Football is Great. But Pay Attention to What’s Important This Thanksgiving

My Nana (in the middle) in her back yard. Cambridge, MA. A long long time ago.

It was Thanksgiving 2010 and the Patriots had drawn a softball matchup with the Detroit Lions. It was a 12:30 game and I was told we weren’t eating until 3:00. I could cram in most of the game, fly out of the house around 2:00 with the Pats presumably sitting on a triple digit lead and make it to my cousin’s house with time to spare. But somehow the sure thing blowout started to go wrong.

At 1:30 I started getting phone calls from my family wondering where the hell I was. They were “waiting for me” to eat. On top of that Detroit got an early jump on a sleepy New England team and went to the half with a 17-10 lead. I punched a few walls, begrudgingly put on a wrinkled sweater and took off up 95-N with a vengeance.

Screaming down the highway my brother called me, again, asking where I was. I told him I was almost there and right on cue missed the exit as I was hanging up the phone. I yelled and punched the steering wheel calming down just in time to hear Brady connect with Deion Branch for a game tying 79 yard touchdown over the radio. I gave the horn a celebration honk as I blew through a red light to make a U-turn at the bottom of an off-ramp somewhere.

The Pats had the ball on the Detroit 20 yard line as I screeched to a stop outside my cousins house. I punched the radio off and stormed into the house, putting on the blinders and heading straight for the crowd gathered around the TV. Brady his Branch right by the sticks for his second touchdown and the lead was ours.

I walked right past my Nana who was sitting sleepily in a rocking chair.

I took my ribbing from my family about being “late” and fired back that they should have just been honest about what time I was supposed to be there. I could have stopped and said hi to my Nana then and I didn’t. All of a sudden food was being served and it was time to sit down. I wasn’t proud of walking past her. She was always the first person I sought out to sit with and have the same conversation we always seemed to have in her later years. “Oh Michael!” she’d say laughing in a first generation Italian accent that doesn’t exist anymore “I mean Danny!” my brother’s name, “you startled me!” Somehow I was always startling her. “How are you?” I’m great Nana. “Where’s Danny… I mean Michael… is he coming?” Danny’s right over there. I’m Michael and I’m right here. She’d laugh and ask me if I was “going with any girls these days?” And then the whole thing would repeat itself, and she’d laugh every time. One missing hello wouldn’t be the end of the world.

I was there for a few hours as I watched her drift in and out of sleep. Even from across the room I could see that she was more lethargic than usual sitting in the rocking chair that would have been occupied by my grandfather who had passed away a year prior. Every time she woke up I was already in the middle of something else, and assumed that there was still plenty of time to go talk to her. She slept most of the day as the family swirled around her, talking loudly and clanging dishes pots and pans cleaning up the short lived Thanksgiving meal. Eventually it would finally be time to leave, so I woke my Nana up from her nap to say goodbye. “Oh Michael,” she said with an exhausted laugh “I don’t know why I’m so tired today.” I told her she should get her rest and that I just wanted to see how she was doing and say goodbye. She told me she was sorry she was so tired and she would talk to me next time.

The next morning I woke up to a phone call from my brother. My Nana had died. Sometime in the middle of the night she had gotten up walked down the hall and her body just gave out. We had no warning. She died in the house she had lived in her whole life steps away from the kitchen she had been born in. “I was born in this house, and I’ll die in this house,” was the one thing my always humble Nana would boast about. My family had done a lot to make sure she never had to live in a nursing home. And that night, in silent, she got her wish.

45-24 Patriots was the final score. I don’t think about that game much. I think about taking my first bus trips holding my Nana’s hand through Harvard Square and I know that for as long as I’m alive I’ll never get over not giving her a hug and a kiss the minute I walked in the door. Today I’ve got a fancy technology desk job at a place where my grandfather, her husband, once worked as a janitor. I hope somewhere she knows that it’s my way of telling her what I never got to articulate while she was here; that I appreciated all the love and sacrifice that she passed down so my brother and I could one day have a better life. The clock ran out, and I never got the chance.

It’s Thanksgiving and football is great. But make sure you give the most of your attention to the people and things that matter most. There won’t always be time.

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One Absolute Truth About Push-Gate: It Kills the Tuck Rule Debate

If You Accept the Push Rule – You Accept the Tuck Rule.

Patriot Haters have a vivid and celebrated imagination. And just like nothing tops charm of the original Star Wars, nothing will beat the origins of the Patriot Hater fantasy series: The Tuck Rule Game. In the closing minutes of a divisional playoff game the Raiders appeared to cause a young Tom Brady to cough up a game ending fumble, only to have it all reversed. Introducing the Tuck Rule: a bizarre never before heard of (except that it wasn’t) technicality that allowed the referee to interpret via instant replay the intent of the QB to attempt to pull the ball back into his body. Even saying it out loud in hindsight it makes no sense. Why would anyone put this in the rules? And yet, it was still a rule.

2013’s Push Gate had Patriots Nation crying foul. The controversy exposed a spontaneous emergence of NFL rules aficionados, that I could have sworn a week ago were conspiracy happy zealots convinced the rules didn’t apply to the Patriots. Ever. Their new rally cry: “rules are rules” and “let’s move on”. Okay, you win. 913 (b2) is in the rulebook. Let’s accept that. Let’s “move on.” Despite reports that the rule may have been changed after the fact, everything appears to be on the level with the actual rule.

But Here’s The Thing…

You know what else was in the rulebook? The Tuck Rule. Contrary to popular opinion the Tuck Rule was not a figment of referee Walt Coleman’s imagination invented to save the day for Tom Brady. The rule officially became a part of the NFL rules and procedures in 1999: NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. It was in place for almost 3 years before the January 19, 2002 AFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Patriots and Raiders when the rule became famous. It was even enforced earlier in the 2002 season to negate a strip sack on Jets QB Vinny Testaverde that actually cost New England the game.

It was a very curious time to enforce an obscure rule with a vague premise. As Jon Gruden put it during week 1’s MNF broadcast while discussing the rule’s abolishment in 2013 “No one alive had ever heard of the Tuck Rule.” He’s not wrong. How would anyone have known about a rule that had barely been enforced in the 2 years it existed? But it was in the rule book, and it was in the rule book well before the “Tuck Rule Game.”

Of course the Tuck Rule debut looked bad. Why wouldn’t it? The season was on the line and one bizarre speech by a ref who didn’t even look convinced of his own rationale changed everything. It very well should have raised an eyebrow. It was a terrible rule. The NFL even had the motive to want to screw the Raiders. That’s the thing so many folks either don’t realize or choose to forget. Al Davis and the NFL publicly butted heads for years through multiple lawsuits and cat fights. The legal battles alone likely cost the NFL millions. If the Tuck Rule was a conspiracy then really the most probable rationale was to stick it to Al Davis, rather than to elevate unknown 6th round pick Tom Brady to stardom. The Raiders still aren’t over it. No one blames them. But guess what… It was in the rule book.

Now let me get to my point.

Fast forward to October 2013. The Jets attempt a 56 yard field goal in OT, well outside kicker Nick Folk’s career limit, and a seemingly normal missed field goal turns into a point of controversy. Something practically unnoticeable hands the game over to the Jets. Mike Pereira (who would defend Aaron Hernandez if he owned a black & white striped Foot Locker uni) insists that the call was correct, and points out that it was the first time the rule was ever called:

The timing of this spontaneous enforcement of the rule should set off red flags with any football fan. It essentially cancelled out 4+ quarters of football and rolled out a red carpet for a Jets win. Any fan who pretends this doesn’t look suspicious, or that they knew about the rule in depth, or that they could spot this rule infraction in real time is lying through their teeth.

But why get upset at the officials? All they did was enforce a published and documented rule. Right? Therein lies the logic trap, Pats Haters. If you accept that the referees did their job last Sunday, then you accept that they did their job with the Tuck Rule. Grit your teeth and do the math.

Nothing changes here. The levity of the game shouldn’t make any difference. Unveiling a rule that had up until then never once been called should look suspicious. Saying that the Jets won the game by the book is fine, and technically correct in every way. But if that’s the logic you subscribe to then you don’t get to pick and choose when the rules matter and when they don’t. If the Jets beat the Patriots fair and square then Brady’s 2001-2002 Patriots beat the Raiders. Fair and square. By the rules.

If you want to waive the rules in our face, fine. The rules are great. We’re nothing without them. Hooray for rules. But there’s no way around it IF YOU ACCEPT THAT THE PUSH RULE WAS VALID. THEN YOU ACCEPT THAT THE TUCK RULE WAS VALID. You don’t have to like it, but no one ever likes the rules. Do they? So “move on” from that already.

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Five Questions No One Is Asking About the Buffalo Game

1. So Ryan Wendell Forget How to Snap A Football?

A year ago we reluctantly gave Wendell the benefit of the doubt when the former UDFA and multiple time practice squad member took over one of the most difficult/important jobs in the league as Brady’s center. It paid off great. He was outstanding last year and sent longtime anchor Dan Koppen packing. The O-line was stronger than ever. But what the hell happened yesterday? Wendell’s snaps were consistently low or off target. Brady is good enough to adjust on the fly but not even the best can deal with it all game. It seemed like any time he had to lineup in shotgun the snap was guaranteed low or off target. That’s dangerous in a timing route system and even more so against a pass rush that came as fast as Buffalo did Sunday. They were bringing multiple pass rushers consistently and getting good penetration all over. To me that was where this game started to go wrong. The seconds lost salvaging a bad snap were throwing off the synch of the offense early and often. Which leads me to…

2. What the Hell Was the Rush To Get That Goal Line Snap Off?

It was fourth and goal in a critical situation. A full play clock to work with. Wendell was struggling with his snaps all day. And the Patriots rush to the line of scrimmage and snap the ball with 13 seconds left on the play clock? WHY? Settle down and run the play correctly. And even then, I’m still curious as to what exactly the play was. If you look at the replay you’ll see Develin take off on the strong side with Blount behind him. If they had run this play they had a touchdown. Develin found his gap correctly and had a linebacker blocked. All Blount would have had to do was truck a DB and it was 6 points. But I’m not certain that’s what the call was. Blount appears to be running full speed behind Develin and doesn’t turn his head towards Brady until he sees the fumble. Look how far away he is from the ball.

The only other play I can think of would have been a Brady misdirection type sneak out of the weak side. They’ve run it before with success. But here it would have been doomed. Look at the far side of the defense: #25 Da’Norris Searcy was right there waiting for it.

He’s lined up wide of the tackle, but the fact that he didn’t jump immediately makes me think he was was almost in a spy assignment waiting for something sneaky to come through that back door. The play was completely doomed unless they actually calmed down and checked into another play with the 13 seconds they had left. That’s all very very easy for me to sit here and say in hindsight but the fact is they had the time to settle down and run the play right and they rushed it.

