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#PostPulpit Mailbag: What direction is Bill Belichick taking this team?

You asked, Brian Hines answered.

New England Patriots v Las Vegas Raiders Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

We enter the final stretch of preparation for the NFL Draft as NFL owners, general managers, and coaches spent time in Arizona this week at the annual owner meetings.

Let’s break it all down in this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag.

@G_Dillon_C what is mac jones’s ceiling

Let's start here as it brings us to a point on the bigger direction of the New England Patriots.

As for Mac, there are three types of quarterbacks in today’s NFL. Ones that can carry your team to a Super Bowl, ones that you can win with in a strong situation, and ones you simply can't win with. Everything we’ve seen from Mac Jones through two years suggests he falls into the category of ‘win with in a strong situation.’ Think Kirk Cousins or perhaps 2022 Tua.

Based off everything Bill Belichick has said (and perhaps more importantly what he hasn't said) about Jones since he returned from injury last year suggests he views his quarterback the same way - maybe worse. But, he has not gone out of his way, like other teams, to surround Jones with the strong supporting cast needed to win.

This raises two larger points, one on Bill Belichick’s team building philosophy. It seems he is stuck in his old mindset of not believing wide receivers are a premiere position in today’s NFL. The league has changed to where these receivers dominate, but Belichick seems to be one of, if not the only team builder in the league not using valuable resources to acquire top-end talent at the position. Instead he’ll just draft Tyquan Thornton in the top-50 and send a pick swap for DeVante Parker.

The second bigger picture item here is back to Mac. If the reason that Bill is not adding top weaponry is because he feels that poorly about Mac Jones, then what exactly is the plan here? Just roll with Mac as Aaron Rodgers or Lamar Jackson are available in hopes of Bill O’Brien getting slightly more out of him than the ‘21 season? They’ll just continue to be stuck in the mud.

As Bill said at the Owners Meeting earlier this week, there is plenty of time left in the offseason. How he operates over the next few weeks will hopefully give us some answers on the overall direction of this team.

@JohnALimberakis Given there are so many good fits at WR, TE, CB, IDL, Edge, RB, would you target OT higher because of the lack of depth and higher floor starters?

I would. There is more of a significant drop off from the top-to-mid-range offensive tackle prospects compared to other positions.

There is a consensus top five or six tackles that have immediate starting caliber traits who will likely all be off the board come pick 40. After that, there aren't many options who can play immediately. Using cornerback for example, New England may not get a premiere player after the first round, but can find an immediate matchup based player who can see the field on day one.

As you mentioned there are several other deep positions like the cornerback spot, that’s why I continue to project them to go offensive tackle in round one. It remains one of their biggest current needs and any player they draft at the position should have a high usage rate early. Fill that early in the draft and then find guys at other, deeper positions who can immediately fill roles for your team in later rounds.

@smarshxo Who is your favorite receiver in the draft for the Patriots?

Jaxon Smith-Njigba has long been my favorite target for New England in this draft. He seems like an easy fit to drop into the Z/slot role and catch 100 balls every season.

Beyond JSN, I have become more of a Zay Flowers supporter of late due to his fit in New England’s offense. They have plenty of bigger, possession receivers but need someone who is shifty, explosive, and can separate. He could even be in consideration at pick No. 14.

Outside of round one, UNC’s Josh Downs, Oklahoma’s Marvin Mims, and Purdue’s Charlie Jones are some other names I like.

@DCFanlord Jerry Jeudy still in play? If so, what do Pats give up for him?

As long as Jerry Jeudy is on the Broncos, he’s still in play. I wouldn't read too much into Sean Payton declaring Denver is “not trading” their receivers. Just remember what Mike Vrabel said when asked if A.J. Brown could be traded last year: “Not as long as I’m the head coach.”

With that being said, it seems like Denver prefers to keep Jeudy unless they are blown away by an offer. That would be a first-round pick. While No. 14 overall is pretty rich for New England, it could only make sense if they plan to use that pick at the wide receiver position. Jeudy would be the top receiver in this class and his contract would not become a complete albatross for several seasons.

I would not expect Jeudy, or DeAndre Hopkins, to be moved until we get closer to the NFL Draft. Perhaps then each team’s asking price lowers.

@FJB_FOF The past couple of drafts we have seen BB double dip at a couple of positions (CB, RB). Can you see him doing it this year at WR or OT?

If you asked me before free agency, I absolutely could have seen a double dip at offensive tackle. But, they shored up their depth at the position (and along the rest of the roster) with Riley Reiff and Calvin Anderson. It’s still a good size probability they double up at some point/position in the draft, but they did a good job throughout free agency making sure they don't have to rely on anything.

@Skywal1Thaddeus Considering the fact that the Pats cut Brian Hoyer, is their a possibility that the Pats draft a QB late in the draft. I have my eye on Jake Haener as a possibility.

I’m firmly in the camp that you should draft a quarterback every year to keep the pipeline fresh, especially if you do not have ‘your guy’.

New England typically has three or four quarterbacks anyway in training camp, so they’ll add here somehow. I could see them bringing back veteran Garrett Gilbert at some point and pairing him with a late day three addition. UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson tops my list in that range. Houston’s Clayton Tune is another intriguing prospect

@Wacky4Z Why can’t we have nice things anymore? @Lj_era8

The thing is we can.

Bill Belichick sat at the Owners Meeting and told the media that “we’re not afraid to do whatever we need to do to help the team, whatever that is.” Robert Kraft then lit the world on fire with his Meek Mill/Lamar Jackson story, but he said it was Bill’s decision which seems to imply he would pay the bill.

They can acquire Lamar, but just don’t seem interested in doing so.

@jmomstead Do you really believe the Pats to be “out” of the Lamar conversation?

@Chriswh83634732 Who’s it going to be Lamar or Mac

Yes. Just doesn't seem like a move they'd make. I still am at the same point where I was at the conclusion of last season in which I would be shocked if Mac Jones was not the Week 1 starter.

@PatsNorth How’s Mac Jones feeling right now??

I’d imagine it’s not the best feeling when your head coach refuses to support you publicly in any fashion. But, he’s been coached tough since high school and perhaps that's part of Bill’s strategy. He also knows it is ultimately his play that can shut everyone up.

@KevSanch12 Season record prediction, go

Based on where the roster is right now and their schedule: 9-8.

@KiddinLikeJason Is it safe to plant my indoor plants outside?

I’d hold off for a bit, Jared. Still got some cold days on the horizon, unfortunately.

That’s all for this week’s #PostPulpit mailbag. If you have questions you’d liked to be answered next week, submit them on Twitter using #PostPulpit! Make sure to be following @iambrianhines and @PatsPulpit as well!