Lindberg: New England Patriots Draft Grade

How much will Nate Solder impact the New England Patriots in the future?

By Andy Lindberg 

I feel like I should be yet another tool to give out a draft grade.  Therefore I will grade the Patriots. I have been watching the Patriots since I moved to Connecticut from Alabama in 1992. (Side note, I HATE how the New York Jets drafted Alabama’s former quarterback, Greg McElroy. That made me sad).

I love football, but what the NFL draft has become, a spectacle after the meat-market that is the televised NFL scouting combine, is a flash and flare party which sees men who have never taken a snap in the National Football League take their first steps toward garnering $40 million signing bonus’ who later turn out to be the next Ryan Leaf.

In short, it upsets me. It is unnecessarily exhibited and covered by men who can’t seem to do anything but yell at me over the television screen. I understand the player has great “football smarts,” but you’ve yelled it at me for the past eight picks.  It’s a wonder any of these players ever fails. So “tool upon tool” is screaming letter grades at me like these teams just took an exam. I will be joining the ranks of them, providing you a letter grade at the end of this and oh, by the way, I’m sorry in advance for my weakness.

That said the draft is a necessity for the business of building a football team.  There are a lot of teams who drafted well because they drafted needs. The Patriots last year had an exceptional draft, fixing gaping holes at the tight end and defensive back positions. This past season, both improved exponentially (especially at tight end) and the only glaring hole was the need for a pass rusher and offensive line help.  Before I begin let it be known that even though I may like some of the players New England drafted (as made obvious with my pick by pick coverage) that does not mean I feel they were smart picks in some cases.

The Patriots’ first pick was offensive tackle Nate Solder from Colorado. Given the futures of Matt Light and Logan Mankins with the team, this was a very good pick.  However after that, New England’s draft went downhill. They did nothing at all to address the pass rush, even with several on the board.

With the first overall pick of the second round, they drafted Ras-I Dowling, a cornerback from Virginia. I liked this pick because I thought New England could still add good pass rush depth later in the second round, given the talent still out there.  Even with Leigh Bodden coming back, Dowling could provide very capable help at the lower end of the depth chart in his first year, and could prove to be a very valuable special-teamer immediately.

Will the former Patriots running back core be effected by the 2011 NFL Draft?

After that it got bad. The Patriots drafted two running backs in a row even though BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a fantastic year and Danny Woodhead took over the Kevin Faulk role. Yes, New England needed a little more depth at that position, but one of those picks (preferably the earlier, Shane Vereen pick) should have been a pass-rusher.

Picking Ryan Mallett was a great selection, as I believe New England got a steal.  Mallett could also prove to be great trade bait in a few years if Tom Brady is still racking up great numbers. A guy like Mallett won’t sit as a backup for long, not with his potential.

In the fifth round New England drafted TCU’s Marcus Cannon, an offensive lineman who dropped to round five because of a very recent cancer diagnosis. His prognosis is excellent, and doctors anticipate a recovery very soon. If he can play up to his potential in a year or two, he will have been a good steal.

The Patriots finished the draft with Markell Carter, an outside linebacker from Central Arkansas and Malcolm Williams, a defensive back from TCU. Size-wise, Carter fits the profile of the type of linebacker New England loves. I hope he proves to be a fantastic player down the road, but for now, he’s simply a sixth round pick.

The Patriots had a need, and did not address it, even with all the available needs.  They added more picks for next year via trades, but the time for stockpiling picks is over. This year it was time to cash in and the Patriots didn’t do it. More than likely one of those running back picks is going to turn out to be a wasted pick. There’s only so much playing time for a running back with Ellis and Woodhead playing. There was no reason not to pick a pass rusher in that situation.

I used to give the Pats the benefit of the doubt, but for the past few years, one of the needs has been the same and New England has done little to address it. New York’s Mark Sanchez kept his jersey very clean during the playoff matchup with New England and that’s ultimately what ended up costing Tom Brady and Co. another shot at a title. If the Patriots cannot get to the quarterback, no regular season record is going to change the fact that in the playoffs, they’re going to get burned.

Patriots draft grade (according to me, who’s opinion really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things, but here at Noontime Sports it does): C

An average grade for an average draft.

I still love them, though. Go Pats!

NFL Draft and New England Patriots Talk with Mike Dussault

The 2011 NFL Draft is upon us, which means Noontime Sports is ready for the first round to begin on Thursday. So, with that being said, here is our conversation with Mike Dussault (Pats Propaganda) about the Draft itself, as well as the NFL Lockout and New England Patriots.

Matt Noonan: What would you say is the biggest and most important item the Patriots need to address in the NFL Draft?

Mike Dussault: The biggest item that needs to be addressed has to be improving the 32nd ranked 3rd down defense and that begins with adding a three-down player to the defensive front seven. While outside linebacker may be the biggest position in need of a talent upgrade, this years draft class isn’t great for that particular position, especially in the mid-to-late first round. However the draft is extremely rich in defensive ends who fit the Pats system. Guys like Cameron Jordan (CAL) and JJ Watt (Wisconsin) would bring immediate impacts in both the run and pass games.

The Pats should be able to add an outside linebacker project or two in the later rounds, but early on look for them to address defensive end and offensive line. The interior offensive line could also use a talent upgrade and there are some great prospects like Danny Watkins (Baylor), Derrick Sherrod (Mississippi State) or Clint Boling (Georgia) who could solidify multiple positions.

There are also a fair number of developmental tackles who could be groomed to take a starting spot on the left or right side depending on how Sebastian Vollmer projects and what happens with Matt Light‘s free agency status. Nate Solder (Colorado) is one in particular that would make a great bookend of the future with Vollmer.

