Mike Reiss reports draft analyst Todd McShay shared his insight as to some of the “value” areas that could be there for the Patriots in the late first round.
Receiver: “Michael Floyd [of Notre Dame] would be a good fit, a guy who can get down the field and has some size. Kendall Wright [of Baylor] I think also could be a good fit; he’s undersized like some of their other guys, but he has explosive, explosive speed. He can get down the field and provide that big play, vertically, that they’ve been missing. He also can help in the return game should they choose and he’s great after the catch.”
Cornerback: “It will be interesting to see if any of these corners drop. By any of them, I mean Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama. Obviously Bill Belichick has a great relationship with Nick Saban and will have a great feel for Kirkpatrick and whether he fits what they want to do or not. He certainly looks like a corner who would fit what they like in terms of the versatility. He’s not an elite man-to-man cover corner, but very instinctive in zone. The knock on him, outside of the baggage, is that he gets there and bats down a lot of balls and is in position to make tackles after the catch, but doesn’t make a lot of big plays. Janoris Jenkins would be another guy, a Florida guy who was dismissed from the team and played at North Alabama this past season. I think he has very good man-to-man cover skills and certainly can play on the outside for them and I think would upgrade their corner situation.”
Safety: “Mark Barron from Alabama could drop a little bit [hernia]. He won’t be working out at the combine.” Pass rushers: “Chandler Jones, the Syracuse defensive end, I know I’m probably higher on him than most guys. But I do think he has a chance to be a really good player and I love his versatility. I think he would fit New England from that perspective. Andre Branch is another one, out of Clemson – 6-4, 260, could play defensive end but also could drop when they go back and forth in their four-man front and three-man front. There is some depth to this class. Ronnell Lewis is another one, from Oklahoma. They can find a pass rusher should they decide to draft one.”
“I’d say it’s a little boring, but he’ll be back out there soon.
“It’s a challenge. It’s a big challenge but that’s what we want. Going into this game, we want them all to be healthy; we want them all to be at their best. That’s just the type of game we want. It’s going to be a struggle but that’s what the films are for. We’re going to have to do a great job on the film and go out there and play them tough.”
It lets me know these guys listen – through the coaches, through the guys, the veterans who have been around the game for awhile. It’s not like we talk to them every day about certain stuff. No, they get it. They knew how important it was for us to get better as a team and what we needed to do to get better as a team. We made those changes, we made those progresses and we moved forward. Like I said, it’s a special bunch. At the end of the day, it’s going to be a special team. I think everybody in this locker room, they love this game, they love one another, they have the passion. That’s one thing to have a football player not have the passion for what they love and what they do but I can honestly tell you that these guys have every passion, everything that you need in a football player, they have and they love it.
Bill Belichick on “one of his favorite topics – injuries”.
That would actually be number one. If you had to rank them, I’d move that up there as number one.
How would you describe the progress of Rob Gronkowski?
How optimistic are you that Sebastian Vollmer will be able to go?
We’ll see how it goes. He practiced some last week, he wasn’t able to play. We’ll practice this week and we’ll see if he’s ready this week. The [crystal] ball is kind of clouding up, I can’t see it clearly.
VIEW FROM NEW YORK
Mike Reiss reports Patrick Chung “never, never, never” wondered if his season could have been over.
How would you describe the last six games, not being able to join your teammates? “Watching us win, it feels awesome. I wasn’t part of it but we’re winning. We’re a team, not individuals here. I’m not worried about that. We’re winning.”
Have you felt like you’ve been close? “It’s just a day to day process. Keep working. Keep doing whatever I have to do to get better.”
Is talking today a sign that you might play Saturday? “You can think what you want of that [laughing], but I feel good and I’m working hard.”
Did a week off from practice last week really help? “Yeah, any time you get time to make your body heal, it’s going to help, regardless of whether it’s a couple hours, it’s a day or a week. It definitely helped.”
What are your thoughts on the new players in the secondary? “My thoughts are fine. I’m going to tell you the same thing every week. We’re in the same room, learning the same things. So there is no excuse of ‘I don’t know this’ or ‘I didn’t get that.’ We’re in the same room. I have confidence in anybody that’s playing.”
