Good afternoon and thanks for joining today's chat. One of the questions I was thinking about today is how many rookies realistically have a chance to make this 2011 Patriots team. I just posted my thoughts on that (10 is the number I picked) over on the Patriots blog.
Tough shovel this morning. It wasn't so much that the snow was heavy, but we're running out of places to put it here. I felt like I went through Mike Woicik and Harold Nash's demanding Patriots strength workout this morning, trying to get that snow up over the high banks along the driveway. Thankfully, we're currently getting hit with the sun and I'm seeing some solid melt.
Let's chat until 1 p.m. Looking forward to seeing what's on everyone's mind.
Any chances the pats get Ocho?
I'm not a big advocate of a move for Ocho, because I think it stunts the development growth of Brandon Tate/Taylor Price. I don't want to close the book on those guys yet. Think they have a lot to offer going forward.
Hey Mike, what's up with the 3rd down defense? Last in the nfl for what 3 years in a row? That must be an nfl record. Think they are finally able to fix it next year with a pass rusher?
Peter, the more I've looked back on the 2010 season over the last 10 days, the more it comes back to pass rush and attitude/nastiness at the line of scrimmage. If they have a chance to get a Clay Matthews-type this year, they can't pass again. Looking back, that one hurts.
Who do you think will win the super bowl?
Stephanie, I'm going with the Packers. I expect a competitive game.
How did you think Cunningham and Brace played this year!? and thoughts on them going into next year?
Joe, I thought Cunningham tailed off at the end of the year. Brace was up and down. I specifically remember watching the Dec. 6 game against the Jets, locking in on him at LDE, and he was on his back a few times. I think they'll both be on the club in 2011, with Cunningham currently having the greater upside.
Hey Mike, Given the youth movement in Foxboro and the abundance of high picks, do you see the Pats possibly walking away from a guy like Matt Light altogether ? We know that Vollmer can be successful at LT. We can draft a guy like Carimi to slide into his more natural RT spot, hope that Kazcur is able to come back to provide depth and use the saved Light money to sign Mankins ? What do you think ?
Marcus, I don't see the Patriots walking away from Light. They have an interest in extending him, if the price is right of course. I think they should be able to sign both. I don't think it's a one-or-the-other type deal. Because Light's deal figures to be a shorter term (2-3 years, I'd guess), my feeling is that one should be easier to consummate.
Jumping on your tweet, I guess the question is whether BB uses a lot of draft picks and builds more competition, or he trades up for a guy or two, or he trades for future picks? I think it will be a combo of all three, if that makes sense? Thoughts?
One point on the idea of asking the question "How many rookies can realistically make the roster?" is that I don't think the Patriots want to draft a wide receiver if that player is going to knock Taylor Price off the roster. They've invested in Price and want to see what he can do. So, from my view, these are the things that you weigh when projecting how many rookies could really earn a spot. I agree with your "combo" idea.
Mike, the ending of the season forces Pats fans to confront the looming reality of the CBA negotiations. However, our interest pales in comparison to the impact a work stoppage would have on Pats' players. How concerned, on a scale of 1 to 10, do you think the players (and their agents, by extension) are about the possibility that they could lose game checks over this battle?
Very concerned, John. I'd put it around 7-8 based on players I spoke with. One was holding off plans to expand his family because he wasn't sure what his health-care situation would be like.
Can Ty Warren be counted on next year?
I think so, Joe. At the same time, one conversation I had with a GM within the last year opened my eyes on this topic in general. We were talking about the perception of players and how volatile that is from year to year. A player might be considered a first-round talent one year. But let's say he's coming off surgeries in back to back years, what is he then? I'm not sure I'm explaining it well, but the idea is that the wear and tear on the bodies of these players can't be minimized and expecting a player to simply pick up at his prior level of performance is not a given after multiple surgeries. I believe that is something to watch with Warren.
Hi Mike, With all the picks and the whole debate on whether or not some of the draftees won't make the team, do you find it plausible that they possibly trade for a veteran at a need position?
I could see it, Ryan, but I'm not counting on it. I think personnel moves like that -- which are not related to draft picks -- will be significantly down this year because of the uncertainty of what's ahead labor-wise.