3. Has Doug Marrone Ever Watched A Patriots Game?

I ask this for a couple reasons. First and foremost, anyone with a 5th grade understanding of the game knows you do whatever you have to do to keep Brady off the field. Especially in the 4th quarter. ESPECIALLY WITH A LEAD. Buffalo had a 4 point lead with 11:03 left in the 3rd quarter. They had 4 possessions to chew up as much time as they could and did the following:

  • 6 plays. 27 yards. 2:46 elapsed.
  • 3 plays. -2 yards. 1:00 elapsed.
  • 6 plays. 18 yards. 1:58 elapsed.
  • 3 plays. 4 yards. 1:11 elapsed.

DRIVE TOTALS: 18 plays. 47 yards. 6:55 TOP
AVERAGE: 23 seconds per play. 2.61 yards per play

Part of this was the defense doing its job and coming up with stops when it had to. But what kind of rocks do you need to have in your brain to know that this wasn’t the time to make a statement about your awesome no-huddle offense? Run the ball. Go with some high percentage plays. Chew up the clock. If you don’t Brady is happy to do it for you.

And did Marrone even take a peak at the AFCCG or maybe Scott Chandler’s track record against the Patriots? New England struggles against tight ends on the regular. They were the 29th ranked team against TE’s a year ago with the exact same safety personnel. Chandler had 4 touchdowns in 5 career games against the Patriots and they barely even looked at him. Who set up their first touchdown drive with a 19 yard reception? Surprise. Scott Chandler. What works works even if throwing to a big bulky white guy doesn’t fit your Fast & Furious dream offense. Marrone should have gotten the game ball from Belichick. No question. MVP performance.

4. How Did CBS Actually Get Worse At Broadcasting Football?

If I had the patience or the stomach I’d go back and re-watch the game to count how many different names Dan Dierdorf called KenBRELL Thompkins other than his own. I understand the kid isn’t Jerry Rice if you did your homework at all you knew Thompkins was going to get a lot of looks that day. Do your homework and learn his name.

And holy shit do any of the producers actually watch football? The sideline camera ops were totally out of position to get a useable replay angle the entire game. The first Ridley “fumble” went to break without even checking the replay. They come back from a 60 second break with a replay of Ridley’s ass hitting the ground and half the Buffalo defense eclipsing the play. That was the replay they chose to lead with with an entire break to think about it. This went on for the entire game. I’ve worked on major market sports broadcasts before. The camera director meets with all the camera ops before the game and gives them their individual assignments. Somehow with all those cameras they consistently found ways to get bad angles on every replay and really not seem to care that they were producing a garbage product.

Also, I get that white uniforms in a day game don’t translate very well to video but CBS day games always look like butts. The camera is either washed out or too dark. I’m also in the minority of people that refuse to pay for an HD set top box from Comcast after paying $90 a month to watch SD broadcasts on an HDTV. So I get to deal with macroblocking and image artifacts all game because if you’re not watching HDTV in 2013 no one cares about you. Still the FOX broadcast looked 100 fold better and that was played in broad daylight as well. FOX also had the foresight to include some actual stats with its score ticker to accommodate the ultra underground little known cult phenomenon known as fantasy football.

5. How Did Brandon Spikes Get Dehydrated In the First Quarter?

Fifty Five plays with about 300% intensity on average, so I’ll almost always give him the benefit of the doubt. But this should never happen. If he was dealing with the flu or something then sit him. The last thing this team needs right now is a flu outbreak. Patriots S&C coach has been very vocal about the importance of proper hydration in his players, so I find it very hard to believe that this was a matter of improper game prep on Spikes’ part. This was a really bizarre turn of events and tells me that someone isn’t doing their job somewhere. Whoever it is, they’re on a lengthy list right now.

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Night Session Training Camp Notes

Another year, another awesome night time training camp session at Gilette. These 95 man rosters are murder on the eyes especially with so many new pieces, but here’s my best attempt at taking it all in. All the photos here are mine. Feel free to use them. It’d be nice to get a photo credit, but in full disclosure I probably can’t stop you.

The Offense:

Aaron Dobson looks to be everything I saw on tape: fast, quick in and out of his transitions, a total headache for corners to handle 1 on 1… and a bad tendency to drop a catchable ball. He and Talib were giving eachother some pretty outstanding back and forth battles. But his hands just weren’t consistent and dropped too many passes after shaking the DB.

– If I had to make one crazy prediction right now it would be that rookie Josh Boyce will lead the Patriots WRs in yardage by the end of the 2013 season. The former TCU star is quickly developing a rapport with Brady. He’s clicking on screens, finding the ball deep, and working everything in between. If I took away the roster from you and told you to point out the guy who is there for his 4th practice ever as an NFL player you wouldn’t have picked out Boyce.

Dobson leaves a DB in the dust.

– I don’t want to get ahead of myself but Amendola looked great. Most people refuse to believe it but he’s taller than Welker, 2 inches taller in fact. He looks a lot bigger on the field though to the point where I was actually confused who this mysterious #80 was that was catching everything that came his way. Nu-Welker looked like a professional out there, in fact much more so than some of the other veterans.

– #85, 25 year old UDFA Kenbrell Thompkins, has got to be the most frustrating player on this roster right now. He looks absolutely phenomenal… maybe 60% of the time. The rest of the time he’s lining up wrong, not knowing his routes, or dropping a ball on a 5 yard crossing pattern that hits him in the chest. At one point he lined up with the 1’s, and seconds before the snap put him arms up to let Brady know he didn’t know his assignment. Too late. Thompkins took off on the snap, ran an in-cut and almost crashed into TE Zach Sudfeld. I kind of doubt it was written up like that. But you can’t even cross him off your list because 5 minutes later he’ll make a great play. I heard reports of 3rd year WR Kamar Aiken getting a big chunk of the 1st team reps. Tonight it was Thompkins who still has a shot if he gets it together. What the hell is it about that number 85? Someone is going to have to break out from the pack of unknowns.

Thompkins getting reps in with Brady while trying to figure things out.

– Camp looked like another day at the office for vet Leon Washington. He spent a lot of time taking handoffs and running between the tackles. If he has to play positional RB this year he’ll be ready.

Marcus Cannon looked more athletic than I remember him. I think this year we’ll get to see the player he was meant to be. People greatly underestimate what it takes to fully recover from lymphoma.

– Earlier in camp I heard reports that Michael Jenkins was working as the #1 WR. That was not at all the case last night. He looked like junk early on in practice and steadily disappeared to make room for Dobson, Boyce, Amendola and Thompkins. At times you could have told me he was an UDFA rookie and I would have believed it. Other veteran FA signing Lavelle Hawkins looked considerably better but didn’t blow anyone away.

– It may have just been a coincidence but the beginning of practice seemed to feature a lot of Michael Hoomanawanui, and after a few missed connections with Brady it didn’t so much. The second half was almost all Daniel Fells and Zach Sudfeld and for what it’s worth the ball seemed to hit the ground less often.

– Again, not to say it didn’t happen but I didn’t personally see LeGarrett Blount take a single run to the outside the whole night. If he was touching the ball it was almost always going up the gut. They may be trying to force him to be more of a grinder. The massive back also caught a couple of passes. They weren’t the prettiest catches but they happened. He looked big and quick, and I’m definitely rooting for him to make this team.

– The only high five I saw Belichick dish out was to UDFA receiver Quentin Sims of UT-Martin, who I thought made the most of his reps.


– I’m beyond impressed so I’ll mention him first: Steve Beauharnis is going to make this roster. The Rutgers rookie was playing Mike backer with the 2’s and calling the plays. His coverage skills looked good, and he was moving around in space very fluidly. Everywhere that I expected veteran Dane Fletcher to shine Beauharnis quietly stole the show.

Chandler Jones, as reported, looked beastly. He and Solder has some great battles going all night. He looks bigger and thicker through his arms and lower body. I’m hoping that cuts down on his injury potential. The lanky skinny (relative term) young man who showed up for camp last season wasn’t there last night. The 95 I saw looked downright scary at times.

Talib and Dennard were driving receivers nuts all night. They were physical, they were tough to shake, and they were in the right place at the right time. In short these two were game ready last night.

Boyce finds a hole on a screen but can’t allude Dennard.

Logan Ryan looked pretty good last night. He wasn’t entirely consistent but he had a few pass breakups and looks to be getting the hang of things. Arrington got most of the reps as the inside corner, but Ryan made his count. It’ll be very interesting to see where he’s at by the end of camp.

– #30 Duron Harmon had a relatively quiet night, at least from where I was, but he did pick off a Ryan Mallet pass that was going to absolutely no one. Harmon was in position for a pick 6 had it been a live game. Had it been a live game Mallet wouldn’t have been on the field, so touche’.

Justin Francis was playing the role of veteran last night. I saw him several times showing the ropes to the new guys including Brockton’s Jason Vega who I was disappointed to see minimal work from last night.

– At one point in 7 on 7’s Talib intercepted a Brady pass intended for Kenbrell Thompkins (who, to everyone’s surprise, was in the wrong spot). The defense celebrated on the field but none louder or more obnoxiously than #93 Tommy Kelly who was seen flapping his arms in the air like he had just won Olympic gold. I think I’m going to like this guy.

– As promised from earlier camp reports there was a 3 downed lineman defensive set featuring Wilfork in the middle set up on the 1 gap, flanked by Tommy Kelly and Chandler Jones.

From left to right Kelly – Wilfork – Jones. Kiss your lunch money goodbye.

– As soon as I found 7th round pick Michael Buchanan he was hard to stop watching. The rookie DE is large and fast… and loud. He barked something at the line of scrimmage and it echoed through the whole stadium. If his technique develops he’ll bounce about half the DE ranks right off the depth chart.

– ESPN Boston and I are going to have to agree to disagree on his observations of Ras-I Dowling from last night. Truthfully I didn’t see anything special about Dowling last night, or anything to indicate to me that this was his 3rd camp and he was ready to make the leap. He wasn’t playing very composed, wasn’t getting his head back to the ball, and was having issues keeping receivers contained. I’ve been one of the biggest Dowling supporters since he was drafted but I felt let down last night.

– The second tier DTs aren’t just getting the camp-body treatment. They’re getting a ton of work as the coaches are trying to figure out who’ll possibly contribute to this position of need. From what I saw last night everyone came to work including 320 lb space eater UDFA Anthony Rashad-White who got a lot of one-on-one time with coaches.

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The Trial of Aaron Hernandez’ Draft Pick: Was The 113th Pick Worth the Price

I figured someone had to tackle this issue with a certain rigor that might finally prove a point. The Pats have been getting slammed recently by hindsight-ing critics, fans, and most notably GM’s of several less successful football franchises that have come out of the woodwork to say that the Patriots never should have taken the Gator TE. It sounds pretty smart in retrospect. Clearly given that Hernandez will probably never play football again his value takes a nosedive. My goal here, however, is simply to provide the hard facts of Hernandez’ short career and juxtapose it with what else came and went out of that 2010 fourth round.

