Legion of Boom: 2014 Prospects Who Fit the Super Bowl Champs Prototype

Calvin Pryor isn’t as big as Kam Chancellor but brings the same intensity and hard hitting ability as the Seahawks safety (Photo: US Presswire)

By Marc Sluis, Staff Writer

While Super Sunday was anything but in terms of being an entertaining and competitive game, it might have answered an age old question. Which is better, a dominant defense or potent offense? If you take the Seahwaks victory as a barometer it seems the prior. That’s certainly what most of the media would have you believe in the immediate aftermath of the game, a time where overreaction trumps reality. That being said it’s clear that the Pete Carroll led defense in the Pacific Northwest utilized a particular blueprint to counteract the rise of the passing game. Like any successful scheme it relies on the personnel available, but what gets Carroll and GM John Schneider league wide respect is the process they followed to build a team around a philosophy.

It’s not just big, physical corners paired with small but quick defensive linemen. It’s undersized, yet instinctive middle linebacker Bobby Wagner making plays all over the field. Its also arguably the best safety tandem in the NFL. What makes Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas so great is that they complement each other so well. Thomas is the former corner who might be a little undersized but can cover his area of responsibility with ease and excels in coverage. He covers ground so quickly and is able to wreak havoc in the back end as he closes on receivers in a flash. In order for Thomas to have the freedom to roam it takes a run stuffing safety with the strength and tackling ability of Chancellor.

Many teams will try and copy what the Seahawks have done to construct the NFL’s premier defense. If they are to be successful it will require savvy moves in free agency but also in the draft. Brandon Browner was undrafted, while Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor were both fifth rounders.

Here are some of the players that are most similar to the current Seattle secondary.

 

SS Kam Chancellor, Seahawks
6’3 232

Role: Over-sized, strong safety who intimidates opponents with his athleticism and hard hitting ability.

If you watched last Sunday’s Super Bowl you cam away an understanding of how Seattle’s dominant defense operates. Besides the physical corners, and speed defensive linemen there is a pair of safety whose skill sets complement each other’s perfectly. Kam Chancellor plays the role of enforcer. Coming out of Virginia Tech scouts liked his physicality but labeled him “too slow”. It turns out that because he rarely if ever is matched up on a wide receiver, that 4.4 speed he lacks is more a luxury than a necessity. From his strong safety role he is able to read the play and lay down the lumber like he did to poor Demaryius Thomas.

2014 Prospect Comparisons:

OLB Ryan Shazier, Ohio St.
6’2 230

Shazier matches up very well in terms of size to Chancellor and plays with a similar sense of tenacity and toughness. A lot of the chatter concerning Shazier has been his lack of size to play linebacker, but put him in a role parallel to Chancellor’s and his size now becomes a strength. The Buckeye’s elite athleticism and instincts would suggest he’s capable of handling more intensive coverage responsibilities at the safety level. Like Chancellor he wouldn’t bring much though in terms of pure coverage ability as a safety. In reality his best role might be as a hybrid player taking on the traits of both outside linebacker and “in the box” safety where his athleticism and ferocity would be front and center.

SS Craig Loston, LSU
6’2 205

Loston is a bit smaller than Chancellor but even though the Seahawk is known for that oversized frame, Loston’s style of play is still very comparable. At 6’2 205 lb Loston is still a good sized safety prospect but well below the 234 pounds of Chancellor. The scouting reports of the two safeties, however, have some clear similarities. Both are big for their position (Loston slightly and Chancellor very) with the athleticism that is able to mask their deficiencies in coverage. They both play an aggressive brand of football and deliver some huge hits, yet are often times out of position because of their attacking nature. Chancellor has been able to perfect his craft to the point where the concerns scouts had about his ability to read plays and not overrun them looking for the big hit are no longer an issue. If Loston can develop his mental acumen and football intelligence then maybe we could see him flying around the field and blowing up unsuspecting receivers like Chancellor often does.

SS Calvin Pryor, Louisville
6’2 208

Like Loston its not so much his size as it is his brand of football that compares to the hard hitting Chancellor. Pryor is making a surge up draft boards due mostly to his range and bone jarring collisions. Like Chancellor Pryor looks to make an impression with his hitting and is able to make receivers think twice about running that crossing route at full speed.

 

FS Earl Thomas, Seahawks
5’10 202

Role: Smaller safety with elite burst and range to eat space quickly and excel in zone coverage.

The Legion of Boom has flashier players making bigger hits (Kam Chancellor) and more hyped players making bigger headlines (Richard Sherman) but the essence of that Cover 3 and overall defensive philosophy is Earl Thomas. His range is tremendous and he covers his area of the field effortlessly breaking on the ball to disrupt plays and cause turnovers. Coming out of college Thomas had played mostly corner but made the seamless transition to free safety showing the burst to close on the play and enough tackling ability to hold up at that position. His range, closing speed and read and react ability is the catalyst to Seattle’s dominant defense. Pound for pound there may not be a better player in the entire NFL.

2014 Prospect Comparison:

S Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
5’11 190

Thomas played for a perennial power at Texas, but one of the players that brings a similar skill set is the much less renown Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward. A nice matchup size wise Ward also shares the fluidity and coverage skills that makes Earl Thomas elite. One of my favorite prospects Ward is still being underrated by most and could really surprise some people as a free safety. Like Thomas he is not a heavy hitter but he gets it down as a tackler and really excels in coverage. Ward looks like an ideal free safety despite still being listed as a strong safety by most draft sites. His fluidity and hip transition are stellar for a safety.

CB Bradley Roby, Ohio St.
5’11 192

Roby, like Thomas, will enter the NFL as a corner but as it stands it would be surprising to see him in a safety role. That’s not to say it wouldn’t make sense in the right scheme. Opposite a bigger and more physical presence on the strong side, Roby’s elite speed and coverage ability would make teams hard pressed to run tight ends up the seam with any success. One concern Roby carries is a lack of size, even for the corner position, but as the game has changed so has the dimensions scouts look for in a safety. Just look at Tyrann Mathieu who stands 5’9 190 and was one of the best rookie defenders in the league. Roby doesn’t have the same level of physicality that Mathieu plays with but can more than hold his own on the edge and is certainly comfortable and effective in run support.

 

CB Brandon Browner

6’4 221

Role: Incredible size for a corner who can press effectively but also cover downfield effectively.

Although Browner was controversially suspended for missed drug tests while he was playing in the CFL he has the prototypical size of a press corner in the Seahawks scheme. Undrafted out of Oregon St. Browner paid his dues to get to the NFL and was a Pro Bowl corner last year. His size and length allow him to re-route receivers off the snap and matchup against taller studs like Calvin Johnson or Larry Fitzgerald. Part of the reason he went undrafted was because he was still very raw in terms technique and being physical enough to utilize his massive frame. After learning the ins and outs of coverage and developing that physical mentality he became one of the most feared corners in the league. His future with the Seahawks is uncertain but he fits their scheme to a tee.

2014 Prospect Comparison:

CB Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Nebraska
6’3 220

Very much in vogue is the oversized corner and SJB fits the bill. A former wide receiver the Cornhusker is very athletic for his size and has the ball skills and body control to compete for the ball at its highest point. Like Browner Jean-Baptiste has not just the height but also the bulk at 220 lb to effectively press and jolt receivers off their line with a hand punch. SJB is definitely still refining his skills and needs to improve his tackling consistency but given his upside teams looking to copy Seattle’s press heavy scheme will love the opportunity to add him to their roster and groom him for success.

 

CB Richard Sherman

6’3 195

Role: Lock down corner with the size and smarts to function one on one against even the best NFL receivers.

When you talk as much as Sherman you better back it up on the field and there is no question he does just that. One of the toughest matchups in the league for opposing receivers due to his size, ball skills and football intelligence his lockdown ability allows the Hawks to play him on an island and open up the playbook for the rest of the defense. Sherman was Stanford’s best wide receiver for a few years before he made the switch to corner, and the rest is history. A fifth round pick by Seattle turned into a dominant corner after three years of development.

