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Chief Thoughts: Where the Patriots and the NFL stand after the draft

Related: The Scho Show: Ranking the NFL’s offenses from worst to first

Miami Dolphins v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The months following the NFL draft are usually the slowest in football. I’m not saying there is no football to follow — there have been a flurry of post-draft moves as teams sign pending free agents and swing trades based on the results of the draft. In the world of a multi-billion dollar sports industry there is always something stirring, but for the most part, we are entering the dry season of the NFL calendar. That being said, the time period immediately following the draft is often one of excitement as teams assess the free additions to their roster.

I tend to always skew positive when it comes to draft selections. Why not? All statistical evidence suggests the draft is little more than a roulette table with teams calling out red or black. Okay, that’s probably a bit unfair to the people who pour months of effort and resources into the draft but at the end of the day the whole process tends to be a bit of crap shoot.

Unless we are given a clear indicator that a certain draft selection is terrible why not skew toward the hopeful? It’s not as if anyone saw Tom Brady becoming Tom Brady. Getting draft is among the biggest moments in these kids’ lives — something that they have fought dearly for. Why not give them the benefit of the doubt? They are going to get buried if they don’t pan out when they hit the field anyways.

With that in mind here are my overview thoughts on the post-draft world of the NFL.

Are the New England Patriots relevant?

The Brady-Belichick dynasty is over. What comes next? I, and others, said for months that the Patriots were worse than their record but they were still close to a 13-3 regular season and first-round playoff bye. They were relevant in 2019. I don’t think they will be in 2020.´, which is really kind of remarkable considering it has been 20 years of near-constant championship contention. The only exception would be if Jarrett Stidham turns out to be the Patriots’ version of Steve Young. Banking on that given the little bit of data available is naive, though.

How quickly can Bill Belichick turn the team back into a championship contender? I think it will take a minimum of two years and that largely assumes Stidham can be the franchise guy. 2020 is therefore going to be a developmental year for the team. Sure, Belichick will coach his players hard and the guys will be tough, but this will not be the Patriots team of old. And that’s okay.

Belichick and Brady kept the machine running hotter and longer than anyone could have dreamed. The media is going to do everything they can to castigate Belichick based on the team’s performance this year. Don’t buy into it. This team could just afford to sign all its draft picks with a fourth-round contract starting at quarterback. It lost a ton of talent this offseason and the drain would have been even worse if Tom Brady had stayed. I genuinely don’t believe this team would have been a championship contender in 2020 even if Brady was on the roster.

The Patriots are not reloading. They are rebuilding. Embrace it.

Thoughts on Jarrett Stidham

I want people to keep in mind that Stidham can still become The Guy even if he struggles this year. Brady was the Greatest Guy and he struggled in this offense last season. There is a solid chance there will be little significant difference in the supporting cast between what Brady had in 2019 and what Stidham will have in 2020. Stidham could struggle mightily and we wouldn’t even necessarily be able to tell.

He is a fourth-round pick entering his sophomore year under unenviable circumstances. His only pro snaps to date involved throwing a pick six because he quote, “wasn’t ready” to come in. Fans should not expect a lot from him. That’s not to say it’s impossible he could surprise everybody. I trust Jeff Howe from The Athletic and he was genuinely bubbly over Stidham going back all the way to last year. But any real football fan knows there is a world of difference between preseason football and the regular season.

Tom Brady’s prospects for 2020

I honestly do not believe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be the favorite to win their own division. The New Orleans Saints’ roster is stacked and they have proven they have what it takes to dominate their division the last three years. The Bucs haven’t even made the playoffs as a wild card team since 2007.

There is also going to be minimal time for Brady to embrace his new scheme due to the novel Coronavirus. I’m not that worried about him connecting with his weapons because Brady and his weapons are all exceptional players. I’m not saying Brady is going to connect with Chris Godwin and Mike Evans as decisively as he did with Antonio Brown during their one game together in 2019, but I don’t expect him to struggle either. It also doesn’t hurt that he will have Rob Gronkowski to lean on as he finds his stride with his other weapons.

I am concerned with the scheme, though.

The talent around him will help considerably, but there are going to be major differences to his time and scheme in New England. For example, Tampa Bay head coach Bruce Arians doesn’t make use of a ton of play action which has been Brady’s bread and butter and a foundation of most modern NFL schemes.