Thoughts on Matthew Slater and Julian Edelman playing defense? “Slater has been our honorary D boy. He’s been a defensive back. Then Julian … I really wasn’t worried about those guys. I talked to Julian and said ‘I have some faith in you, man.’ He’s been making plays.”
Mike Reiss notes new Patriots safety Vincent Fuller hopes to seize his chance in New England.
So how does Fuller turn the switch to being a contributor after missing most of the year? “It’s being a professional,” he said. “I was at home working out and preparaing as if I would be able to play in the next couple of weeks. Being a professional, hopefully that allows me to come in and help.”
“The coaches have been very helpful, the players have been very helpful and hopefully I get it,” he said, adding that he’ll continue that process over the next two days with film study and more meetings.”
His impressions of the organization? “That they win,” he answered. “That’s basically the bottom line. I’ve always had a lot of admiration and respect for Coach Belichick and the staff and the way they run their program. Just coming in here and hopefully getting the opportunity to help is something I look forward to doing.”
VIEW FROM MIAMI
“He’s a special guy,’’ said Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. “A guy like Reggie can do a lot of different things. He can catch the ball out of the backfield, he can run the ball, he can play on punt return, he can return the ball, so there’s many things he can do on the field that can hurt you, so you’ve just got to make sure you don’t let him do those things.’’
“I think our run defense, really the last two weeks, is really been something we’ve struggled with,’’ Ninkovich said. “We need to get back to the things that we were doing well early and midseason, doing a good job against the run.’’
Rob Gronkowski talks about how different the Dolphins are compared to Week 1.
The big difference is that first I think that they went 0-8 and now they’re on fire. They are just winning a lot of games now, they’re in every game, their offense is looking good, their defense is looking smooth. Definitely a team that’s just looking to knock someone off, looking to give [us] a loss, so we’ve got to go out and we have to be prepared because we know they’re coming hard.
They’re doing what they do. They’re playing their defense, we’re studying up obviously on it and everything, trying to learn what they’ve changed and everything, but they got the same players and they’re all good players and they all play hard. We know that they’re going to be especially playing hard this week again and trying to get the ‘W,’ so we’ve got to be out there. We’ve got to be ready because we know their defense is going to be coming.
VIEW FROM MIAMI
“It’s really hard on you,” the Patriots safety said, “but you’re not saying, ‘I can’t do it.’ We make it through it. The more you do it, the easier it gets to make it through an uncomfortable situation.”
“Jarrad is the nicest guy in the world, but when practice starts, he’s really starting to find that other person,” said [trainer Jay] Glazer, who doubles as an NFL reporter for Fox Sports. “We find their breaking point and push them past it. Jarrad Page is a beast now.”
“You can never show your opponent you’re hurting,” Page said, “even when they’re killing us.”
“We work on arm drags, and on the football field, if someone is putting their hands on you, you can use your fist to get it off,” Page said. “If you pound on a guy’s arm throughout the game, he’s not going to want to stick it out there.”
“It’s about being explosive. It’s a lot of stuff you can relate to the field. It teaches you body control, helps put body parts exactly where you want to put them. Football is a violent sport. There’s no better training.”
Much of the focus is mental, with breaking your opponent’s will and thriving in the fourth quarter as goals. How far has Page come? Glazer puts his charges through a crushing three-minute drill to try to break them, one that includes constant 30-second reps. Half of the athletes don’t last three minutes.
“Jarrad did eight minutes the other day,” Glazer said. “He didn’t show any sign of slowing down. Jarrad Page thought he knew what he was capable of. You ought to see him now.”
Tom E. Curran reports a bit more about the Patriots players’ under-cover-off-season workouts under the guidance of trainer Brian McDonough in Foxboro.
“We’re covering all the bases from a strength and conditioning standpoint,” McDonough said. “We have a turf field, a 40-yard sandpit, everything under the sun for strength, a network of people around me providing yoga, physical therapy, pool work, massage, everything I need.”
“It’s a pretty big shift in what they’re used to,” he explained. “Paying for health insurance, paying for someone to train you as opposed to having someone pay you to work out. Their mindset seems to be, ‘Let’s control what is in front of us, what we can control. We’ll be in the best shape possible and let everything fall as it will.”
”[Jerod Mayo is] one of the most pure leaders and respected people I’ve seen. Ever,” McDonough said. “He’s constantly communicating with them, holding everyone accountable. They all do, really. This group has a great dynamic.”
