Draft, possible trade and FA options

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.

Draft

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.

What’s next

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.

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