Patriots Preseason Thoughts Heading Into Game Three

Some thoughts on the local footballers as we prep for the third game of the 2015 preseason – often referred to as the “full scrimmage” of the four-game summer slate. So far, the Patriots have lost to Green Bay and beaten New Orleans, all of which means next to nothing. In terms of individual performances and positions, though, their upcoming scrimmage at Carolina could provide some answers.

Speaking of which…

No Wright Answer: When New England waived tight end Tim Wright in June, a few local pundits scratched their heads. (We agreed with’s Mike Reiss calling it “a mildly surprising move.”) Wright had solid, if unspectacular, production for the Patriots last year with 26 receptions, making his mark in the red zone with six touchdowns. It seems that the higher-ups at Foxboro figured they could do better. Of course, when you’re starting out with over 13 feet and a  quarter ton of tight end between Scott Chandler and Rob Gronkowski, maybe there’s some leeway for the “move” TE.

We certainly liked the potential of rookie A. J. Derby (you can read our draft review here), but with him on injured reserve, the outlook becomes less shiny. The team traded for Asante Cleveland, who got tossed around vs. the Saints like a stuffed animal at a play date. The Pats used him mostly as a blocker, but after watching that game, I wondered if Cleveland could block a one-man play about FDR.

Could they consider Jimmay Mundine? Maybe. He’s smaller (actually listed as a fullback on and quicker than Cleveland. He also had experience in Kansas under former Patriots offensive coordinator Charlie Weis. Plus, it’s always fun to say Jimmmaaaaaaayy. Or, they could eschew the “move” TE role and look for a bigger receiver instead. Still curious as to why they let Wright go so early.

Dealing With A Sense Of Shane-lessness: Last year, Shane Vereen caught 52 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns. While no one running back might replace those numbers, the Pats did well to draft James White, who has looked the part in two preseason tilts with five reception for 72 yards. Dion Lewis got into the act last Saturday, catching five balls for 36 yards and one rushing TD. Veteran Travaris Cadet has gotten back on the field and may have a chance to show what the team’s been missing for the past few weeks. Though seemingly not as efficient a blocker as the other two, Cadet has gotten positive reviews for his receiving skills.

In any case, it seems that letting Vereen go to the Giants (where he will absolutely thrive, by the way) won’t hurt the Patriots all that much. At least until he lights them up in the Super Bowl. God damnit.

Boyce Will Be Boyce: Oh, poor Josh Boyce. So athletic. Such a standout practice player. Just can’t seem to get it together on the field. With myriad injuries to New England’s receiver crew, Boyce had a chance to take over this summer and rule the preseason. Instead, the past two games have showcased names like Chris Harper (12 receptions, 117 yards) and Jonathan Krause (nine for 75). Brandon Gibson looked sharp (12 for 97), but his season-ending knee injury – plus the fact that Brian Tyms got put on IR – would seem to open up Boyce to even greater opportunities as a fourth or fifth receiver.

Except for one thing…

Blame It On The Wayne: Now, the Pats have brought in Reggie Wayne, for more than just swapping age-appropriate stories with Tom Brady, we assume. Friday night could provide a window into New England’s intentions for Wayne, be they as a short-yardage pass-catcher, third-down conversion specialist, red zone target, or all of the above. Fun to find out how much Wayne has left in the ol’ Batmobile.

Yeah. Boyce. Maybe they’re saving him for something, but if I were his friend, I’d keep him away from any Magic 8-Balls: “Outlook Not So Good.”

Interior Motives: The preseason starting offensive line, which – if there is a God and He is just – will NOT make up the starting front in September, has provided some ups and downs for the offense. Undrafted rookie David Andrews has spent many snaps at center in Bryan Stork’s absence, showing solid potential if not current readiness. The rookie guard set of Shaq Mason and Tré Jackson has provided some spotty support with more room for improvement than an abandoned warehouse. Veteran Ryan Wendell reportedly got back on the practice field Tuesday, which should provide some much-needed stability.

In any case, interesting to see what Bill Belichick goes with for his starting line on Friday night.

Uncon-Vinced: Oh, Vince Wilfork. We miss you every time you show up on “Hard Knocks.” Talking your talk, dispensing advice, always seeming to have a good time. After watching Vince, by comparison, J. J. Watt seems like a total stiff. While Wilfork emits sincerity and couldn’t care less about having the cameras around (filing rough patches on his feet, squishing his shoes so that sweat bubbles up out of the tongues), Watt seems super conscious of people seeing and hearing him. (Drew Magary touched on this in his “Why Your Team Sucks,” 2015 Houston edition.)

Anyway, New England went with youth, so watch the kiddoes on their D-line. Dominique Easley and Malcom Brown both come up several cookouts shy of Wilfork’s weight (at 285, Easley’s missing about half a cow), but each has shown some strengths so far this preseason. After suffering a knee injury last year, Easley appears to have gotten back some of his trademark quickness, while Brown has demonstrated occasional field savvy that has helped him break up plays. See if they can show improvement on Friday.

I Was Ryan When I Met You, Now I’m Tryin’ To Forget You: You know, Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner signed elsewhere this off-season.

Hey, who’s dead horse is this? And why are we hitting it with axe handles?

We won’t spend too much time on this (maybe we’re already past “too much”), but beyond Malcolm “Go” Butler, the tryouts for starting defensive backs have seemed a bit hit or miss. Logan Ryan has been talked up as a potential starter opposite Butler, and his output has proved about as consistent as a drunk bartender’s Long Island Iced Teas. On one play he’ll reach in and knock away a third-down pass. On the next series, he’ll get burned for two consecutive first downs.

As the Patriots go with something close to game conditions for their third preseason game, let’s see if Ryan can mix it up with receivers and make things flow smoothly. Because, you know, their defensive backfield personnel is different this year. *sigh*

A Means To An Ends: Once again, rookies. Trey Flowers might be back from injury after a solid first game vs. Green Bay. Geneo Grissom has been moved around more than that Patrick Nagel print you’ve had since college. Xzavier Dickson has ended up at the right places when he’s gotten to play. Considering New England already has a starting rotation of Rob Ninkovich, Chandler Jones, and Jabaal Sheard to platoon (or not?), these rookies will have a tough road to playing time. It starts now, and the more they can do, the more flexibility this defense will have.

