Jan 102014
 

bradymanning

Barring a shocking development (which is not out of the question in today’s NFL), the league will get yet another Manning/Brady showdown come January 19. If it happens, it will be the fifteenth time they have faced each other, the fourth time in the playoffs, and the third time a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line.

If you thought the hype was big back in November, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

So, what’s an interested fan to do but join in? It’s time for Danny’s answer to the Great Quaterback Debate. Here’s the executive summary:

Manning is a better quarterback than Brady.

Sure, I’m a homer, having been a Bronco fan since the early Elway days and a Manning supporter more often than not (Super Bowl XLI being the rare exception — curse you, Rex Grossman!). However, I fail to see any way of honestly viewing the numbers that convincingly shows otherwise. That being said, Manning and Brady are clearly #1 and #1A in the modern era. (I’ll leave the “Best of All Time” argument for another day.)

“But what about winning?” asks the voice on the other side of the screen. “Brady has the highest winning percentage of any quarterback in history! Brady has three rings; Manning only has one!”

My response is simple: “So what?”

Football is a team sport, not an individual one. Baseball statisticians long ago figured out wins are the absolute worst way to assess the effectiveness of pitchers; one day, football will catch up and realize the evaluation of a quarterback does not begin and end with “games won”. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous, unless you can explain his role in winning during the 50% of the time he is not on the field. At best, the quarterback’s job is to run the offense effectively and score as many points as possible; even then, he is severely limited by the talent pool around him. Sure, he can play a role in defense by keeping his offense on the field, but that only goes so far — particularly since the better the quarterback, the more likely the team is going to score quickly.

In fact, assigning wins to quarterbacks makes even less sense than doing the same for pitchers. A superior pitcher essentially negates the talent of the rest of his defense. Surround Walter Johnson with seven scrubs for nine innings, then do it again with seven All Stars. The results are going to be surprisingly similar. No one with a functioning brain can suggest the same is true with a quarterback.

Further, if a quarterback’s value is solely in championships won, please feel free to argue that Trent Dilfer is a better quarterback than Dan Marino, Warren Moon, Dan Fouts, and Jim Kelly.

Simply put: if your answer to the Manning vs. Brady question is, “Wins and championships are all that matters,” you’re not going to like this article. Then again, you are objectively wrong, so I can safely dismiss you.

For the rest of you, here goes.

Pro-Football-Reference.com tallies 26 statistical categories for passers. Of these, several can be discarded:

  • Games Played and Games Started have little to no bearing on a QB’s effectiveness; all they can tell us is how often the player was considered the best option for the team signing his paychecks.
  • Quarterback Record (i.e. team win-loss record when the player started) is, as stated above, one of the worst ways to evaluate a quarterback.
  • “Raw” statistics, like Completions, Attempts, Yards, Touchdowns, and Interceptions are useful, but not as much as the related “rate” stats.
  • Longest Completed Pass is mildly interesting at best. As it represents the single most successful pass thrown in a given season, its value in assessing a player’s overall performance is limited.
  • Yards per Game is a “rate” stat, but it is much more dependent on the team’s gameplan than the quarterback’s skill level.
  • Total Quarterback Rating has only been tracked by ESPN since 2008, so it can’t really tell the whole story of our two players’ careers.
  • Times Sacked, Yards Lost, Net Yards per Attempt, Adjusted Net Yards per Attempt, and Sack Percentage have some relation to the player’s skill level, but they are much more a reflection of the offensive line playing in front of him.
  • Fourth Quarter Comebacks and Game-Winning Drives are highly subjective. Just because two players have the same number of game-winning drives does not mean they are equally skillful. You have to consider, for example, how often the team has had to play from behind, how big the deficits were, and so on.

This leaves us with seven categories: Completion Percentage, Touchdown Percentage, Interception Percentage, Yards per Attempt, Adjusted Yards per Attempt, Quarterback Rating, and Approximate Value (Pro-Football-Reference.com‘s proprietary rating system). (The remaining category — Yards per Completion — is simply a combination of Completion Percentage and Yards per Attempt, and is therefore superfluous.)