It’s important to note that this isn’t putting his lucrative contract extension under the microscope (and most certainly not Hernandez the human being either…yeesh). The issue at hand is his draft pick, which GM’s like the Bengal’s owner Mike Brown, recently former Colts GM Bill Polian and Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland had claimed they had figured out all along. Here is my breakdown of the 2010 fourth round and who came out of it with what. Please take a look at the data and reach your own conclusions, but from what is in front of me I think it’s obvious that the Pats got markedly more out of Hernandez even in a short period of time than the vast majority of teams managed with their 4th round pick.

Note: If I’ve discounted the real life value of a player on your team please leave a comment making a case and I’ll possibly re-adjust. Or just call me an idiot.


Fourth Round Indisputable Winners:
Bengals – Geno Atkins
Buccaneers – Mike Williams
Ravens – Dennis Pitta
Vikings – Everson Griffen *1 year solid production
Bears – Corey Wootton *1 year solid production

Tight Ends Drafted
113. Aaron Hernandez 1,956 Yards 18 TDs
114. Dennis Pitta 1,075 Yards 10 TDs
118. Garrett Graham 287 Yards 3 TDs
125. Clay Harbor 421 Yards 4 TDs

Players No Longer With Team That Drafted Them: 14 of 32 (6 no longer in the NFL)

Average Draft Grade for 31 picks not including Hernandez: D+
*Using my own grading > numerical values divided by 31. I think I was plenty fair though.


99. Mardy Gilyard – St Louis Rams
Synopsis: Waived by the Rams after playing 11 games and not doing anything despite a decent draft buzz. Caught 2 passes for 15 yards for the Jets in 2012. Nobody caught much of anything for the Jets last year, but failed to contend on a weak WR roster.
Grade: F

100. Everson Griffen – Minnesota Vikings
Synopsis: Struggled as a rookie. Arrested twice in a week in 2011 including being tazered for grabbing a cop’s crotch. Three seasons later finally started to actually perform with 8 sacks. It’s worth noting that the Patriots were on the phone with Griffen 11 picks prior when Carolina offered them a 2011 2nd rounder (Ras-I Dowling at 33).
Grade: B-

101. Mike Williams – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Synopsis: Solid wide receiver that has performed consistently and emerged as a top target for Josh Freeman and it certainly isn’t because Freeman is blowing people’s doors off. Beyond Hernandez and Geno Atkins, Williams was undoubtably the top player taken in the round.
Grade: A

102. Darryl Sharpton – Houston Texans
Synopsis: Backup linebacker with fewer tackles to show for his entire career than Jerod Mayo managed when he missed 3 games in 2009.
Grade: D

103. Perry Riley – Washington Redskins
Synopsis: Placeholder starting inside linebacker opposite London Fletcher, but at least he’s still a starter… for now.
Grade: C

104. Alterraun Verner – Tennessee Titans
Synopsis: Serviceable #2 corner with modest production that would maybe be a nickel corner on a better team
Grade: B-

105. Trevard Lindley – Philadelphia Eagles
Synopsis: Played 11 games in 2010 with 1 INT. Cut by the Eagles the following year, and twice again after that.
Grade: F

106. Bruce Campbell – Oakland Raiders
Synopsis: Originally slotted as a top 10 pick the Raiders selected him to play LT. Eventually moved him to RT and then traded him for Mike Goodson. He’s currently listed as the backup LT for the Carolina Panthers
Grade: C-

107. Marcus Easley – Buffalo Bills
Synopsis: Put on IR with a heart condition (how’d they miss they miss that?). Didn’t play in a game until 2012 and handled 2 kickoff returns.
Grade: D-

108. Jacoby Ford – Oakland Raiders
Synopsis: The Raiders drafted a guy with modest statistical production in college who ran a 4.28. Huuuge surprise. Ford was a solid kick returner who looked like a promising slot receiver but terrible QB play held him back. He missed all of 2012 with a lisfranc injury and only played 8 games in 2011. he could still emerge as a decent football player.
Grade: C+

109. Corey Wootton – Chicago Bears
Synopsis: Wootton was scouted by the Patriots before the draft. The Bears had trouble keeping him on the field for 2 years getting only 13 games out of him in his first 2 seasons with 1 sack in a reserve role. He started to break out last year with 7 sacks and will start opposite Julius Peppers this season.
Grade: B

110. Darrell Stuckey – San Diego Chargers
Synopsis: Stuckey is a depth player with zero career interceptions and just a blank space under the “Professional Career” section of his Wikipedia article. He’s the backup to Eric Weddle and isn’t very good.
Grade: D+

111. Walter Thurmond – Seattle Seahawks
Synopsis: The former injury prone Oregon Duck played 22 games over 3 years with the Seahawks. He missed most of 2011 with a broken fibula, and almost all of 2012 with a hamstring injury. The Hawks spent a 5th round pick on LSU’s Tharold Simon who will most likely knock Thurmond off the depth chart.
Grade: F

112. Joe McKnight – New York Jets
Synopsis: Where do you even start with McKnight? Do you start with the fact that his draft status bought him a roster spot that forced the team to dump Danny Woodhead? The fact that he was a giant headache for the coaching staff and his teammates early in his career? The fact that whenever the Jets are on the verge of just dumping him he’ll pull a great game out of his ass before fading back into uselessness? Or the fact that when Shonne Greene was injured McKnight still couldn’t get anything going on the ground?
Grade: D

113. Aaron Hernandez – New England Patriots
Synopsis: In 3 seasons as a Patriot played in 38 games with 1956 yards and 18 TDs. He was a part of the starting offense immediately, and after some public ass chewing from Brady became one of the most dominant tight ends in the league… before being arrested for murder in 2013.
Grade: B- *Consensus grade reached by Patskrieg Facebook followers.

114. Dennis Pitta – Baltimore Ravens
Synopsis: Ozzie Newsome gets a lot of credit for being a draft genius despite owning just as many busts as everyone else. But to give credit where it’s due he got it right with Pitta: 1,075 yards in 3 seasons with 10 TDs and was instrumental in winning the 2012 AFCCG by kicking Steve Gregory’s ass up and down the field.
Grade: A

115. Phillip Dillard – New York Giants
Synopsis: Probably one of Jerry Reese’s more regrettable picks. Made 4 tackles in 7 games with the Giants in 2010, and was waived the following season. Has bounced around between the Panthers practice squad, the Chargers practice squad and the UFL’s Omaha Nighthawks.
Grade: F

116. Thaddeus Gibson – Pittsburgh Steelers
Synopsis: The Steelers surprised a lot of folks by cutting Gibson halfway through his rookie season. They were stacked at linebacker at the time and just didn’t need him. He played 2 games with the 49ers before being cut again. The Steelers took another look at him a year later and still didn’t like what they saw. He was last spotted on the Titans practice squad.
Grade: F

117. Joe Hawley – Atlanta Falcons
Synopsis: I was dreading getting a utility offensive lineman here. I can honestly say I have no idea if Hawley ever started for the Falcons. He’s listed as the backup center behind 2nd year player Peter Konz so I’m assuming anything he’s accomplished hasn’t been long term.
Grade: C-

118. Garrett Graham – Houston Texans
Synopsis: Diet Owen Daniels. Graham is a career backup who I can’t possibly think too highly of considering he has no real statistical production even with all the time start TE Owen Daniels has missed over the last few years. At his current pace it would take him 20.4 seasons to match the production of Aaron Hernandez. He’s still on the roster though.
Grade: D+

119. A.J. Edds – Miami Dolphins
Synopsis: Edds actually had pretty good tape from Iowa so it wasn’t a shocker that he got drafted here. Edds missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. The Dolphins actually kept him through final cuts the next year and had him on the 53 man roster for exactly 1 day. He spent some time with the Patriots and Colts in 2011 and disappeared for 2012. The Patriots opted to kick the tires on him this year so the dream isn’t dead yet. Still…
Grade: F

120. Geno Atkins – Cincinnati Bengals
Synopsis: For as good as the Bengals are at finding mid round gems you’d think they would be a better football team. He was quiet statistically at Georgia, but when I saw him move at the Combine I was begging the Pats to draft him. He would be named to the Pro Bowl in his second season when Vince Wilfork withdrew from the roster. In 2012 he’d finish the season with 12.5 sacks and is a franchise player in the making.
Grade: A+

121. Keenan Clayton – Philadelphia Eagles
Synopsis: The Eagles had back to back picks in the 4th round. Neither one of them are still on the roster. The first of the pair was Keenan Clayton who had 43 tackles in 2 years as an Eagle before being dumped, and picked up by the Raiders to resume his non-factor status totaling 5 tackles in 15 games.
Grade: F

122. Mike Kafka – Philadelphia Eagles
Synopsis: Kafka really didn’t suck. He just never got a chance and sat behind bums like Kevin Kolb and Vince Young. He was released by the Eagles at the end of last season and was briefly involved with the Patriots. He’s now the Jaguar’s #3 QB and could easily be a #2 on a worse… wait are there worse teams than the Jaguars? Still the Eagles never got anything out of him.
Grade: D

123. Al Woods – New Orleans Saints
Synopsis: Woods was the 2nd player drafted in the 2010 fourth round to never make the roster of the team he was drafted by. The Saints cut him in September, the Steelers signed him but never played him (interestingly enough giving him a roster spot over their own 4th rounder), and the Bucs signed him after the Steelers cut him. He played 2 games in Seattle the following year, and came back to Pittsburgh in 2012 to play in 12 games and record 3 tackles. A non factor for 3 teams in 3 years.
Grade: F

124. Eric Norwood – Carolina Panthers
Synopsis: Norwood was hidden on a thin and dismal Panthers roster for 2 years. He was released and wound up in the UFL until the league fell apart. With no NFL teams calling he moved on to the Arena Football League with the San Jose Sabrecats who traded him to the Pittsburgh Power in 2013.
Grade: F

125. Clay Harbor – Philadelphia Eagles
Synopsis: The 4th TE taken in the round, and the 3rd most productive. With 421 yards and 4 TDs career he hasn’t done much to oust a mediocre Brent Celek from his roster spot. At his current pace it would take him 13.9 years in the NFL to match the production of Aaron Hernandez. The Eagles really loaded up in this round, which tells you why they’ve been the way they’ve been ever since. At best Harbor is a guy you take a look at once a year when you’re stuck in your girlfriend’s 18 team fantasy league looking for a bye week TE.
Grade: C

126. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah – Dallas Cowboys
Synopsis: This gentleman, I don’t feel like spelling his name twice, had some buzz about him coming out of college and actually earned the starting kick returner job in his rookie season. He had some success but went on IR later in the year. The Cowboys unsuccessfully tried to convert him into a WR the next year and ended up cutting him. Jacksonville picked him up and promoted him off their practice squad, but somehow figured they were all set on kick returns. He was last seen on the Raiders practice squad.
Grade: D

127. E.J. Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
Synopsis: At one point the Seahawks started building a great defense. They sure as hell didn’t do it in the 4th round of the 2010 draft. Wilson had 1 tackle in 2 games as a Seahawk and was let go during his rookie season. The Bucs picked him up a year later but he ruptured his achilles in a preseason game and hasn’t played football since.
Grade: F

