Yesterday the Patriots made two very important personal moves. First, they signed Cam Newton for one more year, then shortly after, they signed Justin Bethel for 3 more years.
As Evan Lazar reported, the Patriots asked the 49ers front office about Jimmy G, but they didn’t want to trade him or just later and the Pats wanted to have a veteran QB on board before the FA starts next week, so they pulled the trigger and signed Cam Newton back. Why is it so important to have a better QB on the roster, when FA starts? The Patriots needs high end WR/TE players in the team, but the Stidham/Dolegala tandem wasn’t the most inviting enviroment for those players. Newton still brings lot of positive wibes with him, he is a leader, Belichick really liked his work ethic and as it looks, the coaches don’t think everything was Cam’s fault last year. Don’t forget one year before, even Tom Brady wasn’t able to bring the Patriots into the divisional round in the Playoffs, with almost the same receiving group and 20 years of experience in the system.
Playing with Cam Newton could be a good argument for many younger players, especially on the offensive side. Cam offers experience in the system, he knows it and the system knows him as well. He will have now a full offseason to be more familiar with the whole playbook, reads and expectations. He will be healthier now, than he was last year. Especially that covid period was really hard for him, as he explained it in a longer interview (I am an athlete) few weeks ago. I am 100% sure Bill Belichick and the crew will try to do everything they can, to make the supporting cast better. As many reports indicate it, the Patriots are about to spend top money on receiving targets. They made a big trade and brought Trent Brown back to the team, so the Oline will be there to help the QBs.
As first reported – and many were shocked – the contract value is up to $13,5M. But as Miguel Benzan aka @patscap always says, we should waiting for the details. Here are the details, as Ben Volin reported:
Cam has only $3,5M guaranteed money in his contract. Last year he played in more tha 80% of the offensive snaps, so the “60% of snaps played” incentive this year goes to the LTBE (likely to be earned) category. Cam will get $88.235,29 per games on the roster, which could bring him to another $1,5M bonus. These are the official numbers for him, which would hit the 2021 cap. Every other bonuses/incentives are NLTBE (not likely to be earned). If Cam reaches any NLTBE level, those amounts will hit the 2022 cap. I think Cam will play more than 70% of the snaps, but less than 80%, because of the other new QB will get playing time as well. Plus I believe (I am optimistic) the team will reach the Playoffs, so Cam will reach at least 2 more incentives (60% + PO, 70% + PO).
If he leads the team to a Super Bowl win, where he is the starter, his salary will go way over $10M, but I guess in this case, we won’t have any bad feelings to give him the money. Again, any LTBE parts will hit the 2021 cap, any NLTBE parts what he reached will hit the 2022 cap.
What’s next? As I mentioned above, I would be shocked if the team wouldn’t draft a young QB. This is the year, when I can see, BB picks a QB in the first round. Or maybe not. We could never know if we are talking about Bill Belichick. Does Cam’s return mean the return of Damiere Byrd or the signing of another ex-Cam team mate, Curtis Samuel? The WR gorup must be fixed. An additional TE is expected as well. I would bet the team will target Hunter Henry or Jonnu Smith, but maybe Kyle Rudolph could be the name here. Anyway, Cam (and the other new QB) needs new buddies on the receiving side.
This signing goes under the radar, after the news about Cam came out, but for the Patriots this is a very important signing as well. Bethel was one of the best ST players during his 1,5 year in Foxboro. He will be 31 during the summer. His 3 years contract worth up to $6M as Mike Reiss reported, but we don’t know the details of it. Bethel is a Pro Bowl ST player, who was the second most important ST player behind Matthew Slater. His signing is a big one, because we still don’t know if Slater will come back for 2021 and if he comes back, this will be the last year of his contract, so there is a need for a leader in the ST for longer period. I hope Slater will be there, but with this signing now, the ST have a succession plan on place.
It is only few more days and we can welcome the new NFL league year on March 17th. On this day not just the new league year starts but the 2021 free agency as well. As we already know the Patriots has one of the biggest cap space this year, so we can expect on some notable moves. Yesterday was the last day, teams were able to use their franchise tags. Why is it so important for us? The Patriots is in glaring need to sign some WRs and/or TE and make their new QB’s life easier than it was in 2020. Unfortunately for us, 2 of the 3 top WRs (Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin) got franchise tagged, which left Kenny Golladay alone on the big stage and with that in mind we could expect his price tag will go even higher. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone would give him a $20M+ per year contract.
Since my first article in this topic (playing a GM) few weeks ago, we got some news about the opt-outs, etc and I decided to take a pre-FA shot and spend the money what the Pats has. My numbers in this article are based on the numbers from my GM-article. Although, I must confess, despite all my caution I‘ve made a mistake at the rookie pool part, which I will correct now. I don’t say, what you will read now, will be very realistic in general, but from financial standpoint it will be. I won’t be so detailed in the basics as I was in my previous article, so if you are interested in every detail please click on the link and read it.
The financial numbers are based on @patscap‘s (Miguel Benzan) numbers, but will be little bit different, since he already calculated a 1st round tender ($4.873.000) for J.C. Jackson and an ERFA tender ($850.000) for Jacob Johnson. I didn’t do it at this stage, so my number will be higher. Additionally the latest news confirm, that the cap for the 2021 season will be $182,5M, which is different from that $180M, what I was calculating with last time.
Another difference compared to my last calculation I had, is the adjutments part. I had to lower the number from $5,5M to $3,7M. Nothing else has changed. You can see the dead money spreadsheet in my old article as well.
As I wrote above I had to correct myself regarding the rookie pool. Last time I forgot to decrease the cap hits according to the top51 rule or with the salary. I explain it littlebit, because I didn’t do it last time and I want to share the knowledge, what I’ve got from Miguel, with everyone who reads me. The top51 rule means the following: from the start of the new league year until the first week of the regular season, only the 51 most expensive contracts count against the cap. The next thing is the salary question: For players outside the top51 group, their salary ($660.000) won’t count against the cap, only the signing bonus prorations, roster bonuses and offseason workout bonuses. Those two things will lower the rookie pool with several millions of dollars.
Last time I was calculating with the full $8,9M, but I should calculate with only $2M. Great for the cap space. Please don’t forget this amount could change when the team makes trades which include picks. I will adjust accordingly the numbers if we will have a trade in this scenario. After we substract the rookie pool from our current cap space we will have the following amount:
Actual cap space: $67.641.839,00
Last time I retired Cannon and Hightower and cut Beau Allen (DT), Matt LaCosse (TE), Dan Vitale (FB), Akeem Spence (DL), Jacon Dolegala (QB), Justin Rohrwasser (K), Brandon Bolden (RB). I will change here one thing, Hightower won’t retire, he will come back and will be a terror for the opposing offenses and the young players will get a true leader back. With these cuts we will get another $14,2M
3. Contract restructures:
Last time I kept Stephon Gilmore and restructured his contract. My heart is bleeding but I will trade him this time (more about the trade soon). Instead I will work on Hightower’s contract. His cap number for 2021 now is $12.445.313. He will be 31 next week (March 12th), which doesn’t mean he is old, but he is on the wrong side of 30. Although he had 1 year off, so the team will get back a player who is in full health.
I restructured the contract so, that I built in a voidable year. Voidable year is an extra year, where the player is not supposed to play anymore, but with it the team can devide the numbers with one extra year. I tell you what does it mean in our case. Hghtower would get almost $12,5M for 2021. In the new structure his contract gets 2 extra years and he will get $24M, which would accounted $8M per year against the cap. That would be very low for a player and leader on Hightower’s level. In reality he will play only 2 years for that $24M, which is already a nice $12M per year salary. So despite his cap number would be at $12M level, it would count against the cap only $8M. In this case we won $4,4M.
Stephon Gilmore, CB: In my GM article I didn’t make any trades, now I will trade Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys. I started to write this article before the „Dak Prescott stays in Dallas“ news came out. They were my top destination for Gilmore, but with this Prescott contract I doubt they would give Gilmore the money he wants. No problem, I started to look around and find a team, which is as well in need of veteran CB help. They lost their mentor in free agency (or at least Richard Sherman will test the market) and I would give them another top tier cornerback in exchange for their second round pick. Yes, this team is the 49ers. They have the cap space to give Gilmore what he needs and they have a higher second round pick a well. With the trade we saved $6.563.750,00.
And here comes the first change in our rookie pool. The basic cap hit for the 43rd pick is $1.153.956. As I wrote earlier, the rookie will replace someone from the top51 group, that is why I lower his cap hit number with $780.000 and we will get a final amount of $373.956.
Trent Brown, OT: This is another move, where I had to update my writing. I’ve never thought the team will bring back Brown and another interesting part is the one year stint. Brown restructured his contract to be able to come to Foxboro. Because of these changes (lenght and money), he won’t be part of the comp. pick formula. So he is a pure one year trade. What the team gave up for him is piece of cacke, a 5th rounder in 2022, but got back a 7th rounder in 2022. The contract is worth up to $11M, but I guess there will be incentives as well, so I will calculate with a lower number. We still don’t know the details, so I take my shot. I will take $10M for him.
Since we don’t have other trades until this minute, we can calculate our new cap space.
Actual cap space: $82.476.946,00
5. Resign the own free agents:
I will make here some changes as well. First of all, I will bring back Cam Newton (QB) and will bring back Jermaine Eluemunor (OT), but won’t bring back James White (RB) and James Ferentz (OL). Nick Folk will get little pay rise as well.
