As we close in on April and the 2011 Draft, we thought it would be a good idea to touch base with Bloguin's top football scouting blog, Optimum Scouting, and pick their brains regarding potential Patriots prospects. Below is our Q&A session with the site's lead writer, Eric Galko.
1. What are the Patriots' biggest need in the draft in your opinion?
First and formost, they need to address that defense. They've added a lot of pieces to the secondary, and with McCourty, Meriweather, Chung and some depth, they should be okay there for the future. However, the outside linebackers on their roster currently only generated 12 sacks from last year, so a pass rusher or two should be high on their list. Also, Gerrard Warren is on the downslope of his career, and they since trading Seymour, they have had a need there as well. Also, Matt Light is getting up there in years at LT, and the whole OL could use depth. Finally, Green-Ellis and Woodhead aren't a running back crop to build around for the future.2. What would be the perfect player for New England to draft?
As far as the ideal "Patriot Players", they usually value versatility and the ability to play early in their higher picks and developmental or specific niche players late. Mark Ingram, JJ Watt, Justin Houston and Anthony Castonzo are those talents that could start early for this team and at least be moderatly productive. Also, Greg Little of UNC and Mark Herzlich of Boston College fit in the middle rounds.
3. How do you think the possible lockout could affect teams like the Patriots in terms of trading their picks for players?
A potential lockout will affect all teams in trading picks in that they won't be able to trade picks for players and vice versa. We've seen in the past, especially last year, that teams will try to stir up value close to the draft on players on their roster. I would expect, however, the Patriots to stockpile more 2012 picks if a lockout happens and continues into April or May, as those 2012 draft picks will be more valuable as they won't have this headache, more practice time with the team in the pre-season, and an overall better situation for teams and rookies.
4. What do you make of Cam Newton as a NFL quarterback?
Cam Newton's system in college limited his need to make progressions with consistency. Also, his footwork is sloppy, and even before his Combine performance, myself and NFL teams already knew that his accuracy outside the hashes and deep passes needed a lot of work. He's a rare athlete, and more developed than Vince Young and Tim Tebow as a thrower. I have heard from people he played with at Florida and Blinn College, however, that he wasn't always the best teammate, and if he can't win over college teammates, he'll likely struggle with Pro ones, especially if he can't continue winning games.
5. Who is the prospect that no one is keeping an eye on that can make an impact in the NFL right away?
As far as early round "under the radar" guys, I think not enough people are excited about Jerrell Jernigan, receiver from Troy, annd Kenrick Ellis, defensive tackle from Hampton. Jernigan can be a dangerous slot receiver, number two receiver, kick returner, wildcat back, and more, and has big play ability each and every time he has the ball. Ellis has character questions, but he's a 350 pounder who can move and tackle like a linebacker and could fit as a nose tackle, 3- and 5-technique in the NFL. Also, Jalil Brown, cornerback from Colorado, isn't getting as much attention as his fellow Buffalo Jimmy Smith, but we have him rated higher, and could be a steal of a value in the 3rd-4th.
6. Should New England look to get a big offensive playmaker like a Mark Ingram or a Torrey Smith or just draft mainly defense ?
I think if Ingram is there at #28 and/or #33, they can't pass on him. Otherwise, i think they need to go defensive front seven and offensive line. Finding 3-4 defensive ends isn't easy and they'll go quickly in the Top 40, and there aren't many solid tackle and center prospects in this class, so if possible they should look there first. Also, getting guys like Shane Vereen (California) or Taiwan Jones (Eastern Washington) in the 3rd-4th at running back and guys like Greg Little (UNC) or Terrence Toliver (LSU) at receiver at the same area are good values in this deep receiver/running back classes.