MN: Going into the draft, which Patriots unit could be considered the weakest? Which one is the strongest? Also, how can the weaker unit be improved, if not through the Draft?

MD: It doesn’t take a Patriots uber-blogger like me to tell you it’s pass rush, pass rush, pass rush! Of course this could be oversimplifying matters a bit, but with the return of Leigh Bodden and the continued development of Patrick Chung, Devin McCourty and hopefully Brandon Meriweather, it looks like the back end of the pass defense is promising.

The main problem was that opposing teams converted 47% of their third downs against the Pats, which is bad enough for worst in the league (the best teams are around 30%). This problem was compounded by the losses of interior rushers Mike Wright and Myron Pryor to injury, along with Tully Banta-Cain‘s return to earth following a 10 sack season in 2009. So whether it’s interior rushers or edge rushers the Pats need to add some talent who can, at the very least, get quarterbacks off the spot and out of their comfort zone.

The Patriots offense has been a great strength over the past four seasons, despite different quarterbacks (Matt Cassel in ’08) and going from a spread, vertical attack to more of a two tight end horizontal attack in 2010. As long as the Tom Brady gets the protection and time he needs the Pats offense should continue to roll in 2011.

Not to say they are without needs. Stabilizing the offensive line for the twilight of Brady’s career is priority number one on that side of the ball, and the Pats look to be in prime position to do so in this draft. They could also use another running back to go with Benjarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead, one who could compliment their games. While some say wide receiver, and specifically a deep threat, is a need, I believe they’ll allow Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, and Taylor Price another year to develop in the system. 

MN: Out of all the college players who are entering the draft this year, which will have the most promising career?

MD: As always predicting the draft is somewhat of a crapshoot, but I believe that Marcel Dareus (DL, Alabama), AJ Green (WR, Georgia) and JJ Watt (DE, Wisonsin) look like the three safest, can’t-miss prospects this year. All are supremely talented, check out off the field, and bring the professional attitude required to be successful at the next level. 

MN: Yes, the Judge lifted the NFL Lockout ban on Monday, but still, so much has to occur before players can actually work out and return to their day-to-day roles with the organization. How much has this current off-season downgraded the NFL as a whole and in your opinion, will there be a season come September? Yes or No? Why?

MD: While the NFL hasn’t lost the diehards like myself  just yet, the lockout, and perhaps most importantly the rhetoric thrown back and forth between the two sides has absolutely had an impact on the game, whether they want to admit it or not. Interest in the draft is down this year, as are the the number of visitors to NFL.com. The longer we go without a new CBA the more harmful that impact will be.

To be honest I really don’t know what will happen this fall. We could start on time. We could miss three games (and still manage a full 16-game slate because the NFL designed the schedule to accommodate), or we could miss the entire season. What I do know is that the debate will be tied up in the courts well into the summer.

What needs to happen is the two sides have to get back to the bargaining table and negotiate a new CBA. Either side winning outright would be bad for the game, so it needs to be a compromise that maintains the competitive balances the NFL has established, but also takes care of the players both during and after their careers.

My rough prediction? Games will be missed. 

MN:How much would not having a NFL season hurt the league, players and fans? Would college football then dominate the football world? Would football fans flock to the NHL or MLB instead?

MD: The NHL is still trying to recover from their lost season in 2004, not to say they were as big as the NFL, but the impact of a lost season cannot be understated. As Vince Wilfork said on Tuesday, he might consider retirement if there’s no football in 2011. I’m sure other players might do the same. Players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, the stars of the NFL, would lose one of the last few seasons of their primes, and who knows what kind of effect a full year off would have on the quality of the product on the field.

MN: Finally, assuming that there is a season, which Patriots game on the schedule will be one of those “can’t miss games?”

MD: In week four, Rex Ryan and the New York Jets will return to Foxboro and while the Patriots would never admit to looking past week one, it’s surely a game that is circled in their minds. There’s also the annual Brady-Manning game, as well as a return to the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. These three games will likely be the defining ones of the season.

Follow Mike Dussault on Twitter (@PatsPropaganda

Daily Noontime – September 1, 2010

Happy September 1st everyone! Noontime Sports is kicking off the month with a brand new post that will appear every day, Monday through Friday titled the “Daily Noontime.”

We will compile the most interesting, yet informative sports stories to get you set to have an awesome day! Enjoy and once again, thanks for stopping by Noontime Sports!

HEADLINES:

* 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, Mark Ingram will miss the start of his junior season with the Alabama Roll Tide when they take on San Jose State this weekend.

* Boston Red Sox lose to the Orioles, 5-2 on Tuesday, but if they can’t beat a lousy team, will they be able to make the playoffs then?

* Denver Nuggets All-Star forward Carmello Anthony wants a new contract, but also, is having some fun on Twitter too!

* Cleveland Browns nose tackle, Shaun Rogers was officially fined for carrying a loaded gun into an airport back in April.

* ProFootballTalk.com has reported that three teams are interested in trading for Arizona Cardinals quarterback Matt Leinart.

* The New England Patriots cornerback Leigh Bodden has been placed on the season ending surgery reserved list.

Games to Watch:

*USA vs. Iran (12:00pm eastern) (FIBA)

*Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians (12:05pm eastern) (MLB)

*Boston Red Sox at Baltimore Orioles (7:05pm eastern) (MLB)

*Colorado Rockies at San Francisco (9:15pm eastern) (MLB)

Video of the Day:

With the NFL Season Opener just eight days a way, Noontime Sports thought it would be appropriate to make sure everyone remembers the NBC theme that will be played!