Cam Newton, QB: Since my GM article, I wrote one about the Brady-effect, where I checked Cam’s numbers as well. It showed, that despite all Cam’s mistakes and the missing power of the receiver/tight end groups, the team played on a level which could be developed to a playoff contender level with some more weapons and defense boost. Bringing back Cam would give the Patriots a known commodity and for Cam a full offseason and a season without covid, so he could show what he can do with more weapon and time. He is a good leader, so he could serve as a mentor for the rookie QB. I would give him a 2 years / $15M contract with another $5M in incentives.
Jermaine Eluemunor, OT: I was watching some of his plays again from 2020 and will say he wasn’t bad as a RT. He could be a good backup or an ok starter if we need him to jump in. He might give the team enough safety at the RT position, that Onwenu could switch to LG position.
If you are interested in my other own free agent signings, please read the GM article, where I explain all of my choices little bit.
So, after we signed back 13 players and we spent $46,2M, we still have plenty of money.
Cap space after own FA signings: $36.276.946,00
6. Find the week spots in the roster:
Finding the holes are key part of the whole offseason. Let’s go through our positions and see where should we concentrate.
QB: Very important to fix it. With the resign of Cam Newton it looks like the need here is not so high anymore, but the team still needs someone for the future. I believe Cam could be a good mentor and he is an immediate starter for the team. He knows the system and the coaches know him better than last season. I think the team would choose a veteran QB so, that he can teach the newby, therefor we should search for a QB with the same tools/style as Cam has. I still think Mac Jones fits very good to the Patriots, but not with Cam in pair. This is just a hint for you, in which direction I will go in the draft.
WR: Upgrade much needed. We need to add 1-2 WR to the group because this was one of the weak spots last year. We still don’t know when Edelman could come back, the news are not really promising. Harry didn’t show until now why he was picked at 32, but I would give him another year to prove. Jacoby Meyers is a lock, as the best WR from last season. Olszewski is someone who can be a good 3-4. WR, but he brings tremendous value in the special teams as returner. We need a true nr.1 guy and more.
TE: If your best TE is Izzo, then you have a problem. I don’t say he is bad, but in an ideal situation he would be your nr.2 or nr.3. Keene and Asiasi will might make the second year leap, but it is not sure, so upgrade needed. We will have plenty of options in FA and some interesting options in the Draft.
RB: We will need here someone who can replace White. In general the guys here are good, but we should fill up a group with depth.
OL: After I brought back Andrews and the team traded for Brown, I feel pretty confident here for short term. Long term we might need to look around a little bit. For me there are 3 people with huge question marks. What will happen with Wynn? The team has to make a decision soon about the 5th year option which could be around $10M for Wynn. If he is healthy it is a no brainer. The other two are Justin Herron and Yodny Cajuste. If they could develope, than we have two good – at least strong back up level – OTs for the future.
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). Hightower could be an option here too. Still there is room for upgrade.
LB: With Hightower returning, this position is already not so hot. Ok, outside of Hightower there is Bentley, Hall and Jennings maybe plus some depth guys. This is not so bad, alone Hightower will increase the potency of this group and the whole defense. I won’t mind to find here someone.
CB: With Gilmore’s departure we have a hole, what we have to fill. In this scenario J.C. Jackson will be our nr.1 corner, but we need a nr.2 CB who could be the nr.1 if Jackson won’t be able to take over that role.
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.
7. Free agency:
Well, let‘ start to fill the wholes. We already know what are our position needs. We just don’t know where the new players will come from, if it will be FA or Draft. First thing first, let‘s dig deep in FA, don’t forget, we have $36M to spend, minus some reserve for the season. I will go here sometimes in different directions as I did in my GM article.
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, he can play in 2-gap scheme 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 $6M cap number.
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 $8M 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 $7,5M in 2021.
Kyle van Noy, LB: He is still a Dolphin, the team wants to trade him first, but I don’t think it would happen, so at the end they will let him go. This signing would make such sense, I can’t ignore the opportunity to have him back. He knows the system, the system knows him, he is versatile, can play on the line, off the line, he can rush the passer. Belichick showed to the world what things he can do. Bringing him back, would give the Patriots the Hightower – van Noy tandem, which could make the defense great again (sorry for that) and give two great mentors for the younger guys. 2 year contract for $16M ($5M guaranteed) and a cap number of $7M for 2021.
Gareon Conley, CB: Let’s just go on the Belichick-way, with the former first round prospect. Conley is better suited for man coverage, which will fit for the Patriots defense. He ran 4,44 at the Combine and had a very good 6,68 3-cone drill time, which is very important for great Coach Bill. Jason McCourty has a 1 year contract only and there might be another movements in the secondary, so bringing another promising young guy in the building won’t be bad. 1 year $2,5M.
We are done on free agency. The WR group got some much needed upgrade and we made the secondary little younger as well with a possible longer term solution. With Guy and DeQuan Jones, the middle of the Dline is stronger now and one level behind them, the van Noy – Hightower tandem will give us big boost. These 5 signings will cost us $31M. Let’s take a look on our cap situation.
Cap space after FA signings: $5,276,946
The last part is here, the draft. But before I make my picks, I need to prove why I gave the title „Going wild on FA/Draft“ to this article. Maybe for some of you, signing back Cam was wild enough or passing on Kenny Golladay. I don’t know. But I have something left for you. I will do few trades before I pick my players. For the trades I am using now Rich Hill’s value chart, because I read often, that this chart fits better to the modern era.
Aftre the 4 trades, we have five picks in the first three rounds and another six picks on day 3. As you can see our rookie pool has changed as well, it will costs us $1,3M more. Additionally we have to see what influences the two players trade have. Harry’s trade would decrease our cap space with $700.000 (originally I wanted to trade here our second 4th round comp pick, but before putting my article online came the final information in this topic and had to react quickly), but at least Williams trade makes us $389.000 plus, so our cap space will be the following.
Final cap space: $3,570,543
1/7: Who will I pick here? A QB or someone else? There are two players on this year’s draft where I read the following: „generational talent“. One of these guys is long gone, Trevor Lawrence, but with a little luck the other one is still on the board. I came up for Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida. After I took two veteran WRs from FA and didn’t invest in TE, it was a must to do. Hunter Henry is a great possibility in real life, but for me he is too pricey and Jonnu Smith has the same profile as Devin Asiasi. In Asiasi we have a move TE, but we don’t have the bigger bodied player. Pitts is not Gronk when we are talking about blocking, but he has already experience as inline TE and he is a tremendous receiving TE and a missmatch and can be a terror for the opposing defenses.
2/1: Bacause I traded Stephon Gilmore to the 49ers, the team needs a starter caliber cornerback. I took Greg Newsome II from Northwestern. The young, 6‘0 tall, player can play zone and man coverages as well. He recently ran an official 4,38 40-yard dash on his Pro Day, which showcases his speed. With McCourty and Conley on the board, he could have time to arrive into the NFL, but he has the potential to be a starter very quick.
3/1:As we are going into the second half of day 2, I take here a WR and make our WR group ready for the season. His father was part of the Brady 6, played QB in the NFL. Let me introduce you the latest addition from Clemson, Amari Rodgers. He made himself big on Senior Bowl, I really loved what I saw from him. He fits very good to the Pats system. He will play mostly from the slot, but he is able to play outside as well. I see him as Edelman successor.
3/14:Somewhere I have to pick a young QB prospect. The time is now. I’ve heard very different opinions about this young man, but I think he won’t last too long. He had a very good Senior Bowl week, he was the MVP as well. I picked Kellen Mond from Texas A&M. His style fits very good to Cam Newton, the two could build a strong relationship. Mond is not ready for the starting role, but behind Cam he have time to develop and the Pats has time to adjust the playbook to these two QBs.
3/27:Time to strengthen the DL as well. My pick here is Cameron Sample from Tulane. Sample had a really good week on the Senior Bowl, he was named the Defensive MVP after the game. He offers the flexibilty to play at different positions in the defensive line. Sample was a DT in Tulane, but he can play DE in a 3-4 system as well. He is a fighter, he was only a two-star recruit out of high school and got only one FBS offer. That was Tulane, which he accepted. If you watch his production, you can see a straight line of development in his college career. He is able to rush the passer, to deflect the ball and to play against the run. One pick earlier we picked our nose tackle, now we pick our rush DT.
4/15:I can’t wait any longer, because I am afraid the guy will be gone. Our first small school prospect arrives. Quinn Meinerz from Wisconsin-Whitewater, the D-III IOL who made a name during the Senior Bowl trainings. Unfortunately he broke a bone in his hand and Brian Flores didn’t let him play, but he made enough to rise on the boards. He is a center, but he can play guard too. Meinerz doesn’t stop, he has the fighter attitude which could bring him far in the NFL. He might not be the best technician, but the coaches at the Patriots could elevate him into another dimension.
4/25: If we have some luck, we are able to get a very electrifying, young player, who will replace James White. Demetric Felton from UCLA was one of the biggest winner of the Senior Bowl week. He showed versatility to be able to play RB but he is a reliable receiver as well. He and Curtis Samuel will be pain in the a**es, Patriots is the perfect place for the 5’10 tall running back.
5/14: The team still needs a defensive end, so I will pick another small school player, who showed his skills on the Senior Bowl. Elerson Smith, from University of Northern Iowa, is 6‘6 and 262 pounds. In 2019 Smith was one of the best defensive players on the FCS level, he earned first team All-American honor as well, which speaks for itself. He is a long edge player, who can play in multiple positions. At Northern Iowa he was used primary as a 7-tech, 9-tech DE, but he was put inside to 5-tech as well in passing downs. He is athletic but not elite, his first step could be quicker, but he can compensate those a littlebit with good football IQ.