A direct comparison of career totals shows that Manning leads in six of the seven:

Statistic Manning Brady Difference
Completion Rate 65.5% 63.4% +3%
Touchdown Rate 5.8% 5.5% +5%
Interception Rate 2.6% 2.0% +23%
Yards per Attempt 7.7 7.5 +3%
Adjusted Yards per Attempt 7.7 7.6 +1%
Quarterback Rating 97.2 95.8 +1%
Adjusted Value 16.9/season 15.8/season +7%

 

Admittedly, the numbers are remarkably close. Manning throws more touchdowns, but not decidedly so. Brady throws fewer interceptions, although Manning is a touch more accurate overall.

Okay, so Brady and Manning are essentially neck-and-neck. But what about consistency? After all, a quarterback who throws 40 touchdowns one year and 10 the next will have the same average as one who throws 25 touchdowns year after year, yet it should be obvious which would be the preferable signal-caller.

Manning and Brady have played in 11 seasons together, not counting years when one or the other was sidelined by injury: 2001 through 2007, 2009-2010, and 2012-2013.

Peyton Manning
Year Comp% TD% Int% Y/A AY/A QBR AV
2001 62.7 4.8 4.2 7.6 6.6 84.1 15
2002 66.3 4.6 3.2 7.1 6.6 88.8 15
2003 67.0 5.1 1.8 7.5 7.8 99.0 18
2004 67.6 9.9 2.0 9.2 10.2 121.1 21
2005 67.3 6.2 2.2 8.3 8.5 104.1 18
2006 65.0 5.6 1.6 7.9 8.3 101.0 20
2007 65.4 6.0 2.7 7.8 7.8 98.0 17
2009 68.8 5.8 2.8 7.9 7.8 99.9 17
2010 66.3 4.9 2.5 6.9 6.8 91.9 16
2012 68.6 6.3 1.9 8.0 8.4 105.8 15
2013 68.3 8.3 1.5 8.3 9.3 115.1 19

 

Tom Brady
Year Comp% TD% Int% Y/A AY/A QBR AV
2001 63.9 4.4 2.9 6.9 6.4 86.5 12
2002 62.1 4.7 2.3 6.3 6.1 85.7 13
2003 60.2 4.4 2.3 6.9 6.7 85.9 11
2004 60.8 5.9 3.0 7.8 7.6 92.6 16
2005 63.0 4.9 2.6 7.8 7.5 92.3 15
2006 61.8 4.7 2.3 6.8 6.7 87.9 14
2007 68.9 8.7 1.4 8.3 9.4 117.2 24
2009 65.7 5.0 2.3 7.8 7.7 96.2 16
2010 65.9 7.3 0.8 7.9 9.0 111.0 18
2012 63.0 5.3 1.3 7.6 8.1 98.7 18
2013 60.5 4.0 1.8 6.9 6.9 87.3 13

 

As you can see, Manning has been better in each of our categories at least 8 out of the 11 seasons — except for interception percentage, which Brady has won 6 of 11 times. More impressively, Manning was better than Brady in all seven categories for four straight seasons, from 2003-2006, and again in 2013, and bested him in six of the seven in 2009 (the year after Brady’s knee injury). Brady was better in a majority of categories only twice: in 2007, when he won all seven, and in 2010, when Manning surpassed him only in completion percentage (the season before Manning’s neck surgery).

In fact, one of the big points assumed to be in Brady’s favor is his consistency; yet, over those 11 seasons, look at the coefficient of variance (standard deviation divided by average) for each player in each stat:

Statistic Manning Brady
Completion Rate .026 .040
Touchdown Rate .251 .251
Interception Rate .318 .315
Yards per Attempt .076 .081
Adjusted Yards per Attempt .133 .134
Quarterback Rating .102 .107
Adjusted Value .113 .225

 

In every case, Manning has been at least as consistent as Brady, if not more so. To further highlight this, consider the players’ best seasons — in 2007, Brady had what is arguably the best year either has seen in leading the Patriots to a perfect regular-season record. Manning’s 2013 campaign comes close, but not quite. And yet, if you express their stats in terms of standard scores (i.e. numbers of standard deviations above or below the career average), something interesting emerges:

Player Comp% TD% Int% Y/A AY/A QBR AV
Brady (2007) +2.15 +2.44 -1.08 +1.26 +1.72 +2.13 +2.30
Manning (2013) +0.92 +1.72 -1.21 +0.94 +1.37 +1.52 +0.88

 

In nearly every case, Manning’s “great year” numbers are closer to his career averages than Brady’s. In other words, Brady’s 2007 season was possibly the best a quarterback has ever had, but it was more of an outlier than Manning’s only slightly less-impressive 2013 season.

