Feb 23, 2014; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix speaks to the media during the 2014 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadum. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots Roundtable 5/8/14


Welcome back to the final New England Patriots Roundtable before the start of the NFL Draft later on today. It is quite the hectic time with things about to pick up big time in the coming hours, with teams trying to trade up and down the draft board, in order to get “their guy”.  The Patriots are in a great position of being at the end of the first round, in an incredibly talented draft, with many teams looking to move back into round one. But with that, let’s get to the first question:

1. Before we dive into the draft, let’s talk Will Smith. What does the former New Orleans Saints standout DE bring to the table? Does he make the team?

Duncan: Will Smith is a guy who was a top-tier D-end/outside linebacker, and he could rush the passer. Now that he’s 32 and coming off of a torn ACL, it’s hard to expect him to be as effective as he’s been in the past. Belichick likes veteran leaders, which Smith could be, when he abides by the “Patriot Way.” Still, he should make the team and see time on the field. We’ve seen the Patriots try to utilize older defenders before.

Hal: He is the cheap veteran the team does sign enough of… If he doesn’t make the team, so what.  He faces the mystery man, 2012 third round draft pick Jake Bequette,  for playing time next year behind Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich. His knee will determine 1) if he makes the team, and 2) even if he makes the team if he can get 20-25 snaps per game. Taking a chance on a pass rusher is NEVER a bad thing.  Best guess: makes the team; situational pass rusher; grabs 4 sacks.

Cyrus: I think he does make the team. Back in his prime, Smith was a good pass rusher coming off of the edge. Obviously he is older now, and coming off of a big knee injury, but I think he will bring some solid depth out there on the edge.

Matt: Will Smith is a really solid addition, for almost no cost, and no risk. The important thing that I’ve been stressing all off-season has been to get depth at defensive line. Establish a rotation of guys, with a number of specialists. Smith isn’t going to be helping much vs the run, but if he can come in on third downs, and play as a designated pass rusher, that’s great, and could help spell Ninkovich and even Jones a bit as the season progresses. As for whether or not he’ll make the team, right now I’d say he has a great shot, but thanks to his very low risk contract, he’s definitely no lock.

2. The Patriots could be faced with some serious talent at the end of the first round this draft. If you’re the Patriots, do you stay in round one, knowing that teams could be coming hard with big time offers?

Duncan: If I’m the Patriots, this draft isn’t a big deal for me, really just gravy. We’ve got enough talented to sustain us for a couple years, and the best case scenario in this draft, like other previous ones, is we get one or two future stars. I would take a big time offer over staying in round 1, as long as that round 2 pick is above average.

Hal: This year, more than any other, is so deep that moving is impossible to predict. If a player rated in the top 15 by the Patriots drops they will not budge, unless to move UP a few spots to snag him.  Look at Chandler Jones: in a redraft of 2012 he projects anywhere within the eighth-to-fifteenth pick…that was a home run getting him at 21 overall. With a deep draft having that kind of talented underclassman dropping, I could see the Patriots being aggressive in the draft.

Cyrus: It all depends on what happens prior to pick number 29, but there is so much depth this year, that I think the Pats would be fine trading down.

Matt: As of right now, I think I’m staying in round one, and I’ve been a big fan of trading down for a while. The realization that guys like Tuitt, Lawrence, Shazier, Van Noy, Ealy and a number of other guys will be available, is a very tantalizing thought, and while this draft is very deep, the first round is simply loaded. Get one of these guys who falls due to the abundance of great WRs, QBs, OTs and CBs, and you have a major steal, ready to play right now.

3. Expanding on the last question, if the Patriots were to keep their pick, do you take talent over need? Why?

Duncan: If the talent is at a position that is deep and will force them not to contribute to a Super Bowl run in the next two-four years, I think you have to go with need. The Pats have built a team for an immediate contender, and New England’s future needs (defensive line and tight end) should be filled by the next couple of drafts.