6/2: I was very happy when I signed DeQuan Jones, but one NT won’t be enough, so I took here Tedarrel Slaton from Florida. Slaton is a huge player, he is 6‘5 and 358 pounds. If we have luck he could be our new Vince Wilfork. He can play 2-gap and he is good against the run. Then why so late? Because he is inconsistent. But no problem, he has time to shine and be consistent enough to get more playing time.
6/11: There is no draft without a safety pick. This year the new guy comes from Georgia and his name is Richard LeCounte III. He is more of a center field safety, who could pair up with Dugger in the future. He made 7 INTs during his last two seasons and 3 in five games during his senior season. Unfortunately he injured and couldn’t finish the year. This late addition could be a steal if he could develop behind Devin McCourty.
7/15: Another small school name, but he is really unknown. Unfortunately, because he deserves to be mentioned as a late round prospect. He comes from the FCS level, from the University of South Dakota. Jacob Matthew is 6‘3 and 250 pounds and plays as LB/Edge in the Coyotes‘ defense. He has positional versatility, since he plays usually as edge player, but has experience as LB in 4-3 system as well. In 2019 he made 53 tackles, 11,5 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 pass deflections. This year the season started few weeks ago only, the team played only two games until now, but Matthew had a sack and recovered 2 fumbles. He is a great man off the field as well, could be a culture fit.
This was my pre-FA edition of roster movings. Thank you very much for your attention. Please let me know your thoughts, write me a comment here or on Twitter. If you liked the article please share it and follow me on Twitter or subscribe on my blog to get the latest writings immediately.
I know, you can ask now, how could the Patriots trade for van Noy, when he will be released? We saw several times, that before the official release another team offered a later round pick for the player and the player wasn’t released but traded. Would it be a wise move from the Pats?
If we check what van Noy could bring to the team, then yes it would be a wise move. Between 2017-2019 he made in sum 160.5 disruption (sack, QB hit, pressures). With this he was every year in top3 within the team. He can play inside, outside, off the line and on the line. Belichcik used him always in very different ways. He and Hightower would give the team great boosts and two leaders for the young LB group.
But what about financially? This aspect is very different. Let’s see the details of van Noy’s original number in Miami:
Ok, that is one thing, but not every money will go to the new team:
These numbers come from the best of the bests, in case we are talking about cap related questions. Thank you @patscap for the detailed information.
With this numbers I would be very surprised if Kyle van Noy would be traded to the Pats. He is a good player, but that almost $12M per year salary is too much. From his 2021 money, $12.5M would be fully guaranteed on March 19th. In 2022 the fully guaranteed part would be only $2.5M and no guaranteed in 2023 (again, thank you Miguel).
So let’s see when Miami will release him and what will be his asking price. I really would love to have him back. He would solidify the group with the possible Hightower return the group would be very strong again. And with this move there won’t be any immediate need to draft early another, young LB and the team could concentrate on other positions.
Numbers: Jones has only one full year (2020) of starting experience plus 4 games in 2019 as starter, which makes a total of 17 games as the leader of the Crimson Tide. During his two last years his yards/attempts were over 10 yards and the average completion percentage was 73,1%, which is great. During his Junior year he had a 10/1 TD/INT ratio. As you can see, he is not a running QB, he rather stays in the pocket and tries to avoid the pressure there. In 2020 he won all his games, including the biggest one, the Championship Game where he threw 464 yards and 5 TDs.
Opponents: In 2018 he was only the third string QB, behind Tua and Hurts, nothing to write about here. In 2019 he started 4 games, where he had a 3-record. Two of those games were against ranked opponents, on week 12 a very close lose (45-48) against the 16th ranked Auburn, but on week 13 a win (35-16) against the 17th ranked Michigan. They won (48-7) against the Arkansas on week 8 and had a blow out win (66-3) against the non-major Western Carolina. In 2020 Jones had 6 wins against ranked teams, on week 2 against the 13th ranked Texas A&M (52-24), on week 4 against the 3rd ranked Georgia (41-24), on week 8 against the 22nd ranked Auburn (42-13), on week 11 they had a hard game against the 11th ranked Florida (52-46), on week 12 – the Rose Bowl – against the 4th ranked Notre Dame (31-14) and a win against the 3rd ranked Ohio State (52-24) in the Final.
Supporting cast: This will be here the most interesting part, because almost everybody who criticize Jones, mentioned the supporting cast as a reason of his success. No question, there are always top guys at Alabama, because they are one of the best program in college football, but is the supporting cast really so incredible? In 2019 the Bama´s receiver group was full with first round talents, Jerry Jeudy (15th pick of the Broncos in 2020), Henry Ruggs III (12th pick of the Raiders in 2020) and the Jaylen Waddle – DeVonta Smit duo who will be first round picks in this year’s draft. The best running back was Najee Harris with his 1.224 yards and 13 TDs. But 2019 was rather Tua’s year. 2020 was a different year, Jeudy and Ruggs were not anymore with the team and Waddle suffered an injury after 4 weeks. He could come back for the Championship game, but he was still injured and had only 3 catches. Smith took his chance and made a Heisman-winner season (1.856/23) and Najee Harris had another monster year (1.891/30 – scrimmage numbers). John Metchie is another name worth to mention with his 916 yards and 6 TDs. Were those players great? Yes they were. Should we give credit to Jones for his succes or he has nothing to do with it? DeVonta Smith told few days ago, that for him Jones was a better QB, than Tua.
Kyle Trask, Florida
Numbers: In 2018 Trask was only one of the backups behind Feleipe Franks, but took over the leading role in 2019. As you can see the young QB developed from year 1 to year 2 as a starter in completion percentage, yards/attempt and the TD number jumped as well. He had a 5,4 TD/INT ratio, which is not top number, but still good. During his 3 years tenure he ran with a 0,4 yards/attempt average, which is somewhere on the Brady level.
Opponents: In 2019 he had 3 games against ranked opponents and they lost twice, against the 5th ranked LSU (28-42) on week 7 and against the 8th ranked Georgia (17-24) on week 9. On week 6 Trask could lead the Gators to a win against the 7th ranked Auburn (24-13). His season ended with a 10-2 record and a win (36-28) in the Orange Bowl against the unranked Virginia. 2020 the team didn’t have such a good record, since they closed a year with 8-4 and Trask lost 3 of his 4 games against ranked opponents. On week 3 against the 21st ranked Texas A&M (38-41), on week 11 against the 1st ranked Alabama (46-52) and on week 12 against the 8th ranked Oklahoma (20-55). The two losses against Texas A&M and Alabam were close, but against Oklahoma it was a clear loss. The most painful loss was the fourth, against the unranked LSU on week 10 and Trask´s best game (according the stats) was on week 6 against his former teammate Feleipe Franks and the Arkansas, where he threw for 356 yards and 6 TDs.
Supporting cast: Kyle Pitts was one of Trask´s most beloved receiver already in 2019 with 54 catches (649/5), but he had Van Jefferson (2nd round pick of the Rams in 2020) with 657 yards and 6 TDs, Freddie Swain (6th round pick of the Seahawks in 2020) with 517 yards and 7 TDs and the running back Lamical Perine (4th round pick of the Jets in 2020) had 5 receiving TD as well. On the running side, Trask had Perine (676/6) and the Dameon Pierce – Emory Joney duo (561/8). After most of his top targets from 2019 went to the NFL, other players had to step up and take over the roles. Pitts (770/12) played only 8 games because of injury, but the emerge of Kadarius Toney (984/10) and Trevon Grimes (589/9) gave Trask very good options down the road. Dameon Pierce (503/4) became the lead running back, but this year wasn’t about the big running numbers at the Gators.
Jamie Newman, Wake Forest
Numbers: After a very relaxed freshman year, Newman started the last 4 games in 2018 and played on additional 2 games during the season. He didn’t put up really good numbers. Under 60% completion, just little over 2/1 TD/INT ratio and just 7,7 yards per passing attempts. In 2019 he came back as starter and played in 12 of the possible 13 games. His numbers were slightly better than previous year, but still not elite.
Opponents: Let’s check only the last four games from 2018. Newman’s first game as a starter was against a ranked team on week 10. In a close game he beat (27-23) the 22nd ranked North Carolina State. After this game he lost against the unranked Pitts (13-34), but closed the season with another two wins against the unranked Duke (59-7) and Memphis (37-34). He closed the 2019 season with a personal record of 7-5. He had only one ranked opponent, on week 10, they played against the 3rd ranked Clemson and lost big way (3-52).
Supporting cast: Teams could dream about bigger names in their supporting cast than what Wake Forrest had in 2018. The top 3 receivers were Greg Dortch (Falcons PS), Sage Surrat and Alex Bachman (Giants), they had combined 167 catches, 2.200 yards and 18 TDs, which is not so bad. The two top running backs were Cade Carney (1.005, 8) and Matt Colburn (775/5). The names were not bigger in 2019 either, but the numbers were. Sage Surrat (1.001/11) made a jump forward, with Kendall Hinton (1.001/4) and Scotty Washington (607/7) on his side. Hinton played for the Broncos in 2020, Washington was on the Bengals roster. The best running back was Jamie Newman (574/6) himself, but Cade Carney (620/5) and Kenneth Walker III (579/4) were close behind.
Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Numbers: Our only QB on the list who played 4 years in college. After Nick Starkel’s injury Mond became a starter on week 3, but after Starkel was able to come back, Mond fell back on the depth chart. Although he was the starter in the next three seasons. In completion percentage he developed year to year, but couldn’t break through the 65% level. His yards/attempts stayed under 8 yards. At least his TD/INT ratio was over 6 in his senior year, in 2020. He can run and he was using this ability, which shows the 1.600 rushing yards and 22 TDs.
Opponents: In 2017 he was the QB of the Aggies in a five week streak between week 3 and week 7. During this span he had a 4-1 record, the only loss came against the 1st ranked Alabama (19-27), which wasn’t even a huge loss. In 2018 he lost 4 games and won 9. From his 4 losses two were against top ranked teams, on week 2 a close game against the 2nd ranked Clemson (26-28) and on week 4 a bigger loss against the 1st ranked Alabama (23-45). In his 9 wins, was one against the 13th ranked Kentucky (20-14) on week 6 and a brutal game against the 8th ranked LSU (74-72) on week 12. In this LSU game he threw for 287 yards and 6 TDs without an INT. In 2019 he lost only against ranked teams, against top ranked teams. On week 2 against 1st ranked Clemson (10-24), on week 4 against the 8th ranked Auburn (20-28), on week 6 against the 1st ranked Alabama (28-47), on week 11 against the 4th ranked Georgia (13-19) and one week later against the 1st ranked LSU (7-50). 2020 was much better for the Aggies, since they finished as the 5th ranked team and were really close to go into the Playoffs. He lost against the 2nd ranked Alabama (24-52) on week 2, but won against the 4th ranked Florida (41-38) on week 3 and against the 14th ranked North Carolina (41-27) in the Orange Bowl.
Supporting cast: Let’s see who were Mond’s teammates during his tenure at Texas A&M. In 2017 the top receiver was Christian Kirk (2nd round pick of the Cardinals in 2018) who had 919 receiving yards and 10 TDs, the other two notable WRs were Jhamon Ausborn (571/3) and Damion Ratley (694/6) who was a 6th round pick of the Browns in 2018. On the running side played Trayveon Williams (6th round pick of the Bengals in 2019) and Keith Ford (UDFA of the Bills in 2018) who ran for 1.346 yards and 20 TDs. In 2018 Mond had brand new group of top receivers, including Jace Sternberger (3rd round pick of the Packers in 2019) as the go to guy (832/10), Quartney Davis (585/7) and Kendrick Rogers (336/5). At least he had continuity with Trayveon Williams (1.760/18) at runnung back position. One year later Jhamon Ausborn (872/5) was the best in the WR group. The only other receiver who reached the 500 yards was Quartney Davis (616/4). The new star running back was, the freshman, Isaiah Spiller (946/10), on the second place we can find Mond himself (501/8). In 2020 the senior QB had two second year receiver as top targets, Jalen Wydermyer (506/6) and Ainias Smith (564/6). Isaiah Spiller (1.036/9) was once again the team´s best runner and Mond (294/4) was again on the second place.
Short year-to-year comparison
After we saw every individual stats and talked about the opponents and supporting casts for every QBs, let’s take a quick look on their year-to-year comparison.
This is actually easy, we have only Mond who played enough to be able to give us something.
We have a full list of players. Yeah. Welcome everyone in the world of college football. Trey Lance was marvelous with 100% completion rate (do you see now the mistake of the summary spreadsheet?) This year was the year when Trevor Lawrence came in and won the National Cahmpionship. He was the best in yards and passing TDs too.
More to watch, since this was the year were most of our players were in starter position through the whole year (the only exception is Mack Jones). Interesting to see Lawrence running numbers against the others. Only Newman and Lance had more rushing yards and only Field and Lance had more rushing TDs than the young Clemson QB. Mac Jones had the best completion percentage and yards/attempt, but the best TD/INT ratio belongs to Lance. Fields had a monster year, second most passing yards, most passing TD and second fewest INT.
This year was a down year for Trevor Lawrence and for Justin Fields as well, but a very good year for Zack Wilson and Mac Jones. Both guys were over 70% completion, Jones had the most passing yards, Wilson was on the 3rd place. Only this two QBs had a yards/attempt average over 11 yards. Jones threw the second most TDs behind Trask, but had half of Trask´s INT number. Trey Lance played only one game that year and Jamie Newman opted out.
I won’t go with the consensus ranking, because I see things different. So this ranking could be a boom or bust for me. We can come back in 3 years to discuss it. Let’s not forget, how uncertain the outcome of the drafted players is. We saw „generational talents“ became a bust and we saw undervalued players became something special or even the GOAT. Very much depends on the coaching and team where these guys will arrive. I am very happy when a player has high ceiling, but I need some proof that he has more than this. I read it in a PFF article, that players whose biggest positive tool is their ceilings won’t go into the first half of the first round or they could be even second round picks. This is a very good thought. I know in a QB needy league players at this position will be picked earlier than other players, but try to stay realistic. I valued consistency higher than a break out year and I valued success against harder opponents, than success against weaker opponents. So, please:
1. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson: For me this is no surprise, but for some people it could be. Lawrence is the dog in the last 3 years, everybody was talking about him as the biggest talent since Andrew Luck and to tell the truth he delivered every year of his college career. He had very good supporting cast, good coaching, so this was a perfect marriage. He is a leader, who has not many weaknesses. He is outside of Pats range, but he is the only one, where I basically wouldn’t mind a big trade up. One thing I have my doubts is, because the team has some holes to fill and therefore we need picks.
2. Justin Fields, Ohio State: Despite the fact, he had a down year too (from numbers side), he still managed to go into the CFB Championship Game with his team. What does it say to me? That he is a leader, who can bring his team through hard games and give every chance to his players to win. He runs better than Lawrence and he had a top 3 completion percentage from this group. Trading up for him into the top10 would be ok.
3. Mac Jones, Alabama: Oh yes, the first biggest surprise. If Jones would have played two seasons as starter he would be my second QB. I don’t buy this „he is not mobile enough“ thing. He is not a double-treath QB, but he has good awerness in the pocket and he is able to avoid the pressure. In his only full year as a starter he led Alabama into the Final and won it, without 3 of the top targets from 2019. For me he is the best match to the Patriots (not named Lawrence). He can go through his reads, he has high football IQ. He didn’t have exceptional supporting cast in 2020 and he has enough arm strength to throw the most deep TDs in the season. I wouldn’t mind a trade up for him into the top10, but as I see now, he could be available at 15.
4. Zack Wilson, BYU: He can make any type of throws, he was very good in 2020 and he likes the Patriots (we saw the picture with the jersey on him), but his schedule wasn’t so hard as for the above mentioned QBs and I see more leading quality in Jones than in Wilson. Picking him at 15 would be ok.
5. Trey Lance, NDSU: As I already wrote, I am not on the Lance hype-train. No way I would trade up for him and maybe the 15th would be high for me as well. I know he had good numbers in 2019 and he can throw the ball very good, but this was on FCS level in a program which one is almost every year in the FCS Championship Game, no matter who the QB is. If there would have been a season for the NDSU and Lance would have showed the same performance as in 2019, I would rank him higher, but not now. He can run very good, but I have my doubts with running QBs (maybe I am too old school).
6. Kyle Trask, Florida: Trask has his own limitations, but I like him. He will stay in the pocket, but he is a Roethlisberger type of a player with his physique. His ceiling is not so high as the others‘, but in the second round he would be worth a try.
7. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M: Mond was quite good in the Senior Bowl, he was the MVP of the Game as well, made a good impression on me. He has the most experience on the field and was able to end his career on college level as the QB of the 5th ranked team. He is inconsistent, but has high ceiling, if the Patriots want to give 1-2 years to the rookie QB to develop, than he could be a good choice in the second day.
8. Jamie Newman, Wake Forest: Actually he wouldn’t be my choice anyway. Rather pick someone else and try to pick another, better QB next year. He was one of the biggest disappointments during the Senior Bowl week and during his Wake Forest time he didn’t show enough. For me he is too much of a project and we already have one on the roster.
That’s it. Thank you for your attention. Please let me know your thoughts, I am always open for other opinions and for a good conversation. At the end of the day I will cheer for any QB the team will pick, no matter where they were on my list (or they were not on my list).
Free agency and Draft are closer every day and we get tons of analyses, opinions about prospects of the coming Draft. Positional rankings, scouting infos, pros and cons. I love to read them, because I want to know as much as I can about the guys who could be the new members of my favourite team. There are some common opinions, let’s say sure things (f.e. the top3 WR in this year’s class, etc), but every time there are trends or statements where I am stopping to read the article and just scratching my head. I tell you two examples of this headscratching moments.
1. During the last days came up the information, that on some draft boards Zack Wilson is the nr.1 QB not Trevor Lawrence. Why is it so interesting to me? Because we have a QB who was the best QB talent since Andrew Luck 3 years long. He won the National Championship game in his freshman year, lost the National Championship game in his sophomore year and got into the CFP Semifinal in his junior year. On the other side there is a rising star, Zack Wilson, who had a break out season in 2020 and led the BYU football team to a 10-1 record. I personally can’t understand why people put him before Lawrence. If it is about the shoulder surgery what he had, sorry but this would be very weak. Is this about some weeknesses what Lawrence has? Everybody has weeknesses. We can read very often about DL or Edge players the expression, „one year wonder“. How often I saw that. There is a very athletic kid, with huge numbers, but analysts and scouting personal describe that guy as a one year wonder and because of this, the player will not be ranked so high or even will not be drafted as high as his 1 year production would let him. I can’t remember I read this expression about Wilson. Please don’t misunderstand me, I don’t say he is bad, just can’t understand why would you put a one year wonder ahead of a guy who shows his greatness for 3 years.