Mike, no way I could foresee that we are discussing Rich Ohrnberger before ProBowl.Well, depth of OL has been an issue this season, part of which is created by Mankins holdout.After the draft Coach Belichick gave a high praise to the OL draftees, but no one was kept on the roster, though Ted Larsen finished his first NFL year as starter at Tampa Bay.Rich Ohrnberger was mostly inactive this year so he should be at the bottom of the depth chart.He was used exclusively as G on the final regular season game, which means he's not the heir to Dan Koppen.My questions are is Rich Ohrnberger better than Ted Larsen? and, is Steve Maneri better than Ted Larsen? What's wrong with the School of Scar?
Fair question, Mark, and one I don't have the answer to. I didn't see Larsen play this year. Could be a situation where the Patriots pulled the plug a bit too early on Larsen, so let's see how it plays out.
Mike:The Pats need a few impact (not value) players on defense (OLB/DLine), a solid O Line prospect and an RB. They have the picks to easily move into the 10-12 range. They traded up to number 10 to get Mayo and that worked out pretty well. Time to go all in and get a few studs instead of 12 JAGS.
I understand the thought process, John, and think there is some validity to it if you feel real strongly about a player. That said, I could point out several recent examples of trade-ups that have backfired on teams; one that comes to mind is the Jaguars and Derrick Harvey.
Mike....the Giants and Jets have figured out how to neutralize Brady. Both teams had very strong front fours that could pressure Brady up the middle...allowing the teams to drop seven into coverage. The key to their success is knowing Brady will NEVER scramble for a first down. Have you noticed that the scrambling QBs are playing in the SuperBowl while the pocket passers, Manning and Brady, are on vacation. So how can the Patriots make up for Brady's lack of wheels? Personally, I believe they need a dominant defense to take the pressure off the offense.
I agree on the upgrades to the defense, Borg, specifically along the DL and at OLB/pass-rushing DE. As for the QB/scrambling stuff, I actually think Brady is underrated in that area. I think he could run more and be successful.
What position(s) do you think the Pats will target with their first round picks?
Ben, I think OLB/DE, DE and interior OL would be the areas they'd like to go if all things are equal. I included three positions, because the No. 33 pick - at the top of the second round - is essentially a first-rounder.
Looking at your breakdown by position of the 10 picks you are projecting, taking only one d lineman and one LB, where does the pass rush come from that the Patriots so desperately need?
Thanks for looking at that, Charlie. I'm counting on the pass rush coming from that outside linebacker/rush DE, as well as others already on the roster.
Mike, I can understand the even keeled approach during the long regular season, but playoffs are a different beast. Baltimore smacked the Patriots in the face their first drive last year and it was game over. The Jets blasted Brady early last week and he heard footsteps the rest of the game. Emotion can be a valuable tool, especially if it can set the tone early. Belichick needs to put down the economics book and add a little war mentality to this team.
You're not alone on this line of thinking, Peggy. I don't necessarily buy it. I'm more along the lines of execution. If Brady doesn't throw that first-quarter INT (bad decision) and Alge Crumpler doesn't drop that first-quarter TD, I'm not sure we'd be talking about passion/emotion as much.
Mike: in the upcoming draft as far as the patriots offensive line is concerned, where do you see the most immediate need? at guard, tackle or even center? This is largely contingent upon who you see coming back next year from the pats current starting OL.
Guard, center and then tackle would be my thought.
Belichick is referred to as a "defensive genius", yet his defenses over the last half dozen years have been less than dominating. The D roster is filled with premium draft picks, yet the defense is average. Could it be the "scheme" is the problem and BB's tactics have not evolved with the current game?
It's interesting, Bart, because I asked Scott Pioli that question last year and he laughed at me. He said they were saying the same thing back in the mid-80s about the Giants scheme before they won the Super Bowl. I've thought about it, and I think Belichick's scheme is sound; he just needs to find better pressure-based players. That would be my one crticism; maybe to open up the mindset a bit at that rush end/outside linebacker spot and take a calculated gamble there.
