Season is over, Rams won the Super Bowl (congrats), we saw several prospects during the East-West Shrine and Senior Bowl Week, so it is time to move on the „make the Pats great again“ path.
One thing what made me think, why most of the people see the WR position as the nr.1 offseason need for our team? I know, there were „proofs“ that you need 1-2 very good receivers or you won’t make it to the Super Bowl. Burrow had Chase-Higgins and the others, Stafford had Kupp-OBJ-(will have) Woods, Mahomes has his targets and Josh Allen has several options too. BUT. For me the biggest argument against those words was the Super Bowl. We had two teams with lot of firepower, two good QB with several very good receiving options and still what we saw is, that OLine matters. Yes, The Rams has Donald, but please don’t forget the fact, that Joe Thuney made Donald unseeable 3 years ago. So it is not impossible to handle that man. Burrow was sacked 70 times during the 2021 season and 7 times alone in the Super Bowl. Sack doesn’t depend only on the OLine, we could read several articles about analyses, which say the number of sacks depends on the QB as well. Still I think, the Super Bowl showed us the importance of a great OLine.
Those unsung heroes could make a middle tier QB looks better or a top tier QB looks bad. I think we, the Patriots, have a good OLine, with some big questionmarks, so if we are talking about making the offense better, we should start to solidify the OLine for the next few years. But I will talk about this topic soon a bit more.
Another area (part of the team) to bring in a better shape is the defense. A week ago or so I read an article from Evan Lazar about the philosophy of defenses and what those differences would mean for our defense. As he pointed out, Pats defense now works with mostly man coverage on the back side and more agressive front, with blitzes and stronger run defense. LBs move more forward than dropping into coverage, DLine plays two-gap usually, eating up space and opens gaps for the LBs.
Evan is right, we see how BB builds his defense. But we have to see, how offenses evolve with younger coaches get HC opportunities or older coaches implement some college elements. We know that BB likes to zig when the rest of the NFL zags, but defense is the reactive side of the football. In the offense you can implement new schemes easier than in defense. You can have a run first offense in a world, where defense players will be lighter, so you can run through them. But you can’t stick to your run first defense when the opponent offenses are much faster and/or pass happy. Of course there is always a solution. This was the Pats defense, with strong man-to-man coverages, which allow the front7 to be more agressive. Unfortunately in the last season there were too many examples when not everything went fine and we saw the flaws of the defense.
So – as Evan asked it as well – the question is, in which direction BB wants to move on with his defense? If he wants to go on with his recent system, he needs corners who can play man really good, he can have bigger LBs who plays mostly forward and he needs a Dline which hold the OLine and have some pass-rush potential as well. If he wants to move on into a modern direction, where DLine plays more one-gap rush, instead if two-gap controll and he can let the LBs drop more in coverage, well, he needs to adjust the roster. Any way, the roster needs some new faces or younger players need to step up.
On the other side of the ball – as I mentioned earlier – I don’t think WR should be our nr.1 target. Yes, we could use a clear cut #1 WR, but when exactly did we have one? During the last 15 years one name comes in my mind, Randy Moss‘. That’s all. I hear you, we had Gronk and Edelman too. You are absolutely right, but Edelman is not your typical #1 WR and Gronk is a TE (although he is one of the best ever). What I mean, that we didn’t have a Chase, Metcalf, Jefferson, Brown type receiver, still the team managed several Super Bowl runs. You are right again, if you say we had Tom Brady and as we could see in Tampa, what he means for a team, he made every team member better. Still, the offense system is the same (or quite the same), so you don’t need big changes. From my perspective, the team has lot of potential in the receiving end. Just think about the TE room. Henry was a red zone beast whit his 9 TDs. Unfortunately Smith wasn’t used well enough and I missed the 2-TE plays. There is room to grow and if the offense could find the way to put those two guys on the field in the same time, I am sure the productivity of the offense will be way better. We have a WR room which is like the puzzle, no clear cut superstar, but everyone has his job. Not everyone lived up to the expectations, but everyone found his place or with a little adjustment everyone will find his place. Do you need a speedy depth treath? What for? Lot of people say, Jones doesn’t have the arm talent to throw deep balls. I think he has it, not as much as Mahomes or Josh Allen, so he won’t throw 30-40 yards darts, but he can deliver long balls. But again, this is not our system. KB was great in his first year, Meyers is unbelievable. Not a top tier WR, but very underrated. If, and again, if Agholor could make a jump in his second year, then we would have our deep threat WR. Put the two TEs there and you have 5 receivers who can execute what your system needs. Still, there are the runningbacks as well. They can catch some balls as well. So for me, WR is not a priority, don’t waist a 1st rounder on that position, even if Olave would be available. I really like him, but he is not that big need.
So, what is my actual positional need ranking at the moment? Let’s check it. (Some information I used here comes from one of my top3 man around the Pats, @patscap)
1. Cornerback: This is a must for me. Period. If BB wants to stay with his system in the defense he needs corners who can play man coverage. JC Jackson is one the best in the league and I would love to see him staying in Foxborough for long time, but he might follows the money and will sign elsewhere. Even if he stays, the team needs at least one CB. Jon Jones is a top slot corner option, he will be back next year, but I don’t see another really reliable option on the outside. Mills showed flashes and he could eventually handle the situation, but from quantity direction this is not enough. Especially if Jackson leaves via FA. I wouldn‘t mind if the first pick would be a corner (just please not is the second round). On the other side, if BB wants to change and wants to go in a different direction, the team will need some zone corner, so again you will need an upgrade. Mills has the potential, maybe Shaun Wade as well, but Williams is another player who doesn’t seem to be a fit and Bryant needs to show some development. I must confess I really like Bryant and I cross my fingers for him.
Bringing someone from free agency? We would need a top tier or a near top tier player, especially if Jackson leaves, which won’t be cheap. Rather make an early pick or even double down on this position.
2. Offensive tackle: As I wrote in the beginning, OLine is a pivotal point of your offense. The Patriots was always strong in that area and this must stay so. I don’t have too much concern with the middle 3, Karras would be great for some more years as the new LG. A Karras-Andrews-Mason trio in the middle sounds quite elite for me. My concerns are with the two OT positions. Wynn is ok, but not really good, he will play under his 5th year option, but what comes the year after? At the moment I don’t think he is the long term answer at LT. If Brown would stay (depends on the financial side I guess) he could overtake that LT position (he played it for us in the past and was good) and Onwenu could be the RT. I liked Onwenu as RT, maybe the stats show others, but from my point of view he played better as RT than LG. Still you would need an early OT in case Brown will get another injury or if he won’t stay with the team. The best way to support Mac Jones is to keep him safe. An elite OLine will make your run game better as well, so this unit is a joker unit, which needs to be in shape.
3. Defense line: Either way (system change or not) this unit needs some new blood. Barmore is the future, he played brilliant in his first year and I don’t see the reason why he can’t be the starting point in the front. Put people around him and let them play. This years draft provides some interesting NT prospects (if BB wants to keep this two-gap controll scheme) or some lighter DT prospects (if BB would move in a one-gap rush direction). Henry Anderson didn’t show much because of injuries, Godchaux was good, but is he worth the $10M+ for 2022? I doubt it. Finding a servicable veteran is cheaper than finding someone a DB, so this could be a direction during the free agency. Still I expect one or two picks here during the draft.
4. Wide receiver: This spot was not a slam dunk, because of the Linebacker position, but I see potential in the LB room, so I go here with the receivers. As I wrote earlier this position (with the TEs together) is good, but in second or third round the team could add a new face. John Metchie III, Skyy Moore or Christian Watson are the early names to watch for me. Don’t think an immediate starter is necessary here, but looking for talent never a bad thing. Especially in case, the team wants to trade away Agholor.
5. Linebacker: If the team wants to go into a more speedy way, I think the material is there. McGrone, McMillan are those faster-type of players and the Jennings-Perkins-Uche trio is quicker as well. Not to mention Winovich, who is another edge/OLB player with little lighter body. If only 2 or 3 from those 6 players could step up, the team would be in a very good position. And let’s be honest, if you can’t develop 2-3 of those guys to a starting level, then you didn’t draft well enough. You can draft LBs in the second or third day and can still find good quality. A later pick who I really like is Micah McFadden from Indiana or a small school kid from South Dakota, Jack Cochrane.
We have our QB, our RB room is basically good, but yes, you can add some body there and maybe you will find an unexpected gem, but as you can see, I would restock the defense and the OLine. Let’s see how the FA pans out, who will stay, who will come. After all, I still don’t understand why many people see WR as nr.1 need.
First time in the last decade the Patriots didn`t get into the playoffs. Ok, it is what it is. We didn’t have Brady, we had league high opt-outs before the season, we lost some key players in FA and we had some additional injuries.
The team has problems on both sides of the line of scrimmage, which wouldn’t be easy to solve in one offseason, but I try at least to fill the gaps and start some kind of rebuilding. I am sure with Belichick as HC/GM the team can manage to be in the playoff again within a year or 2 (maybe I am too optimistic, but I don’t think we are so deep as it sometimes looks). We still have some key players, some of the opt-outs will come back, we have the 15th pick on the draft and have almost $69M cap space.
In this post I try to put myself into the position of a GM‘s (let’s say now I will play Belichick the GM). Right, we all know that nobody can project what BB will do, but since I have nothing to lose, I can show you my thoughts. For the financial parts I used numbers from @patscap, overthecap.com and from spotrac.com. Ok, let’s start!
Everything starts with the cap situation. We still don’t know what will be the exact cap number for the 2021 season, the only sure thing is, that it can’t be lower than $175M. Since @patscap uses this number as basic, I planned to do the same, but the latest news suggest that the final cap number could be a little bit higher, around $180M. Because I want to be optimistic and I hope owners will accept that extra $5M, I will calculate with this amount.
Every team has some numbers which can increase or decrease their cap space (cap space is the net amount of money which they can use to sign old or new players). Most of the time teams have carryovers from the previous season which we have to add to the cap number. In our case this number is an additional $19,57M. The next category we have to check is the stand of the LTBE/NLTBE incentives in the contracts. LTBE = Likely to be earn, NLTBE = Not likely to be earn. All LTBE incentives count for the actual year (means in our case, those were counted for 2020), but if a player misses some time (or even goes to IR) it can happen, that those LTBE levels won’t be reached. After those not reached LTBE incentives the team will get a credit in the next year (in our case credit will come for 2021). Every NLTBE incentives will be counted for the next season if they are reached during the actual season. Let’s show you a simple example. Julian Edelman had $500k incentives after every 10 catches counts from catch 60th. If we say the incentives after the 60th, 70th and 80th catches were LTBE incentives, then it means $1,5M were counted againts the 2020 cap. Yes, unfortunately Edelman got injured and had only 21 catches during the 2020 season. So we have 3 levels of LTBE incentives which were not reached. This means the Patriots will get back $1,5M in the 2021 season. So we have to check the stand of those LTBE/NLTBE incentives, because they could give the team extra cap space or they can lower it if some NLTBE were reached. In our case (based on @patscap´s numbers) the Patriots will get $5,51M back. Next category is the PPE (Proven Performance Escalator), which is for players who enter into their 4th season. There are three levels of qualifications (Article 7, Section 4 of the 2020 CBA governs the PPS), what I won’t explain long in this post, but I might write about it in the future. Short: it depends on the played snaps (percentage) during the season. What is important for us, that we have nobody in 2021 who will be eligible for extra money from the PPE (last year we had Deatrich Wise). There is usually some amount of dead money too. These dead money amounts are cap commitments after players who are not anymore with the team. Based on the data from spotrac.com, Patriots will have $863.689 in dead money. The last part of the basic numbers is the amount of salaries (this number contains the salaries of the 8 opt-out players as well). This number is – based again on @patscap´s estimations – $135.377.000. Ok, Miguel´s actual number is higher, but only because he counted a 1st round RFA tender ($4.873.000) for JC Jackson and an ERFA tender ($850.000) for Jacob Johnson, which I will bring in later. That’s all. Very easy, isn’t it? Ok, I am just joking. Let’s see the numbers in spreadsheets:
Ok, so this will be our starting point, before we make any trade/cut/restructure/etc. We have bit more than $68M, which is a very good amount compared to last year, when the team had at this point $37M less. Yes, Patriots had $31,8M at the same period of last year.
Let’s see a spreadsheet about the dead money:
Last year we had $7,7M dead money without Tom Brady´s $13,5M, which is another huge difference. Yes, the team got back money from the AB and Hernandez grievances, but even with those money they had far worse cap situation than they have now.
Estimated cap space 2021 $ 68.839.311,00
That is great, I am happy, because theoretically the team has a lot to spend. At the moment – based on the numbers from Spotrac.com – the Patriots has the 4th highest cap space after Jacksonville ($74,6M), Indianapolis ($73,7M) and Jets ($70,5M). But! We have to see every direction where this money should go. This $68M is not only for the rookies or the new signings, but we have lot of free agents as well. Some are more important, some are not so important, but a chunk of the money will and have to go to resign few of our own free agents.
Not a short list I have to admit, but this is how business is working. At the end of the list we have J.C. Jackson who will be a restricted free agent (RFA), which means the team can put a tender on him. It can be a first- or a second- or an original round tender. If another team wants the player they will offer him a contract, the Patriots has the opportunity to match that offer and retain the player for the same (or higher) money what the other team offered him. Or the team won´t match the offer and they will get a first or second round pick from the other team (in Jackson´s case there is no original round pick, since he was an UDFA). If no other team makes an offer for the player, the Patriots has to pay for an exact amount of money (see below). In Jacob Johnson´s situation, he is ERFA (exclusive restricted free agent). The team can offer him a new contract which has to reach the veteran minimum salary, which is $850.000 for Johnson because of the two years in the NFL.
As we can see the free agency could hit our Oline and Dline quite hard. Andrews and Thuney are cornerstone pieces in our Oline. Butler and Guy were the heart of the Dline. Additionally Wise could leave town as well, who was this year a valuable rotational player and in Simon and Calhoun the team could loose two of their rotational edge players too. Justin Bethel is an interesting name to watch, because our (I hope) future HOF special team captain, Slater made no decision if he will come back for one more year. He has actually one year left from his contract, but he won´t be younger and his body could already show problems after 13 seasons. So in a bad situation we could loose not just one but two Pro Bowler ST players.
We will come back to this names soon. Let’s roll. If a team wants to increase their cap space, they can cut or trade players. You cut/trade someone who won´t fit in your system anymore or because he is too expensive. There are other possibilities to lower the cap hit, since the team can extend or restructure a contract. Of course only if the player is ok with it. Take a look on the most expensive players in 2021:
Well, as we can see the 10 most expensive players would take more than 60% of the actual salary commitments. For some players I would pay the money without any hesitation, but there are few players where we should try to come to an agreement to lower those numbers. Cannon and Hightower might retire, so there would be no need to talk, the team could save there quite an amount of money. The other big question is what Edelman is planning. There were speculations about Edelman might follow Brady to the Bucs, but he posted some promising words on IG few days earlier, in which he mentioned, he is ready for the next year. If there is one player in our offense whose salary is untouchable, then it is Julian Edelman´s (ok, and Slater´s). McCourty wants to play one more year and at the moment I don´t see other player in the back end who can lead them on such a high level, than Devin does. Gilmore is still one of the top10 corners in the League, but I would try to lower his numbers.
If you cut or trade a player there would stay some amount of dead money, but usually you will have net saving at the end. In our next spreadsheet we will go through the list of the biggest net savings. I will decrease the net savings with $780.000 each, because I am presuming a player to takes their place on the top51 list.
Players with stars after their names are – based on overthecap.com´s database – players outside of the top51 list, so those numbers should not be lowered with $780.000. According – again – overthecap.com, Patriots has at the moment 62 players under contract for 2021.
We have one more thing to do, before we start our wannabe GM activity. Patriots has some draft picks, which will need a rookie pool. Every draft pick has an own cap number, so this is easy to calculate. After this step we will be able to determine our cap space and we will be set to launch our journey.
So ladies and gentlemans congratulations, you’ve reached the end of the first part of my post. Thank you that you are still with me here. Before we move on, let´s take a look on our cap space after we decreased it with the rookie pool.
Estimated cap space 2021 after rookie pool $ 59.871.320,00
This cap space is just temporary, because – as I mentioned before – we have some other opportunities to increase it before we start to spend money. I have a 7 points list about our to do´s.
1. Decide who has to be cut and cut them!
2. Are there any opportunities to resctructure some contracts?
3. Check who could be traded and trade them!
4. Decide whom to bring back from our own free agents!
5. Make clear at which positions do we need new players!
6. Decide if you want to fill the holes from FA or from Draft!
7. Make the calls!
1. Cuts (retirements):
It is never easy to cut players, but nobody told being a GM is always a pleasure job. Altough before we start with the cuts, unfortunately we will have 2 retirements.
Marcus Cannon, RT: His career start wasn’t the easiest because of his medical history, but then he became a reliable starter RT. His opt-out was 100% understandable, but that 1 year away from football was enough for him to make the decision to hang up his cleaths. His retirement means almost $6,3M plus.
Dont’a Hightower, LB: I don’t say it will happen for sure, but now I think he will retire as well. His absence was a sensible loss for the defense this year. He and Devin McCourty are the two leaders of the Patriots defense. He opted-out as well and he won´t return for 2021. With this move he will free up more than $9,1M in the cap.
Beau Allen, NT: He was the next NT plan for the Patriots, but he was injured and the team will be looking for another player who can fill the hole in the middle of the Dline. $2M extra to the cap space.
Matt LaCosse, TE: I must admit, I didn’t understand why BB signed him and why some people had high hopes for him (they might knew much more about him than I did), but he wasn’t really great and since we have Izzo and the two rookies (and actually we still need someone better than LaCosse) cutting him is an easy choice to make. Plus $1,3M.
Dan Vitale, FB: He came here to replace James Develin, but he opted-out and a German guy just stole the show this year. Additionally the team drafted Dalton Keene last year who could play FB as well. We don’t need more players for that position, the cut means extra $1,2M.
