Following up on the Insider post about the "Top Offseason Question" for the Patriots, it serves as a reminder the Patriots are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. Owner Robert Kraft said Friday that his data indicates the Patriots are the third-youngest team in the league.
So it makes sense that ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. would answer "not really" to the question of, "Is this the most important Patriots draft in years?"
"I count 13 rookies playing for the Patriots in 2013, so they should have a lot of internal roster development," Kiper writes.
This isn't to say the draft isn't important. Of course it is. But the point highlights something I heard Baltimore Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome say in his season-ending news conference: "You get better by getting yourself better."
What the widely-respected Newsome means is that the answer is often already in-house, and if coaches can cultivate a player from year one to year two, that is a big part of a successful team-building process. Newsome used the example of Ravens 2012 seventh-round draft choice DeAngelo Tyson (Georgia), and how at this time last year, the team wasn't certain that he'd part of its defensive line rotation. Tyson ultimately developed, helped the '13 Ravens in a reserve role, and now he'll look to take another step forward in 2014.
Thus, as Kiper pointed out for the 2014 Patriots, the more appropriate Insider question might be: "Is this the most important year of internal developmental in years?"
The answer to that question -- when considering high-upside draft picks such as linebacker Jamie Collins, cornerback Logan Ryan, receivers Aaron Dobson and Josh Boyce, among others -- is much closer to a decisive "yes."