And Coach Belichick likes his defense more flexible than the numbers from an Exponent report.

Wait, how did we end up here?

A Final Note On Deflated Footballs (Not Likely): One question amidst all the hullaballoo. How does this make football better? In our July column on getting rid of the PSI rule (called “That Song By Queen And David Bowie”), we pointed out the merits of leaving a football’s air pressure up to the ref’s discretion before and during a game. As this insanity continues, we still wonder how it helps to take measures (pun intended) to ensure proper air pressure. No one has ever cared about this. No one should ever care about this.

In 2006, Brady and Peyton Manning lobbied for QBs to be able to bring their own doctored footballs to away games. In the following years, both Brady and Manning have broken NFL records for passing touchdowns. Remind me how this is a bad thing?

Oh, it’s not? Right.

Ditch the rule, dump the silliness. Now let’s play football.

Chris Warner can be emailed at or tweeted at @cwarn89

The Flat Balls Society

By Dan Snapp

Peter King in successive weeks:

July 13th:

“My best guess: Officials will chart the weights of all footballs before the game, then spot-check some at halftime and after the game.”

July 20th:

“Basically, depending on which physics expert you believe, it’s either a stretch to think the Patriots’ footballs deflated as much as they did by halftime of the game against Indy Jan. 18, or a perfectly normal occurrence.”

July 27th:

“When footballs are pressure-gauged before games, they will still have to measure between 12.5 pounds per square inch and 13.5 psi. If they do not, the officials will be instructed to put the air in the football at 13.0 psi. So if one team is trying to get an edge by having the pressure right on the border near 12.5 or right on the border near 13.5, and it’s either under or over by a tenth of a pound, it will backfire. In the past, maybe a crew would measure and say, “Close enough.” Now, that crew will have to put the psi at the halfway point between high and low, exactly 13.0. In other words, it’s a decision soft-ball lovers or hard-ball lovers really won’t like.”

This is, if not the pre-eminent NFL writer today, then the most ubiquitous. He’s the bad penny showing up everywhere, regurgitating bad science. He still thinks they’ll be charting the weight of the balls? He still thinks the physics is a coin toss? He still thinks a couple tenths of a pound per square inch is motive enough for teams to try to sneak something past the officials?

I get it, not everybody can accept science on faith alone. They need proof. So perhaps if King wakes up to find the Logo Gauge AND the Non-Logo Gauge under his tree this year, maybe then he can truly BELIEVE. Yes, Peter, there IS an Ideal Gas Law!

King has been dutifully floating Roger Goodell’s help-me-find-a-way-out-of-this-shit trial balloons the past few weeks, gauging* public response to a host of Tom Brady fates. How does two games sound? One game? No? How about forestalling Brady’s punishment for a year while we study the science just a little bit longer? Then can Roger keep his job?

* And recording? Probably. The league’s pretty diligent when it comes to Rog’s Q-rating.

Following up on one of King’s “hunches”, the league announced plans to update football inspection. They won’t “chart the weights” of the balls, sadly, but pregame they will be numbering the balls, they’ll be gauging and recording the PSI of each respective ball, they’ll “spot check” during “designated games” (i.e. “Patriots games”), and there will be a dedicated chain of custody, with the Kicking Ball Coordinator escorting the balls to the field under the watchful eyes of both an official AND league security. Go ahead and try to crack THAT nut, Dorito Dink!

This is all well and good, and does at least provide a level of standardization that might have aided the Patriots back in January when this whole ridiculous episode commenced. And the spot check measurements – assuming the league is gracious enough to share them this time – could also serve to vindicate the Patriots.

But look at some of the other details of their announcement:

Each team will be required to supply 24 footballs to the officials’ locker room – 12 primary and 12 backup – 2 hours and 15 minutes prior to the game.

At designated games, selected at random, the game balls used in the first half, will be collected by the kicking ball coordinator (KBC) at halftime and the league’s security representative will escort the KBC to the locker room.

Also, at the end of any randomly selected game, the KBC will return the footballs to the officials’ locker room, where all game balls from each team will be inspected and the results will be recorded.

Do you see the problem? Every single time they measure the balls, it’s still going to be in the climate-controlled atmosphere of the officials’ locker room. And there’s no mention in the article of recording the temperatures of the locker rooms and out on the field, the climate conditions, or the respective times each football gets measured.

They still don’t understand the science!

What’s the point of all this trouble, effort, time and procedure if they’re still going to be introducing balls that won’t be at regulation within minutes at any game where on-field temperatures are 10 degrees colder or hotter than in the officials’ locker room?**

** Assuming an officials’ locker room temp of 71 degrees, and a ball set at 13.0 PSI with no other variables out of spec.

It sure will be comforting to know,  say during December home games in New England, Buffalo, Green Bay and Minnesota, we can be assured those footballs will be at regulation up until kickoff. But hey, at least now we’ll be dead certain nobody will be tampering with already under-inflated footballs. Integrity! Shield! Nobody touch a slice ‘til Rog does!

Do they not yet realize how many games in league history have been played with balls that weren’t within their silly arbitrary PSI parameters? Not just iconic games like the Ice Bowl or the Freezer Bowl, or even the Patriots/Ravens divisional game this past season (when game-time temp was 22 degrees), but multitudes of games throughout the decades.

And the same goes for those early September games played in the sweltering heat in say Miami. If the balls were checked inside, they most likely were over regulation within minutes on the field. That’s just science.

The truth is the NFL cares not one iota about getting it right, and certainly doesn’t care about vindicating the Patriots. They do care, however, about trying to look good. And adding more arbitrary regulations to an already arbitrary standard makes it look – at least to the general populace – like they’re doing something productive. Before you look a little deeper, of course.

What should they do? Logically, they could do the preliminary ball-checks on the field. At least then there’s some consistency between the environment where the ball is measured and the environment in which they play. But that still doesn’t assure anything because, well, weather isn’t a constant.

What they really should do is go back to not giving a damn about ball pressure, like they did the 70 some-odd years since they first set the standard. They should just return to that blissful ignorance that served them so well for so long, before Ryan Grigson and Mike Kensil got their panties in a bunch.

The NFL has to worry about two audiences alone: the 32 owners whom it enriches; and the nation of flat-earthers eager to sop up any story that incriminates the team they hate. Neither group cares a whit about science.