Mike, today you are Bill Belichick. So coach, why did the Jets beat you and what are you gonna do about it?
Hold on, Tanner, let me go put on a Hoodie.
OK, I'm back, I need to bolster the interior of that OL and figure out a way to get more heat on the quarterback. That's my sole focus -- coming out of this draft with those areas addressed.
Mike....I can't make the case that Sammy Morris belongs on the 2011 team. The coaches all but eliminated his RB role, so why keep him as a one dimensional player?
I think you're on to something. I don't expect Morris, one of the true pros that I've seen come through that locker room, back in 2011.
Light and Mankins....Sign both?...Sign one of the two?....or....Sign neither and start to totally rebuild the offensive line? (especially with Neal likely being done and Koppen getting up there in years also).
I'd sign both Billy. I think it can be done without compromising other areas. Then I'd take a C/G with one of the top three picks, put him right in at RG, and have him groomed as Koppen's possible replacement after 2011 when his contract expires.
Mike, any thoughts on trying to get Von Miller out of Texas A&M?
Shawn, right now Miller is projecting as a Top 10 guy. I don't see the Patriots moving up into that territory.
Hi Mike! If the Pats trade up in the first round of the draft, how far do you think they would go? And what do you think it would cost them? I know it's early to say, but I was wondering if there is any precedent of BB moving up 10+ spots in a draft?
In 2002, he moved from 32 to 21 to select TE Daniel Graham. In 2003, he moved from 14 to 13 to select DE Ty Warren. I'd say anything is in play, Ben, although I'd be surprised to see them move into the single digits.
I know that players won't be able to be traded until after a new CBA is agreed upon. With that being said, what kind of draft pick value would Brandon Merriweather have in a trade?
I'd think mid-rounder at the highest, considering he enters the last year of his contract. I'd be surprised if a team gave up more without knowing that he was more than a one-year rental for them.
If Mark Ingram is available, do you think it would be wise to pass on other needs and get a stud RB?
Bill, I'd probably go the Ingram route if I felt really good about what I was getting at those other two top picks (17, 28 or 33). I like Green-Ellis and Woodhead, but think that is a position where we can lock in another rookie one way or the other this year. The flip side that I battle with is that RB is one of those spots where a rookie free-agent, or even a veteran free-agent, can come in and produce big (Houston's Arian Foster, this year's leading rusher, went undrafted in '09). So it's a balance, but if Ingram was clearly the top guy on the board, I wouldn't hesitate.
Hi Mike, how do you envision the Pats using their picks? Do you see another Clay Mathews in this draft?
Ken, there are some good pass rushers in this draft. As for the next Clay Matthews, I'll need a bit more time on that one. One player I want to study more is Georgia's Justin Houston. Mel Kiper drew my attention to him Wednesday on a conference call.
As for the rest of the picks, I'm thinking a heavy focus at the line of scrimmage -- interior OL, DL, OLB/rush DE.
Any chance Welker gets traded?
I'd be really surprised at that one.
Tell me that I was dreaming. I thought I saw Danny Woodhead as the Patriots primary RB in the playoffs. Why were Sammy Morris and Fred Taylor even on the roster if the Pats had to work the waiver wire so early in the season. Will the memory of first round bust Maroney prevent BB from trying again early pick RB?
Woodhead played 58 snaps, while Green-Ellis had 19 in that playoff loss. I was surprised at the discrepancy as well. Part of it is that Woodhead really turned out to be a great fit for the system. As for Morris, he added value in terms of depth/special teams. Taylor's injuries simply forced him out of the mix but he looked great in camp. As for picking a RB again in the first round, I think Belichick would do it, but it would have to be clear-cut that the player was the best fit over other options.
If I were to scheme against the Patriots offense, I would attack the center of their O line. Koppen has trouble with bull rushers and penetration disrupts Brady's rhythm and mechanics. See Jets and Giants. Why not secure a more stout center to fortify this weakness in the armor?
I think it's a good point, Sweet Lou. Think they've had their eye on that in recent years, but those players don't come around too often. Had Maurkice Pouncey been there at 22 last year, he probably would have been the pick. They liked Eric Wood the year before, but the Bills surprised them and picked him at 28.
