Patriots News 04-23, Draft Strategy Still Not Clear
Good morning, and here are our Sunday Patriots news and notes for this week.
With the draft just days away now, no one is really sure which direction the Patriots will go with the #14 pick. Will they stand pat at #14? And, if so, will it be a tackle, CB, WR, or even a QB? Or will the team decide to slide back a few slots?
We’ll discuss those options below but first, some other notes.
Quick Hitters For the Patriots and NFL News:
Matt Patricia: Patricia has left the team to be a senior defensive assistant with the Philadelphia Eagles. While this move has some fans jumping for joy, it wasn’t entirely his fault how things turned out; but he must shoulder much of the blame.
One of the most maligned coaches with the Patriots after the offense sputtered badly in 2022, Patricia was a late addition to the staff last spring, along with Joe Judge running the offense.
While neither was given the title of offensive coordinator, Patricia was the offensive line coach/play-caller, while Judge was given the title of QBs coach. Patricia was tasked by the boss (Belichick) with doing the job. So, when that happens, you bury yourself in the job and do the best you can. He can’t be blamed for that.
However, he should have realized that in the OL department, he was out of his element. We’ve all heard the reports of him not having the answers back in TC when the OL asked questions for which neither he nor Judge had answers. And the play design and calling were…a disaster. Mac Jones was visibly upset and had a few blowups that were directed at the staff, mostly at Patricia.
But the most damning of Patricia’s sins was the grudge that he held against Kendrick Bourne all season. Bourne was arguably the team’s best playmaker down the stretch in 2021, and Patricia used an error Bourne made in TC and kept him in the doghouse all year. THAT was inexcusable.
However, Patricia is a brilliant man and was a very good defensive coach in the past for the Patriots. That should not be overlooked. The Eagles will face New England this year, so that should be a game to watch.
Jameson Williams: The Lions’ #1 draft pick a year ago, along with three other Lions’ players and one from the Washington Commanders, have been suspended by the NFL for gambling.
Williams did not bet on football, but on other sports, which is legal, but was suspended for where he bet, which was in the team’s facility. Williams and fellow WR Stanley Berryhill were suspended six games for betting on other sports. However, two other Lions, wide receiver Quintez Cephus and safety C.J. Moore have been suspended indefinitely for betting on NFL games, and Washington Commanders defensive end Shaka Toney.
Those players can apply for reinstatement after one year. But the Lions subsequently released those two players.
Patriots 4th & 2 Podcast: If you haven’t checked out our PatsFans.com podcast, “Patriots 4th & 2”, in a bit, please check it out. Derek and I were joined by Clare Cooper and discussed tight ends and wide receivers in the upcoming draft.
Russ Francis/Chuck Fairbanks: The former Patriot tight end and head coach both should be in the Patriots team Hall of Fame, and the fact that especially Francis isn’t is an absolute travesty. Francis and the Raiders’ Dave Casper changed the game with how teams used the tight end position…this will be on our Sunday posts until it happens.
Kentucky QB Will Levis, Due Diligence or Legitimate Draft Target —
The Patriots recently met with Kentucky QB Will Levis in the 11th hour for a pre-draft visit. This immediately set tongues wagging about whether this was just the team doing due diligence or were they seriously contemplating drafting him with their 1st round draft pick if he is still there at #14.
Or was there another answer?
When it comes to QBs, I respect no one’s opinion more than Mark Schofield from SB Nation and a host of other sites. While Schofield posted the caveat that he’s been wrong many times with New England, he did post his own opinion on the matter.
“Ultimately, I believe the Patriots go in a different direction, and look to help Jones rather than find a replacement for him. Adding (OC Bill) O’Brien was viewed as a nod at getting the best out of their rising third-year quarterback, who showed signs as a rookie that he could be a very good NFL QB as he helped the Patriots to their first playoff appearance since the departure of Brady. That leads me to believe that when the Patriots are on the clock next Thursday — whether at 14 or elsewhere in the first round — positions such as offensive tackle and wide receiver are in play on the offensive side of the football.”
Tom E. Curran of NBC Sports Boston appeared on WEEI on Friday and his own take on the situation. Speaking on the Jones, Mego and Arcand show, he said the following:
“On its face, it’s look, we’ve got to do our due diligence on every single guy who might be sitting there when the 14th pick comes up. So if Will Levis is there, or Joey Porter Jr. is there, or Anthony Richardson is there, it doesn’t matter, we need to have intel. Because if they are sitting there, and we’re looking at Matt Groh and say, “Hey Matt, what do you think? And he says, ‘Wow, I wish we had him in,’ – you better have had him in.
