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J.J. Watt available for Patriots at 17? It may be more likely than you think

03.08.11 at 4:56 pm ET
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Every year there’s at least one first-round star who falls much further than anyone could have expected in the draft. Somehow, a guy with a top 10 grade went 21st overall in 2004. His name? Vince Wilfork. Last year, it was Bryan Bulaga, who went 23rd to the Packers after Mike Mayock (count the times he’s wrong — it doesn’t happen often) said he wasn’t getting out of the top 10.

Our latest mock draft has the Patriots taking Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt, a 6-foot-5 3/8, 290-pounder who had seven sacks as a junior and excelled at the combine. Mayock has called him the best five-technique prospect he’s ever seen. How, then, could Watt be available with the draft’s 17th pick? It’s a question that’s popped up, and one that’s very fair to ask. Here’s the attempt at answering it.

This draft class is known for its defensive stars. From cornerbacks Patrick Peterson and Prince Amukamara to top linemen in Da’Quan Bowers, Marcell Dareus and Nick Fairley, the best talent in this draft is on defense.

As far as five-technique prospects go, Dareus and Cal’s Cameron Jordan are in the conversation for the first one to come off the board. Both figure to be top 10 picks.

The Panthers, Broncos, Bills and Bengals — the teams with the first four picks in this draft — all have 4-3 defenses, with Denver and Buffalo making the switch this offseason. If they opt for defensive linemen with their picks, they won’t be going for 3-4 guys, and Watt’s size and skill set translates to playing end in the 3-4. The Cardinals (No. 5), 49ers (No. 7), Cowboys (No. 9) and Redskins (No. 10) are the only teams picking in the top 10 that run a 3-4.

Of those four teams, only two of them have a perceived need at defensive end, as both San Francisco and Dallas could address the position. That makes two teams in the top 10 potentially going after the draft’s star five-technique ends.

For Patriots fans hoping their team can secure Watt, that’s very good news. Assuming that both Dareus and Jordan are taken in the top 10 picks, something that isn’t a certainty, Watt’s potential slide to 17 is actually quite conceivable. Here’s a look at the teams picking before the Patriots after the top 10 picks. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, j.j. watt, NFL scouting combine, Vince Wilfork

Matt Light on CBA talks: ‘The system doesn’t need to go back’

03.08.11 at 10:02 am ET
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Patriots offensive lineman Matt Light made an appearance on The Hill-Man Morning Show on WAAF radio Tuesday morning, and the team’s union representative offered his thoughts on negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. To hear the interview, click here.

Light said he is “hopeful” that a deal will get done soon, but he’s hesitant to sound too optimistic. “My stance has always been this: There’s so many issues that go into this,” he said. “It’s obviously never going to be a situation where I can make a comment and everybody’s going to agree with it. Or that I can even comment to my own players when they ask me how things are going. ‘€¦ It’s always moving. This negotiation for the longest time didn’t go anywhere. And then as the deadline approached, I think we all kind of figured it would start to move a little bit, and then we get this extension. I think things are moving.

“That’s about all I can say, really. Because you sound like a buffoon if you say, ‘Well, I feel positive about this,’ and then nothing happens and we do end up getting locked out.”

Light said he takes issue with analysts who side with owners because players want to keep the status quo. “The system doesn’t need to go back,” he said. “We don’t need to give back a billion dollars based on what we know. I think that’s pretty simple. When I listen to the radio or I hear people on TV talk about this issue, the one thing that I have a problem with is that they want to say that the deal’s too good for the players, and that’s why if one side doesn’t want to make a move and the other one does, then the side that doesn’t want to move, obviously, it’s too good for them. Well, that’s just ludicrous in my mind. You can’t say that one side has it too good if they don’t want to change anything when the other side is asking you to give back 18 percent of your pay.”

Added Light: “At the end of the day, it just comes down to doing what’s fair and what’s equitable. Look, the league, from 2009 to 2010, they were up 7 percent. That’s pretty good. That’s a heck of a deal. They definitely haven’t lost money in a long time. Nor do I see that happening anytime soon. If it’s good now, it should be good later, and we should all take part in that.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: CBA, Matt Light, Stephen Neal, Tom Brady

Kraft says he’ll return from trip if deal between owners, players is close

03.07.11 at 7:42 pm ET
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Patriots owner Robert Kraft, on a trade mission to Israel with Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, said he “personally [believes] it’s possible” for the NFL owners and players to agree on a new labor deal before Friday’s deadline, and that he “might have to leave [the trip] early” and return to the United States if an agreement between the two sides is close.

