Alabama’s Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick Potential Draft Picks If Patriots Trade Up and 19 Other NFL Thoughts


Alabama's Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick Potential Draft Picks If Patriots Trade Up and 19 Other NFL ThoughtsThe NFL offseason slowed down a bit this week, as the majority of high-profile free agents are off the board and most of the league's powerful decision makers are at the owners meetings in Florida.

But the Two-Minute Drill rests for no one. Let's start things off with some leftovers from Brian Hoyer's charity event Tuesday, when he won a game of P-I-G against Slick Willie Shaw of the Harlem Globetrotters. That was a lot of fun to watch because Hoyer and Shaw were having a blast during the game.

Anyway, onto the Drill.

1. After the Jets introduced backup quarterback Tim Tebow at a large-scale news conference Monday, the Patriots' fan base jokingly wondered when Hoyer would get his time in the spotlight. As it turned out, Hoyer was on hand for a charity event Tuesday, and he met with two reporters and a few television cameras.

2. When asked about the notion of a backup getting such an extraordinary amount of media attention, Hoyer responded, "I don't think he's your ordinary backup. Someone who takes a team to the playoffs, obviously, he had a great year. I think it will be great for those guys to get him in there, and we'll see what happens with that."

3. Another good note, Hoyer played high school football with new Patriots wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez, who was a year ahead of Hoyer at St. Ignatius in Ohio. Hoyer recalled a game against Massillon when Gonzalez scored three touchdowns in five minutes — two receiving, one interception. The two then played against each other in the Big Ten when Hoyer was at Michigan State and Gonzalez suited up for Ohio State.

4. Hoyer said of Gonzalez, "He made a lot of great catches. ? I know he's a great athlete, a great player, so I'm looking forward to working with him again." So again, that's just another strong endorsement for Gonzalez, who should fit well with the Patriots if he stays healthy.

5. Oddly enough, Hoyer had nothing to do with Gonzalez's decision to link up with the Patriots after he spent five seasons with the Colts. Hoyer even said Tuesday he hadn't spoken to Gonzalez yet, but he figured they'd catch up soon.

6. Over the last two seasons, Tom Brady's four biggest targets have obviously been wide receivers Wes Welker and Deion Branch and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Why am I stating the obvious, you ask? Well, the fifth guy has been Brandon Tate (2010) and Chad Ochocinco (2011), and those two have averaged 19.5 receptions, 354 yards and two touchdowns per season in that role.

7. With that being said, think about what it would mean for the Patriots' offense if wide receiver Brandon Lloyd had something like 60 receptions, 800 yards and six touchdowns. I'm just throwing those numbers out there, but I think they're fair. Based on my Twitter chat on Monday, though, it sounds like there are quite a few of you who believe Lloyd can far exceed those numbers.

8. Now, with all that said, I wouldn't just take on the surplus in production to Brady's overall stats, but those numbers would give more of a breather to Brady's other targets, who wouldn't have to be on the field as much. Or, at the very least, they wouldn't be the target of as many passes, which would reduce their wear and tear over the course of the season. It's a win-win.

9. Don't forget about Branch, either. Of course, he'll lose reps to Lloyd, but Branch has caught 99 passes for 1,408 yards and 10 touchdowns in 26 regular-season games with the Patriots over the last two seasons. That type of production isn't going to simply disappear, regardless of his age, because he's so in tune with Brady.

10. In 2007, tight end Ben Watson and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney tied for fifth on the Patriots with 36 catches, which was the most receptions by Brady's fifth option in his career. If Branch finishes fifth on the Patriots in the range of 35-40 receptions in 2012, it's possible they could field their most balanced passing attack of Brady's tenure.

11. It's been pretty wild that Bill Belichick has outright ignored the fullback position for several years until the Patriots signed a couple this week. It's possible they're just looking to create some good competition in camp, and the signings were a way to commit to the players they like.

12. Speaking of the offensive backfield, I think the Patriots are set up just fine with Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead as the running backs, plus whoever else they add through free agency and the draft (and maybe Kevin Faulk). They might want to add a goal-line bruiser — I've brought up Jackie Battle a number of times — but Ridley was more than capable of that role at LSU.

13. I've heard from Patriots fans who want them to add a No. 1 back to replace BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but he wasn't even that guy in 2011. Ridley was the team's leading rusher in each of their last three regular-season games before his fumbling issue got him benched. Again, Ridley can fill into that role, and Vereen and Woodhead can assume their responsibilities in the passing game.

14. Now that the NFL has announced its allotment of compensatory draft picks — awarded based on a system of quality free agents lost against quality free agents signed — the Patriots know exactly where they'll be picking. They've got pick Nos. 27 and 31 (first round), 48 and 62 (second round), 93 (third round) and 126 (fourth round). They don't have any picks in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds due to prior trades.

15. Because the Patriots don't have any low-round picks, I'm sure they'll be more inclined to trade down at some point — yeah, I'm sure that was met with a collective groan across New England — to accumulate some picks in those later rounds. Of course, with two picks in each of the first two rounds, they'll have plenty of opportunities.

16. Before getting too, too worked up about the idea of trading down, remember they traded out of their late pick in the second round last year, giving up the 60th pick to the Texans for the 73rd and 138th selections, which turned into Ridley and offensive lineman Marcus Cannon.

17. Naturally, trading down doesn't always work, and it's easy to immediately second-guess the move when there's someone on the board who would be a popular pick. But more than anything, I was just trying to point out the currency that can be gained by dropping down by 10-15 selections.

18. Since the Patriots have two picks in each of the first two rounds, it's always fun to think of the possibility they trade into the top 10 for a specific player, but that's just not realistic due to the heavier price to do so in the era of the rookie scale. But if the Patriots are going to trade up — they won't, I know — I can see them making a push to get somewhere around No. 20. Maybe that costs them the 27th pick and a third-rounder, and they also get a fourth- or fifth-rounder in return.

19. If the Patriots do trade up, I can see it happening for players like Alabama safety Mark Barron, Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, Boston College linebacker Luke Kuechly or Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd. I don't know if they'd do it for any defensive tackles or edge rushers because there doesn't appear to be as much of a drop-off toward the 27th selection. Barron has especially distinguished himself among the draft class, and he plays a position of need. You could probably same the same about Kuechly and Floyd, and maybe even Kirkpatrick, whose exclusive scouting report was probably conveyed between Alabama head coach Nick Saban and Belichick.

20. It's no surprise the Patriots didn't receive any compensatory draft picks because they didn't lose anyone of significance in free agency after the 2011 season. (Players who were cut don't count. Picks are awarded to teams for losing key players after their contracts expired. The formula is based on the player's salary, playing time and postseason honors.) It was interesting, though, that the Patriots' signing of defensive end Shaun Ellis helped the Jets earn a compensatory pick (the exact pick isn't labeled, so you can't put a player-for-player value on the signing). Chalk up that one for the Jets.

Have a question for Jeff Howe? Send it to him via Twitter at @jeffphowe or send it here. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

Photo via Facebook/Dre Kirkpatrick

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