128. Jason Fox – Detroit Lions
Synopsis: Jason Fox almost broke the U of Miami school record for most starts in a career. He has started zero games for the Lions.
Grade: D

129. Jacques McClendon – Indianapolis Colts
Synopsis:Polian claims he had no qualms about missing out on Hernandez despite the fact that most of his picks from this draft were total busts. McClendon was a physical freak that a lot of folks thought would make a push to be a starter. He played 4 games as a reserve in Indy and was cut. He spent time on the Lions, Steelers the Falcons practice squad. Polian left town soon after as well.
Grade: F

130. O’Brien Schofield – Arizona Cardinals
Synopsis: This Downtown Abbey character has had modest production, but has out-produced the majority of the LB’s in taken in this round. He had 4 sacks in 2012 before being placed on IR after 9 games. I’m grading low because he’s still a work in progress.
Grade: C+

131. Roddrick Muckelroy – Cincinnati Bengals
Synopsis: In the spirit of not winning them all, after finding a future Pro Bowler in the same round, the Bengals whiffed on this compensatory 2nd 4th rounder. The former Texas Longhorns leader in tackles managed 11 in 2 years as a Bengal. He ruptured his achilles in training camp his 2nd year, and the next season was cut to make room for UDFA Vontaze Burfict.
Grade: F

Does comparing Hernandez to the rest of the 4th round mean a lot? Yes, and no. There is the rest of the draft class to consider. The intangibles of a potential ethical stain left on the franchise. The chain reaction possibilities of other TE’s the Patriots would have considered had they not had success with Hernandez. It could go on forever. But the next time you hear a GM chime in that they knew all along that Hernandez was a sociopath maybe take a look at what they put on paper, and what they put on tape and ask yourself who really has it figured out.

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2013 College Football Early Watch List Part 1 (Anything to take my mind off Aaron Hernandez Edition)

Ra’shede Hageman DT – Minnesota

Build: 6’6″ 310 #
2013 Year: Senior
2012 Stats: 7.5 TFL 6 Sacks

When you’re a 300+ lb defensive tackle who claims he can do a 360 dunk you get to headline a list like this. Hageman was a 3 star 250 lb tight end coming out of high school in Minneapolis. He moved to DE in college, and as he filled up to 300 lbs moved to the interior. Bruce Feldman had him as #2 on his college football Freak List. Little known fact: HOF DT Warren Sapp was a high school TE. The similarities show in Hageman’s explosive first step. He’s got the tools of a first round draft pick and the stats (6 sacks last year). If he keeps it up and improves his technique he’ll be a highly discussed prospect that could play 3 or 5 technique easily. He’ll get downgraded for playing at Minnesota. It’ll be a really stupid criticism as the Big Ten features some of the strongest offensive lines in the country, but it will be said out loud nonetheless. Here he is against one of the best offensive lines in the nation.

Sat 10/5 @ MichiganTaylor Lewan and one of the best offensive lines in the country
Sat 9/21 v San Jose State – Spartan’s QB David Fales got away with over 4,000 yards last year, can Hageman get to him first?

Donte Moncrief WR – Ole Miss

Build: 6-3 228#
2013 Year: Junior
2012 Stats: 979 Yards 10 TDs

This former 4 star recruit turned a good sophomore year into a standout year when he went nuts for over 300 yards and 5 TDs in the final 2 weeks of the season against LSU and Mississippi State. Those aren’t exactly teams that youngsters usually come in and walk all over. Moncrief’s season ended with 979 yards and 10 TDs. He’ll be a junior this year and a question mark to declare for the draft with Marquise Lee and possibly Sammy Watkins presumably already cemented as the top two wideouts. Still, if he tops 1,000 yards and double digit touchdowns again a 2nd round grade wouldn’t be out of the question. Undoubtedly his game still has holes in it, but his upside is both obvious and ominous just from looking at him. There aren’t a ton of players as big as him that can run in the 4.4’s or have that kind of explosiveness of the line. I see everything in him that scouts saw in Aaron Dobson and possibly more.

Sat 9/14 @ Texas – Matchup v Quandre Diggs (4 INT last year)
Sat 10/12 v Texas A&M – Matchup v top ranked corner Deshavor Everett

Craig Loston Safety  Safety РLSU

Build: 6-2 205#
2013 Year Senior
2012 Stats 3 INT, 3 TFL, 55 Tackles

If it were up to me I’d put the card in now for a first round pick on LSU’s Craig Loston. It’s not up to me. It’s never been up to me. And that’s a really stupid idea on my part but you get the point. I’ve been eyeballing Loston for a while now. The LSU secondary (Patric Peterson obviously withstanding) is something I’m occasionally suspect of. The Tigers put a bunch of thugs up on their front 7 and their DB’s reap the benefits. A lot of times when you look at them up close though they turn out to be a bunch of drag-down tacklers who don’t cover well. Fortunately, while I was looking at all these guys I kept noticing #6: a big-bodied seek and destroy type safety with actual center field cover skills. It was no surprise when I found out he was a 5 star recruit and named the 2009 best high school safety in the country. I really don’t want to get too far ahead of myself but, seriously, his play reminds me of Bob Sanders from the Pats/Colts Clash of the Titans days. I’m not without my criticisms: BP gets a little too high, hitting area could stand to be lower, he’s a “general studies” major, etc. But 3 INTs in his junior year look promising on a resume. He’ll be the senior man at the DB position with Eric Reid having gone to the NFL. We’ll see if he can emerge as a leader and live up to his potential. You can be sure #6 will be the reason I’ll be watching LSU football come this fall.

Sat 11/23 v Texas A&M – LSU was one of only 3 teams to keep Jonny Manziel from scoring a TD, and picked him off 3 times. Who wins this round?
Sat 11/09 @ Alabama – If you’re not watching LSU/Alabama by now you’re not watching college football

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Tight Ends in the Brady Era – An Up & Down History

With the Patriots due for another shakeup at the Tight End position in the wake of the depressing news on Aaron Hernandez I thought I’d take a look at the history of the TE position in terms of the Brady era Patriots. It’s a position we’ve very much come to take for granted in the Gronk-Hernandez years, and it looks like things might have to go back to the drawing board once more. Here’s a look at how we got to where we are today.

Rod Rutledge 1998 – 2002
Notable Accomplishments Caught Brady’s 1st NFL completion

This first one precedes the Brady era just a bit. In 1998 the Patriots, then coached by Pete Carrol, spent a 2nd round pick on a TE from Alabama named Rod Rutledge who never really did anything. Statistically speaking he did practically nothing spending 5 years in New England and only cracking 100 yards once.

His true place in history would come in November 23, 2000. A gangly young 6th round pick named Tom Brady would enter the game against the Detroit Lions. Brady threw 3 passes. The last of them was complete to Rod Rutledge for 6 yards. It was a 3rd and 10. The Patriots would punt the ball and soon close out a 34-9 blowout loss. It was the last the world would see of young Tom Brady for the year.

Jermaine Wiggins 2000 – 2001
Notable Accomplishments 10 Catches for 68 yards in the Snow Bowl v Raiders. Super Bowl Champion 2001.

The first tight end of the Brady era and the pride of East Boston, Jermaine Wiggins was somehow the top tight end in New England for 2 years. Originally an undrafted free agent by the Jets Wiggins was a guy used to bouncing around. Wiggins played for the University of Maine, Marshall, and then finally ended up at Georgia. He’d go on to play for 6 different NFL teams and a UFL’s Florida Tuskers in 2009. He was a likable guy who played hard and fit right in with the no-name Patriots team that would shock the world at win a Super Bowl.

Wiggy was famous, at least amongst Eastie (that’s “East Boston” in lowlife talk) folks, for flashing an East Boston tattoo when he scored a touchdown. He got to do that exactly 5 times as a Patriot. His stats were never anything impressive as he was part of a lopsided offense in Brady’s seminal years where virtually everything went to Troy Brown. Wiggins had 14 receptions for all of 2001 where Brown finished the year with 101 catches for 1199 yards, almost double what the next most popular target (David Patten) caught… a stat that spotlights just how pathetic it was for the Rams to not be able to cover Brown in the final drive of the Super Bowl. You can catch Wiggy these days on 98.5 once in a while, or doing some play breakdowns for people too drunk or asleep to turn their TV’s off on WHDH.

Christian Fauria & Daniel Graham 2002 – 2005 (Fauria) / 2006 (Graham)
Notable Accomplishments 7 TDs in 2002 (Fauria) / 7 TDs in 2004 (Graham)

In retrospect the names weren’t much but this was the beginning of an experimentation with multiple tight end sets in New England in the Brady era. The duo of Fauria and Graham never broke any records but adapted to Patriots football well enough to win 2 Super Bowls. Fauria was a former high 2nd round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, and had flourished in college with Kordell Stewart at Colorado. He never really blew anyone away in Seattle and found his way to the Patriots in free agency as they looked for a pass catching TE. Despite his less than devastating stats Fauria was a competent dependable target for Brady who seemed like he could have been a Patriot all along.

At the same time the Patriots spent the 24th overall pick on another Colorado guy TE Daniel Graham. Three picks later went Belichick’s all time man crush Ed Reed making the Graham pick amount to absolutely no sense in retrospect. Still the point was to have a multiple TE attack, an idea Belichick had helped introduce to the NFL with the Lions in the70’s. Graham was good not great and much better in Madden 2005 than in real life. He was a system guy who blocked well and was in the right place at the right time consistently. In 5 years in New England he managed 1395 yards and 17 TDs and was even an offensive captain. The later signing of Ben Watson, the promotion of Josh McDaniels to OC, the slow shift in the NFL towards a more athletic tight ends, and the fact that Graham’s pass catching abilities were diminishing all lead to the Pats letting him go in 2007. Denver picked him up and gave him $30 million over 5 years, a contract later reluctantly inherited by coach Josh McDaniels in 2009 who released him a year later.

Ben Watson 2004 – 2009
Notable Accomplishments 643 yards 3 TDs in 2006, and that tackle on Champ Bailey that no one will ever shut up about

A friend once told me a story about a waitress at his restaurant getting hit on by Robert Alexander. He mis-remembered the story years later and told it as Ben Watson doing the smooth talking. I corrected him, having heard it a number of times, and told him “If it was Ben Watson putting moves on a girl he’d drop his own dick.”

The memory of Ben Watson varies from Pats fan to Pats fan. Some people remember a crazy fast 255 lb prospect that was supposed to change the TE position forever. The rest of us remember that most of that other stuff never really happened. Watson was good but never consistent and he was never what he was billed to be. The Ben Watson I remember was a $10 scratch ticket that had a 50/50 chance of either making a huge play or dropping a wide open pass. Thinking back on the Ben Watson era was a lot like thinking back on my old 486 Packard Bell PC. It seemed impressive at the time and the same idea was there that my 25″ iMac realized years later, but in retrospective was just a crude unpolished version of things to come. For a supposedly freak athlete Watson was clumsy, uncoordinated, and suspect with his hands. He’d just do dumb things like catch a ball 3 yards out of bounds in the end zone, not squeeze his hands on a pass in the middle of the field and give up a tipped interception, catch a ball on the sidelines with one leg way the hell out of bounds. And this was a guy who reportedly had the 3rd highest Wonderlic score of all time. He was hurt all the time (playing 16 games just once in 6 years). On top of that it was also a total mystery if he’d even be involved in the game plan from week to week. I can recall a frustrated Matthew Berry approaching him to ask why he was such a cockblock fantasy pick. Watson told him point blank that some weeks they didn’t even gameplan with him in mind.