Akeem Spence, DL: Spence didn’t play too much this year and I think the team can replace him from FA or draft, so with this move we free up $1,1M.
Jacob Dolegala, QB: He is just a PS player, but we can find someone to replace him and there is time to reshuffle the QB room. Adds another $780.000 to the cap space.
Justin Rohrwasser, K: After his draft there were some waives around him and maybe these waives flushed him away. Unfortunately he didn’t live up with the 5th round expectations, which we could see when the team signed Robert Aguayo late in the year. His release will give us $660.000 plus.
Brandon Bolden, RB: First I wanted to keep him, but we have a good group and 4+1 RB would be enough for the final roster. Hard decision, because he is a valuable ST player too, but his cut will give us another $707,500.
That’s it. I won’t cut more people. You can argue with me if those players were the right ones or I might forgot to cut someone you wouldn´t want to see anymore, but cutting too many people would generate more holes and we already have some holes to fill. With these cuts/retirements we created $23,3M extra cap space.
2. Contract restructure:
I was thinking a lot who could be here a potential target, but I have only one name: Stephon Gilmore.
It is actually a contract extension, where we can lower the cap number for 2021. Gilmore wasn’t the same player like last year, but he is still an animal on the field. Yes he is over 30, but he still plays on a very high level. With him on the field plays J.C. Jackson better as well and with this two guys on the field we could have one of the best CB tandems in the NFL in 2021 again. It is not easy to predict what kind of money Gilmore is looking for, especially if he is rating himself higher than the team does. I would say Gilmore is not a top5 cornerback at the moment (yes, some of you want to kill me now), but he is in the top10 of his position. Why is it so important? Because this little difference could mean millions per year. The average yearly salary of the top5 is $17,9M. This number is a little different for the 5-10th place, $14,3M per year. Everybody in the top10 is younger than Gilmore except Patrick Peterson, who is at the same age and he is a free agent, so his numbers could help us to find Gilmore’s level. Unfortunately we can’t wait for Peterson. I would add 2 extra years to Gilmore’s contract and at the end it would be a 3 years / $42M deal, with $20M guaranteed. This move will lower Gilmore’s cap hit from $16,2M to $13,5M, so we can add $2,7M to our cap space.
This will be very short. If Gilmore accepts our offer then I wouldn’t trade anyone. If he is not accepting it, then we can make a draft day trade, for example pairing him with our 15th pick and we can jump into the top 10. Or just trade him somewhere for a 2nd round pick. However I hope it won’t happen and he will sign the extension.
Ok, we reached the point where we have the most cap space. We made the cuts, restructured a contract, did everything to increase our space to sign new/old players. But before we start to spend our money, let’t take a look on our actual cap space:
Estimated cap space after cuts, retirements and contract restructure: $ 85.927.467,00
4. Sign back our own free agents:
If cutting players was hard, then deciding which players we should bring back is even harder. There could be players who are very important or playing really good, but they could be so good, that they find themself out of our price range. This will be the case at some of our players now. On the other hand there are players who don´t play such a role in the team to keep them or we could have an upgrade for the same amount of money. Although we have more than $85M cap space we can´t bring back everyone, because we still need to sign some guy from FA, but we have a really strong starting point.
Players I won´t bring back:
Joe Thuney, LG: Let’s start with the biggest name on our list. I love Thuney, as mentioned earlier he is one of our cornerstones in the offense. Playing great, durable, great teammate. But he will probably be looking for the big money and this means $14-15M per year. I know offense starts at the Oline, but this is too high and actually the Patriots is famous about OL developement and talent scouting. We already have Onwenu who could switch back to his original, college spot or we could let Wynn play LG, or we just bring someone on the board. Last year he didn’t want to sign the offers the Patriots gave him. I don’t know what kind of money was in those offers but I guess it should be at least $11-12M/year. I don’t think he will change his mind, even if in 2021 will be a bigger drop in the cap number and therefore less teams could afford his services. This is the hardest decision for me, I really tried to push him under the cap.
Rex Burkhead, RB: I really liked him, he played effective and gaves us some really nice moments, but I think our RB group is quite good without him. The Harris – Michel duo has potential, J.J. Taylor showed flashes and hopefully – spoiler alert – White will sign a new contract with us. I like this group enough, not to bring Burkhead back. In real life I can imagine that for a lower salary he will be back.
Cam Newton, QB: Altough he was not good in passing, he still made a good impression in me. He was a leader, he was committed to bring Pats as far as he can. The reason I won’t bring him back is the direction where the Patriots in this case will go on with the position. If Belichick would target Trey Lance from NDSU on the draft, I would bring back Newton for a one year contract as starter and mentor. They have similar style and it could be a great match. I personally am not so high on Lance and I will go on a different way, where not Cam is the ideal mentor. Anyway if he would come back in real life, I wouldn´t be sad, he earned one more year with better skill players around him.
Brian Hoyer, QB: It is a consensus, that he won’t come back. He was several times inactive and he is not the youngest. Some analysts see him as a coaching canditate. Stidham is still here, but we need a redo in the QB room.
John Simon, Edge: This wasn’t Simons‘ year, he was not the presence as in 2019. I would bring someone else instead of him.
Adam Butler, DT: Yes, he was the other hard decision to make, because he really showed his potential. He is not on the top DT level, but he could still grow and could be better. Unfortunately because of his ceiling he will get more money from other teams. Malcolm Brown was too expensive for Belichick with his 3year/$15M contract what he signed with the Saints and Butler is better than Brown (I know they are different type of players). I would say he could get around $7-9M per year somewhere else.
Jermaine Eluemunor, T: He saw some action during the season, but he didn’t left such an impression in me, that I want to resign him.
Damiere Byrd, WR: He had some flashes through the season (he was also well known for Newton, since they spent time together at the Panthers), but we already have few nr. 2-3 receivers on the roster. It can be that Belichick will bring him back for another year with a lower contract, but I won’t.
I will let the following 4 players go as well: Terrence Brooks, S; Brandon Copeland, LB; Donte Moncrief, WR; Quincy Adeboyejo, WR
Players I will bring back:
Jason McCourty, CB: My favourite player is his brother, Devin, who already declared he wants to be back next year. So I guess Jason will be ready to play one more year with his twin brother together. He lost a step, but he is still a valuable rotational player. I would give him a 1 year contract and $4M ($2M guaranteed).
James White, RB: He is in the same category for me like Edelman, I can’t imagine he is in a different jersey. Because of personal tragedy during the year he wasn’t the same like he usually is, but he is still the best third down/receiving back on the roster. I would like to see him back. 2 year/$6M ($2M guaranteed), where in the first year the cap number would be $2,5M.
Lawrence Guy, DL: I guess you already knew I will bring him back, when I let Butler go. Guy is just a perfect match fot our team. In the last 4 years he became the leader of our Dline. He is not the youngest, but still very important piece of the defense. I give him a 2 year contract for $7,5M ($2,5M guaranteed). Cap number for the first year is $3,5M.
David Andrews, C: There will be some other good centers available in free agency, but Andrews is our center and he will stay in Foxborough. We can’t let both starters go and Andrews is the cheaper choice. We will have new QB or QBs and I guess they will be very happy with a center who already knows the system. He will be only 29 when the season starts, which is not much for an Oliner. I will give him a 4 year contract for $28M ($14M guaranteed) and with a cap number of $6M for 2021.
Cody Davis, S: I will bring back Davis for one more year, because he was quite active in our special team (70%+ in 8 games) and he got few snaps in the defense too. His cap number is $1,4M.
Justin Bethel, CB: Another ST team member, the second best after Slater. I hope Slater will come back for his last year, but we still need leaders in this unit. I will keep him for two more years for $3M, cap hit for 2021 $1,5M.
Shilique Calhoun, DE: 2020 was his better year in New England, he got snaps during special team plays and registered 2 sacks in the defense. We could use him as rotational player two more years for $3M ($500.000 guaranteed), with a cap hit of $1,5M in 2021.
Nick Folk, K: I know some people have concerns with his kick power, but 2020 was his best year when he kicked field goals (28/26 = 92,9%) and he made 90% of his extra points (which was worse than his 100% in 2019). The competiton is already there (Aguayo), but I would retain him for the next two seasons for $5M ($1M guaranteed), with a cap hit of $2,5M in 2021.
Carl Davis, DT: Despite the fact Davis didn’t get much time in the defense I would keep him for one more year. He could be at least a safety option in the middle of the Dline. With a very little pay rise, I would give him $950.000.
James Ferentz, OL: Ferentz is not near to a starter level, but with 3 years already in New England he has the system knowledge and could be an option for the interior Oline if something happens. 1 year $850.000.
Deatrich Wise Jr, DL: Personally I am a fan of him since he was drafted or at least I am crossing my fingers for him. In 2020 he found some success, which was necessary for me to keep him around. He is a reliable rotational player as 3-4 DE or a 4-3 DT. I will give him a 3 years contract for $9M ($3M guaranteed), with a cap hit of $2,5M in 2021.
Jacob Johnson, FB: Since I live and coach in Germany, I am a big supporter of him. It was really nice to see him growing into his role as a starter. He still has lot to learn, but he made key blocks during the year, he made his first TD as well. There is no question he will get the a new contract for $850.000.
J.C. Jackson, CB: Many of the analysts are arguing if he should get a first or a second round RFA tender. I am not on their side. If we are talking about young talents, there is always a risk that extending one year later could costs millions. Of course there is a possibility that Jackson won’t be so good again and he can’t repeat this 9 INT season, but I think he could be our future nr.1 corner. If we can keep Gilmore too, we will have one of the best cornerback tandem in the league, with one of the best slot corner (Jones). I am not sure what will happen after next year with our safety group, since McCourty and Chung are near to the end of their respected carrier, so we should keep at least the corner room together. I will be extatic with this scenario, so I am pulling the trigger. I give Jackson a 4 year contract for $52M ($25M guaranteed), with a cap hit of $12M for 2021. With this contract he will have a top10 yearly salary, even when I don’t think he is already there (rather top15). I would put my faith in him and hope he will be even better and he will prove me right.
That’s it ladies and gentleman, we signed 13 contracts which have a sum for the 2021 season of $40,05M. I don’t say we couldn’t bring back more of our own guys, but I tried to find the balance. We left some better guys go (Thuney, Butler), but we could retain Guy, Andrews, Jackson, therefore we still have a strong group of core players and young talents.
Estimated cap space after signing our own free agents back: $ 45.877.467,00
5. Defining the holes on our current roster:
With more than $45M cap space we have some luxury, because that number is higher than the starting point was one year ago. You are right, we have holes to fill, but with this amount we can look around more open minded than during the last few offseasons. We have 66 players under contract, check the spreadsheets:
Is our roster strong enough? Definitely not. Despite the fact we have 64 players under contract for the next season, there are several positions where we need more or less upgrade.
QB: Need for major upgrade. We have only Stidham under contract, which is not an ideal situation. Stidham was back up, saw only few snaps during the season and he didn’t do anything why we could think he is the future. FA or Draft? Some people say we need to sign a top tier QB or trade for someone. My concern with this is, that there is only one top tier QB who might be able to test the market, Dak Prescott from the Cowboys. I am not sure he will, because Jerry Jones can tag him or they could sign him with a long term contract before FA starts. Even if he is available, his price tag would be way over $30M per year, which is too high for the Patriots. We could trade for Stafford (not anymore since he was traded to the Rams few hours ago) or Watson, but those trades would take away a lot of picks and/or salary wouldn’t be very low either. I won’t trade for middle class QB. From free agency we have some options. Cam could come back (but as I wrote earlier he won’t be my target), Fitzmagic could be a mentor type player, who could fulfill his destiny playing for every AFC East team. Brissett would be an ok signing too, since he knows the team and has a strong backup level. If we would go wild, there is Trubisky, who could turn his career in New England. I stay with the draft, pairing it with a mentor type veteran signing.
WR: Upgrade needed. We need a nr.1 wide receiver, who is reliable and can be a real treath for the opposing defenses. We have a very good group of nr. 2-3 receivers. Edelman hopefully will come back for one more season, Meyers proved he is a capable nr.2 guy and Harry will get one more chance to show his abilities. I don’t think he will be a nr.1, but he might be a good nr.2. After this group we have some role players, but nothing special. Signing a nr.1 from FA would take a lot of money (at least $15-17M per year), so we need to see where else we need veteran help. Drafting someone in the early rounds gives us another problem. Patriots playbook is not easy, we could see during the years that it is very challenging for young players. Do we want to risk another first or second round failure or are we ready to spend top dollars on FA?
RB (FB): One position where I have no worry. I will go with the guys we have.
TE: That is tricky. After Belichick drafted two TEs last year in the third round, I am not sure he would spend another 1st or 2nd day pick on this position. If yes, that should be Pitts in the first round or Freiermuth in the second. They could provide immediate help and could give the other guys some time to develope. Signing a TE from FA is not simple either. We would need a splash signing, someone from the top tier. I am just not sure if we have top tier tight end this year. Please, don’t kill me because of my opinion. Hunter Henry is the top dog this year, but he should play a full season first before I would give him $11-13M per year. Additionally he should have better numbers, than he has now. The other often mentioned player is Jonnu Smith from the Titans. His 2020 season was quite good. 8 TD, good YAC skill, but he is the same type of player what Asiasi could be. Same height, same weight, I guess Belichick wanted to have his own Smith. We could have Gerald Everett, who is the same again like Asiasi. We all know that TE is one of the hardest positions to learn, so we might see a second year jump from our two young tight ends.
OL: We will need a starter at LG or RT position, which depends on where Onwenu will play. We have some in house backup options, but we will try to find gems during the draft. This is one position where I am confident with the Patriots development program.
DL: Guy is a fantastic player for the Patriots (that is why we signed him back), but he won’t be younger. Wise is rather rotational player than starter, but still valuable piece. Our nr.1 NT now is … well we don’t have starter at NT position, which is a very important spot in Belichick´s 3-4 plays. I can see some addition here.
Edge: Winovich and Uche could give us two good edge players. Uche will be only in his second year (lot to learn), but Wino is quite good as rusher (he still needs to improve to be a 3 down option). There is room for upgrade, but with an offseason the youngsters could give us a good group here.
LB: Because Hightower´s retirement in this scenario, we need here veteran presence. This group is ok at the moment, but I am definitely expecting here 1-2 moves.
CB: Another group where I am satisfide whit the pool we have.
S: Chung and McCourty might play their last year in the league. The Patriots drafted Dugger, who could be a potential replacement for Chung or even for McCourty. Williams could play more safety, since he is not in a good position on the cornerback depth chart. Adrian Phillips another good player for the year. I won’t move big dollars for this position, maybe on the draft in the 4-5. round I would pick a project player if there is someone good.
K: We have Foles, no reason to worry.
P: If you have a Pro Bowler punter, you are in good hands.
LS: Cardona is good. Period.
As you can see the team has many spots to fill up with better players, but we have some groups which don’t really need upgrade. There will be positions where I would prefer experience over draft, but you will see some opposit cases as well. This could change from analyst to analyst. My first thought here is, that we have now too many holes to make really big money signings. I think the team should try to sign better players with mid range salary, which can give strong support for the new QB or QBs on the offense. In the defense the team should and I am sure they will upgrade the front 7.
6 & 7. Decide and pull the trigger:
First there is the free agency, the place to spend money in big way. Again, we have almost $46M, but please don’t forget, from this amount we should keep $4-5M for the in season moves. This will give us $41-42M to spend:
Jacoby Brissett, QB: Ooooh yess, I hear some of you are mad as hell. As I wrote earlier, I want to draft a QB and I want to sign a mentor type backup, who could be a starter for the first half of the season if this is necessary. Brissett is a well known name in New England, since the Patriots drafted him in the 3rd round in 2016. After just one season he was traded to the Colts in 2017, where he immediately played in 16 games. He didn’t do any top tier things, but he was a servicable starter and a good backup. Another thing which speaks for him, is how much the teammates loved him in Indianapolis, his attitude and his leadership. This is what the Patriots needs at the moment. I really hope his second stint will be better than his first in Foxborough and both sides will be happy about the signing. He will get a 2 years contract for $15M ($7,5M guaranteed), with a cap number of $7M in 2021.
Marvin Jones Jr, WR: He might not be the sexiest pick, but he could give the WR room veteran leadership and experience. The soon to be 31 year old receiver can play from the slot or outside, he will be a valuable piece in the offense. During the last two seasons he made 31 20+ yards plays and had 18 TDs. In 2020 he almost reached the 1.000 receiving yards, so he will get a 3 year $30M ($15M guaranteed) with a cap number of $9M for 2021.
Curtis Samuel, WR: Yes, another WR from free agency. This signing gives Belichick and McDaniels a swiss army knife type of a player. Samuel can run, he can catch, you can use him in different ways. He is a big play guy too, in 2020 he had 13 20+ yards plays. He isn’t a number 1 type guy, but he has so much to offer in a good system. He will be only 25 years old, which means he has many years left. We give him a long, 5 year contract with a value of $50M ($30M guaranteed) with a cap number of $8M in 2021.
Matt Feiler, RT: Feiler played as RT and LG, just as Onwenu, but Feilers best season came as right tackle, so we can move Onwenu back to his original spot and he can replace the departing Thuney. We give him a 2 year contract with $12M value ($6M guaranteed) with a cap number of $5M in 2021.
Avery Williamson, LB: As I mentioned earlier, the team needs a veteran ILB who can solidify the group. I took Williamson, because he is good against run, but he is able to play against the pass too. In 2019 he tore his ACL, but in 2020 he came back with a 100+ tackle season. Williamson is 6´1, 245 which is good for ILBs. In 2018 and 2019 he was part of the Jets, so Belichick could get an extended look on him. He will be 29 this year, we give him a 3 year $23M ($12M guaranteed) contract, which will count $7M against the cap in 2021.
