It's time once again for a Q&A session. Instead of swapping questions with the "enemy", this week we're turning to a friend. Erik Frenz is a big-time Patriots fan who coverst the team over at Bleacher Report. Erik was kind enough to share his thoughts on the Pats with us below. Once you're done reading, be sure to check out his work on Bleacher Report and also follow him on Twitter!
1. What grade do you give the Patriots for their 2011 NFL Draft class? Best Pick? Worst Pick?
I might be in the minority here, but I give the Patriots a B+ for their draft. Sure, they didn't go after that marquees pass rusher that everyone clamored for, but Belichick has said that he has confidence in the current group of guys at outside linebacker, and I can't blame him. Eric Moore came on really strong at the end of 2010, and that was without any time to really learn the system. The sooner these guys get back to a real offseason, the better off the outside linebackers will be as a group.
The best pick, to me, was Marcus Cannon. He had a Day 2 grade on him before he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma., and he could end up being the steal of the draft if he recovers fully after chemotherapy. My least favorite pick is the Malcolm Williams pick. The 7th round, 219th pick was the perfect opportunity to take another low-risk high-reward option at outside linebacker, and if there's one area that I'm critical of Belichick, it's the fact that he really hasn't taken enough chances on those pass rusher types. I understand needing guys that fit the system, but that's their biggest need. Might as well throw some darts at the board and hope a few of them hit.
2. Do you think New England did the best out of all 4 teams in the AFC East in the Draft?
The Patriots had the most sound draft of all four teams, maybe in a two-way tie with Buffalo. I really like the Bills draft, as they were able to address a lot of needs without reaching on anyone. For a team that's still in transition, and that's still recovering from some bad drafts over the past few years, you can't ask for much more than "sound". The Patriots, though, are hard to contend with. They are always making the most of what the board presents them, while setting themselves up beautifully for the next year. Their ability to acquire picks for next year while still getting guys that can help them this year makes them the AFC East winners, in my personal opinion.
3. What need do you still think the Pats absolutely have to address?
The need at outside linebacker remains after the draft, but I mentioned earlier that they're really counting on one or possibly two guys to emerge from that group as big time contributors. Thus, the need could be addressed from within rather than in free agency. Which leads me right into No. 4...
4. Is there a free agent out there that you think New England absolutely needs to get back to the Super Bowl?
I think when you start to put that much stock in free agents, you get yourself in trouble. The Patriots aren't going to be one or two free agent acquisitions away from a Super Bowl run because they just aren't built like that. They're built entirely on the team mentality. If the Patriots are going to target free agents, they need to go after veteran guys who can add their experience to a young team.
5. Even though the NFL Lockout has interfered with most of Offseason activities, what do you think of the Pats' 2011 schedule?
It's very interesting to me, because three of the Patriots first five games are divisional games, and three of their first four games are on the road. That means that a good chunk of the important and difficult games will be out of the way quickly, which could be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. Finishing off the season at Denver, then hosting Miami and Buffalo to close it out is a golden gift. The Patriots could lose a bunch of games over the course of the season and still be in contention for the playoffs all the way up to Week 15, as long as they can close out the season strong as they've done so many times recently.
6. One guy that has been the news lately is WR Plaxico Burress. Do you think New England should give Burress a shot?
There are too many question marks around Burress in my mind to give him a shot. There's the Michael Vick theory that prison has changed him as a person, and also that he could have a resurgence in an effort to prove his critics wrong. Then, there's the more logical line of thinking that his skills appeared on the decline even before his arrest, and that two years off has probably done him more harm than good. Add in his character concerns and I think there's little or no chance the Patriots will pursue him.
7. Will the 2011 season start on time? Why or Why not?
Your guess is as good as mine on that one, but Robert Kraft and Tom Brady appear convinced that the season is going to start on time. It's pretty intriguing to me that two members of the Patriots organization are really at the forefront of these negotiations. They are both dedicated men, and hopefully they can be influential figures in helping the two sides reach an agreement.