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Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Who belongs in Patriots HOF?

By Mike Reiss
ESPNBoston.com

This week's Patriots mailbag has a different twist to it.

After weeks and weeks of draft talk, the team's Hall of Fame -- and specifically Bill Parcells' candidacy -- takes center stage. Parcells' candidacy has sparked great debate.

Speaking of the Patriots Hall of Fame (you can vote for the three finalists here), readers are invited to join me Thursday night for a discussion of the NFL draft and sports media (ticket to the Hall required for entry). The discussion is scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. but plan to arrive early and tour the Hall if you haven't already. There is a lot to like.

Let's get right to the questions.

Q: Hey Mike. I don't care what people have to say about Bill Parcells. I have all the respect in the world for this guy. He is the one that turned the franchise around, got us the Willie McGinest, Tedy Bruschi, Troy Brown and Co. Without him, New England would have just been another Buffalo, and we most likely wouldn't have even seen Bill Belichick as head coach. He should also be considered for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Thoughts? -- Andrew (Thornton, Colorado)

A: Andrew, I think Parcells' candidacy is one of extremes. On one hand, you have the point of view you expressed. When Parcells came in 1993, that's when my passion for football was truly ignited. So I agree with you. On the flip side, the way Parcells handled his exit -- and how his future was the story of the Super Bowl and ultimately was a distraction -- was quite damaging. I had Parcells second on my ballot this year, behind Drew Bledsoe. As for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I do believe Parcells will get strong consideration when eligible.

Q: Mike, many fans view the Patriots' Hall of Fame selection committee nomination of Parcells controversial, and believe that the selection committee and media in particular are biased towards Parcells. They note Parcells W-L record among many reasons why he's unworthy. I believe the selection committee did a good job, rising above many fans inability to forgive Parcells for leaving the way he did -- and they've accurately recognized the important role Parcells played in turning an organization around during one of its most tumultuous periods.Could you expand upon what you think the reasons are that the committee has deemed Parcells deserving of induction to the Patriots HoF? -- Jack (Providence)

A: Jack, I think you hit on the big one. When Parcells arrived in 1993, the Patriots were at the bottom of the NFL. When he left, they were a Super Bowl team. His presence brought credibility to the franchise, and the personnel decisions he helped make -- or made, depending on who you believe -- laid the foundation for future success. Does that overshadow the way he left the franchise? That's a fair question and one that leads to passionate debate. I believe Parcells deserves a spot in the Hall, but not over Bledsoe this year.

Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe
Bill Parcells and Drew Bledsoe were together in New England from 1993-96.

Q: It's a no-brainer on Bledsoe to Pats HOF. I think he actually deserved the MVP of the 2001 Super Bowl without even playing a snap. If you recall, he helped win the Steelers game and there was a question as to who would start at quarterback in the Super Bowl. He knew he wasn't starting but he showed he's a class act and didn't disrupt the team. In an age when primadonna QBs will destroy a team's entire season for their personal interests, Bledsoe did the most Patriot thing ever, he kept his mouth shut and put the team first. He's not a better QB than Brady but he deserves to be in the HOF. -- Fletch (NH)

A: Fletch, I agree on Bledsoe, although I focus more on the body of work than what happened in 2001. For the better part of eight seasons, Bledsoe performed at an extremely high level for the Patriots. His powerful right arm brought hope to a franchise that had fallen on hard times prior to his arrival.

Q: Hi Mike, just wondering if you had any public comment on Tom Brady being driven to tears while discussing getting drafted in the sixth round, 199th overall some 11 years after the fact? While I guess, in a light most favorable to him, it establishes a solid baseline for what motivates him to greatness, I also think that it is absolutely bizarre (to use kind words) that a guy with perhaps a $100 million in income, 3 SuperBowls rings, 2 MVPs, and a supermodel for a wife would cry about something so trifling some 11 years later. -- Tom (Boston)

A: Tom, I thought Brady's emotion was real, and it was a reminder that you could make $1 or $1 million, or be single or date a supermodel, and it doesn't affect what makes you tick from a competitive perspective. I didn't think it was about money, status or anything like that with Brady. I think his emotion was as much about the support his parents showed to him on that day as it was about dropping to 199.