Another difference will be the use of receiving backs and tight ends: the Patriots use their running backs in pass protection well below the league average because they often use them as a receiving weapon. Contrast that to the Buccaneers who were top-five in the league in running backs in pass protection because they rarely use them as pass-catchers. Arians’ system also has a reputation for underutilizing tight ends, whereas New England’s offense has always made liberal use of players at the position.

Another issue is how often Arians’ quarterbacks tend to take hits due to the vertical nature of his offensive scheme. The Arizona Cardinals had two very promising seasons nuked because their aging quarterback, Carson Palmer, got injured. Brady has played hurt in December two seasons straight. It doesn’t matter how much avocado you eat, the body’s ability to recover decreases with age.

Speaking of the vertical offense: Brady’s arm has not shown the same decline that Philip Rivers showed late last season, nor the decline Drew Brees has displayed the last two years, but one wonders how effective a deep passing scheme will be for a quarterback that has built his success, even in his physical prime, on the short and intermediate level.

Then there are the natural miscues and issues that arise from doing something different than what you have done for the past 20 years. There is a mechanical element to Brady’s performance in the Patriot scheme — something you saw against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018 in the form of fourth quarter and overtime drives that ran like absolute clockwork. Does the process work as smoothly with a completely different coaching staff and scheme?

However, there is plenty of reason to think the Buccaneers’ offense could still be superior. Brady is a cerebral player and I’m confident he can run his new team’s scheme at a high level. There are a tremendous amount of football fundamentals that apply to any scheme and Brady has those mastered. Furthermore, the talent around him is very good on paper. Part of the reason the Patriots made use of tight ends and receiving backs in the past is that they did not have receiver options consistently available. They weren’t “choosing” to prefer other positions over wide receivers, the talent was simply superior at those other positions.

Though I doubt the offensive line will be as good you could make an argument that this is the best skill talent Brady has ever had outside of 2007. The scheme is great but you can make just about any scheme work if you have good players to execute it. The Buccaneers do. Furthermore, the vertical nature of Arians’ passing attack can be a bit overstated. There wasn’t a ton of difference between the different pass attempts by Brady and Jameis Winston. Both quarterbacks threw a ton of short and intermediate passes. And for what it was worth Brady was above average when throwing deep last season and none of those throws were to guys like Evans, Godwin or Gronkowski.

Arians also has a well-earned reputation for being stubborn. His stubbornness and his hot head are one of the reasons I think Arians has never managed to elevate himself quite into the elite echelon of coaches despite being well regarded over a long career. However, that stubbornness doesn’t seem to extend nearly as deep when it comes to quarterbacks. Arians has gotten superior production over a whole slew of different types of passers from the immobile and cerebral Peyton Manning to backyard sailor Ben Roethlisberger.

Clyde Christensen is seen as one of the best, or luckiest, quarterback coaches in the NFL. He recently did an interview in The Athletic where he emphasized the importance of tailoring the offense to what a specific quarterback needs. Byron Leftwich also had plenty of production calling plays last season as Tampa Bay’s offensive coordinator. Brady’s preparation process is the gold standard in the NFL, and I just have a really hard time believing that these accomplished coaches and Brady can’t get on the same page. Brady also has a $25 million guaranteed contract that ensures he is The Guy in Tampa for the next two years.

Brady will run Arians’ scheme. Period. But I think he’s going to have close to free reign within that system.

Another issue for Brady will be the aforementioned offensive line. Pro Football Focus was actually high on the Bucs’ O-line in terms of pass protection. The biggest issue was right tackle, but first-round pick Tristan Wirfs is considered by most to be as starter-ready as any lineman in recent years. He will struggle some, but even if he’s not great in his rookie year he should still be an upgrade over their previous right tackle, Demar Dotso in pass protection.

The biggest issue the Buccaneers will still have is run blocking. I think there is some hope there, though. In addition to upgrading the pass protection, Wirfs should definitely upgrade the team’s run blocking too. The addition of Gronkowski will add even more potential in this area. The big question will be the right guard position manned by Alex Cappa in 2019, and tight end O.J. Howard. If those guys can take the leap heading into their fourth and third season, respectively, the Bucs could scratch their way to be above average in run blocking.

Advanced stats suggest that Ronald Jones is being let down by the pieces around him, and he may be primed for a career year. Jones was second in broken tackles per attempt behind only the Saints’ Alvin Kamara last year, and second in yardage per attempt behind the Tennessee Titans’ Derrick Henry. Jones produces in the passing game too and has plus athleticism. I think there is a very good chance Jones explodes in 2020, though the concern is that he might blow Brady up with him: Jones is not a terrible pass protector but he is not a good one, and the Buccaneers are fourth in the NFL when it comes to leaving running backs in to pass protect.

