Quick-hit thoughts around NFL & Pats

May, 6, 2012
5/06/12
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Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:

1. Pepper Johnson has spent the last eight seasons as Patriots defensive line coach, but word inside Gillette Stadium is that he will work with the linebackers this season. Patrick Graham would move from linebackers coach to the defensive line if Bill Belichick follows through with that plan.

2. This year’s draft marked the first time since 2006 that Bill Belichick wasn’t able to swing a trade that produced a selection in the following year’s draft. In his 13 drafts with the Patriots, there have only been three times that has happened – 2004, 2006 and 2012. That ties in to the thought that Belichick was having trouble finding trade partners. On a related note, the Patriots are without fifth- and sixth-round picks in the '13 draft from the Albert Haynesworth/Chad Ochocinco deals.

3. Like the Patriots, I think the Jets were also stuck at times when it came to trades in the draft. With at least one club, I was told that they were aggressively looking to move down a handful of spots in the first round from the 16th pick, but just didn’t see enough value in return to back out.

4. When I first heard of Terrell Suggs’ Achilles injury, the thought was that Andre Carter could be a nice addition for the Ravens when/if healthy. Losing Suggs for any stretch of time is a major blow, but I think it would be a mistake to count the Ravens out.

5. When the Steelers selected undersized linebacker Sean Spence (5-11, 231) in the third round, it was a reminder that prototypes aren’t as important in today’s NFL, as he is undersized for their scheme. The same could be said for the Jets and linebacker Demario Davis (6-2, 235), a third-rounder out of Arkansas State. Both might not fit the traditional style of inside 'backer the teams have seeked in the past, but as Bill Belichick said, more and more of the game is being played in space. That's why I thought Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David (6-1, 233) could have fit the Patriots.

6. I think you can learn a lot about a coach, and what’s important to him, during his first draft with a team. I say that in contrasting the Buccaneers and Rams on draft day; I thought Greg Schiano’s Bucs were solid and picked up some solid, core prospects, while Jeff Fisher’s Rams took more players with high-risk but big-time potential.

7. Whenever I hear an anonymous scout mention that he had a low grade on a player that went to another team in a higher round, I think of Deion Branch and the Patriots in 2002. That was the year Branch was labeled a reach, a better fit in the fifth round instead of the second. That is my classic example of how players will fit in certain schemes differently.

8. The NFC, which has won three straight Super Bowls and four of the last five, looks considerably stronger than the AFC. This is, of course, good news for the Patriots. Seems like yesterday we were citing the stat of how the AFC won eight of 10 Super Bowls (from 1997-2006).

9. The Patriots have Nate Ebner. The Jets have Hayden Smith. Who knows, maybe a rugby game breaks out when the teams meet?

10. Here’s a name to remember when it comes to the Patriots’ personnel department – Monti Ossenfort. The Patriots have one of the smallest draft rooms in the NFL, but Ossenfort, who just concluded his third year as a national scout and seventh Patriots season, joined the inner circle on draft day this year.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter

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