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Post-Draft thoughts: What I learned

Discussion in 'Patriots Draft Talk' started by I.M. Fletcher, May 6, 2017.

  1. I.M. Fletcher

    I.M. Fletcher 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

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    I didn't get to be part of the draft run-up as I would have liked with life getting in the way, but it was quite the year sharing draft knowledge and expectations with all of you. This board is really one of a kind, and it sharpens my eye and knowledge just reading some of the opinions shared on here and the depth of knowledge many have.

    With that said, and our 90 man just about complete, I thought it would be a good time to finalize my thoughts on our 2017 roster, and what we learned going forward. Much of this has been hashed out by others, but I wanted to get my thoughts in one place

    The league Zigs, the Pats Zag

    This is expected year after year, we typically don't know how until after its done. Here are a few that caught my eye.

    1. Trading for established/value in the established. This has been talked about a lot, so I won't rehash it all, but I will add one extra dimension to this argument. With the draft getting younger and younger, and less and less coaching taking place in both college and the pros, draft picks have a much shorter time in the league than before. With that in mind, BB is trading for guys he knows will be able to play day 1, and even if its just for a single year, its likely more value he will receive from a guy taking up a spot on the roster that he can't fully trust. As long as teams continue over-valuing lower round draft picks, I think you can plan on trades like these being available to the Pats.

    2. drafting low for high priced positions. This is classic BB. Edge rushers have become the most expensive non-QB position in football, and Tackles are just not hitting UFA anymore, making guys like Matt Kalil priced way beyond proper value. So, what do the Pats do? They fill the two most expensive positions in the NFL with a 3rd and 6th round pick and 3rd and 7th round pick. Derek Rivers was someone we probably saw the least amount before the draft because of his school, but was exactly what I hoped we would draft, even if I thought we never would. I was convinced that either Wise or Hall would be Pats because of the measureables, but wanted someone like Tim Williams as well as a straight corner bender. Well, Rivers is everything I like about Williams, minus the Off-the-field issues, plus he is able to stay on the field on all downs because of his smarts and strength. His strength really pops on tape, and everything I have read has made me giddy. As soon as I read that Bo Pelini coached Youngstown, I felt like an idiot for not connecting the dots earlier. I feel like we will be playing from the lead a lot this year, which will allow us more opportunity to pin our ears back and go get the QB. If that ends up being the case, Rivers could have a huge start to his career and become a fan favourite very early on. Wise has a perfect learning situation, being able to play behind Ninko, and next to Flowers, and could see the field in any NASCAR front and against any big o-line/running teams.

    I have been on record that I loathed this tackle class, but mostly because I figured guys would end up being over drafted. It actually ended up being the opposite, with guys falling further down with highly talented players at other positions. I thought we would end up with Davenport, but as his upside was the highest, he needed an awful lot of work to get there. Garcia was a very nice compromise, given his great measurables, but also 4 years of starting and impressive draft season bowls. McDermott is a great shoot for the moon pick, who was just too valuable to pass at that juncture of the draft. Loved them moving up 5 spots to jump passed Green Bay as well. Its the little things like that I love about being a Pats fan.

    All that to be said, we ended up with only 4 picks in the draft, and I envision all 4 making the team and at least two have a significant role early in their careers. Just masterful. I had thought we would look at the secondary, but I can't really complain too much given what we came away with.

    3. undervaluing the linebacker. One of the things that struck me quite a bit when the Collins deal was made, was the assumption that we were going to have to replace him with an early pick. I never really believed that, and the offseason paints a similar picture. Historically we have relied on a great Dline and great linebacker play to mask the mix and match talent in the secondary. Hightower is the rare player who can move around to any position in the front 7 (outside of NT) but the reality is, no one else provides very much long term value. With the NFL becoming more pass happy, linebackers just don't provide the same value as they once did, and its on management to find cheaper talent that can provide the majority of the skill set at significantly reduced price.