Take names out of it, and ask yourself this question: if you are comparing two players and one (a) has better career numbers, (2) has better season numbers more often than not, and (iii) has maintained the same level of performance year in and year out, who would you conclude was the better player?

As noted at the outset, you cannot reasonably say a quarterback’s sole job is to win games; a quarterback can throw for five touchdowns per game, but if his defense gives up six, he’ll lose every time. That being said, I can feel the doubters out there: “Just win, baby!”

So, we’ll take a quick look at winning.

Using the Pythagorean win percentage, we can look at how many games each player’s teams can be expected to have won based on points scored versus points allowed. Over the 11 seasons both Manning and Brady have been in the league together, their teams have performed as follows:

Player Points For Points Against Estimated Win % Expected Record Actual Record
Manning 4985 3738 .664 117-59 129-47
Brady 4836 3232 .722 127-49 134-42

 

It can be argued that Brady’s one clear advantage is explained by the fact he has had much better defenses on the other side of the ball. Swap them, and this is what you get:

Player Points For Points Against Estimated Win % Expected Record Actual Record
Manning 4985 3232 .736 130-46 ?
Brady 4836 3738 .648 114-62 ?

 

Another point often trotted out in Brady’s favor is the idea of “intangibles”; that he “knows how to win” or somesuch drivel. Frankly, the evidence doesn’t bear that out; if anything, Manning has the advantage here, as well. As shown above, Brady’s teams “should have” won 127 games during those 11 years. In reality, the Patriots won 134 games, or 6% more than expected. Meanwhile, Manning’s teams, projected to win 117 games, actually won 129, or an increase of 10% over the expected win total.

Or, if you don’t like the whole Pythagorean thing, consider this: in their careers, Brady has won 12.4 games per full season as a starter; Manning has won 11.1. Are you really comfortable saying the Patriots’ demonstrably superior defenses (and arguably the most effective head coach of all time) are worth less than 1.3 wins per season?

“Okay,” say the Brady defenders. “We can’t argue with the stats, and Manning seems at least as good at winning. But that’s the regular season; and everyone knows Manning chokes in the Big Game.”

Do we really know that?

Brady has won more playoff games than any other quarterback — but as we’ve said, you can’t lay those wins solely at Brady’s feet, nor can you entirely blame Manning for his teams’ 11 playoff losses. Instead, let’s look at their individual performances in the playoffs:

Player Record PPG Comp% TD% Int% Y/A AY/A QBR
Manning 9-11 23.0 63.2 4.2 2.8 7.5 7.1 88.4
Brady 17-7 25.4 62.3 4.7 2.5 6.7 6.5 87.4

 

Brady throws more touchdowns than Manning in the playoffs, but the difference in interception rates is narrower than in the regular season, while Manning is significantly better in both Y/A and AY/A. Note that both players’ QBRs are the same, relative to each other, from the regular season to the playoffs, so it’s hard to justify claiming either player “chokes” more than the other.

Honestly, when I started this analysis, I assumed I would find the conventional wisdom borne out: Manning would have clearly superior regular-season statistics, while Brady would shine in the playoffs. It turns out both assumptions were wrong. Manning’s performance in the regular season has been consistently better, but not by much. Meanwhile, in the playoffs, Brady’s performance suffers more than it improves relative to Manning’s.

In short, while Brady is a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback, Manning is a notch above. This is not a prediction of the outcome should the Patriots head to Denver next Sunday — the Broncos’ defense is far too questionable for me to put money on that (and that blown 24-0 lead back in November still stings). But in the battle of individual performances, there can be no realistic doubt: Peyton Manning is the best quarterback of his generation.

Jun 282013
 

Hernandez JerseyThe New England Patriots have announced a free exchange for any fans who own a #81 Aaron Hernandez jersey.

“We know that children love wearing their Patriots jerseys, but may not understand why parents don’t want them wearing their Hernandez jerseys anymore,” said New England Patriots spokesperson Stacey James. “We hope this opportunity to exchange those jerseys at the Patriots ProShop for another player’s jersey will be well received by parents.” Details of the exchange are provided here.

