Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. It’s early yet, but the 2011 NFL Draft looks like one in which need should meet opportunity for the Patriots. This draft is considered deep at defensive end/outside linebacker, along the offensive line, and at running back. If breaking down the Patriots’ top needs, those will be at the top of the list for many, with the biggest split of opinion at running back.
2. When the Colts released safety Bob Sanders this week, the thought crossed the mind that maybe the Patriots would consider signing him. At this point, any deal Sanders signs is likely to be heavily based on incentives because of his recent injury history. The Patriots have Brandon Meriweather, Patrick Chung and James Sanders atop the safety depth chart, so I don’t see a downside to exploring Bob Sanders as a fourth low-risk, high-reward option.
3. From a grass-roots perspective, I was impressed to hear that the NFL Players Association has reached out to various fan clubs of each NFL team and have set up a webcast with them early this week. The NFLPA, in an attempt to win the public-relations battle against owners, also sent some fan clubs T-shirts that read: “Block the Lockout, Let Us Play.”
4. If Bill Belichick was filling out his All-Pro ballot, I have little doubt that Colts receiver Reggie Wayne would be on it. “I love the way you compete,” Belichick told Wayne at the Pro Bowl, as captured by Patriots All-Access cameras.
5. While the Raiders have invested heavily in defensive lineman Richard Seymour over the next two years, they still left themselves room to compete to retain free-agent cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha. While Asomugha figures to test the market, a return to Oakland shouldn’t be ruled out, as owner Al Davis doesn’t figure to lose his man without a fight. It helps that Oakland doesn’t have a big-money quarterback to account for.
6. The Cowboys gave up 27 points per game last season, worse than every team but one. Opponents particularly had success throwing on them. That's why the hiring of Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator could be one of the biggest off-field moves that any club has made this offseason.
7. One of the tougher aspects of scouting for NFL teams that run the 3-4 defense is how a college defender in a 4-3 system might fit. That’s why it wouldn’t surprise me if Temple’s Muhammad Wilkerson is rated highly on draft boards of teams that run both defenses. Wilkerson played in the 4-3 his first two seasons at Temple, before turning in a solid third season as a 3-4 end.
8. Key dates ahead: NFL combine (Feb. 23-March 1) and NFL draft (April 28-30).
9. Any guesses as to which college will send the most players to the NFL combine next week? I didn't know the answer until I read Len Pasquarelli's Tip Sheet on The Sports XChange: It's North Carolina, with 12.
10. Titans coach Mike Munchak spoke to fans on Saturday, and when one of them asked if Randy Moss would return to the team, Munchak wouldn't say, according to Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean. Wyatt doesn't see Moss back in Tennessee. If you're the Patriots, do you consider bringing Moss back? I go back and forth on the possibility. A one-year, short-leash type of deal in which Moss could complement the talent already on the roster sounds good. But then I wonder if there were more behind-the-scenes issues that led to his trade, and if those would come to the fore again.