This is why you never hear tales of Roger Goodell going on a cruise: Sure, sure, they all say the Earth is round, but why take the chance? But we could always sail Ted around the world a dozen times, just to be sure.

That Song By Queen And David Bowie

Come on. You know what song I’m talking about.

As Roger Goodell and his NFL ilk try to figure out the ruling on Tom Brady’s appeal with the smallest amount of P.R. damage, it’s time to bring up the one aspect of this foolishness that hasn’t been called into question:

The NFL has to ditch the football inflation rule.

Listen, they can do whatever they want with the Brady appeal. They can present it to the masses like a commandment to be followed or make it into a paper boat and perform a mini Viking funeral. The rule, as it were, exists. If the NFL is willing to stick with the questionable figures of the Wells report and ignore the lessons of any ninth grade intro to physical science class, so be it. “More likely than not,” “generally aware,” etc.

But, moving forward, it’s time to get rid of – or at least greatly expand – the ball inflation parameters. A brief look at the task of enforcing this rule – which, as far as we can tell, had never been strictly enforced – tells us the reasons why.

Every football must have air pressure between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch (psi). The Wells report revealed the nonchalant nature in which these measurements take place, with officials using differently calibrated gauges while neglecting to write down measurements or numerate the footballs themselves.

All footballs must be numbered. All measurements must be recorded. All gauges must be calibrated. Sounds like we might need another official to take care of these matters.

The NFL must hire a Head of Football Pressure. He then must hire two PSI officials for every game, one for each team’s footballs (this will give each official necessary time to take halftime measurements).

Now, about that pesky science: we know that a football’s pressure in Miami at the season opener will have a different halftime reading than a football in Green Bay during Week 17. We need a physics-trained football official (PTF), one who can take game time outdoor temperature, humidity and/or dampness of each ball, time of possession (to figure time of exposure for each football), halftime indoor temperature, and – while the aforementioned PSI official takes measurements – come up with a “real” pressure loss or gain for each individual ball.

Keep in mind, the Wells Report took almost four months. But, if we can’t get a couple of people to figure this all out in 20 minutes, let’s just expand halftime another five or ten minutes and bring in another handful of officials to get it done. How about a PSI and PTF official for each football? Nothing like a few dozen extra guys milling about in a designated Ball Science room.

I mean, if they’re taking this seriously, can they stop at halftime? Don’t they have to repeat the process at the end of each game, for integrity and all that?

Yeah. Time to get rid of that rule.

Before this past January, very few people knew or concerned themselves with the specifics of football psi. Referees judged a football’s game worthiness by giving it a squeeze. Sometimes they’d pump it up themselves, sometimes with shaky results. Now, what if equipment managers could get the psi that their QBs wanted? What if they let the refs grip them before the game – right there on the sideline – and be done with it?

Ball seems too flat or overinflated? The officials say so and ask for a few pumps of air put in or taken out of the ball. During the game, if the ref finds a ball lacking, he tosses it back in and asks for another. It’s hard to see many difficulties with leaving the pressure up to the refs’ discretion. We already do that with the most important aspect of the game: spotting the ball.

Think about it: how closely can a human being determine the position of a football several feet away while it’s gripped by a runner getting knocked around by large men? If the official is off by one inch per play – which seems remarkably efficient – then by fourth and inches, maybe every one of those inches has already been accounted for. Maybe, in Perfectworld, it’s already first down.

That’s the game, though. We live with those potential inaccuracies because putting GPS locator devices in each ball and having a digital readout for each play would prove too costly and time-consuming. Kind of like hiring hundreds of new officials and building a science lab in every NFL stadium.

Some teams might try to take advantage of this non-rule by inflating footballs to under 11 pounds, making them easy to grab in harsh weather conditions. Again, officials’ discretion: if they feel a football is too soft, get another one. If they feel that the team in question continues to provide soft footballs, give a warning, then hit them with a delay-of-game penalty.

The NFL in general (and Goodell in particular) turned a silly rule infraction (that science has told us may not have occurred) into talk show fodder where the outrage seemed inversely proportional to actual football knowledge. That an improbable breaking of an oft-ignored rule became “-gate”-worthy is on them.

Getting rid of that rule would take off the pressure of trying to enforce it. But I don’t expect they will. If this fiasco has taught us anything, it’s that the NFL doesn’t really understand pressure.

Chris Warner tweets @cwarn89

Who’s The FA? UDFA! (2015 Edition)

A gander at last year’s column here, with notable mentions of linebacker James Morris and a certain West Alabama cornerback who may or may not have made one of the biggest plays in Patriots history. (Go on. Go ahead: Watch it again. We’ll wait.)

Lots of info out floating around out there regarding UDFAs. We tend to stick with for all our NFL undrafted rookie signing needs. Below is a rundown of fresh free agents the Patriots called to Gillette. Plus: high school fun facts!

Georgia On My Line: After picking up two guards in the fourth round (Tre Jackson and Shaq Mason), New England continued to add to the interior offensive line with center David Andrews from Georgia.

Why undrafted: At 6-2, 295 pounds, Andrews resides on the smaller side of offensive lineman. This was also a solid drafting year for guards and centers, taking on-the-bubble players like Andrews out of the action.

Why invited: He has three years of experience as a starter. Makes up a bit for his relatively diminutive stature with speed (5.12-second 40) and strength (27 bench reps). Showed consistency, playing in 50 games in his Georgia career. From a positive Pats perspective, he was given the Frank Sinkwich Toughest Player Award (named after Georgia’s 1942 Heisman winner). Also voted the Bulldogs’ “overall permanent captain.” Somewhere Bill Belichick let out a happy sigh.

High School Fun Fact: At Wesleyan High in Johns Creek, Georgia, Andrews was named the 2010 Gwinnett County Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Come On, Quarterbacks Can’t Play Receiver: Former Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner (6-3, 218) tries to follow in the footsteps of another QB-to-WR convert currently working in the Foxboro area.

Why undrafted: Julian Edelman notwithstanding, the aforementioned conversion fails more often than not. As a QB in 2014, Gardner threw for 10 TDs and 15 INTs. At his pro day, he ran a 4.65-second 40, which put him on the slow end of receivers. His 9-foot, 9-inch broad jump was less than explosive.