Utlimately, Watson’s career came to a crossroads in 2010 with a big debate on whether or not to re-sign him. In a contract year he had only put up 404 yards. With an ultra deep draft looming a decision had to be made. Belichick being a smart guy passed, much to the dismay of stupid emotional fans everywhere that were the kind of people that still keep their fingers crossed every time a new terrible Metallica record comes out. Blockheaded fans brought up his famous touchdown saving tackle on a Champ Bailey INT return in the 05 Divisional playoff game. Lost in the nostalgia was the fact that the Pats lost the game anyways with an invisible Ben Watson recording zero catches for zero yards that day. For smart fans it was an easy decision: Watson just wasn’t worth the money.

He was replaced by a trio of veteran Algee Crumpler, and rookies Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. People still bitched and moaned when Watson went on to record a career high 763 yards with the Browns. He never came close to that number again and is now the #2 behind Jimmy Graham in New Orleans. The Watson complaints remain one of the dumbest consensus decisions by Patriots Nation of all time.

David Thomas 2006 – 2008
Notable Accomplishments Won A Super Bowl with the Saints

Thomas was the 2nd John Mackey Award winner to be drafted by the Patriots (the first was Daniel Graham) when he went 86th overall in 2006. Just for the hell of it I’ll point out that Owen Daniels went 22 picks later. He was your typical Patriots 3rd round pick in that he played a role but never really broke out. He was #2 to Watson and had some nice games filling in whenever Watson was hurt including an 83 yard performance late in his rookie year that included his first ever NFL touchdown.

He was a good blocker and had a knack for being forgotten for 3 quarters and then coming out of nowhere to snag a catch for a key first down. The party ended for Thomas in week 8 of 2008. With the Matt Cassell lead Patriots trying to overcome a 15-18 deficit late in the game Thomas decked a Colts defender with a pointless late hit that would nullify a first down run. The drive would end with an INT. The look on Belichick’s told the whole story. Thomas would never play another snap as a Patriot. It was a bumout, but I was glad to see him gone after a stupid mindless play like that too. He hung on with the Saints long enough to win a Super Bowl but was released after the 2012 season.

Kyle Brady 2007 Р2007
Notable Accomplishments Was really big.

Kyle Brady was maybe most famous for being one of the most prolific Jets busts of all time. That and had a neck with the diameter of a Ford Explorer. The Jets took him 9th overall with all of Madison Square Garden begging and screaming for Warren Sapp. In 4 years with the Jets he put together about 900 yards, and was equally mediocre for 8 years in Jacksonville. The Patriots picked him up for the veteran minimum as a blocking TE in 2007. He would have been the #3 TE if Thomas hadn’t missed the entire season with an injury. Either way the #2 TE wasn’t much of a consideration in an offense featuring Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker murdering defenses. The lesser Brady had 2 touchdowns in 2 blowout wins against the Cowboys and the Dolphins but was an effective run blocker throughout the season. His final game of his 13 year career would be the infamous Super Bowl XLII where Brady would record 1 reception for 3 yards.

Chris Baker
Notable Accomplishments None. Chris Baker sucked.

Searching for “Chris Baker Pro Football Reference” didn’t even autofill on my search bar. I think it might have been the first time anyone’s ever asked for it. His stats weren’t any better or worse than David Thomas or Kyle Brady or anyone else who played #2 to Ben Watson. But if you actually watched the games you knew what a piss poor showing it really was.

He really wasn’t a bad tight end with the Jets, and was one of those guys who looked like he was on the verge of breaking out a lot. He was a 3rd round pick in 2002 but took 3 years to earn a starting role. He threw a public temper tantrum when the Jets spent a first round pick on Dustin Keller which the Jets turned around and rewarded with a contract extension (seems like the thing to do in New Jersey). They dumped him short of his contract in 2009.

The Pats gave him a chance to show up his old team in week 2 of 2009 and he answered with 1 reception for 1 yard. It was an allegorical performance of his entire season in one of the shittiest Patriot offenses of the Brady era. Watching him play you just saw a guy who brought a loser Jets mentality to the game and had no problem letting passes bounce of his sternum. Patriots fans were glad to see him go when they let loose every single TE on the roster after the 2009 season. He finished out his career with a single year in Seattle making 9 catches for 114 yards.

Algee Crumpler
Notable Accomplishments Mentor to Gronk & Hernandez

Algeron Darius Crumpler was signed by the Patriots in 2010 after 9 years in the NFL. Years ago he had been a pretty impressive force in Atlanta but his stats had rapidly diminished in his 30’s. No one thought he had much left in the tank. On paper he would record 6 receptions in 16 games for only 52 yards. In real time they were some of the most spirited 52 yards I can remember.

Really the point of bringing in Crumpler was to show two rookies Gronk and Hernandez how to play the game like a pro. The results speak for themselves. He was regarded as a solid teammate and Belichick never had enough praise for what he was able to do with the Patriots locker room. If Gronkowski had Ben Watson around to learn from who knows how things might have turned out.

With the future uncertain for our Gronkowski and Hernandez it’s good to end this on a positive note.

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AFC East Preview: What Pats Fans Should & (More Importantly) Should NOT Be Worried About


Why We’re Worried:

Ryan Tannehill isn’t awful. He’s a far cry from being a super star or even a regular star, but he’s probably a better developmental QB than anything else the subterranean standards of the AFC East has seen in a while. He’s got Mike Wallace to throw to who has averaged 103 yards per game in 2 career appearances against the Patriots (the one and only stat that worries me in an overall stupid free agent signing). Wallace is already gushing about what a breath of fresh air it is to be in Miami as if the environment of a perennial Super Bowl contender like Pittsburgh was what was really holding him back.

Despite deceiving the world into believing they had a great defense last year (13th against the run, 27th against the pass) they went out and re-did their entire linebacker position adding veterans Phillip Wheeler, Danelle Ellerbee and Florida rookie Jelani Jenkins. It’s a nice mix of veteran and young talent that might be actually good on the field instead of just the PFT comments section.

Why We’re Not Worried:

With the maintstream media gushing over Miami’s stellar offseason you’d almost think that they’re actually having a stellar offseason. The truth is the media hasn’t had much to talk about and Miami has been in a race with the Colts to see who can spend the most money for the least gain. It’s a close one, but for the first time in a while Miami is staying competitive in something.

If you listen to Dolphins fans long enough you actually start to believe that this team has a great defense. Cameron Wake took home 15 sacks last year and that’s lovely. But truthfully the Dolphins gave up over 5800 yards last year (21st in the league) and allowed only 14 fewer points than the Patriots who have consistently been criticized for their defense. This year they traded up to nab Dion Jordan to compliment Cameron Wake on the other side of their defensive line. Jordan is in the mold of former college star Aaron Maybin in that he’s way undersized for his position and no one really knows where to put him. Maybin, as you’ll recall, was a bust for 2 separate AFC east teams. For all that Maybin didn’t do, most noticeably perhaps is the fact that he never lit himself on fire trying to syphon gas from a car with a vacuum. I’d love to see what that Wonderlic score looked like.

In addition they grabbed Dannell Ellerbe who had an outstanding post season in Baltimore even with a serious injury. I was fawning over his gritty play even while he was beating up on the Patriots offense. My admiration aside his starting experience is limited and the fact that Baltimore didn’t want to retain a guy they had developed with no other options at middle linebacker should tell you something. I think he’s a great talent but 5 years/$35 million for a guy with 1/2 a season’s starting experience is the kind of deal you only see in Miami.

Dolphins fans do the same dance every year. They spend the whole season cursing Jeff Ireland for being a terrible GM, then love him in the offseason when he spends money on big name players… then spend the rest of the season cursing him again when those same players don’t work out: Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush, Karlos Dansby, and you can add Mike Wallace to that list. The Dolphin fanbase cheered Ireland for shrewdly dealing away their top corner former first rounder Vontae Davis for a second round pick. Not only do they turn a first round pick into a second round pick but they sign former Falcons CB Brent Grimes to replace him as their top corner for even more money. Grimes is coming off an achilles injury on the wrong side of 30. They also drafted Boise State corner Jamar Taylor who is talented, but will miss a big chunk of the offseason recovering from a sports hernia surgery that somehow no one knew about. Meanwhile the Patriots retained Aqib Talib for less money in a similar deal with much less fanfare.

And the offense… the billion dollar Miami offense in the making… Ireland spent over a month trying to finagle a trade for Brandon Albert after they failed to retain their franchise LT Jake Long. The Chiefs didn’t bite on the trade and now the Dolphins have to insert last year’s 2nd round pick Jonathan Martin in at left tackle and act like that was the plan all along and spend even more money signing RT Tyson Clabo.

Their “feature back” is a tossup between 2nd year player Lamaar Miller (250 yards last year), and one of fantasy football’s most regrettable bangs Daniel Thomas. Not to mention the fact that they traded away Devon Bess a guy with markedly better success against the Patriots than Brian Hartline and never really replaced him.. except for signing Brandon Gibson for an absolutely insane 3 year $9.78 million contract earned with a bland 4 year career in St. Louis.

And lastly if you actually listen to Dolphins fans gush about how great Ryan Tannehill is you’d think he actually had a great rookie season. He threw more INTs than TDs. His passer rating was 76.1, which was less than a point higher than Chad Henne’s the last time he started a full season for the Dolphins. And that’s great but no matter what anyone tells you about his potential, as of right now he’s accomplished exactly as much as Chad Henne and less than Chad Pennington.


Why We’re Worried:

No more Buddy Nix calling the shots. This is a sad development for those of us who enjoyed the 16-32 record of the Nix/Gailey/Fitzpatrick era. Buffalo was happy to spend money in weird and pointless ways including a 6 year $59 million deal for Ryan Fitzpatrick, a 4 year $20 million deal for Mark Anderson, and an absolutely obsessive pursuit of Mario Williams that took up so much time and resources that they lost out on all their other priority free agents last year. He’ll get credit for drafting CJ Spiller but those of us who watch football know it took Spiller 3 years to even figure out how to play professional football while putting a ton of miles on Fred Jackson.