    4. money in the line/secondary. To follow up the previous, our money moved back a row on defense. This isn't new, but the nail got driven in to the coffin with the signing of Gilmore. You simply can't win in the NFL without quality coverage, so it will have a huge premium moving forward. With that said, you still need to be able to hold up at the point of attack, which is why the Dline continues to get the most money and draft capital thrown at it. Alan Branch was a huge signing, but more under the radar was bringing in Guy. Now with 4 guys that can rotate at DT and control the line of scrimmage, with edge rushers that can contain the edge, and a secondary that won't be beaten deep and tackle near the line, you are left trying to win the game underneath 8yrds at a time. You may be able to dink and dump for awhile, but if the Pats offence is everything we think it will be, teams will be forced to play shorthanded to either slow the game down, or chase points. Its a brilliant strategy by BB to build a team that forces other teams to play against their strengths.

    5. tentpost players. Much has been made about the lack of depth behind Hightower, but for me the biggest positional risks if there were injuries would be McCourty, Cannon, Flowers, Chung, and Branch and Hightower, in that order. I know he has been incredibly durable in his career, but if for some reason McCourty did get lost for the season, I just don't see anyone on our team capable of stepping in to his shoes. Gilmore would be the closest, but thats not exactly why you bring him in. Its because of that, I see the team trying to bring his brother in, to provide some additional safety protection, and additional cornerback depth.

    6. UDFA finds. Josh Augusta has been someone I have liked for awhile as the top NT in this draft. His body isn't where it needs to be yet, and think he gets a year to fix that. Same can be said about the two safeties Thompson and Davis. Davis especially just needs to find some health luck, as his skill set and talent is legit. Daniels Jr, Rich, and Carr all should push for a role, while the Hollisters may have enough ST versatility to break through. I count 8 UDFAs that could make it, and we already had the deepest team in the league. Just masterful work by BB and co.

    won't surprise me

    1. trade from surplus around training camp. I thought this may be something we saw last year, and the opposite happened, but stay with me. This is the most loaded 90 man roster we have had in eons, and once we get down closer to cut down day, there is going to be some very tough decisions to be made. I wouldn't be surprised to see 3-4 guys dealt for lower round picks that he could hold on to until the deadline, to try and fill a couple new holes on the team.

    2. Butler, JimmyG and Solder are on the table. Don't hate me for this, I just love big trades and trying to figure where they might make changes. I will start with Butler, who you would figure would've been traded by now if it was going to happen. I just can't figure out where he will play to take advantage of his skill set. He's not agile enough to play inside as we saw in the SB IMO, and neither is Rowe. He is a boundary corner on a team with two of them already. He also doesnt have enough speed to provide a role as a potential safety convert. He's a better player than Rowe, but rowe has shown enough to be a #2, and is still growing in his role. JimmyG to Cleveland makes more sense to me today than it did before, as they have a team now that can fully take advantage of a great QB, and Kizer doesnt dissuade that at all. They have the draft capital, the need, and the fit. Solder is the most surprising name here, but they clearly drafted his replacement, and he had a rough end to the season. In a league that is throwing gobs of dollars at the position, you have to wonder what his value would be in a trade. I also wonder how comfortable BB is giving another 6.5mil to a guy who has regressed over the past 3 years. Optics matter in house more than anywhere else.

    3. Cuts/trades to watch. I got my eye on Dion Lewis, Solder, Freeney, JimmyG, Butler, Mcclellin, Gost.

    4. This may be the last year for Ninko and Slater. Two warriors and true leaders in every definition of the word. If this is the last year for them, I will miss the heck out of them.

    5. A couple extensions I am expecting: Ebner seems highly likely, Van Noy as well if he shows maturity in the system, possibly Edelman if the dollars are close, or Cooks if they aren't.

    6. This is the greatest 90 man roster ever assembled. Could be the greatest 53 man as well. I am not expecting a perfect season because the schedule looks incredibly tough, but we have never had any team as strong top to bottom, while we also have the greatest coaching staff. Its humbling having a team so good, and think of the many small decisions that got to this team. This year will be BBs "Mr Hollands Opus" team. Just a lot of small steps in the same direction to reveal his true brilliance.

    around the league

    1. Colts are about to turn it around. I was a bit worried when they hired Ballard away from the Chiefs, and this free agency and draft make it pretty clear. They kept in their lane in free agency and avoided big dollar deals at positions they had depth, while loading up on quality players where they have always had weakness. Hankins IMO was the best free agent signing, matching team need and players ability. Add in guys like Sheard, Simon and their picks of Hooker, Wilson and Basham, you can see they are actually building a team. They aren't winnings titles yet, but they are on the right path.