Q: I just finished watching "The Brady 6", and I found it amazing. I feel horrible just thinking about the idea of Brady retiring, but do you think it is a good idea to draft a QB in the later rounds to groom? I'm just thinking that the possibility that Brady gets injured like Drew Bledsoe did, and as much as I think Brian Hoyer is a good player, could he be a reliable starter like Matt Cassel was? Who do you think would be an option for the Pats in this draft? -- Pierre (Paris, France)

A: Pierre, I wouldn't rule out Hoyer in that role, but I also think it's good business to draft and develop quarterbacks. I wouldn't make the QB pick within the first three rounds, unless it was the last third-rounder (Iowa's Ricky Stanzi?). I still think you have another couple of years before needing to think along those lines.

Q: Hi Mike, do you think the lockout will change the way the Pats handle the draft? They can't trade picks for players because of it. Of course they can still trade down and get picks for next year. -- Gary K. (Haverhill, Mass.)

A: Gary, I don't see it playing a huge factor when it comes to what happens on April 28-30. It highlights a few open areas on the roster (e.g., running back) a bit more than it normally would, but I still expect them to be wheeling and dealing.

Q: Mike, one of the things that I don't think is being discussed enough about the upcoming draft is the potential for the "Taylor Price Effect" to resonate throughout the entire draft class. Price's development was hurt by the fact that he couldn't practice with the team through all the rookie camps and mini-camps due to the fact that his school held graduation so late. With the lockout this year, there is the very real potential (I would almost call it a certainty at this point) that all passing camps, rookie camps and mini-camps simply will not be held. This would greatly reduce the ability of rookies to get acclimated to the system and stunt their development for this year. With that being said, I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Bill push a lot more picks into next year than we're all anticipating. Your thoughts? -- Chris (Watertown, Mass.)

A: Chris, I envision Belichick making 7-8 picks this year, with an attempt to push at least one of them into 2012. Right now, the Patriots have only five picks in 2012 as a result of 2010 trades for linebacker Tracy White and safety Jarrad Page. I believe it will be on Bill Belichick's radar to replenish that supply. I think the "Taylor Price Effect" is worthy of discussion, but I don't see it having a huge effect on the team's dealings in the draft because there is some good talent this year at normally hard-to-find areas (e.g., defensive line, offensive tackle).

Q: What are the chances that the Pats trade up to draft Julio Jones or Robert Quinn? And if we do trade up is there any chance we draft Mark Ingram, Anthony Castonzo, a quarterback, or all three? I would like to have all of them, although a quarterback is the least of our worries. We need a playmaker at receiver and running back and outside linebacker. We also need a left tackle so this draft is very important. -- Samuel (Neulus▀heim/Germany)

A: Samuel, I thought director of player personnel Nick Caserio provided solid insight in this area when he said things are usually pretty calm until 5-8 picks out. That's when trade talks heat up, so I don't see the Patriots moving up past nine this year. I don't see the quarterback early. In the end, I think they'll be going defense, with a focus on the front seven.

Q: Bill Belichick has been reluctant to draft a conversion DE/OLB number one in the draft, perhaps due to the projection that is needed to do so. Is he warming up to the possibility of drafting an OLB/DE in the first round because there aren't many pure OLBs in college any more and this is just the the way of the NFL today? The Patriots need to improve their pass rush. Hopefully for the second year in a row they will draft an OLB that was a DE in college to get that upgrade that they need. There are a lot of good ones this year, Justin Houston included. Thoughts? -- David (North Attleboro, Mass.)

A: David, for those reading into Bill Belichick's remarks on Sirius NFL Radio on Monday, one could make a case he is considering the possibility of drafting a defensive end/outside linebacker early. I thought the most revealing part of the interview was when Belichick said, "I think when we look back on it in a couple of years, and evaluate it, it will probably come down to which teams are able to evaluate those front-seven positions the best." That could mean defensive end/outside linebacker, or a defensive lineman. I tend to lean toward the defensive lineman early.

Q: OK Mike, you're on the clock at 17 and Da'Quan Bowers has slipped to that point. Now depending on what the team docs say, do you pick him? -- Jason Brown (Nova Scotia)

A: Jason, you've put me in a tough spot. I'm going to go back to what Bill Belichick said on Sirius NFL Radio on Monday. "The most important thing that a player has is his three or four years of production and performance," he said. Bowers has one year and that would concern me, so I'm passing based on the risk.

Q: Mike, why the infatuation with Cam Heyward? Great physical attributes but a no-show on too many plays, experts say. Saw him play 2 games this past year and he did nothing. Rather have Cameron Jordan or J.J. Watt. Heyward is a second rounder but I wouldn't even take him at No. 33. Would be a steal in middle of 2nd however. What is your defense to my attack? -- Pete (Tampa, Fla.)