2. I would call it the „Mac Jones situation“. The kid won the National Championship game with the Alabama this year and had brutal numbers all over the statistics. Despite those things some analysts and scouting personal don’t see him in the first round or most of the people around the business don’t see him in top4 QBs this year. The two most heard reasons are a; he is not mobile, so he can’t throw outside the pocket and/or b; his success is because of his supporting cast. Ok I see. So if you have 3-4 really good guys around you, you can’t be good just because you are good. On the other side I rarely see reports about wide receivers which say „yes the kid has good potential, but be careful he is good only, because a very good QB throws to him“. If a WR has a good year and his next year is not so good, usually we can read, that it is because of the new system, new QB, new something. What? Is it so impossible to see every player through the same lenses? Mac Jones is good because he had Harris, Waddle, Smith, etc. But those guys can succeed, because they had Tua or Jones and great Olines.
I hope you see my points. Because of those headscratching moments of mine, I decided to check on the QB prospects from this year and see what they’ve accomplished during their college time and what kind of supporting casts they had down the road. At the end I will write you my ranking (which won’t be perfect and I could be wrong with high possibility). I will take the consensus top6 QB (Lawrence, Wilson, Fields, Lance, Jones, Trask) plus Jamie Newman and Kellen Mond. The latter two are possible Pats targets, that’s why they are here. I took the data from sports-reference.com.
I would start with a summary spreadsheet, where we can see a direct comparison of the college years:
What this spreadsheet shows us, is the the sum result of the guys during their tenure at college. There are really interestig details, but please note, that information can mislead us. For example we have only one QB (Lance) with a completion percentage of over 70% and 4 additionally (Lawrence, Wilson, Fields and Trask) over 65%, but in his first year Lance had 1 pass attempt with 1 completion which 100% pulls up his overall result. Or Mac Jones should be in the over 70% group, but his first year completion was only 38,5%. We will have different comparisons down the road, where we can see the details, but let us go on with this one. We have only one QB (Lawrence) over 10.000 passing yards and two (Wilson, Trask) over 7.000 yards. There are only two guys (Lance and Jones) with over 10 yards per passing attempts. The best TD/INT ratio belongs to Lance (we will see the details later), the second best is Mac Jones with 8. Trey Lance can run, but I am not sure if we could call him a dual treath QB, because he had a very low passing yard number. Jamie Newman has the worst stats from this group and Kellen Mond was the only 4 year player. We can clearly see, that Jones and Trask are pocket passers and they won’t run too often with the ball. Actually if you are good in the pocket, you won’t need to run too much. There is proof for this, the name is Tom Brady. I know he is the GOAT, but he doesn’t run either and still he is a top QB.
Trevor Lawrence, Clemson
Numbers: First of all, we got the stats of the wunderkind. Trevor Lawrence is the story of the last 3 years. There was „suck for Trevor“ and many other opinions during the last season or two. He was a three years starter, won the National Championship in his first year and despite a non-throwing shoulder injury in 2020, he could deliver very good numbers and led the team into the Playoffs. His completion percentage was every year better and better and that over 10.000 passing yard is crazy in 40 games. That means he threw more than 250 yards per game in average during his 3 years at Clemson That could be even higher if he would be able to play more games. I am sure he has still room to grow, what makes him an even better prospect. Yes he can run, but he is not the runner QB. With his 90 TDs he is the best of the bunch, although only Kellen Mond played more games than Lawrence. Very impressive.
Opponents: In 2018 Lawrence had some big wins and some very close as well. He won all 15 games in this year, including wins against NC State (16th ranked that time) on week 7, Boston College (17th ranked) on week 10. He beat the 3rd ranked Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and then the 1st ranked Alabama in the Championship Game. These were four ranked team, but Clemson had to play against Texas A&M (28-26 win), FSU (59-10), Louisville (77-16), South Carolina (56-35) and Pitt (42-10) as well, so the schedule wasn’t very easy, but he won out the season. The season in 2019 started the same way as was in 2018, win win win against everyone. On the second week, Lawrence met with the Texas A&M (12th ranked) and then no ranked team until the ACC Championship Game, where the opponent was the 22nd ranked Virginia, the result was a huge win, 62-17. At Fiesta Bowl came the Justin Fields led, 2nd ranked Ohio State and a close, 29-23, win. They finished the year against the 1st ranked LSU and lost the game against Joe Burrow & co. In 2020 Lawrence and the Clemson had 4 ranked opponents, week 4 against Florida (7th), week 8 Notre Dame (4th), in the ACC Championship Game came Notre Dame (2nd) again. There was only one L during the first 11 weeks, against Notre Dame on week 8, but they had their revenge on week 11 with a 34-10 win. In the Playoffs they lost against 3rd ranked Ohio State. ACC is not an conference, you have to be good, to be the champ, but Lawrence won 37 of his 40 games in college, which is very good.
Supporting cast: Was this success only because of Lawrence, or because of his supporting cast? I believe, you can have the best team mates in the world, if you have no talent they won’t help you win games. This is a two way street, you need a good QB and he needs good supporting cast. So Lawrence had Travis Etienne all the way down and he was brutal (he ran 4.100 yards, when Trevor was his QB), he could be a 1st round draft pick this year. On the receiving end he had Tee Higgins, Hunter Renfrow (5th round pick by the Raiders in 2019), Justyn Ross and Amari Rodgers in 2018. All of the four WR had at least 500 receiving yards each. One year later the core stayed together, Etienne was the leading rusher (and now two time ACC Player of the Year) and there was the receiving trio of Higgins (2nd round pick by Bengals in 2020), Ross and Rodgers. 2020 wasn‘t bad either, since he had Etienne, Amari Rodgers, Cornell Powell. Justyn Ross couldn’t play this year because of injury, but he will be drafted anyway this April. Clemson has to be smart with the successing plan, because they will lose all these guys, so the 2021 season will be fun to watch how Coach Swinney will come through this situation.
Zack Wilson, BYU
Numbers: Are Wilson’s numbers enough to be in the one year wonder category? I know, many people would hate me because of this opinion, but his first two years weren’t very impressive. During the 2020 season he made a huge jump and had some very very impressive numbers. For example his completion percentage is brutal and because of his accuracy his passing yards were more than 50% higher than last year. He had a 11/1 TD/INT ratio and ran 10 TDs. This shows you, that he is able to solve situations with his feet. Scouting personal are very high on his arm strength and his abilty to throw everywhere with good velocity.
Opponents: Wilson wasn’t the starter in his freshman year, but after a 3-3 start he got his chance against the non-ranked Hawaii and won (49-23). He lost twice right after against non-ranked team, Northern Illinois (6-7) and Boise State (16-21), but he could come back with a two win streak against Massachusetts (35-16) and New Mexico State (45-10). His lost against his first ranked opponent (18 th ranked Utah, 27-35), but closed the year with a win against Western Michigan (49-18). In 2019 Wilson had 3 games against ranked teams. He won against the 14th ranked USC (30-27) on week 3, but lost against the 14th ranked Utah (12-30) on week 1 and 22nd ranked Washington (19-45) on week 4. HE missed the next 4 games because of injury, including the win against 14th ranked Boise State (28-25) on week 7, but he was the starter on BYU’s last four games. He lost the last two against San Diego State (3-13) and Hawaii (34-38). In this two games he threw 4 INTs and missed to make any passing TD, at least he ran 2 TDs against Hawaii. He closed his season with 4 wins and 5 losses. In 2020 he started every 12 games and finished with a record of 11-1. He was 1-1 against ranked teams, won against the 21st ranked Boise State (51-17) on week 8 and lost against the 14th ranked Coastal Carolina (17-22) on week 10. At the end of the season they won the Boca Raton Bowl against UCF (49-23). The overall strenght of the opponent wasn’t high, 8 of the 12 teams‘ records were 50% or lower (win/lose).
Supporting cast: Let´s say so, in 2018 you won’t find any bigger name on the list. The best catcher was Matt Bushman, TE (511 yards) and the BYU QBs had Aleva Hifo, Dylan Collie and Talon Shumway as their top targets. The top running backs were Squally Canada (412/5) and Lopini Katoa (423/8). Not really strong. In 2019 the situation wasn’t too good either. Again Matt Bushman (688/4) was the best receiver of the team, followed by Micah Simon (616/2) and Talon Shumway (561/4). On the running side BYU had Lopini Katoa (358/4) and Sione Finau (359/2) plus five other players with at least 2 TDs (not included Wilson). In his only full season as a starter, Wilson had new buddies on the field. Dax Milne (1.188/8), Neil Pau’u (603/4), Gunner Romney (767/2) and Isaac Rex (429/12) were a much better group than the previous two. Isaac Rex was a redshirt freshman TE, who could have a good college career, if he can keep that performance. The other three WRs were all in their Junior year, so no unknown players for Wilson. Tyler Allgeier was the dog in the running back group (1.130/13) and Wilson ran for 254 yards and 10 TDs.