“I made a commitment here, so we’re going to finish the important things we’re doing here,” Kraft told reporters while overseas. “[We’re] in daily contact by phone. It’s unfortunate. We’re supposed to be settled by now. That’s [why] we planned this trip [for this week].”

Players and owners are meeting this week in Washington D.C. in hopes of preventing the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

“We’re doing everything we can to get a deal consummated,” said Kraft. “I personally believe it’s possible. … [The] good news is, it’s always good to be talking when you have differences of opinion. It’s the only way you have a chance [to reach an agreement]. So we’re talking, and I know from ownership’s side that we feel there’s a deal to be made and we’d very much like to do it.”

Read More: Deval Patrick, lockout, Robert Kraft,

Marcus Stroud’s contract with Patriots lands him $2.9M in base salary

03.07.11 at 6:00 pm ET
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The deal the Patriots inked with veteran defensive lineman Marcus Stroud is a two-year contract that will pay him a base salary of $1.2 million in 2011 and $1.7 million for the 2012 season. It’s a sizable step down from what he was scheduled to make with the Bills before Buffalo cut him loose last month ‘€” $4.5 million for 2011 and $5.5 for 2012.

A 6-foot-6, 310-pounder, the 32-year-old Stroud was selected by Jacksonville in the first round of the 2001 draft, and made three straight Pro Bowls while a member of the Jaguars from 2003-05. Last year with the Bills, he started 14 games and finished the year with 49 tackles and three sacks.

Read More: Marcus Stroud, Patriots,

If the Patriots were going to go after a defensive back in this draft, who would they target?

03.07.11 at 3:45 pm ET
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A little while back, we wrote about the Patriots’ affinity for wide receivers and defensive backs who score well in the 3-cone drill at the combine and their Pro Day. A lot of the relatively under-the-radar receivers (non first-rounders) they’€™ve targeted in recent years have all excelled in the agility drills, like Julian Edelman, Deion Branch, Chad Jackson and Wes Welker all lit up the 3-cone drill either at their combine appearance or at their Pro Day.

That also translates to the defensive side of the football ‘€” Devin McCourty‘€™s 6.7 in the 3-cone drill at last year’€™s combine put him second among all corners. At this year’s combine, it was a fast track, as McCourty’s 6.7 would have landed him ninth overall among defensive backs. (Other New England defensive backs who have run sub-seven seconds in the 3-cone include Darius Butler, who had a 6.92.)

We aren’t intimating that the Patriots are necessarily going to go after Buster Skrine or Chykie Brown based on their performance in the 3-cone drill (or Patrick Peterson, because he’ll be gone in the Top 10 most likely). But historically, a good performance in the 3-cone drill (or another one of the agility drills) has led to some interest from the Patriots.

Here’s are this year’s Top 10 times for the defensive backs:

1. Tennesee-Chattanooga’s Buster Skrine (6.44)
2. Texas’ Chykie Brown (6.50)
3. Idaho’s Shiloh Keo (6.55)
4. LSU’s Patrick Peterson (6.58)
5. Texas’ Curtis Brown (6.59)
6. New Mexico State’s Davon House (6.65)
7. Boise State’s Brandyn Thompson (6.66)
8. Virginia Tech’s Rashad Carmichael (6.69)
9. Texas’ Aaron Williams (6.72)
10. Nebraska’s Eric Hagg (6.73)

It’s also worth mentioning that two defensive linemen who might be good fits in the New England system ‘€” Fresno State’s Chris Carter and Wisconsin’s J.J. Watt ‘€” also did well in the 3-cone drill, with both running matching 6.88 to finished tied for second among all defensive linemen.

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aaron Williams, Brandyn Thompson, Buster Skrine

Post-combine mock draft

03.07.11 at 4:50 am ET
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After getting back from the combine last week with a plenty of impressions and takes on this year’s crop, it’s time we revisit the mock draft. As could probably expected, things are drastically different, including a big slide for Nick Fairley and the removal of Ryan Mallett.