I think there will be a significant downgrade in terms of the pass protection Brady generally will get from his backs in Tampa Bay, even though the scheme could easily compensate for this. The Patriots had the fourth fewest attempts by running backs in pass protection because they often used them as receiving options instead. Tampa may therefore opt to decrease the amount of snaps Jones spends in pass protection. There is also very little depth after the team’s RB1. The Patriots clearly have a superior running back corps overall, even though I think Jones is arguably better than any individual running back on New England’s roster.

But what conclusions should we draw from all this analysis? Simply put, Brady should be able to put up some beastly numbers in this offense. He may not be living in the Patrick Mahomes Dream Suite of Quarterback Support, but he should have more than enough to determine whether he still has what it takes to be a top quarterback in the NFL. I expect the Bucs to start a little slow but pick up a lot of steam after the first quarter of the season. Whether they can win a Super Bowl, or even their division, is another question entirely, but unless Brady falls off a cliff, Patriot fans should be able to see another season of vintage TB12 domination.

Chiefs had a good draft but a fatal flaw could be lurking in the weeds

The Chiefs are hoping they can be the first team to repeat as world champions since the Patriots because they are going to have a heck of a time building a stacked roster after several years of low draft picks and paying Patrick Mahomes. That being said, they are as well positioned as any team to win the big one in 2020.

More and more I have followed in line with the statistical analysis that says running backs are not valuable compared to other positions. Therefore, taking a running back in the first round is generally not a good idea. That said, if the Chiefs had to pick a running back I think they picked the right one. Clyde Edwards-Helaire is the most sophisticated receiving threat coming out of the backfield in the draft. We’ve seen the devastating impact a receiving back can have in Andy Reid’s system before. It would therefore not shock me if Edwards-Helaire is extremely successful with the Chiefs. I do think this was a bit of a luxury pick by the team, though, and I guarantee the pick would have been different had there not been an unexpected run on cornerbacks in the first round. I also think that said run could come back to haunt Kansas City.

The addition of a receiving back completes the most dynamic offense in football and even the selection of Lucas Niang provides critical depth at tackle, something that probably cost the Chiefs a game last season. I think Willie Gay, meanwhile, could be a solid opportunity to bolster their weak linebacker group.

A lot of pundits are lauding the Chiefs draft, and rightly so given the potential talents they acquired, but I think there is a massive road block in the team’s plans to repeat as Super Bowl champions. A road block in the form of their secondary.

This team just doesn’t have cornerbacks. Its best corner, Kyle Fuller, left in free agency. The next best corner on the roster is Bashaud Breeland, who earned a whopping 48.3 grade from PFF and was just recently arrested by police at gunpoint for not cooperating after drinking and driving. The Chiefs’ corners were arguably the biggest weakness on the team heading into the 2019 season, and now they are even worse. I do like their safety tandem of Juan Thornhill and Tyrann Mathieu, and a fearsome pass rush will also help. But Kansas City’s lack of coverage talent could be a big problem down the line.

Of course it may not matter given how many points their offense is liable to score on a week-to-week basis.

Ravens have one of the best teams in the NFL, but will it matter?

Baltimore somehow managed to upgrade a the team that ended 2019 with the most Pro Bowl nods in the NFL. The biggest addition was Calais Campbell who despite his age remains one of the defense ends in the NFL. Losing Marshall Yanda, one of the league’s best guards, was obviously a blow, but losing one of the league best guards and gaining one of the leagues best edge defenders is a net gain for the Ravens. And although I’m not a big fan of Derek Wolfe, he’s a solid pass rusher coming off a career year in sacks.

When combined with trading for Campbell the Ravens have arguably fixed their pass rush, which was their biggest issue on defense last year. The unit even got another boost with the addition of linebacker Patrick Queen in the draft. Baltimore already had one of the best secondaries in the NFL and it would not surprise me if their defense ends up being one of the better in the league in 2020 as well considering the upgrades they made in the offseason.

J.K. Dobbins may have been rich in the second round of the draft, but given how reliant the Ravens are on their running game, it was a solid enough move for a team without a lot of crying needs. The team’s offense struggled when their feature back, Mark Ingram, fell prey to injuries. Dobbins will allow Baltimore to introduce some load management for Ingram and fortify a position that probably has more value in their scheme than others. The rest of the Ravens’ draft class is unlikely to see the field on a consistent basis but I liked most of their picks and they provide depth in areas of need.