Justin Fields, Georgia/Ohio State
Numbers: Here is the guy, who was the clear cut nr.2 QB until few months ago. He transferred from Georgia to Ohio State, because Jake Fromm was the starter and Fields wanted to get a shot as the first string guy. Ohio State gave it to him and in his last year he led the Buckeyes into the National Championship game, where he lost against Alabama. He took a step back this year compared to his 2019 stats, but still had very good completion percentage and was a reliable runner with the ball. The biggest problem with him was his progression reads were too low. During the last days I read a tweet, where was showed that it wasn’t his fault, but the effect of the option routes, where he should have waited until his receivers made their decisions. He is a better runner than Wilson, but his 2020 season didn’t show so good numbers as Wilson’s.
Opponents: I won’t write about the 2018 season, because Fields rarely saw the field, so I will jump immediately to his first season with the Buckeyes. 2019 was a great year for Fields, the team was hot, their wins were usually with huge margin and not just against non-ranked opponents, but they won against the 25th ranked Michigan State (34-10 on week 6, against the 13th ranked Wisconsin (38-7) on week 8, against the 9th ranked Penn State (28-17) on week 11, against the 10th ranked Michigan (56-27) on week 12, against the 10th ranked Wisconsin (34-21) again in the Big Ten Championship game on week 13. They won 3 in a row against top 10 teams. Unfortunately they lost against the 3rd ranked Clemson (23-29) in the Fiesta Bowl, but the whole year was very nice. In 2020 Ohio State played 6 games less than the previous year, but 5 of those 8 games were against ranked teams. They won all but one, the most important game of the year, the Championship Game against the 1st ranked Alabama (24-52). On week 2 they beat the 18th ranked Penn State (38-25), on week 4 a close win against the 9th ranked Indiana (42-35), on week 6 came the 15th ranked Northwestern (22-10). In the Sugar Bowl the Trevor Lawrence led Clemson was the next opponent to beat and they made it, 49-28 win and the opportunity to play for the biggest win of the year. As you can see, Fields had two hard years at the Ohio State, with a load of ranked opponents.
Supporting cast: In 2019 Fields had K.J. Hill (7th round pick by the Chargers in 2020) and Chris Olave as top tandem at wide receiver position. The two totaled more than 1.740 yards and 22 TDs. After them, he had Binjimen Victor (573/6), Garrett Wilson (432/5) and Austin Mack (361/3). Victor (Ravens) and Mack (Giants) are both on NFL rosters, Wilson was a freshman this year. As running back he had J.K. Dobbins (2nd round pick by the Ravens in 2020) and Master Teague (as a redshirt freshman). The two running backs totaled almost 2.800 yards on the ground and scored 25 TDs. In 2020 Chris Olave (729/7) and Garrett Wilson (723/6) were Fields‘ top targets. Although Dobbins was already in the NFL, the team got Trey Sermon from Oklahoma as a transfer player, who had better run/yards number than Dobbins had in the previous year. All in all, Fields had a very good back field in both years, but on the receiving end the situation wasn’t so bright. Olave is the best from the group and Hill still could show his potential in the NFL. Garrett Wilson has plenty of time on the college level and he is already taking steps forward each year.
Trey Lance, NDSU
Numbers: For me, he is the most overrated QB in this draft. I know he shows lot of potential and he had a great season in 2019, but he is THE one year wonder of this draft. His 66,9% completion is good and his 0 INT is amazing, additionally the 1.100 rushing yards are rare to be seen from a QB, but the level of competition and his limited experience are red flags for me. In 2018 Easton Stick was the starter, in 2020 the Bison played only one game because of the covid.
Opponents: Outside of the 2019 season there is not to much to talk about. Lance came into a winning program, the Bison won 8 of the last 9 seasons on the FCS level. They won with Carson Wentz, with Easton Stick and they won with Lance. It is hard to write about the opponents in case of a clear favourite in the league. In 12 of the 16 games Lance didn’t cross the 200 passing yard level and twice he didn’t even reach the 100 yards. The only over 300 passing yards games were on week 10 (313 yards) against Western Illinois. Lance was 4 times the best rusher of his team.
Supporting cast: As I mentioned already, the Bison was a running team in 2019 and Lance was thier best runner (1.100/14), but his complementary team was good as well. Ty Brooks (968/5), Adam Cofield (813/12) and Kobe Johnson (660/4) were a very reliable trio. Trey Lance had only 2 wide receivers who reached the 500 receiving yards mark, Christian Watson (732/6) and Phoenix Sproles (541/2). I have to write about the Bison´s TE trio, Ellefson-Babicz-Gindorff, who had 16 TDs combined.
This is the end of the part 1, the second part comes on Friday. I will write about Jones, Trask, Newman and Mond. Will make another (year to year) comparison and you can see my ranking. Hope you enjoyed the first part. In that case please share it and follow me on Twitter or subscribe on my webpage. Thank you for your attention.
After the Super Bowl is over and the Tampa Bay Patriots won it, we can concentrate on the offseason with full power. After I put myself in Belichick‘s boots and played a GM two weeks ago, today I will show you my first mock draft (used the PFF draft simulator) and try to write about my picks a littlebit. I won‘t be so detailed like Evan Lazar is every time he posts about a prospect, but will write you few thoughts about the players.
If you look on the picture you can see I made some trades. We could say I was more Belichick than Coach Bill himself or my mock is „little“ Madden-ish, but I will explain you why it looks so.
I am very happy PFF gave me an A-, despite the fact I didn‘t make a single A graded move. I was very balanced, made 14 trades and picked 14 players.
I know after you were watching the list, you can’t see neither a QB nor a TE in it. I wanted to pick one from both, but other teams made some really unexpected moves. Let’s start with the QB. After I traded down to the 19th picks and got two extra picks (51st and 124th), the WFT took Mac Jones with the 15th pick. I can‘t say this was a big surprise, but I hoped for some better outcome at the end. After that WFT pick I knew I won‘t pick QB in the first round, but I wanted to spend a second round pick on Kyle Trask from Miami. That was the reason why I was just starting to make another trades and collect more picks for the later rounds. I tried to fill up the huge gap between our 47th and 96th picks. The first unexpected move came from the Steelers, who picked Trask with the 24th selection. I had one more QB targeted, but he was at the 128th position, so I was calm. He was Kellen Mond from the Texas A&M. He was taken way earlier, around 80th pick. That‘s why I finished without a QB. As of TEs, Pitts was out of my range and Freiermuth was picked in the late 30‘s range. I had no other „would like to have“ candidate from this group. So before I made my first pick I found trade partners in Indianapolis, in New Jersey and in Jacksonville, which means 4 trade downs in the first round.
25th pick – Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa: I must confess, I start falling in love with the player. Tulsa is not a power 5 college, but don’t let you be disturbed from the fact, because Collins is a good player. How good? He was the Bronko Nagurski award winner this year. This award is for the best defensive players in the USA. Predecessors were for example Aaron Donald, Luke Kueckly and Chase Young, which is a quite impressive group of players. Collins was only a 3 star recruit out of high school, that is why no power 5 offer came to him, but Tulsa is not far away from home, so it was very good for him. He redshirted the first year, but after that he quickly became a starter and he took every year a step forward. If we want to be optimistic, then he could be a good mix of Kyle van Noy and Dont’a Hightower. He is a quick learner, his projected speed is on the same level as van Noy´s and Collins, is bigger and taller than both current NFL linebacker. He is good against run and is able to drop into zone and defend the passes. Sounds good? For me absolutely. Most analysts see him as a late-first round pick, but I took him with the 25th pick. He is a versatile player, will be a great addition to our LB group. He might be the successor of Hightower in 2-3 years.
31st pick – Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State: Are you high on Trey Lance? Then you should value Radunz quite high as well, since he protected Lance´s left side. I traded up for him, which might be a little reach, but after his Senior Bowl performance I thought he would be a good addition to our Oline. He originally came to the Bison as a two-star DE prospect, but switched sides and he succeeded. He is tall, but would be great to bulk up a littlebit, since he is short above 300 pounds. He moves well, he is an athletic player, who can work againts speed rushers. Some scouts see him as guard, which makes him an even better prospect, but he woud be ok for me at the end of the line. With Wynn´s health concers or the – maybe – vacant RT position he could solidify the Oline.
60th pick – Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse: Another Senior Bowl standout. I was a big fan of his older brother, Obi, who couldn’t be so productive as was projected. But here is another member of the clan who has a good college career. Ifeatu is a tall, bigger bodied CB, who could fit in the Patriots man coverage defense and be able to shadow bigger wide receivers. He has not elite speed, but projected as a mid 4.4 guy, which us good for this size. He is not just a good player, but he was twice an All-ACC Academic Team member, which shows his intelligence as well. He has an NFL body, but needs to be more consistent. He is all over the mock draft boards, I saw him in the first round, but in the third too, so on this place he would be a good addition. CB is not an immediate need for the Pats, but if Gilmore and/or Jackson will move somewhere else, this position will need a succession plan.
63rd pick – Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh: Pass rusher is definitely a need this year, so let‘s start with the Pitts defender. Weaver is a bit heavier than Collins, so he is rather a DE than a hybrid OLB/DE. I don’t say he couldn’t play OLB in a 3-4 system, but I see him rather as a 5-tech guy in 3-4 or a 7-tech in 4-3. With this weight he won’t be the guy who will switch to DT position in pass situations (like Wise did), but as a DE he will have every opportunity to terrorise the QBs. Weaver has great hands with wide range of pass rush moves, good locker room guy with great motor on the field. These are important traits if you want to be a good Patriot. He tore his ACL in 2019, why he missed the whole season. 2020 wasn’t a bad year for him, but his speed and burst were not what teams want to see from a top rusher. He can set the edge, reads and reacts good on run plays. He could be a good rotational player first and could win more playing time if he shows his potential.