One of Nix final moves does have me a bit concerned though and that was the pairing of new franchise QB EJ Manuel with Texas’ Marquise Goodwin through this year’s draft. We’ve discussed Goodwin quite a bit on the Patskrieg Facebook and consider him maybe the most underrated commodity in this whole draft class. The former Longhorn was an Olympic track athlete that possesses blinding speed that was giving DB’s a major headache at Senior Bowl practice. Literally no one could cover him vertically. In fact, I’m more afraid of him than 2nd round pick Robert Woods. He’s very raw and only had modest production at Texas, but I think the Patriots should start thinking about how they’re going to cover him now. I don’t know if anyone is fast enough to do it one on one.

On the defensive side of the ball new coach Doug Marrone is attempting a hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense that he’s been stockpiling mismatched personnel for. They sent former 3rd rounder Kelvin Sheppard to the Colts for former 1st rounder Jerry Hughes to get some more options for a 3-4 pass rush attack. On top of that they still have a solid young CB tandem in Leodis McKelvin (re-signed) and last year’s first rounder Stephon Gilmore. And as bad as this team was at times last year they still managed the 6th best rushing defense in the league without any of the blowhard attitude we saw from Miami’s fake defense.

Why We’re Not Worried:

Where do I even start?

Manny Lawson, Mario Williams, and Jerry Hughes are their options for a “hybrid” 3-4 attack? OMG Terrifying. What has Lawson ever done to keep justifying these contracts? He was a 1st round pick in San Francisco 7 years ago and has been living off his draft stock ever since. He’s only managed more than 3 sacks once in his entire disappointing career and has flopped in both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts. Hughes just sucks. He always sucked and I was glad when the Colts drafted him because I knew Bill Polian had absolutely nothing left in the tank. People are actually still arguing that he had started to breakout during his last year in Indy. Look at the stats: he had FOUR sacks that year and it was 4x as many as his first two seasons. That’s a breakout season like my cat having a breakout intestinal career by not throwing up for two days in a row. SO SCARY.

On top of that they dumped a perfectly good safety in George Wilson to keep spending money on the Republican Guard of front sevens that has never and will never scare anyone. They replaced Wilson with 2 F- talents via the draft (Duke Williams and Jonathan Meeks) to thin out an already suspect secondary. Think about how much time you spent last April talking about how fierce the Bills pass rush would be. Now go look at the stats and realize that they actually managed fewer sacks than the Patriots… again, the team with “no pass rush” whose defense sucks and can’t do anything but win football games.

The chest puffing of Bills fans last year just looks hilarious in retrospect. How many times did you hear some version of “Bro, how tha Pats gonna block Mario Williams, kehd??” As it turns out Nate Solder and the gang rose to the task just fine. They blanked Williams in two appearances last year (that’s zero sacks, kehd), and surrendered only 2 sacks to the Bills total. The supposedly non-existant Patriots pass rush returned the favor with 6 sacks against the Bills. That’s more.

And great job drafting a read-option QB that can’t pass from the pocket meaning the Bills will have to come up with yet another completely revamped offense. No big deal though right? It only took superstar CJ Spiller 3 years to figure out the last offense.

You’ll excuse me if I don’t get a fear boner over another mediocre Bills team.


Why We’re Worried

For the first time in the entire Rex Ryan era the Jets have humbled themselves to having zero sense of entitlement in the NFL. That to me is the most dangerous thing of all because Ryan might pull his head out of his own ass and actually coach the team for once. For all the massive public humiliation he’s caused himself in a short period of time he’s still the same guy who out-coached Bill Belichick in several important games. He’s still a dangerous coach and no one should forget that.

When he’s inevitably fired this season I wouldn’t mind seeing him punch Joe Namath in his alcoholic face for the nonstop trash talking he’s done of a Jets organization that’s tried to include him for years. I’ve got no special beef with Namath, but the organization has been forced to kiss his ass while he yucked it up with the media with fat jokes and cheapshots at the Jets misfortune.

Jets fans already hate new GM John Idzik for two just plain stupid free agent signings of criminal Mike Goodson (who was described as “covered in vomit” at the time of his arrest) and the unexplainable David Garrard. The truth is he didn’t screw up the draft that bad in my opinion. Trading Darrell Revis was the right move. Revis is one of the best but he’s selfish and arrogant and quits when things get hard (i.e. the hamstring injury he faked after Randy Moss smoked him). They got a talented corner in Dee Milliner for their troubles and the athletically gifted Sheldon Richardson to play 3-4 DE. The whole Geno Smith thing might blow up but what do you want the guy to do? Paint the team into another Mark Sanchez QB corner again and have zero options but to stick with the biggest active bust in the league? Give the guy a break. He signed a QB that could have been 1st overall in the 2nd round. It’s not a do or die pick.

Why We’re Not Worried:

I don’t know if anyone has pointed this out yet but I will. After 2 pretty good first round picks, and an honest stab at a QB in the second the Jets had 4 more picks. They went tackle, guard, guard, fullback. Lost in all musings on what the hell are the Jets doing with Geno Smith they took 3 interior offensive linemen and a fullback and ignored all the depth available at every position besides “guy who blocks.” Even if one of these guys is supposed to play center you’ve already got Pro Bowler Nick Mangold at center and 7 year veteran Willie Colon at LG. How many guards can you fit into this roster?

It’s tough to pinpoint when exactly Rex Ryan lost complete control of this team but it’s gone. They’re trying to switch to a 3-4 now by moving all 290 lbs of Quinton Coples over to outside linebacker. If he’s asked to drop back into coverage that’s an automatic mismatch with just about anyone. As far as their secondary; I’ve been getting thumbs-downed on PFT for years now every time I pointed out how much 1st round pick Kyle Wilson sucks. What happened Jets fans? If Revis is gone, why is Wilson still the #3 corner? I thought Wilson was better than McCourty??

All the egos that made this team the disaster that it is are still alive and well and too expensive to get rid of. Santonio Holmes is still there to argue with the gaggle of third rate QB options. Antonio Cromartie is still there. QB of the future Geno Smith has already shown flashes of egomania; firing his agent after blaming him for not getting drafted first overall, and then signing with an agency run by rapper Jay-Z. I’m sure his career will make for a successful reality show / Affliction-esque clothing line / men’s fragrance but I don’t know what he’s supposed to do about football.

All signs point to business as usual for the defending pre-season champions.

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After A 2 Week Calm Down: Patriots Full Draft Grades

I get really emotional about the draft. Maybe it’s the fact that I do so much to get to know these players in the year leading up to the draft that I get attached to the ideas of certain players coming here to do certain things. Whatever it is, I get really worked up and angry about some picks right after their name drops. Sometimes I’ll take 10 minutes, or a day or two to come to my senses and realize it’s actually not so bad. I mean, Coach Belichick is only 151-57 in regular season games as a Patriot… it’s almost like he knows more about football than I do.

This time I took 2 weeks. Two weeks. Because it was just that kind of draft.

I hope my criticisms look stupid over time. I hope my optimism is rewarded. At the end of the day I’d rather have a 4th Super Bowl ring than have the “Told Ya So” crown of cool bloggers that no one reads or cares about. But until these guys hit the field, in my humble opinion, no one has the right to tell me that I’m wrong.

Jamie Collins – OLB/DE Southern Miss

I don’t think Collins sucks. In fact I had him starred in my Combine notes and statistically he was great with 16.5 sacks in his last 2 seasons at Southern Miss. I was surprised to hear his name called so early, but I don’t think he sucks. His background is intriguing in a very Belichick kind of way. In high school he was 1st team All State as a quarterback/linebacker. When he went to Southern Miss he was actually originally was slated as a defensive back. He’s scheme diverse and has a lot of experience dropping into coverage. That doesn’t necessarily mean I’d trust him covering Percy Harvin, but he’s done it and that’s a lot more than most DE’s can say coming out of college. What I like the most about him is that he’s strong at the point of attack and has a violent disengage ability that a lot of pass rushers don’t have. Plus he managed an 11″7′ long jump which is incredible if it’s actually worth anything in football.

While he doesn’t suck I kind of don’t get where he fits in this defense. People who are raving about this pick don’t really seem to have an answer for that either. Another way of saying “scheme diverse” is “tweener.” I thought he looked like a textbook 3-4 OLB when I first starting watching him, and apparently the Patriots scouts thought the same. Rumor has it, from Draft Insider, that Belichick and the scouts disagreed on Collins who the scouts had marked as a 3rd day pick.

At Southern Miss he played a mix of four point and two point stance, a lot of times finding success lining up on a TE or wide of the LT. If you’re looking to twin tower him opposite Chandler Jones at the end of a base 4-3 front I think there’s going to be more of a learning curve that people want to admit. If you’re looking to put him at outside linebacker you have reason to be encouraged with his 4.64 40 time. Lateral movement isn’t really his strongpoint though. When asked to change direction on the fly he’s very flat footed and heavy. For an incredible athlete he can be made to look very un-athletic at times.

Grade: B-
I’m trying to stay optimistic with Collins. Truthfully he had almost identical statistical production to last year’s 3rd round pick Jake Bequette who did it against better competition and still wasn’t good enough to crack the roster as a rookie. Also the Bengals took the much higher rated Margus Hunt with the next pick making me think it’s going to be Carlos Dunlap all over again. I don’t think a 2nd round pick on Collins is too soon but I liked Hunt’s skillset better. For now I’m waiting to see him on the field in training camp.

Aaron Dobson – WR Marshall

Positives: I was honestly dreading this pick and it was a nightmare watching it happen in real life. But there are positives and the more I watch Dobson the more I want to see him succeed. One positive thing that jumps right out at me are that Dobson’s feet are fast. His transitions are maybe better than Cordarrelle Patterson or Justin Hunter or some of the guys ranked a lot higher than him. The way his feet move look like an NFL receiver. In fact his footwork reminds me of a talented former Patriot, but this certain illiterate wife beater will go unnamed as not to jinx our guy Dobson. He’s big and beefy for such a tall fast player. A lot of players his size have really narrow lower bodies that you’re just waiting to see snap. Not the case with Dobson. You could tell me he was an undersized outside linebacker and I’d maybe believe it. The Marshall product plays with some fire and has all the physical attributes of an X receiver.

Above all Belichick trusts him to pick up the Erhardt-Perkins offense which can basically wipe half your potential WR’s off the board. In fact really wanted Cordarrelle Patterson until I heard him speak in an interview and didn’t think he had the brainpower to learn the McDaniels playbook. His former coaches have come forward since the draft to rave about his intelligence. If he can line up properly he’ll be miles ahead of a lot of big name veterans who have pretended to be Patriots.

The buzz on Dobson has been his potential, his amazing potential and how he still hasn’t lived up to it, and how everyone is just waiting for him to break through that wall and burst out. He had a bad quarterback. He had an ankle injury that cost him 2 games. Trust me he’s going to break out any second. Right? You can give me the potential speech until I die but I just can’t shake the feeling like 3 years from now we’ll all still be talking about Dobson’s potential and how he’s 1 season away from unlocking it. The same way Ben Watson was always a season away from breaking out, or Brandon Tate just needed a little more time to come into his own. No matter how many times I look at his 40 and listen to the singing praise from the internet about “thank god BB choose the obscure pick we all closed our eyes and agreed on at random” I can’t help but think this is Taylor Price (big fast underexposed WR who would have flourished with a better QB supposedly) re-packaged as a 2nd round pick.