Will NFL Teams be allowed to bring players drafted this April in the weekend after the draft for rookie camp if there's no CBA in place (these players won't have contracts at the time)?
Great question, Ray. I don't know the answer. My guess is yes.
Hi Mike, You posed the question on the number of roster spots available? I think more than you think. O-Line is in flux, there are 2 or 3 possible opening there. Neal, Light and Mankins. Big play wide out and full time running back as well. D-Line is wide open besides Wilfork.Injuries to wright, brace and pryor leave question marks. Plenty of room for improvement with OLB, TBC is not a starter and big bang clocks days should be numbered, ie. poor angles and dirty hits. This is a watershed draft for the pats. OL, DL starters are a must. AND PLEASE USE THE DRAFT PICKS ON A PASS RUSHER! No more trading down for value.
Must be nice in Boca Raton, right now, lstan. I came up with 10 spots. I've heard many point to the trading down for value, and I understand the point. I do think it gets slightly misrepresented at times. For example, the Patriots would have taken Devin McCourty at 22 this year. But they projected they could get him at 27, so why not get something else in the process?
Hi Mike, Kaczur and Neal are under contract in 2011 for sizable salaries. Neither earned their keep this year due to injury. Can you see a scenario in which both players get cut, freeing up dollars to pay for both Light and Mankins? With multiple early draft picks, the resources are there to fill the void of these two losses
I could see that scenario Molly. Between Neal ($3m) and Kaczur ($3.4m), that's significant dollars. I don't expect to see Neal back at that salary, but Kaczur is a toss-up. Management has been high on him in the past.
When do you think the Patriots will draft another QB? I think Brady still has some good years left, but I would like to see another QB develop with Brady as a mentor. You thoughts???
Could be this year, Jonathan, but one thing I'd say is that Jonathan Crompton -- who is currently their third QB -- was a fifth-round draft choice of the Chargers in 2010. So he's sort of like another draft choice.
Will the Pats extend Welker early and what kind of contract is he looking for?
I think that's something that would happen in the late summer or fall, if at all. Market for a player like Welker is probably in the $6-7m per year range.
Any chance the Patriots explore signing Champ Bailey to play Free Safety and trade Brandon Merriweather in the offseason? Seems like he could make that transition at this point in his career and could be the ball hawking cover guy this teams needs back there.
If Bailey wanted to come here, I'd explore that. From what I've seen, he can still play at a very high level.
Does Welker's "We practiced one thing all week and saw something completely different" remark put him in the same open insubordination category as Adalius Thomas' Jetson's comment?
I don't think so, Jim. I think this is the type of thing where he sits down with Belichick and hashes it out -- both that remark and his "foot" press conference. Two people who have respect for each other should be able to get over that.
you honestly chose to answer the champ bailey question over some of these others??? he'll be WAY WAY out of our price range... why is everyone so down on Meriweather? i think his presence over the middle is very very underappreciated, and when he plays full time he does a fair job of collecting INTs
Shaun, I wish I could answer them all. We're up in the 400 range in terms of questions submitted. I sort of feel like I have a 45-second play clock where I need to get to the next question or Hochuli is going to throw the flag on me for delay-of-chat. ...
... As for Meriweather, I think it's the inconsistency that rubs people the wrong way. Too much hit or miss.
Do you think the Patriots are expecting Tom Brady to do much especially now that he is getting older? I feel like they should being looking for a star running back and turn the focus of the offense to running first the same way the Broncos did for John Elway when he won his two super bowls.
I actually had this debate with a passionate Pats fan in the family over the last week. His line of thinking is that the offense is too Brady-centric, too much passing. He wants to see a return to the 2004-type ways of pounding it with Corey Dillon, or at least taking some of the focus off Brady's arm. I thought it was a fair point. I sort of disagree with Bill Belichick on this topic. He often says the primary job of the offense is to move the ball and score points. I do think there is something to be said for how you move the ball.
Do you have any faith in Dan Connolly that he'll become a quality starter in the league?