Why invited: The Pats aren’t exactly overstocked with larger pass-catchers, and Gardner did haul in 16 passes as a junior. He showed guts with his 2013 performance  vs. rival Ohio State (passed for 451 yards and four TDs). Also put up some solid pro day numbers beyond the 40 (Beyond The 40, by the way, should be the title of the book on New England’s draft strategy). He had 15 bench reps and a 6.96-second 3-cone drill.

High School Fun Fact: Gardner was teammates with former Wolverine and current Patriot linebacker Cameron Gordon at Detroit’s Inkster High.

Wait – Is That Pronounced “Hopper”? Well, now it is, sort of. Cal-Berkeley pass-catcher Chris Harper (5-11, 182) gets a shot with the Patriots, looking to add depth as a slot receiver.

Why undrafted: During this draft, teams had their pick of solid wide receivers (Draft. Pick. Get it?), especially those in the slot role. Even as a smaller player, Harper’s weight (or lack of it) could concern some teams. While he has decent stats (see below), nothing there stands out. A down year for 5-7 Cal, with no players drafted.

Why invited: Harper caught 52 passes for the Golden Bears in 2014 (second-highest on the team) for 634 yards (12.2 avg) and six touchdowns. He also served as their main punt returner (7.7 avg). He has decent speed (a 4.52 40 at his pro day), and quickness (a reported 7.03 3-cone drill). Also – and most importantly – he made this rather Gronkesque catch vs. UCLA last October.

High School Fun Fact: As a senior, Harper led the Serra League in receiving at Crespi Carmelite High. He also played cornerback and was ranked as the 12th-best corner in Southern California.

Come Back to the Nickel and Dime, Jimmy Jean, Jimmy Jean: Free safety Jimmy Jean out of Alabama-Birmingham adds some height to the defensive backfield at 6-2, 202 pounds.

Why undrafted: The NFL seems to overlook Conference USA a bit. More importantly, Jean had an unimpressive showing at his pro day, with a meh 40 (4.58), blah 3-cone (7.34) and yeesh bench press (seven reps).

Why invited: Jean did some of everything for the Blazers, compiling 42 tackles, one interception, six pass breakups, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries. He’s also got the height New England could be seeking this season.

High School/Junior College Fun Fact: After attending Blanche Ely High in Pompano Beach, Florida, Jean played two years at Arkansas Baptist Junior College, where he earned their Little Rock Touchdown Club 2012 College Player of the Year Award.

You Come At The King, You Best Not Miss: New England went after – and got – another bigger defensive back, strong safety Brandon King (6-2, 217) out of Auburn.

Why undrafted: Though he went into Auburn as a safety, ranked as one of the top junior college DBs in the country, it seems that King got moved around on defense for the Tigers. Didn’t compile many stats there. Ended up with just 12 tackles on the season last year.

Why invited: Took one for the team in 2014, as he was asked to take on a pass-rushing role (had two QB hits). Tested very well at his pro day, with a 4.49-second 40, a 10-foot-6 broad jump, and 19 bench press reps. Has similar size to draft pick Matthew Wells, which makes us think that Belichick is up to something with these safety/linebacker hybrid types.

High School Fun Fact: As a senior at Thompson High in Alabaster, Alabama, King racked up 116 tackles, including 21 tackles for loss.

While We’re Young: Looks like Shane Young out of Sam Houston State will try to get a chair at the increasingly crowded tight end table this summer.

Why undrafted: Not anything in particular. As in, not particularly fast (4.90 40), nor particularly quick (7.45 3-cone), nor particularly explosive (31.5-inch vertical). Young (6-3, 250) only played in three games last year, catching four passes. Sam Houston State runs in the Southland Conference, which is part of a lower division (FCS).

Why invited: Caught 11 passes for 151 yards and two TDs as a junior. Went to the FCS National Championship with the Bearkats that year. Can play H-back and fullback.

High School Fun Fact: A captain at Lago Vista (California) High, Young was named the offensive line MVP. He was also All-District in baseball.

He’s A Brick, House: Ah, the Commodores. Appropriate reference for Vince Taylor, a defensive lineman from Vanderbilt who manned the nose tackle spot.

Why undrafted: At 6-1, 306 pounds, Taylor seems a bit small for the position. Does not have much speed (5.40 40) or quickness (7.46 3-cone). Vandy went 3-9 last year, 0-8 in the Southeast Conference.

Why invited: We’ll refer again to the “Brick House.” At his pro day, Taylor bench-pressed 225 pounds 36 times, which would have led all defensive linemen at the NFL Combine and tied for second-best overall. Last fall, he had 43 total tackles, including 20 solo stops and three for loss (1.5 sacks).

High School Fun Fact: A First-Team All-State defensive tackle as a senior at Oak Grove High in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Taylor had 97 solo tackles (117 total) and returned a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown.

2015 Patriots Draft Review (“That Guy” Edition 3.0)

After 16 Patriots drafts under Bill Belichick, we’d have to be nitwits to overlook some patterns. As we pointed out in our first “That Guy” draft preview back in February,  certain types of players tend to get called to Foxboro during this time of year.

New England came into the draft with nine picks. They added two over the course of two separate trades and ended up using all eleven. How many of these rookies will make the final roster? Tough to say, but we know where they fit into the Patriots’ outlook this past weekend.

Here’s a rundown of the action:


ROUND ONE (32 overall): Malcom Brown, Texas DL (6-2, 320)


ROUND TWO (64): Jordan Richards, Stanford SS (5-11, 211)

ROUND THREE (96): Traded along with 219 for 111, 147, and 202 (details below)

ROUND THREE (97): Geneo Grissom, Oklahoma OLB (6-3, 262)


ROUND FOUR (101): Trey Flowers, Arkansas DE (6-2, 265)

ROUND FOUR (111): Tre Jackson, Florida State OL (6-4, 330)

ROUND FOUR (131): Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech OL (6-2, 304)

ROUND FIVE (147): Traded to Green Bay for 166 and 247 (details below)

ROUND FIVE (166): Joe Cardona, Navy LS (6-2, 242)

ROUND SIX (178): Matthew Wells, Mississippi State OLB (6-2, 222)

ROUND SIX (202): A. J. Derby, Arkansas TE (6-4, 253)

ROUND SEVEN (247): Darry Roberts, Marshall CB (5-11, 187)

ROUND SEVEN (253): Xzavier Dickson, Alabama OLB (6-3, 260)

Now, on to our categories, most of which we most recently spelled out in the “That Guy 2.0 Edition” draft preview in April.

