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.