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Patriots Mailbag: With NFL quiet, let's talk draft

This has been one of the rare stretches on the Boston-based sports calendar where the Patriots and the NFL have taken a backseat. We have the Red Sox opening the season (Game 1 couldn't have unfolded much better), the Celtics and Bruins jockeying for playoff position, and even though college sports aren't generally a big draw here, the NCAA men's basketball tournament has been captivating.

The pace has slowed with the Patriots and the NFL, which gives us a chance to dive deeper into some draft talk.

Q. Mike, I've got a hunch there might be teams looking to get back into the bottom of the first round to draft a quarterback like Brett Hundley, Garrett Grayson or Bryce Petty (similar to the Vikings last year with Teddy Bridgewater). Do you think that the Pats would jump at a deal like the ones the Saints gave them in 2011 with Mark Ingram (e.g., a second-rounder and a first-rounder in 2016 for the Pats' 2015 first-rounder)? Would stockpile assets. -- John (Manchester, New Hampshire)

A. That would be a tough deal for the Patriots to turn down, John, as there would have to be an unexpected prospect that slipped down the board to entice the Patriots to pass on that. One reason that No. 32 pick would have some added value to a team looking to trade back in is that it marks the cut-off point for five-year contracts. So if that scenario is presented to the Patriots, I'd say the odds are high they make that deal.

Q. Mike, it seems a lot of folks (rightfully so) assume the Pats will move out of the first round by trading down. I think the opposite. With the cache of picks they have, it would not surprise me to see Bill Belichick move up to get the DT, CB or OL he likes as he did for Chandler Jones and Dont'a Hightower in 2012. If they moved their third and first, how far up do you think the Pats could get? Do you see this as a somewhat likely scenario? -- Eric (Orlando, Florida)

A. Every year is a little different in terms of trades and what will close a deal, Eric. Using 2012 as an example, they traded the 27th overall pick and a third-rounder to move up to No. 21 and select Jones. Then they traded the 31st overall pick that year, along with a fourth-rounder, to move up to No. 25 and select Hightower. If those conditions are similar this year, you're looking at a move into the mid-20s from pick No. 32 in a trade-up this year.

Q. Hi Mike. Do you think the Patriots would take a look at UCLA's Eric Kendricks in the draft? He could be a great fit in the middle, bringing youth, speed and leadership down the road. -- Tim (Fresno, California)

A. Tim, in situations like these, I try to think like a Patriots scout. The first thing is to look at the physical makeup of the player and see how that fits the standards the club generally seeks. Kendricks is 6-foot-1/4 inch and 232 pounds, which is undersized for where he would project in the team's scheme. That doesn't necessarily mean the club wouldn't select him, because he obviously has a lot of other things going for him -- two-time team captain, very good in coverage, film junkie, runs well to factor into special-teams mix. So I wouldn't rule it out, but from a general sense, I wouldn't put it into the slam-dunk category based on the physical measurable piece.

Q. Mike, Coach Belichick attending Maryland pro day was sort of a surprise for me, because no Terrapins have been linked to Patriots high picks so far. I am curious to know if meeting his acquaintances who are currently college coaches is a very important pre-draft process for him. By chatting with his friends, he has an opportunity to know players of the team as well as of other teams, which in other words is a chance to get independent evaluation from the scouting team. -- MarkJ (Japan)

A. MarkJ, when it comes to scouting, nothing should really surprise us. The Patriots are extremely thorough and one thing we've learned over the years is that Bill Belichick is rare in terms of how intimately involved in the process he is. He's not just looking for "high picks," but he'll work out undrafted free agents, too, because you never know if that player might be the next Malcolm Butler and save the Super Bowl. So I think that's probably the essence of the visit to Maryland pro day, but a residual benefit of it is to talk to trusted coaches like Randy Edsall and learn more about all Big Ten prospects.

Q. Hey Mike, with Rolando McClain choosing to stay in Dallas even though he got a comparable offer from the team, it makes me wonder if this is the start of a trend. I can't remember the last time the team struck out on so many free agents and had this hard of a time closing deals after bringing them in for visits. In theory you'd think that a Super Bowl trophy would be a good recruiting tool, but that hasn't been the case this offseason. -- Rolik A. (Montreal, Quebec)

A. Rolik, the Patriots are tighter to the salary cap than they have been in recent years at this time, which has limited their flexibility in some of these situations. I think that's the main thing that has led a higher number of free agents to sign elsewhere. I don't see it as a trend. Many players still want to play here, but what's important to each one varies.