Ohio State Buckeye defensive end Cameron Heyward
Could Ohio State defensive end Cameron Heyward end up in New England?

A: Pete, my opinion of Heyward was shaped at the combine, mostly from an off-field perspective. I was very impressed with him. As for the football side, you've seen him play more than me, so I rely more on analysts/scouts that I listen to or talk with, and they see a player who fits well with what the Patriots do. If we look hard enough, we can find knocks on all these prospects. When Richard Seymour was coming out in 2001, many were wondering about his lack of sacks his final season. When Matt Ryan was coming out in 2008, many noted his high interception total. None of these players is a finished product, so you have to project a bit. I agree on Jordan and Watt, but think both will be gone at No. 17.

Q: Mike, I'd like to see the Patriots pick defensive linemen or outside linebackers with their first 3 picks. At the very least, with their first 2 picks. People keep writing that the Pats need offensive linemen, but I believe you have to get the elite pass rushers early, and then you can still get offensive linemen in the second, third and fourth rounds, especially with the offensive line coach the Pats have. Dante Scarnecchia turns sixth and seventh round picks into decent pros, I don't think he would have any trouble with second to fourth round talent. What are your thoughts on this? -- Don Choate (Brockton, Mass.)

A: Don, I like the idea of going with defense early, as well, but I think one has to be careful about assuming that a top offensive line coach can simply turn players into top contributors. Building off your point, however, one thing Bill Belichick said on Sirius NFL Radio on Monday was that this offensive line class is interesting in the sense that there are more tackles who project to guard than a normal year. I took that to mean that there is good depth at guard when getting deep in this draft, opening up possibilities for teams after the early rounds.

Q: Hey Mike, I was wondering what are your thoughts, if any, on Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin. He certainly has the size and other intangibles to be that outside presence that some Pats fans are coveting. But I've recently heard that there are some concerns about his maturity and character. Seeing how the Pats have not shied away from adding players with character concerns to their roster in the past, do you think he might be a player that could be on the Pats radar if he is still available in the mid to late rounds of the draft? -- Andrew (Kingston, R.I.)

A: Andrew, Baldwin is projected to go in the second-round range. I think this will ultimately be determined by the Patriots' comfort level with the non-football areas because Baldwin has a lot of things going for him football-wise for teams looking for a receiver. I think the Patriots would be better off focusing on other positions, if all things were equal, but it wouldn't shock me if Baldwin is on the radar depending on how the draft unfolds.

Q: Mike, As a Pats fan in Indiana, I was wondering what your thoughts were on WR Tandon Doss from IU? I watched about every game he played in and the guy is a playmaker with great hands and ball skills. He may not have great speed, but at 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, he would bring a different element to our WR corp. His stock seems to have fallen due to a slow time at his pro day, but he's coming off offseason surgery. -- Scott Mundell (Valpariso, Ind.)

A: Scott, I like Doss from what I read from analysts who have watched him/studied him more than I have. He had solid production, and it sounds like he's slipping in the eyes of some because of testing numbers. I wouldn't rule him out if the Patriots are thinking receiver in the second, third or fourth rounds.

Q: Hey Mike. There are lot of talented players in this year's draft and two of the players that I'm most interested in are Casey Mathews (Oregon) and Daniel Thomas (Kansas State). Mathews comes from a football family and could be a good asset to this team for years to come. As for Thomas, he's a big back who runs down hill and can catch the ball. I think adding him to the backfield along with Green-Ellis and Woodhead would create problems for any defense. Thoughts? -- Brendan (Lincoln, Maine)

A: Brendan, in the Patriots' defense, Matthews projects to inside linebacker/special teams, and the Patriots have a lot of personnel there with Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes, Gary Guyton and Dane Fletcher. I think it would be tough for him to break through. Meanwhile, Thomas has good size in a year that Bill Belichick pointed out includes a lot of small backs. I could see him on the team's radar.

Q: Mike, great stuff from Nick Caserio on the Patriots scouting process. Please send some feedback to the Pats that, from a fans perspective, this was really interesting and informative. I'd love to see them give media members other tidbits like this than waste time with press conferences where eveyone knows they're not going to tip their hand. -- Fred (Boston)

A: I'm glad you like it, Fred. I enjoyed it as well.

Mike Reiss covers the New England Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.