DaQuan Jones, NT: We need someone who can fix the middle of the Dline, Jones can be that player. During the last 5 years he missed games only in 2017, every other year he had no major injuries, which makes this pick even better. Rushing the passer is not his best ability, he had 3 sacks in the last 3 years, but he is good against the run, he can eat up space and that is what we need now. He will get a 3 year $23M contract too, but with $15M guaranteed. For the 2021 season we can count with $7M cap number.
Hopefully after all these signings we still have some money for the season. The cap number of this 6 contracts in 2021 will be $43M, which will gives us almost $3M cap space remaining. That is an ok amount, since we will have more money after the final roster cuts, so we can concentrate on the Draft.
We still need a QB, a TE wouldn´t be bad either and an Edge/DE position is one to watch. Please don´t forget, if the team will make any trade with the picks, it will change the rookie pool and therefore our cap space too.
The draft is always full with questionmarks, you really don’t know if your pick will live up to your expectations. Good, the first few picks are usually really good, but we saw some 1/1 busts. And you can find real gems later (199th for example), but you need to evaluate the players and you hope those evaluations are correct. You buy the past success on free agency and you „buy“ the future success on draft. Neither is a sure thing.
1/15, Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: I know it is quite unusual that the Patriots are not trading down or up in the first round, but I will stay put and will take Jones. Why him? The best 3 will be long gone and me personally am not so high on Lance. Yes he is very athletic and he didn’t throw an INT in 2019, but he has only one season experience on FCS level, so I am not sold on him. His predecessor, Wentz could be a good example for us, because he was picked high, but something is broken with him now. The level of competition and that one season didn’t convince me. Jones on the other hand is absolutely my type of player. First and foremost he stayed at Alabama and waited until his time was coming. He didn’t transfer to another college to get more reps, he waited and learned and when he got his chance after Tua´s injury in 2019 he grabbed his chance and never let it go. That is an A+++ thing for me, that shows me his mental thoughness and willingness. Beside he was extreme efficient with the throws, over 70% completion and he has skills which could be really good in the Pats system. Is he only a product of the system in Alabama? Man, come on. Tua had even better supporting cast, but Jones beat him in almost every statistical number. Were you high last year on Burrow? Jones matched him in almost every category. If Tua was a 1/1 candidate before his injury, then I can’t understand why Jones would be overdrafted at 15? Especially after the last few days at the Senior Bowl, where Jones was one of the best players on the field and therefore his status is even stronger than before. I think taking our future franchise player at 15 is not a bad thing.
2/14, Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State: As I wrote earlier I am absolutely ok taking Freiermuth here. Asiasi and Keene showed us very little, even if the TE position is very hard to learn, but we need here someone who could give us a boost. We have a move TE in Asiasi, so we need a good big, bodied TE. Freiermuth is a Massachusetts guy, who played in nr. 87, he is 6´5 and 258. He won’t outrun every linebacker, but has the potential to be a Gronk-light. I’ve read some early mock draft and there were 1 or 2 where he was drafted in the late first round. I think because of his shoulder injury and surgery he will be available in the middle of the second round (or at least I hope) and the Patriots will jump on him.
3/33: I won´‘t do any trades, just pick where the team has picks. Additionally at this early stage I will pick only for positions from now on. I guess BB will do some magic here to move up on the draft board, because there is a huge gap between 2/14 and 3/33. My target would be a defense line or edge player here.
4/15: Edge, Dline or Oline
1st 4th comp pick: one of the above mentioned positions or linebacker
2nd 4th comp pick: safety (no draft without a safety) or cornerback
Wow, we did it. Applause for everyone of us. As you can see I tried to fix the Oline, brought two veteran WR on the board and got another young TE. This whole package should help Jones to arrive into the NFL. This offense is now better than one year ago. In defense I took only two players from FA, but these two will bring us a lot of experience and I am sure with them in the team we could see some development on this side of the LOS too. For me this scenario would be a good path back to the playoffs. Let´s see how Belichick and the Patriots front office is thinking.
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The rookie mini camp has already begun, so from now on, the players are fighting for roster spots and depth positions. I am sure there will be some extra additions during the weeks and months, but the core is already there. May 14-16 is the rookie mini camp period. May 24-25 and 27 are the first OTA days, which will continue during the first half of June (1-2, 4, 7-8, 10-11, 14-16). The final cut will be somewhere beginning of September (Sept. 5 was last year), until this deadline teams must reach the 53 player roster size.
As I look on the current roster structure, we have some positions which are filled with talents, but other positions bring up questions (at least mid-term). I will go through all the positons and will give you my thoughts. There will be spots with questionmarks, but I will explain everything for you.
Quaterback (2) – Mac Jones, Cam Newton/Jarrett Stidham: Let’s start with a surprise prediction. After the team was taking Jones at #15 this year, he is the only QB with 100% on the roster for me. I see only one way he won’t be there, which is a serious injury. I really hope it won’t happen, but hey, this is football and you never know what will happen. What about the other two QBs? My first thought would be „Cam will be there for sure“, but after I started to think about it, I needed to adjust my opinion. Cam is the starter now, until someone will be better than him. That is what BB told to reporters few weeks ago. What if Jones shows such a potential, that he becomes the starter? Big if, I know and risky enough, but you can’t say this is impossible. I guess BB has big respect for Cam and in this situation he would let him go to a team, where he wants to go. To this scenario there is another must have criteria. Stidham must show enough potential to be the only backup. We already saw, he is working hard on his technique, he made „camps“ with another players, so he is fighting. I don’t know if those actions would be enough for him to stay with the team, but again, we can’t say it is impossible. If he didn’t develop enough, he will be traded or cut and the Cam/Mac duo will stay for the season.
Cut/trade: Most likely Stidham, but maybe Cam.
Offense Line (9) – Isaiah Wynn, Michael Onwenu, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Trent Brown, Justin Herron, Ted Karras, ??, ??: I let two spots open, because I don’t know who will win or if that players are already on the roster. The five starters are roster locks for me, such as Herron (as swing tackle) and Karras (as iOL backup). Last year there were 9 (healthy) OL players on the roster during the season, 6 iOL and 3 OT. The 3 OT players are already there if we want to go the way as it was last year, so the two open spots are for interior players. If William Sherman (our 6th round draft pick this year) could have a great offseason, he could make the roster, because he offers OT/OG versatility. Unfortunately Cajuste couldn’t stay healthy to show his value, but he could be an interesting player to watch. The depth of the interior positions is very questionable, this could be the reason why the Pats had former Bengals OG, Alex Redmond on try out few days ago. He went undrafted in 2016, but started 24 games for the Bengals since then.
Cut/trade: Marcus Martin, Najee Toran and one or two from the Cajuste/Cunningham/Sherman trio.
Tight End (3) – Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi: After last year, when only 2 TE made the 53 roster, this year, the team will keep three players on this position. Smith and Henry are not just roster locks, but ROSTER LOCKS and I think Asiasi showed enough last year, to be able to stay on the roster. Especially if the Pats will go back more to their 12 personnel.
Cut/trade: Matt Lacosse
Full Back (1) – Jacob Johnson: The team has more than enough players for this position and here will be a huge competition. Vitale was the front runner before his opt-out last year, Keene is a FB/TE option, but Johnson is a pure full back with some catching skill, who showed his potential last year. Cutting Keene is very hard, after he was drafted in the third round last year, but he could get a spot in the PS. Ok, I am a bit biased towards Johnson, because he comes from Germany and I live in Germany, but his production was good as well.
Cut/trade: Danny Vitale, Dalton Keene
Running Back (4) – Damien Harris, James White, J.J. Taylor, Rhamondre Stevenson: I think this a very good group. Unfortunately I had to cut Bolden, who could be an important ST player, but needed the spot for other positions. Harris and Stevenson could be the power backs, while White and Taylor the 3rd down and pass catching specialists. I‘ve mentioned Michel as a trade candidate in my last article and I will stay with it. If he is ready to take a lower salary contract, I could see Todd Gurley will join to this group (especially if Johnson wouldn’t count against the roster), which would make the whole offense more dangerous.
Cut/trade: Brandon Bolden, Sony Michel
Wide Receiver (5) – Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski, Matthew Slater: I don’t think keeping more WR would be really necessary. Many fans would love to have one more big signing, for example trade for Julio Jones, but is it a need? Beside the two new tight ends, the team signed a deap threat (Agholor) and a shifty, mid-level target (Boure). I can’t imagine they would let Meyers go, who was the best WR last year and the same goes with Olszewski, who had a Pro Bowl year as returner. This spot is very important, since Edelman is no more there, so the young WR could be his successor, plus BB values the ST production. I see Harry will be traded somewhere. There is just no place for him. Tre Nixon will be a PS body at first and we will see if he can work his way up to the roster. Slater will be a ST player mostly, so this group will have only 4 real receivers, but will be enough. 4 WR + 3 TE + 2 RB are enough targets for the QB in the passing game.
Cut/trade: N’Keal Harry, Devin Smith, Kristian Wilkerson, Isaiah Zuber, Tre Nixon
Defense Line (5) – Lawrence Guy, Christian Barmore, David Godchaux, Henry Anderson, Deatrich Wise: This unit is another one, which will look different compared to last year. The run defense production was dead last (DVOA) in 2020, so big upgrade was needed. I think, the team made everything to fix the problem. One thing I am missing here, is a very big bodied NT. Godchaux is my primary nose candidate, but there are other players who could play there as well. I see here a possibility to sign someone with bigger body, but this group should be ready to be better against the run.
Cut/trade: Akeem Spence, Byron Cowart, Nick Thurman, Bill Murray, Carl Davis, Montravius Adams
Edge (5) – Matt Judon, Ronnie Perkins, Kyle van Noy, Anfernee Jennings, ??: This was a hard process, to find the final group. The first three names are locks. After one bad year (which was his rookie year) I don’t think BB would cut Jennings, he will rather get one more year to prove himself. He wasn’t the player we expected, but I think he will stay. I didn’t want to say good bye to Winovich. He might be only a pass rusher, but he belongs to the best 6 players on this position (within the team). Unfortunately for him, we have Hightower and Uche in the linebacker group, who could play as pass rushers too and Perkins is better against the run than him. As I wrote last time, I think Wino has the highest trade value this year, so he will be on the trade block. The last spot is open. I don’t think someone will come here from outside, so it will be a fight between Bower and Berry. For me, Bower is the better choice, but wasn’t sure enough to put him on the final list.
Cut/trade: Chase Winovich, one from the Tashawn Bower/Rashod Berry duo.
Linebacker (4) – Dont’a Hightower, Josh Uche, Harvey Langi, Terez Hall: Hightower is back and his starter position is out of question. Uche made a good impression last year and he could be a middle option on the second level, which would make his value even higher. Langi’s home coming means the end for Brandon King, he will take over the ST role from him as well. Maybe Terez Hall is a surprise here, but I liked him last year and with a good offseason, I see him making the final 53. He had flashes last year (8th most tackle in the team), needs to keep up the good work. Unfortunately Bentley didn’t make the cut in this scenario. I like him, he was a captain last year, but he is in the final year of his contract and he might have some trade value. One of the hardest cut for me. Cameron McGrone will go to IR and will come back in 2022.
Cut/trade: Ja’whaun Bentley, Raekwoon McMillan
Cornerback (5) – Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Myles Bryant, ??: After the team didn’t draft a single cornerback, I think both Gilmore and Jones will stay with the team, at least in 2021. Jones is my primary 3rd CB and Bryant showed enough to stick with the team. I am expecting on another player here, if he would be one from the guys on the roster or for example Dre Kirkpatrick who was on try out this week, I don’t know, but only 4 CB on the roster would be risky. Williams couldn’t show enough to stay unfortunately, the team tried him in nickel/safety position as well. Maybe he will be the fifth player with a good offseason.
Cut/trade: Joejuan Williams, Mike Jackson Sr, Dee Virgin, D’Angelo Ross
Safety (7) – Devin McCourty, Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jalen Mills, Joshuah Bledsoe, Justin Bethel, Cody Davis: This is actually 5 safeties and two mostly ST players, but they are safeties as well, so I have to count them here. McCourty and Dugger are my starters with Phillips the nr 3. Mills is another versatile body in this group, who can play nickel or even corner. Bledsoe made the roster, because I wanted to have 5 safeties, in case of injury, plus Bledsoe’s development could be very important for the future. If the Pats wants to play big nickel again, then having 5 safeties is a safer way.
Cut/trade: No one
Special Team (3) – Nick Folk, Jake Bailey, Joe Cardona: I think, this group is easy. No need for further explanation.
Summary: A lot can happen during the next months, but these are my projections. Some of the depth guys could see different path, but this 53-man roster would be good for the season. Big turn around in the front 7, but continuity in the defensive backfield. On the offense, the Oline would be the unit with little change and the receiving groups would look very different.
At the end, the offense had 24 players, the defense 26 and 3 for the special team unit.
Thank you for your time to read my article. Please leave your comment, what do you think about it and what would you do different. If you liked my post please share it.
After a little break, I am here again. This year’s draft is gone, we already know the picks and we already saw the „big“ Pats-UDFA group as well. Still there are several questions, which need to be answered by the team.
If I want to simplify my opinion about the draft, I would say, after the Mac Jones pick I didn’t care anymore who we pick in the following rounds. Yes this would be very simple. After the draft I was fighting with myself, because of the result of those three days. One part of me said, because of the Mac Jones pick, this draft was an A+ and this was the biggest and most important issue to solve through the whole weekend. On the other hand, there were some headscratcher picks for me during day2 and day3.
Ok, let’s start with Mac Jones. As you know, he was my best fit QB all along, since I started writing late January this year. He was my #2-#3 QB on the board. In general, I felt he is a littlebit behind Justin Fields, but saw him more as a fit in the past Patriots system. Which made me thinking, is the presence of Cam Newton, because the two QBs have different style and different strengths. To Cam’s style, Fields would have been a better fit, but the question is, in which direction the Pats will go in the future. Jones has most of the skills, which is needed in Foxboro. He is smart, he has good pre-snap reads and he can go through progression-reads. He fought for his spot in college, never gave up and this menthal strength will be very needed if your HC is Bill Belichick. I am very excited to have him in the team and I am sure this is the best fit for him. This was an A++++ pick, especially the team didn’t need to move up for him, so no additional recourse was necessary to get him. He already told, he is ready to learn behind Cam and Stidham. Let’s see how the offseason will go along and what will happen, if he will be able to move ahead of Stidham.
Second round: To tell the truth I didn’t expect the team would pick Christian Barmore here, I thought maybe OT or CB will be the position to fill, but the team thought different. Barmore is the consensus best DT of this class and we know BB loves good DL players. Moving up for him was ok for me. Giving up two 4th rounders for the best DT of the class is absolutely fine for me. If he could live up to the expectations, that could be a steal. We saw BB wanted to fix the run defense, which was very bad last year (dead last DVOA in 2020) and Barmore offers not just run defense skills, but „some“ pass rush abilities too (91.5 pass rush grade from PFF, which was the best among drafted DL). So until now, everything was fine, the first two picks were great, I was very happy.
Third round:Ronnie Perkins was the first pick, where I was littlebit outside of my comfort zone. Reading later about him, made me littlebit relaxed, but still, why him? He might have been the BPA (best player available) at that point, because he was seen as the 7th best EDGE player and 43rd overall prospect on the PFF list, which means, selecting him with the #96 pick was a huge steal. According to PFF, he was the only edge player with grades over 90.0 both in run-defense and pass-rush. Maybe this is the key aspect in the evaluation of this pick. The team has Winovich who should be ahead of Perkins in pass-rush situations, but Wino had problems against the run, setting the edge and this could be the area where Perkins is better.
Fourth round: After trading two of the three 4th rounders away, the team had one pick and they used it on Rhamondre Stevenson. This RB pick was something I was expected on, but not exactly on this player. I saw Demetric Felton as a great fit for the team and he was still on the board (was picked with the 211th pick by the Browns), so the Stevenson pick was somehow a littlebit of surprise for the first sight, but then I was thinking and understood why he was a good selection. I saw Felton as a James White successor, but the team already has J.J. Taylor on the roster and he showed last year, he could be the next White. On the other hand Sony Michel and Brandon Bolden will be free agents after the season, so there was a need for a bigger bodied RB. Damien Harris is a clear nr. 1 RB for me, but he had some health issues as well, so Stevenson could be the security option for the team. Additionally he is a better pass catcher than Michel, which only makes him more valuable for the Pats.
Fifth round: At this point I didn’t think a CB pick will come and since Jamar Johnson from Indiana was picked earlier in the 5th round, I wasn’t expecting a safety pick as well. I was more focused on the OL/LB/WR trio. The fact, that the team picked a LB wasn’t a surprise, but Cameron McGrone’s name was. After the free agency I didn’t see ILB as a big need, but in case the team wanted to pick one I was concentrated on the Dylan Moses/Justin Hilliard duo. Both of them ended as UDFA picks for other teams. Despite his injuries, I was very high on Moses. Two years ago he was seen as a top-10 selection and one of the best LB in the country. His 2020 play wasn’t near of his 2018 level, but still he came from Alabama, we know that Nick Saban was very supportive after the draft and he thought, Moses will be drafted. Hilliard is another high profile player with injury concerns, had Achilles injury in 2019, but he was a team captain at Ohio State. McGrone was a 5-star recruit out of high school and a top-25 overall recruit. He was a very highly rated inside linebacker. After his great 2019 season, he suffered an ACL-tear against Rutgers in 2020 and he missed all his pre-draft options. So I was wondering why he was the chosen one and not, for example, Moses. Ok, his skillset fits very good in the Pats ILB scheme (don’t forget he comes from Michigan) and he was seen as a possible 3-4th round pick, but still he was the most headscratching pick to me. Coach Belichick already told, that he might miss the 2021 season because of the recovery.
Sixth round: The team had two picks in the sixth round and they were Joshua Bledsoe, from Missouri and the long awaited OT pick (William Sherman from Colorado). Safety was a position which I would describe as a mid-term need. For 2020, there are enough good players, but Devin McCourty might play his last season and Chung will retire after June 1st. I see only Dugger as a long term starter for the team, the Pats needs to find a partner for him and that is why I thought they will pick someone earlier. Bledsoe saw playing time against Toney, Pitts, Waddle and Smith in 2020, maybe those tapes convinced the Pats, they have to select the young player. Sherman could be the next success story of the Patriots OL developmental program. During the years we saw players were selected on the 3rd day and they became vital parts of the Oline. Let’s hope Sherman will belong to that group.
