How do you see the Lockout affecting the Patriots' draft strategy?
Rick: This question is interesting because this organization always likes to trade their draft picks. I could see Belichick trading some of these 2011 picks for picks in the 2012 NFL Draft. With the lack of an offseason training program, the Patriots will not have to assimilate as many players into their system. I was thinking they could make a big trade like a Steve Smith or someone of that caliber, but until the CBA is resolved ,there is no trades. Look for the Patriots to be aggressive the first two rounds in picking, but then trade picks on Day 3.
Jason: Coach Belichick has a well-known tendency to trade current year picks for future draft picks, but that could be more difficult this year than in years past. I think teams will likely be less likely to trade for picks in this year's draft due to the labor uncertainty. Teams know that rookies will not have the benefit of normal offseason programs to get acclimated to the NFL, so there is a greater risk in acquiring extra picks in this draft since they'll have a steeper learning curve than rookies in a typical draft class. The Pats aren't likely to get good value from trading away this year's picks, so that might factor into the team's draft strategy. I wouldn't be surprised to see very, very few trades.
Stephen: Personally I don't see Belichick changing his trading strategy because of the labor situation. He'll make the best moves for the football team regardless if there's a new CBA or not. The rookie wage scale should take effect this year, so there's no reason to trade into the future for that specific reason.
Derek: I think there's some merit to the idea that a rookie in 2012 may be more helpful than a 2011 first-year player who hasn't had a full training-camp to get acclimated. Using this logic, it might make sense for Belichick to try to flip one of his four 1st and 2nd round picks for a future selection. On the flip side, it probalby also means that fewer teams will be willing to mortgage their future drafts to secure a rookie who may end up locked out for the 2011 season. The Patriot's best bet for parlaying a pick this year into a better pick next season will be if there's an early run on QB's in the 1st round. In that case, their #17 selection could prove to be very valuable to a team desperate for a young arm.
I think Belichick's main strategy will be to take the best player available, while remaining cognizant of the holes on his roster. Free agency and trades will be hard to come by, even when the labor dispute has settled, so the primary means of improvement for the Patriots and the other 31 teams will need to be through the draft. The Patriots have the luxury of having the best record in 2010 as well as having the most early-round picks in the 2011 draft. If they play their cards right, they could be setting themselves up for a few more championship runs.