66th pick – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama: I didn’t plan to pick RB in the draft, but when Harris was still available, I couldn’t say no. Actually I think he could be picked in the first round, so finding him so late is for me a big steal. Every year there is a RB who I really like, this year the name is Najee Harris. He was a 5-star recruit out of high school, who chose Alabama. He had to wait and fight for the opportunity trough his first 2 years, since he played together with Josh Jacobs and Damien Harris, who were ahead of him on the depth chart, but once he got the leading role he didn’t let it go. He is a big bodied power runner, who can catch the ball as well. This combination comes not so often, I would be extatic if he would became a Patriot and I could see a great Harris – Harris combo.
71st pick – Tyler Shelvin, NT, LSU: As I wrote in my first article two weeks ago, we need a NT and Shelvin could be the guy. He is for me the Belichick guy, with all the pros and cons. He has a huge body, which makes him effective against even double teams, he is a good run defender, with limited range. Shelvin could be the guy, who eats blocks to make free space for the linebackers. I took him maybe a little early for his role, but he fills a need and he wouldn’t be there when I took my next guy.
90th pick – Quinn Meinerz, C, Wisconsin-Whitewater: Oh yes, the real small school guy is here. But he is not just here, he made an explosion on the Senior Bowl. A D-III guy who made a name during the trainings. Unfortunately he broke a bone in his hand and Brian Flores didn’t let him play, but he made enough to be a good pick in the third round. He is a center, but he can play guard too. Meinerz doesn’t stop, he has the fighter attitude which could bring him far in the NFL. He might not be the best technician, but the coaches at the Patriots could elevate him into another dimension.
92nd pick – Cameron Sample, DL, Tulane: Sample had a really good week on the Senior Bowl, he was named the Defensive MVP after the game. He offers what Weaver doesn’t, the flexibilty to play at different positions in the defensive line. Sample was a DT in Tulane, but he can play DE in a 3-4 system as well. He is a fighter, he was only a two-star recruit out of high school and got only one FBS offer. That was Tulane, which he accepted. If you watch his production, you can see a straight line of development in his college career. He is able to rush the passer, to deflect the ball and to play against the run. One pick earlier we picked our nose tackle, now we pick our rush DT.
96th pick – Benjamin St-Juste, CB, Minnesota: What? Another CB and so fast after Melifonwu? Yes, I double dipped from this year´s CB class. St-Juste is another big bodied, man corner, who could be great in the Patriots system. He has a bright mind, he finished his bachelor degree at University of Michigan only in two years, then earned his master degree at Minnesota in two years again. What else, if not those degrees should tell you how strong is this kid in his head. On the field, he is very good in press man coverage, but can play in off man or zone coverages as well. Despite his big frame, his hip is relative fluid and can change directions easier than we can see usual from tall corners. He had a great week at Senior Bowl, where he helped his draft stock, some analysts see him as a potential top 100 pick.
98th pick – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama: Yes, we like the Alabama linebackers very much, think about Hightower who is an Alabama alumni. At this point we could have our next steal, because Moses was seen as a potential first round guy, before he tore his ACL in 2019. He was highly coveted very early, he was just an 8th greader when LSU and Alabama offered him scholarships. Moses is a sideline to sideline defender, who can chase, tackle, rush the passer. He played all three LB spots in college, so he is a multiposition player, which could come handy in the Pats system. He is not the biggest man on the field, but plays with agression and power. He still needs to improve his coverage skills, but he already showed flashes. The ACL injury dropped him back, but he could be a cornerstone for the defense in the following years.
120th pick – Elerson Smith, Edge, Northern Iowa: Another player from the Senior Bowl and from FCS level. In 2019 Smith was one of the best defensive players on the FCS level, he earned first team All-American honor as well, which speaks for itself. He is a long edge player, who can play in multiple positions. At Northern Iowa he was used primary as a 7-tech, 9-tech DE, but he was put inside to 5-tech as well in passing downs. He is athletic but not elite, his first step could be quicker, but he can compensate those a littlebit with good football IQ. As I wrote he is not the best athlete and has problem if the run goes in his way, offense line player could block him. His name was unknown for me, until – guess what – the Senior Bowl. I really liked his effort to go after the QB and I think he could be an effective part of our DL rotation.
124th pick – Amari Rodgers, WR, Clemson: Finally, the so much needed WR help. Why I waited so long? Some early targets went out before I could take them and I wasn’t so sure that taking another receiver early wouldn’t cause a new Harry-situation. So I too waited until the later rounds and took two receivers – of course – from the Senior Bowl group. For Amari Rodgers NFL is not an unknown something, because his father – Tee Martin – was drafted in 2000 by the Steelers in the fifth round. Yes he was one of the QBs that year, who were taken before Brady. Back to Rodgers, who was a four-star recruit out of high school and top 75 player in that year. Rodgers was in tandem with Bengals 2nd year player, Tee Higgins at Clemson and Rodgers was used mostly in the slot. He tore his ACL befor the season in 2019, but he was able to come back and caught 30 passes for 4 TDs. 2020 was a big come back year for him, showed again his speed and quickness, we could say he recovered from his knee injury. He is a 4.4 guy, with good but not elite route running skill, who can use his body in traffic. He has run after the catch potential and can run wide range of routes. Had a good week on the Senior Bowl.
139th pick – Nico Collins, WR, Michigan: Another WR, but now I picked a taller outside target for our next QB. Collins is not a beloved name for the first two days in the draft, but he has his traits, which could be useful in certain situations. He is another four-star high school recruit with multiple power 5 offers. In 2019 he was Michigan’s Offensive Player of the Year. Collins has a big advantage, his size. He is 6‘4 tall and almost 220 heavy, which makes him a good contested catch target, although he is not a Rany Moss or Calvin Johnson, the top speed is missing unfortunately. Because of this, he is not the master of separation, but again he is very tall and he can use his frame very good. Collins is ready to block the defender if there is a running play called. He has every potential to be a good outside target, he should develop in route running to be able to run the full route tree. He showed his potential in Senior Bowl week, some analysts say he is a late second, early third day target for teams in need for receivers.
160th pick – Darius Stills, DL, West Virginia: If we believe what many analysts say, getting Stills so late is another huge steal for us, since most them are projecting him as a second day prospect. We had luck, that the PFF mock draft simulator let us take him here. DL will be filled next season with rookies after my mock, but every single player brings something specific. Stills is the pass rush specialist DT, who can run through the gaps and get after the QBs. He is not the best against the run, he still needs to learn to understand the concepts and how to attack them.
That’s it, we are done. I tried to make the settings as real as it could be, no random selection, positional value shoud be high and picking on needs. This is the result. I filled up our front 7 with different type of players. I took two corners, because we don’t know what will happen with Gilmore and Jackson in the near future. Our running back room is really good now and we got some needed receiver help as well. I would still expect another (or two) WR addition from FA. As of the QB and TE positions, the team needs to solve these positions from free agency. After all with this scenario we would spend on FA only for few higher priced player, the rest would come from the draft.
Please let me know what do you think about this mock. If you like my work, please share this article and follow me on Twitter or subscribe on my website. Thank you for your attention.
Before I start to write anything I want to make it clear, I believe Tom Brady is the GOAT in the world of football. This article won’t questioning his greatness, but I want to see how big the Brady-effect is for his teams.
Since Brady left New England most of the people are asking who is the real reason for the success of the team? Is it Coach Belichick or is it Tom Brady? Nowadays, when Brady will play in the Super Bowl again with his new team and the Patriots didn’t even reach the playoffs, many think it was Brady and BB had only luck with him and he is not so good coach as some of us think. Additionally there was the interview with Amendola this week and some quotes from ex-players, who think the success was more because of Brady (70%) than Belichick. Then I read articles about how bad Cam Newton is and with other QB the team could be better, which I feel is very unfair. So I will compare the 2019 and the 2020 seasons, both for the Pats and the Bucs to see in what situation Brady was last year with the Pats and in what situation he arrived in Tampa Bay this year. Was the Bucs really bad last year and Brady was the savior or Bucs needed actually only Brady (or other top QB) to be able to reach the Super Bowl? On the other hand I want to see if this year’s Patriots was really so much worse as many suggest compared to the 2019 Patriots and if yes, was it because of Newton?
Let’s go and find out! (I used the database of Pro Football Reference and Football Outsider, thank you for your amazing job)
First thing I want to show you is the supporting casts in each year. We know that one reason Brady left the Patriots is the lack of production from the wide receiver and tight end groups. Replacing Gronk is a giant mission if it is even doable, but last year’s Watson-LaCosse-Izzo trio wasn’t Brady’s level (although I have huge respect for Watson) and unfortunately this year’s rookie duo was too silent. I really missed last year a trade for O.J. Howard or David Njoku before the deadline, but the mantra is always the same „in Bill we trust“. The WR room has ton of potential, but Harry didn’t show us why he was picked in the first round, the Sanu-Gordon duo had their own issues, Brown came and left, Meyers was an UDFA and Dorsett showed very little. The only one person who gave us what was expected, was Edelman. That was last year, but this year wasn’t really better. Edelman made more yards in 6 games than Harry in 14 and the best two were the above mentioned Meyers with over 700 receiving yards but without a TD and Byrd who had bit more than 600 yards. The one and only James White, had family issues unfortunately so he couldn’t help either.