Seventh round: With the last pick of the year, the Pats or let’s say Ernie Adams, finally picked a WR. Tre Nixon is Ernie Adams last pick, since he retires. Only this fact makes Nixon an intriguing prospect and I am very curious what Mr. Adams saw in him. Of course we can’t have too high expectations from a 7th rounder, but I can’t forget who picked him. Still interesting why him and not Whop Philyor from Indiana or Cade Johnson from SDSU?
Best pick: This is easy, Mac Jones. It would have been a huge surprise if the Pats wouldn’t take a QB in the first round. For me, the whole off-season spending showed in that direction. I hope he will have the same success in the NFL, than on college level.
Biggest headscratcher: I won’t use the expression, worst pick, because every pick could become the best with time. The biggest surprise for me, was the McGrone pick. I understand what the coaches saw in the kid, but still I would have picked someone else. I will cross my fingers for McGrone and hope he will show his potential.
What I missed: A cornerback pick is, what I missed most. At the moment, our top two options will be both free agents after the season and BB usually drafts 1 year earlier to key positions. My favourite prospects were St-Juste and Melifonwu in 2-3rd rounds.
Draft in general: This draft was quite good, picks with full of potential and this class could be a very good basic for the future.
The team is almost done with aquiring new players. FA and draft are gone and there are at the moment 85 players on the roster. Chung will retire after June 1st, which will bring that number to 84. Yes, the Patriots have enough cap space to bring another players on board and before/after the roster cuts there could be some moves as well. We can’t forget, that the team wants to be better every year, which means they will only bring new players in, if they think he could stay with them after the cuts. On the roster or in the PS. There are several players who already have sure roster spots and that limits the number of additions for the next months.
Competition: Almost every position group will have competition, but there are some, where I see opportunity for „fight“ right behind the starter group (or even in the starter group). Interior defensive line is one position, since there are 10 DT/NT players. This is a huge number. The Pats keeps usually max 4-5 iDL players. Don’t forget, that in 3-4 system players with DT body could play on DE (3-tech or 4i) positions as well. So, according to these numbers at least 5 of the these players won’t reach the final roster. For me Barmore, Guy, Anderson, Godchaux are the safe guys here and that leaves one spot open, for the others. Is there any chance, someone will join the team? Yes, but for me this position is already stacked enough.
DE/Edge is another loaded group. Wise is 100% on the roster. The tricky question here is, how many player will stay in this group? Let’s count a little bit. 4-5 for iDL, 5 S, 6 CB, makes already 16 players. We will have a maximum number of 26 defense players, so for LB and DE/edge positions we will have 10 spots. I think, the following players will be on the final roster: Wise, Perkins, Judon, Hightower, Uche, van Noy, Jennings. This is 7 spots. So we have another 8 guys (the latest news is, that Harvey Langi is back in Foxboro) to fight for 3 spots max.
On the offensive side of the ball, the fullback position is one to watch, where we have 3 candidates. Dan Vitale was the expected starter last season, before he opted-out due to covid, Jacob Johnson made some very good plays during the year and became the starter for the position and last but not least, Dalton Keene could win as well, since he was a 3rd round pick last year and he has some FB/TE versatility too.
The team has too many OT in my opinion. Last year they kept 6 iOL and 3 OT on the roster during the year. I see Andrews, Karras, Mason, Onwenu as locks and we have only two more iOL players, Marcus Martin and Najee Toran, which gives us 6 players for the inside. For the 3 OT spots we have 6 players. After the 5th year option was used on Wynn, I see him as lock, such as Trent Brown and Justin Herron. The big question, if the 6th rounder, William Sherman, could get a spot with beating out Toran. My big questionmark is Yodny Cajuste, if he could stay with the team or not.
The last unit where I see possibility for a big competition, is the WR group. Last year, the team kept 6 (including Slater) WR on the roster. Agholor, Bourne, Meyers are locks, such as Slater if he stays with the team. So we have two open spots for 6 other players. I really like Olszewski and I hope he will stay with the team, especially because he is a very good returner too (Pro Bowler). This unit could get a hit, because of the TE group, where the team has two 3rd round picks from last year, the FA additions (Smith, Henry) and Matt Lacosse. Last year there were only 2 TE on the roster, I guess this year will be at least 3, which could take away a roster spot fro the receivers.
Who could be traded: If you read carefully the last few paragraphs, you could notice, there were some missing names, who played last year good amount of snaps. I am not sure they will be traded, but looking at the roster now and the lack of open spots, the following players could have enough value to send them to another team in exchange of future draft picks.
I don’t want to use the word, bust for N’Keal Harry, but we can agree, he couldn’t live up to his first round status. He has potential, but he got enough time to prove he is in the top3 on the depth chart and unfortunately he is not there. The bad news is, that the last two drafts were full of good WR, still he could have a mid/late third day value.
Sony Michel’s 5th option was not picked up and the team drafted Stevenson in 4th round. His only big issue was his health. When healthy, he can run, he can bring the yards, but he is not the pass catching back. Maybe an early 3rd day value is there.
If a team needs a good ILB, the Pats could offer Ja’whaun Bentley. Don’t misunderstand me, he is a good player, but he is in the last year of his rookie contract and he has his limitations. I don’t know how much value he could have, but I think the Pats could get for him a late 3rd day pick.
We still have a front7 player, who could be on the move. One of my favourite young guys, Chase Winovich. This would be a hard trade for me, but he is not a three-down player, more of a pure pass-rusher and the team drafted Perkins, who is better against the run. He could have the highest value from all the players I’ve mentioned. I can imagine a 3-4th rounder for him.
Who could be traded to the Patriots: Ok, everybody could be traded anywhere, but I could see some interesting options, who could be really on the move. Again, I think, if somebody would be traded to Foxboro, must offer starter quality. We have enough men on the roster, still 5-6 open spots until the 90 limit will be reached, so no need for another camp body. I will give you 4 names.
Leighton Vander Esch, LB. Oh man, this would be a killer move. He was my favourite LB three years ago. Why would he be on the trading block? His 5th year option wasn’t picked up, he has huge injury concerns and the Cowboys drafted Micah Parsons and Jabril Cox. He could be the odd man out. If he could stay healthy (and this is a big if), he would be an immediate starter for the team.
Rashaan Evans from the Titans, is another LB prospect whose fifth year option wasn’t picked up. He is a different type of player like Esch, but was a first round pick as well and played as a starter. He would be more an inside guy, while Esch would be an OLB. Evans is another Alabama kid, so the connection is there.
I mentioned you earlier, that I was expecting the safety pick earlier in the draft. What if, the Steelers would be ready to trade Terrell Edmuds? He is a very athletic, young man, who didn’t have too much success in his first two seasons, but showed development in his third. His fifth year option wasn’t picked up either, so why not to try?
The last name I will give you, is Julio Jones. I see, many of you would be really really happy with this trade. Yes, Julio is on the wrong side 30 and he had some issues last year, but he is only one year away from his 6th year with 1,000+ receiving yards in a row. He might have some juice left. If he is healthy, he would be an immediate starter for the Pats, without a question. And just for your info, he was an Alabama student as well.
Available free agents: This could be another way to get quality guys and now it would be cheaper, than prior the draft. I see here some interesting names, which would make sense for the team.
Larry Fitzgerald. I had to put his name on ths list, sorry. Acually I don’t think, he would give any upgrade for the Pas, but it would be a nice move.
Dede Westbrook would be an interesting move, since he had 100+ catches in 2018 and 2019 in Jacksonville. He could replace Harry and might have a chance to be the 3rd WR on the depth chart.
If the team wants to give another chance for an ex-1st rounder, then Todd Gurley could be the guy at the RB position. He has knee problems, but still only 26 years old and already showed he is able to have 1,000+ yards seasons. He shouldn’t be the lead back, so in rotation he could stay healthy and would be an intriguing option.
Malik Hooker/Bobby McCain. The two safeties could add depth for the team. One was the starter of the Colts, while the other was a starter of the Dolphins. Hooker was severly injured and last week visited the Dolphins, but could be a high upside signing. In McCain’s case, why not sign the starter of your division opponent.
Gareon Conley, CB is another first round bust, who could turn his career in Foxboro. He is good in man coverage and only 26 years old. Would be a good risk/reward choice.
As you can see, there are still many many options left on the market and I wouldn’t be surprised if we would see some roster movements in the coming weeks. All in all, I can say, I love this offseason so far and I am looking forward to the 2021 season.
I appreciate your time to read my article. If you liked it, please share it and help me to reach more people. Also, please leave a comment with your opinion.
We have only 3 more days before this year’s draft starts on Thursday evening and it is time to make my last, complete first round moc draft. I am very happy I didn’t do it few days earlier, because the Orlando Brown trade between the Ravens and Chiefs would have messed it up.
As you can remember I’ve made my first mock draft almost one month ago, since then some – for me – important information came up, which will alter my picks as well. This mock is not about, what I think the teams will do, but about, what I would do. Of course they have more information, they studied the prospects deeper, than I did, but who actually knows, what teams will do? I guess, after the first two picks, even the teams are not sure who will be there for them. But let’s start.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: There is no change, Urban Meyer and his team will take the best QB in this draft and hopefully they will enjoy a full season with him, behind the center. What concerned me a littlebit last time, was his non-throwing shoulder surgery, but as we could see, Trevor already throws the ball. The team has already sent the playbook to him and they are in deep talks, so this pick is sure.
Last time: Trevor Lawrence, QB
2. New York Jets – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: Almost everyone think, Zack Wilson is the pick here. I am still not. For me, Fields is a much better QB, who played against much better competition, was more successful and didn’t have throwing-shoulder surgery two years ago. Every year, there is a QB, who is undervalued, despite the fact he had a very good college career. This year, Fields is the guy. Yes, I would be happier if the Jets would take Wilson, because I see Fields more dangerous to play twice against him every year.
Last time: Justin Fields, QB
3. San Francisco 49ers (trade with Miami) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: First change is here. 3 first round picks for Jones? Yes. We have to compare what Jones and Wilson can do. Highlight throws are on Wilson’s side, but in system Jones is better. He played against way stronger teams, he comes from a pro-ready system and didn’t have throwing-shoulder surgery 2 years ago. Shanahan will love him and he doesn’t have to jump in immediately, since Garoppolo is still there and my guess is, that he will stay for 2021.
Last time: Zack Wilson, QB
4. Trade: Atlanta gives – 4th pick, Denver gives – 9th and 40th
4. Denver Broncos (trade Atlanta) – Zack Wilson, QB, BYU: Atlanta had only 3 picks in the first two days, with this trade they moved back only 5 spots, but got an extra, early second round pick. Denver could move up and take Wilson, who was supposed to be taken as the second pick. For me, he is too risky, but I am sure teams would love to have him at this point. By this trade the main point was, that Atlanta wants to stay in the top10, to be able to pick a blue chip player. For the other two possible trade partners (Washington, New England) the move up would cost too much.
Last time: Atlanta picked Kyle Pitts, TE
5. Cincinnati Bengals – Kyle Pitts, TE, Miami: Washington and New England tried to trade up, but the drop would have been too big for the Bengals, plus Pitts was there. I know, Burow would need a good Oline player to protect him, but Pitts is a must. The team can pick wide receiver later if they want, anyway, Joe Burrow will have weapons.
Last time: Carolina picked Trey Lance, QB
6. Miami Dolphins (trade with Philadelphia) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon: Again, the receiver class is very deep this year, so the Miami brings someone who can protect Tua. Brian Flores knows how important the Oline is and putting one of the best tackles in this unit, will help the whole offense.
7. New England Patriots – Trey Lance, QB, NDSU: Yes, this was hard for me, because I see too much risk here, but as I wrote several times, this is the year when the Pats hopefully trades up for a QB. The only top QB left is Lance, who will not be forced on the field too early and will have a year to learn behind Cam Newton.
Last time: Patriots picked Mac Jones, QB
8. Carolina Panthers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern: What does Sam Darnold need? Time to make the plays. Protecting your QBs, is one of the best investments long term. Matt Rhule will do everything to be sure this unit won’t be a problem. Maybe he will start at guard position, because of his length, but he is arguably the best Olineman in this draft.
Last time: Cincinnati picked Penei Sewell, OT
9. Atlanta Falcons (trade with Denver) – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama: WR or CB, this was the big question to me. I took a CB, since the WR class is deeper and passing on Surtain (or Horn) would have been a big mistake. The young corner could form a great tandem with last year’s first round pick, A.J. Terrell. I am sure, in this scenario the Falcons defense would move up from the last place in passing yards per game category.
Last time: Denver picked Micah Parsons, LB
10. Dallas Cowboys – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina: Fixing the secondary is never a bad plan. After drafting Trevon Diggst in the second round, last year, they will take Horn this year and be happy with one of the best young corner tandem in the league. Watching the Cowboys during the years, I couldn’t say they wouldn’t pick Ja’Marr Chase in this scenario, but I will stay with Horn.
Last time: Patrick Surtain II, CB
11. New York Giants – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech: There are some other needs at the Giants as well and Nate Solder is coming back, but for the future they have to fix the Oline. Darrisaw is the third OT off the board at this point, but this is the investment what the team has to do. Andrew Thomas was bad last year, unfortunately not just him, but the whole group. Darrisaw will get some flexibility to the team and hopefully will make Daniel Jones‘ days easier.
Last time: Jayson Oweh, Edge
12. Philadelphia Eagles (trade with Miami) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU: Chase is arguably the best WR in this class. Philly took a risk to trade out from the top10, but they get who they would have picked at their original spot. This was a gamble, but paid out. Whoever their starting QB will be, got a very good target.
Last time: Ja’Marr Chase, WR
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State: Like, last time, I planned to go with an Olineman here, but Parsons was still on the board and he is a prospect, who you have to take, especially if you are in need of a versatile piece for your front seven. With Kenneth Murray, they could form a very dangerous LB-duo and in passing situations he will be able to take the opposit side of Joey Bosa and rush the passer.
Last time: Rashawn Slater, OT
14. Minnesota Vikings – Kwity Paye, DE Michigan: Pass-rush is a need in Minneapolis. They were very weak last year and this free agency didn’t solve their problem either. We still don’t know if Danielle Hunter will be part of the team next season, which makes this pick even more valid.
Last time: Kwity Paye, DE
15. Detroit Lions (trade with New England) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: After the departure of Golladay and Jones, Lions is screaming for a new top receiver. The team is in a good position, they can choose from two of the top3 WRs this year. My pick is Smith, who was the Heisman Trophy winner last year and will form a very fast duo with Perriman.
Last time: Jaylen Waddle, WR
16. Arizona Cardinals – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: I tried to find a trade partner here, because Arizona doesn’t have too many picks this year (only two in the first 4 rounds), but I couldn’t find a good match. So the Cards takes Waddle to upgrade their WR unit and give another weapon to Murray. CB is another option here, but Waddle is a top receiver and Arizona can take a CB in the second round.
Last time: Jaycee Horn, CB
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State: After this offseason with moves around the Oline, I woud try to fix it as soon as possible. You can have the best supporting group or defense, if your QB doesn’t have time to deliver the balls. Kolton Miller can stay on the left side and Jenkins could start on the right side. Potential is there and it might mean the Raiders has a longer-term starting OT tandem.
Last time: Christian Darrisaw, OT
18. Miami Dolphins – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU: Facing twice a year with Josh Allen and now Justin Fields and Trey Lance is not easy, you have to be prepared for the pass plays. Miami has a good CB group, but they could use a better center-field safety. Moehrig is arguably the best in this draft and Brian Flores team will have a very strong secondary.
Last time: Najee Harris, RB
19. Washington Football Team – Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame: WFT needs a left tackle to protect Fitzgerald and the rookie who might come in the second round. Eichenberg is a very good LT prospect, who will find himself in the position to start immediately and be the team blind side protector.
Last time: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL
20. Chicago Bears – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC: Protect your QB, you already heard this mantra above, but again, after the QB situation, the next most improtant thing is to fix your Oline and Chicago would be wise if he would do so. They take here a versatile OL player, who can play as a tackle or as a guard.
Last time: Teven Jenkins, OT
21. Indianapolis Colts – Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State: Colts can give Oweh time to develop behind the current starters and after this season he could jump in the starting role. He has extraordinary athletic abilities despite his frame. Many think, because of his sack-less 2020 season, he is not one of the top options, but I really like his ceiling.
Last time: Gregory Rousseau, Edge
22. Tennessee Titans – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern: Neither Janoris Jenkins, nor Kevin Johnson will be the long-term solution at this position, so the Titans takes the fast, versatile cornerback who will be a key piece in the future years.
23. Baltimore Ravens – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas: After the Orlando Brown trade, the Ravens needed a RT and Cosmi can play on both sides. He is very experienced and has good technique for the position. The Ravens moved up four spots from #27 and moved down three from #31, so they still will be able to select a better prospect at the start of the second round. This move was necessary to get Cosmi, who could have gone with the JAX pick.
Last time: New York Jets picked Eric Stokes, CB
24. Pittsburgh Steelers – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama: Do you want to help Big Ben and the offense? Then you should pick a RB and make the unit more dangerous with the addition of another layer of creative opoortunities. Harris is a three-down back, who will be able to handle passing downs as well. I am sure, Mike Tomlin will be able to use him the best possible way.
Last time: Green Bay picked Rashod Bateman, WR
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa: The best safety and the best Olinemen are gone, so Urban Meyer and co. take a very versatile linebacker, who will be able to take over the SAM position immediately and in passing situations could move up on-the-line to rush the QB. Scary front 7 in Jacksonville.
