This post contains affiliate links. “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Quick thoughts and notes about the New England Patriots and the NFL:
1. Dean has the Patriots fit? Last year, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay hit his final mock draft and projected quarterback Mac Jones to the Patriots as No. 15. McShay correctly paired Jones’ skills – specifically an ability for accuracy and decision-making – with what the Patriots valued at a significant need position. .
This year, the inside linebacker is one of the Patriots’ biggest needs, and McShay has isolated a player who interests him most about Bill Belichick’s team in the 2022 NFL draft, which starts on April 28 on ESPN.
“The one player I would kill to see with the Patriots – just because I love him and know where he would excel the most, would be in New England with Bill – would be [Georgia’s] Nakobe Dean, “he said.
“I’ve talked and met him, and I’ve talked to several scouts, and we all agree: There’s no better player in this class in terms of football IQ. You match that IQ with what New England is trying to do. to do – they are so numerous and differentiated from week to week – it would be a lot of fun to watch. “
Dean may not be available at the Patriots’ first-round pick at No. 21; Former Jets and Dolphins GM Mike Tannenbaum places him No. 17 for the Los Angeles Chargers in his ESPN mock draft.
But if Dean is available, longtime observers of Belichick’s history working out inside linebackers will note that the choice of him would represent a remarkable shift in approach. The reason is that the 5-foot-11, 229-pound Dean is dramatically undersized compared to the Patriots’ prototype (think 6-foot-3, 260-pound Dont’a Hightower).
McShay compares Dean to former New York Jets and New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma and former Miami Dolphins linebacker Zach Thomas. These players may not have been best known for running downhill and taking on guards – a staple of those who played the position under Belichick – but they were dynamic playmakers, especially in space.
And given how the NFL game continues to spread – and given what the Patriots now face twice a year with reading opportunities from Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa – Belichick may be more willing to consider a player like Dean in 2022 than he would have done earlier.
“Find me a faster linebacker in terms of playing speed in this class,” McShay said. “You’re talking about nine guys who could be drafted on the defensive side for Georgia, and he was the best player on that. You’re talking about a player – with two linebackers next to him in [Channing] Tindall and Quay Walker, who will be drafted on Day 2 – and he’s two steps ahead almost every time. “
Belichick bytes: Belichick showed up early to answer questions from reporters at the NFL’s annual meeting in Palm Beach, Florida, last week (surprisingly many), and here were three things – possibly a little lost in the mix – that stood out in terms of how he looks strong on a few people in the organization:
WR Matthew Slater re-signed to one-year deal: “[He] will go up there, in the kicking game, with [Tom] Brady on the offensive and [Lawrence] Taylor in the defense. So I feel very, very lucky to have the opportunity to coach all the players, but I especially want to say the three. “
Matt Groh, promoted to personal player director: “He really put the draft together last year. With Dave [Ziegler] When I leave, I feel like he is the best person to step into the staff job. I think he’s just as good as anyone else we’ve had in that position. “
S Devin McCourty re-signed to one-year deal: “Having Devin back makes a difference in what we can do defensively.”
3. Corner market: The Patriots will ideally draft and develop a replacement for cornerback JC Jackson, though the team’s first round slot at No. 21 may not represent the best value to do so.
McShay expects top cornerbacks Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner (Cincinnati), Derek Stingley Jr. (LSU) and Trent McDuffie (Washington) are off the board at the moment, which would make the Patriots focus on the second tier. Of the group, McShay likes Kaiir Elam (Florida) and Roger McCreary (Auburn) as day 2 considerations.
“They would be good Patriots – they tackle, can play both man and zone. They can be more and adapt to weekly schedule changes,” he said.
(In a beat-writer mock draft for NewOrleansFootball.com, your faithful writer threw himself at McDuffie when he was unexpectedly available.)
4. Scheduling: The Patriots have no shortage of compelling road trips this season – Arizona, Cleveland, Green Bay, Las Vegas, Minnesota and Pittsburgh for non-divisional enemies – and a league source said the NFL is planning its program release for the second week of May. In terms of international matches, a source said the Patriots are not expected to be selected to play the Cardinals in Mexico or the Packers in London this season. The belief among the New England brain trust is that the team will most likely play its next international match in Germany in 2023.
5. Jonnus offseason: One of the most significant things that came out of the NFL’s annual meeting from a Patriots perspective was learning that tight-end Jonnu Smith plans to use offseason as part of the team’s volunteer offseason program. Smith did not do so last season, in part because of his daughter’s birth and COVID-19 considerations. Some around the team felt that it was no coincidence that the other tight-end Hunter Henry – who had spent most of last season in the city working with Jones & Co. – had a more productive first season in New England than Smith. Incidentally, Henry was back in town last week.
6. Why not Williams? The lack of speed and differences on the edge – both offensively and defensively – stood out for McShay when he saw the Patriots in their 47-17 playoff loss to the Bills. That’s why he would support the selection of Alabama receiver Jameson Williams as No. 21 if the board fell that way. It would require some patience as Williams recovered from a torn ACL, but McShay said he would not be surprised if Williams eventually becomes the best receiver in this year’s draft. “I just think the speed of having a guy who can get vertical and also catch the 5-yard and go 35, 40, 50 yards with it would be great for them to have,” he said.
7. LaFleurs tomrum: In 13 NFL seasons, Packers head coach Matt LaFleur has never been to Gillette Stadium, which he said is the league’s only senior venue he’s ever visited. “I hear it’s hard to win up there,” he said, referring to the Patriots’ league-best 130-31 home record since 2002 (even though New England is 9-8 at home in the last two seasons). It’s the kind of gold nugget a reporter picks up at the NFL’s annual meeting where it’s common to bump into coaches and start a conversation. LaFleur’s Packers are not scheduled to visit until 2026.
8. Patriots Hall call: After a year-long COVID-19-related hiatus to allow 2020 inmate Richard Seymour to have the player scene to himself in 2021, the Patriots Hall of Fame committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to narrow down the list of finalists for introduction this year . Mike Vrabel has been a finalist five times, but has not yet crossed the finish line. Maybe it’s finally his year. Vince Wilfork and Wes Welker are newly elected, and if they come through the selection as the three finalists, it will be interesting to see how the final vote from fans would shake out.
9. AFC East Tax for Parks: From a Dolphins perspective, trade receiver DeVante Parker and a 2022 fifth-round pick for the Patriots in exchange for a 2023-third round pick are excellent value. Parker was Miami’s No. 4 recipient at best – behind Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and Cedrick Wilson – and it also clears his base salary of $ 5.65 million in 2022 and $ 5.7 million in 2023 out of the books. So while some may doubt the wisdom of dealing with Parker within the division, it’s hard to believe that any other NFL team offered a deal with such a rich asset as a third-round pick in 2023. And for the receiver-hungry Patriots, the deal probably would not if they did not expect a compensatory election in the third round due to the departure of Jackson’s free agents.
10. Did you know that? When the Patriots acquired Parker and agreed to a one-year deal with safety / punt returner Jabrill Peppers last week, they become the sixth and seventh player on the list to enter the NFL as a first-round pick (2015 and 2017, respectively). The others are McCourty (2010), receiver Nelson Agholor (2015), offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn (2018), receiver N’Keal Harry (2019) and Jones (2021).