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Mock draft, take 3: Free agency shakes up team needs

03.15.12 at 11:45 pm ET
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Free agency has begun, and some — but not all — of the big names have been signed. That means that teams are filling their needs on the open market, while other teams are losing players and seeing holes appear on their depth charts.

All of that makes for some big changes in this edition of the WEEI.com mock draft. It’s our first mock since the Redskins traded up to No. 2, and the first since the Bills made a major splash with the Mario Williams signing. Peyton Manning‘s decision will change things the next time around, but here’s how the mock shakes out this time:

1. Indianapolis (2-14), Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Releasing Manning was the latest indication that there’€™s no question as to what they’€™ll be doing with the first overall pick. Luck’€™s going first, and Robert Griffin III is going second. The draft might as well start with Minnesota on the clock.

2. Washington [from St. Louis (2-14)] Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

It seems the national opinion to this trade (picks No. 6, 38, first-round picks in 2013 and 2014 in exchange for No. 2) went from ‘€œThe Redskins lost their minds’€ to ‘€œWe can see why they did it.’€ Honestly, the latter reaction may be more correct. As insane a haul as that is to move up just four spots, it will be worth it if Griffin is as legitimate as he seems. Giving up this year’€™s second-rounder meant no chance at getting Griffin a star receiver, but the Redskins did the best they could by signing Pierre Garcon.

3. Minnesota (3-13), Matt Kalil, OT, USC

This pick becomes the first one in the draft that figures to have even a drop of suspense. Kalil makes perfect sense for the Vikings given that they have a need at left tackle and a young quarterback to protect, so expect him to be the guy at No. 3.

4. Cleveland (2-14), Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

There’€™s nothing you can say about the Browns other than that they really, really blew it. They had the ammunition to make a big trade for the second pick, and unlike the Redskins, they would have been able to trade three No. 1’€™s without leaving themselves depleted pick-wise. What do the Browns do now? Do they stick it out another year with Colt McCoy? Ryan Tannehill might not be much of an upgrade, so after initially appearing poised to get a franchise quarterback, they might come out of this draft with the same group of signal-callers they had to begin with.

The fact that they have no shot at RGIII leaves the Browns in quite a mess. They need receiver help, but ask Braylon Edwards how things went the last time they spent a top-five pick on a receiver when they didn’€™t have a quarterback. Their best option might be trading down and taking Richardson, so we’€™ll give them Richardson here for now.

5. Tampa Bay (5-11), Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

The Bucs went out and spent a bunch of money, but they did it wisely. They addressed big needs at receiver (Vincent Jackson), guard (Carl Nicks) and corner (Eric Wright), the latter of which was their biggest issue. Now, they don’€™t necessarily need to go with Claiborne fifth overall, and perhaps they might take a good look at Richardson if he’€™s on the board. Still, Claiborne is an elite talent, and you never know what’€™s going to happen with Aqib Talib.   Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, Mario Williams, Peyton Manning

Five thoughts on Day 3 of NFL free agency and how it has impacted the Patriots

03.15.12 at 4:01 pm ET
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Here are five thoughts on Day 3 of NFL free agency and how it has impacted the Patriots to this point:

1. Danny Amendola, a slot receiver who recently found a niche with the Rams, has suddenly become a hot name on the free agent market. Looked at by some as an eventual heir to Wes Welker — the 5-foot-11, 188-pound Amendola is also a Texas Tech guy who was an undrafted free agent, and struggled before finding a home — we asked our pal Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus about the comparisons between Amendola and Welker. He said they share a lot in common:

‘€œThe year to look at is 2010, when Amendola had 85 receptions from 114 targets. Like Welker, he worked almost exclusively in the slot and underneath,’€ Monson wrote. ‘€œ102 of those targets were from the slot, and Sam Bradford was able to rely on Amendola’€™s quickness and smarts in between zones to move the chains and keep the offense going.