2014 Prospect Comparison:

CB Keith McGill, Utah
6’3 210

McGill is projected to go around the same spot Sherman did as a mid round pick and flashes the potential to be special. Another former wide out McGill has the long arms and height to deflect away even well thrown passes. McGill will be hard pressed to develop the same type of diagnostic skills that makes Sherman great, but athletically he might be even more impressive. McGill is bigger than Sherman by at least 5-10 pounds and has better straight line speed as well. With Browner’s future with Seattle still murky who knows maybe Pete Carroll and company target McGill or SJB to anchor the left side of the defensive backfield. If not, copy cat teams will no doubt take advantage.

Tags: Bradley Roby, Calvin Pryor, Jimmie Ward, Keith McGill, Stanley Jean-Baptiste

65 Responses to “Legion of Boom: 2014 Prospects Who Fit the Super Bowl Champs Prototype”

  1. Pete H. says:

    Would you rather have Vince Wilfork or Anquan Bolden on the Patriots roster in 2014?

    • acm says:

      neither. Pats need to get younger and more athletic up front, while it would take way too much money to pry Boldin out of the 49ers’ hands. At this stage of Boldin’s career, the chance of a big drop off in productivity from one season onto the next is sky high and would make for a risky investment, which is already unlikely to be available anyway.

  2. J H TARBORO says:

    NFL Network.com reports that Mizzou’s LB Michael Sam just came out as the first openly gay player.

    • Pete H. says:

      I hope that this doesn’t hurt his draft stock for humanity’s sake, but if he does fall because of this, I’d love for Bill to pick him up with one of his 6th rounders. A chance for Bill to use his influence as one of the strongest coaches in the league with a strong locker room to change the perception that openly gay players will destroy a locker room, plus pick up a nifty pass-rushing piece to play with!

      • J H TARBORO says:

        His draft stock may fall, it’s going to take a mature ,tolerant locker room and mature team. He is a good football player and if he falls down the draft boards, he would be draft steal in the late rounds.

      • GM-In-Training says:

        What’s going to affect Michael Sam’s draft stock is that he’s only 6’1″ in a league that likes defense ends with long arms; usually more like 6’4″ or 6’5″. He should get his chance to play and can probably contribute in a variety of ways, but unless he blows everyone away at the combine, he projects as more of a run-stuffing linebacker than as DE.

        • I agree here, and perhaps I’m mistaken but as I recall he pass rushed well but didn’t cover well in the all star game he played in so that effects how he will be viewed as a LB.

    • acm says:

      good for him. will likely affect his draft stock, though, which could only work in Pats’ favor. Imagine how much more explosive the pass rush would be with the additions of Sam in the draft and say Everson Griffen in free agency.
      Sam’s coming out couldn’t have been an easy decision and the mix of emotions may well explain his underwhelming showing during senior bowl week.

      An alternative could be Jeremiah Attouchu, who is a slightly less athletic version of Jamie Collins in this year’s draft – he can be a speedrusher pf a DE, a 3-4 OLB or an 4-3 OLB. If Sam drops deep enough in the draft, the Pats may well not have to choose.

  3. I like Ryan Shazer alot. Terrific LB at Ohio St, then I think of his size. Ideal for a safety but small for a LB. My problem is he is a LB, can he hold up against the run in the NFL? Convert to safety has been suggested and that’s fine the question there is how long does that take and can he cover? I know he has the speed but does he have the instincts? Guess we won’t know unless we draft him. Okay, I’m offically torn.

    • acm says:

      Shazier is not too small for a LB – he is 5 or so lbs away from being an ideal sized 3-down LB for today’s NFL … maybe not by Pats standards but by the standards of many of the top Ds out there. Measurement-wise, he may be a bit too big for the S position on every down, but his athleticism should allow him to be effective in the hybrid role in sub-packages for which A. Willson was brought in.

      If the Pats need a 3-down safety, I guess Loston and Pryor are as good as any in this draft, as the article suggests. Depends on how much value the Pats put on that particular need as Pryor would likely require a late 1st round pick (if he blows up the combine, he may even be the top pick at S in the draft), while Loston should make it into the 3rd/4th round range and possibly even deeper, depending on his combine performance.

      • Your right there have always been teams that had the 230 +/- LB’d and I’m not personally against that but as you note BB has always gone for bigger/ taller LB’s probably from his years with 3-4 def’s. Why I’m torn is I don’t think our team, starting with the def-line is built for that type LB. I fear he would be relegated to spot duty and special teams unless he could make a very rapid transition to SS where he could be on the field in one spot or the other for the full 3 downs. That’s asking alot for a rookie and unless we are really sure he could adjust to that is he worth a high round pick when we have so many immedate needs? If That were the case I’d say by all means draft him because he looks like an impact player for many years, but that’s the big question and I can’t answer it.

  4. An Off-season Plan For The New England Patriots

    Opening up cap space:
    -restructure Wilfork and Gostowski
    -cut dan Conolly, adrian wilson, and tommy kelly
    -try to fix Hernandez cap hit
    Pats free agents:
    -franchise Aqib Talib
    -resign julian Edelman
    -resign Hoomanawanui (should be cheap)
    -let LeGarrette Blount walk (turned out useless against Denver)
    -let brandon spikes walk
    -let danny Aiken walk
    -let ryan wendell walk
    Free Agents:
    -sign Alex Mack (center)
    Draft:
    -1st round- Aaron Donald DT- I think this kid is the next Gerald Mccoy, he can solve the pats interior pass rush issues, as well as be a force in run defense
    -2nd round- CJ Fiedorowicz TE- a major sleeper, I see a lot of Rob Gronkowski in this kid, phenomenal blocker as well as lethal red zone weapon. He has the huge hands and ball skills to swallow up anything thrown his way
    -3rd round- Dakota Dozier G- one of the most underrated players in the draft, he has the potential to be an elite NFL guard. He and alex mack will be a major improvement over Connolly and wendell, and when Brady can step up and his protected from the inside, he is damn near unstoppable.
    -4th round- Terrence Brooks S- the pats don’t really need a safety as much as they need a head hunter who has a knack for the ball and creating turnovers, and Brooks is a big hitter with phenomenal instincts.

    And I almost forgot, try to pick up Gonzalez since he is willing to sign cheap with a contender. With these moves, the pats solve their defensive tackle issue, as well as their problem with interior protection, and pick up another elite tight end.

  5. Daniel R. Martin says:

    I am contemplating the following potential off season moves. I say contemplating because I don’t profess to be certain as to the efficacy of these moves and whether they would be beneficial to the team, nor to whatever extent they might be. This is an amalgamation of mostly my wish list and some thoughts that I’m considering. I do feel confident in the draft selections. These moves are not listed sequentially by order of importance.

    However, the three primarily goals I believe to be paramount leading into the new season are as follows: first and foremost rebuild the multiple TE set with both a player that can replicate if not exceed the productivity of A. Hernandez, but also another quality TE to provide an adequate backup to Gronkowski, whose injury proneness has severely crippled the team in the last 3 playoff runs.

    Of significant yet secondary importance, add pieces to the front seven and even secondary (SS position) that can assist in developing a greater pass rush. This should include additional rotational pieces at DE, linebackers that are athletic enough to blitz, defensive linemen that can collapse pockets, creating interior pressure, and a bruising strong safety that can also make plays at the line of scrimmage, such as Pittsburgh’s Troy Polomalu.

    Thirdly, I feel as though the Patriots front office should recognize a dire need to increase the overall physicality on the defense. There is no collective identity for the Pats’ defensive unit. I would like to see larger framed players brought into the Patriots’ secondary. Players that play as big as their build would suggest. I’d like to see greater tenacity. Players who seem to perpetually have a chip on their shoulders. I am not saying get a big guy who likes to hit, yet lacks solid coverage skills. Rather, I am asserting a belief that the Patriots would benefit from bruising, punishing corners and especially safeties who can bring a significant intimidation factor. Adrian Wilson was supposed to fill this role.

    Next, the Pats should focus on adding some dynamic play makers with elite level speed to their offensive fold. We presently have four running backs that run similarly, with the only exception being Vereen’s ability to catch passes out of the backfield. They all run well, yet none of them have elite, game breaking speed. Versatility is lacking. Also, we have many slot receivers. Yet, presumably only Dobson has the build and skill set to be a starting wideout at the X-receiver position.