The First Round, Solid-Bet Guy: Well, hello there, Malcom Brown. Nice to see you hanging around this late on Day One.

School Stats: At Texas, the consensus First-Team All-American (no Ken Sims references, please) had 72 tackles (15 for loss), 6.5 sacks, eight QB hits, and two forced fumbles.

Physical Testing Notables: Running a 5.05-second 40 and a 29.5-inch vertical at his size deserve mention. Also made top 15 of all D-linemen in the bench press with 26 reps.

Our Take: Can we compare him to Vince Wilfork? Eh, why not? It’s May. The Patriots can dream. Seriously, though, Brown could make the list of Patriots’ first-round defensive linemen (Richard Seymour, Ty Warren, Wilfork) who, while not putting up big numbers, contributed in a big way to the team’s success by eating up blocks and freeing up teammates. He does have the power to take on double-teams and the speed to give offensive fronts fits.

Quick Take: Best available, and the right type of player.

The “Who’s That Guy?” Guy: How can we continue to be surprised at selections like Stanford Jordan Richards (5-11, 211)? He joins the ranks of Tavon Wilson (2012) and Duron Harmon (2013) in the “Safeties We Could Have Waited A Day To Pick” category.

School Stats: A team captain at Stanford, Richards had 79 tackles (third on the team) with three interceptions, five pass breakups, and three forced fumbles.

Physical Testing Notables: We found one biggie – his 6.74-second 3-cone drill at the combine, second-best of all combine safeties, ninth overall. Other than that, Richards made top 15 for safeties in the vertical jump (32 inches), broad jump (9-foot-3), and 20-yard shuttle (4.22 seconds) in an average 2015 field.

Our Take: On the one hand, we could have another Wilson, a smart player the Patriots rated more highly than most who has played mostly special teams. On the other hand, Richards could become similar player to Devin McCourty, an intelligent, football-savvy player keeping the defense properly lined up from his backfield spot. Words like “coachable” carry a lot of weight in Foxboro, but – speaking as a guy who won a few coach’s awards in high school (glorified participation trophies), that stuff doesn’t always translate to game-day production. Or popularity.

I’m just saying.

Quick Take: Richards gets on special teams right away, but limited safety work in 2015. The future is unwritten, as Joe Strummer might say.

The Trades: It happens in some form or other every spring. New England sent their late-third (96) and a seventh (202) to Cleveland for an early fourth (111), fifth (147), and seventh (219). They then traded that fifth (147) to Green Bay for a later fifth (166) and a seventh (247). In other words, the Patriots traded two picks and ended up with four in return.

The Versatile Guy: Too bad Geneo Grissom doesn’t quite qualify as a Freakishly Athletic Guy, or we would have gone 3-for-3 in our category predictions. Grissom, aka The Man Without A Position, played defensive end, linebacker, and even (as a sophomore) tight end for the Sooners. Will he find a spot in New England’s defense, or will he have a hard time contributing at Foxboro?

School Stats: At linebacker his senior year, Grissom had 39 tackles (6.5 for loss), 3.5 sacks, one interception, four pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

Physical Testing Notables: At the combine, Grissom ran a 4.81 40-yard dash, lifted 20 bench reps, and had a 37-inch vertical. He also had a 1.65-second 10-yard dash, which is very quick for a man his size (running back David Cobb out of Minnesota had a 1.64).

Our Take: We thought we had an original idea by evoking Rob Ninkovich here, but then criminal mastermind Tom Curran over at posted that comparison.  The similarly-sized Ninkovich ran a 4.91-second 40-yard dash and a 1.66-second 10-yarder at the 2006 combine, with 23 reps on the bench. Beyond the physical comparison, coaches also had a hard time finding a position for Ninkovich at the NFL level. He was a long snapper for the Saints and Dolphins with six career tackles before coming to Foxboro in 2009.

Quick Take: If the Patriots can make Grissom’s versatility a virtue, he will produce consistently.

The Lanky Defensive End: Must admit, did not have this category in our “That Guy” columns this year, but Trey Flowers fits a trend of drafting long-limbed pass-rushers over the past few years, from Chandler Jones to Michael Buchanan to Zach Moore. Flowers lacks great quickness but – like the aforementioned players – has the loping gait to get around offensive tackles and hassle the QB.

School Stats: The All-SEC Second Teamer (Coaches’ vote) had 68 tackles last season, with 15.5 for loss (six sacks). He also had six pass breakups and nine quarterback hits.

Physical Testing Notables: Flowers put up 28 bench reps at the combine (top 11 for all defensive linemen), leapt a 36.5-inch vertical (top five for DL), and completed a 4.40 20-yard shuttle (top 11).

Our Take: We’ll ignore the nagging image of Jake Bequette (another big, athletic pass-rusher out of Arkansas) and go to the other end of the spectrum with Willie McGinest. I know, I know – we’re not fitting Flowers for his red jacket just yet –  but the way he holds off blockers against the rush, and his ability to tip passes rushing or dropping back (look again at those six pass breakups last fall) reminds us of McGinest a bit.

Too much, too soon? Eh. Again, no one’s putting on pads for a while. Let’s just go with it.

Quick Take: Not super fast, but athletic overall, Flowers adds his name to the growing list of Patriots hybrids who will give their defense all-important flexibility.

The Injured Guy: Normally, this category describes someone who has missed significant time in college due to injury. Rob Gronkowski couldn’t play his junior year at Arizona due to a neck injury; Virginia’s Ras-I Dowling was about as brittle as winter dog scat. Still, guard Tre Jackson fits here because he reportedly failed multiple NFL team physicals. Jackson had to sit out his junior year in high school with a knee injury, but he started 42 games at FSU. Apparently, that’s good enough for the Pats.

School Stats: Hard to measure stats for a lineman, but we can summarize all of his 2014 Honors with this – Unanimous All-American.

