Tuesday, May 01, 2007

DRAFT? WE DON’T NEED NO STINKING DRAFT!

On Saturday and Sunday the New England Patriots once again showed that whatever you anticipate them doing, they will toss a curveball into the mix and confound the analysts. The first surprise was the drafting of Brandon Merriweather on Saturday, which is not too much of a surprise considering he fell to the Patriots at number 24 in numerous mock drafts. Merriweather is a hard-hitter from Miami in the mold of Eugene Wilson: he can run, hit, wrap-up and cover a receiver in the slot. What fired-up the local yahoos was the fact that he had a few incidents on his record.

First, while leaving his off-campus apartment, his roommate was shot in the rump by an unknown assailant (likely looking for the sweet electronics found in the rooms of college kids). With the licensed handgun he was carrying, Merriweather shot three times at the assailant. People cleared his as he acted in self-defense and the weapon was registered. Umm, what is the issue? Sounds to me like he watches the back of those close to him. Loyalty, the kind of trait the Patriots look for, no? Second, the reprehensible brawl last year between the U and Florida International. I have no defense for Merriweather here. It was stupid. But to hold the brawl against him is to hold it against the entire football team at the U, and considering the pipeline of talent in Miami, a coach or GM would be ignorant to cross off a whole school with that kind of talent.

The second move was the trade on Sunday of their fourth round pick to Oakland for Randy Moss. Now, I have never been a fan of Moss. I cannot stand players who waste their God-given talents by being immature, sullen, and non-productive on purpose. But when a player gives back $7 million dollars to come to play in New England, it is a damn good sign that just maybe this jawhead is growing-up a little. One thing I would say is in the Patriots favor is that it will not cost much to unload Moss if he is a mistake. Bill Belichick may be many things, but he does not tolerate fools well. Jonathan Sullivan did not fit, and he was gone. Ditto for FOM (friend of Moss) Doug Gabriel last season. The Patriots need impact at wide receiver. They need home run threats. More importantly, the need that ONE player who WANTS the ball. Moss has been accused of much, and has been guilty of a number of transgressions on the football field, but he has never complained about getting too many passes thrown his way. If Randy Moss can shut-up and put-up, and is one-half the player he was in Minnesota, the Patriot s got a steal. If not, no big loss.

Randy Moss always wants the ball, and so does Donte Stallworth and Wes Welker to a lesser extent. The Patriots needed that undisputed number one receiver who absolutely has to have the ball in the clutch. That was a main reason they lost to the Colts last year in the AFC Championship. Do not misinterpret this as a knock at Reche Caldwell and Jabar Gaffney who played over their heads in the playoffs, but the Patriots needed that one receiver who could always get separation and pick up that first down or touchdown. Why was Brady throwing to Troy Brown on fourth down? Because there was no one else he could trust in that situation: there was no number one receiver who could go up and get it no matter what (and no, Deion Branch and David Givens were never really that guy).

That said, Merriweather and Moss make a decent first day of the draft. To be brutally honest, the Patriots do not need ten or twelve draft picks, they only really need four or five guys brought in to inject some youth and push at a few positions. I am convinced the Patriots will continue bringing in veteran linebackers and receivers. It would be a rare talent to go early to New England at either of those positions. So far, though, this has to be the most impressive off-season for the stock-piling of talent by the Patriots. They should be done, but I expect the post June 1 waiver wire will bring in a veteran linebacker to play inside (if not the return of Junior Seau).

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