    Also, the team should add an immediate contributor to the offensive line, as well as some developmental players.

    #1.) Cut Sopoaga
    #2.) Release Dan Connolly
    #3.) Cut Steve Gregory
    #4.) Retain Adrian Wilson
    #5.) Extend Gostkowski
    #6.) Extend Devin McCourty
    #7.) Trade Ryan Mallet to the Texans for their 2nd round pick as previously rumored. I think this is wishful thinking, but trade him for at least a later 2nd or 3rd.
    #8.) Trade first round draft selection for 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 7th round picks as was done last year.
    #9.) Trade Steven Ridley for a 4th round selection (Not factored in below).
    #10.) Restructure Logan Mankins.
    #11.) Either restructure or release Vince Wilfork.
    #12.) Either resign Tommy Kelly for a smaller price tag or cut him.
    #13.) Clear roster space of Vellano and Jones at DT.
    #14.) Attempt to coax Tony Gonzalez out of retirement for a team friendly deal. I know he is already rich and I do believe he both sincerely deserves and desires as championship ring.
    #15.) Sign DE Jared Allen
    #16.) Let Spikes walk.
    #17.) Extend Mayo to create additional cap room.
    #18.) ****Would there be ANY benefit to restructuring players like Arington for less money? I was given to believe that Arington was considered to be a sub par corner with a skill set so limited he could barely provide adequate coverage in the slot. I remember a lot of people were shocked when he was resigned for a somewhat substantial contract. I say ask him to take a pay cut or send him packing.
    #19.) Develop the talents of Boyce and Moe and prepare them to fill in the slot receiver roll.
    #20.) If enough money can be saved by releasing Amendola to make keeping Edelman feasible, do it.
    #21.) Resign Talib
    #22.) Resign Blount. Otherwise, do not trade Ridley.
    #23.) If Edelman would stay for 3-4 million per year on a four year contract, let him.
    #24.) Make the following draft selections:

    2 – Austin Seferian-Jenkins TE (33rd Overall for Mallet)
    2 – Antonio Richardson OT (Received for 1st Rd pick)
    2 – Dominique Easley DL
    3 – Brandon Coleman WR (Received for 1st Rd pick)
    3 – Chris Boreland ILB (Plays like Jamie Collins with the Heart of a lion. He will be drafted well behind his consistent level of production simply due to being undersized.)
    4 – Craig Loston SS (Received for 1st Rd pick)
    4 – Dri Archer RB/WR/PR/KR -
    6 — Colt Lyerla TE
    6 – Aaron Murray QB
    C6 – Seantrell Henderson OT
    7 – Boseko Lokombo ILB **Could be steal of the draft!**
    7 – Spencer Long OG

    #25.) Sign either DE/DT Lamarr Houston OR DE Justin Tuck
    #26.) Sign Bernard Pollard

    • Trev says:

      Wow! Talk about thinking things through! Nice work. This would be a great offseason, but I doubt the money could work out realistically for all these guys.

    • I like this very much, but it is a wish list. Trev doesn’t thing there is enough money to do all of this, he may be right, don’t know, but it’s fun thinking it could happen. The trades, restructering and such would all have to fall just right, but hey maybe.

    • jim r says:

      Dan, .well thought out. you put a hell of a lot of work into that

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        Thanks guys. I really appreciate that. I’ve learned a surprising amount about the entire sport through the conversations I’ve had on this website over the past few weeks.

        Which of these acquisitions do you guys think are plausible and potentially most beneficial? I think signing Gonzalez could be huge. And I believe the additions of Allen and Tuck could be great as well, although Lamarr Houston could create more interior pressure, which has been lacking. Houston is likely cheaper as well.

        I was very adamant last season that Bernard Pollard would have been a highly impactful addition. The fact that he could have been fished out of the bargain bin and wasn’t was highly frustrating.

    • Alex (freemanator) says:

      Slight problem. If Wilfork and Kelly don’t restructure and get cut, we’re left with just Armstead and Siliga at DT, with Grissom and Easley in reserve.
      Why so eager to cut Chris Jones and Vellano. They are cheap and decent depth, give them camp to prove they can earn their spot.

      I’ve posted a fanpost over at Pats Pulpit with links to a spreadsheet I created to allow people to use it to edit our roster, and figure out what we might be able to fit under the cap for the next four years. You might find it interesting to see what can be fitted in cap wise. I’m currently working on updating the spreadsheet, so it is easier to for users to edit it. I’ve just spent a couple of hours writing a formula to auto-generate contract details when told a total amount, a signing bonus and the length of the contract.

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        Thanks for the help Alex. I will try to utilize the spreadsheet. But I’m not very savvy computer wise. Nor do I understand spreadsheets. I’ll play around with it though. I’m sure it will be fun and I’ll just drop you a line if I need any help figuring it out.

        Concerning the DT issue I certainly understand your point. It was from you that I learned the importance of creating interior pressure from the DT position. I was thinking that the team would keep one or the other. Hopefully both if they are reasonable with contract demands. Wilfork is getting long in the tooth. He is coming off of a severe injury, and I’ve been given to believe his production appeared to be slowing prior to said injury. I believe Wilfork would like to finish his career in a Patriots uniform, and I believe the team has significant leverage in dealing with him contractually for all of the aforementioned reasons.

        I was thinking, perhaps errantly so, that Easley has the talent to be a significant contributer immediately. I recognize depending on a rookie’s production is a risky proposition. Also, Armstead is a promising prospect, but a prospect about whom’s health we know nothing. Nothing positive at least. did attempt to account for this depth concern by suggesting the acquisition of free agent Lamarr Houston. I believe he would be an upgrade concerning pass rush and generating pressure from the interior of the line.

        By my count that would be six defensive tackles, most likely seven. I thought clearing roster space of Jones and Vellano would only make sense because I don’t want to spend more than 6 or 7 roster spaces on a position that typically fields 2, sometimes only one, player at a given time.

        Alex please weigh in on the rest of my proposals whenever you have a free moment to do so.

    • Daniel R. Martin says:

      Guys please don’t feel irritated if you see this re-posted a few times on other articles on this site. I’d like to get some more feedback before it gets buried.

      Thanks for the feedback and help. Patriots fans rock.

    • MaineMan says:

      Great to see such a comprehensive effort! Kudos!

      A few notes, though, if I may – not intended as criticism, just to broaden the discussion.

      #2) Wendell is likely to be allowed to walk. Moving Connolly to center (where he’s better suited, anyway) *somewhat* justifies his pay grade and maintains a reasonable, veteran starting five with Cannon at RG and Vollmer at RT (we hope!) and with Svitek (re-signed cheap) as the vet-reserve/swing guy. This base would be a good starting point that could then be challenged by the bevy of 2013 rookie OL who are still hanging around, plus a 2014 rookie or two. However, unless the coaches are absolutely certain that Josh Kline and/or Chris Barker can step in and start immediately in 2014, cutting Connolly outright, especially early, would leave a pretty large hole in the OL experience level if the young guys don’t work out. Releasing Connolly could certainly happen, but probably not until sometime during Camp (at which point they might even trade him for a 2015 7th), unless the Pats sign a soild vet interior OL/Center (who won’t break the bank) early in FA.

      #4) & #3) Adrian Wilson will turn 35 before mid-season and is coming off Achilles surgery. While most media attention (“will he or won’t he?” melodrama) is focused on the recovery of guys who have suffered ACL/MCL damage, the return rate for NFL players who’ve suffered Achilles injuries is actually far lower. Only about 65% make it back to basic NFL playing shape and, of those, most function only at around 50% of their former effectiveness (regardless of position) for +/- a year afterward. And, of course, the percentages on those “positive” outcomes drop significantly for older players (obviously, also pertinent to Wilfork’s situation). The Pats save a bit over $1 million by releasing Wilson and I’m guessing they do so without waiting to gauge his recovery, given his circumstances and the cap crunch. If he’s healthy come Camp, they could re-sign him for a 1-year vet minimum contract (it’s unlikely that another team would even bother to give him a workout until July, anyway). Meanwhile, Gregory remains the Pats’ best (only) veteran insurance policy on the current roster, making it more likely that they try to restructure his cap hit down to around $1M or so from his current $3.2M. Then, even if they sign/develop a starter over him, he won’t be a particularly expensive backup or a significant dead-money hit if released in 2015.

