It’s a little late, but this weeks edition of the New England Patriots Roundtable is now up. We are now only just three weeks away from the NFL Draft, and rumours are flying around, saying things like the Patriots are going to draft a quarterback, a running back, move up in the first round to get a wide receiver, and a bunch of other fun stuff. As wee get closer, we’ll cover this stuff more in depth, but until then, here’s our roundtable for this week.
Q. There’s been a lot of talk about moving Logan Ryan to safety, pairing him with Devin McCourty as the starting duo next season? What are your thoughts on the move?
Duncan: I don’t think it’s necessary but it could be a move that the Pats make. Ryan’s a fine corner, and the Pats have moved McCourty that way. Ryan showed opportune ball-hawking skills last season, leading the Patriots in interceptions, and as a defensive back, especially on the Patriots, versatility is a huge plus from Belichick’s point of view.
Hal: I don’t see Ryan having the size to be a regular at safety. Last year, the Patriots were undersized at the position with Steve Gregory and Devin McCourty. The team needs a safety to make plays near the line of scrimmage and still help in coverage. Duron Harmon was effective as a rookie and should have the inside track at the position. Patrick Chung and Tavon Wilson are depth players at this point. Ryan may be helpful in the back of the secondary in coverage, but I do not see the fit at safety with McCourty
already in place at free safety.
J.T.: The problem with this scenario is that neither McCourty, nor Ryan, are built as prototypical strong safeties. Both of them have the speed to cover sideline-to-sideline, rather than being mitigated to the smaller coverage window. Many people may not realize how well Duron Harmon actually played in the strong safety role as a rookie, so it’s possible that he could become the guy in his sophomore campaign. There will no doubt be some flexibility within the unit as the season progresses.
Matt: I’m actually a fan of this move, because I want to see the best players on the field for the Patriots at all times. Logan Ryan is probably the third best cornerback on the team right now, but will be behind not only Revis and Browner, but also Dennard as well. So if he could see some time starting opposite of McCourty, I would be all for it. Besides, the notions that you have to have a free safety, strong safety tandem is a bit outdated.
2. Rank the top three Patriots draft needs in order of biggest need and down. Explain why.
Duncan: Defensive tackle, defensive end/outside linebacker, wide receiver from greatest need to least. The Pats’ definitely need to find someone to succeed Vince Wilfork in the interior run defense and appear alongside the big man, who’s nearing retirement. The Patriots were 5th in the NFL in total sacks last season, but they only have one promising young guy attacking the QB in Chandler Jones. Also, I’m not convinced by Brandon LaFell and Danny Amendola can’t carry the team by himself (unless Amendola actually performs in 2014).
Hal: 1. Interior offensive line: Dan Connolly and Ryan Wendell were terrible last year. Logan Mankins is getting long in the tooth.
2. Tight End: Hoo-man and the Mulligan are barely backup level tight ends. A solid backup to Rob Gronkowski is a must in this offense. If Gronk stays healthy, then another receiving tight end is a bonus that enhances the offense
3. Defensive Tackle: Wilfork and Kelly’s injuries last year left a gaping hole in the middle of the defense. Sealver Siliga was a diamond in the rough. Time to add the next generation big man in the middle.
J.T.: Tight end – Gronkowski has stated now that he is going to milk his recovery time (with good reason), so he’s once again in position to start the season on the PUP list. And when he does come back, how long will he stay healthy?
Offensive line – AFC title game, anyone?!
Defensive End – The Pats have a fine duo on the outside, with Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich, but it gets thin after that.
Matt: 1. Defensive Tackle: This was not only a problem in terms of run stopping, but the fact that they couldn’t get any pressure from inside, which is so important to the pass rush. That’s why a guy like Hageman or Tuitt are my top picks.
2. Tight End: This was a problem last year, but with Gronk coming back, I’m not as worried. Still though, it is important they grab another playmaker, and I think a guy like Jace Amaro could be available mid to late second round, and he would be a perfect compliment.
3. Outside Pass Rush: This one might be a little harder to fufill if the Patriots don’t take one in the first two rounds, but I’ve always felt that the Patriots really needed one guy who could be a designated pass rush guy, and replace Rob Ninkovich on third downs. Nink is a great player, but he’s a bit of a liability on pass rushing downs. Patriots could use someone to pair with Chandler Jones on third down.
3. It seems that Chris Johnson is in some serious talks with the New York Jets. Would the former CJ2K scare you if he was in the New York green? (Update: Johnson signed his contract a few days after these questions were asked)
Duncan: The Jets haven’t recently been a team to fear from a talent standpoint. Chris Johnson isn’t the most consistent running back, but if he came out and put up 1,500+ yards, no doubt the Jets would be a better team. You would assume having a decent RB would take the pressure off of the Jets’ QB as well. But in the end, the Patriots are built to win the AFC East this year.
Hal: In a word, no. Running backs in the NFL have a hard time bouncing back from knee injuries. If a running back’s nickname (CJ2K) is a pun that references an event (Y2K) that is about 15 years previous it is a sign his wear and tear is likely a bit much.