There is no word on whether or not fans wearing a Hernandez jersey will be permitted to enter Patriots’ games. It’s entirely conceivable that the organization will require fans to remove a Hernandez jersey in order to make Hernandez’ name recede into Patriots’ history, as well as to avoid ugly confrontations among fans.

Either way, it’s a classy move on the part of the organization, and another example of the Patriots trying to do the “right thing” in responding to an ugly situation.

And trading in your Hernandez jersey is a lot better than driving it out to an industrial area a mile from your house and shooting it.

Jun 282013
 

Aaron HernandezAt some point, the Aaron Hernandez saga will move into a quiet mode as the two sides prepare for trial, which some believe could take as long as a year from now to commence. But that isn’t today. So here are the developments from yesterday.

1. In a development that was not a surprise to anyone, Aaron Hernandez cleared waivers yesterday, meaning that he is now an unrestricted free agent. Not that it matters. After he cleared waivers, the NFL issued a statement that it will take no action on Hernandez until a team does try to sign him. “NFL clubs were advised today that if Aaron Hernandez enters into a player contract prior to the resolution of the charges pending against him, the contract will not be approved or take effect until Commissioner Roger Goodell holds a hearing,” the league said in a statement.  “The purpose of the hearing would be to determine whether Hernandez should be suspended or face other action prior to the charges being resolved.”

2. The SUV seized by police in their investigation of the 2012 double homicide has been identified as having been rented by Hernandez at the time of the 2012 murders. The fact that the police have been able to jump start a year old cold investigation suggests that one of Hernandez’ “associates” may well be cooperating with the authorities.

3. If that is the case, it is likely Carlos Ortiz, identified as having also been arrested in connection with the slaying of Odin Lloyd. Ortiz has allegedly admitted possessing a firearm in North Attleborough on June 17 and is believed to be one of the men initially questioned by police at Hernandez’ home. Ortiz was arrested at the Connecticut home of of Hernandez’ uncle, the same home searched by police earlier this week. Ortiz waived extradition to Massachusetts, and has a history of convictions for larceny and criminal mischief.

4. Police are also searching Ernest Wallace, who is being described as an accessory after the fact. Wallace is considered armed and dangerous.

5. Finally, police have returned to search Hernandez’ home yet again, this time in relation to the 2012 double homicide.

UPDATE: Ernest Wallace has been captured by police in Miramar, Florida.

Jun 272013
 

Just when you think the case of Aaron Hernandez can’t get any more bizarre, it does, and then does again. Here are the developments just from today:

Aaron Hernandez1. A photo (left) posted on TMZ began making the rounds last night of Hernandez while still at the University of Florida, holding a .45 caliber Glock, trying his best to look the part of a thug.

2. According to Bristol County Assistant District Attorney William McCauley, that same Glock may in fact be the murder weapon. “There was a photo that was shown on the Internet of the defendant holding a Glock .45,” McCauley said. “That Glock… there’s good reason to believe the firearm that killed Mr. Lloyd was a Glock because the Glock has a rifling system that is different than most firearms.” These comments were made today, the same day that Hernandez’ appeal to be allowed bail was denied by Judge Renee Dupuis.

3. According to CNN, Hernandez is now being investigated by authorities for a possible connection to a double slaying in Boston’s South End in July, 2012. This revelation comes a day after authorities executed a search warrant on one of Hernandez’ relatives in Connecticut. According to reports, the Boston Police Department has located and impounded a silver SUV with Rhode Island registration that police have been trying to find for almost a year, that’s linked to the scene of a double homicide in 2012, and investigators believe that Hernandez was renting the SUV at the time of those killings.

All of a sudden, a case that was simply baffling yesterday makes a bit more sense today. It is not much of a stretch to conclude that Odin Lloyd was aware of Hernandez’ role in the 2012 slayings, and that Hernandez feared that Lloyd would end up  revealing Hernandez’ involvement. Yesterday I found myself thinking that it was a huge leap to kill someone simply because they could not be trusted any longer, which was the impression given in the reports that Lloyd had been seen by Hernandez talking to people that Hernandez did not like in a Boston club. But when we add in the notion that Lloyd might have been able to implicate Hernandez in a double homicide, it is much easier to imagine Hernandez reaching the conclusion that he had to kill Lloyd to protect his secret, and it also helps explain the text messages and conversations described by the prosecution in the arraignment yesterday.