Last time: Samuel Cosmi, OT
26. Cleveland Browns – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame: JOK will be a fit immediately in Kevin Stefanski’s defense. He could be the WILL and drop in coverage or rush the passer. If the team wants to play nickel coverage, he is the man who can play that role as well.
Last time: Zaven Collins, LB
27. New York Jets (trade with Baltimore) – Asante Samuel Jr, CB, FSU: Cornerback is a huge need for the Jets. Farley would be a great addition here, but his second back surgery scares me a lot, so I took a player who has connection with the AFC East. Asante Samuel Sr was the starter corner for the Patriots during their first dinasty. Samuel Jr is littlebit undersized, but has every other tools to be a very good outside option.
Last time: Baltimore picked Dillon Radunz, OT
28. New Orleans Saints – Christian Barmore, DT, Alabama: Corner was my other guess, but since Farley was an injury risk one pick earlier, the situation won’t change here. Barmore comes from a very good, pro-style defense in Alabama. He will be a very good penetrating 3-tech DT, who can elevate the Saint front 7 production.
Last time: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB
29. Green Bay Packers – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota: Good news for Bateman, he won’t have to move too far from his college and he will get balls from one of the best QBs in the NFL. Rodgers was very good last year, they were close to get into the Super Bowl. Adams is one of the best WRs in the league, who could help a young man with enorm potential. This year Aaron Rodgers will get, what he missed last year, an early round target. Good luck NFL to defend them.
Last time: Pittsburgh picked Azeez Ojulari, Edge
30. Buffalo Bills – Joe Tryon, Edge, Washington: Tryon comes from a productive 2019 season, where he made 8 sacks, 12.5 TFL. He opted-out in 2020, but the potential is there. He won’t need to be the immediate starter, he can learn one year behind Hughes and Addison.
Last time: Joe Tryon, Edge
31. New York Jets (trade with Baltimore) – Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama: Fields needs every protection he could get and Leatherwood offers 3 years starting experience in one of the best programs on college level. He has some OT/OG versatility, so the coaches could move him where he is needed. He started all the 41 games during the last 3 seasons.
Last time: Kansas City picked Jalen Mayfield, OT
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Carlos Basham Jr, DE, Wake Forest: He could be the strong side DE, who plays at 4i or 5-tech and could shift inside on passing downs. He is productive, wins with power and technique, not wih speed. He will be one of the next wave of rushers in Tampa.
Last time: Carlos Basham Jr, DE
This was my last, full, first round mock draft. Only 3 more days and we can see what teams are thinking. To make a short summary, I drafted 5 QB, 1 TE, 1, RB, 4 WR, 8 OL, 4 DE/Edge, 1 DT, 3 LB, 4 CB, 1 S. Thank you for your time and support. Let me know your opinion about my mock and what would you do different. If you liked it, please share my article and help me to reach more people.
In less than two weeks this year’s draft is here. Making mock drafts is a daily routine for many people nowadays and everyone wants to know who will be the Nr.2, Nr.3, etc pick. The Nr.1 pick is literally 100% sure, if the Jaguars won’t pick Trevor Lawrence, that would be the biggest surprise of the last few years.
Most of the people say, Zack Wilson will be the Jets‘ pick, but I would rather wait a littlebit, because we don’t really know how teams are thinking. With the 3rd pick, the situation is the same. San Francisco traded 3 first round picks to land there and many suggest they will take Mac Jones, over Fields. In some mocks I already saw Trey Lance as Nr.3, which is unbelievable for me, but please, feel free.
I thought I will put together a list about my favourite/wish picks for the Patriots in different scenarios. It will be only for the first round, but hey, this year we might see a massive trade up from Belichick or even not. Watchig the first round of the draft as a Patriots fan, is like a lottery, you never know which number will be pulled. This year I am so sure, the Pats will take a QB. Why? We still have a problem there. Cam is only on a one year contract, Stidham didn’t show anything promising. Additionally, there are 76 players on the roster now. The Pats signs usually 10-12 UDFA, so we won’t have enough roster spots for every selection if the team stays at the number of picks it has at the moment. I can even see the scenario, where the team picks twice in the first round. Let’s start.
Big trade up to #4-#5 – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: As I already wrote in my previous articles, for me, he is the Nr.2 QB this year. He would form an exciting duo with Newton and would be able to learn from him a lot. I like his playing style a lot and regarding his playing speed, I would mention one opinion again. Few weeks ago, there was a report from someone from the Ohio State team, about Fields‘ release time. He told, that Ohio State had lot of option routes and this was the reason of Fields‘ longer release time. He was waiting on the teammates to see which route they will run. If this is true, than the biggest concern is gone and we get an NFL ready player.
Smaller trade up to #7-#8 – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: Again, as I already wrote about it, he is my favourite QB this year, a very good fit for the Patriots. He is not the biggest, not the fastest, he won’t win games with his feet, but you will get a QB who delivers the balls very effective, who will be able to throw balls into tight windows, who has high football-IQ. Timing, reading and completion percentage is very important in the Patriots system and he can give you those.
No trade up, QB on the board, #15 – Trey Lance, QB, NDSU: This is the right value for Lance, in my opinion. I know he has very high ceiling, but still he is risky. What if, he wouldn’t live up with the expectations? Then, the team just lost several higher picks on the trade up. Yes, those could happen with every prospect, but I see Lance as the riskiest top-QB. If he can bring his FCS success to the NFL level, he could be a steal, he has good arms, good completion percentage and he can run.
No trade up, QBs gone, #15 – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina: I took him, because I guess, Patrick Surtain will be the first corner taken, so I would have the second best in this group. Horn is a fast, relative long corner, who can fit into Patriots man-coverage system. He was often playing without help in the college. Good against the run and willing to attack the ball carrier. Corner is a mid-, long-term need for the team, because we don’t know what will happen with Gilmore and Jackson. Selecting one of the best in the class would be a wise move.
Small trade down to #19-#20 – Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU: Just like the Horn pick above, this is for the future as well. Dugger could be a cornerstone for the future at one safety position and Moehrig would come to try to replace McCourty next year, if the veteran leader leaves the team. The young safety was the best on his position in 2020 and got the Jim Thorpe Award. On paper, he is not so fast, than Devin McCourty (4.50 vs 4.41), but he has a very good range from center field. He started every game during his last 2 years and has special team value as well.
Bigger trade down to #28-#29 – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa: I am a big fan of Collins since I saw some films about him, start of this year. He could be the next Hightower for the Pats defense. Ok, maybe this is a strong statement from me, but I see lot of potential in this kid. He is taller (6‘4 vs 6‘2) and lighter a bit (259 vs 265) than Hightower and he can play in many different roles. Can play in the middle, outside and in passing situation he can rush the passer as well. He would have time to learn behind Hightower, van Noy and Judon.
Please leave a comment with your wish picks in my scenarios, I would love to see what you are thinking. Thank you for your time and support.
If you followed my writings in the last couple of weeks or months, you could realize that I am not a big fan of Trey Lance. Not because I think he can’t be good in the NFL, but because I think the hype is too big around him. People want their teams to trade up in the top5 and pick him, which would be very risky in my opinion.
I hear you, he has very high ceiling, he didn’t throw a single INT in the 2019 season, he ran over 1,000 yards, he can make any throws, etc. That is great and I really like those points, but would have he been able to have the same success in a stronger FBS conference as well? We will never know. He might be the best QB from this class, he might not. We won’t see it immediately, maybe in 3-4 years.
So I’ve decided to take a look on the non-FBS QBs, who were drafted, what did they do in the NFL so far. Originally, I wanted to compare QBs taken in the first 2 days of the draft in the last 5 years, but after I saw how few there were, I expanded my search and I collected every non-FBS QBs, who were drafted since the 2010 draft. What do you think, how many QBs were drafted and how many of them came outside the FBS level?
So, in the last 11 drafts, there were 130 QB picks and only 8 QBs were non-FBS QBs. To be exact, they all were coming from the FCS level, which is the Division 1-AA. These 8 picks are 6.2% of the whole QB selections. This is a very low amount and speaks for the big difference in the competition level. There could be a very valid question, why does this make so much sense regarding QBs, but not by other prospects? We can see every year safeties (Jeremy Chinn, Kyle Dugger) or Oline men (J.C. Tretter, Terron Armstead), etc, being drafted from lower level, but we have less than 1 QB per year. Why so? I can’t tell you exactly the reason, you should ask evaluators, scouting people. I guess things are progressing slower on lower level on the field, the schemes are not so complicated (of course there are complicated schemes on every level, but I mean the average is not so high), the opponents are not on the same level than players from the FBS, etc. Everybody could tell positive examples, but I am talking now about the average level of competition. Taking a non-FBS QB is risky and often not needed, since there are more than enough QBs from the FBS level every year, who could offer a slightly higher quality. In 2020 there were 141 former FCS players on NFL season-opening rosters and there are several others from Division II or Division III or even from NAIA level. You can find gems on every level, but you have to dig deep. There are two great opportunities for those lower level players to show themselves. One is the East-West Shrine Game and the other is the Senior Bowl week. Jim Nagy and his staff working every year hard to discover good players from lower levels and give them the opportunity to show their value for the NFL teams on the Senior Bowl.
Ok, but enough from theory, let’s see those 8 guys who were drafted in the last 11 drafts. I put Trey Lance in my spreadsheet too.
Really sorry, that is so small, but there is lot of information. We can see, that only one QB was drafted in the first round (Carson Wentz in 2016 as, #2) one in the second round (Jimmy G in 2014 at #62), every other QB was drafted on the 3rd day. Other interesting thing is, that two of the 8 drafted FCS QBs came from the North Dakota State University (NDSU), which was Trey Lance’s college as well. Only 3 of the 8 had more than three appearances (Wentz, Garoppolo, Skelton), but 2 of those 3 won Super Bowls (or at least they were in the winning team). Four QBs didn’t even have a single throw in the NFL.
As we can see, non-FBS QBs (who were drafted) had not too much success in the NFL, but Lance has a very high ceiling and he is better than most of the top FBS QBs. Or at least people say so. Let’s see, some scouting reports about the above mentioned QBs.
„There’s a lot to like about Wentz, but still so many question marks. The size and big arm stand out, and it’s not just aesthetics – his velocity is an asset at the short and intermediate range at the next level. The concern is whether or not the big arm loses accuracy beyond 20 yards to be effective. He’ll flash some touch on the deep ball, but it’s far too inconsistent at this point. Wentz would fit well into a vertical passing offense that will allow him to zip throws into the 15-25 yard range while moving the ball in chunks. His lack of timing in the passing game is a major concern, but if he can iron it out, the upside is immense. Any team drafting Wentz is banking on huge improvement in a number of areas, but given his relative lack of experience, the gamble may just be worthwhile.“ (PFF, 2016)
„Now that the quarterback position is in play with the No. 1 pick, it’s entirely valid to ask if Wentz is worth that kind of capital. Based on what I’ve seen, and given his developmental curve, I think the answer is yes—based on the proviso that if you see your franchise quarterback in the draft, you move heaven and earth to get him. I think Wentz has more of those top characteristics than Jared Goff—he’s more pro-ready, his flaws are entirely correctable and the upside laps any other quarterback in this class.“ (Sports Illustrated, 2016)
Two things jump out for me from these two scouting reports. 1. The last sentence in the PFF report says something about Wentz’s lack of experience. Although he played in 43 games compared to Lance’s 19. The other point is from the SI report, which says „the upside laps any other QB in this class.“ What does that mean? Was Wentz so good or the other QBs were so bad? Anyway, no words about generational talent or so, but at least he was pro-ready.
„Garoppolo shined at Eastern Illinois as a quick-rhythm passer with exceptional accuracy, ball placement and timing. In addition, he displayed outstanding arm talent and a high football IQ while directing the Panthers’ warp-speed attack against FCS competition. He quickly got the ball out of his hands on an assortment of catch-and-throw plays designed to distribute the ball to his playmakers at short and intermediate ranges. Although the dink-and-dunk nature of Eastern Illinois’ offense led to questions about Garoppolo’s arm strength and range, the small-school standout eliminated these concerns with a pair of strong performances at the East-West Shrine Game and Senior Bowl” (Bucky Brooks, 2014)
„You cannot put Garoppolo’s statistical exploits into any proper context, because most all of his action is coming against lower-level FCS teams. You want to see a possible FCS breakthrough QB prospect dominate that lower-level—and Garoppolo did just that. He broke all the EIU records held by former QBs Sean Payton and Tony Romo. Garoppolo completed 62.3% of his passes in his career with 116 TD passes and 51 INTs. He averaged over 300+ yards a game in his last two seasons with 82 TD passes in 25 games (3.3 per game) in that span as well. Size wise he is OK, not great for a QB, but safe/fine. Garoppolo is coming in a little over 6’2” and 220+ pounds. He has a chiseled body with muscular arms. He is a decent, not great runner—he’s NFL adequate with his feet. Scouts have made mention that he has smaller hands, but no record exists of what the measurement is, so we have to wait. That could be a minor issue for our computer models as well…so we’ll have to wait and see. What makes Garoppolo great, to me, is beyond what you see in numbers. It is the incredibly quick release, accuracy, and ability to decoy defenses. Visually, you think you are watching Aaron Rodgers— current day.“ (College Football Metrics, 2014)
The one thing, I want to repeat, is the first sentence of the second report about Jimmy G, which mentiones the lower level of competition and how tricky it can be, so be careful with the evaluation and don’t forget, his success comes against – mostly – FCS opponents.
Last but not least let’s read some scouting reports about this year’s top FCS QB prospect, Trey Lance.
„The stuff he does in the pocket is so unique, a Dan Marino-type guy. Either everything comes so naturally for him or he has the best coach in college football.“
„He’s so young physically and mentally at the position. But his upside is tremendous.“
„He’s not going to be ready to play. He has to get in early, stay late and take a ton of notes just so he can learn the NFL position.“
„When all is said and done, he can be as good or better than (Trevor) Lawrence. He’s going to be a big, physical quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger.”
„He’s more of a thrower than a passer. He’s like a pitcher who’s only throwing 95 mph fastballs.“
He hasn’t played much football so he’s not where (Carson) Wentz was when he was coming out (of NDSU), but he’s talented and very smart. He needs an offense tailored to what he does best and you have to be really patient with him.” – Personnel executive for AFC team
Everything I can read, is that he shows lot of potential, but he is young and inexperienced and he will need time. On one hand it is very good, that he is mentioned as a top5 QB this year (some say he is the 3rd best behind Lawrence and Wilson) along with QBs from (mostly) top college programs, on the other hand he is not an immediate answer and he will need a year or two. If he won’t be a QB, I am sure analysts would talk about him as just a potential first rounder, but definitely not as a top10 or even top5 pick. Usually top10 guys are all on the „immediate starter“ level and Lance is not there at the moment.
I want to show you one last spreadsheet, where I put together the best years of every above mentioned QBs.
What we can see, is that 3 QBs dominated this list. I marked with red the best numbers from every category. Lance had the best completion percentage, the lowest INT number (zero) and he was the best in rushing attempts and rushing yards. His predecessor, Easton Stick had more rushing TDs and a higher yards per passing attempts number. Jimmy G had more than 550 passing attempts in his senior year, with a brutal number of TDs (53) and over 5,000 passing yards. His 53-to-9 TD/INT ration is very impressive, so in this category I can’t say Lance is the winner, because he had lower passing numbers, than Jimmy. All in all, I can say, that Lance had nice numbers, but those are not outstanding. If he would have played on East-West Shrine game or on the Senior Bowl game (I know he was not a senior, so he wasn’t able to participate on it), where he could have shown us, that all his traits are still there against higher competition as well, I would be ok with the „trade up into the top5 for him“ theory. Unfortunately without those extra proofs, I still think it would be risky.
As I always said, if he would fall out of the top10, maybe until 15, I wouldn’t have any problem to take him and let him sitting one year behind Cam Newton. But trading up for him to #4 or #5 would be very risky, which could pay out, but still he is not a day1 starter. In case coach Belichick pulls the trigger and trades up for him, I will cross my fingers for him and will hope he could be the QB everyone is expecting.
Thank you again your time to read my article. If you liked it, please help me to reach more people and share my writing or leave a comment, I would love to hear your opinion.
We are in the middle of the Pro Day season, some of the big schools already had their Pro Days (Alabama had even 2) and we could take a look on some highly talented kids. On the second Pro Day of Alabama, we saw the big men from the 49ers and the Patriots talking to each other. Has this something to do with Jimmy Garoppolo or was it only a normal discussion between NFL GMs and coaches? We saw throws from Wilson, Fields, Mond, Jones, Trask and we were able to see some very serious 40-yard dash times from players. Let’s see my thoughts on those topics from the last few days.
Jimmy G: As I see, this will be the most popular topic this offseason. Jimmy G is coming back to New England or not? Everybody is talking about this and I can’t understand why this is such a popular thing. I don’t think he will come back. This year at least. Why? There are many reasons and I try to summarize those for you. Trading for Garoppolo – from „financial“ standpoint – would be a „do it now“ thing for the Patriots, because Jimmy G has a no-trade clause for this year, which means, he first has to agree with the team. Without this support, the 49ers won’t be able to move him anywhere. This fact pushes Jimmy’s asking price lower this year, which could be a good thing for the Pats. The problem here is the other side. I am not sure this is what John Lynch wants. Few days ago the 49ers had over $20M cap space, even with Jimmy’s $26.4M cap hit, which is a very healthy amount after the FA first and second wave. So again. If you have enough cap space for this year, would you get a maybe 2nd round (or 3rd) pick for Garoppolo next year or do you want to get rid of him and get a maybe 4th rounder? If Jimmy is gone, who will be your starter? Yes, I know, the Frisco has the 3rd overall pick, but are they sure that this guy (Wilson, Field, Jones) is an immediate starter? Garoppolo is not a bad QB, despite the fact he has flaws, but he brought the team into the Super Bowl two years ago. A trade now would cause $2.8M dead money for the 49ers, next year this amount would be only $1.4M. He has still a relative high cap hit (2021: $26.4M; 2022: $27M) which could scare away teams, but without the no-trade clause, John Lynch could get more offers for him. Beside that, if the Pats wants to have him, they should negotiate first on a contract restructure, because this $26.4M is way over the Patriots cap space now.