J.T.: Well, he’s there now, so the speculation ends there. Am I scared of it? Not really. CJ?K has been a shell of his former self the past two years, and I’m not buying the excuses he’s made for his lack of production either. With Tommy Kelly and Vince Wilfork back up front, all I have to say is “good luck getting around that, buddy!”
Matt: Not really, he recently did sign a deal, but he’s not the most consistent back, and does take a lot of plays off. The key to the Jets offense has always been the run game, but it’s been a power run game. Guys like Ivory and Powell are what the team needs, guys who can control the clock. Johnson doesn’t do that.
4. The quarterback is always the most scrutinized position in the NFL Draft every year, and maybe this more than most years. Name me your top three quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and give me an idea of where they could land.
Duncan: Blake Bortles at No. 1, Zach Mettenberger at No. 2, and Johnny Manziel at No. 3. Bortles will probably be the first pick of the draft headed to Houston, but I agree with Ron Jaworski that Mettenberger, who could go in the first round, is a better option than Teddy Bridgewater and Manziel. I could see Manziel with the Cleveland Browns and Mettenberger with the Raiders.
Hal: 1. Blake Bortles of Central Florida is probably the best future NFL quarterback. That said, he is likely the only quarterback off the board in the top ten picks. Jacksonville could take a shot on him with their desperate need at the position.
2. Derek Carr of Fresno State is the most ready to play at this time and really showed his potential at the Senior Bowl. Expect him to drop to the end of the first round. I could see Cleveland being ecstatic to grab him there.
3. Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville looked like a top ten pick early in the off season but after his wobbly-pass pro day he will likely drop out of the first round. That said, he will not fall far. Look for Billy O’Brien grab him for Houston at the top of the second round.
J.T.: Teddy Bridgewater (the sharpshooter), Johnny Manziel (the scrambler) and Blake Bortles (the prototypical build) will be the first three off the board. It’s anyone’s guess as to which team will select what quarterback, but those three names will likely find homes in either Cleveland, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Houston, Oakland, or Tampa Bay.
Matt: 1. Teddy Bridgewater: My number one guy has always been Teddy, and I’m not going to change that now. Pro Days don’t really mean much, and he’s still the smartest quarterback in the draft. Would I take any of these guys in the top 5 or even 10 now? Maybe not anymore.
2. Johnny Manziel: I’m a huge Johnny Manziel guy, mostly because people have been taking ridiculous potshots at him for a while, about partying and not being dedicated. Frankly, it’s all a load of crap. Shouldn’t we then be talking about AJ McCarron’s dedication to football, when he’s got a reality TV show about his wedding? Give me a break. Johnny is going to be a very good quarterback, size and attitude be damned.
3. Blake Bortles: Bortles is the last guy, because I feel the top three is a specific group, that just depends on your personal preference. He’s a big bodied guy, able to take some hits, so that’s why he could go above the smaller built Bridgewater and Manziel.
5. Finally, the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings is this coming Monday. Give me some thoughts on the tragedy, and why you’re proud to be a Boston sports fan?
Duncan: Obviously, last year was an immense tragedy, and seeing what transpire yesterday was truly refreshing and really exhibited the sense of community that the city of Boston, and its professional sports teams, maintain.
Hal: The most jarring part of the Marathon bombings for me was that I spent almost a decade working just a block away from the finish line on Boylston Street. Where the bombs went off is right where everyone in our office would walk over to in order to watch the runners finish on our afternoon breaks. I remember seeing the surveillance photos of the bag on the ground and realized that is right where I stood for the Patriots first Super Bowl DuckBoat Celebration Parade. In that case, it makes it difficult to think about because of how close I could have been to this incident. Had I not taken a job closer to home, I could have been right in the middle of that tragedy. That said, to me the important thing from that day has nothing to do with the sports teams. Yes, they were all appropriately respectful, but the police, fire, EMTs, volunteers, doctors, nurses, aides, counselors and all others involved in helping the victims are who make me proud to be from the greater Boston area. Seeing how ordinary people became heroes, just like on 9-11, is what makes me feel pride for my country.
J.T.: It’s one of those things where you know exactly where you were and what you were doing when you first heard the news. Clearly it was a day of mourning for not only the city of Boston and families of the victims, but for the country as a whole. But in that tragedy, it was really great to see such support from folks around the nation and beyond. As a former New Englander, I am proud of the city of Boston and of the sports teams that call it home. The rich history and traditions rival that of any other town, so excuse me while I crack open a cold Sam Adams.
Matt: Boston is not my home, and I’m not even from America, but when that stuff happened, it really hit home for me. Boston is like my second home, and the people there are like my brothers. When the marathon was attacked like that, it was such an amazing site to see everyone helping, and then even all the surrounding cities like New York throwing their hat in the ring to help. I think Stephen Colbert’s quote sums it up. “These maniacs may have tried to make life bad for the people of Boston, but all they can ever do is show just how good these people are.” Boston is my city, even if I live thousands of miles (or kilometres for me) away.
Thank you to Duncan, Hal and J.T. 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.