With respect to the 2012 killings, investigators believe a fight broke out at Cure, a club in the South End of Boston, between two men and a group that included Hernandez. The two men, Daniel Abreu and Safiro Furtado, left the club with three other men in a BMW sedan in the early morning hours of July 16, 2012. Abreu, who was driving, stopped at a traffic light on Shawmut Avenue, about to make a left onto Herald Street, when a silver or gray SUV with Rhode Island license plates pulled alongside the sedan. Someone from the SUV opened fire, killing Abreu, 29, and Furtado, 28. It is that SUV that investigators believe they can tie to Hernandez.

All of this, of course, is speculation, and Hernandez is entitled to due process of law and the presumption of innocence. But if it turns out that these dots are connected, and that Hernandez is guilty of three murders, then what we have at hand is probably the single worst criminal professional athlete in the history of the four major sports.

Jun 262013
 

Aaron HernandezAaron Hernandez is not having a good day.

This morning nine officers from the North Attleborough and Massachusetts State Police arrested Aaron Hernandez at his home this morning in connection to the murder of Odin Lloyd, leading him away in handcuffs with Hernandez in red shorts and a white tee shirt. A defiant Hernandez went peacefully into a police cruiser. A video of the arrest can be seen here. Charges have not been released, and are being kept under wraps until his arraignment today.

The New England Patriots wasted no time in responding to the development. Just an hour and a half after his arrest, the Patriots released Hernandez and issued the following statement:

“A young man was murdered last week and we extend our sympathies to the family and friends who mourn his loss. Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation.  We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing.  We support their efforts and respect the process.  At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”

It is believed that Hernandez’ lack of cooperation with the police investigation led to the police conducting an aggressive arrest in daylight in front of cameras, rather than offering him the opportunity to surrender himself to police. While the criminal process affords Hernandez the right of being presumed innocent until guilt is established beyond a reasonable doubt, in the court of public opinion it is very clear that Hernandez is guilty of something; the only remaining question is “what”.

The Patriots’ decision to release Hernandez is not without consequence to the team. The team will have no opportunity to realize a salary savings in 2013 for Hernandez. The Patriots paid Hernandez a  $12.5 million signing bonus in his 2012 contract extension worth a total of $39 million.  It is unclear as to whether or not the Patriots will try to void the deal paying $3.25 million in a deferred payment due on March 31, 2014, and whether they’ll try to wipe out base-salary guaranteed of $1.323 million in 2013 and $1.137 million in 2014. But in this case, the Patriots believe that taking the moral high road is more important than the money, and it is hard to argue against that point. It’s possible that the Patriots have a sense of the charges to be announced, which at this point one would think would include at least obstruction of justice, but might include conspiracy to commit murder and/or murder.

This article will be updated today as more information becomes available.

UPDATE: According to Pro Football Talk: “For 2013, the Patriots will carry a $2.5 million charge for the portion of his $12.5 million signing bonus, paid last year.  Hernandez’s base salary of $1.323 million is fully guaranteed, and so the cap number will remain $4.073 million unless and until the Patriots can finagle a way to avoid paying him.”

North Attleborough Courthouse

UPDATE: Here’s a picture of the North Attleborough court room where Hernandez will be arraigned. Courtesy of Wesley Lowery of the Boston Globe.

UPDATE: I’ve been watching the arraignment live, and Aaron Hernandez has been formally charged with six counts, including the (first-degree) murder of Odin Lloyd and five related gun charges (carrying a firearm without a license and possession of a large capacity firearm). The prosecutor offered a highly detailed summary of the events and the investigation. I was a little surprised to hear that when the police first arrived and knocked to question Hernandez, he refused to answer the door, and instead watched the police from inside his home. From what is said by the prosecutor, it sounds like at least one of Hernandez’ “associates” flipped on him and provided detailed information about conversations taking place in Hernandez’ home and in his car. Further, the prosecutor can place the murder weapon in Hernandez’ hands, based on his own surveillance system. It should be noted that Hernandez does not possess the necessary permit to own any weapons.