I look at Connolly as the type of player any team needs to have to win. Another Russ Hochstein. Do you want him as your full-time starter? Maybe not. But if you need him in a pinch, or to get you through a stretch of games because of injury, he's more than capable.
Aaron Hernandez has shown the ability to make good things happen when he has the opportunity. Why did his opportunities seem to decrease so much as the season went on -- and especially in the playoffs, where even Crumpler was targeted more than Hernandez? The drop-off in passes to Hernandez seemed to start even before his hip injury. Did he not pass the vague standard of "earning Brady's trust" in practice? Did defenses do that much better a job of covering him after the first few games of the season? Hernandez is a playmaker, and sometimes you need to get the ball in the hands of your playmakers.
Reading the tea leaves, I think it's more precise route running that held him back. Hernandez is still understanding that the most subtle movements are so important in the NFL. You can't get away with some of the things you did in college. This might seem like a small thing, but those small things can add up.
Mike, do you think Darius Butler can turn around his career during the off season? He performed very well last year and everyone was looking for a big jump this year. Is it possible that as teams reviewed film of him from last season that they spotted weaknesses that they were able to exploit?
Maybe the player I was the most wrong about this year. I saw him jump out of the gym in a charity basketball game last spring and was enamored with his athleticism. He had a tough year. I do think he can turn it around, but right now, he's in a prove-it situation because his progression went in the wrong direction in 2010.
The Patriots lost the field position battle to the NYJ mainly because of shallow kickoffs. How's Gostkowski's rehab going?
All good, Billy. No setbacks.
for the past few playoff games, it seems as though belichek has been "outcoached", what can be changed to prevent this from happening again in a game of this magnitude?
I thought the Jets had the upper hand this year, Mike. I was thinking about this while shoveling this morning and sometimes we have to tip our cap to the guys on the other sideline too. This is the highest level of competition and they are good too. My thought was "When something goes wrong, we often point the finger at why it went wrong, without acknowledging that maybe the other team just did it better."
Mike, What do you think of D Stallworth playing in New England next year? He could certainly give us more as a deep threat than B Tate gave us last year after R Moss was traded.
I put him in the same category as Ochocinco, Rick. I have trouble endorsing that move because it pushes Tate/Price back down and potentially stunts their growth long-term. This was essentially Tate's rookie year. I think he deserves more time to show what he can do.
I have a feeling that BB will trade out of the first pick in the second round as some team will go through their board after the first round and find someone they must have. What do you think would be fair compensation for that pick? Two seconds?
Two seconds could work, but I think Belichick would be more likely to take a 2012 first-rounder plus something else this year (a third- or fourth-rounder, perhaps).
Up until the Vikings Game Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead had a total of 549 yards rushing. When Logan Mankins came back for the rest of the year, they combined for a total of 1006 yards. It is so clearly obvious that Mankins NEEDS to be back next year and if it meant taking away money from Light I would be ok with it. My question to you is if we had only enough money for Light or Mankins, who would you choose?
Spikes....seems he has a habit of making bad decisions. Is this player on a short leash, and any chance that the Pats look at ILB this draft?
I'd be surprised if they went there, Rip.
I want them to send a 2011 2nd round pick and a 3rd round pick to the cardinals for fitzgerald! You think thats something they can do?
Fitzgerald is an interesting one, David, as I learned yesterday that he has a no-trade clause. So he'd have to waive that. Would the Cardinals take that deal? I think they would if they felt Fitzgerald wouldn't be back.
Any chance pats make a run at Asomugha?
I don't see it, Dan. I just think other needs trump the idea of investing so highly in that position.
Could you see the patriots drafting the other Pouncey with there first pick?
I could, Tim, although one thing Mel Kiper said yesterday caught my attention: He doesn't see Pouncey as good as his brother Maurkice (18th pick last year, Steelers) and that he had trouble shotgun snapping. Pouncey probably comes in and plays G on Day 1, and you hope he could eventually move to center. Seems to me like he'd be one of those Mankins/Grubbs/Snee safe type picks in the late first-round early second-round.
Hi Mike, how many years does Brady have left?