      #7) I think you’re right about Mallet’s market value being maybe a 3rd-rounder. OTOH, I’m not sure that the Pats would want to trade him to anyone in the AFC for even a 2nd (unless they know he’s not realy all that), thereby possibly setting up a post-season competitior for years to come. Also, I doubt they trade Malett until they’re certain they have a reasonably capable backup under contract. IOW, if the Pats were to sign an older vet QB like McCown or Hill early in FA, it might be an indication that a deal for Mallett is in the works before the draft. If not, though, I’d tend to conclude that Mallett would be sticking around at least through Camp (with a rookie challenger for competition).

      #8) Although the 2013 draft trade with Minny was nearly dead-even in terms of Standard Value Chart points (the Pats received 650 for 640), the 4-for-1 aspect of the trade is pretty rare, historically (at least back to 1995). A 2-for-1 deal (high 2nd + mid-3rd) is most likely – about 80% of trades back from that range of the first round have been 2-for-1, with 3-for-1/3-for-2 making up nearly all the rest. So, the Pats probaby won’t have quite as many picks as you hope.

      #9) I’m doubtful that Ridley, given his history (both good and bad), would fetch a 4th. The last couple draft classes have provided quite a few capable rotational guys and surprise starters in the mid rounds and later and this RB class appears to be shaping up with similar depth. I don’t see many teams needing to reach for Ridley.

      #10) Mankins is already signed through 2016 (when he’ll be 36), and sat out for a half-season to get the deal he has now. Getting him to agree to a re-structure might be problematic. Cutting him would save a couple million, but then we’re back to the big hole in OL experience without any (as yet) clear replacement.

      #11) The Wilfork situation is simply awful for both sides. Given his age (33) and injury type (and numerous observations that his game appeared to be already sliding a bit last season), the odds of him even playing again might be as low as 50%, and, as with Adrian Wilson, the Pats almost certainly won’t be able to accurately gauge his potential to return until well into the summer. All of which makes any restructuring a very high-risk financial proposition and an outright release (even before the start of FA), cold-hearted as it sounds, much more likely.

      #12) Kelly’s ACL injury must not have been all that severe since the Pats kept him on the active roster for a month after it occurred. That seems to imply that they had some hope, at least initially, that he’d be able to non-surgically rehab his way through it and return for the end of the season or playoffs. So, the odds may be pretty favorable that he returns for Camp 9or even for OTAs) at the level of play he showed early in 2013 – which was actually very good (according to PFF and FO breakdowns). He’s already fairly cheap at $3M, so restructuring isn’t likely to shave much off the 2014 cap. Also, he turned 33 at the end of December, so a restructure would almost certainly add a million
      or so to dead money for 2015-2016 (not a lot, but maybe not necessary, either). The Pats could save $2.5M by releasing him outright with the intention of possibly re-signing him for short money later (with some risk that he signs elsewhere). However, doing so doesn’t have much benefit in terms of ability to sign free agents unless they do it before the start of FA, which they probably wouldn’t unless they’re confident that the rest of the DTs (minus Wilfork, too) can carry the load for 2014 without significant additional help. IOW, if they’re certain they’ve struck a reasonable deal with someone like Lamarr Houston during the “legal tampering” window, that’s when Kelly would most likely go. If not, my guess is that Kelly sticks, status quo salary-wise, into Camp.

      #13) Vellano and Jones are both dirt-cheap ($495k apiece) and each individually contributed more interior pressure (and, actually, run-stops) during his first few games than Ron Brace contributed in his entire 4-year career. With a 90-man off-season roster, there’s really no practical reason to remove them until the end of Camp (assuming they’re surpassed by a couple of new guys even then).

      #14) Actually, Gonzalez stated just the other day that he might be coaxed out of retirement for the stretch-run by a top contender.

      #15) Allen might actually be surprisingly cheap, though that would be a indicator of a decline that many say they observed in his rush last season (and he’s always been a bit soft against the run). Cheap enough, given the Pats’ cap constraints? IDK, but I wouldn’t bank on it.

      #17) Mayo is already under contract through 2016. Not a lot of wiggle room there till next year.

      #18) Arrington’s contract situation is pretty much the same as Mayo’s and cutting him actually costs money. He’s certainly pricey, but he’s also way better than most slot corners around the league and worth more to the Pats than most fans think.

      #20) & #19), #23) Releasing (or even trading) Amendola actually costs over $2M in cap space, so it’s unlikely to happen. If the rumors about O’Brien (HOU) intending to go after Edelman aggressively in FA are true, the Pats are unlikely to have the cap space to outbid, so they’ll have to hope that some aggregation of Amendola, KT, Boyce and Vereen is enough to cover slot duties (hopefully, with the addition of a mid-level receiving TE or two). Moe is still trying to break into the NFL coming off his own Achilles injury (doesn’t happen very often), so if he does anything at all sufficient to even make the roster, it would be a huge bonus. Again, I’m not banking on it.

      #21) I’m not entirely sold on Talib, and I don’t think the Pats are, either. As good as Dennard and Ryan appear to be on their way to becoming, losing Talib for 2014 certainly would diminish the effectiveness of the secondary, but . . . OTOH, the market for Talib might be relatively soft – soft enough that a well-structured 4-year deal might keep his 2014 cap hit around $3M, which would be doable. But I’d still be looking elsewhere in free agency, mostly for guys to slot in behind Dennard/Ryan, since any vet FA who’s neqr Talib’s level would cost the same or more. For example, the oft-injured Chris Cook (MIN) could be worth a 1-yr, non-guaranteed deal for short money, but there are several other FAs who might work as well or better.

      #22) Blount is probably the best value proposition among all the Pats’ own free agents – relatively young, very little mileage on his tires, proven capable, reliable and more than willing. They can probably sign him for around $9M over 3 years while keeping his 2014 cap hit around $2M. If Ridley becomes a bit more trustworthy and they keep Blount for that money, along with Vereen and Bolden, the Pats would have the most solid, verstaile and deepest backfield in the NFL in 2014 for less money than most teams are paying their primary starter.

      #26) I agree – by all means, sign Bernard Pollard. And then immediately put him on IR so he can’t hurt anybody in practice. (lol)

      Except to say that, *positionally* it seems about the right mix, I can’t really comment on your specific draft picks, since I’m not yet comfortable enough with my knowledge of the prospects to project anyone in particular to the Pats.

      Anyway, again, great job!

      • Daniel R. Martin says:

        My “main man!” I really do appreciate you taking such time to weigh in on my thoughts. I am grateful for a fellow fan base that I find to be far and away more knowledgeable and helpful than any other professional sports franchise. Look for your sage counsel to be taken under advisement and reflected when I report this collective list of proposals on future postings on this website. Again, thanks for your feedback bro.

        It would mean a great deal to me if you would provide as thorough a review of my proposed draft selection. It has been the product of much thought on my behalf, but also that of the fellow fan commenters here, specifically Alex (freemanator) and Steve Earle. I am spinning my wills and idling away time, eagerly awaiting the draft and preseason free agency period to kick off in earnest. As such I am fiddlin’ with this list almost perpetually. Though I’ve always found the abbreviated term “fan,” which is a truncated form of fanatic,” to be objectionable, I must say I have been rather fanatical in expending so much time contemplating the business moves of an organization that won’t put a dime in my pocket win or lose next season. For some inexplicable reason however, this truly has become quite fun for me!

        #2.) I can’t help but to fill as though both Connolly and Wendell can be replaced for comparable money by at least marginally greater talent during free agency. I wonder how much a player like Richie Incognito will be able to command on the heels of his fiasco. That kind of nastiness could be more than a little beneficial. I want maulers on both sides of the line. Additionally, the draft selections of Antonio Richardson OT, Spencer Long OG & Seantrell Henderson OT could be potential upgrades on the line as well. At least one of those three guys could replicate the production of Connolly and Wendell at a fraction of the cost and cap hit.

