuss the pressure that’s on the team next season to win a playoff game, something they haven’t done since 2007.

“Having lost the last two seasons in the [first round of the] playoffs, they do that again and you really start having some serious questions, like ‘What is going on?’,” Bruschi said. “So there is going to be a pressure situation come next postseason. That’s what I’m excited to see, whether they’ve made that progression and learned from those previous two playoff losses.”

Video: Ingram a good fit in N.E.?

April, 27, 2011
4/27/11
2:37
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In the video above, Todd McShay breaks down Alabama RB Mark Ingram -- who is expected to be picked in the first round of the NFL draft -- and the running back position for the Patriots.

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