Q. Hi, what is the situation with Jerod Mayo's contract? He is the next-highest-paid player on the team after Tom Brady. The Patriots can surely approach him for a pay cut and use it on a player like Dan Connolly. Any chance he may get cut or traded after this season? -- Praveen (Lawrence, Kansas)

A. Praveen, Mayo is due $6.25 million in base salary this season. As part of his contract, he has a $4.5 million injury guarantee. Because of the guarantee, I don't think he will be cut, and I don't believe the Patriots will see the value in trading him. So I think he'll be here and my sense is that there's a good chance the sides will agree to a reduced contract that lowers his cap charge similar to what we saw with Danny Amendola. Mayo is still a little bit away from passing a physical and that might be part of the holdup.

Q. Could you give us a bit of a scouting report on new CBs Robert McClain and Bradley Fletcher? Do they fit more as man-coverage or zone-coverage CBs? -- Adam (Framingham State)

A. Adam, from what I've watched, they have some scheme flexibility. Fletcher has good size at 6-foot-0, 200 pounds and has played press man. He mostly lines up outside. McClain isn't as big (5-9, 195) and has played inside and outside. I don't think a team is limited to one style of play with them.

Q. Hey Mike, there still doesn't seem to be any development with Stevan Ridley. Needing to prove himself for a longer-term deal, he probably wouldn't get as great of an opportunity here. One team I think would be a great fit would be Dallas since their top back right now (Darren McFadden) has been mostly a bust so far. I think it would be an opportunity to really flourish as a moderately powerful runner with adequate elusiveness behind the league's best line. Do you know if Ridley's camp has spoken with them or still no new developments? -- Clayton (Louisville, Kentucky)

A. Clayton, Ridley will probably land in the AFC East, whether it's the Jets, Dolphins or Patriots. My sense is that the Patriots are the least likely of the group at this point. Once Dallas signed McFadden, that door closed. If he lands in the NFC East, Washington would be the front-runner there.

Q. Mike, Have to admit that the longer the deflated ball investigation takes, the more I fear that they will fine the Patriots "just because" rather than based on irrefutable damning facts. I've lost a lot of faith in the NFL front office and believe they are more concerned with their image in the public eye than getting it right. They are certainly looking (hoping?) hard to find something, anything to hang them with. -- Eagle Eye (San Miguel, Cozumel)

A. I understand the thought process here, Eagle. I keep coming back to the two things that commissioner Roger Goodell said at the Super Bowl the league was looking for: 1) Why were underinflated footballs used? 2) Was there any deliberate action? I don't believe they will find any deliberate action. So then it would come down to why they were used. In the end, my feeling is that there won't be a definitive answer to that -- it could simply be science -- which will leave it open to interpretation. The league could still levy some type of team-based penalty regardless. That hasn't stopped them before.

Q. Mike, Any news on which draft pick we are getting from the Jets for their tampering with Revis? I mean, this was almost word-for-word the example in the NFL rules defining tampering. With the draft approaching, will we hear anything soon? I'm less and less impressed with the NFL's speediness regarding any sort of reprimand that isn't admitted to. The quote is right there, how hard is this to rule on? -- Kasey (Hopkinton, Massachusetts)

A. Kasey, the league has yet to rule on the Jets tampering case. The penalty that the NFL levied against the Falcons took away a 2016 draft pick, so if that's the way the Jets' tampering is headed, any type of draft-pick reduction probably wouldn't come until next year regardless. It's also possible the league just takes the pick away from the Jets instead of awards it to the Patriots.

Q. You wrote, "This is Willie McGinest's third year of eligibility and he's yet to be a finalist, which doesn't seem right. Thus, I gave him my first-place vote." I am with you, sir. I think he should be in both the Patriots' and the NFL HOF. -- Paul C. (Lexington, Massachusetts)

A. Paul, there are several worthy candidates for the Patriots Hall of Fame this year and I think McGinest's postseason play makes him one of the best. I don't believe he'll draw Pro Football Hall of Fame consideration. One thing that has struck me about the Patriots Hall of Fame process is the aspect of timing. Some years you have a slam dunk candidate (e.g. Drew Bledsoe, Troy Brown, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Law), while other years it's a little more wide open. This year falls into the latter category.

Q. Dante Scarnecchia should be in the Patriots Hall of Fame. Any thoughts? Call Big Boss Man Kraft and get it done. LOL. -- Jason B. (Davenport, Iowa)

A. Jason, a player or coach has to be retired for at least four years to be eligible for the Patriots Hall of Fame, so that would make Scarnecchia eligible after the 2017 season. I don't think that would require a call to Robert Kraft; it seems like a slam dunk that will happen in time.