The people gushing about his hands are the people who are watching Youtube highlight reels. When I look at Dobson as a whole I see a player that habitually catches with his body, struggles to make routine catches of on target passes, and is a potential liability in the possession game. He’s never cracked 700 yards in 4 years at Marshall and only registered over 5 touchdowns once (a 12 touchdown season in 2011). In 10 games his senior year Dobson managed only one 100+ yard game. And for everyone still raving about his Senior Bowl practice, I’ve seen that practice footage and I was less that blown away. Also do you know how many receptions Dobson had in the actual Senior Bowl. Check out the box score if you’re curious. If you don’t time for box scores it was ZERO. That also combines for zero yards.

If you’re sick of hearing negative feedback on Dobson then what do you want me to do? Ignore the Pats flaky history of developing wide receivers? Ignore the stats and the drops and the game tape? What do you want from me?

Grade: D
Belichick says he’s smart. If he can learn the playbook and be on the field long enough to make a difference I’ll be thrilled and I’ll shut up. Rest assured I will cheer this kid on harder and louder than everyone else and root for him to make an asshole out of me. I hope my negative assessment of him lives on in infamy and 10 years from now looks as dumb as Ron Borges opining on the Richard Seymour draft. But for now I have him pegged as someone else’s priority free agent washout in 2016 and the Pats will be back to drawing board looking for a wide receiver again. Welcome to the family Dobson, but I’ve got my doubts.

Logan Ryan – CB Rutgers

Pick number one of the Rutgers Graduate Physical Education Co-Op formerly known as the New England Patriots.

Positives: Ryan might not be McCourty but he’s got D-Mac’s physical style. He was a 2 year starter at Rutgers and produced right away: 7 interceptions 30 passes broken up in his 2 seasons as a starter. That’s not a typo: thirty, three zero. That’s really impressive considering there are 1st round corners that never even come close to double digit PBU’s. The Rutgers D had Ryan on an island a lot of the time so opposing QB’s were probably more apt to throw in his direction with no safety help over the top, so he saw plenty of action.

He’s a big lanky corner that makes the Ras-I Dowling waiting game a lot less suspenseful. Ryan is a formidable replacement for Dowling who basically got a whiff of the Foxboro grass and immediately tore every ligament in his lower body. Ryan played 26 straight games as a Scarlet Knights starter and has no sketchy injury history. If Dowling can’t pull it together this year then they’ve got another option.

Negatives: When the island approach went well, it went well. When it didn’t Ryan got burned for some deep touchdowns. He’s not as well composed as some of the other higher ranked corners in this year’s class. By that I mean he plays a lot of catchup and doesn’t show a consistent ability to get his eyes back to the quarterback. That’s something that has killed Patriots DB’s for years and years now and he absolutely has to make that his first priority. Otherwise he’s just a PI factory in the making.

Grade: B-

I cursed out loud when this pick first came in but I’ve opted to chill out and look at it in perspective. The next corner off the board was USF’s Kayvon Webster who I judged as a zone specific corner with a 5th round grade at highest. Miami got a decent value on Jamar Taylor at 54, and I’d compare Ryan’s skillset to his so logically Ryan is a good value at 83. We needed another corner somewhere in this draft and I went on record saying I didn’t like any of the 2nd round graded corners (Banks, Slay, Wilson, etc). I can’t sit here and say we need to draft a corner but they need to get a first rounder in the 3rd round. It doesn’t work like that. So they needed the best available corner and I do believe they got him.

Duron Harmon – Safety Rutgers

Positives – In 2009 Belichick used a 2nd round pick on a German offensive lineman from the University of Houston that most people had never heard of, and most agreed he could have gotten him in the 5th round. In 2010 he used a first round pick on a corner from Rutgers who wasn’t the highest ranked corner available and was slated as a late 2nd rounder. In 2011 he used a third round pick on an underexposed back from LSU that most thought was a 5th or 6th round pick. In 2012 he threw a 2nd round pick away on the 9th ranked FS on the board.

The results: a 2nd team All-Pro RT, an AFC Defensive ROY, a 1,200+ yard double digit TD running back, and a pretty good safety in the making.

I will give Belichick the full benefit of the doubt on Harmon despite knowing almost nothing about him when he was picked. From the little I’ve seen of him he actually looks like he has decent instincts, tackles well and does what he’s supposed to do. He ran a 4.51 which is a pretty good time for an unknown safety.

Negatives: This is another pick that Draft Insider said Belichick chose to override his scouts on, and apparently it didn’t go over too well. 91st overall for a player on absolutely no one’s radar. That’s the negative here and that’s what still burns me up about this pick. The next player taken was Stedman Bailey. I’ll talk about Bailey more in a minute and how that will probably come back to haunt us.

Also: In 2009 Belichick spent a 2nd round pick on a DT from Boston College that was graded as a 4th round pick. In 2010 he spent a 3rd round pick on an under performing WR from the University of Ohio. In 2011 he used up a 5th round pick on a TE from Marshall that most people thought couldn’t catch. In 2012 he blew a 3rd round pick on a DE from Arkansas that was graded as a 6th rounder.

The Results: Gone, Out of the NFL, Cut before week 1, practice squad.

Grade: A++++
Sometimes I think Belichick drafts players that he could have just as easily found as an UDFA just to give them something to live up to. Sometimes it works out and other times you’re sitting there wondering why he even drafted a DB from TCU that never played a single down in coverage in his incredibly short FBS career who everyone knew has NO CHANCE to make the roster. I figure I might as well like a random draft strategy like this since I can’t do anything about it. A-Quadruple-Plus it is because I want to be on the ground floor of this one when it all works out.

Josh Boyce – WR TCU

Positive – He’s really really ridiculously fast.

Negative – As far as build and style of play I considered Boyce to be similar to WVU’s Stedman Bailey. You could put either on the outside or in the slot and trust them with a variety of routes. Boyce is bigger heavier but still faster in a straight line. But I thought Bailey’s ability to transition was noticeably superior, and he definitely came off as the tougher and more physical of the two. Basically I thought Bailey was a born fit for the Patriots and I stupidly fell in love with the idea of drafting him. You could argue Boyce was the value pick but was he really? Bailey went one pick after Duron Harmon in the 3rd who, realistically, would have probably been on the board for quite some time.

Maybe the Pats saw Bailey’s BFF Geno Smith going to the Jets and didn’t think he’d fit here. Maybe they looked at Bailey and thought he couldn’t learn the offense. That’s the kind of X factor that those of us outside of Belichick and the scouts will never know. But TCU runs a notoriously silly read-option offense that isn’t anything like the Patriots either. In fact if you look at the list of active TCU alums in the NFL you’ll see almost exclusively linebackers and DBs with only 5 offensive players (including OL Marcus Cannon and QB Andy Dalton) and 1 lone receiver: the Jets Jeremy Kerley.

Grade: C+
I’m extremely curious/excited to see what Boyce looks like on the field with Brady and what they have planned for him. I’m skeptical of his ability to play on the perimeter. If you’re the kind of person who looks at 40 times and starts screaming “Deep threat! Deep threat!” like you tried to Ouija board Al Davis and got possessed by a poor drafting lunatic there’s a lot more to playing on the outside than just running fast. I’m puzzled at how they’re going to use him, and I think opposing DCs are as well.

Michael Buchanan DE – Illinois

Positive: Buchanan was a player I heard quite a few mentions of as a mid-round pick throughout the draft process. I think he was definitely the most intriguing player on the board at the time so by in large I was pleased with the pick. He was a 4 star recruit out of high school, and part of a well recruited group by Ron Zook that somehow still couldn’t keep him from losing his job. Like Collins he’s another guy who fits that prototypical 3-4 OLB mold. Maybe this means they’re adding another layer to their improving defense? He’s a good run defender who has a nice developing assortment of pass rush techniques.

In 2011 he was the counterpart to Texans 1st round pick Whitney Mercilus. The two of the combined for 23 sacks (7 of them belonging to Buchanan). If he had kept up that pace some say he might have been considered a first round pick. He didn’t, and dropped his sack total to 4.5 in a weak senior year prompting a big slide in draft stock. Still if he performs strongly in training camp then he immediately makes Jake Bequette obsolete and not a moment too soon IMO. If he needs a dominant pass rusher opposite him to succeed then he might end up being used like Mark Anderson a few years back as a passing situation specialist opposite the emerging Chandler Jones.

Negative: There are other reasons Buchanan slid down the board besides just missing Mercilus. His first step isn’t anything special. He posted a 4.78 at 255 lbs which is decent but less than stunning as well. His junior year, when he did his best work, he was playing in the 240’s. He put on extra bulk and it has maybe slowed him down a little. Still, there was once a DE from Purdue named Rob Ninkovich who ran a 4.80 40 and he ended up making a few plays for us.

Grade: B+

The Patriots have great D-line coaches who, contrary to popular belief, have been getting solid production out of much less talented players than Buchanan (Tully Banta-Cain anyone?). If he’s coachable and works hard I don’t see how he doesn’t turn out to be a steal if not marginally productive.

Steve Beauharnais – LB Rutgers

Positives: Another Rutgers player and another former highschool QB/Linebacker (and also played RB). That’s not a bad trend at all. I guess the Rutgers thing makes sense: shaky draft class so Belichick drafts the guys he has the most intel on.

Beauharnais was originally slotted as a mid round pick but was overlooked for reasons I’ll discuss in a minute. The Pats linebacker group is strong but not necessarily deep. He’ll be competing to take a spot away from either Jeff Tarpinian or Mike Rivera both of which contributed well on special teams but were obvious liabilities anytime they were asked to actually make plays. Mel Kiper raved about his ability to tackle. He wasn’t crazy productive at anything at Rutgers but he’s a decent enough fundamental football player to make me optimistic.

Negatives: I’m typically very weary of guys with big differences between their Combine and Pro Day 40’s. He ran a 4.84 in Indianapolis and a 4.67 at the Rutgers pro day. Maybe he had an injury that wasn’t disclosed. A little more worrisome was the fact that he weighed in 6 pounds lighter at his Pro Day than at the Combine (240 vs 234). He’s reportedly had big fluctuations in his weight over the years and was about 225 coming out of high school. I was really hoping to get a linebacker that could cover the middle of the field and be insurance on Dane Fletcher. If that guy who ran a 4.84 shows up on week 1 that just isn’t going to happen.

Grade: B-
I’ve raved about him before and I’ll do it again: Harold Nash is the best S&C coach in the league. If anyone is going to get this weight issue under control it’s him. Much like Buchanan there wasn’t anyone especially exciting on the boards besides maybe that British triathlete guy who had never even played football before. We all knew that would never happen. I don’t mind this pick at all even if he does finalize the New England Scarlet Knights formerly known as the Rutgers Graduate Physical Educational Co-Op formerly known as the New England Patriots.