    2. Oakland will score, and their defense is now built like Atlanta's. They are going to try and outscore and outrun you on defense. Adding Conley and Melifonwu adds a dimension to their team they were missing last year. They still need some linebackers with some nastiness, but they are trending in the right direction. Without a doubt, they are the one team in the AFC that will challenge us this year.

    3. Interesting that our biggest competitors in the AFC from last year drafted for 2-3 years from now. Two of the best teams on paper in our conference (Houston and KC) drafted long term developmental QBs, and younger guys that will need a lot of coaching. Denver drafted a toolsy but raw Tackle and Pitt drafted some of the youngest high ceiling players available. I would venture to guess they looked at NE and realized they needed to build teams to beat them in 3 years, not 6 months.

    4. Chicago is insane. I don't mind throwing draft capital and free agency dollars at such an important position, but at the top of the market for both, when neither have proven much, is astounding to me. They were my highest priority team in regards to JimmyG, and in hindsight, that seems like it would have been their best course of action. I am sure they got an early no from BB, and took that to heart, but hard to believe the Pats would have turned down the 3rd pick plus two 3s and a 4th. Had chicago done that, they would have had more money and resources to throw at the rest of the team, with better QB play and better optics with their fans. No wonder Fox is so pissed at Pace.

    5. Mariota got a lot of help. Winston got a lot of help. They are the two young QBs that i think could really push their teams up a few levels, if their coaches don't get in the way. If Tennessee falters this year, McDaniels will be on the first flight out next summer.
     
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  2. long distance

    long distance Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    Great job, Fletch!

    I was just about to create exact same thread I thought was missing.

    First I wanted to share some sincere thanks.

    Thanks to the backbone of this board - Reamer, Manx, BGC, Fletch, Midwest - for your immense contributions and for laying the foundations - so that the rest of us could join with our thoughts and fully enjoy the process.

    Thanks to all other contributors here. It was a blast following the process in your company - that was pretty amazing in itself this year.

    This place is such a gift. Oasis. No showing off, no useless disputes, barking etc. (that sometimes contaminates the main board), only sharing, debating, trying to understand things better collectively. Very much appreciated.

    Looking forward to next year .. that for some guys here started way before already. Like Lombardi said about NE way - first days after Draft BB&co always devote to the analysis of next year's draft. Its only appropriate this board should do the same..
     
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  3. long distance

    long distance Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    Before I share some of my thoughts let me add here a post-draft breakdown of two players some of us liked for Pats: Rayshawn Jenkins and Desmond King by their next coach Gus Bradley.

    Pretty generous to the fans and draftniks..

     
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  4. captain stone

    captain stone Pro Bowl Player

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    Great stuff; a few comments:

    - One of the problems with trading draft picks for vets is that those vets, especially those still on their rookie contracts, are cost-controlled for only 1 or 2 years instead of 4 years (or 5 in the case of 1st-rounders). That's why I never, ever would've traded for Brandon Cooks (among other reasons). I was also loathe to trade one of our 5ths (#163) for only 2 years of Mike Gillislee. And I won't even mention the compelete disaster of trading #175 for Barkevious Mingo.

    - I'm also happy that Bill has finally come around to the obvious truth that LT & Pass-Rusher should be drafted every single year.

    - I would argue that Solder is more of a tent-post player than Cannon is. Remember 2015?

    - I agree that Josh Augusta, if he is willing to put in the effort, should be able to replace both Hamilton & Kilgo as the 5th DT if a 5th is carried. I also agree that both David Jones & Demarius Travis have realistic chances to replace predicted bust Jordan Richards, and hopefully Brandon King too.

    - Trading Garoppolo before the start of the season, while possible, doesn't seem likely. He would have missed all of his new team's TC & pre-season games.

    - I too hope that Freeny & McClellin are cut. I also think that this is Ninkovich's last season here.

    -Finally, although it appears that Indy has the GM position fixed, it also still has Chuckles Pagano as its HC; same can be said for Oaksterdam with Del Rio.
     
    Last edited: May 6, 2017
  5. long distance

    long distance Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    Great post, Fletch!

    Would deserve more thoughtful answer . maybe in the next days. For now I hope you don't mind just some quick-thoughts.