Hal: Talent every time.  No matter the position–short of quarterback Tom Brady–there has been a need with a year or two.  In 2011 Tennessee and Jacksonville bypassed defensive end J.J. Watt to pick quarterback Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert because of “need” at quarterback. Teams turn over every position but teams without continuity do not always have the patience
to take the best player rather than the player they convince themselves they need.

Two of the worst first round draft picks by Bill Belichick were “reaches” for need over talent: safety Brandon Meriweather in 2007 and running back Laurence Maroney in 2006.  Those years serve as a warning to the Patriots for chasing need over talent.

Cyrus: If Bill Belichick has taught us anything, it is always go with value in the draft. Overdrafting can really hurt a team, which is why the Pats have been so good for so long.

Matt: I have to take talent over need. Even if they were to take a DT or TE in round one as a need pick, they’re not going to be full-time starters with Wilfork, Kelly and Gronkowski being in the way. So that being said, I will take the best talent, regardless of the position. Is Marqise Lee there? Great. How about linebackers like Mosely, Shazier and Van Noy? Awesome, I’ll take their talent over a position reach like Austin Seferian-Jenkins or even someone like Ra’Shede Hageman.

4. What is the best case scenario for the Patriots, and what is their worst case scenario in the first round of the draft?

Duncan: Worst case scenario is that Teddy Bridgewater falls to them, and they take him with the first round pick instead of a tight end (hypothetical, let’s say Eric Ebron) or D-tackle (let’s say Aaron Donald). Their best case scenario would be to get one of these players.

Hal: Best case would be a run on quarterbacks in the teens of the first round and an impact player like tight end Eric Ebron or defensive tackles Aaron Donald or Dominique Easley were to drop in the 20s where the Patriots could move up and grab him and have a significant contributor for 2014. A top player ready to contribute immediately at a position of need inexplicably dropping and finding a team willing to move down at a reasonable cost (third or fourth round pick) would be ideal.

Worst case is misreading the board and moving down too far and missing out on the player they REALLY want in the top 35 picks. I doubt they do that…but there is always the Patriots’ 2009 NFL Draft in the back of the mind (S Patrick Chung, DT Ron Brace, CB Darius Butler, WR Brandon Tate and LB Tyrone McKenzie wasting five of their six picks in the top 100 that
year).

Cyrus: To me, best case scenario is if Jace Amaro falls into their lap when they come on the clock. I love Amaro, and I think he could really help out the Pats passing attack. As for worst case scenario, if New England comes out of the first round with a quarterback, I won’t be happy at all.

Matt: The best case scenario is someone like Louis Nix III, Kony Ealy or Ryan Shazier drop to them in round one. Nix fills a need, and is the best prospect of the three. Ealy would be a welcome pass rusher, and is great value, and Shazier has the looks of an elite pass rusher. Any of those three are my hope. Their worst case, is these guys are gone, and are maybe stuck with Ra’Shede Hageman, a player they don’t like, and the trade offers aren’t very good. If that happened, they might be forced to reach a bit into the second round talent.

5. Assuming the needs of DL and TE are filled in the first three rounds of the draft, what are the positions you see being filled in the final four rounds of the draft?

Duncan: In that case, it’s kind of a free-for-all, basically looking for a sleeper/steal in the later rounds. I’m not sure if I would go by position in this case, talent might be the way to go.

Hal: Interior offensive line is a must.  I would see that as a “double-dip” and let new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo pick which center and guard he wants to develop with two of their picks in the final four rounds. I would expect depth at linebacker (possibly a “slow” run-stuffer who drops in the mould of Brandon Spikes or Cincinnati’s Vontaze Burfict), a secondary or wide receiver to develop/stash on the practice squad and perhaps get some help at special teams in the second half of the season, and a big, short-yardage running back to contribute on special teams and in big packages for short yardage/goal-line.

Cyrus: Running back, inside linebacker, offensive line, and wide receiver.

Matt: The biggest positions after DL and TE, are running back, safety, offensive line and linebacker. I fully expect at least RB, OL and LB to be addressed. Guys to watch for in the later rounds include LB Jordan Tripp, RB Andre Williams and OG Trai Turner.

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. With this, I leave a question: In this draft, do you pick for talent, or for need? Let me know in the comments below.

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