Christopher Price notes Gary Guyton’s reaction to Jerod Mayo making the NFL Network’s Top 100 list:
“The only thing I know is that Jerod’s a great player. To me, he’s the No. 1 player in my eyes,” Guyton said of Mayo. “He does great things. He’s a student of the game. I wish and I pray nothing but the best for him. He’s a good player and a good guy and a good person.”
Christopher Price profiles ‘throwback’ TE Lee Smith, taken in the fifth round of the draft.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick referred to him as an “outstanding blocker.” Phil Ratliff, Smith’s position coach at Marshall, added to that on Thursday, calling him a “throwback” who was “far and away the most respected player on the team because of how hard he practices and how hard he plays.”
Ratliff knows something about the sort of player that appeals to the Patriots — while as a player at Marshall, he was a college teammate of eventual New England football legend Troy Brown. “Lee is the kind of player the Patriots draft — a quality person who takes to system and does whatever it takes to succeed,” Ratliff said. “New England is getting another leader — he’s a natural-born leader.”
”A lot of people don’t realize he had a good tight end that played in front of him — this past year was the first year he really had a chance to thrive in the passing game,” Ratliff said. “At 6-foot-6 and 260 pounds, so a lot of people don’t realize how good he in the passing game. When you think of Lee Smith, you think of a big, pounding blocker. That’s what he is, but he has capability in the vertical passing game. He’s got soft hands and a knack for getting open — and he will get better.”
“All I can tell you is this — people can all the negative things they want about him, but Lee, when he came to us, he was a guy who was a leader,” Ratliff said. “He was a guy who got it. It was unbelievable. When he got into our system, he got structure, and just took off from there. “What happened in the past is in the past. He’s gone beyond that. He’s the most mature guy I have ever coached. He has a family and kids — all that stuff is in the past. It’s so irrelevant to what he is now. It really is.”
“I will tell you one thing — they have a very impressive tight end group,” Ratliff said of New England. “[But] there’s no challenge for him that’s too big. He won’t back down. Those guys are all really good players, but whatever is asked of Lee, he’ll roll with it. He’ll do whatever he needs to do, and take care of business. That’s just how he is.”
Ryan Osborne (TCU Daily Skiff) Patriots 7th-round draft pick Malcolm Williams is packing his bags for the NFL after unlikely football journey.
“I’m living in a dream right now,” said Williams, who was drafted by the New England Patriots with the 219th overall pick in the seventh round of the NFL Draft Saturday afternoon. “It’s the best thing that can happen to me.”
Williams offered a simple, timeless phrase to sum up his journey from airport bag collector to NFL draftee.
“Hard work pays off,” Williams said. “That’s all you can really say.”
Mike Rodak recaps the Patriots’ nine selections in this year’s draft.
* Round 1, 17th overall — OT Nate Solder (Colorado)
* Round 2, 33rd overall — CB Ras-I Dowling (Virginia)
* Round 2, 56th overall — RB Shane Vereen (California)
* Round 3, 73rd overall — RB Stevan Ridley (LSU)
* Round 3, 74th overall — QB Ryan Mallett (Arkansas)
* Round 5, 138th overall — OL Marcus Cannon (TCU)
* Round 5, 159th overall — TE Lee Smith (Marshall)
* Round 6, 194th overall — OLB/DE Markell Carter (Central Arkansas)
* Round 7, 219th overall — CB/S/ST Malcolm Williams (TCU)
Bill Belichick addresses the media following the final day of the Draft.
We’ve got another one in the books here. We started off the day kind of waiting through that fourth round. When Marcus Cannon was on the board there in the fifth, we felt like that was a good value for that pick. He’s a very highly-rated player and obviously we felt comfortable enough to take him at that point, so that was that. Lee Smith was an outstanding blocker at Marshall. Actually, I crossed paths with his father when I was at Cleveland the first season there. We finished up with Markell [Carter] who has had a very productive career at a smaller school. And then of course, Malcolm [Williams], a fast, physical back that has been very productive in the kicking game. That’s where we’re at. Now we’re kind of in a different mode for right now. We’ll see how all that works out. This is one step in the team building process. I’m sure there will be others to come, but maybe not for a while. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Bill Belichick addresses the media during his Draft press conference at Gillette Stadium on Friday.
