Patriots Mailbag: Drafting Quarterback Could Light Fire Under Tom Brady, But Team Doesn’t Need Successor Yet

Patriots Mailbag: Drafting Quarterback Could Light Fire Under Tom Brady, But Team Doesn't Need Successor Yet Another week, another great mailbag, and it’s a good thing, too, because I’m waving the white flag during next week’s draft marathon. There were some great questions about the Patriots dealing with the lockout, Tom Brady dealing with competition and some draft options in the first two rounds.

Thanks for your questions, and if yours wasn’t answered, come on back in two weeks for another run.

Let’s have at it.

How concerned is the Patriots’ coaching staff about the lockout, and how is it affecting their game plan for next season?
–John Barry

The Patriots are in the same boat as everyone else, so I don’t think they’re overly concerned. Every league source I’ve spoken with this offseason about this subject has lauded Bill Belichick for the way he prepares his players. They all know what they’ve got to do this offseason to stay in shape and avoid any of those nagging muscle injuries that will absolutely hamper the lazy players next season. And this wasn’t a crash course the day after the loss to the Jets. This comes from the makeup of guys they sign and draft. Jerod Mayo has also been running organized workout sessions with his teammates who live in Massachusetts, so the leadership is still firmly intact.

While the Patriots have some questions on the offensive line that they would have preferred to answer through free agency, they’re not in a bad spot personnel-wise, either, at least compared to other teams. It’s probably not an accident that the Patriots have most of their contracts in order right now. So, while other teams will head into next week’s draft with a lot of questions about their own free agents, the Patriots only have to worry about Matt Light and Logan Mankins. Of course, those are two big names, but their respective situations (Light’s age, Mankins’ contract issues) have already helped the Patriots prepare for life without them if it gets to that point.

So, if anything, the Patriots have an advantage over the rest of the league during the uncertainty of the lockout.

Hi Jeff, could you please explain what official position DeMaurice Smith plays in the current mediation and labor negotiations? Since the union decertified, I’m curious to know in what capacity he represents the players, and is he allowed to make binding decisions? Thanks!

Good question, Marima. Smith is basically just working as a negotiator for the players at this point, and he doesn’t have any ability to make any binding decisions. He can only offer counsel, and the players’ executive committee will be in charge of making binding decisions in negotiations.

I was just wondering, with Da’Quan Bowers falling in the latest mock drafts, why don’t I hear him being mentioned as a possible Patriot? Thanks.

Bowers’ knees are definitely a concern, and I’m not sure anyone outside of the 32 NFL personnel departments knows the true answer of his long-term health. We could sit here and discuss how well he’d fit the Patriots until we’re blue in the face, but his health is his top factor, hands down. If the Patriots feel strongly about him and he slides down the board, I’m sure you’ll see them make a move.

As for Bowers and the Patriots, I wrote this last week.

Do you think the Pats should draft a running back in the first round? If so, who should they draft?
–Butch C.

I really like Mikel Leshoure, and I think he’s the best back in the draft. I do believe the Patriots are going to address the position in the draft, and it will probably happen in the second or third round, where there will be plenty of backs taken. You can read this to learn more about my thoughts on Leshoure. Bottom line, I think Leshoure would be worthy of the 28th or 33rd pick if the Patriots decide to go in that direction.

Jeff, do you see any real possibility of the Patriots taking Ryan Mallet with a second-round pick. I feel like he is the best passing quarterback in the draft, and the Pats have had people with “character issues” before (Corey Dillon, Randy Moss).
–Drew Bledsoe

I think it’s extremely unlikely that they’d take a quarterback that high, whether it’s Mallett or anyone else. I love Mallett’s arm — it’s similar to yours, Drew — and on-field ability, and if Bill Belichick recognizes that Mallett would be a great long-term answer who would benefit from a good learning environment, I could see it happen. But even still, it’s a year or two too early for the Patriots to get aggressive about finding Tom Brady’s successor.

I would also really disagree about the comparisons to Dillon and Moss. That’s mostly because Dillon and Moss really helped the Patriots win games — and Dillon helped them win a Super Bowl — but Mallett wouldn’t help them win anything for quite some time. He wouldn’t beat out Brian Hoyer on the 2011 depth chart, and Mallett would be drafted with 2015 in mind, not any time sooner.

Plus, the biggest knock on Moss and Dillon was that they were disruptive in the locker room, which was more of an issue than anything they did off the field. With the rumors of Mallett’s drug use, teams have to believe he won’t self-destruct off the field and would actually be the long-term answer at quarterback, which is probably the most marketable position in all of sports.

Any sense on how Brady would feel about the Patriots drafting a quarterback, or his sentiments about there even being a discussion?
–Akraus47 via Twitter

That’s an interesting question. The Patriots have only drafted five quarterbacks since 2002 (the first draft after Brady’s first season as a starter) — Rohan Davey (fourth round, 2002), Kliff Kingsbury (sixth round, 2003), Matt Cassel (seventh round, 2005), Kevin O’Connell (third round, 2008) and Zac Robinson (seventh round, 2010) — so it’s nothing Brady has really had to think about all that often.

I really don’t think Brady would take any offense to it, but the question reminds me of something he said during the ESPN feature, The Brady 6. He said he never wants anyone to think they can do his job better than him, and he always works hard to prove that. If the Patriots took a quarterback in the second round next week, it would obviously be with the intention of grooming him to succeed Brady, and it might tick him off in a good way. Maybe it will make Brady show up with a little more of an edge or a mean streak, and it will spark that “I’ll show you” characteristic.

Now, don’t take that the wrong way, because some people clearly believe Brady needs to do more with the team during the offseason. I’m not saying that. I mean, he was the first unanimous MVP in history last season after he didn’t show up to many voluntary offseason workouts, so he’s obviously still doing something right. But if the Patriots used a second-round pick on a quarterback, it might kick Brady into another gear.

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