        #3 and #4.) Having never played football personally, I didn’t have an adequate understanding of the severity of an Achilles injury. Unless you count the Achilles injury I sustained playing football in second grade. That hurt like a mother!  Now that I know how improbable a comeback, especially at their respective ages, I say cut Wilson and Wilfork, unless Wilson will resign for the veteran minimum and Wilfork will take a deeeeep discount. However, it is still imperative that we sign a S/S that can bring the attitude and lay the wood as Wilson has throughout his illustrious career. (Enter Bernard Pollard)

        #7.) If Mallet had any kind of legitimate, great promise, we’d know it. Since he likely does not, get a pick while we can and then parlay said pick into grabbing another backup. I think Georgia’s Aaron Murray could be a cheap yet quality replacement. The way I see it, if Brady goes out for a prolonged period the ship will be sunk for that time period anyway. Therefore, I don’t see keeping a backup QB that can’t carry the team past their rookie contract. It cost more than such a player would be worth. Furthermore, even though Murray doesn’t have the size and arm strength of Mallet, I have a sneaking suspicion his intangibles are far greater.

        #8.) I can’t argue against your point that the Pats probably can’t get four picks for a 1st round selection so late it might as well be a 2nd round pick, two years in a row. They were lucky enough to do so last year. And I am torn on whther trading back is the best move. If they expend the picks on the players I have proposed, I have no doubt this team could contend for a Superbowl. Though said belief is likely both presumptuous and arrogant on my behalf. One side of the argument is that the Patriots have a great deal of quality depth on their roster. Therefore now would be the time to get impact players. However, this draft is uncharacteristically deep with talent. I have found players through the seventh round that I project to be immediate contributors. I think the move must be to trade back for as much as possible.

        #9.) I too think Ridley is a good player. I just think his skillset is replicated by Blount, Bolden and Vereen to the point of redundancy. I do not see versatility there. I believe that roster space would be better filled by a player with the dynamic speed of a player like Dri Archer. A player who can even exceed the productivity of Edelman as a return man, in the event of his likely departure. In short, get what you can and move on from the “fumbler.”

        #10.) I can’t argue for cutting Mankins. I say restructure him if at all possible for whatever cap savings they can muster. The man is a perennial pro bowler and one tough SOB to boot, as evidence by his playing through a partially torn ACL. I am disappointed to learn that he sat out for half a season due to a contract dispute. I didn’t know that previously and believe it tarnishes his leadership status on the team.

        #12.) I rescind my suggestion to cut Kelly. He is quality depth at a relatively low cost.

        #13.) I was suggesting bring in Vellano and Jones as camp bodies, but don’t allow them to take up space on the final 53 man roster if we bring in Houston, draft Easley, retain Kelly, Siliga and/or Wilfork, and Armstead finally proves healthy enough to play.

  6. Bill Vermont says:

    I love looking over these mocks, so I might as well weigh in with mine:

    1) Ryan Shazier LB/SS I think this guy is going to be a star
    2) Troy Niklas TE Good athlete / another relative of Bruce Matthews / great future
    3) Dakota Dozier OG Never seen him play, but everything you read sounds great
    4) Jaylen Watkins CB Sammy Watkins brother. Pretty good player on Day 3
    6A) Brent Urban DE 6-6 280 Sounds like just what the Pats need
    6B) Tyler Larson C 4 year starter / great size and they need a center
    7) Jordan Lynch QB 7th round. the guy’s a winner

    Tomorrow it’ll all be different, but this is a group that will make Patriots better

  7. antonio87 says:

    we need offensive line up. don’t think we can afford a guy like mack, so maybe swanson drops to us in the 2nd round. if hes’ not there, then maybe gabe jackson! tight end is another need that must be addressed in the first round, ASJ is the guy!

  8. Yoda says:

    Patriots Seven Round Mock Draft (No Trades but a 7th rd comp pick for Woodhead)
    Hope you enjoy my mock. Bill is never predictable so I try to not mock people he should take because we all know he probably wont.

    Biggest Team Needs Prior to FA
    DL, DB, TE, OL, WR

    1. Calvin Pryor FS/SS Louisville
    Tall and fast safety who could play both safety positions and possibly corner if absolutely necessary. Harmon looked great last year and should develop into a good prospect but their is the slight possibility that the Patriots loose McCourty to free agency after next season. Finding an heir now would be better than after he leaves. Even if McCourty stays he might have to play more CB if Talib leaves. Having talented depth at any DB position is never a bad thing.

    2. Stanley Jean-Baptiste CB Nebraska
    I know the Patriots are going back to back on DBs in my mock draft but with good reason. Talib may not be back next season which would make Ryan and Dennard the starters outside which is not terrible but changes the whole dynamic of the Patriots secondary. Drafting Jean-Baptiste with or without Talib staying would give the Patriots a dynamic CB who with the right coaching could end up being the best CB on the Patriots roster.

    3.DaQuan Jones NT/DT Penn State
    Bill O’Brien connection. I expect the Patriots to restructure Wilforks contract to clear up cap space and they have some talented young DTs on the roster, especially Armstead. However they need a another space eating NT to help Silga until Wilfork returns from injury. Jones is big 6’4″ 320lbs and would be the perfect heir to Wilfork inside.

    4. Aaron Lynch DE/OLB South Florida
    The Patriots need some depth at defensive end thats not over 30 years old. He could be the Patriots designated pass rusher over Carter until he is able to start alongside Jones. Lynch is also extremely versatile and could play OLB in a 3-4 if the Patriots decide to move in that direction again.

    6(PHI). Jared Abbrederis WR Wisconsin
    I think Abbrederis lack of top of the line speed will hurt his draft stock, especially with so many talented WRs in this draft class. New England could try to move away from slot receivers this off season and instead give Brady three tall (6’2) WRs to throw too. Abbrederis is a former walk on who shows the desire to work hard in order to succeed. He is extremely well respected by his Wisconsin teammates, all of these traits should have him drafted by New England.

    6. Colt Lyerla TE Oregon
    You may be wondering why I haven’t mocked a TE in the first three round to New England, only because I believe the Patriots will find some talented 2nd Tier free agents to help until Gronk comes back at full health. Lyerla is the most talented TE in this draft, he is just a major headcase and was kicked out of Oregon because of his problems. I think Bill will still draft him, especially if he is available in the 6th round.

    7. Austin Wentworth OT Fresno State
    Relative unknown OT who is probably better suited to play RG in the NFL. Wentworth is raw but could be a great player down the road for New England. I expect Cannon to win the RG spot and do well there, but having someone like Wentworth waiting in the wings should make New England really happy.

    7(COMP). A.C. Leonard TE Tennessee State
    Another talented yet troubled TE that I think the Patriots cannot pass up in drafting. Gronk is the best TE in the NFL when healthy but pair him with Lyerla and Leonard and the Patriots have an extremely scary TE group. Drafting Leonard in the 7th round is a risk the Patriots can afford to take.

    • TheBuzz says:

      I like this. It makes sense, not a fan of drafting two TEs so late in the draft but I can see the value in both of them. Love the Pryor pick and Aaron Lynch, both players who could make an immediate impact.

      Good Job.

    • jim r says:

      that would work IMO…some UDFA’s Isiah Crowell,Conner Shaw and Kenny Bell

    • Bill Vermont says:

      All those players have talent, but you’re not going to get 1st 4 picks on defense. And there is no way I could see Kraft taking Colt Lyerla while Hernandez is in jail. Its completely different because it appears Hernandez is a killer and not a recreational drug user. But a public entity like Pats is all about perception. I think you will see a TE and OL in 1st 4 picks, maybe even 3 & 4.

      • Alex (freemanator) says:

        The Pats can deal with the media better and public perception better than most franchises. We saw that with their handling of the Hernandez case, and the Tebow signing.

        If we took Lyerla, it would be a story that would peter out after a day or two. Also perception is all about spin, and the spin is we’re giving a troubled kid a chance, trying to help him out, even though we’ve been burned in the past.

