Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

April, 22, 2012
4/22/12
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. If I had to guess the few names that Bill Belichick will have written down on a piece of paper as first-round possibilities for the Patriots, it would start with Alabama safety Mark Barron and also include LSU defensive lineman Michael Brockers, Syracuse defensive end Chandler Jones, Alabama defensive end/outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, Boise State outside linebacker Shea McClellin and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith.

2. Of the group above, Barron is the one who stands above the rest in terms of his ability to be an immediate difference-maker in the team’s scheme. If the Patriots want him, they’d probably have to trade up into the 10-13 range to pull it off. They have the ammunition to do it, and with former Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli sitting at No. 11 with the Chiefs’ pick, it’s fun to consider the possibility of the sides consummating a deal.

3. If packaging the two first-rounders to move into that range nets Barron and a mid-round pick, I don’t see the downside for the Patriots. Safety remains a big question mark and a move like that would help solidify the position in the short- and long-term (Patrick Chung is a free agent after the 2012 season). Either way, I’m anticipating two safeties to be targeted by the team over the course of the draft/rookie free agency.

4. The right player has to be there, and if he is, this is the type of year I see the Patriots trading up instead of back. The rookie wage scale is one reason why. Another is that the team selected 33 players over the last three drafts. I think they need difference-making quality more than quantity, and they have the extra picks to make a move.

5. Wide receiver Taylor Price, the 2010 Patriots third-round draft choice who never emerged in New England, now faces another big obstacle with the Jaguars. Price sustained a stress fracture in his left foot during drills and is expected to miss the rest of the offseason. Between a late graduation that got him off to a slow start as a rookie, to missing last offseason because of the lockout, and now this, Price has had some unfortunate breaks when it comes to getting his NFL career going.

6. The Patriots and Ravens are viewed as two of the sharper teams when it comes to talent acquisition. Their current rosters highlight how they go about it differently – the Patriots have 74 players under contract, the Ravens just 54. The high total for the Patriots is geared toward building more depth.

7. Revealing stat from NFL Network draft guru Mike Mayock: “In the last eight drafts, there have been 23 QBs taken in the first round and 15 are starters. In that same time frame, there have been 82 quarterbacks drafted in rounds 2-7, and seven of them became starters.” For those doing the math at home, that’s less than a 10 percent chance of drafting a starting quarterback outside of the first round.

8. Nice to see local guy Zak DeOssie, the Giants’ long snapper, cash in with a three-year contract extension that averages more than $1 million per season. There was probably a time when DeOssie wondered if he was selling himself short by not focusing more on defense, but he has positioned himself to snap in the NFL for a long time, and make a lot of money doing it.

9. The Eagles are ready to unload cornerback Asante Samuel after four seasons and are reportedly seeking only a low draft pick in return. For all the angst over Samuel’s departure from New England in 2008, what does it say that the Eagles no longer want him? Makes one wonder if the Eagles regret giving him the big contract.

10. Just a hunch, but I don’t think the Patriots and Bill Belichick view the 2012 draft as highly as some others in recent years. Taking that hunch one step further, I think they’ll look to come out of it with a few must-haves (safety, front-seven help, dynamic returner) while hopefully positioning themselves well for 2013. All hunches, because no one truly knows what Bill Belichick is thinking, including many on his own staff.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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