It's all about the body, Scott, and if it betrays him. If healthy, I see no reason can't play until he's 40. But you get this foot injury, and then consider he's coming off the knee in 2008, and I think it's just something to keep in mind. Not being an alarmist or anything, but as you get older, these can be harder to come back from.
How good could Price be in the NFL, realistic ceiling?
He reminds me of a David Givens-type.
Mike, do you know anything about the other Matthews, Casey Matthews?
He's smaller than Clay, and projects more as an off-the-line linebacker than someone rushing from a three-point stance on third down.
they would have to trade bodden if they wanted asomugha right?
I would think so Steve. He's on the books for $4.9 million if I recall. You sign an Asomugha, that's a lot of money to pay Bodden to be a No. 3 option.
OLB OLB OLB - that's where I want the Patriots mind this draft.
Would you really pick three players at the same position? I do get your point, though.
In the past two playoff games, Brady has seemed like a scared quarterback. What happened to Big Game Tom?
It's probably a good reminder that any quarterback can be defeated if the blockers in front of him are having trouble. That's not to spare Brady accountability for his play -- he was disappointing -- but that also ties into it.
do you think Alge will be back? I love Alge and his attitude, but Gron and Hernandez look to continue their production for the next 3 years...i hate to say it, but is he worth the money?
I think Crumpler is worth every penny. He's due $2.4 million in 2011 and I think the Patriots will be happy to write out that check.
Let's go for another 5...
Mike, in rerence to that Meriweather question, what have you heard on the safety Brett Lockett? Did you see what somebody reported about Lockett being a hidden gem?
I think Lockett is more of a special teamer. I don't see him as a starter-type option for this club.
Do you think the Jets can continue to compete with the Pats despite all there impending free agents and lost draft picks from cromartie and holmes?
Jets are interesting to me. I was wrong on them this year. I thought they were collecting talent, more than building a team, but they came together and had a great year for them. I have my doubts that their model can be sustainable long-term, but other than that, I don't really have a great read on them.
What are the odds of Belichick drafting one or two pass rushers at the top end of this draft?
I think they are high, Richard. Unlike past years, when he might have passed on prospects who were considered more "4-3 defensive ends" because they weren't a great system fit for the 3-4 alignment, I think this year has the potential to be different. You look at how much the Patriots are in their sub defense, and you can justify a high pick for that Clay Matthews-type edge rusher that might struggle at times setting the edge but gives you so much value in the other pass-rushing area.
At least that's what I think they should consider...
Do you see the Patriots making Dan Connolly a kick off return specialist?
Well done, Sean. You can't stop Connolly, just hope to contain him.
Mike, just a correction for John above. THe Patriots DID NOT TRADE UP for Jerod Mayo, they actually traded down and still got him at 10.
Thanks. From 7 to 10.
Mike what's with the lack of Law Firm in the last game? Last time that happened that I can remember was in the Cleveland game.
Don't know for sure, but my sense was that it was related to pass protection and the different things the Jets were doing to challenge the Patriots in that area.
Is Kevin Faulk expected to return,and if so,is there room for him and Woodhead on this team?
Mark, I could see both on the training camp roster, but I don't think you can keep both on the 53-man roster. I see Woodhead here, which leads me to think this could be it for Faulk.
Hey Mike, what do you make out of Mankins comments yesterday? I couldn't tell if it sounded like theres a legitamate shot he returns or not.
I think he'd come back if the Patriots made the highest offer. But if someone else steps up, my feeling is that he's gone.
... Assuming he is on the open market.
Any chance the Pats bring back Randy Moss?
My sense is unlikely on that one.
Mike, do you find it challenging to draw the line between being a media member and being a fan? How do you deal with that?
Let's end on this one, Ariel. I grew up a Patriots fan. In this job, you develop relationships with players/coaches and because of that, I like to see some of them have success because I know how hard they work. At the same time, you have a job to do and a respect that you pay to your profession. So you balance those off.
I feel fortunate to do what I do. It's a dream scenario.
Thanks to everyone for joining today's chat. There are some great questions that I couldn't get to. My plan is to dive back in and try to answer some on the Patriots blog on ESPNBoston.com.
Also, we'll chat again next Thursday. Thanks for making it a great chat today.