Based on emails to the Patriots mailbag this week, reaction to the team's draft picks has trended more negative. The biggest complaint is why the team didn't focus on more immediate help for quarterback Tom Brady.
The 'bag itself was overflowing and there are a lot of good points to dissect, from assuming risk with first-round pick Dominique Easley (DL, Florida) to selecting developmental quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo in the second round. The late second-round pick has some asking if that's too early at the position, and that's among the topics touched on.
Let's get right into it.
Q. Mike! Please help me understand this draft. From my perspective, it was set up for the most perfect BB draft of his career. Trade down for multiple picks, especially with the drive for teams to get back into the first round. Don't over-reach on players, and maintain the value of your position. With the depth in this draft, those picks would have been perfect to fill slots on the depth charts. What happened? Is this the same BB that we've seen for the last 15 years? -- Peter (Virginia Beach)
A. Peter, if we look at most of the trades in the draft outside of the Bills-Browns swap in the first round, it was for modest compensation; there were no four-for-one deals to consider like last year. Teams generally weren't giving up a lot to move up because of the depth of the draft and I think that made this a challenging draft for "Trader Bill." For example, I was told that one team calling the Patriots exploring to get back into the first round at No. 29 was told that it would take their 2015 first-round pick to do so. No one was doing that except for the ultra-aggressive (and in my opinion over-the-top) Buffalo Bills.
Q. Mike, I am disappointed at this draft! I am a 40-year Pats fan and this may be the worst draft given we have Tom Brady for a few more years and Revis Island for one year. So 2014 is the year to be all in. Win 2014 and sacrifice the 2016 season for it! They should have drafted only players that would help them win in 2014. Compare this to the Denver model. -- Johnnysox (Housatonic, Mass.)
A. Johnny, I don't see any difference between the Patriots' pick of Jimmy Garoppolo 62nd overall and the Broncos' pick of quarterback Brock Osweiler 57th overall two years ago. Same concept. I do think the Broncos are a little more aggressive and liberal in their spending, and the models aren't carbon copies, but both teams should be in the championship hunt regardless. There are different ways to do it that can be successful.
Q. Hi Mike, follow me through this scenario: The Patriots have an extremely high draft pick. They want to trade down but don't find any good offers. So they take their man. He's shown stud potential but has a history of college injury. I'm not talking about Dominique Easley here, I'm talking about Ras-I Dowling, picked 33rd in the 2011 draft. For better or worse, Belichick has a short memory. His comments are uncharacteristically gushing when describing Easley. I don't doubt Easley's potential if he's healthy, but that is a very big if. My question is, while very un-Belichickian, did he just decide to throw all caution to the wind and go for the grand slam here, knowing full well he may strike out? Or does Belichick really not believe in the term "injury-prone"? -- Tom M. (Medford, Ore.)
A. Tom, people measure risk in different ways and in this case, I think Belichick doesn't view it as a grand slam/strikeout comparison as much as a double/strikeout. For every Ras-I Dowling, there is a Curtis Martin. I don't think Belichick dismisses the fact there is more risk with this selection, but he views it as more manageable than others might (me included, as I wouldn't want to assume this level of risk in the first round). I think there is also something to be said for the strong overall team he has put together. If this was 2000, the start of the building process, you probably don't make that pick. But there are a lot more pieces in place now.
Q. Hi Mike, my question is about a term that is a favorite of both Coach Belichick and this blog, "error repeater." How does "Coach" Belichick reconcile the repeated errors of "GM" Belichick? Another Florida guy? The last two are gone -- one behind bars and the other making references to slavery on Twitter when he left for Buffalo -- and that leaves out the Jermaine Cunninghams and Chad Jacksons of the world. And a guy who has had double ACL surgeries? I had hoped that with people like Mike Lombardi around this year, the picks would've made a little more sense. Thoughts? -- Mike M. (Cranston, R.I.)
A. Mike, Belichick's success rate with Florida players is not good. In his own words "it is what it is" and that record can't be sugarcoated. One thing to note is that there has obviously been a change in the Florida program, with Will Muschamp as coach. The past picks were made when Urban Meyer was coach. Does that make it a big difference? I'm not sure, but on the surface it seems to me that Easley has a different feel from the others from an off-the-field standpoint.