“So to me, on its face, it’s doing your due diligence. But the greater point is, you don’t browse first-round quarterbacks if you feel as if you’ve got the long-term answer. And I’m not saying that they’re thinking of drafting somebody instead of Mac [Jones], but to me, they’re looking at, obviously, every single option at the position just in case. Because Mac is, through two years, he’ll be three-quarters of the way through his rookie contract at the end of next year and if he doesn’t have a kick-ass season, well, then you better be in the market.”
The feeling here is that they wanted to get familiar with Levis as a potential adversary they may face in the future, something they’ve done in the past. And this may force Minnesota to sweeten the pot, so to speak, if the rumors of them wanting to draft a QB are true. They currently own the #23 pick, and Tampa Bay owns the 19th pick. Both are believed to be in the QB market, so if the Patriots appear interested, maybe either of those two teams may want to swap picks.
Plus the fact, Bill O’Brien was brought in to help Jones recapture and bettering his rookie season of 2021. You can throw out last season offensively. Improving the OL with new coach Adrian Klemm and the OC with O’Brien is sure to do that, plus they brought in more explosive playmakers at TE and WR.
What Do The Patriots Do With The #14 Pick? Trade Back —
The Patriots are in a good place for the first round of the draft this year. If they stand pat at #14, they have a good chance of finding a good playmaker at a variety of positions. On our 4th and 2 podcast, Derek Havens and I discussed the needs of the team and options at OT, CB, WR, and sneaky needs at TE and Edge.
Much will depend on how the board plays out. If there is an early run on QBs, there may be one of the top CBs, WRs, or OTs still on the board. But if the player that they really wanted is gone or is expected to be there later, then sliding back to #19 or #23 is certainly doable. As I mentioned above, with Tampa and/or Minnesota possibly looking for a QB in the first round, then the Patriots could be in a good position to make a trade to slide back.
The feeling here is that the #14 pick will be an offensive player, either a tackle or a wide receiver. The need at CB is real, but the team can still pick one up in the second round, and the Patriots under Belichick have always found excellent diamonds in the rough at cornerback. Jonathan Jones (among many others) was undrafted.
My bet would be a tackle, but if someone like Ohio State’s JSN is still there, they’d do a long, hard look at selecting him. My favorite WRs are slot guys, Zay Flowers from BC or Josh Downs from UNC. Both are small but are dynamic playmakers.
“He’s Julian Edelman with rocket boots,” CLNS’ Taylor Kyles said concerning Flowers. “His measurables and testing numbers were very comparable to Jaylen Waddle and John Metchie — two of Mac Jones’ favorite receivers in college. He plays bigger than he is because he goes up to get the ball downfield and can make grabs through contact.”
Adding either one would make the offense look really improved. But the previously mentioned Kendrick Bourne could be that guy as well. An offense with Gesicki and Henry at TE with the combination of JuJu, Bourne, Tyquan Thornton, or Devante outside would provide plenty of favorable matchups.
Decisions, decisions…who can’t wait for Day 1 of the draft?
“You’re hoping there at 14 you can get a pretty good player… “I’d say throughout the first round; there’s an old philosophy: You’re taking a player in the first round, you’re hoping that player is going to come in and make an impact for you.”
“I think there’s a certain type [of receiver] that a lot of the fans have seen around here with those smaller guys getting in and out of their breaks being inside,” Groh added, referencing Zay Flowers. “I think it was 4.42 [seconds] Zay ran at the combine? So we’re talking about a pretty fast guy here, too, who can also stretch the field vertically from the outside.”
“It only takes one team to say, ‘Hey, we need a wide receiver.’ And then somebody else says, ‘Well, we better go get one, too,’” Groh explained of the possible first-round run at the position. “So there’s a bit of different flavor between guys like Zay and some of the bigger, longer guys. And we’ve worked really hard to try to get everywhere and get eyes on these guys.”
Patriots Director of Player Personnel Matt Groh, on what the Patriots may do with the #14 pick overall in the draft while mentioning Zay Flowers by name. Is it real interest or a smokescreen? You decide.
“So, how was your week?”
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Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2023 NFL Draft Bill Belichick Julian Edelman Kendrick Bourne Mac Jones New England Patriots NFL Patriots Patriots draft picks