Hernandez ArraignmentBased on the evidence presented, Hernandez would appear to be a calculated and brutal, cold-blooded murderer. To expect to get away with what he is accused of doing suggests that Hernandez is either stupid or just used to getting away with things. During the arraignment, Hernandez stood there looking on, appearing utterly emotionless. If anything, Hernandez appeared bored by the prosecutor’s accounting of the evidence.His only display of emotion was to blow his girlfriend a kiss as he was escorted out of the court room. Hernandez can have his presumption of innocence in the criminal courts, but I couldn’t help but watch these proceedings and believed I was watching a thoroughly evil human being. I can only hope that justice is found in the criminal trial that will be coming.

The prosecutor asked for remand while the defense of course offered that Hernandez was not a flight risk. The judge ultimately decided that Hernandez should be held without bail, to which I wholeheartedly concur. The judge did agree to the defense’s request for a gag order on the case, which seems a sensible precaution for both sides in such a public case.

 

Jun 202013
 

Aaron HernandezAaron Hernandez is not having a good off-season. To make matters worse, it may be a permanent off-season.

Hernandez visited Gillette Stadium today, amid ongoing reports that he is a suspect in the homicide of 27-year old Odin Lloyd, a friend of the Patriots’ tight end.

Lloyd was one of four men, including Hernandez, who left a Boston bar on the night of the murder. Only three men returned to Hernandez’ house, and Lloyd’s body was found by a jogger early Monday less than a mile from Hernandez’ home. Lloyd was dating the sister of Hernandez’ girlfriend. Police have since noted that Hernandez is directly tied to the homicide, though they have stopped short of labeling him a suspect. Police have searched Hernandez’ residence twice and detained two individuals seeking to leave the property. At least one report places the car driven by Hernandez at the crime scene.

Hernandez, a native of Bristol, Connecticut, played at the University of Florida, where he earned the John Mackey Award as the nation’s best tight end. But Hernandez failed at least one drug test and slipped to the fourth round in the 2010 draft, where the Patriots selected him after having already selected Rob Gronkowski. In three seasons with the Patriots, Hernandez has caught 175 passes for 1,956 yards and 18 touchdowns, but has missed ten games over that span due to injuries. Hernandez underwent shoulder surgery in April.

Hernandez is also currently involved in a lawsuit for allegedly shooting a man in the face during an altercation at a Miami strip club.

Even if Hernandez is cleared in the current investigation, the NFL will review the case to determine if disciplinary action is needed. The Patriots, never desiring unwanted attention, may well release or trade Hernandez even if he is cleared. I will withhold opinion on this subject until the police have completed their investigation, but it seems fair to say that things are not looking for Hernandez.

UPDATE: It gets worse for Hernandez. ABC News is reporting that Hernandez allegedly destroyed his own home security system, including surveillance data, and destroyed his own cell phone, which has now been turned over to police. Additionally, ABC News reports that a “team of cleaners” was hired on Monday to scrub Hernandez’ home. The situation is getting uglier by the moment.

UPDATE (6/21): According to multiple news reports, an arrest warrant has been issued for Hernandez on obstruction of justice charges. It remains to be seen who the police believe is the shooter. Reports also note that Hernandez’ neighbors heard gunshots on the night of the murder, but no one bothered to call the police. I think it’s fair to say that the Commissioner’s office will lower the boom on Hernandez, and at the very least he will be suspended for the entirety of the 2013 season. Whether or not the Patriots choose to keep the troubled tight end is another story.

Jun 102013
 

STON0470.JPGI really can’t say I am surprised.

In the past twenty minutes, Boston radio stations and ESPN have all alerted me to the fact that the Patriots plan to sign Tim Tebow tomorrow in time for mandatory minicamp.

On hearing this news, I can only reach the conclusion that it has finally dawned on Tebow that his NFL career can only continue if he is willing to play a position other than quarterback. Tebow would join the Patriots behind Tom Brady, Ryan Mallett, and Mike Kafka, and has no hope of landing a backup quarterback role. Bringing in Tebow makes sense for the Patriots, who could use a player in a fullback/tight end role, particularly at the rate at which the Patriots are going through tight ends. It also makes sense given that Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was the guy who drafted Tebow in the first round to bring him to Denver. If Tebow is being brought in to play quarterback, then he is a very interesting pick to serve as a temporary camp arm.