It’s a day of preparation all the way through just trying to go through the second and third round and take a look at the players and the teams and so forth, putting it all together. We had a number of conversations prior to the draft. We really felt like Ras-I Dowling was a good pick for us there. Big corner, good tackler, been in a good program there in Virginia with coach [Al] Groh and Mike London this past year. [He's] a guy that’s played in a system pretty similar to what we’ve run. Very impressive kid.
Then we had a little movement down there, took [Shane] Vereen and then traded back and ended up taking [Stevan] Ridley and [Ryan] Mallet. It seemed like there was some conversation on just about every pick. I can’t really remember what all of it was, but again, in the end, we just felt like moving back and picking up the extra pick would enable us to make the Oakland trade, which was kind of ongoing. That’s something that we’ve been talking about here for a little while with them that finally got consummated.
Coming out of the draft with the five players that we have – a lineman and three skilled players on offense and a corner on defense – and a couple of high picks next year, I feel like we had a pretty decent couple days. And then we’ll just go back tonight and try to take a look at what’s left on the board and what we have left in the way of picks and keep plugging away and try to find players that can contribute or maybe we think develop on the football team. Still got a long way to go here, but this is where we are for right now.
Cold Hard Football Facts (SI) Draft Analysis: Round 2.
No. 33: CB Ras-I Dowling (Virginia) The Patriots nailed their pick of CB Devin McCourty last year, but struggled to find someone to play opposite him. Dowling, a physical talent with 4.4 speed, could fill that void, and go a long way toward giving New England the elite pass defense it enjoyed in its Super Bowl-winning glory days. The downside? Dowling suffered numerous injuries last year at Virginia.
No. 56: RB Shane Vereen (California) A smallish runner but one with the great pass-catching skills (74 career receptions) so coveted by a Patriots organization that values versatility overall. In that effort to get a dual threat, they may have reached for Vereen — most observers had the junior projected as a third- or fourth-round pick.
Clifton Brown (Sporting News) grades the Patriots: A+
No pass rusher, but a slew of talented players led by Nate Solder, Ras-I Dowling, Shane Vereen and Ryan Mallett. Plus they have two picks next year in both the first and second rounds.
Another predictably unpredictable Patriots draft. They took players other teams were afraid to: Ryan Mallett fell to round three because of off-field concerns, while Marcus Cannon fell to round five because of a non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma diagnosis. Both were arguably first-round talents. A pair of mid-round running backs (Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley) should help right away, but passing on front seven help was curious. Nate Solder was perhaps the most talented tackle in this class and could replace Matt Light immediately. Line coach Dante Scarnecchia will know what to do with Solder. Oh, and by the way: The Patriots picked up an extra first- and second-round pick in next year’s draft.
Nate Davis (USA Today) Patriots are winners in the 2011 Draft.
Yet again they worked the board to their advantage and already have two first-rounders and two second-rounders for the 2012 draft … potentially even more advantageous if the expected rookie wage scale doesn’t go into effect for another year. For 2011, they come away with Nate Solder, likely QB Tom Brady‘s new blindside bodyguard; a deeper talent pool in their offensive and defensive backfields; and two value picks — QB Ryan Mallett (third round) and OL Marcus Cannon (fifth round) — potential Round 1 choices who plummeted due to perceived off-field concerns in Mallett’s case and medical ones for Cannon. Assuming Mallett never displaces fairly young Brady (34 this season), he could be a valuable trading chip in future years while Cannon, if healthy, could earn a spot on a line in transition.
Andrew Perloff (SI) The Patriots are one of the teams that still have holes to fill following the draft.
The Patriots didn’t have a player with more than 5.5 sacks last season and struggled to get teams off the field on third down. But even though they entered the draft with six picks in the first three rounds and this was supposed to be one of the best defensive end drafts ever, they didn’t take any pass rushers in the early rounds. Now they’ll have to find someone who can get after the quarterback in free agency.
Adam Caplan (Fox Sports) New England Patriots are losers after the Draft.
The Patriots had a major need for pass rushers, but Bill Belichick ignored the outside linebacker position. They could have selected outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, but chose to go with a cornerback instead in the second round. The Patriots were already in decent shape at cornerback, but all the good cover guys in the world won’t matter if you can’t consistently get to the quarterback.