Physical Testing Notables: He’s not fast (5.52-second 40), nor super strong (20 bench reps), but he is 6-4, 330 pounds. so …

Our Take: The Patriots needed more mass in the middle, and they got it in Jackson, who was rated as a late second-round pick by many (including us, when we had New England taking him in our mock draft – oh my God we got one right, sort of!). Also important that Jackson played most of his career alongside former FSU and current New England center Bryan Stork.

Quick Take: If communication is key to an offensive line’s success, Jackson and Stork have the potential to become a solid combo again.

The Other Offensive Lineman Guy: Thinking the Pats would take at least two OLs over the weekend (just as they did last year with Stork and Cameron Fleming), we actually mentioned Shaq Mason in our mock draft.  (What?!? TWO hits on a Patriots mock draft? I hath slain the Jabberwock!). Another interior force, Mason made a lot of mocks because he was seen working with former Patriots line coach and current consultant Dante Scarnecchia during Georgia Tech’s pro day.

School Stats: Gained All-American status (USA Today) his senior year after starting all 14 games at right guard. Also started all 13 games there as a junior. Last year, Tech ranked number one nationally in rushing (342 yards per game, a school record).

Physical Testing Notables: Mason, whom we also mentioned in our “Combine Snubs Who Showed ‘Em” series, ran a 4.99-second 40, which would have made him the second-fastest offensive lineman at the combine, just .01 seconds behind Ali Marpet. Mason also put up 25 reps on the bench and had a 32-inch vertical leap (tied for fifth-highest for combine OLs).

Our Take: Anyone who appears to get the okey-doke from Coach Scarnecchia certainly passes our test. Last year, New England traded Logan Mankins, known as their toughest lineman. Mason has been described as a mauler who could bring back some of that edge to the offensive interior.

Quick Take: The Pats, after going up to the buffet for seconds in the fourth round last year, again come back to the table with some grade A offensive linemen.

The Navy Guy: Wow. They did it. They really did it. While we listed Joe Cardona as the example for our Navy Guy category, and also mentioned him in our mock draft (wait: THREE RIGHT?!?), we figured he would only get signed after the draft ended. (Oh … Still, we’ll take credit.) Coach Belichick (a “Navy Guy” in another sense) couldn’t wait any longer and nabbed the long snapper before anyone else could.

School Stats: Cardona, who played lacrosse throughout high school (another Belichick talking point), started all four years as the Navy long snapper. He was regarded as the best in the nation.

Physical Testing Notables: The only player at the combine representing his position, Cardona put up 30 bench press reps, tying him for top 13 overall.

Our Take: As we’ve mentioned every time his name has come up, Cardona has a five-year military obligation. After two years, he can apply to opt out of the final three and instead serve six years in the Navy (or Marine Corps) Reserve while playing football. Now, unless Belichick has some kind of connection at Annapolis (hmmm…), there’s little chance Cardona will work in Foxboro this fall.

Quick Take: Stranger things have happened, but we don’t see Cardona snapping for New England beyond a camp appearance this summer. See ya in 2017, Joe!

The Special Teams Guy: While he played outside linebacker at Mississippi State, Matthew Wells’ size (222 pounds) takes him out of contention for that position in a base defense. He joins the ranks of Matthew Slater and Nate Ebner as late-rounders taken with an eye for their potential prowess on kick and punt teams.

School Stats: The blitzing Bulldog had 45 tackles (8.5 for loss) and four sacks last year, breaking up eight passes.

Physical Testing Notables: Wells ran a preposterous 4.43 40 at his pro day, which – as we mentioned in our aforementioned Combine Snubs series – would have qualified him as the second-fastest safety at the combine. He also had a 6.97-second 3-cone drill.

Our Take: Linebackers Jonathan Casillas and Akeem Ayers, both acquired in mid-season trades last year, have left Foxboro for free agency. Those two helped special teams play an important-yet-underrated role in New England’s success, so it makes sense to address that area of the roster later in the draft (add Cardona to that list, as well).

Quick Take: Can’t stop looking at that 4.43. Could also play a run-stopping, safety-type role in sub packages.

The Backup Tight End: Here’s another category we should have thought of before, because New England always tries to add depth there. A. J. Derby was a man without a position, going to Iowa as a quarterback out of Coffeyville, Kansas Community College, but ending up as a linebacker/special teamer. He asked for a transfer and got it, playing two years at Arkansas. Converted to tight end as a senior.

School Stats: In 2014, Derby caught 22 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns. Had a career game against Alabama with four receptions, including a 54-yard TD.

Physical Testing Notables: Derby ran a 4.72-second 40 at his pro day, which would have placed third among tight ends at the combine. Also had a 6.99-second 3-cone drill, which would have come in second. He started one game at QB for Arkansas as a junior (vs. Rutgers), completing 14 of 26 passes for 137 yards.

Our Take: Now this pick makes more sense. Derby practiced under Belichick buddy Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, played his best game at tight end vs. Coach Nick Saban (another BB bud), then had one of his best games at QB vs. Rutgers, aka New England South. His experience leading offenses and practicing at linebacker can only enhance his potential.

Quick Take: Faster than Scott Chandler, bigger than Tim Wright, and quicker than both, Derby adds an intriguing option at tight end while learning special teams.

The Three-Cone Guy: Anyone who follows the Patriots drafts knows about their interest (some might say obsession) with quickness demonstrated by low 3-cone times. Darryl Roberts qualifies this year with a nifty 6.66-second 3-cone. (For comparison, part-man, part-housefly Julian Edelman posted a 6.62.)

School Stats: Roberts started 42 games in his Marshall career, second among cornerbacks in school history. He made All-Conference USA as a senior after tallying 75 tackles (3.5 for loss), one interception, and 17 pass breakups. That last one is not a typo.

Physical Testing Notables: Add Roberts to the list of Combine Snubs we noted this spring (in Part II). Beyond his 3-cone, which would have hit the top four at the combine, Roberts had a top-four-worthy 11-foot-1 broad jump and a seventh-best 4.38-second 40-yard dash.

Our Take: He comes from the disrespected Conference USA and looks about as bulked up as a leaky balloon animal. Still, Roberts reminds us a bit of a latter-day Randall Gay, another rail-like CB who made the roster as a rookie free agent in 2004.

Quick Take: All hail the 3-cone. The 3-cone is all.