What do you expect from this group? They should bring you into the playoffs or into the Super Bowl? Actually I tell you one thing. I believe this year the team could have a shot to reach the playoffs, even after the departure of Brady and the opt-outs. I hear your voice, „are you serious?“ or „what did this guy drink?“. No no, I am absolutely serious, just go on with the reading.
The first two spreadsheets will show you the production of the top5 receiving targets from 2019 and 2020:
What do we see? Edelman had a 1000+ yards season in 2019 and if he wouldn’t be injured he could have another one in 2020, but unfortunately he got injured. Despite his absence James White still had more than 60 targets and again was the most effective pass catcher in the whole team with 79%. The biggest riser was Meyers. I am so happy for him, I cross everything I have for him and hope he will stay on this path and will be better and better. Harry got into the top5 but I don’t know if it is because he was so much better or because the other were not so good. I hope he will have a 3rd year jump in 2021 or he might have to fight for his roster spot.
As I wrote in my previous article (if you didn’t read it, please check it on my website) we don’t have a true nr.1 wide receiver, but we have plenty of nr.2 and nr.3 players.
I put there the DVOA ranks as well for every top5 guys. What is DVOA? DVOA is the main statistic used on Football Outsider. The long name is the following: Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. This statistic compares players/teams/etc to the league average and gives a plus or minus percentage to show if the team/player is over or runder the average. If we want to see the offense, then the plus percentage is good, it means the offense or the player is more productive than the average. On the defense side the huge plus percentage is very bad, it shows that the defense or player is letting the opposing offenses to be more productive than the average. I wanted to stay simple, so I just put there the ranks of the players.
During Brady’s 2019 season, Dorsett was the 48th and Edelman the 61st best WR with over 50 targets. Meyers‘ 26th and Sanu’s 72nd places were in the WR group with under 50 catches and White was compared to the other running backs. So it is safe to say, Brady didn’t have a single receiver in the top40 overall. This team still reached the playoffs. It wasn’t long lasting, but still playoffs.
In 2020, things didn’t changed much, Meyers almost got into the top40 and Edelman reached the 45th place, despite his injury, but Byrd and Harry were even lower than Sanu in 2019. Please tell me, what were your expectation from this group? And how can I be so crazy to believe this group could reach the playoffs despite these rankings?
Maybe the running back room was great.
Not really, they were not so great. Please don’t think I say they were bad, because I don’t think so. As I wrote in my last article, if we could resign White, I would be ok with the running back group as it is. The thing is, if you don’t have top notch WR group, then you should have great RB group. There were 8 running backs in 2020 who could go over 1.000 yards alone and Derrick Henry went even over 2.000 yards. In 2019 Sony Michel almost passed the 1.000 yard limit, but behind him was a big gap. In 2020 Harris showed up and Newton was an effective runner too. For complementary football this could be enough, but for that we should have a strong middle class WR group, which we have not at the moment.
To summarize the supporting cast topic, I think Brady had a better WR group in 2019, than Newton had in 2020. TB had some veteran presence in Edelman, Sanu, Dorsett and White. Who had Newton? Edelman for 6 games, White wasn’t the same as in 2019, Byrd was a new guy and the Harry-Meyers duo didn’t have tons of experience. That level of chemistry what TB had with the others wasn’t there either for Newton (maybe with Byrd) this year. And we have to mention Newton’s covid case, since he wasn’t the same player 2-3 weeks long after he came back. But how bad was Newton really in the Patriots system?
I put together Brady’s full 2019 season with Newton’s 2020 season, plus Brady’s second half of his last run with the Pats, because many analysts suggested that during this 8 games span he wasn’t the same. As you can see, he really wasn’t the same.
Ok, so I have to ask you. Is this really what you were expecting? For me it wasn’t. Yes, I know, Brady had 1.400 more yards in the air and threw 16 more TDs with 2 less INTs, but please check the completion rate, the yards/attempt and yards/completion points as well. Newton has 5% higher completion rate and if we compare his numbers with Brady’s second half, than it is almost 9% difference. The 0,1 and 0,6 yard difference at yards/attempt and completion sounds not big, but you are compared now with the greatest of all time, so it is still something. Plus Cam’s QB rating was better than Brady’s second half rating.
I don’t say Newton was great, but with normal circumstances and better WR help he could be a good QB for the team. I am not saying BB should bring him back (it depends on the direction, what the Coach wants to do with the QB situation), but if he does and Cam will get more help (FA and/or Draft) I believe he would be more productive. He has his flaws, there is no question about it, but he is an ex-MVP, so he has something to show for the league.
We will go through the same way here as we did it with the Patriots 2019-2020 comparison. Now we already know what quality on the offensive side had the Patriots during the last two regular seasons. We can see the reason why Brady wanted out of this situation and planned to go to a contender or at least a potentially contender team. Fits the Buccaneers into this category?
Wow, such a difference. And don’t forget, these numbers come from the Winston-era in Tampa Bay. Jameis Winston had 3 top20 WR during 2019 and two top32 TE. Check back what supporting cast Brady had in NE. Three between the 48th and 72nd places. Additionally, both Godwin and Evans had 1.000+ yards. Looks like a quality difference. How much did it change under Brady?
Only Evans went over 1.000 yards, but Godwin was not far behind and Brady got two old buddies to play with. After a short retirement period, Gronk came back and especially in the second half of the season he proved why Tom wanted him. Over 600 yards and 7 TDs is not bad. Brown showed his chemistry with Brady during his New England time, this year he did choose to stay on the field instead of making trouble and posting questionable things on IG. He was ok with his role as a second tier WR, but he delivered. Scott Miller was a nice in house option, who earned Brady’s trust during the year. Unfortunately Howard got injured very early, with him this unit would be even stronger.
Tampa’s running back group was on quite the same level in 2019 like Pats’ if we count Winston’s records to it. Without Winston it would be a little less, but still almost 1.200 yards from the top RBs. 2020 is a different story again. Despite the fact, Patriots top3 running players got together almost 400 yards more than the Bucs’ top3 players in this category, but if take out Cam’s almost 600 yards, then it is immediately a 200 yards difference for the other side. In both years Ronald Jones II was better according to the DVOA list than the top option in New England. As I wrote earlier, only 8 RB went over 1.000 yards this season, which brings Jones in an even better situation, to see how much help he was for the air crew. This production was enough from running backs, to support the passing game which was led by Tom „I am the GOAT“ Brady.
Here are some huge gaps between the two QBs. Completion +5% for Brady for example, but the biggest one is the QB rating difference, which is almost 18% for Tom. I think, this one shows best, how good is the Buccaneers supporting cast.
Yes, the Buccaneers needed a top (or at least a better) QB instead of Winston. I can’t say if they would be so successfull with someone else, but Brady came into a good group which became even better with Gronk and AB. This is the perfect example for a team, which is actually ready for the big run, but needs a good leader. Bruce Arians and Jason Licht put together a team full with potential and finally they found the key for the success. On the other hand, Brady led the Patriots into the playoffs in 2019 and Cam couldn’t repeat it this year. I am sure the Brady-factor played a bigger role here as well, which means Brady could make a good team very good and a middle level to a good one.
But we are still not ready. As I mentioned I believe Cam could have been able to bring the Pats into the playoffs if something would have been better. Do you know what am I talking about? No? Watch this!
And what about now? I don’t want to say it was the fault of the defense, that we didn’t get into the playoffs, but they were part of the problem. Of course the whole starting LB group from 2019 was missing, van Noy, Collins, Roberts signed to another teams and Hightower opted out. This alone was a huge hit for the defense, as you can see our run defense fall 24 places in the ranking until the dead last, 32nd place. Our pass defense took a fall as well, the reason might be Chung´s opt-out (but I don´t think this was the main problem) or Gilmore’s absence.
You can be sure, if the defense is not working on a high level, then it is not allowed for the offense to have bad days. This is complementary football, one day the offense helps out the defense, on another the defense will help the offense out. In 2020 the Patriots couldn’t do consistently.
This is the Buccaneers defense. They were very consistent during the last two regular seasons, so when Brady and co had a down day, they could count on the defense.
Why defense is so important and why am I writing abut them so much? 4 from the Patriots 9 losses in 2020 came with 7 points or less.
I can not tell it for sure, what would have been if the Patriots as a team would have played better, but we can suggest, that a top5 or top10 defense would have given the offense enough support to turn the Seattle, Denver and Buffalo games. In this case the Patriots would have finished with 10-6, the same records as the Dolphins, but the Phins had a 3-3 divisional record and in this scenario the Pats would have 4-3, so our team would have gone into the playoffs. Of course this is not so simple, the offense should have been better, etc. I just want you to see another angle of the things as well.
So what is my conclusion? Brady is the GOAT, no question, but please don’t put all the blame on Cam’s or BB’s shoulders and say, without Tom Brady our head coach is a nobody, because his statistics from Cleveland were bad and he couldn’t even reach the playoffs this year. If you are a great player and you go to a complete team, that team will be even better (although this year’s Tampa had its down periods as well). Belichick should recalibrate the whole team, he needs to find a new leader for the offense, needs to sign players to the WR/TE groups and he needs to bring back our defense to the top10 level. I am sure he and the other coaches are working hard to solve those problems. And I believe if they can fix most of those problems, the team can be in tha playoffs sooner than later.
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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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