        Kraft and BB said they’d re-evaluate how they assess prospects in the light of the Hernandez case, and I hope they do, and see that the low risk high reward guys they pick up late in drafts, are unbelievable value, and continue to back the locker room and coaches in NE to help guys grow and mature as a Pro.

        So I hope they speak to him and really grill him, but if it doesn’t seem like there are deep underlying issues, then give a guy with first round talent the chance to thrive as a Pro, without stuffing him into an academic world in which he may not belong.

    • Not the way I would go but a very good draft, well thought out, nice work.

    • Accuan says:

      They need 3-4 DEs not 3-4 OLBs, they’e loaded at DE, they can find talent in later rounds.

  9. Pete H. says:

    An off-season plan to spark debate – what do you hate?
    Reduce cap number by 17 million by:
    1) Pay cuts to Connolly, Kelly, and/or Gregory (3 mil savings)
    2) Extend McCourty and Gostkowski (3.7 mil savings)
    3) Cut Wilfork, Sopoaga, and A. Wilson (10.227 mil savings)
    Sign in free agency:
    Aqib Talib (4 years, 6 mil AAV), Anquan Bolden (2 years, 5 mil AAV), LeGarrette Blount (3 years, 2 mil AAV), Dane Fletcher (3 years, 2 mil AAV), Anthony Spencer (1 year, 2 mil), and Dustin Keller (1 year, 2 mil)
    Tender Danny Aiken
    Sign to 1-year, vet minimum contracts: Desmond Bishop, Travelle Wharton, Michael Hoomanawanui, Marquise Cole, Austin Collie, and Andre Carter
    Trade Mallet for a 3rd and 4th round pick (just don’t think you’ll manage a high 2, but a high third and fourth have roughly the same value as a second on a trade value chart)
    Draft:
    1st – DT – Hageman
    2nd – TE – Nikklas
    3rd – G – Jackson
    3rd – C – Richburg
    4th – QB – Mettenberger
    4th – TE – Lynch
    6th – TE – Blanchflower
    6th – LB – Pierre-Louis
    6th – CB – Colvin
    6th – G – Long
    7th – RB – Johnson
    UDFAs – QB Mathews, FB Jordan, DE Webster, DT Kerr, CB Williams, S Whitley, and LS Heit

    Your 90-man depth chart:
    Offense:
    OT: Solder, Vollmer, Cannon, Zusevics, Devey, Mattes
    Interior O-Line: Mankins, Connolly, Wharton, Jackson, Richburg, Kline, Barker, Cave, Long
    QB: Brady, Mettenberger, Mathews
    RB: Ridley, Vereen, Blount, Bolden, Johnson, Gray, Dunn
    FB: Develin, Jordan
    TE: Gronkowski, Keller, Nikklas, Lynch, Hoomanawanui, Blanchflower, Williams
    WR: Bolden, Dobson, Amendola, Thompkins, Boyce, Slater, Collie, Harrison, Moe, McGuffie, Orton
    DE: Jones, Ninkovich, Spencer, Buchanan, Carter, Bequette, Webster
    DT: Hageman, Kelley, Armstead, Siliga, Jones, Vellano, Forston, Grissom, Kerr
    LB: Mayo, Hightower, Collins, Fletcher, Bishop, Beauharnais, White, Pierre-Louis, Davis, Reed
    CB: Talib, Dennard, Ryan, Arrington, Cole, Colvin, Green, Williams
    S: McCourty, Gregory, Harmon, Wilson, Ebner, Davis, Whitley
    K: Gostkowski
    P: Allen
    LS: Aiken, Heit

    • Yea, No!!! I don’t care much for this approach. Don’t like cutting Wolfolk, 3 TE’s drafted and carrying 7? Nothing to help in any manor the def backfield. This needs a big overhaul imo.

      • Pete H. says:

        If you wanted to addresss your concerns, you could simply cut Kelley and extend Wilfork, essentially swapping the two while still saving similar money, and switch the 4th round pick from a tight end to a defensive back. Not a major overhaul, but perhaps addresses your concerns.

        Just to clarify though, you wouldn’t carry 7 tight ends, that’s 7 on the 90-man roster to start pre-season. So one possibility for the start of the real season would be Keller, Nikklas, and Lynch on the roster with Blanchflower on the practice squad and Gronkowski on the PUP list. As much as I love Wilfork, he didn’t look like himself even before the injury last season, and I think the ability to spend 7.5 million on other places if he’s cut makes it a worthwhile choice. If you can extend him to spread the hit and he bounces back to 2012 form, that’s better, but IMO that’s a longshot. As for the defensive backfield, I think Talib, Dennard, Ryan, and Arrington are an excellent top 4, and Colvin could bolster this group as a former mid-round prospect who should fall on draft day due to a late season injury. At safety, you’re hoping for your 3rd round pick from 2013 (Harmon) to develop to improve your safety position (McCourty is a very good free safety), if not, you fall back on Gregory who is good enough when surrounded by good players (he was good at the beginning of 2013 before all the injuries wiped out impact defenders). However, I think the defense will be able to better pressure the quarterback than it was at the end of last season with Hageman, Kelley, and Armstead at defensive tackle and Anthony Spencer rotating in at defensive end. The linebacker position should also be stronger with the development of Collins and Hightower, the return of Mayo, and some depth reinforcements. The improvement in the front 7 will in turn improve the performance of your defensive backs.

        • Sorry I misunderstood about the 90 man roster. I do hope Harmon can development into a starter some day but I’d like to cover that possability by picking up another S/SS in FA’cy or the draft, maybe one from each. Lets face it Gregory is on the down side and T.Wilson and Ebner don’t provide reasonable depth for a Team hoping to be a contender. IF Talib resigns we have two good starters at CB (and if he doesn’t get injured). Arrington on the other hand I do not have much faith in. He’s really limited to covering the slot. When trying to cover the outside WR he’s just not very effective. Plus consider he has a pretty hefty contract too.
          Writing of Wolfolk or Kelly right now seems premature, the two were far more effective then the guys who replaced them in spite of their ages. There will be time to release them later if suitable replacements come on board and as you say extending Vince and /or Kelly are options which would still save us cap space this year.

        • Alex (freemanator) says:

          Some good points Pete.
          Wilfork was playing with another injury before he did his Achilles, and I think that probably was contributing to his lack lustre play.
          He’ll need to play less snaps going forward, but I think he can still be a difference maker going forward. Hope they get a favourable deal/extension done.

  10. J H TARBORO says:

    The NFL network has posted the combine list of invitees, lots of players snubbed.

  11. J H TARBORO says:

    Marc, good article. I will start this off by saying being a copycat is a form of flattery, I guess? It’s all about philosophy and how they built, they were built to beat up opposing offenses with big CBs and Safties that can lay the wood, now let’s look at our team, I agree we can use a big CB, but it’s not just about the size, for us it’s about our philosophy and types of personnel we pick up season by season, essentially we’re football nerds and every year in the draft and in FA, we always pass up edgier, athletic players and I don’t know why. Talib has bought a certain swagger or attitude to our locker room that we needed especially to our secondary. No team was in fear of our secondary at all, and it’s time to change that this year and this draft class has it. CB Stanley Jean Baptiste Neb., and S Ahmad Dixson Mich. are my choices for this years draft class, we need players that set the tone on defense.

    • acm says:

      I am not sure that would help much. That’s kind of what I tried to say earlier – it’s good coaching in the secondary, as part of an overall team philosophy on D that sets the seattle D apart. They have build that team with players that are a great fit for what they want to do on D but it all starts with setting the general approach/philosophy on D first and foremost … the player selections are a mere consequence/function of that.

      Seattle’s D as a whole is built around speed, aggressiveness, athleticism and high football IQ in all layers of D – a front 4 that uses undersized DEs as speedrushers who are tough to pin down by most OTs out there, anchored by pretty athletic DTs that can stop the run but push up the gut and disintegrate the pocket too; and undersized (by Pats standards) LB core of ultra athletic and smart player who are flying around like crazy and swarming onto opposing RBs, TEs and even slot WRs … backed up by a hybrid like Chancellor; all that athleticism in the front 7/8 sets up the perfect scenario for an aggressive but above all well-coached secondary consisting of players with high football IQ and not necessarily the best athletes in the game – all in all, if you are smart, more often than not you’d be in the right place at the right time i.e. you won’t have to run as much to cover for yours or somebody elses mistakes.

