Quick-hit thoughts around the NFL and with the Patriots:
1. Assuming Ty Warren returns at left defensive end and Vince Wilfork is at nose tackle, who starts at right defensive end for the Patriots? Maybe newcomer Marcus Stroud, or perhaps second-year man Brandon Deaderick, Ron Brace or Mike Wright. I see that spot as one of the bigger unknowns on the roster.
2. Just a hunch, but if Bill Belichick was asked the best player in the 2011 draft, I think he would have said Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus. And now the Patriots face him twice a year with the Bills.
3. Interesting stuff with Carolina receiver Steve Smith this week, who spoke with Pro Football Weekly about his future. Smith wants to be in a competitive situation. I think the Patriots are stocked at receiver, but if there is an injury and they are looking for a veteran in a trade scenario, Smith could represent a Randy Moss-type 2007 option if he's willing to reduce his salary to land in that competitive situation.
4. Similar to the Patriots entering 2010, look for the Jets to emphasize red-zone offense this upcoming season after scoring just 20 touchdowns in 50 trips. The Patriots’ first play of training camp last summer came out of a three tight-end set in the red zone, which highlighted how that would be a big focus.
5. When reading Rick Reilly’s 2006-2008 re-draft on ESPN.com, I was most curious where Brandon Meriweather would fall in 2007. The verdict: Meriweather, who was picked 24th overall, would have been 23rd. Sounds right. Meriweather hasn’t been overwhelming, but he’s been a “par” when it comes a first-rounder.
6. In a span of a few weeks, Rashard Mendenhall and Reggie Bush have found out a 140-character message on Twitter can have negative, far-reaching effects. Bush tweeted “It’s been fun New Orleans” after the Saints drafted Mark Ingram, but now says he wants to retire in New Orleans. It’s hard to take him seriously on that, though.
7. In a related note, I heard a few stories of how the Patriots were following prospects on Twitter as part of the scouting process, with a Patriots staffer telling someone close to a prospect that the team noticed a high volume of tweets and wondered if the player was more into tweeting than football. It’s yet another reminder of how everything someone tweets is fair game.
8. Former Steelers, Jets and Cardinals guard Alan Faneca retired last week, and reading his statement and what some wrote about him, it sounded like he was not only a top player but also a classy teammate. I’m interested to hear what some Hall of Fame voters say about his candidacy.
9. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady will once again serve as the honorary chairman of the 12th annual Audi Best Buddies Challenge (June 4). Best Buddies is dedicated to establishing a global volunteer movement that creates opportunities for one-to-one friendships, integrated employement and leadership development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
10. Will it be Drew Bledsoe, Bill Parcells or Houston Antwine? Voting for this year’s Patriots Hall of Fame inductee ends today on Patriots.com. I voted for Bledsoe.