There is much more to come on this, but for now the Tebow circus has moved up the road from New Jersey to Foxboro. Yet somehow I don’t anticipate the same amount of drama as we have seen with Timmy in the past.

Correction: It got past me that Kafka has been released by the team. Suddenly the possibility of being a camp arm is a possibility, though we can expect the Pats to sign another quarterback once they get to training camp.

UPDATE: It turns out the passed released Kafka earlier on Monday. Word is that Tebow has been brought in as the third quarterback, meaning that someone in Foxboro thinks all of the remedial work that Tebow has been doing is making a difference. I’ll choose to remain a skeptic, and think this move is little more than a good-natured poke at the Jets. Tebow reportedly signed a two year deal with no guaranteed money.

Apr 272013
 

Jamie CollinsOnce again, the New England Patriots traded out of the first round in order to secure more picks and then proceeded to baffle the “experts” with their selections, drawing twice from the secondary at Rutgers. The Patriots targeted defense and wide receivers, which was widely expected prior to the raft. Let’s take an early look at the Patriots’ 2013 draft selections.

Second Round

Pick 20 (52nd overall) – Jamie Collins, OLB, Southern Mississippi

The Patriots passed up my fave pass rusher in SMU’s Margus Hunt, who was taken with the next pick by Cincinnati. So what do the Patriots get in Collins? According to Mike Mayock, Collins is “one of the most explosive edge rushers in this draft. He’ll line up, stick his hands in the dirt and get his hands in the quarterback.” If that is true it would certainly be music to Bill Belichick’s ears, as the Pats could use a pass rusher opposite Chandler Jones to apply consistent pressure to the quarterback. However, if the Patriots plan to use Collins as a linebacker, they will need to coach him up on keeping track of his place in coverage. Collins has a lean fame that he is still growing into, and has quick feet, having converted to linebacker from the safety position. Collins smells like a boom or bust candidate for the Pats.

Pick 27 (59th overall) – Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall

Donson is quite possibly the best sleeper receiver of the draft, and is the best wide receiver prospect to come out of Marshall since Randy Moss; not that Dobson has Moss’ talent. Dobson looks more like a cross between Brandon Lloyd and Sidney Rice, and has the potential to fill the Patriots’ glaring need at X receiver.  “He’s big, he’s fast, he’s got good hands, he’s a strong player,” Belichick said of Dobson. “Smart, very smart. He has some position flexibility and versatility. Catches the ball very well.” Like Lloyd, Dobson is not a burner, but will make acrobatic catches. He seems like a better bet than the other second round receivers taken during the Belichick era, but time will tell.

Third Round

Pick 21 (83rd overall) – Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers

Ryan is an aggressive and physical corner with good size. He is not a burner and still needs to work on his technique. Ryan has a habit of not turning his head to find the ball, a flaw that Patriots’ fans are too familiar with. Still, Belichick sees a lot of raw talent in Ryan. “He’s been very productive. He’s one of the most productive corners in the draft,” Belichick said. “He’s been in a very good system. He’s been well-coached, knows his techniques well, he’s an instinctive player. He’s tough, a good tackler.”

Pick 29 (91st overall) – Duron Harmon, S Rutgers

Word is that Belichick and other coaches went to Rutgers looking at Logan Ryan, and then fell in love with Duron Harmon. According to Mike Mayock, “Bill Belichick knows that school like few coaches do. I had him on my board late as a late-priority free agent. I got on him late when I saw some cut-ups. I moved him up my board because I went, ‘Wow.'” Harmon is this year’s annual surprise pick by Belichick, and was not invited to the NFL Combine. Harmon is considered a high character guy, and becomes the third player from Rutgers in the Patriots’ secondary, joining Ryan and safety Devin McCourty. For the moment, he appears to add depth at the strong safety spot.

Fourth Round

Pick 5 (102nd overall) – Josh Boyce, WR, TCU

Boyce will immediately add depth at the slot receiver position, behind Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman. His quickness and strength are reminiscent of both Edelman and Devery Henderson. Boyce has good hands but is not able to bring in balls when extending himself. He cuts well and is good at creating separation. Boyce seems to be a solid fourth round value pick.

