ESPNBoston’s Mike Reiss was nice enough to take some time out of his busy off-season to answer some Patriots related draft questions for BST&N. With several key pieces already in place, Reiss highlights where the team can still improve with it’s plethora of picks.
BST&N: With every position on offense seemingly set depth-wise, can you envision a scenario where the Patriots do not go defense with their early picks?
Mike Reiss: I would never rule anything out with Bill Belichick, but this would surprise me. After taking just one defender in their first seven picks last year, it’s hard for me to imagine Belichick would overlook the D with some of his early picks this time around.
BST&N: Which is a higher priority for the Patriots? Front seven or secondary?
MR: The safety spot hurt them in 2011 and I don’t think they’ve decisively filled that spot yet. Plus, you have Patrick Chung entering the last year of his contract, so the need is both short- and long-term. I’d lean in that direction more than anything, but you also have question marks on who lines up as a right defensive end in an even front, and who lines up at right defensive end in an odd front. To me, it’s 1A and 1B
BST&N: Many hope to come out of this draft with a defensive play-maker. Will the Patriots be able to find one without trading up?
MR: I think they can. We don’t have to look far for recent examples of playmakers at the 27th and 31st spots in the draft. The Patriots got Devin McCourty at 27 in 2010, and Nnamdi Asomugha entered the NFL as a 31st overall pick. Obviously, some of the top-end players are gone at that point, but in a draft with a high quantity of front-seven players, there should still be some quality to choose from at that point.
BST&N: You have been a proponent of this team taking a kick returner, who are a few that stand out? Is this similar to the drafting of special teamers Gostkowski (K), Mesko (P), and Ingram (LS) of years past?
MR: Florida running back Chris Rainey was one who stood out to me because he wouldn’t just be a factor in the return game, but also as someone who creates some mismatch problems on offense. The Patriots ranked 29th in the NFL in kickoff return average last year, which sometimes forced them to drive longer fields. Whether it’s Rainey or someone else, I think adding an explosive weapon in the return game would be on the radar, similar to the Gostkowski, Mesko and Ingram picks.
BST&N: What gets you most excited about the NFL Draft? What suggestions do you have for the casual fan, who may not know the prospects that well, going into the event?
MR: The thing that gets me most excited is watching 32 different teams take on a new shape, starting with the Patriots. You see a strategy and plan come to life after dissecting it for months and months, and it all comes down to these three days. The Patriots don’t tip their hand often, so there is intrigue to see if some of the target areas/players that have been identified come to fruition. As for the casual fan that may not know prospects going into the event, I’d just say have fun with it. It sometimes isn’t what the prospect did in college, but how he projects to his team’s scheme/coaching, and that would be something to focus on.
BST&N: Extra Point: Will Bill Belichick and Andy Reid make a draft day trade for the 11th straight year?
MR: I’m not sure they’ve actually made a trade 10 straight years on draft-day, but we know they have a lot of respect for each other and that the phone lines are always open. It wouldn’t surprise me.