In many ways the Ravens are simply a more talented version of the Buffalo Bills, though. As great as their overall roster may look I don’t think any of it matters unless their quarterback continues to evolve in the passing game. Tthere is no reason to think he cannot.

Lamar Jackson successfully ran a derivative of the Erhardt-Perkins system in college and he’s still only 23 years old. Even though the Ravens’ overall team is more than strong enough to win a Super Bowl, this remains a passing quarterbacks’ league. It may be crazy to a lot of folk to say a QB fresh off an MVP nod needs to develop more but it’s absolutely true: the key to defeating Baltimore is to make Jackson throw. I’ve said that at the beginning of 2019, and it proved true at the end of 2019. I’m not going to pretend the Ravens cannot win a championship at the level Jackson played last year — the roster is legitimately good and he was very productive in 2019 — but my skepticism of their chances will remain significant until I see more from Jackson in the passing game.

Still, the combination of their quality coaching staff, their unique quarterback talent, and one of the best top-to-bottom rosters in the league means they will be a major threat in 2020.

Bills should scare the AFC East but no one else

As noted above, I think the Bills are a poor man’s Ravens. Lamar Jackson had a combined 43 touchdowns and 4,333 yards against 14 turnovers in 2019. Compare that to Josh Allen, who combined for 3,599 yards, 29 touchdowns and 16 turnovers. The Bills have built a strong roster but again not one nearly as strong as what Baltimore has put around its own former first-round QB. I have a lot of respect for the Bills’ head coach and front office but not nearly as much as I have for the Ravens’ coaches and decision makers.

Like Baltimore, Buffalo should be the favorite to win its division based purely on the strength of their roster. Unlike the Ravens, however, I don’t see the team as a terribly viable Super Bowl contender. Quarterbacks like Allen do not win championships in the modern era, and they certainly do not win them on the backs of good but not great rosters. That entire calculus could change if Allen takes the next step in his development, of course, but I’m not confident he will.

Miami made the right choice with Tua

I’m not gonna sit here and pretend Tua Tagovaioa is not a legitimate threat to bust: his injury concerns are very serious and he played with an excellent supporting cast. But that doesn’t change the fact that he is an excellent quarterback prospect that possesses out-of-the-gate skills to turn the Miami Dolphins into a legitimate contender. He will obviously have to improve every aspect of his game to succeed at the professional level, but you can say that about every prospect ever.

Tua is arguably a better talent than the first overall selections of the last two years. He’s easily the first overall pick if Joe Burrow doesn’t come out of nowhere and turn into Football Jesus in 2019. I didn’t love Miami’s draft overall, but I did love them not getting cute about the most important position in the game. Maybe it blows up in their faces, but the upside of Tua vastly outweighs the risk given Miami’s years of mediocrity.

Browns can make the playoffs

I actually think there is a chance the Browns could be a legitimate force in 2020. I don’t think they are going to be a favorite by any means — their division is going to be extremely tough and they still lack a strong veteran presence that is the mainstay of most championship rosters. That being said, Cleveland’s biggest problem offensively were coaching and the offensive line. The Browns arguably turned both into strengths this offseason.

I may not love Jack Conklin in pass protection but he’s a step up above what they had at offensive tackle and a very good run blocker. Jedrick Wills was the favorite of the Big Four offensive linemen in the draftniks community. It’s hard to believe Kevin Stefanski won’t be an upgrade as an offensive-minded head coach as well. Baker Mayfield had a superior rookie season before the wheels fell off last year, and I expect people to speak about him in a much different light come the conclusion of the 2020 season.

I have a hard time seeing the Browns winning their division, but they could be a tough wildcard outing for some team.

Buccaneers have a ton of talent and a ton to prove

The Bucs are one of the most moribund franchises in the NFL but they are exiting one of the most exciting offseasons in the history of football. Imagine if someone had come to the team in 2018 and said that by the end of the 2019 season they would have signed the league leader in sacks, signed the greatest tight end ever, and the greatest quarterback of all time. I mean, my God. Only in the year of Covid-19 and murder hornets does such an insanity seem right at place.

