Welcome back to another New England Patriots Roundtable. Free Agency has come to a close for the most part with only some smaller, value signings remaining. Now we turn our attention to the upcoming NFL Draft, just six weeks away. Rumors are also running wild this time of year, so we’ll also take a good look at some of the rumours surrounding the Patriots the last couple days.
Q. The Philadelphia Eagles are reported to be shopping DeSean Jackson, and the Patriots and 49ers among other teams have “inquired” about him. How would an addition of Jackson change the Patriots WR plans?
Duncan: Jackson would give the Patriots’ more of a proven deep threat than Brandon LaFell, who is a good blocker and big-bodied WR but is really closer to Aaron Dobson’s in terms of experience and actual skill. He definitely could help the offense, but I don’t think he falls into the Patriots primary needs right now.
Cyrus: I don’t think the Pats should go after Jackson, but if they did, the receiver position would be set. No need to add anybody else.
Hal: In a word: dynamic. It would doubtlessly lead to the end of the Danny Amendola experiment, but lining up Jackson and Edelman on the same side of the ball with Rob Gronkowski in-line at tight end and Aaron Dobson or Brandon LaFell at outside wide receiver it would be a nightmare for defenses. Add in Shane Vereen in the backfield and the Patriots would leap-frog Denver for the most potent passing offense. Heck, it makes me feel better about the offense even if Jackson does not come on board and they are all healthy on offense.
Matt: It would change quite a bit if he came in. It would most likely mean the end for at least two receivers, and my thinking is the three candidates would be Amendola, Thompkins and Boyce. It would also mean that Brady has a big time down field weapon, someone who can really open up the underneath of the field for the likes of Edelman and Gronkowski, and take pressure off the other side of the field, and Dobson. If they can get him for their price, this could put the Patriots over the top.
Q. The Patriots have also been recently linked to former Broncos running back Knowshon Moreno. Who would you rather have? Moreno or LeGarrette Blount?
Duncan: I’d probably rather have LaGarrette Blount just because of his familiarity with the team and the Pats already have a pass-catching RB in Shane Vereen. There are obviously good things about both of them. I like what LaGarette Blount brings to the goal line offense given his size and battering ram-type capabilities. Moreno is a solid RB catching balls out of the backfield but can also bear the brunt of taking 200+ carries.
Cyrus: Blount. His running style is different from the other two Patriots running backs, which is what makes that backfield so dynamic. Moreno’s game is similar to Ridley’s.
Hal: It may be sacrilegious in New England after the year Blount had last season, but Moreno is the better receiver and probably a better running back overall. The Patriots need to address the running back position very soon: Blount still out on the market and Vereen, Stevan Ridley, and Brandon Bolden are all in the last year of their contracts. This draft and this free agent period will show a lot about the Patriots plans at running back going forward.
Matt: It’s a back and forth topic, both are very good backs, but I’ll take Moreno, the all around better back. He’s a better receiver, and more consistent runner, and also a better pass blocker. I really liked what Blount did last season, but Moreno is just the more all around weapon.
Q. The exciting parts of free agency are now over, with all the big names, save for one of two guys, off the market, who is your personal favorite bargain bin player remaining?
Duncan: Dallas Clark. I think he could be a nice veteran presence for the Pats’ young tight ends (assuming they draft one).
Cyrus: Shaun Phillips is still available. He could really help out the Pats pass rush.
Hal: Easy one: Shaun Phillips, Defensive End at Denver last season. Veteran end who had some great years in San Diego and resurrected his career in Denver, a perfect third defensive end to give Rob Ninkovich and Chandler Jones some snaps off to stay fresh and join them as the designated third down pass rusher. Strong against the run, good pass rushing skills, and even though he ran out of gas at the end of the year he should be both inexpensive (good value) and should not be overused and be fresh all season.
Matt: I’ll go with Shaun Phillips as well. Big time sack guy for the Broncos last season, and was essential to that defense working despite injuries, and lack of truly elite talent with Von Miller missing a majority of the season. He’d provide excellent pass rush on third downs, something the Patriots sorely lacked, and give Jones and Ninkovich some breathers throughout the season.
Q. There are officially six weeks remaining until the 2014 NFL Draft. Do you see the Patriots going tight end or defensive line in the first round? Why? Who would you be targeting?
Duncan: Louis Nix out of Notre Dame is a great guy to add to the interior defensive line. I think tight end should be priority No.2 to a defensive lineman considering Wilfork’s age and his discontent with the Pats. There are two very good tight end picks that could be available in the second round (another Notre Dame player Troy Niklas and Austin Seferian-Jenkins from Washington).
Cyrus: It all hinges on what happens with Wilfork. If he stays, then tight end should be targeted in the first round. If Wilfork leaves, then the likelihood of the Pats selecting Louis Nix III skyrockets.
Hal: Are they going to keep the first round pick in a deep draft like this one? How about another year of trade downs and defensive line AND tight end in the second round of the draft. Maybe TE Jace Amaro drops to the Patriots position in the second round. Same for defensive end Stephon Tuitt who has the size and strength to play 3-4 defensive end or 4-3 defensive tackle. Getting both would be a great draft.
Matt: I definitely see them going defensive line in the first round, because there is a ton of value just sitting there, and most likely one or two fantastic prospects could drop into the Patriots lap. To me, the value just isn’t their to take a tight end in round one. But my first choice would be Louis Nix III, big run stuffing big man, and could spell the end for Vince Wilfork. Now, if Eric Ebron were to drop into the Patriots lap, he would need to be the choice.
Q. Apparently Bill Belichick is a Florida Gators fan, as evident of his appearance at their 3rd round game of the NCAA Tournament. Who’s do you have as the last remaining team of March Madness, or do you simply ignore all this college basketball stuff?
Duncan: Baylor wins it all.
Cyrus: I think Florida has what it takes to win it all. Although Virginia’s ridiculous defense makes them a team to watch as well.
Hal: I feel like I get burnt by Villanova every single year in the NCAA Tourney. This year is no different. I’ve already turned my attention to my fantasy baseball leagues
Matt: I think I’m going to go with Michigan. They look to have a nice road to the Final Four, and seem to be really coming together right now. This also disgusts me because I’m a Buckeyes fans, but I’ll cheer for Canadian Nik Stauskas any day.
Thank you to Duncan, Hal and Cyrus for helping out on this week’s New England Patriots Roundtable. If you’d like to have a question answered by us on this roundtable, then feel free to send a tweet to @Musket_Fire or @MattyWinPats, or any of the guys personal twitters.