    While I wouldn't be surprised at any of the trades you are talking about (and I mentioned some of them on occasion - very carefully), the only thing you might be underestimating is the value of Garoppolo to BB's team. I might be too biased since Id like to see Jimmy G taking over here (in the next couple of years - after Brady in my mind retires); still this thought is not about the future but the 2017: my point is that this team is so well built that it can win it all also with JG. If you trade Jimmy away (especially so early in the year) - you are one injury away of throwing it all away. And you're not just throwing away your own work - possibly most amazing roster build ever - you're letting down every single player on your team.

    (If by the start of the season or mid-season they get comfortable with JB that would be another matter. But its quite a big IF..)

    There's no other QB out there who can help you win SBLII as mid season pick-up unless you pay much more than you got for JG (if you're lucky to find a partner). Vikings were ready for big things in 2016 and even though they sold a farm for mediocre QB all their multi-year work was thrown away bc they forgot about the second most important position on NFL team - a backup QB.

    I remain to firmly believe thats the value of Jimmy for 2017. Its bigger than any amount of picks - even if you value them more than Bill.
     
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    Last edited: May 6, 2017
  6. BaconGrundleCandy

    BaconGrundleCandy Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    Totally forgot to post that Gus video. It's a great one!
     
  7. long distance

    long distance Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    Lots of post-draft nuggets in today's Reiss' column:
    How Patriots' draft picks are viewed by others around the NFL


    In regard to Solder's situation discussion: while double-dip at OL was expected by many people at this board, taking 2 tackles in a 4 men draft by trading up twice using 4 picks to get them, that certainly sends a message. Adding 3 more tackles signed as UDFAs (while only one OG and no C) the message is even clearer. BB and Dante don't care about general perception of weaker OL class (and better next year); like always they want to have all the leverage possible when making big decisions and having 3 tackles entering final contract years certainly qualifies. Apart from players it might be also Dante's last year so they are possibly using his presence to maximum as well.

    Looking at possible Solder's trade: Currently he carries 11M cap hit. Trading him saves 7M in cap (leaving 4M dead money). Pats are currently in a very comfortable cap situation, but if they want to do something in the line of keeping both TB and JG for 2018 7M would be a welcome bonus. Its also true that Solder's game suffered at times, especially in the later part of the season and in SBLI. Another situation to take in account are some hints of him thinking retirement. On the other hand his game in 2017 overall was solid and Pats were one of the few teams not suffering at tackle. That alone could be worth 11M this year despite Fleming's good game against Arizona. Most people around the league expect Garcia and McDermott to need a full year to become usable in NFL. If Garcia needs less and Dante feels comfortable with him and Fleming by the end of TC then trading Solder could be an option..


    EDIT: Bottom line: I believe they like Solder . they just want to have the best insurance going forward plus they might know something about his future decisions..
     
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    Last edited: May 7, 2017
  8. patsfaninpa

    patsfaninpa Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    If Shaq struggles in pass protection, any chance Garcia gets time at LG with
    Thuney moving to RG. Or, many have projected Shaq to C at some point.
    Could we do that and put Garcia at G? Interior OL is my only area of concern
    headed into the season.
     
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  9. captain stone

    captain stone Pro Bowl Player

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    Training Garcia at LG is more plausible than training him at RG, which is traditionally more of a power position than LG. I like Thuny more at LG than at RG, but he would probably be able to make the transition better than Garcia to RG.
     
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  10. livinginthe past

    livinginthe past 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

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    Fantastic stuff.

    Some of you guys should definitely consider posting this stuff as articles on PatsPulpit - a lot of thought and research goes into these posts and i'd love to see them get the audience they deserve.
     
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  11. livinginthe past

    livinginthe past 2nd Team Getting Their First Start

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    I personally think they are scratching the surface of the potential with Mason. He's definitely from a very run first oriented background and has come on a very long way in a short time.

    Belichick has already raved about the dude's high ceiling as a player and his athleticism.

    I expect Mason and Thuney to be even better this season.
     
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  12. ctpatsfan77

    ctpatsfan77 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

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    The other point missing here: they can't tag Solder next year.
     