The top pick remains the same (barely), but seven of the top 10 picks are different from what they were in the pre-combine mock draft.

1. Carolina (2-14) Da’€™Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson If there’€™s one thing I came out of the combine thinking, it’€™s that this draft doesn’€™t have a sure-fire first overall pick ‘€“ yet ‘€“ and that the widely assumed 1 and 1a of Da’€™Quan Bowers and Fairley (in no particular order) will not necessarily represent this draft’€™s first two picks. As a result, I really wrestled at length in this spot between Bowers and UNC’€™s Robert Quinn. It will remain Bowers for now, or until he works out at his Pro Day, but Quinn was very impressive at the combine and despite not playing last season due to a suspension may be the best pass-rusher in this draft. The coolest thing about the possibility of Quinn going in the top slot? If he becomes the guy, the last two first overall picks (Sam Bradford, 2010) will have combined for just three games in their draft years.

2. Denver (4-12) Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU Another thing I learned (or became convinced of after initially suspecting it), is that there is a clear-cut best player in this draft, and by a decent margin. That player is Patrick Peterson. Broncos fans have long been treated to having an elite corner in Champ Bailey, and Peterson is the best cornerback prospect to come out in years. He absolutely crushed it at the combine, running a 4.34 40 and looking fantastic in positional drills. I repeat: Patrick Peterson is the best player in this draft.

3. Buffalo (4-12) Von Miller, OLB, Texas A&M Miller is the real deal and would give the Bills the help at outside linebacker they so desperately need after two seasons of confirmation that Aaron Maybin is not the answer to their pass-rush woes. An experienced outside linebacker, he holds a real edge over tweeners for teams looking for more of a sure thing. His 4.53 40-yard dash time was second only to Dontay Moch for the best among the outside linebacker prospects.

4. Cincinnati (4-12) ) Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri Boy, that Carson Palmer sure doesn’€™t like the Bengals, huh? Palmer hasn’€™t spoken on the record since demanding a trade from the organization, and the recent news that he’€™s banked $80 million and is ready to retire might mean the Bengals should start looking for their next quarterback. This might be a little high for Gabbert, but he’€™s the best signal-caller in this draft and is far less of a project than Cam Newton.

5. Arizona (5-11) Robert Quinn, DE/OLB, North Carolina He came off as intelligent and ‘€“ to a degree ‘€“ accountable for his actions (accepting jewelry from an agent) that led to his season-long suspension, and that realistically is the only thing that could have kept Quinn from being considered a top prospect in this draft. Though he hasn’€™t played since his 11-sack sophomore season, he shouldn’€™t fall out of the top five as he continues to help teams cross out character concerns.

6. Cleveland (5-11) Nick Fairley, DL, Auburn This might not be the farthest Fairley ends up falling. He showed up at the combine shorter and slimmer than many had him as being, so 3-4 teams won’€™t have a place for the 6-foot-3, 291-pound defensive lineman. He would, however, be perfect for a team like the Browns, who are switching from a 3-4 to a 4-3. Fairley made a good impression on the media folk, but there are still big questions about his motor.

7. San Francisco (6-10) Marcell Dareus, DL, Alabama Dareus is the best five-technique prospect in the draft, and he did nothing to make anyone think otherwise at the combine. He’€™s experienced in Nick Saban‘€™s 3-4, so if he’€™s available, the 49ers would be wise to snatch him up. They have a couple of questions on their defensive line, and this would answer one of them. Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: 2011 NFL Draft, Aaron Williams, Akeem Ayers, Aldon Smith

Patriots make signing of Marcus Stroud official

03.04.11 at 5:27 pm ET
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The Patriots made official their deal with defensive lineman Marcus Stroud. Though the team did not disclose terms, reported earlier in the week that the deal was for two years.

The 10-year veteran, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds, was cut by the Bills last month, who preferred to go younger and less expensive on their line. Stroud was due to receive $10 million over the next two seasons, including a $1 million roster bonus in March.

The 2001 first-rounder made three straight Pro Bowls while a member of the Jaguars from 2003-05. Last year, he started 14 games and finished the year with 49 tackles and three sacks.

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Read More: Marcus Stroud,
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