Q. Hey Mike, I couldn't be more excited about this draft. Like most others, I was caught up in the surprise/negativity in the aftermath of the Dominique Easley pick. However, after about an hour, I became really excited. This is exactly what the Pats need -- a real difference-maker and playmaker on D who can rush the QB. I'm also excited about the rest of the class, including undrafted players. I know I'm waxing optimistic, but I love the approach of this draft. After having some time to digest, what do you make of the overall class and who are you most excited to see in action? -- Dominic (Broomfield, Colo.)
A. Dominic, my biggest takeaway is the risk assumed with the top pick, Dominique Easley, which is a different approach from what we've seen from the Patriots in the past. I never would have expected the team would use its first-round pick on a player who had torn both ACLs over the past 22 months. It could pay off big time if Easley comes back stronger from the reconstruction, which we've seen happen more frequently in recent years (e.g. 49ers running back Frank Gore). But that is still a question and that's why Easley, a big-time talent, was available in the first place. As for the overall class, I think they addressed some important areas, almost more with 2015 in mind, which was my general expectation.
Q. Mike, after a good draft, the roster reset looks very deep in several positions. I have one minor concern. Between Vince Wilfork, Will Smith, Tommy Kelly, Dominique Easley, Rob Gronkowski and Sebastian Vollmer all trying to return from serious leg injuries (most ACLs), are the Patriots banking too much on injured players contributing greatly next season? I know these are all key cogs and All-Pros, but I was curious to hear your thoughts. -- Jay (Revere, Mass.)
A. Jay, I think it's a fair point and it's something to monitor, but I don't think it's a major issue from a totality standpoint. The first thing that came to mind is what Julian Edelman accomplished in 2013. As we remember, he had an injury-filled four seasons before that, but he went wire to wire last season and had a career year. Obviously, the case of each individual player is different, but I don't look at the overall team and say, "They're relying too much on injured guys." As presently constituted, I think they are one of the best teams in the NFL.
Q. Mike, if this Patriot draft isn't a perfect example of "Wait a few years and then grade it," then I don't know what is. This may go down as one of their greatest ever or it may go down as one of their worst ever. Is there any chance this class will look good next year or is Patriot Nation guaranteed to live through the torture of waiting a few years to get any idea of its success? Personally, I like the potential and its riskiness is reflective of the talent already on the roster. -- Jim C. (Centennial, Colo.)
A. Jim, I think we'll get a good feel for the direction this draft is heading by the end of training camp/preseason in August, but the final judgment won't come for at least a year. A big part of this is going to be Dominique Easley's health. He is a big-time talent and if the knees aren't an issue, the Patriots are going to look awfully smart. So if he pans out, it changes the complexion of the draft to me. In speaking to a few scouts, the concern they expressed is that when you select a player who tore both ACLs in a span of 22 months and he's already undersized for the position while making the jump to a higher level of football, that's a risky combination.
Q. Hi Mike, I saw the story that the Seattle draft room was deflated after the Dominique Easley pick (there was apparently live video-stream from their draft room on the Seahawks website). Is there video of this anywhere? I wasn't able to find it, but I'd love to see it. -- Matt (California)
A. Matt, I couldn't find it either, and I think this is one of those things where it's dangerous to read body language. Short of Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll getting up out of his chair and pounding his fist on the table in disgust, I wouldn't feel comfortable making a decisive statement that the Patriots scooped the Seahawks simply based on watching a live feed of Seattle's draft room. It's possible the reaction was one of surprise, because I don't think a lot of folks saw Easley going there. Do I think the Seahawks liked Easley? Yes, I do. But I'm not 100 percent convinced they liked him at No. 32. I think they entered the draft with the mindset that they were hoping to trade down.
Q. Mike, the question should be what can be done to help Tom Brady now. Our only dependable wide receiver is Julian Edelman. Danny Amendola is injury prone. Aaron Dobson, Kenbrell Thompkins and Josh Boyce are unproven and also were injured. Brandon LaFell is a question mark. Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers all got new high draft picks at receiver. Tom Brady had a bone thrown to him in the seventh round with Jeremy Gallon, but Jarvis Landry would have been a great pick for Brady in Round 2. Brady cannot compete with Manning or the other elite QBs when you compare their weapons at WR. -- Arthur H. (Albuquerque, N.M.)
