Patriots Mailbag: Pats Unlikely to Land Big Names Like DeAngelo Williams, Larry Fitzgerald

Patriots Mailbag: Pats Unlikely to Land Big Names Like DeAngelo Williams, Larry Fitzgerald This week's mailbag was heavy on the draft talk, and there was a surprising question thrown into that mix. For more on the Patriots in the Navy, the possibility of acquiring DeAngelo Williams and how the Pats should attack the first round, well, keep on reading.

Thank you for all of your questions, and if I didn't answer yours, please come on back next week.

Do you think there's any chance the Pats trade into the top 10 to pick up someone like J.J. Watt or Robert Quinn? Also, do you believe the Pats will take Alabama running back Mark Ingram if he falls to No. 17 or even past the Saints down to No. 28?
–Boston Boy

If the rookie wage scale is in place for this draft class — that doesn't appear to be a 100 percent certainty at this point — I believe the Patriots would be more inclined to be more aggressive and trade up. They'd definitely have to get into the top 10 to take Robert Quinn, who I believe will be taken between Nos. 4-8. J.J. Watt's stock is a little more unclear, but I think he'll be around in the middle of the first round in the 12-20 area.

There's very little the Patriots could do in the draft that would still surprise me, mostly because you just expect it at this point. With that in mind, I wouldn't be completely shocked to see them target Mark Ingram if he is available at No. 17, even if the Patriots have more pressing needs. I'd be surprised if Ingram is still there at No. 28, but I think the Pats would jump all over that opportunity.

The Dolphins are perceived as the biggest hurdle for Ingram in front of the Patriots, but I think Ingram would also fit in Cincinnati, Arizona, Dallas, Washington and Detroit. With that said, there's almost no chance the Bengals or Cardinals take Ingram in the top five, and I don't think the Cowboys, Redskins or Lions would address the running back position in the first round, even if Ingram would be an upgrade for each of those teams.

Jeff, if the Patriots trade up to, say, the ninth pick with Dallas, who would you take with that pick? I guess my question would be, do you draft the best pass rusher (if yes, who would you pick and why?) or do you go with the offensive line (again, if yes, who would you pick and why?) Thanks and keep up the great work you do!
–Mike

Thanks, Mike. I really detailed Bill Belichick's philosophy on pass rushers last week, so I don't want to rehash that here. Texas A&M outside linebacker Von Miller, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers (an outside linebacker in New England's system) and North Carolina defensive end/outside linebacker Robert Quinn are considered the draft's best pass rushers. Miller will be gone in the top five, and I believe Quinn will be off the board by No. 8. Bowers' fate will be determined by the health of his knee, as he could go as high as No. 1 or as low as the middle of the first round. I think Bowers would be worth the risk for the Patriots in the unforeseen chance that they have the opportunity to draft him.

Also, if I'm running the Patriots, I wouldn't trade into the top 10 to take an offensive lineman because they could get a comparable one at No. 17. My top three tackles, in order, are USC's Tyron Smith, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi and Boston College's Anthony Castonzo, and I think there's a good chance one of them is still around when the Patriots are on the clock at No. 17.

I'm not sure the Patriots need to really worry about trading into the top 10, but if they did, I think Quinn would be the most realistic target.

What has happened with Gabe Carimi? He looked perfect to protect Tom Brady.
–M Gran

Carimi could fall to New England at No. 17, but if the Patriots want him, I think they'll have to trade up a few spots to make it happen. The Cardinals and Browns could use a tackle, but I don't think they'll draft one that high. I think the earliest a tackle gets taken is at No. 9 by Dallas, and the Redskins, Lions and Dolphins could also go in that direction. Out of that group, I believe the Cowboys and Lions will take a tackle in the first round, which could give the Patriots a chance to take the third-best tackle in the draft if they want to go that route.

The NFL and NFLPA should agree to have a two-week window for free agency prior to the draft, and also allow trades including players and/or picks. This would allow teams to sign free agents if they choose to, or wait to fill a need during draft. The way it is now, all teams are handicapped going into the draft, and there will be high degree of personnel disarray once a new CBA is reached. The teams are the product of the NFL and should be viewed as such. I'm sure the owners don't wish to offer an inferior product to the fans. What's your opinion?
–Andrew

While I agree that it puts teams at a big disadvantage, this is part of the owners' leverage in CBA negotiations. There are about 500 free agents, and they face a more uncertain future than the players who are under contract. The owners were hoping this would force the NFLPA to be more willing to accept their CBA proposal. Is it right? Is it fair? No and no, but those were their negotiation tactics.

That said, the slim possibility remains that the court system rules in the players' favor, blocks the lockout and allows free agency to start before the draft. It would give teams a few days to negotiate with their primary targets before shifting focus back to the draft, and that would obviously be very helpful. At this point, though, it's too difficult to assess the likelihood of that happening.

Shun White (running back/slot back) is projected to join the team in 2012. Eric Kettani (fullback) is projected to be available this fall. White reportedly ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash with a 1.46 10-yard split, which is faster than most backs at this year's combine. Kettani is a bruising fullback. How do you see these guys fitting into the Pats' long-term plans and approach to the draft? We seem to be overlooking the military/reserve elements of the roster that Belichick set up a few years ago. Obviously, he saw something special in these guys at the time to go through the process of getting all the special approvals to sign and have these guys work out with the team.
–Waldoon

Before I get to the question, Kettani was part of one of the cooler moments of the Patriots' 2010 season. He showed up on Veterans Day in his military fatigues and spoke to the whole team during practice. Belichick and the players really appreciated that moment.

Kettani and White are both on the reserve/military list while they complete their service in the Navy, and they'll be eligible to return to the Patriots afterward. Before you get too excited, though, remember they both went undrafted in 2009 — obviously, that's not all about talent, because teams knew they'd have to wait a few years to get them in camp — and will come back after not playing football for several seasons.

Clearly, Kettani and White will be in shape, and their work ethic will be undeniable, but there's no chance Belichick navigates through the draft with them in the back of his mind.

What receiver will the Patriots get: Chad Ochocinco, Steve Smith or Larry Fitzgerald? Is it possible the Patriots will trade for DeAngelo Williams?
–Zach

I don't think the Patriots will wind up with any of those receivers, but I'm not ready to rule out Chad Ochocinco. It doesn't look like the Cardinals will be moving Larry Fitzgerald after all, and Steve Smith – assuming you're talking about the Carolina wideout — has too much of an attitude for the New England locker room. It would make some sense for the Patriots and Ochocinco to unite, but I don't know if the Bengals are completely ready to let him go just yet.

Williams is a restricted free agent, although he could become an unrestricted free agent with the new CBA. If any team tried signing him, they'd have to surrender their first- and third-round draft picks, which is an insanely high price to pay for Williams after an injury-riddled season that was the worst season of his career. Knowing that, the Panthers could still try to trade Williams for a second-rounder or something of the like. But this will all be determined by his official free-agency status.

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