Another reason, why the Pats won’t bring Garoppolo on board, is Cam Newton. I know football is a business, but I think being fair is very important (I know, often this is not the case) and in this case BB and crew will stick with Cam as the veteran presence. Belichick talked very supportive about Cam and he wants to give him another shot with the team. I don’t think the team would have better chances with Jimmy G than with Cam. Cam knows the current team better as Jimmy would. He has better on the field connection with the players than Garoppolo has. Jimmy played in 31 games during the last 4 years, while Cam played in 47 games. Cam threw 54 TDs and ran another 22, while Jimmy threw 46 TDs and ran for 2. The INT number is 26/40 for Jimmy, but Cam has almost 10k passing yards (1.800+ yards rushing) and Jimmy threw little more than 7.300 yards (120 yards rushing). So it is safe to say, Cam is more durable and was more productive during the last 4 years, than Jimmy G was.
Another layer is, Stidham. Yes, even if you don’t like the idea. Stidham may get a shot to prove his value, if the Pats won’t be able to get a first round QB in this year’s draft. Robert Kraft told in an interview this week, that he doesn’t think, Stidham got his shot from the coaches. The young QB organized a team activity in California last week, where he threw passes for TEs and WRs. Cam Newton was there as well. So for me, this year is a „prove it“ year for Newton. The offense got lot of new, good players and – unless Cam will get another injury – it should be way better than last year.
Team needs after FA: After a very busy FA, the team still has some positions to work on. Not for this year, but in mid-term, there are definitely some. But let’s start with one of the hot topics for now. The WR-room. I can’t talk about this group without the TE- and RB-units. The team signed Bourne and Agholor and has returning players, such as Edelman (if his knee will be ok), Meyers, Harry, Olszewski. They have the new TE-tandem of Henry and Smith, which is huge and signed back White for the third down role. If you put Agholor-Bourne-Meyers/White-Smith-Henry on the field, you can be very creative and you could cause big difficulty for the opposing DCs. I do think, a WR pick will come, but earliest on day2 and I would put it in the 3rd round. The other 4 positions where I have some concerns are OT, RB, CB, S.
OT: Trent Brown has only a one year contract, Wynn is in the last year of his rookie contract (the team can opt to use his 5th year option next year) and he has some injury concerns. Those are our starters for 2021. Who else is there? Justin „Hero“ Herron,Yodny Cajuste, Korey Cunningham and Onwenu can play here as well. Herron could be a future starter if he could grow, Cajuste is a big question mark, who could use a healthy year and Cunningham is not really a strong starter quality. Usually coach Belichick drafts one year earlier for important positions, so in case the team misses a top QB in the first round, they could pick one of the top OTs at 15 or a good prospect in the later rounds. I think the team wants to see what the Herron-Cajuste duo is capable of and this will determine the next year’s draft for this position.
RB: Sony Michel has the potential, but he had injury problems down the way, additionally he – just like Wynn – is in his final (4th) year. I would be surprised if the team would choose to take the 5th year option. White signed only for one year, which is not so great and Damien Harris was injured as well. For me Harris could be the future for the team and JJ Taylor could be a White replacement, but he has to prove his value. This year’s draft has some exciting RB prospects all around the board, so I think the team will pick one on the second or third day.
CB: If Gilmore or Jackson will leave before the draft, this position would be in need for upgrade. If not QB, then – in this scenario – I would say, the team will take a corner in the first round. We have 3-4 first rounder corners and another 3-4 for the second round. This year, the cornerbacks are not just long, but very fast as well. This year offers much talent in this group. If both starter corners stay for this year, we still don’t know what will happen after the season. Without an extension, both Gilmore and Jackson would be free agents, which would be a scary situation for me. Our second tier players (Williams, Virgin, Jackson, Bryant, Ross) are not on that level, which doesn’t mean they will not be able to develop into that role, but to make sure, there won’t be a problem with the talent level, wouldn’t be bad to draft someone in first or second round this year.
S: I think Kyle Dugger is a jackpot. His jersey will be my next one. Adrian Phillips had a very good year in 2020, but he will be a FA after the season. Chung retired already (although as I know it is still not official) and this might be Devin McCourty’s last year. This means 3 of our top4 options could be gone after this year. The team signed Jalen Mills, who could jump into Chung’s role, but that doesn’t mean we won’t need 1 or 2 new bodies here.
Rookie QBs: If you read my earlier articles, you already know, that my favourite QB is Mac Jones, who would fit into the system very well. Although I won’t trade up for him into the top5, but from skill-fit standpoint, he could be great. My other favourite is Fields, who would fit into the Cam-system. They have a stronger connection, so this would be a very ideal mentor-pupil relationship. I watched almost every top QB prospect’s Pro Day and I must say, after Jones overthrow his receivers few times, I don’t believe his arm is not strong enough. The first big splash in Pro Days was Wilson, who made an interesting throw. He rolled out to the left side and made a long throw deep, down the field. This wasn’t an easy throw and everybody saw this moment as a proof of his status as the real nr.2 QB this year. The funny thing is, after Wilson we saw almost the same throw from Fields and Mond too or even there was a short video about Sam Darnold, who made the same throw in an NFL game. What I just want to say, is that please don’t go with the hype. It is like Mahomes no-look throw. He was the star, but before him, others (Derek Carr, Matt Ryan, etc) already made some no-look throws.
After the Pro-Days, my list didn’t change. I would trade up for Fields, Jones, Wilson, but won’t trade up for Lance, whom I would take at 15. In the second day I would take Trask and Mond.
Why is Lance only on the 5th place (I didn’t write Lawrence in the list, because he is the 1st pick) on my list? The guy is good, no question. He has very high ceiling as well, which is very good. My problems with him are for example the level of competition (FCS) he had or the limited experience (combine with the level of competition). He was QB at NDSU, which won 7 of the last 8 FCS championships, so the school is a powerhouse on the FCS level. One of his predecessors was Carson Wentz, who had one very good year, but then nothing special, despite the fact he was a very highly regarded prospect. I am not saying he won’t be a good starter, but he is the first QB where I say, I won’t trade up for him.
Medical evaluations: I often read about the Combine, that the most importan part of it, is the medical evaluation part. We saw several times, that doctors found some hidden illnesses. Unfortunately this year’s combine was canceled due to covid and teams don’t have so much opportunity to test the prospects as in normal years. I think that will push back some players on the boards. I have two names in my mind, who could fall out from the first round because of their medical conditions. First player is Caleb Farley. The young corner from Virginia Tech, who had a microdiscectomy. Was told, that this surgery is not major, so he will be ok, but if you have problems with your spine, this could be a red flag for teams. Especially when team doctors don’t have much time and opportunity to check your status. Farley was a top3 CB prospect, but he will slide (a bit?). Some say he still will find a team in the second half of the first round, while others say he could fall out of the first round. The other name is another first rounder, Jaelen Phillips, from Miami. The Edge player considered as a top5 rusher prospect this year, but he had concussion problems in college. After the 2018 season he retired once, he had 3 serious concussions. I don’t care about the PR of CTE, I care about the health of the players and this factor is very strong. Do you want to spend a first round pick on someone who might be only one wrong tackle away from retiring again? Not nice what I am telling now, but I wouldn’t pick him not even in the first round, but in general. If someone already decided to let football behind him, because of health concerns, then I wouldn‘t risk to go into the highest level. I hope he won’t have any serious injury in his career in the NFL and he won’t have any long-term problems, but I guess other teams will have the same thoughts like me now.
That was for today. Thank you for your support and time. If you like my articles please help me to reach more people and share my writings. Have a nice day/evening.
After the two trades from the Dolphins last week, the draft order was shaken up. It is interesting who the 49ers wants, but for me even more interesting who else will try to trade up, to be able to select their most coveted player.
1. Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson: This is a no brainer. The only questionmark with Lawrence is the situation of his non-throwing shoulder which was fixed few weeks ago. Actually this is a minor issue, would be a bigger one if it would be the throwing shoulder, but Trevor is expected to be ready for training camps. He is the clear cut, best QB in this draft. Has leadership, success and all the needed tools for a QB who will get the opportunity to turn a franchise. It would be shocking if the Jaguars would select someone else.
2. New York Jets – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State: Reports tell, the 49ers offered the same package to the Jets what they offered to the Dolphins, but the Jets wasn’t open for it, which tells me, they will go for a QB. Robert Saleh’s OC will be Mike LaFleur, who comes from San Francisco as well and he is part of the Shanahan group. I don’t think LaFleur will exactly copy the 49ers offense, but he could use a mobile QB with arm strenght and experience in stronger competition. I know, there is a Wilson hype in the last few months and his Pro Day was great, but the Jets will go with the more experienced player, who can start right away. Yes, Darnold will be traded.
3. San Francisco 49ers (trade with Miami) – Zack Wilson, QB, BYU: I guess, this is exactly the dream scenario for Shanahan. Wilson is good, but he needs more experinece against higher level teams and with a year behind Jimmy G, he will have a smooth transition. Wilson fits in Shanahan’s system which was built on Jimmy’s strenght. The young QB is a rich man’s Garoppolo for me, the team won’t need to adjust much for Wilson, so the transition from one QB to the other will be easy. Frisco can and I think will trade Jimmy after the season, when there won’t be a no-trade clause anymore in his contract.
4. Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE, Miami: Ok, that would be really early for a TE, but hey, he is a very rare talent at his position and he is even considered as the best pass catcher this year. The Falcons made sure, Ryan wouldn’t go anywhere this season and maybe not even in 2022, so they will upgrade Ryan’s supporting cast. Jones won’t be younger, but still very productive and the offense has Calvin Ridley too, but the TE group is not very strong. With Pitts on the field, they could have a three-headed monster, good luck for the DCs.
5. Carolina Panthers (trade with Cincinnati) – Trey Lance, QB, NDSU: I am not so high on Lance as many analysts and fans, because of the level of competition he had and his overall experience, but he could be a perfect fit in Charlotte with Matt Rhule (HC) and Joe Brady (OC). These two coaches just came from the college world, they understand the latest trends and Brady is a young and bright mind. Bridgewater shouldn’t be traded this year, he could give a year to Lance to learn and grow. Their styles fit together. Cincinnati has no problem with this trade, since the teams are in different conference and they still will be able to select in the top10.
6. Miami Dolphins (trade with Philadelphia) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama: Maybe Chase would be a sexier pick, but how else would you help your starter QB, if not bringing for him one of his ex-playmakers from his college? Smith is the latest Heisman Trophy winner, had a brutal year and he shouldn’t be the immediate star in the unit, which already has DeVante Parker and Will Fuller. This trio will be a terror on the field.
7. New England Patriots (trade with Detroit) – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama: I think, this is the last possible spot to get Jones, before other teams (for example Denver) would jump ahead of the Pats. I wrote it in my last article, that after such a free agency, this is the year when the Patriots will trade up and take their future franchise face. Since Fields is out (who could be a good fit with Cam), I turned back to my favourite QB in this draft class, who has everything what is needed in the Pats system. Additionally, his ex-HC is a good friend of his next HC, so he won’t have any problem with the culture he arrives in. Before the big trades on Friday I said, the Pats won’t need to involve any first round pick for this trade, but now it will be necessary, so the Lions will move back 8 spots and will get the Pats‘ first rounder next year and their 4th round comp pick from this year.
8. Cincinnati Bengals (trade with Carolina) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon: One of the biggest winner in this early stage of the draft is definitely the Bengals, which moved back 3 spots, got additional pick(s), but still has every opportunity to draft the best OT or Ja’Marr Chase. Reports say, that Burrow tries to convince the GM to draft his buddy, Chase, but after the injury he had last season, the main focus should be on his long-term health. Jonah Williams and Sewell could form a good OT-tandem in the future.
9. Denver Broncos – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State: Every top QBs are out and with the Ronald Darby signing, the CB position is not that huge need. Von Miller won’t be a Bronco too long, so why not bring in his successor, who almost has the same size like Miller. It might be a luxury pick here, but the Miller-Chubb-Parsons trio looks dangerous on paper and defitnitely will look dangerous on the field as well.
10. Dallas Cowboys – Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama: It is no secret, that the Cowboys secondary is screaming for help and upgrade. Last year second round pick, Trevon Diggs and Surtain will form one of the best young corner tandem in the league for the upcoming years. Surtain is not slow (4.40 40-yard dash), he is long (6‘2) and played under Nick Saban, wich is a guarantee, that he is technically sound.
11. New York Giants – Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn State: The Giants wasn’t really a treath in the category „pass-rush“, so they will take the player, who had extremely good Pro Day (4.36 – 40-yard dash, 39.5“ vertical jump and 6.83 3-cone) and be a force on the field. He is a prospect, who needs time to be a complete player, so you might wonder why he is the first rusher off the board. His athleticism is off the charts, he has huge upside, he is long. He brings a very good package, which could be way better with some coaching.
12. Philadelphia Eagles – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU: In this scenario Chase falls out of the top10 and the Eagles will bring him to Philly to give Hurts a true nr.1 receiver for the future years. The team traded back 6 spots, got an extra first rounder for next year and still could have the arguably best receiver of the draft. His presence will give a big boost to this group.
13. Los Angeles Chargers – Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern: Keeping the young QB healthy should be the nr.1 priority and because of the QB rush in the top10, a real gem is falling into the Chargers hands. Slater is the second best LT prospect this year, who is really fast (4.88 40-yard dash) for his size (304 pounds). He might be too short (6‘4) for some evaluator for the LT position, but I think he will fit there. With the FA signings this year, the team will have now a very strong Oline, which can support and protect Justin Herbert.
14. Minnesota Vikings – Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan: Danielle Hunter wants out of the town and we saw last year what happened without him. The pass-rush was weak, so there is a big need for upgrade. Paye will bring versatility around the Dline, speed (4.52 40-yard dash), strenght (benched 36 times the 225) and big motor.
15. Detroit Lions (trade with New England) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama: The Lions lost Golladay, Jones and Amendola in free agency, so drafting a WR early is not a surprise. This trade down with the Patriots is a win for the Detroit front office, since they could inquire an extra first round pick for next year and they can pick one of the top3 wide receivers this year. Waddle will be a true playmaker for Jared Goff and pair him with Perriman will give a very fast duo for the team.
16. Arizona Cardinals – Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina: There is no nr.1 corner on the roster at the moment. Robert Alford is on the wrong side of 30 and he didn’t play since 2018. Malcolm Butler is younger, but since he left New England, he is not the same player anymore, additionally he got only a 1 year contract. This unit needs help and fortunately for the Cardinals, Horn is still available. Great speed, great athleticism, good man-cover corner. He can be a day 1 starter in the team.
17. Las Vegas Raiders – Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech: After trading more than half of the starting OL from last year, I can’t see other option, than drafting a first round tackle prospect. Darrisaw is a very athletic, young man, who was the highest graded OT in the Power 5. Franchise LT for a team, which still looking for their true identity.
18. Miami Dolphins – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama: We can say the Dolphins pull an all in for Tua and signs not just one of his ex-receivers earlier, but the best RB of this draft class as well, who comes from Alabama. Miami’s offense is well equipped for the success, but Harris will give them another layer. He is a great runner, who can catchest he ball as well. I see, this offense will make headache for the coordinators on the other side.
19. Washington Football Team – Alijah Vera-Tucker, OT, USC: I am not so convinced, that WFT’s Oline is good enough for the future, so the team picks Vera-Tucker, who can play both on LG and LT positions. I see him more as a tackle, but wouldn’t surprise me, if the team would use him as guard. Anyway, he is a good first round pick.
20. Chicago Bears – Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State: If you’re looking for your long term QB, but nobody is there at the moment (on the draft), then draft someone who will make his life easier. Signing Jenkins will give a boost for the not so strong Bears Oline and some security for Andy Dalton (and maybe for the rookie QB). He can play both on the left and the right side, so gives the team some flexibility. Bears can find their next QB in the second round.
21. Indianapolis Colts – Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami: After loosing both Justin Houston and Denico Autry in free agency, the Colts will bring some help for their Dline. Rousseau is a long pass-rusher, who has great athleticism and success (15.5 sacks in 2019) and can play on multiple positions. He has only one full year of experience in college, but he showed enough to be taken at this point.
22. Tennessee Titans – Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern: The team lost 3 corners in free agency, but signed only Janoris Jenkins (33 years old for 1 year) and Kevin Johnson (1 year), so they need a long term nr.1 player for this position. Newsome was still on the board, so they pull the trigger and took the fast (4.37/4.40 40-yard dash) corner, who can play in man- and zone-coverage as well. He will fit into the Mike Vrabel culture.
23. New York Jets – Eric Stokes, CB, Georgia: The Jets CB room is quite a mess, so an immediate help is necessary here. Stokes is a very fast (4.25 unofficial 40-yard dash), often very underrated. He still needs learn a lot, since his skills are littlebit raw, but he was a second-team All-SEC selection last year. Stokes will be able to keep up the speed with any receiver in the league.
24. Green Bay Packers (trade with Pittsburgh) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota: Aaron Rodgers likes to throw the ball to different targets, so give him another very good receiver and he will love game days even better. Pairing Bateman with Adams, plus Tonyan as TE, will give Matt LaFleur’s team a scary trio. Good luck to defend all the three.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas: After selecting Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick, the Jaguars will opt to keep him healthy as much as possible, so they are selecting the very experienced tackle out of Texas. Cosmi played both at right tackle and left tackle positions, had more than 1,500 pass-blocking snaps. He has quite good athleticism and good technique for the position.
26. Cleveland Browns – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa: The team signed Malik Jackson and Takkarist McKinley in free agency, which pushed the Dline need to day2, but drafting the second best linebacker of this class is something where the Browns can’t say no. Collins is very versatile, he can rush, he can be used is space, will be a lethal weapon in Kevin Stefanski’s defense.
