Musket Fire recently did a quick Q&A with Jesse Bartolis from NFL Mocks, discussing the Patriots’ draft class, rookie free agents, looking ahead to the 2012 NFL Draft, and more. You can already get the lowdown on the top prospects heading into the college football season (which WILL happen) over at NFL Mocks. Jesse and the entire staff do a great job all year in preparation for a three-day event, and I thank him for taking the time to answer some questions. Here are the responses…
- How would you grade the Patriots 2011 NFL Draft? What was their best pick (or trade) and their worst pick (or trade)?
This is going to sound like blasphemy to Patriots fans, but I think Bill Belichick is an overrated talent evaluator. Now, Belichick can coach his tail off. But I haven’t been all praise for what he’s done in the draft the past few years. This year, I thought was a fine draft, even if I would have done things much differently. I don’t think they got great player value.
We’ll be doing a pick by pick breakdown of the Patriots draft in a few weeks at nflmocks, but briefly here:
Nate Solder-Solid pick, decent player value. I liked the top of the offensive tackle class, but not the mid round talent available. Solder has excellent athleticsm for a man his size and big time potential. Ras I Dowling is another very talented player. After that there were some reaches. Shane Vereen pick, I can live with because he’s one of my favorite “under the radar” players. And then a few interesting picks I wouldn’t have done.
The best pick for me was Marcus Cannon -the vast majority of starters in the NFL come from the first two rounds of the draft, some times players fall for reasons beyond on their control, which was the case for Cannon. The 5th round players drafted will be out of the league quickly in the NFL, but Cannon has legitimate starter potential. If his medical issues are over blown Cannon could be one of the steals in the draft. Good pick.
Worst pick: Steve Ridley. Is he much better than Ben Jarvis Green Ellis? Not to me. At that point there were much better running backs available on my board and while I have no problem going two running backs early in the draft (and in fact think it made some sense) the choice of Ridleyw as an interesting one.
2. What is your take on the drafting of Ryan Mallett? What were some of the off-field concerns that led to him dropping so far, or was it more of talent issue than is being let on?
A little bit of both. Sayre and I caught (and mostly Sayre) a lot of flack for having Ryan Mallett ranked so low in our position rankings, big boards, and articles on Mallett. Now, the guy has a cannon and played in an offense that will make a transition the National Football League easier, but Mallett has one huge problem that’s tough to overcome and isn’t higlighted enough. He doesn’t want to stare down the barrell (so to speak) and let it fly down the field knowing he’s going to get clobbered by a 300 pound defensive linemen. He has a little bit of Eli Manning’s “Throw and Pray” in him when the rush comes. I think he could throw a lot of interceptions in the league. With that being said, he’s very talented, and him dropping to the third round is clearly because of the off the field issues.
3. Do you feel that the Patriots made a mistake not drafting a pass rusher, or were there really no players that matched their scheme or the value where they were picking?
Yes, I do. There were a lot of quality pass rushers the Patriots could have taken in this draft at great value. Ras-I Dowling is a borderline first round talent, but I thought Akeem Ayers was a terrific fit for the Patriots at the top of round two. He has the versatility that “the Dark Hood” could utilize effectively. Ayers can rush the passer a bit, is very good in coverage, could put his hand down in a 43 alignments, and he could move inside and play some 34 ILB. He’s also a borderline first round talent. Plus, the Patriots don’t care about stop watch times so I thought Ayers at the top of round two would have made a ton of sense and would have been a perfect pick, but Dowling is a nice player as well.
4. What undrafted rookies would make good fits for the Patriots? Are there any hidden gems?
Sure there are some hidden gems, just like every other year. Kendric Bruney is a very instinctive cornerback who just makes plays on the ball and could be a nice fit for the Patriots. If the Patriots want to add something along the defensive line (another position they didn’t address) Ian Williams out of Notre Dame could be a good fit. I also think he plays the “Patriots way” so he’d be another player that would be a good fit. I think the Patriots could consider a safety and there are some talented safeties still available in DeAndre McDaniel and Deunta Williams.
Also, Ricardo Lockette is a speed demon and could succeed with the Patriots. Lastly a player that is super talented, but was inconsistent and did not maximize his talents at LSU was Terrance Toliver. In the right situation Toliver could develop into a #2 guy in this league. He has all the tools and if any one can maximize those tools it’s Tom Brady.
5. Who are some players that Patriots fans should keep their eyes on during the 2011 college football season?
If the Patriots fans are looking at pass rushers for next year in the first round, they should keep an eye on Brandon Jenkins out of Florida State University. He had 13.5 sacks last year and will be a first round selection in next year’s draft if he plays at the same level this year. Keep an eye out for Jeff Fuller, the WR out of Texas A and M. He might challenge as the #1 Wide Receiver in next year’s class.
In general and not huge names, Ryan Lindley the QB out of San Diego State, Tank Carder the LB from TCU, Isaiah Pead (averaging over 6.5 yards per carry for his career in over 300 carries).