The Alabama Guy: We put Xzavier Dickson in this category for Part I of our “That Guy” series in February and kept him there for Part II. Seemed to make a lot of sense then, and now we see why. Ranked as a mid-round player, New England gets a late-round bargain. Dickson, another large defender, consistently produced for a program with a system familiar to Foxboro.

School Stats: Dickson had 42 tackles last season, including 12.5 for loss, and a team-leading nine sacks. He also broke up two passes.

Physical Testing Notables: At the combine, Dickson ran a 4.74-second 40.

Our Take: He may not be Pats starting linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Good, because the Pats didn’t spend a first-round pick on him. Dickson provides depth at an obviously (and increasingly) important position at Gillette. Having played defensive end as a freshman (ranked as a top-five high school DE in his recruiting class), he converted to linebacker as a sophomore and played in all 14 games that year. If he understand’s Coach Nick Saban’s defense, then he has a shot to come to New England and contribute as a rookie.

Quick Take: Wait – 260 pounds of experienced linebacker in the late seventh? Now, that’s how you cap off a draft.

Please watch this space for our annual undrafted free agent (UDFA) review.

Chris Warner tweets relentlessly: @cwarn89

Patriots Draft Preview (“That Guy” Edition 2.0)

As seen in our first “That Guy” draft preview from two months ago, New England tends to bring in certain types of players during draft weekend. With nine picks, the Super Bowl champs could fill some holes in a roster that – despite some big losses in free agency – remains solid overall.

Here’s our outlook on what types of players the Patriots will seek out this weekend, and some potential names who could fill those roles.

DAY ONE – Round One (One pick): 32nd Overall

First-Round, Solid-Bet Guy: Under Bill Belichick, New England has done well drafting in Round One (you can see our Round-by-Round column for a review of the past 15 drafts). From Richard Seymour (2001) to Nate Solder (2011), the Patriots tend to find players who not only contribute on a consistent level, but excel and end up starting.

Possible Pick: Carl Davis, Iowa Defensive Lineman (6-5, 320). We originally had Duke guard Lakinen Tomlinson here – and we find nothing wrong with that – but it seems that the Patriots could look to the defensive side of the line early. We’ll go back to where we were about three months ago: high on Davis after his Senior Bowl appearance. He only had 34 tackles and two sacks in 2014, but his position fails to rack up the stats. Davis’ size, speed (5.12-second 40-yard dash) and strength (28 bench reps, 33-inch vertical) could help him become part of the rotation this season. [Read more…]

Patriots 2015 Mock Draft (Mid-April Edition)

In our previous mock for New England, we looked at the positions the Pats could target in certain areas of the draft. We continue that practice this week, making a few tweaks in the wake of certain players’ pro day results.

As of this writing, New England has nine overall picks, including compensatory third- and seventh-round selections.

DAY ONE, Round One: DE/OLB

Possible Pick: Eli Harold, Virginia Defensive End (6-3, 247). Though we’ve considered both offensive and defensive linemen at this spot, there’s nothing wrong with getting some athleticism and production with their first pick. Harold had 54 tackles, seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss last year. He tallied 17.5 sacks in his career at Virginny, and he showed the ability to play off the line. Harold ran the 40 in 4.60 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.16 seconds, both impressive for a man his size. [Read more…]

2015 Combine Snubs Who Showed ‘Em, Part II

When we left off with Part I, many of those same players who had not been invited to the combine had cracked the top five of most categories (see the updated rundown at the bottom of this post). As we make our way through early April, snubbed athletes continue to excel at combine drills and give themselves a shot on draft day.

As always, a big shout-out to Gil Brandt for his pro day blog on, a fun, informative read that we get obsessed with this time of year.

For a rundown of the best NFL Combine performances, you can go here.

Now, on to some recent standouts who made impressions at their pro days… [Read more…]

Patriots 2015 Mock Draft (Names-To-Positions Edition)

We haven’t had a ton of success predicting New England’s draft choices (Jake Bequette in 2012 the lone exception), but we’ve done a fair job figuring what positions they’ll look for in certain spots. We’ll keep that in mind for this spring as we take our shots.

For previous 2015 mocks, you can see our “Bare Bones” positional edition here and our “That Guy” tendencies edition here. For a comprehensive breakdown of past Patriots drafts, click for our “Round-By-Round” column here.

We have New England picking eight on draft weekend out of a possible nine picks, taking their tendency to trade into consideration. (Note: their third- and seventh-round compensatory picks can not be traded.)

DAY ONE, Round One: DE/OLB

Many (including myself as of a few days ago), considered a defensive lineman with this pick, and – though I can’t see anything wrong with getting Carl Davis from Iowa, for example, I can’t overlook the impact that linebacker/pass-rusher Jamie Collins has had on this defense. The free-agent addition of Jabaal Sheard shouldn’t get in the way of bringing more athletic, pass-rushing talent into New England’s front seven.

Possible Pick: Eli Harold, Virginia Defensive End (6-3, 247). The Patriots saw something beyond the rawness of linebacker Jamie Collins in 2013, and they may see a similar something in the athletic and productive Harold this year. He had 54 tackles, seven sacks and 14 tackles for loss last year. Totaled 17.5 sacks in his Cavalier career (his Cavareer? No? Okay). Has shown the ability to drop back in coverage. Ran a speedy 4.60 seconds in the 40 and 4.16 seconds in the 20-yard shuttle.

DAY TWO, Rounds Two and Three: OL, DB, DL 

A little of this and that for the next two rounds, filling out positions of need while bulking up the future of the roster.

Possible Pick: Tre Jackson, Florida State Offensive Guard (6-4, 330). If New England’s looking to bulk up along the interior of their offensive line, the massive Jackson fits the bill. The big fella started 42 games for the Seminoles, reaching All-American honors last year as a senior. Jackson earned consensus All-American honors and was named MVP of the South Team at the Senior Bowl in February. Played alongside current Patriot center Bryan Stork.

Possible Pick: Byron Jones, Connecticut Cornerback (6-1, 199). Jones failed to stand out in his combine 40-yard dash (4.57 seconds), which remained about the only unimpressive thing he did in Indianapolis. Jones put up an I-need-video-evidence-that-this-happened 12-foot-3-inch broad jump (and here’s that video evidence). Just for comparison, jump two feet along the ground. Now lay down a basketball hoop and jump 10 feet to the rim. You’re still short three inches. Jones added a 44.5-inch vertical leap (second-best at the combine), along with a super-quick 3.94 20-yard shuttle and 6.78 3-cone. Jones played in only seven games for UConn last season due to injury, but he managed 24 tackles, two interceptions (one returned for a TD) and four pass break-ups.

