Monday, April 25, 2005

DRAFT DAZE

Another magical weekend concludes with all thirty-two teams marching in lock-step as they tout how satisfied they are with how they improved their team. Well, duh, it is pretty hard to make your team worse on draft day (but give the Jets credit for trying). The next question becomes, did the Patriots improve themselves enough through this draft to continue their dynasty into the future? Of course, since you cannot accurately judge a draft until at least a year or two later, it is hard to see who came out as winners and losers (not like 2003 when the Baltimore Ravens traded a high pick and a future number one to the Patriots, which became Man Mountain Vince Wilfork, for all-time chump quarterback Kyle Boller, I mean, everyone but Baltimore at the time saw that for the supremely stupid move it was).

I will say, however, that I am kicking myself for not realizing that Fresno State is the new LSU. Obviously, Belichick had to find a new pipeline of late round talent from a respected former assistant coach currently in the college ranks. I assumed it would be Iowa, but these chumps who are paid to cover the Patriots should have been able to find out this new pipeline of cheap, multi-purpose draft picks.

All-in-all, it was a highly surprising draft for the Pioli and Belichick as he did, to an extent, what outside observers all agreed they should do: draft help on the offensive line, defensive backfield, and find a linebacker. What I liked best about the picks is that they were all productive college players. When a team tends to reach and draft on skills rather than performance they often get burned (see: Bethel Johnson, a second-round pick who cannot sniff the field as a regular member of the wide receiver rotation). I do not know a lot about these players, nor do I pretend to. But from what I have seen and heard about them, they appear to be, while not big names, players who will fit into the team structure created by Pioli and Belichick.

Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur are both flexible offensive linemen who can play guard or tackle and have started over thirty college games. What I like most about the both of them is that all reports list them as intelligent and a mean streak: two attributes that separate good offensive linemen from the bad. They can work on footwork and skills while adding muscle and bulk like any other lineman, but the ability to learn from the coaches and to be the one who wants to beat the player on the other side every play is what makes great offensive linemen.

Ellis Hobbs and James Sanders, the two defensive backs selected, both share a similar trait: they make plays. Hobbs is noted for his aggressiveness going after the ball while it is in the air in numerous scouting reports, and Sanders is a hard hitter who creates turnovers. Sounds like a perfect fit to slide into the Patriots defensive backfield.

The Patriots took a linebacker in the fifth round with an eye on 2007. Who knows, in 2007 fifth-round pick Ryan Claridge could be starting inside with Dan Klecko. Of course, they could both be working in Home Depot in 2007 as well. This is another reason why it is so hard to predict where a draft choice will end up and if he can make an impact. No one thought Dan Koppen would make Damien Woody expendable, and Guss Scott, not Dexter Reid, was to be the rookie safety opening eyes in the defensive backfield.

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NO CREDIT FROM FELGER:

The Monday sports section in the Boston Herald features Michael Felger and his Patriots Notebook which includes mention of free agent linebacker Chad Brown being a possible target for the Patriots…a full week after I mentioned the same thing when Brown was released by the Seahawks. Not a word of acknowledgement from Felger either. Hah, just kidding. Felger steals his material from legitimate news sources, not little old me.

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J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS:

Can anyone tell me just what the heck Happy Herm and the Jets are doing? They trade their first round pick for TE Doug Jolley Green Giant and a second round pick, then waste that pick on a kicker who likely would be available in the fourth or fifth round. I guess the Jets feel no particular urgency to replace their best defensive player, NT Jason Ferguson. (John Abraham does not count as their best defensive player because he only played in half of their games.)

I understand their kicker missed two field goals against Pittsburg to cost them in the playoffs, but the blame falls to Happy Herm for not trying to get them closer rather than playing afraid and making the kicker take a 40+ yard field goal.

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