New Orleans’ final stand

The Saints have one of the most complete teams in the NFL. There is not a single hole on the squad except for the second outside cornerback position. They have the roster to get it done. They have a quarterback and head coach who have gotten it done before. But the Saints have been upset for three consecutive years, and they have run out of time to get it done. This is New Orleans’ last chance to win it all in the the Drew Brees era.

Brees will retire in 2021. I’m confident that he will retire for the same reason I became increasingly confident that Brady would leave the Patriots: the money just does not add up. The Saints will be in cap hell at the start of next year and the only way to escape it without shedding tons of talent and adding tons of dead cap is for Brees to retire. When you add the cap calculus to Brees’ obvious physical decline, retirement becomes even more clear. Heck, his head coach flat out said it would be Brees’ last season, though to be fair, it was an off the cuff remark. You cannot rule out a trade but I think it is unlikely for a variety of reasons.

2020 will be Brees’ swan song. Luckily for him he’d be hard pressed to find a better team to sing with as the shutters close.

Can the 49ers bet back to the Super Bowl?

The track record for teams getting back to the Super Bowl after a loss is not good. It is not impossible (as Patriots fans are gratefully aware) but it’s extremely difficult. That being said, San Francisco did a good job navigating the offseason and should remain one of the best teams in the NFL. The 49ers lost three premium talents — that’s three above average players at premium positions — in pass rushing defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, left tackle Joe Staley, and wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. I won’t say the 49ers completely mitigated their losses, but they did a lot more than you would expect to replace them in a single offseason.

The 49ers traded Buckner for the 13th pick in the draft and flipped it into arguably the best pass rushing defensive tackle in the draft, Javon Kinlaw. They used their original first-round pick and the fourth-round pick they received from trading down from No. 13 to grab Brandon Aiyuk who a lot of draft analyst believed was actually a better fit for Kyle Shanahan’s scheme than Emmanuel Sanders. Finally, San Francisco was able to replace the talented but aging Joe Staley with the much younger and arguably superior Trent Williams.

Kinlaw and Aiyuk are completely unproven talents and Williams has some health concerns, so these are far from one-by-one replacements. But you have to tip your hat to the 49ers’ front office for at least giving the team a chance to successfully replace major losses in a single year. The 49ers were the best team in the NFC last year by a decent margin. Even with the losses they sustained you could argue they still have the best roster in the NFC. The odds are not good the 49ers can return to the big game, but they certainly have a reasonable shot to buck the trend.

Colts prepared for a comeback?

The Colts entered the offseason with a war chest to spend, and spend they did. They resigned left tackle Anthony Castonzo, gave DeForest Buckner a massive contract after trading for him, and signed Philip Rivers to be their quarterback along with a slew of smaller moves. Indianapolis’ offseason is honestly a good lesson in why cap space can be overrated: the Colts did not get a lot of premium for their dollars. The only superior talent in his prime that they signed was Buckner, and they had to sacrifice the 13th overall pick in the draft to get him.

The Colts definitely appear cognizant that the money did not match the talent. Most of their contracts were one or two years. Despite spending nearly $90 million in cap space in 2020, they are projected to enter 2021 with $120 million available. All of this is to say that I’m not sure the Colts are positioned for a deep playoff run. I do think they can be competitive in 2020, though.

Rivers’ arm showed alarming decline down the stretch of last season but he will be playing behind the best offensive line he may have had his entire career. Despite his commitment to throwing picks at the end of last season there is a good chance that he is still a significant upgrade over Jacoby Brissett. Furthermore, the team was hit hard by injuries in 2019 — just being healthy is liable to net the team an extra win this season. If their defense stays healthy and Rivers stabilizes behind an elite offensive line, I think the Colts could be a problem in 2020.

Tennessee primed for decline?

The Titans were the feel-good story of the AFC. After promoting backup quarterback Ryan Tannehill, they went on a tear that ended with a berth in the AFC championship. They were not considered a serious contender but a tight win against the Patriots in the wild card round and a massive upset against the Ravens one week later transformed the “Titoons” into a legitimate threat in the AFC. I’m skeptical over whether that will continue heading into 2020, however.

The Titans lost their right tackle, arguably their best cornerback (albeit he was a slot corner), in addition to depth along their defensive line. The Titans drafted an offensive tackle and a cornerback with their first two picks, but it is unlikely either player is as good as the person they will be asked to replace in 2020. Furthermore, Tannehill didn’t really perform at a high level for any more than a month before retreating back to his decent but unremarkable production.