27. Baltimore Ravens – Dillon Radunz, OT, NDSU: It could be a little high for the young FCS star, but the Ravens needs a new RT after they try to trade Orlando Brown Jr. Radunz had a great Senior Bowl and showed he is able to compete against NFL ready players. Although he played on the left side in North Dakota State, he will switch sides and be the RT of the future for the Ravens.
28. New Orleans Saints – Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame: JOK would fit in the 4-3 system as OLB, who can rush the passer, but is good in coverage as well. He is a smaller LB, but plays much bigger. If the team wants to run a nickel defense, he is perfect for it as well. The team must find him the perfect role, but Sean Payton is a very good coach, who will put him where he can make plays.
29. Pittsburgh Steelers (trade with Green Bay) – Azeez Ojulari, LB, Georgia: He will fit is Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme as an edge player. He can form a dangerous tandem with T.J. Watt. His 4.63 40-yard dash time showes, how fast he is and he is even more explosive. He still has room to grow, but he will be in a good place at the Steelers.
30. Buffalo Bills – Joe Tryon, Edge, Washington: The Bills doesn’t have many weak spots, maybe Dline is one of them. Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison are over 30 and won’t be long with the team, so the team can start to think about a succession plan. Tryon opted-out because of covid, but was a force in 2019, when he had 12.5 TFL and 8 sacks. He still needs time to develope, but behind the two veterans, he has all the opportunity to learn and be ready, when the time is coming.
31. Kansas City Chiefs – Jalen Mayfield, OT, Michigan: Cutting both starting (but injured) tackles creates some problems and those problems must be solved. So the Chiefs selects a tackle prospect out of Michigan. Mayfield can play on the left or the right side. He had limited playing time under his belt, but the competition was strong enough (Gross-Matos, Chase Young, etc) to showcase his skills.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Carlos Basham Jr, DE, Wake Forest: After the champioship run, the Bucs was able to bring back every bigger name from last year, but some of those players will stay only one year. Basham would be rather a 4i or 5-tech player in early downs and could play inside in passing plays. He is strong, but not really fast, he will win with his technique not with speed. He had 11 sacks in 2019 and 5.5 in 2020, despite the fact, he missed games due to covid and didn’t participate in the team’s bowl game.
Just to summarize my mock, I took 5 QB, 1 TE, 1 RB, 4 WR, 8 OL, 5 DL/edge, 4 LB and 4 CB in the first round. Some player who were projected in the first round, slipped out, because of injury concerns. Thank you for your time and support again. I would love to see your opinion about my mock, so please leave a comment. If you liked it, please help me to reach more people and share it.
On the first day of the legal tampering period I started to write my latest article, but then the news came so fast about the Patriots signings, that I decided to wait until the dust settles. After the last few days it looks like the Patriots is more or less done with actions and we can begin to concetrate on the next steps.
For Patriots fans this FA is something what we never saw before, yes the circumstances are different as well, but still, Belichick spent ton of money on new signings and with it he just set a new record (another one). No team before, spent so much as the Patriots. The team made big splashes, they – it looks like – overpaid few players, but all in all, there is a feeling, that Belichick’s moves follow a bigger plan, which is not just be again in the Playoffs and win the Super Bowl, but there might be another big splash to come. Let’s go through the moves from the last 2 weeks and see what could be this last big splash.
During the last weeks, I wrote several articles where I was discussing this topic. The team had only very few groups (P, LS) where things were ok and there is no need (this is only my opinion) of new players. There were few position (QB, WR; TE, DL) which were in critical condition and some others (LB/Edge, secondary, RB, OL) where the team could look for replacements for the longer term continuity.
QB: This was a must fix territory, since the QBs under contract (Stidham, Dolegala) were not really promising. Additionally, if the team planned to make bigger signings on the offensive side, they needed a better QB, who could draw interest from players on the market. Reports tell us, that Stidham is working very hard to be better, but it is still room for him in the team?
WR: Another group which needed new faces, but this one is a tricky group. I will write about later. So, this group was below average during the 2020 season. Meyer was the best in term of catches and yards, let’s say so, he was the most reliable target. Harry looks like a first-round bust. Sorry, but he is far from the expectations what people have, after he was taken in the first round. We still don’t know what’s going on with Edelman and if he would be able to play when the season starts, although we still have months to figure it out. Byrd is no more with the team, Olszewski is a depth player as WR, but a Pro Bowler ST guy.
TE: Again, we had higher expectations regarding the two 3rd rounder rookie, but that production was almost nothing. Izzo was the best, which says a lot. I wasn’t a big fan of LaCosse, so yes this position was screaming for some upgrade as well.
OL: Generally, the OL was ok last year, but two of the five starters became FA after the season, Wynn had health issues every year. The only two, healthy starters were Mason and now 2nd year Onwenu. I am very confident the OL coaches can make magic, if it is necessary, but fixing the line is another important task for the front office.
RB: Burkhead and White are free agents as well, but the core group is very talented. Harris, Michel, Taylor and Bolden is a solid group, with some versatility, but I can see here one more player from FA or draft.
DL: Our run defense was dead last (defense DVOA) last year and two core guys (Butler, Guy) became free agents, plus Wise was heading to the open market as well. Not the best starting point for a weak group. I don’t say there are no talents, but a bad group lost its best guys, so there was need for big changes.
LB/Edge: This group was part of the bad run defense, which wasn’t a big surprise here, after the departure of van Noy and Collins, plus the opt-out of Hightower. We have here a good young core with lot of upside, but they still have lot to learn. The good news that Hightower is coming back, which will elevate the whole group to a higher level, but 1 or 2 addition was expected here. The other thing what we have to consider, that both Hightower and Bentley will be free agents after the 2021 season, so there is a need for a succession plan.
CB: On paper, this is (one of) the best group in the team. Jackson is there (the expectation was always that he will get an RFA tender) so as Gilmore. And the depth behind them wasn’t bad either. Jason McCourty is the only notable name who left the team for FA. But, what if Jackson will depart to another team because the Pats won’t match their offer or they won’t pay him after the season? What if Gilmore doesn’t want to stay for the money he would get in 2021? Is the team ready to trade him or will he go after the season? These are important questions to consider.
S: Devin McCourty is coming back, there is Adrian Phillips and Kyle Dugger from last year, plus Chung who seemed to come back after the opt-out year. Additionally there were some depth, but bigger questionmarks too, what comes after the season? Dugger is a safe bet, he was very good in his rookie season, so he will be a core player in this group, but that is not enough to replace the departing veterans.
ST: We have a Pro Bowl punter, this position is in great hands…. I mean legs. The long snapper position is ok as well. Kicker was a position to be filled.
That was our basic point before everything started. As I wrote earlier in my other articles, the team had holes to fill. That is why I was not a big fan of trading up for a rookie QB and give away early round picks.
Moves before the FA:
There were four notable moves before the legal tampering period started last Tuesday.
Trade for Trent Brown: This was a good move, which could fix one position in the Oline and create some flexibility as well. The team gave up a 5th round pick in 2022 for Brown and an additional 7th rounder in 2022. As reported, Brown was ok with a contract restructure and lowered his max number to $11M. His cap hit will be $7.625M in 2021 according to @patscap. Brown was immediately inked to be the starting RT, with an option for LT, if something happens with Wynn.
Re-signing of Cam Newton: I was ok with this move, I can support it as well. Cam wasn’t too good last year, but not all the failures were on him. He came in a system which was designed for Brady in the last 15-20 years. He had no offseason, which could have helped him and he got an offense, which wasn’t good enough to win a playoff game with Brady in 2019. Additionally he got covid, etc. I am not saying he still has his MVP talent, but he deserved another shot with better targets to prove his value. The one year contract has a max value of $14M and a cap hit of $5.5M (according to Miguel Benzan aka @patscap). That move gave me the impression, that the team won’t sign another QB in FA.
Re-signing of Justin Bethel: It was a bit under the radar move, but very important as well. Bethel is a special team ace and we all know how important this unit is for Bill Blichick. Bethel made a very good impression during his 1.5 season with the Patriots. With the fact, that Slater didn’t make his decision if he would come back for another year, the team made sure the ST won’t be without a respected leader. Bethel got a three year contract with the max value of $6M. The guaranteed part will be $2.75M and the cap hit is $1.9M for 2021.
Trading Marcus Cannon to Houston: After signing Trent Brown, many thought it is just matter of time until Cannon will be traded. Belichick made the trade with a well known person, Nick Caserio and made a good deal. According to the first reports the two teams swaped pics in the 4-5-6th rounds in 2021, but later came a correction and we learned, that the Patriots got a 4th and a 6th round pick in 2021 in exchange of Cannon + a 5th and a 6th rounder in 2021. With this move the Pats gave around $6.2M to the cap space.
Re-signings during FA:
Free agency doesn’t mean, the team will sign new players, they can re-sign some own players as well. The Patriots re-signed 7 own players this year.
The latest, but the most important, re-signing from this group was, David Andrews. Although he is not a top5 center in the league, he is one of the most important peaces in the Patriots offense. He gives the unit a form, he leads the Oline and he has huge experience in the system. Additionally he already played with Cam Newton, so they won’t need to start to build chemistry, which give them a better starting opportunity. Deatrich Wise’s contract shows us, that he might get a higher volume of workload. He is in his prime and he was a valuable rotational player, who can play as DE but is able to switch inside as pass rusher DT as well. Nick Folk was good last year and the team was able to sign him cheaper than I thought it would be possible, it is only a one year contract, so we have to wait what is the plan here. Cody Davis is another nice addition to the special team. We don’t know what will happen with Slater and with Bolden, so the team made sure there will be continuity in this group. Jakob Johnson’s tender is a sign that the team wants to retain him, but shows, that he has no long term job security. He was good as a FB last year, but there is Dalton Keene on the roster, who could be the new guy and he brings more versatility, since he can play TE as well, not just FB. Johnson has to show his value if he wants to stay with the team.
J.C. Jackson is an interesting story. He is the latest UDFA miracle at the DB position. He had a very good 2020 season, showed nr.1 potential, but he is not on the that level yet. Many (including me) expected he will get a first round tender from the team, instead he got a 2nd rounder. With this move the Patriots could save almost $1.4M for the season and they could see what is Jackson’s value on the market. How? For me, Jackson is a top15-top20 corner at the moment, but I doubt teams would give up a first round pick for him, if he would have got a 1st round tender. With this move the Pats could have been sure, Jackson stays with the team at least for one more year. With a 2nd round tender, the situation is different. There are CB needy teams (Dallas, 49ers, etc) which could be ready to give up their picks in the second round, but before that they need to offer Jackson a contract, which could be matched by the Patriots. And this is exactly the point. I guess Belichick wants to see those numbers, he wants to be sure what Jackson’s market value is at the moment and if it is not too high he can match it and secure a good, young player for longer term. In case the numbers are high for him (which I doubt, since the cap is significant lower than last year), he could take the pick and put the money into Gilmore’s extension.
Signing back ex-Patriots players in FA:
Actually this is not so hard, considering how many player had shorter or longer stint with the Patriots. The team had a history to bringing back players after they tried their luck with another teams. Jamie Collins or Patrick Chung could be the most recent examples for this.
Karras was signed before Andrews came back. I guess the team didn’t see the opportunity any more to bring back the starter C, so they signed someone who has experience in the system and was a full time starter last year in Miami. Karras is an ok starter, who brings some versatility as well. Even after the Andrews signing, it is not bad to have him for the next season. If Wynn would have another injury, then the team can move Brown to LT, Onwenu to RT and Karras could jump in as LG. Hopefully Andrews won’t need a backup, as he stays healthy during the year.
Van Noy was an expected move few days back, when the rumors came out, he will be released from Miami. I wrote an article about him, so I won’t repeat myself. I was very happy when the news came out he will re-sign with the team. He will bring system knowledge, leadership and versatility to the unit. I am very fired up how the look of our new (old) defense will be next season.
New players from FA:
This is maybe the most interesting part of the free agency signings. I never expected so many top signings from the team, but once it was getting started we couldn’t rest. One signing after another.
The Patriots didn’t hesitate to pull the trigger and with the first selection in 2021 FA, they signed:
Jonnu Smith, TE: TE was a huge need, many discussed about the possible targets and both top2 TE got some love from the analysts and fans. Smith is a versatile player, who can play inline and from slot as well, he is very good after catch and he is only 25 years old. Ha played in 60 games and had 114 catches, 1,302 yards with 16 TD catches. Last year he was the best TE in receiving grade (88.5 PFF) and the second best in TD catches (8). I am very excited to see him in Pats jersey.
Matt Judon, LB: We knew that pass rusher is a position where the team needed an upgrade. When Judon was signed we didn’t know Kyle van Noy will be back as well. Judon is on the better side of 30, he played 5 years in the league and didn’t miss a game because of injury. He will be an important part of the organisation and that is what we can see in his 4 years contract. Ok, after two years the team can cut him with positive cap result, but I assume they plan to keep him. Judon can rush, can hold the edge against run, fits in the system. Last year he had 46 total pressures (which is only 1 less than Wino’s number).
Jalen Mills, DB: This signing made me thinking, why was it necessary, but Jason McCourty is a free agent and as we all know now, Patrick Chung retired, so he is some kind of a successor. Mills is a versatile kid, he played as OLB/nickel (both sides), slot CB, outside CB and free safety in 2020. These kind of players will always find their place on the roster. His contract structure is the same as Judon’s, after two years the team can cut the player with creating a bigger amount of cap space.
Hunter Henry, TE: He was a second day signing and not too many people thought this would happen. Even Henry told to riporters, that after Smith signing he didn’t think the Pats would be still in the picture. But the connection between Henry and coach Belichick is well documented, so it is not a big surprise, that Henry landed in Foxboro. With this move the Pats got the two best tight ends from the free agency and they will form – hopefully – a lethal tandem on the field.
Nelson Agholor, WR: He was the first (un)officially announced wide receiver signing of the first day. Many – including me – were surprised, Belichick picked him and not someone else (Samuel, Davis or even Golladay), but reading about him, makes clearer why was he the chosen one. Agholor was the „drop man“ in Philly, but during his one year tenure in Las Vegas he showed his potential. He is something what the Pats didn’t really have in long time, a reliable deep treath. He has 6 TD on 20+ yards throws, he led the NFL on vertical routes in yards (526), yards/route (2.8) and was second in TDs (8). His two year deal could be seen as overpayed, but in case he can bring his Raiders level of play to the Patriots, this will worth every penny.
Kendrick Bourne, WR: Before Agholor’s name came up in the reports, people wrote about Bourne as a possible signing. Not a big name, but has something BB loves, a really good 3-cone result (6.73) from the combine in 2017. He is not fast, rather quick and shifty. He had quite much (9) drops last season, but I guess the team hopes, that won’t be repeated in 2021. He could see more playing time in the slot. He could be cut after the season without big dead money, but still his 3 year $15M salary is not much.
Davon Godchaux, DT/NT: I guess the team brought him to play as a nose tackle in 0-tech and 1-tech, but he is not the typical NT, since he is „only“ 310 pounds. No problem, if he is good, then I don’t care about his weight. He came from Miami, so Belichick could see him enough to be sure he will fit in the system. Even Ted Karras told in an interview, he became a better man practicing against Godchaux. His $9M guaranteed part shows us, that he will have a bigger role, so don’t sleep on him.
Henry Anderson, DL: Another player from a division opponent. Anderson comes from the Jets, where he played during the last 3 seasons, so again, BB had time to observe him. He could be the Lawrence Guy replacement in the 3-5-tech area. He can play in multiple positions around the line and has some pass rush potential as well (7 sacks in 2018). In an interview he was very excited to play for the Pats, I hope the best for him. His 2 year contract can be terminated easily after this season.
Montravius Adams, DL: Another DL player, which don’t surpise me at all, since this position was in a bad shape earlier. He was a better college player, than a pro until now, so he has lot to prove and he is now in the best place to do so. He was drafted by the Packers in 2017 in the 3rd round, but didn’t made the boom. He will be a good depth/rotational option in the DT position. His son, Montravius Jr., was born on the same day he was drafted in 2017, so he got the call in the hospital.
Raekwon McMillan, LB: The latest additon to the team, was this young man, who played 2 years in Miami, but he came now from Las Vegas. His one year contract is a prove it type of agreement I guess. He was a second round pick in Miami and played as MLB/ILB.
Stand after those signings:
What we can see at the end of the day is, that the team tried to fill so many holes as possible both with quality and depth players. With the low first year cap hits, the Pats was able to sign more top players than we thought. Of course the high cap space and the new tv contracts helped the case to be creative, but still I don’t think we should be unsatisfied with the moves they made. Let’s re-check the positions.
QB: We have now Cam, which is good, but not enough. His one year contract gives me the feeling, that he is still viewed as a bridge QB. If he won’t perform better than last year (ok the bar is not high), he won’t get another chance here and in case he shows his greatness again, he could cash in somewhere else.
TE: I am almost sure (with BB as GM/HC you can’t be sure in anything) this position is done. Izzo was already traded and I think the team won’t keep 5 TEs on the roster. My feelings say, Asiasi’s place is safe as nr.3, but Keene is an interesting case. He has to fight for his roster spot with Jakob Johnson at the end. If he wins, he could have a Kyle Juszczyk type of a role as a hybrid FB/TE.
WR: We could say, there is still a need for a real nr.1 guy, but actually I won’t be mad if the team wouldn’t bring a top WR from the draft or so. Especially after the TE moves, the team is already versatile. Agholor can be the deep treath, while Bourne and Meyers are the short/mid-route receivers. That’s already 5 targets and we didn’t talk about running backs. I have my concerns with Edelman’s health. I would love to see him back healthy, but the latest news were not so promising. I can imagine he starts the season on PUP list, but that is a long way until then. Harry could be traded, which I think is a good idea for both sides. Anyway, this unit is better than the one from last year (again, the bar wasn’t too high).