      In short, the players the seahawks have been drafting lately, have been chosen as a result of them being a fit within a more general framework on D altogether.

      Right now, the Pats D is built with a very diff philosophy in mind, not just in the secondary but overall, and simply trying to plug certain players in just because they may seem aggressive on tape in an attempt to copy another team’s draft selection tendencies. is not likely to work imo, hence my previous post. A shift in the overall approach/philosophy on D is needed first and then get the players that are the best fit for it.

      As for SJB, he is aggressive, sure, but seattle’s secondary also consists of smart players and that’s where SJB falls short imo. I can easily see him struggle in the current Pats system, which I think may well be a bit too complicated and thus favors very high football IQ players. I personally think settle’s approach on D is generally simpler, less complicated than what the Pats do, asking less of the players and thus allowing them to be more effective on the field. That’s not to say Chancellor, Sherman and Thomas are not smart players or that high football IQ is not necessary to succeed in seattles D. Rather that players like SJB are more likely to fail in a system like the Pats’.

  12. Kjb says:

    What makes Seattles D so good is the combination of their great secondary with a pass rush that brings great pressure or collapses the pocket forcing QB’s to speed up their clock and make bad decisions.

  13. Russell says:

    I agree with acm, CB Kieth McGill’s IQ is what pushes him over the top , as a CB possiblity with the Patriots. I to think Talib is to much money to keep. The CB/S Coaching staff of the Patriots is an interesting thought. I like CB Kyle Fuller, but EJ Gaines is an option for sure.
    Tevlin Smith looks solid on tape, if he could be a future S/LB highbred.

    • acm says:

      my problem with Talib is his lack of reliability from a physical stand point. He’s failed to finish two AFC champ games in a row and for some reason I also got the impression that his pending free agency (lack of a long-term contract) may have played a role in how much effort he put in trying to get back on the field, especially in that Broncos’ game.
      Just not the type of player I’d like to see the Pats commit financially to. If they were to tie up a lot of money in a single CB, I ‘d rather see them go after someone like Alteraun Verner instead of Talib.

      Personally, with so many fixes needed in FA-cy – a vet WR, a vet DT (Wilfork may well be done for good) and improvements needed at S and pass rush (not sure drafting rookies would be the best fix for this), I’d rather see them commit Talib’s money elsewhere and load up at CB from yet another deep draft for the position.

      • Russell says:

        I would like to see the Patriots sign FA DE Arthur Jones, instead of drafting a guy. Still a fan of CB Kyle Fuller, or Zack Martin early in the draft.

        • acm says:

          I would love Jones too. There are quite a few good and young-ish players at DT coming out as free agents this year – Arthur Jones, Lamarr Houston, Corey Peters, Henry Melton; and then a bigger body in the middle who still provides good push of the pocket like Linval Joseph. Melton is coming off an ACL injury and can see the Bears not franchise him this year. IMO, there is a good chance he takes less money on a 1-year deal to prove he is back from the injury and try again for a big contract next year.

          Would love to see the Pats get a couple of these guys, if they can find the caproom, as this would allow them to get younger at the position yet keep proven vet presence at the heart of the D. I know it won’t be cheap but if it would take cutting both Wilfork and Kelley and restructuring/extending some contracts, I would be all for it. They can still draft at DT but in the later rounds.
          Not signing Talib to a big-money deal would also help with improving other positions on the D (like DE and S), not just DT. I know it would be a risky move to let Talib go but, as I said, I think they’d be better off moving on from him.

          In such a scenario CB, OL and TE would become priorities in the top 3 rounds, I reckon. And this is a draft class especially deep at the first two positions with some pretty good options available at TE too.

  14. ugo says:

    In terms of drafting an OLB that they can eventually turn into a safety, I’m going to point to BB favorite school to draft from, Rutgers. OLB Jamal Merrell, 6-3 220, 4.67 in the 40. He was a safety in high school and converted to LB after arriving at Rutgers. As a LB he’s undersized but would be a great candidate to return to safety, his originally position. He’s twin brother Jamil Merrell, 6-3 255, is also a DE that produced decent but not great numbers in the sacks department during his time at Rutgers. You also have FS Jeremy Deering, 6-2 210 4.48 in the 40. He only played safety during the 2013 season, but also played running back, quarterback, wide receiver, and kick returner during his 4 years at Rutgers. As a kick returner he averaged 31 yds a return, not shaby numbers. A very versatile player and very athletic. The type of player you find ways to get onto the field. Of the three, Deering is the one with the best chance to get drafted, but most likely all these guys will go undrafted. As they were recruited by Shiano, I believe this was the last class he recruited, and we already know that BB likes the kids up at Rutgers, I have to assume these guys are already on his radar. Maybe one, if not a combination of two of these kids are brought into camp as undrafted free agents

    If they draft a safety early, I hope they do, I doubt it will be someone they need to convert from a different position. The position is in need of an immediate upgrade, so It will be someone they can plug into the rotation immediately, Pryor, Loston, or another. A conversion from a different position to safety is a full season of tutelage. That means it would most likely be a late round pick or a player brought in as an udfa.

  15. Accuan says:

    Here we go now every one wants to draft 6.3 FS SS CB. You have to draft a CB and S every year in the NFL but judging players based on their height, is pretty poor. Players that can wrap up, stay healthy, tackle is what matters. I don’t mind them drafting those guys high but if turn out to be D-Macs and Dennards and Hightowers, yikes you’re going to cash in big time. That’s why a first rounder doesn’t make much sense financially. Unless Ebron or the top CB (and again this year’s top CB were pretty bad) is on the board depending on they re-sign Talib, MLB, DE, top DTs will be gone. I expect Edelman to be gone but FA WRs are getting more and more expensive. Could be interesting if they draft another WR. Either way depth is crucial on defense, MLB, DBs and DE. But rotational guys, not franchise players.

  16. Henry says:

    Ryan Shazier is not a safety…that would be a waste of his skills.

    • Bill Vermont says:

      I would respectfully disagree about SS being a waste of Shazier’s skills. Todays game makes SS an incredibly important position and Shazier could be 3 down hybrid SS/LB, switching to LB when they pull Hightower or move him to DE or go to 3-4. I think he’d be a great pick at #29

      • Bill, with all due respect he’s a tweener and no way can I believe BB spends #29 on a tweener.

      • Accuan says:

        Look at the guys he drafted in the first round since 2010, D-Mac, Solder, Jones, Hightower. All big time players. I can only see him drafting a franchise DT, NT 3-4 DE in the first round. I really don’t see him drafting an OL in the first round, even a player like Ebron.

  17. acm says:

    yet another interesting read and right up the alley of my thoughts long before the shutdown performance of the Seahawks D in the SB.

    My problem with these player comparisons is that I think it’s superior coaching that sits at the heart of the Seattle D. Sure it helps getting good players but it takes great coaching to turn them into great ones in the right system. That’s how seattle’s managed to turn late rounders (Chancellor, Sherman and now Maxwell too) and outcasts (Browner) into the best secondary of the NFL and possibly the best ever considering all the fancy-pants rules out there that favor offenses over defenses these days. Seattles secondary coaches seem to be heads and shoulders above their counterparts and all that as part of a good system/general philosophy on D that maximizes the potential of the available players – physical, aggressive, fast, no nonsense football.

    And that’s what those other teams, including the Pats, need to address first, imo, if they wanna come even close to a good copy.
    The Pats for one seem to play too soft, preventative style D in the secondary, 95% of the time, coupled with a slow and unatheltic front 7, which creates big gaps between the two layers of D waiting to be exploited by any half decent QB out there (and even some complete scrubs too).
    In previous years, I always got the feeling that the defensive schemes may have been just too complex for the players making them think too hard during the game. Often players would look unsure what they were supposed to do and between to actions would often get caught in the middle and complete neither. Could well also explain why so many picks on CBs and Ss turned out to bust out. In comparison, Seattle’s D has a more simple, straightforward approach and challenges Os to come and beat them without bothering too much with fancy-pants disguises and such.