‘€œEssentially he was Welker-lite at the time, and I think he sparked a trend in the league of teams trying to find their own version of Welker. Amendola is a very similar type of player, and he may even have slightly better hands. But I think he’€™s a little less impressive an athlete. Welker has quicks that nobody can stick with if he’€™s given long enough to make a move. Amendola relies more on exploiting holes in zones and being in the right spot, but he can be covered with top players. But in terms of price and age, he’€™s a natural heir apparent to Welker.’€

2. We’€™ve written and talked about this already, but the fact that the safety market is one of the weakest it’€™s been in years (both in free agency and in the draft) was driven home when Brandon Meriweather ended up signing with the Redskins on Thursday after taking a couple of visits. While he was never a viable option to return to New England, it takes another available name off the board in what is a rapidly deteriorating group of available bodies. If the Patriots are still looking to find a safety in free agency, there’€™s LaRon Landry and his giant arms. (Landry will apparently visit New England — is he going to be allowed to bring those biceps on the plane, or will they make him drive to Foxboro?) We have also speculated about the idea of the Patriots going after someone like Jim Leonhard, a veteran who has been banged up the last few seasons but is still regarded as a well-respected presence across the NFL.

3. One of the safeties the Patriots have also kicked the tires on is Steve Gregory, an intriguing prospect who has some positional versatility. We’€™re finding out more and more about him — he was a corner and a wide receiver at Syracuse, and caught 38 balls for 420 yards as a junior (included in those numbers is a three-catch, 53-yard contest against Boston College). It doesn’€™t mean that he will be asked to flip to the offensive side of the ball if he signs with the Patriots, but that’€™s the sort of positional versatility they like in Foxboro. In addition, as Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston has already noted, he was part of a Syracuse team that also had Matt Patricia as an offensive grad assistant — the same Matt Patricia who is now the Patriots’€™ de facto defensive coordinator.
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Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, Aaron Schobel, Brandon Meriweather, Danny Amendola

Todd McShay takes a look at how the Patriots might draft

03.15.12 at 11:54 am ET
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ESPN’s Todd McShay joined Dale Arnold and Kirk Minihane on the Dennis and Callahan Show Thursday morning to talk about whom the Patriots might draft. Here is McShay’s take (and to read more ‘Potential Patriots’ click here):

(Regarding the possibility of drafting a wide receiver)

I can see them possibly, if you get to 22 or 23, somewhere in that range and there’€™s a player on the board that they’€™re looking for, a pass-rusher, basically, in my opinion, or possibly a defensive back that maybe slips. Dre Kirkpatrick from Alabama. Mark Barron at safety from Alabama. Or let’€™s say an Andre Branch from Clemson, a pass rusher. A position of high value.

I like some wide receivers, and I know they need a wide receiver, but I just don’€™t know you always package picks and move up. To me, if they move up a few spots and don’€™t have to give up a whole lot, even one of their two second round picks to move up five or six spots to solidify a player they believe is smart enough to play in their front and be versatile enough to play 3-4 or a 4-3 at defensive end or outside linebacker and can do the things the they’€™re looking for which seems to be a rarity because they never draft pass rushers. Jermaine Cunningham is really the only one the last several years they’€™ve targeted in the early rounds. I think it’€™s worth it, but judging by their recent trend it’€™s something they like to do.

(Who are some wide receivers who might be possible fits with the Patriots?)

Justin Blackmon is obviously the premier wide receiver in this draft. After that there’€™s definitely a drop-off. Michael Floyd, to me, if he’€™s there at 27, take him. I know you don’€™t like drafting wide receivers. I agree with their draft philosophy in that regard. I would rarely draft a receiver in the first round. You go through and do the statistics, the trends, the history of wide receivers, you can get these guys, really good players, in the second, third and fourth, all the way down. I just don’€™t know why, unless you really like a player for what you’€™re doing, you’€™re going to spend a high pick.

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Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Patriots, Todd McShay,

Report: LaRon Landry slated to make a visit to Foxboro

03.15.12 at 10:40 am ET
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According to the Boston Herald, free agent safety LaRon Landry is slated to visit the Patriots this weekend.

The sixth overall pick in the 2007 draft has suffered from various injuries the last two seasons, slowing down what had initially been a promising career with the Washington Redskins. He was put on the injured reserve list by the Redskins with three games to go in the ’11 season due to an Achilles tendon injury. According to the Herald, Landry’s health is currently good (as he evidently has tried to portray in various photos posted on Twitter).

Landry’s best season came in ’09 when the 6-foot, 227-pounder made 78 tackles.

For more on Landry’s career, click here.

Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, LaRon Landry,

Report: Former Colts wideout Anthony Gonzalez to visit Patriots

03.15.12 at 8:29 am ET
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According to the Boston Herald, wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez — the Colts’ first-round pick in the 2007 draft — will visit with the Patriots at Gillette Stadium this weekend, with the wideout flying into town Friday.

