As we shift from the regular season to the off-season, we're continuing our Q&A sessions on Foxboro Blog. However, instead of going head to head with opposing bloggers, we'll be talking with other Patriots blogs as well as some scouting and draft sites for their insights into building New England's 2011 team. Up first is NE Patriots Draft.com, a fantastic Patriots blog that specializes in draft analysis. (Surprising, I know, given the name of the blog.) Anyway, we sent some questions about potential Patriots prospects to the site's lead blogger, James Christensen, and his responses are below. After you read the Q&A, be sure to check out NE Patriots Draft.com. It's certainly a must-read for any die-hard Pats fan.
1. In your opinion, what is the ideal need that the New England Patriots need to address in this draft?
There isn't a glaring need yet, as the Patriots did just go 14-2, but the offensive line has the potential to be a problem if Logan Mankins, Stephen Neal, and Matt Light all don't return. Dan Koppen will also be playing the last year of his contract.
Upping the quality, not quantity, of the defensive line is also a concern
2. Two guys I have seen rise up the draft board are pass rushers Cameron Jordan of Cal and Von Miller of Texas A&M? What are the pros and cons of those guys if Belichick is able to obtain one of those individuals?
Von Miller to me is a 3rd-down pass rusher in New England's 3-4, which is why I have him rated as a 2nd-3rd rounder for the Patriots. That said, I think he could be a pretty good 4-3 OLB on a team that can keep him clean. He could easily go top 5 to another team.
Cam Jordan, however, projects very well as a RDE for the Patriots. He sheds blockers with ease, tackles well, and is able to pressure the quarterback. He has had some problems with ultra-quick OT's though, such as USC's Tyron Smith.
3. Cameron Heyward of Ohio State was a high prospect at DE coming into the CFB season, should NE fans want him on their team or is he another Vernon Gholston tragedy waiting to happen?
Heyward and Gholston are certainly different players. Gholston's main problem came from him trying to change positions, which is always hard to project. Heyward will still be playing DE for the Patriots, although it remains to be seen if he can 2-gap or not. We think there are a lot better options for DE's out there than this Buckeye.
4. I've seen a lot of mock drafts where the Patriots are seen taking a running back late in 1st round. Who is the perfect running back for this New England system?
Mark Ingram is the obvious choice, but to us, it depends on who the Patriots are keeping next year. If Sammy Morris doesn't return, then Ingram, Mikel Leshoure or Ryan Williams make sense. They are all powerful runners that can get the tough yards.
If he does return, then the Patriots can look for more of a homerun-hitting scatback like Kendall Hunter, Derrick Locke, or an all-around back linke Demarco Murray.
5. How is the offensive line quality in the draft with possible uncertainty looming next year for New England's offseason line?
I don't see any Joe Thomas or Jake Long blue-chip types of players out there, but there are a ton of red-chip OL prospects available in the late 1st to early 3rd round. We like the guys that can play multiple positions, such as Clint Boling, Stefen Wisniewski, and Danny Watkins.
6. Some sleepers that New England can take later in Day 2 or 3 of draft? Who are some guys Pats fans would go oh no if he is on their team, if any?
Some sleepers to look out for would be OLB prospects Cheta Ozougwu from Rice and Dain Taylor from Drake. They have both got some personal interest from Patriots scouts this year.
7. We know the relationship Bill Belichick has with Urban Meyer at Florida. After all the Gators' players drafted by New England last year, any guys chomping to Foxboro this year?
Ahmad Black is the likely candidate this year. The Patriots were all over him at the Senior Bowl. He is all about production, no matter his size or any other measurables.