    All in all, I am afraid the Pats have a lot more to fix to get their D up to the level of the Seahawks than just drafting well.

    Anyways, on to the player selections: it’s interesting that you mention Shazier as a possible alternative to a Chancellor type SS. It’s something I have been thinking about myself and what has increased his value for me high enough to be well worth a 1st round pick available. On top everything else, he is the type of LB the Pats could definitely use to balance out their LB core, which is largely unathletic, bar Collins – their most mobile LB till now, Mayo, would be the biggest and least athletic player on Ds like the Seahawks, 49ers, Panthers, etc What do these defenses have in common? well, they are the best in the biz, that’s what.
    Do I think BB gets Shazier in the 1st? Well, consider this – a pick with which he could have had Bobby Wagner. Zach Brown and Lavonte David was spent on Tavon Willson. Enough said :)

    Which is why I like Loston as the best option for a tone-setting SS in this draft – chances are he falls deep enough to give a really good value and not require a pick in the 1-3 rounds.

    Regarding your choices for an Earl Thomas impersonator: I like Ward but think he lacks the speed and quickness to do what Thomas does best and that is to break away on the ball or cover deep, as you yourself said. Personally, I think the Pats already have the solution in house … as long as Devin Mac puts on another 5-10 lbs (and that’s assuming he is still at his listed weight of 195) and brings a little more physicality and aggressiveness to his game but I am afraid that may be more down to overall team approach/philosophy on D than anything else.

    Not a fan of Roby as a Thomas alternative, due to the shortcomings you mentioned – too fragile looking and doesn’t have the hard-nose mentality of Thomas, imo. Beyond that, measurements are as good as useless.

    My best bet for a Thomas clone in the draft, and likely to be a good value, is EJ Gaines (Mizzou). IMO he has the speed, instincts, tackling ability, physicality and mental approach to the game to develop into a Thomas/Byrd type player at FS in the NFL and has the versatility to become a very good CB too, which is where he’s been playing in college.
    IMO, Gaines is no worse a prospect than D. Dennard and is easily one of the most underrated CBs in the draft so far. But his stock can only rise as he could end up giving a 40-time in the top 2 at the combine.

    On the Browner comparison, I guess SJB does indeed match well but not a fan of his football IQ (reads, anticipation, etc.). Tbh, he doesn’t strike me as an intelligent player, which is players like Chancellor and Sherman use to their advantage to make up for their less than stellar athleticism (and reason for falling so deep in their respective drafts).
    IMO, SJB has a bit too much left to develop for where he would likely go in the draft.

    I personally prefer Keith Mcgill, who I am not sure why is being valued less than SJB. Mcgill is a very intelligent player and is already even a better athlete than SJB. It’s that IQ of his that raises his ceiling at the NFL for me and makes him the much better prospect, imo. He may well raise his stock at the combine, though – will likely give the best 40 time among all the over-sized CBs.

    Some honorable mentions: Exum is a player I think would be well worth a 5-6th round pick, if he falls there, just for the sake of the value he would bring there.

    All in all, I would be perfectly fine with letting Talib go (actually, I hope they do) and spend that money elsewhere and draft two of Fuller, Mcgill, Gaines and then Loston in the middle rounds. Not considering Shazier even as a remote possiblity, tbh.

    • acm says:

      Another option for an athletic LB potentially converting to a Chancellor type SS would be FSU’s Telvin Smith (6’3″, 220lbs). Smith projects more as a S than LB in the NFL anyway and would even have to put on another 10 or so lbs of muscle to get to KC’s proportions. He has about the same speed/quickness as Chancellor, has the instincts and is a sound tackler too.

      • MarcSluis says:

        Absolutely I almost included him. I think you’re right he’s a more realistic comparison if we’re talking about actually making the conversion. Shazier is the more physical tackler but is not a safety.

        Also great thoughts in general. I’m hearing a lot of talk about EJ Gaines so I’m going to have to take a closer look. Appreciate the feedback!

        • acm says:

          No problem.

          Agree that speaking purely about conversion from LB to SS. Smith would probably be the more natural choice but someone like Shazier brings an extra value because he can be both a hybrid player (which Adrian Wilson was supposed to be) and especially a 4-3 OLB who’d bring much needed athleticism and speed, as well as instincts) to the Pats D. Very much along the lines of what Lavonte David would have had they drafted him a couple years back.
          It’s that positional versatility I like the most about a player like Shazier. Sure, Smith could get to 235 lbs (in a year or so) too but there is no guarantee he would be able to preserve his speed/quickness after doing so and thus still be a viable alternative at SS.

          Either way, as I said earlier, Shazier to the Pats is not happening.

      • Jim R says:

        ACM, could not agree more about the coaching aspect of it. It seems to me that the Patriots DB’s are always playing with a trailing technique. This drives me crazy. Seattles Db’s usually have their heads turned around looking for the ball. Poor coaching and bad technique bad combo. Copy cat league so teams will reach on length/speed CB’s/Safety’s, give me a guy who shows up and makes plays.

      • J H TARBORO says:

        ACM, if we are talking about LBs converting to safety I would include Marquis Spruill from Syracuse and in FA , I would take a look at S Taylor Mays 6’3″ 230lbs. 2010 combine freak!

        • acm says:

          I thought of Spruill but he is a smaller player (height-wise) and didn’t think he would fit Mark’s idea of a Chancellor-type SS.

          I have also considered Mays (think he may be a FA agent this year) but the problem with Mays was (coming out of college) that he didn’t match his freakish athleticism with the right mentality/mindset and football IQ to make it big at the NFL level. He was and is one of those players who got drafted purely on athleticsm alone forgetting that “it” factor hidden in the heart and mind that ultimately makes or breaks a player.
          Ironically enough, Chancellor fell deep in that exact same draft class namely due to his lack of athleticism.

        • J H TARBORO says:

          We don’t need to follow the philosophy of the Seahawks, that worked for them and they won a Super Bowl, in which they had most of the same players as last year, and I agree with you with the coaching aspect, the Seahawks gave you a glimpse of the future of the NFL. Pete Carroll didn’t follow the prototypical mold when he built his team, I remember the combine when he selected LB Bruce Irving, who was the fastest LB at combine that year, love him or hate him Carroll took some of the lessons learned at the college level and applied it to today’s game, it time for Nick Casario to think outside the box, the prototype is a guideline not the gospel.

      • Jeremy says:

        Any chance Belichick thinks about moving Jamie Collins to strong safety next year, at least in the nickel defense. With Mayo & Hightower playing the 2 linebacker spots. It seems to me the ideal spot for him is roaming the middle of the field and letting McCourty play deep, much like Earl Thomas/Kam Chancellor. Collins is very athletic and can line up against any tight end in the league. I like the idea of loading up on the Defensive line via the draft rather than the secondary.

    • Russell says:

      Nice write-up, I agree on Tevlin Smith. Patriots could draft him as a future S and play some 3d down LB. Exum is coming off an injury, but watching VT tape on CB Kyle Fuller, Exum stands out as well. I have seen them in person, and Exum is a cut/powerful body type.
      I also like S/CB Tre Boston 6’1″ 208 UNC , having seen him in person as well. Green Bay is scouting Boston and is believed to have strong interest in him.

      • Accuan says:

        I’m pretty sure GB will draft nothing but MLBs they are horrendous against the run for three years and Matthews is like Mathis, good for the Lions and Vikings, against the top LTs he disappears.

    • Alex (freemanator) says:

      Good points, and the coaching in Seattle definitely helps. As does having a consistent philosophy for who you want at each position, and what you want them to do. Finding square holes for square pegs to fit in, rather than trying to jam them into your favoured round holes, helps maximise your team.

      I think BB and co are pretty good at that to be honest, and clearly value smart hard working players, and hopefully keep working to add guys who’re more athletic on both sides of the ball.

      I’d also love to pick up Exum late. He could be an ideal guy to convert to a SS with his size, he’s only 10lbs lighter than Chancellor, yet he has cornerback athleticism and cover skills. Or just have him as a big strong press corner would be fine too.



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