NEPD Editor: Doug Kyed
Where does the Patriots offensive line stand? Which players are good enough for the Patriots to stand pat in the draft for? How will the Patriots address their WR needs?
Those are some of the questions I’ll be answering in my weekly “Too Long For Twitter” Friday mailbag where I take questions from Twitter that warrant, deserve or need answers longer than 140 characters
If you have a question about anything, tweet it to me @DougKyedNEPD, and I’ll try to include it in the column on Friday. If you aren’t on Twitter, feel free to throw in a question in the comments section.
First off, thanks for the compliment. If you guys haven’t already, please check out NEPD Radio here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nepd. In the latest episode, me and fellow NEPD Editor Mike Loyko talk about all the free agent movement. We do a show at least once a week, so please follow Me, Mike and James on Twitter to find out when we’ll be going live.
Now that that’s out of the way, yes I think the Pats will absolutely address the O-Line, but I also think they were going to anyway. They’ve already resigned Dan Connolly, which leaves Dan Koppen unsigned. Matt Light and Brian Waters have both threatened retirement, so we will almost definitely see some new faces either protecting Brady or sitting on the bench.
Currently under contract are starters Light, Logan Mankins, Waters and Nate Solder/Sebastian Vollmer and reserves Marcus Cannon, Connolly, Kyle Hix, Matt Kopa, Nick McDonald, Donald Thomas and Ryan Wendell.
There’s not a stud center in that group, but Connolly, Wendell and McDonald all proved more than apt to handle the duty last season. I do expect the Patriots to add a center through the draft, but at what point is the question. If it’s in rounds 1-3, he’ll likely be a starter, if later, it will depend on who falls.
If both Light and Waters retire, I’d love Solder and Cannon to vault into the starting lineup, but at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pats kept Cannon on as a reserve tackle and either drafted or signed a RG. We saw Cannon play 160 snaps at tackle last year and zero at guard. With Vollmer’s health a constant issue, and Solder having value as a third TE, Cannon could see a lot of snaps as a reserve tackle, where he would hold more future value.
The Pats may have the best OL coach ever in Dante Scarnecchia and it seems like whoever they throw out there, whether it’s a castoff like Donald Thomas or an All Pro like Logan Mankins, produces. New England’s offensive line is in good shape for the future with Solder, Mankins and Cannon, but it’s a little nerve racking to have holes or injury risks elsewhere.
As for what this means for Mario and the Bills? One move I definitely expect to see is to bring in another TE to stay in line and block, plus create even more match up problems for the defense. The Pats only have two TEs on their roster currently, and that will need to change.
Maybe not the first round, but I could still see them taking a WR in the second round despite what moves they make in free agency. They need to have at least one young WR on the roster, and Julian Edelman is such a specialist that he doesn’t really count.
I’ve said it a thousand times, but I really love this WR class, and I’ll be very disappointed if they don’t come out with one or two of my favorites from this group.
Here’s my list, and some of them will obviously be out of the question: Kalil, Claiborne, Richardson, DeCastro, Reiff, Kirkpatrick, Coples, Blackmon, Upshaw, Wright, Brockers, Martin, Still, Glenn, Floyd, Cox, Poe, Perry and Ingram.
Hightower and Gilmore are both questionable to me. I’d love to get either player, but I’m also not sure if I value them enough to not grab those extra picks because of them.
So that leaves 19 definites that I would pick at 27 or 31, and two that I would strongly consider. Unfortunately, those 21 players will likely be gone by the time the Pats are picking, which is why I’m so strongly for them trading out.
Shockingly, the best place to see the Pats roster all mapped out with acquisitions added almost immediately is Wikipedia. That’s where the image below is from.
I’ve mentioned it before, but there are holes all over the Patriots roster, basically from top to bottom. I like the moves they’ve made so far, and they’re certainly not done. I’d say the biggest gaping holes they have right now are at WR and pass rush. Since Welker hasn’t signed his franchise tag yet, and Andre Carter and Mark Anderson are still free agents, those need to get filled.
Might be this year. @NFLDraftScout has been sending out some feelers that the Pats might be interested in packaging picks this year to trade up. I wouldn’t be opposed to it, but I also wouldn’t be opposed to trading completely out of the first round.
Belichick knows what he’s doing, and the eleven straight winning seasons can attest to that. The Patriots easily could have been the Colts. They had one of the best QBs ever, and only have one ring to show for it, and have now completely bottomed out.
Building through the draft, trading down, amounting mid-late round picks is how the Patriots have had their success, and it’s how they’ll have their success in the future.
It would be nice to get a Fletcher Cox, Nick Perry or Kendall Wright, but it will be just as good, and far less risky to pick up three or four players for the price of that one.