Possible Pick: Derrick Lott, Tennessee-Chattanooga Defensive Lineman (6-4, 314). The Patriots seem as willing as most to draft smaller-school athletes (see defensive end Zach Moore out of Concordia last year). Lott, a transfer from Georgia, ran a 4.99 40 at the combine and benched 30 reps, tied for seventh among D-linemen. In his final year for the Mocs, he made First Team All-Southern Conference, tallying 41 tackles (13.5 for loss) and six sacks. He has the size and quickness to play anywhere along the line.

DAY THREE, Rounds Four Through Seven: DB, LB, OL, WR

Considered tight end here (Rutgers’ Tyler Kroft), but Scott Chandler’s signing had us looking at other areas. Looks like the Pats will consider doubling up on a few positions, which has worked well for them in the past: they took two offensive linemen in the fourth round last year, and got a starter (Bryan Stork) and a consistent contributor (Cameron Fleming). We wouldn’t be surprised (and fans might appreciate) the Patriots using these picks to trade up, as the talent of New England’s current roster makes it tough for eight potential rookies to stick around.

Possible Pick: Craig Mager, Texas State Cornerback (5-11, 201). Well, before 2014 training camp, we’d never heard of Malcolm Butler, either. Mager had a noteworthy combine performance with a 4.44-second 40, a 6.83-second 3-cone, and a 10-foot, 10-inch broad jump – all top 10 for combine corners. Mager started 48 games for the Bobcats, finishing up as a senior with 63 tackles (two sacks), 10 pass break-ups, and three interceptions.

Possible Pick: Kevin Snyder, Rutgers Linebacker (6-2, 238). Snyder fits two all-important Patriots draft categories: the Special Teams Guy and the Rutgers Guy. He ran a nifty 4.54 40 at his pro day, which would have made him the second-fastest linebacker at the combine. Also had a 7.07 3-cone (tied for seventh fastest LB) and 23 bench press reps (top 13). The career linebacker also showed scouts his longsnapping abilities by the banks of the Raritan. In 51 games for the Scarlet Knights, Snyder had 229 tackles, including 63 in 2014 (1.5 sacks). He also broke up five passes last year.

Possible Pick: Shaq Mason, Georgia Tech Offensive Lineman (6-2, 304). Hard to ignore the photo seen here of former Patriots line coach Dante Scarnecchia taking snaps from Mason, who tried to show his versatility after playing only guard at Tech. Also hard to ignore Mason’s status as an All-American, his starting at both guard spots over his career, and the fact that his status may be affected (in a good way, from New England’s point of view) by the fact that the Yellow Jackets run an option offense. Mason ran an impressive 4.89 40, which would have made him the fastest OL at the combine. He also leapt 32 inches, and put up 20 reps on the bench.

Possible Pick: DeAndrew White, Alabama Wide Receiver (5-11, 193). Now, do the Patriots necessarily need another wide receiver in camp? Maybe not, but they’ve got a recent history of nabbing smaller pass-catchers in the seventh round (Jeremy Gallon of Michigan in 2014, Jeremy Ebert of Northwestern in 2012, some guy named Julian Edelman of Kent State in 2009). His 4.44-second 40 time would make him one of the faster receivers in Gillette, while his 6.97 3-cone drill and 4.18-second 20-yard shuttle would show his relative quickness across the middle of the field. With 40 receptions at Alabama, White trailed only Amari Cooper in 2014 (albeit by a ton: Cooper had 124). White had 504 yards receiving (12.6 avg) and four TDs.


Joe Cardona, Navy LS (6-2, 242). Will the Annapolis product get to play in the NFL next year? Nope. He has at least a two-year, full-time commitment to the military. Will Bill Belichick invite him to camp and keep him on military reserve? It wouldn’t be the first time. Cardona stood out as the only long snapper invited to the combine. He ran a 4.91 40 and put up 30 bench presses. Another fact to consider: Cardona was the conference MVP for his high school lacrosse team (Granite HIlls in El Cajon, CA), which can only endear him to the lax-loving Belichick. One free trip to Foxboro, coming up!


Looking for versatility at various positions, and underdog labels to go with them.

Kristjan Sokoli, Buffalo DL (6-5, 290). Described as “relentless,” Sokoli had a heck of a pro day for the Bulls, running a 4.84 40, leaping 38 inches, putting up 31 bench reps and completing a 7.19 3-cone. He had 32 tackles last year as a D-tackle (three for loss) and six pass breakups. Sokoli moved to the U.S. from Albania at nine years old and played football in high school, manning all sorts of positions: defensive end, tight end, offensive tackle – even punter and kicker.

John Lowdermilk, Iowa SS (6-1, 210). As much as we talk up the relationship between Belichick and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, Coach Bill has never drafted a player out of Iowa. We don’t expect that to change this year, but Lowdermilk could get some rookie camp consideration. His 103 tackles led the Hawkeyes last year. He also had three interceptions, six pass breakups, and two forced fumbles.

Jamon Brown, Louisville OL (6-4, 323). The monolithic Brown first gained our attention at the East-West Shrine Game. He was an All-AAC First-Team left tackle (with experience at right tackle) who reminds us a bit of current Patriot lineman Marcus Cannon in his size and position flexibility. The Cardinal ran a 5.09-second 40 at his pro day, which for a man  his size is flabbergasting, and completed the 3-cone drill in 7.36 seconds. Might end up as a guard but could get a look at the right tackle spot.

As usual, we’ll go back to our board in a few weeks. What’s the one move or player you’ll be looking for at the end of April? Let us know below.

Chris Warner tweets about sports, television, and the complexities of life at @cwarn89 

Patriots Draft Preview (The “That Guy” Edition)

Before we begin our draft preview, a quick note on a tweet by Chad Finn about how Seattle giving New England five free yards at the end of the Super Bowl demonstrated their coach’s inability to prep them for the big moment.

Something about that comment stuck with me, and not just the fact that I agreed with it. Then it hit me: I’d heard Bill Belichick discuss this before. [Read more…]