The former Ohio State standout’s best season came in 2008 when he made 58 catches. But injuries have hampered Gonzalez since ’08, making just five catches for 67 yards over the past two seasons. The 27-year-old has also played just 11 games the last three seasons.

For more about Gonzalez, click here.

Read More: 2012 NFL Free Agency, Anthony Gonzalez, Colts,

Long-term deal for Wes Welker doesn’t make sense for Patriots

03.15.12 at 6:00 am ET
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What are you thinking if you’re Wes Welker?

Vincent Jackson — who has caught 242 passes since the start of the 2007 season, or 312 fewer than Welker — signed a $55 million contract ($26 million guaranteed) on Tuesday. Pierre Garcon — with zero 1,000-yard seasons and a career high of 70 catches — inked a $42.5 million deal with the Redskins ($21.5 million guaranteed).

And now Calvin Johnson — probably the best wide receiver in the NFL, sure, but look at his numbers vs. Welker’s since 2007 (Johnson: 366 catches, 5,872 yards, 49 TDs, Welker: 554 catches, 6,105 yards, 31 TDs) — gets the first real holy s–t deal of the offseason, $132 million ($60 million guaranteed).

OK, let’s get a couple of obvious disclaimers out of the way — Welker is older than Jackson, Garcon or Johnson. He’s blown out his ACL and MCL. Maybe you didn’t know this, but he isn’t 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. All very fair and all part of the reason Welker finds himself at this point contractually.

Look, Wes Welker is going to be paid at least $9.5 million dollars to play football this season. Hard to believe, but there has never been a folk song written about a guy making about 10 million bucks to catch (mostly) spirals from one of the two or three best quarterbacks in the history of the league.

But in a world of millionaires, it’s plenty fair to suggest that Welker, given what he has done for this franchise and his production level compared to the very best at his position, is kind of getting screwed by the Patriots.

If he’s pissed about that, he has every right to be. Wes Welker is twice the football player Vincent Jackson is on Jackson’s best day. DeSean Jackson signed a $51 million contract on Wednesday. Yup, the same guy who was deactivated for skipping a team meeting and was benched for basically showing no balls against the Patriots last season while dropping a pair of TD passes (Welker had eight catches for 115 yards and two TDs in the same game) just got handed $51 million dollars strictly on potential. Forget about not being able to carry Wes Welker’s jock, DeSean Jackson wouldn’t even put forward the effort to try.

And Wes Welker — the most productive wide receiver in football the last five seasons — has a one-year deal.

Here’s the thing, though — it’s not going to change. We’ve now passed the point where a long-term deal makes sense for either side, really. If Welker (and agent David Dunn) are looking at these deals and truly believe that kind of money is what is deserved, they will never get it from Bill Belichick. Not going to happen.

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Read More: Calvin Johnson, pierre garcon, Vincent Jackson, Wes Welker

Upcoming schedule of Pro Days

03.14.12 at 4:22 pm ET
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Here’s a look at some upcoming Pro Days.

March 15: Delaware State, Louisiana Tech, Michigan, UNLV, Nicholls State, Oregon, Southern Illinois, Townson, Tusculum, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Wayne State (Mich.), William & Mary
March 16: Arizona State, James Madison, Missouri State, Oregon State, Richmond, Temple, Tennessee, West Virginia
March 19: Appalachian State, Arizona, Florida Atlantic, Iowa, Montana State, Rice, Southern, Wake Forest
March 20: Brown, Idaho, Iowa State, Louisiana-Lafayette, Monmouth, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Carolina A&T, South Florida, Texas
March 21: Baylor, Boston College, Houston, N.C. State, North Dakota State, Rutgers, San Diego State, San Jose State, Tulane, Western Kentucky
March 22: East Carolina, LSU, Maine, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, South Dakota, South Dakota State, Stanford, Tennessee-Chattanooga
March 23: Cornell, Jackson State, Missouri Western, N.C. Central, Southern Mississippi, Vanderbilt
March 26: Indiana State
March 27: Arkansas State, Coastal Carolina, Merrimack College, Stephen F. Austin, Washburn
March 28: Central Florida, Connecticut, Newberry, Northern Iowa, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Carolina State
March 29: Brigham Young, Georgia Southern
March 30: Bethune-Cookman, Dartmouth
April 3: Abilene Christian, Notre Dame, Stonybrook
April 4: SMU

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