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  13. Ochmed Jones

    Ochmed Jones Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    I think,l solder is another concussion away from missing significant playing time and bb is very wise to bring in a couple of guys that could mitigate the damage to the o line if solder goes down.

    At the end of the day it is highly doubtful that bb signs solder after the season.
     
  14. maineman209

    maineman209 Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    This is a possibility that hasn't received nearly enough consideration, IMHO.

    Solder has suffered concussions, a torn bicep, the shock of being diagnosed with cancer and the shock of his infant son being diagnosed with cancer.

    By the end of 2017, Solder will have started for 7 years in the NFL, played in (at least) three Superbowls and earned (at least) two rings.

    He will also have earned about $40M over his 7-year career. While that's not a lot by current NFL standards, it might be enough for him.

    It's even possible that Solder had already informed the Pats before the draft that he intends to retire at the end of 2017.
     
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  15. BaconGrundleCandy

    BaconGrundleCandy Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

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    I'm a huge Mason fan and think hes very close to breaking through to a top tier G.

    Takes time, coaching/new coaching, practice and more practice.

    I think hes looked a lil better and more comfortable each season.

    Very excited about him and Thuney
     
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  16. maineman209

    maineman209 Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    Garcia (6063), McDermott (6081) and Rich (6072) are all extremely tall for Guards in Scar's typical/historical OL structures for the Pats - in which IOL have pretty much always been shorter than 6'5", and sometimes much shorter. Even Croston (6054) and Jelks (6057) may be a bit tall for a Guard spot in Scar's schemes.

    Anyway, it seems to me there may be several more plausible options for restructuring the IOL than training Garcia at OG.

    Karras (6040), Douglas (6040), Ferris (6040), UDFA Jason King (6034), or even Fleming (6050) could replace Mason at RG with Mason (6010) replacing Andrews (6030) at Center. Or, one of these guys could move Thuney from LG to RG with Mason moving to Center. Or both Andrews and Mason could be replaced straight up.

    Karras played some Center during the 2016 pre-season, IIRC, and Fleming has started and played full games at RG.

    Historically, Scar has demonstrated (it seems to me) at least some preference for year-to-year consistency. IOW, if Mason and Andrews show improvement (from Scar's own perspective) to the degree that none of the challengers appear to be significantly better, Scar make stick with the incumbents as starters, even if the challengers are no worse.

    OTOH, the types of interior defensive rushers and rush schemes that the Pats think they're likely to encounter from their specific 2017 regular-season opponents may factor into the calculations, too.

    No changes - if there are any - will be made in a vacuum.
     
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  17. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    IMO the center position is the the big roster enigma at this point. The 90-man roster boasts seven players with a real shot at starting the season on an NFL roster at tackle (Solder, Cannon, Fleming, Waddle, Garcia, McDermott, Rich), and one who has ever played a game at center at any level (Andrews). WTH?

    Before Mason was drafted most analysts projected him to center based on his size. But given that in two years the Patriots have shown no signs of converting him, I have to assume that they don't like him as a center.
     
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  18. maineman209

    maineman209 Veteran Starter w/Big Long Term Deal

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    Well, during the Wendell-Connolly era, the Guard/Center overlap was pretty obvious. IIRC, neither of them had played Center before joining the Pats.

    Anyway, that overlap still may exist without us being aware of it.

    It's possible that Mason and/or Karras has gotten a fair amount of practice snaps at Center without our knowledge. It's possible that a competition between Andrews and Mason for starting Center has been close, but that Scar/Brady preferred Andrews at Center or that Scar preferred Mason at Guard - perhaps by slim margins.

    From my point of view, the much higher focus on OT candidates may simply be an indication that Scar feels that the IOL, including Center, is relatively well covered.
     
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  19. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

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    It does seem clear that the coaches feel a lot more confident in the IOL, especially Andrews, than fans do. That's pretty much par for the course -- with the brief exception of Stork, the Patriots always seem to field smart but undersized centers who get pushed around some and are seen by fans as upgradeable. I suspect Andrews' job is safe.

    As for backups, IIRC Karras saw plenty of reps at center last training camp, but not Mason.
     
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  20. captain stone

    captain stone Pro Bowl Player

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    Now we know for sure how Bill feels about Andrews. Unfortunately, we still don't have a backup Center who has actually played Center in the NFL.
     

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