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Five Inconvenient Truths Pats Fans Are Going to Have to Face In the Draft

#1. There is probably no Vince Wilfork in this draft.

Listening to Pats fans talk about this years draft is a lot like the last decade of post-Nomar Red Sox callers on WEEI.

“We need to sign a shortstop who’ll hit 40 home runs!”

Well that sounds wonderful, who?

“I don’t know! We just need one!!!!1!”

The trouble with drafting for positional need is that the player you want has to actually exist. So when I hear “we need to draft a pass rushing DT to play opposite Vince Wilfork” I say that’s great. WHO? This was a really nice sentiment when we thought Shariff Floyd was going to fall to the bottom half of the first round. You can forget about that. The secret is out and Floyd looks to be a top 5 pick. So who is left?

Purdue’s Kawaan Short seems to be the most popular choice. He’s big, fast and shows up well statistically with 13 sacks in his final two seasons. If he’s available at 29 I can’t say for certain that he’ll be the best player available though. His inconstancy is a big reason why he’s not a consensus lock for the 1st round. I’m 50/50 on him and never seem to grade his tape the same way twice. Please comment if you’d like to persuade me one way or another.

Let’s say Short is off the board at 29 and you’re bent on taking a defensive tackle. The talent drop is exponentially steeper as it goes down. Who do you bite on? The 24 year old Sylvester Williams who was working in a radiator factory a few years ago? The 350lb John Jenkins who was academically ineligible for Georgia’ bowl game? Ohio State’s Jonathan Hankins and his 1 single sack? LSU’s Bennie Logan and his 2 sacks (plus watch Logan play and you’ll see a talented DT who gets beat by being slow off the snap)? These are all guys with talent who at one point or another were in the first round conversation until analysts started looking at tapes and workouts and thought better of it.

Maybe the #1 NT in the draft and he couldn’t make the bare minimum academic requirements to play in the bowl game.

Remember who every mock drafter in the nation had the Patriots slotted to pick last year? Jerel Worthy, an inconsistent DT with known stamina issues who disappeared for big chunks of games and had disappointing numbers. What was the rationale? He was DT with name recognition and the Patriots needed a DT. Nothing else. Belichick drafted 3 players before Worthy was off the board and one of them was a safety from Illinois who was slotted as a 4th rounder.

Come to think of it. Here are all the DTs taken in the 20-32 range in the last 5 years. You’ll note that there weren’t any drafted last year. Stop me when you hit a superstar.

2011 Phillip Taylor CLE 5 21
2010 Jared Odrick MIA 11 28
2010 Dan Williams AZ 0 26
2009 Ziggy Hood PIT 8.5 32
2009 Peria Jerry ATL 2 24
2008 Kentwan Balmer SF 0 32

This team got where it is by drafting the best player available for the best value. Insisting on drafting a DT in the first round is a really stubborn way to go about preparing for this draft. It’d be cool to be wrong here but I don’t see a DT worth the 29th overall pick.

#2. The Chance of Getting an Elite Corner in the 1st is Slim and Getting Slimmer.

Two popular mocks to the Patriots early on were Washington’s Desmond Trufant and Florida State’s Xavier Rhodes. Those are two great picks and I’d take either of them. Four months ago these were tragically underrated prospects and for our own greedy good we wanted it to stay that way. It didn’t. Trufant killed it all through the Senior Bowl practices and people actually started to look at Rhodes’ tape and saw a talented complete corner. As the days goes by it looks more and more likely that the two of them will be off the board in the top 25 picks.


I get it. The pass defense is a recurring problem. So is throwing talent at the pride of the South Dakota Mining and Technology football legacy aka CB’s coach Josh Boyer (have you figured out yet that we don’t like him?). So if you really want to keep giving Boyer talent to ruin lets assume Milliner, Rhodes and Trufant are all off the board. Who do you take?

Belichick’s smoke screen du-jour Jonathan Banks? In a decade of Belichick he’s never tipped his hand that soon on a player so I don’t buy the reports that the Pats are after him. Sure, Banks has some pretty nice numbers and measurables. He also flopped at the Combine, got out-shined by his #2 Darius Slay, and has major tackling issues. Or maybe you’d prefer other first round mention LSU’s Tharold Simon otherwise known as the guy on the wrong end of DeAndre Hopkins 191 yard killing spree in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl? David Amerson, Jordan Poyer, Blidi Wreh-Wilson? Do you look at the tape of any of those players and think they’re going to set the league on fire if we take them in the first round?

One name you should start getting familiar with, if you haven’t already, is Boise State’s Jamar Taylor. While everyone was gushing over Trufant’s senior bowl practices Taylor was very quietly showing off some impressive cover skills. His tape reveals strong tackling as well. In my opinion Taylor has made an argument for himself as the #3 or #4 corner in this draft. His technique isn’t quite as refined as Trufant’s but athletically he’s been stride for stride with him: Trufant ran a 4.38, Taylor ran a 4.39, Trufant had a 37.5″ vertical, Taylor had a 37″ vertical. The Pats him in for a private workout on Monday and have quietly been all over him during the draft process.

#3. The Patriots Might Just Draft Multiple Wide Receivers… And it Might Just Work Out Really Awesome.

One thing I’ve never understood is the attitude on Pats fans towards drafting a wide receiver. Since 2007 the Patriots passing offense has ranked in the top five 4 out of 6 years. And every single year I’ve heard people gripe about the need to draft a wide receiver in the first round. You people wanted Percy Harvin when Wes Welker was the most productive receiver in football. Now we go into a draft literally dripping with wide receiver talent and what do I hear from you?


Correction: the offense wasn’t the problem. Now it is. Welker is gone. Amendola is no guarantee. Deion Branch (lets face it) is no longer a real option. Brandon Lloyd is gone. If you follow Pats trends you were probably looked at the desolate free agent landscape and said Ned Stark styleThe slapdicks are comin.’Michael Jenkins, Donald Jones, these guys are 40/60 to even make the week 1 roster. I liked Jenkins a lot in Atlanta but I honestly forget he even played football last year. So ask yourself how much sense it is to get caught up on an offense from ayear ago that doesn’t even exist anymore. How about we move on and agree that some new talent needs to come in/?

If you actually maybe look at this draft for what it is you’ll see one of the deepest wide receiver classes in a very long time. So you tell me? Does it make sense to ignore the biggest strength of the draft class, at a position of need, because of last years stats based on an offense that doesn’t exist anymore? There might not be a once in a lifetime Randy Moss type in this class, but there’s a logjam of mid-late first round projected legit talent. Justin Hunter, Keenan Allen, Coradelle Patterson, DeAndre Hopkins, Stedman Bailey, Keenan Allen, Tavon Austin, Quinton Patton, Robert Woods. Face it linebacker hoarders: this is the year to draft a receiver.

That being said I don’t think its out of the question to see an unbalanced draft again this year, this time with wide receivers. I don’t think it’s insane to think the Pats might take 2 WR’s in the first three rounds. If that upsets you ask yourself how upset you’d be if the Pats walked out of this year’s draft with DeAndre Hopkins and Quinton Patton in their pocket. As yourself how upset you’d be if perennial the dink and dunk offense added Justin Hunter (4.44 40) and Markus Wheaton (4.45 40) to stretch the field out.

You don’t want to add a wideout in the first round? Fine. Be a baby. Here’s Stedman Bailey. In a different draft he’d be a first round pick. In this draft he’s being projected as a 2nd or 3rd rounder. He’s everything that Brand Lloyd wasn’t.

#4. Cover Linebacker Might Be the Dark Horse Position of Need

I love our starting linebackers. Why wouldn’t I? Contrary to popular belief the Patriots had the 9th best run defense in the league giving up only about 130 yards more than the supposedly unbeatable 49ers all year. But the decision to go heavier and meaner at the backer position left Pats exposed on passing downs. Case in point the Pats D gave up 40% of their 3rd downs last year (22nd in the league). Getting Dane Fletcher back is a bonus but he’s the only backer of his mold on this roster. Tracy White is a good special teamer but he just shouldn’t be allowed on the field for the first 3 downs. And a hearty LOL @ U if you really thought Bobby Carpenter was going to work out.

The word is out that the Pats have been kicking the tires on some of the faster middle linebackers. Jonathan Bostic, Jelani Jenkins, Zaviar Gooden, Sean Porter have all been either worked out privately or brought in for an official visit. Patriots linebackers coaches also went out of their way to check out AJ Kline at the Iowa State Pro Day, and have been sniffing around Southern Miss outside linebacker Jamie Collins.

Gooden is maybe the most athletic of the aforementioned group but Kline is probably my favorite. He’s getting the white guy linebacker treatment from analysts: “Smart player… good instincts… makes up for lack of athleticism…” blah blah blah insert racist scouting report here. I agree that he’s a good instinctual football player, but the guy ran a 4.66 at 246 lbs. In fact he was one of only 6 linebackers to run in the 4.6’s That’s plenty athletic for my tastes. A player like Klein would give the Patriots a reliable passing down option that would allow them to keep that sense of toughness Spikes and Mayo bring.

There are a lot of ways to make a defense better. Hoarding pass rushers for the sake of having them isn’t always priority #1. Ask Jake Bequette and/or Markell Carter.

#5. Absolutely No One is Calling With A Blockbuster Deal for Ryan Mallett

Of all the things I’ve consistently heard from Pats rumor mongers the Ryan Mallett fables are among the dumbest. Mallett for the Browns 12th overall pick. Mallett and a 1st to Arizona for Larry Fitzgerald. Ryan Mallett to the Knicks for Carmello Anthony and Patrick Ewing’s flat top…

You understand for a trade like this to happen you have to have either Andy Reid or Matt Millen on one side of the equation? One of them is out of football and the other has already made the single worst trade of the year for a backup QB. I don’t think he has a 2nd in him.

Honestly if the Larry Fitz trade was ever even a minor reality I’m not sure if I wouldn’t have taken it if I was the Cardinals GM. They’d lose their best player but pick up a ton of cap space, 2 first rounders and a guy who actually has a chance to develop into a starting quarterback. Unfortunately they’ve got a new GM with the old GM’s dumbass Kevin Kolb trade looming over him. On top of that they already have a Brady Butt-Double in Brian Hoyer who drew a 2nd round tender from the Cards this off season. That’s right. The guy who sucked worse than Ryan Mallett in last year’s pre-season is so valuable to the Cardinals that they put him up for a 2nd round tender. So don’t count on any last minute trades.

I don’t see why the Jaguars, who passed on Mallett for fuckin Blaine Gabbert of all people, don’t pick up the phone and try to make a deal. They’ve proved outright that they don’t know how to draft anybody, what the hell do they care if they give up a 2nd round pick for him? But no, they’re perfectly content living in their AFC South basement “apartment” forever like the Texans and Colts were their disappointed parents.

And if there’s no blockbuster deal for Mallett then what the hell is the point of even trading him. He was a third round pick. This team jettisons third round picks like they’re dryer sheets. If he works out he works out, if not Brady is playing until he’s 50 anyways so who cares.

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