A. Arthur, that is the main debate when considering what the Patriots could have had with that late second-round pick (No. 62) if they didn't go with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo there. I had Landry on the list as well. In the end, I think it comes down to the 2013 draft class at receiver and how this is a huge year for them and the Patriots believe in them. They have to develop, and this is usually when we see a jump from players at that position. If they don't, it will be a disappointment.
Q. Mike, I'm usually disappointed in Bill Belichick's draft and this year is no exception. Put me in the category of those who don't understand the QB pick in the second round. There are so many other needs. If Brady gets hurt this year, there is already a backup QB. The new QB probably isn't going to be the ultimate successor, so why not wait until Rounds 3 through 6 to draft this guy? Also, aren't there other healthy choices than two ACLs with your first choice?? In the meantime, the hated Jets get Jace Amaro, who we could have used. I've heard the argument about him being only a big wide receiver, but was Hernandez a great blocker? Was the Pats' offense ever as dynamic as with Gronk/Hernandez? Mumble, grumble. -- Jack (Palm City, Fla.)
A. Jack, I was reminded of a story by a family friend over the past few days that might shed light on why the Patriots were thinking quarterback in the second round. Former Patriots vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli once made a nice gesture of calling this family friend, a die-hard Patriots fan who was going through a serious illness. They chatted about the draft and Pioli said the focus was always to "perpetuate the franchise." How do you keep something strong on a yearly basis and sustain excellence? I think that's the mindset with the Garoppolo pick. There is no position more important than quarterback and Ryan Mallett is going to want to pursue a starting job in 2015. Preparing to have that spot accounted for one year early is smart business, not to mention if there is an unexpected injury in 2014 (e.g. like Green Bay had with Aaron Rodgers last season). Was it too rich to select a quarterback? Do they have other needs? I think they are fair questions, but in the end I lean toward it being a smart pick. If a team doesn't have that position accounted for at all layers, it puts the entire club at risk.
Q. Mike, you've made your case for why drafting a QB in the second round is good business. But here's another question: Why Garoppolo? Small hands, not a great frame, FCS program? Doesn't seem like a typical BB pick at the position. Also, BB has a better record with late-round and UDFA QBs than mid-round ones typically, I have to ask, what stands out about this one? Was Tom Savage a better choice a full round later? -- George C. (Natick, Mass.)
A. George, I liked Savage as a better fit entering the draft. They obviously had Garoppolo rated higher. In talking with a few scouts who obviously have studied it closer than me, Garoppolo has great anticipation, is a film junkie, and checks off the boxes when it comes to accuracy and decision-making. We'll just have to see how it turns out.
Q. Is it safe to say that BB really didn't see a tight end that was worth drafting when we were on the clock throughout the draft? Why wasn't someone like Trey Burton (QB/RB/WR/TE) out of Florida not signed or drafted in the seventh round (nothing against Gallon)? He could contribute in a lot of different ways and play multiple positions. Thoughts? -- Mike A. (Las Vegas, Nev.)
A. Mike, it is safe to say that from my viewpoint. This was not a deep tight end class, so you don't want to pick a player just for the sake of filling the position. If you do that, you'll probably be in the same position the next year. Specific to Burton, my educated guess would be that they viewed him more as a bigger wide receiver than a tight end, and they are well stocked there. Or maybe they just liked Gallon and his potential in the return game a bit better.
Q. Hi Mike, has Armond Armstead been seen this spring? -- DPG (Sarasota, Fla.)
A. DPG, I was told recently that Armstead is taking part in the offseason program and is expected to be part of the mix. No setbacks.
Q. Hey Mike, along with Pats happenings would it be possible to update us on where some local college players have signed as UFAs? -- Bob (Boston)
A. Sure thing, Bob. Jack McCluskey of ESPNBoston.com put together the list here.
Q. Mike, any undrafted free agent signings by the Patriots we should take note of? Seems like a lot of big TEs. Do any have a shot at making the team? -- Ferg (Boston)
A. Ferg, there is usually at least one undrafted player who makes the team. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd pick Harvard long-snapper Tyler Ott. It's a position in which the Patriots are obviously looking to increase competition (three long-snappers on the roster) and Ott was considered a prospect who could have been drafted late.