RB:Here is still no action. White and Burkhead are still on the market and for the Patriots there is a need for a receiving 3rd down RB. JJ Taylor could be the man, but he has to prove it. I think 1 or 2 players will come to this group, since this will be Michel’s last year (and I would be surprised if the team would exercise his 5th year option), Harris has injury issues during his years in Foxboro and as I just wrote Taylor is not a proven player. Brandon Bolden could give some depth, but in sum, mid- and long term this unit is not ready. (read update at the end)
OL: In short term this line is ready to roll. We got our center back and with the arriving of Karras we have a very good backup, who can play in every IOL position. We have enough OT to start and hopefully the younger guys could develop enough to provide enough safety. Mid- and long term the picture is different. Brown and Karras are only 1 year long here, Wynn has to stay healthy and we still don’t know what the young backups could deliver. Belichick loves Oline, so I think he will pick a player or two in the draft.
DL: Not the burner group, but with the 5 signings/re-signings it shows some potential. Wise will get an increased role (based on his contract), Guy was replaced by Anderson (we still don’t know if he will be able to replace the production as well), we got a possible NT, which was a big hole last year and the Davis – Adams tandem gives us two extra rotational players. I won’t be surprised if the team would draft someone. This unit has quantity, but I am no sure what quality it has. (read update at the end)
LB/Edge: Boom. This group is so much better now than last year was, that I can’t even find the words. Alone Hightower would make the unit better, but he got van Noy back and Judon as well. With these three veteran players I expect with an elit level play. The young players now have enough options to learn from and be better and they won’t be forced to do more than they should be. Long term it is tricky again, since both Bentley and Hightower are in the last year of their contracts. If everything works ideally, the team will have replacement for both players. McMillan could be a long term answer here if he shows up this year.
CB: Short term, they are ok, but this group has lot of questionmarks. For example what will happen with the two top players? Will Gilmore’s contract restructured or he will be traded or he stays this year to leave the team after the season and try his luck on FA? Is Jackson the new, long term, nr.1 option or he will play under the tender to test the market next year or the team will let him go this year in exchange of a 2nd round pick? Jason McCourty is not here anymore, but he would be only a 1 year help again. Jon Jones has two more years, which is good. Mills was signed, but he is not really the pure CB. The Williams-Virgin-Bryant-Jackson-Ross group gives the team depth, but is there a future nr.1 or nr.2 option? My feelings say the team will secure Gilmore or Jackson for long term and might let go the other one. Of course I would be happy if they could extend Gilmore and give Jackson a 4-5 years contract, but is it really a possibility? I think they will draft someone on day2.
S: Chung is retired, McCourty might play his last year with the team. Dugger is an ascending player who could take over the leader role in the coming years, Adrian Phillips showed his value, but he will be a FA after the season. Cody Davis is more of a special team player and Joejuan Williams still has to prove his value. Mills could play here as well, but this is weak for long term. I usually say, there is no draft without a safety pick, don’t be surprised if BB will take someone again.
ST: Folk has a one year contract, but Aguayo is still here. Rohrwasser was waived last day. Here is a possibility that the team will bring another pair of legs in the locker room. Bailey has two more years.
After the roster moves yesterday (Rohrwasser, Maluia, Pinckney), the team has 77 players under contract. With 9 picks on the draft and another possible UDFA additions, the situation could be really tight for many players. I think playrs will be added to the following groups: QB, RB, OL, DL, CB, S.
I know, I know, you opened this article mostly because of this part. But it is finally here. Let’s be honest. The Patriots filled almost every big holes in the roster. There are still groups with need for new players, but I don’t see any major issue now. There are positions (TE, LB) which improvements are huge and the team in sum is in a much better shape than it was last year. Newton has weapons now, the Oline is strong, so I tell you now, this team has to go into the playoffs this year.
The only BIG need is the QB. I cross my fingers for Cam, he deserves to have a great year, but he is not the long term answer. All these FA signings show us the path, what teams follow with a QB under rookie contract. Paying better players to be there and help the kid to be able to compete immediately. I have no problem with it, when was the last time our team was in this situation? Hm, I don’t know. Even with the young Brady, the situation was different. So this is a new thing to explore for the Patriots and as I see they wanted to make the best possible things. I am confident this team can compete for the playoff spot right now and this roster status gives the opportunity to be agressive on the draft, trade up and take the next – possible – franchise QB.
If we are talking about a rookie QB, we have to see who is on the roster already and in what style he is playing, what kind of playbook do the team has. This could narrow our target group. Cam Newton starts his second year with the team, which means the team already changed the playbook for him, compare to the one, Brady had. Cam runs much more, than Brady did, so the playbook could be more a dual-treath playbook, than a pocket passer playbook. Because of this fact I would say, Trask and co. are not really a good fit. Why? I don’t think it would make sense, if a team would bring together two QBs who have different skill sets. That would be bad for one of them. The veteran should play in an unfitting system, which would push the rookie on the field earlier than expected or the rookie should learn a system which doesn’t fit for him, which would be a waste of time.
As I wrote in my earlier articles, I think the best fit for the „old“ Pats system would be Mac Jones from Alabama. He had his (first) Pro Day yesterday and actually he ran better than expected. 4.76 on 40 yard or so. Which doesn’t mean he is a dual-treath QB, but he can move better than many reported. His playing style would be great in the Pats system. But hey, there is Cam Newton and that different playing style. I am sure Jones could learn a lot even in that system, but I wouldn‘t find it too efficient. So here are my top choices:
Nr. 1: Justin Fields
Nr. 2: (still) Mac Jones
Nr. 3: Zack Wilson
Nr. 4: Trey Lance
Nr. 5: Kellen Mond
I don’t think Trevor Lawrence would be available at any point. For me, Justin Fields is the best and most proven dual-treath QB this year. He played against strong teams, he led his team into the National Championship, he can throw, he can run and he would be a perfect fit with Cam Newton. I saw yesterday a video where Fields was still in high school and took part in some kind of camp. He gave an interview when Cam Newton jumped in and talked really high about Fields. What does that mean? The two has a great and long time connection. Cam could get a guy, who he advertised and now he could be his mentor. Fields could get a mentor who can teach him how to use his abilities even better and who plays like him (ok, maybe this is a bit too much, but we can see the similarities).
Mac Jones is Mac Jones, not a great fit with Newton, but I am very high on him and I think he could handle this difference. Zack Wilson is not the typical dual-treath QB, but he showed he can run, he has strong arms, so he would be ok as well. Additionally he likes the Pats. Lance would be another terrific fit in this new Cam-system, but for me he is overhyped. Yes, he played great, no INT in 2019 and the rushing yards and TDs, but for me he is very unexperienced. NDSU won championships without him, so the program is good with or without him. Tell the truth, Easton Stick had more rushing TDs (17) in 2018 than Lance had in 2019 (14), although Lance ran for 500 more yards (1.183 vs 677). Another comparison is Carlson Wentz, who was a Bison QB as well and his production is not good as a pro, despite the fact he was viewed as a great talent and was drafted with the second pick by the Eagles. I don’t have problem with smaller school players, but at the QB position I see things littlebit different. Kellen Mond is a second day target and I don’t thing he would be the target for the Belichick-masterplan, but still he could be a fit.
What is the biggest problem? The 1st and 3rd on my list will go out very early, possibly in the top5 pick. I saw mock drafts from experts, where Fields was picked at 12 or so, but I don’t see how could it be real. Until few weeks ago, the concensus was with Jones, that he will be available at 15 for sure or even the Pats could trade back few spots and still could get him. Now, the narrative changed, he had a good Pro Day, he will repeat it next week again, so his draft stock is rising. If necessary I would trade up for the top3 on my list, if the team stays put somehow and Lance is available at 15, then maybe I would take the risk, because in this case I shouldn‘t give up anything extra for that move.
But is there any real chance to trade up into the top10 or even into the top5? My short answer is yes. And this is the masterplan. Because there is no major roster need anymore and the team still has more than $10M cap space, this is the year when BB could sacrifice few high picks to move up.
The spreadshit shows us the team’s draft picks in this year with their values in Rich Hill’s (RH) and Jimmy Johnson’s (JJ) system.
Who could be our trade partner this year? 1/1 Jax, no way. They will take Trevor I guess. 1/2 Jets or 1/3 Dolphins won’t work out. Maybe in later rounds, but they would be crazy if they would help for a division opponent. So the earliest opportunity is the Falcons with the 4th pick.
Trade with Atlanta (1/4): This is the highest possible landing spot in my opinion and the question is, who will be on the board when this pick comes. We still don’t know what the Dophins and the Jets want to do with their QB situation. Reports say that the Miami plans with Tua (they signed Jacoby Brissett as backup) and Sam Darnold position is very uncertain. My guess is, that Darnold will be traded and the Jets will take their new QB. But who? It could be Fields or Wilson, one of the QBs on my list. If Miami will stick with the Tua/Brissett duo, the question is, if they want to take a WR with the 3rd pick or an OT or will they be open to trade down few spots (Panthers, Broncos, 49ers) and take the best player available? If they stay put and take for example Chase or one of the Alabama WRs, then there is an opportunity for the Falcons, or other team, to take Fields or Wilson. If Fields would be available, because the Jets took Wilson, then I would pull the trigger and would try to trade up.
The 4th pick has a value of 490.52 (RH) or 1,800 (JJ). The Pats has to give the 15th pick which has a value of 315.2 (RH) or 1,050 (JJ). That’s not enough of course. The Atlanta could use a CB help, so there is already an opportunity for discussion. I think both J.C. Jackson and Gilmore are worth an early second round pick, let’s say 2/5, that has a value of 161.67 (RH) or 530 (JJ). After this trade the package value would be 315.2+161.67=476.87 or 1,050+530=1,580. Quite close but still not enough. There is a 13.13 (RH) or 220 (JJ) points difference. That is equal with a mid-5th round (RH) or a top10 3rd round (JJ) pick. If we take the Rich Hill chart I would be happy to give away the 122nd (4/17) pick (13.24). In the Jimmy Johnson system this trade wouldn’t be so easy, since the gap is bigger than the team’s 96th pick (115). Here could be the following: 15+Gilmore/Jackson+46+177 for 4 + 68 (3/4). This would be in numbers: 1,580+440+27,2=2,047.2 vs 1800+250=2,050. This could be still less than the offers from other teams, but worth a try.
Another version could be, when the team gives up the first round pick from next year. Unfortunately these future picks are calculated as a one round later picks in the current year. So the 1st rounder in 2022 has a value of a 2nd rounder this year. So we are at the same amount like with Gilmore/Jackson. The problem with the Falcons is, they have around $5M cap space at the moment. So the Gilmore/Jackson trade is doubtful (of course we know cap space is only a myth and teams can be creativ with it). Let’s go back and replace Gilmore with the team 1st rounder from next year (which might be not so valuable). They would get the following package: 2021/1 + 2021/2 + 2021/5 + 2022/1. Would you make this trade for the 4th pick? Or just to be sure we can replace the 2021/5 with the comp pick from the 4th round. Would it be enough? Maybe yes, but in case the roster is in good shape, the team can give up one extra 1st rounder for the greater good.
Trade with the Bengals (1/5): The good thing with the Bengals, that they won’t draft a QB again, one year after the Burrow pick. The question, if they want to target a young OT (they could get the best in the class), another weapon for Joe or they want to get more picks? We will see soon, but in theory they could be trading partners. Could the Pats offer any player for them? Before the free agency, there was need for CB and WR for example. The Bengals signed Chidobe Awuzie for three years and Mike Hilton for four years, so it looks like it is not a major need anymore, although non of the mentioned CBs are on the same level as Gilmore or Jackson. WR could be something to offer and I think here on Harry, but he won’t have a second round value.
Let’s see the numbers. the 5th pick’s value is 467.81 (RH) or 1,700 (JJ). Little less than the Falcons pick. With the 15th pick (315.2/1,050) as sure component of the trade, the team should offer something or somebody in the value of 152.61/650 points. In Rich Hill’s system the 46th and 122nd pick could be enough compensation or Harry (and the 4th round pick stays in Foxboro). That package would have a value of 315.2+127.71+27=469,91. In Jimmy Johnson’s system the situation looks again littlebit more complicated. 1,050 (15th)+440 (46th)+68 (Harry)+115 (96th)+27,2 (177th)=1700.2
Trade with the Eagles (1/6): Another possible team, if they want to stick with Jalen Hurts. There is one name which always comes up when I think about the Eagles early pick if it is not a QB, Kyle Pitts, the tight end from Miami. Zack Ertz is not the youngest and the Eagles is trying to trade him, so a young, star TE could be a big help for Hurts. If they are open to trade that pick away, New England could be a potential trade partner. IF the targeted QB is still there. This is a big if, since it can happen that the Miami, the Jets, the Falcons and the Bengals will trade away their pick and with this in mind, no QB will be available so early.
The biggest problem with the Eagles is the cap situation which is worst than Atlanta’s, so a bigger player trade is not really possible. But maybe a Harry trade could happen. So the value of the 6th pick is 446.15/1,600. In Rich Hill’s system the team could offer the following: 315.2 (15th)+27 (Harry)+39.38 (96th)+69.82 (2022/2)=451,4. Or in Jimmy Johnson’s system 1,050 (15th)+440 (46th)+68 (Harry)+44 (139th)=1,602.
Trade with the Lions (1/7): This is the last trade option I will calculate. The Lions have more than $10M cap space, which is good for a possible player trade. Lions could have some corner need, so I will add Gilmore/Jackson to this scenario. The pick’s value is 425.5/1,500. The 15th pick+Gilmore/Jackson have a value of 315,2+161,67=476,87 or 1,050+530=1,580. In both cases the Patriots would give up more than the value of the 7th pick, so I would assume, that the Lions would put an extra pick in their package. The 112th (4/7) pick could be that extra pick, which value is 33.73/88. In Rich Hill’s system the Pats would still have a negative outcome, but in Jimmy Johnson’s system the Lions would give up little more.
In this case the Pats shouldn’t give up much, but big question who would be still on the board.
As you can see I tried to trade picks only from this year. That would be an ideal scenario, but it depends on how much the team wants to jump. That would be awesome if the Patriots make a big trade without using future picks. Many reports suggest, Jones will be available at 15, but after his Pro Day I am not convinced. I am expecting some trades before/during the draft. And again, this year is the year, when the Pats could trade up, because the roster looks quite good. I wasn’t so exited as I am now for a long time. I really belive, that coach Belichick will show the world, he ist he best coach ever.
Thank you very much for your time and for your trust. I hope you liked my writing. If so, please help me reach more people and share/retweet my article. Of course you can write your opinion in comment, I would love to read it. Go Pats!
Update: The world won’t wait for my article and it is moving without a break. According to multiple, official sources, James White re-signed with the Patriots. He got a one year contract which contains a fully guaranteed $2.5M salary. Because of this signing, I am very confident with our RB group, although mid- and long term there is a need for new players.
Update 2: Coach Belichick, really? Another move minutes before I put my article on the internet? So, another happy news. Lawrence Guy will sign a 4 year deal with the team, deatils are still unknown. This means, I would say the DLine is complete. The front7 will be brutal.
Update 3: The team also will sign LB/ST, LaRoy Reynolds. Details are unknown at the moment.
About two hours ago came the news about the latest personal move from the Patriots, where they sent long time RT, Marcus Cannon, to the Houston Texans. The two teams swaped picks in the 4th, 5th and 6th round in 2021.
After the Trent Brown trade few days ago, many analysts and columnists were talking about Cannon as a possible trade candidate. They had right. The 32 years old right tackle out of TCU, was a 5th round pick (138th) in 2011. He is a 3-time SB champion (XLIX, LI, LIII) and Second-team All-Pro (2016) who sat out the 2020 season, because of the covid. Cannon was the starter right tackle for the team, but last year, the rookie, Onwenu showed, he is capable to replace him and as already mentioned, the arrival of Trent Brown made Cannon‘s return even harder.
Trading him, gives the team more cap space. Before the trade the team had the following cap space:
My numbers based on the cap master’s cap numbers (Miguel Benzan aka @patscap), but differ a littlebit, since Miguel calculates with a possible 1st round RFA tender for J.C Jackson ($4.766.000) and with the ERFA tender for Jacob Johnson ($850.000), but I am not. Therefor I will have a higher number. I just wanted you to know why numbers are different.
So, Cannon’s cap hit for the 2021 season would be $9.622.918 (according to spotrac.com). Cutting or trading him would cause $2.566.668 dead money, additionally we have to decrease the number with $780.000, because of the top51 rule. At the end the Patriots gets $6.276.250 extra cap space.
This cap space doesn’t include the cap hit of Trent Brown and Justin Bethel, since we don’t know the details of those two contracts.
Another financial aspect is the changing rookie pool. After the trade the Patriots moved up 11 spots in 4th round, 11 spots in the 5th round and 9 spots in the 6th round (according to the draft order of the overthecap.com and Nick Korte). Let’s see the difference.
As you can see after the move ups, the Patriots has now a little higher rookie pool, means the 2021 rookie class will cost little more than $3M for the team, which is $27.074 more than few hours ago.
After the departure of Cannon, the team has the following group of OTs: Isaiah Wynn, Trent Brown, Justin Herron, Korey Cunningham, Yodny Cajuste, (Mike Onwenu).
This group of young men offers the Patriots some flexibility, since Onwenu can play at RT or LG positions, Wynn could play LT or LG and Trent Brown as RT or LT. My guess is that Wynn will play as LT, Onwenu as LG and Brown as RT. Of course we can’t be sure until the first whistle of the game, but this is my guess which could change after the FA and/or draft.
Usually the team has 8-9 OL players on the final roster, with 4 OT in the group. if this will be the case in 2021 again, then one OT should get cut or the team will move him to the PS. At the moment the team has only 2,5 guards (Mason, Ross Reynolds, Onwenu) and 2 centers (Marcus Martin, Najee Toran) under contract, with David Andrews (C), Joe Thuney (LG) and Jermaine Eluemunor (OT) hitting the free agency next week. I am expecting the team will retain Andrews and will add 1-2 extra Oline men to the roster before the trainings start.
I wish Cannon good luck in Houston and I hope he will have a good year in 2021 as a Texan. Thank you for the years in Foxboro.