Seventh Round

Pick 20 (226th overall) – Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois

Buchanan had a huge junior year for the Illini, then ended up in a fight and had his jaw wired shut, causing him to lose twenty pounds and causing him to have a disappointing senior year. Buchanan is a solid pass rusher who needs to gain weight and improve his technique, but could be a real find in the seventh round.

Pick 29 (235th overall) – Steve Beauharnais, LB, Rutgers

That’s right… the Pats grabbed another defender from Rutgers. Beauharnais is a solid, strong player who can stuff the run. He can cover on short passing plays but will struggle to cover right ends in man coverage, and he lacks the speed to be an edge rusher.

Beyond these players, the Patriots sent a seventh round pick and running back Jeff Demps to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in exchange for running back LeGarrette Blount, who failed to produce under Greg Schiano in Tampa. Blount had a solid rookie campaign but has struggled mightily over the past two seasons. If he can regain his form he would be an excellent complement to the Patriots’ backs, but the Patriots are deep at this spot and Blount is not a lock too make the team.

Apr 262013
 

Margus HuntI am terrible at predicting who Bill Belichick will take in the NFL Draft, but then again who really is good at it? The only thing I could accurately predict last night when it came to the Master of Draft Value was that the Patriots would again trade out of the first round.

So for those of us who are Patriots’ fans, here is a small list of potential players for the second and third rounds. Round Two starts with Jacksonville at the 33rd pick (assuming they don’t trade it to the Jets) and the Patriots are on the clock at Picks 52, 59, 83 and 91. If we could get two of the following players, this Patriots’ fan would be absolutely thrilled.

DE Margus Hunt, SMU – A beast edge rusher who could complement Chandler Jones and move Ninkovich back to the linebacking corps.

DE Tank Carradine, Florida State – Strong defensive end, but not overly versatile.

LB Khaseem Greene, Rutgers – Belichick loves those Scarlet Knights, and Greene is a versatile linebacker who used to play safety. He fits the coverage need for the Pats.

WR Robert Woods, USC – Great route runner who is able to play in traffic; was one of the nation’s top college receivers last season.

WR Terrance Williams, Baylor – Solid outside threat who struggles over the middle of the field, but would fill the void left by Brandon Lloyd.

WR Justin Hunter, Tennessee – Taller than teammate Cordarrelle Patterson with great jumping ability; solid deep threat but needs to bulk up on his 6’4″ frame.

CB Jamar Taylor, Boise State – Fast and strong corner who needs to improve his technique; this is an area where Patriots’ coaching has struggled in recent years.

CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut – Good cover corner; two year captain of college team.

CB Tyrann Mathieu, LSU – A risky but intriguing and talented pick who could be a steal a la Alfonzo Dennard.

S Don Jones, Arkansas State – Very fast player with good tackling skills.

Mar 152013
 

John AbrahamThe New England Patriots’ improving defense may be getting an influx of veteran leadership, as the Patriots are bringing in safety Adrian Wilson (Arizona) and defensive ends Dwight Freeney (Indianapolis) and John Abraham (Atlanta).

The Patriots and Freeney know each other well. Freeney was the leader of the Colts’ defense that battled the Patriots throughout the past decade. He did not fit neatly into defensive coordinator Bruce Arians’ new defensive scheme in Indy, and is now looking for a new home. The eleven year veteran has seen his production diminish in recent seasons, but his leadership could be a boon to the Patriots’ young pass rushing talents. Similarly, Patriots’ fans are well aware of Abraham, as he spent his first six seasons with the Jets before spending seven years in Atlanta. Abraham had ten sacks for the Falcons last season and is still seen as a disruptive presence on the defensive line.  He would seem to be the better grab for the Patriots if they can land him. Abraham has 122 career sacks, while Freeney has collected 107.5.

Safety Adrian Wilson has spent his entire twelve year career with the Cardinals, and while lacking the physical nature of Bernard Pollard, he would be a stabilizing force in the secondary, where he could potentially play alongside Devin McCourty. That requires the Patriots to stabilize their cornerback situation, which is in flux right now given the free agent status of Aqib Talib and the forthcoming criminal sentencing of Alfonzo Dennard. Wilson has 27 interceptions and two touchdowns in his NFL career.

It looks like the Patriots have good plans for the money recouped through the restructuring of Tom Brady’s contract.  We will keep following this to see if the Patriots reel in any of the three.