Tennessee pretty clearly over-performed in 2019. Without a legitimate franchise quarterback and an overall weaker roster going into 2020, I think the team is primed for regression. I think the key for the Titans to return to the AFC Championship Game will be Mike Vrabel continuing to coach the players into their best play down the stretch and for Tannehill to prove he deserves the massive contract extension he was given.

Last ride for the Cowboys

There was a significant disparity between what the advanced statistics said about the Cowboys’ production and how that production translated to wins on the football field.

The team’s offense should be excellent heading into 2020. CeeDee Lamb was considered by most in the draft community to be the best player in a very good wide receiver class. Dallas may end up with a coup getting him as the third overall receiver off the board. Sports analytics were high on the Cowboys’ draft but like last season, they need to see the analytical praise translate into wins on the field. I have to give some credit to Dallas, though. They offered more money than I would have given to Dak Prescott but have held firm about offering any more. Stephen Jones specifically cited the lack of success had by teams that pay their quarterback more than a certain percentage of the cap, and I think that is a reasonable point to make — to an extent. The Cowboys have never shied from paying their stars, but there comes a point where even a position as essential as the quarterback can be overpaid.

Final thoughts

I want to do a more in-depth review of the Patriots’ draft class and the team’s prospects for the 2020 season. Therefore, I am going to leave it out of this edition of Chief Thoughts and save it for a beefier one later on. In the meantime, I did have a few thoughts on the draft.

The Bucs got lucky with Tristan Wirfs. He was my least favorite of the Big Four, but there was a very good chance that none of the tackles were going to be available by 14th overall. It was later revealed that they tried to trade up multiple times to secure a tackle but were unable to swing a deal. In the end, they traded up one spot and potentially turned their roster’s most fatal flaw into a strength for the team. I also really loved the Antoine Winfield Jr. pick, because he was one of my favorite players in the draft. Getting him in the middle of the second round was a great landing spot, and, potentially, a bargain.

Dak Prescott will have no excuses in 2020. Between CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Michael Gallup, and a solid offensive line there is no reason that he should not be able to carry his teams to a few wins on the backs of the offense. I’ve been skeptical of the Dak Attack, but he had a good 2019 season in terms of stats. It’s time to show he can do more than stuff the sheet and win games with his arm alone.

The Broncos have quietly put together a solid offense with Jerry Jeudy, Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant. The offensive line still has issues and quarterback Drew Lock need to improve, but there are far worse casts of skill players in the NFL.

I might be completely wrong, but color me skeptical of Isaiah Simmons going to the Cardinals. He would dominate in New England, but I’m not really sure I trust Vance Joseph to use the versatile playmaker effectively.

The Browns might have gotten the best pick of the draft in terms of talent and need when they selected Jedrick Wills, who was considered by many to be the best tackle in the draft. Cleveland’s offense was hamstrung by incompetent tackle play, but Wills should be a Day One starter on the left side. There are no guarantees he pans out, but the Browns couldn’t have gotten luckier on paper.

I really respect the decision the Jets made to pass on a wide receiver in Round One. We have seen a lot of receivers coming from the second and third roundns produce at a high level in recent years, but the scarcity of tackles has continued on. That might start to change between the 2020 and 2021 but letting Sam Darnold having a semi-functioning O-line is going to be key to any future the Jets might desire with their young signal caller. Picking one of the Big Three wide receivers would have been sexier, but finding a player that could produce every down in the passing and running game was too important to pass up.

I’m really interested in the Raiders’ draft. They completely blew the fourth overall pick last year and yet they somehow managed to exit the with one of the best rookie classes in recent memory. I’m not in love with what general manager Mike Mayock did on paper, even though I don’t think anything he did was as egregious as picking Clelin Ferrell so high last season. It will be interesting to see if Mayock bucking with convention pays off twice. Generally it does not, though we have seen runs like the Seattle Seahawks’ where teams have gotten away with convention and built a powerful contender as a result. It’s worth noting, though, that this strategy has not paid off for the Seahawks for quite some time now.

Without a second-round pick, I think the Patriots made the right move to trade back in a very deep draft. Do I love everything they did after that? Not exactly. If you claim you didn’t shake your head in despair when Belichick traded back to grab a Division-II safety, you’re lying to yourself. At this point the hybrid safety has become Belichick white wale. It didn’t work out for Ahab and it hasn’t worked out for New England’s head coach so far. Did he finally nab his Moby Dick? Time will tell.