Patriots

Patriots take just 4 players in smallest draft class in franchise history

Patriots take just 4 players in smallest draft class in franchise history

FOXBORO -- Heading into the opening of the 2017 draft on Thursday, the Patriots had just six selections -- none of which were in the first two rounds. It stood to reason that the team might get creative and find a way to make either more selections or earlier selections. When all was said and done, the opposite had occurred. 

The Patriots concluded the draft having made just four selections -- two in the third, one in the fourth and one in the sixth -- in what proved to be the smallest draft class in franchise history. 

The Pats’ selections were: 

Amongst other trades, the Pats moved the fifth-round pick they had entering the weekend to Kansas for tight end James O’Shaughnessy. They also traded a seventh-round pick to the Cowboys in order to move up in the sixth round to select McDermott. 

During the offseason, the Pats moved first, second and third-round picks in deals that netted them receiver Brandin Cooks and pass-rusher Kony Ealy. The team also surrended a fifth-round pick to the Bills for signing restricted free agent running back Mike Gillislee. 

Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio said after the draft that he isn't surprised that the team, which has historically placed a high value on draft picks, only picked four players. 

"Whoever we end up with, we end up with," Caserio said. "I mean, the draft, whoever we pick -- OK, there's four players there -- we acquired players as a part of trades. They're a part of it; the undrafted players are a part of it, so let's call it, I don't know, 25 to 30 new players that we've sort of added to the team. However they get here, they get here. We can't necessarily control that. We just try to take our resources and try to make the best decision for our team and get the players on the team however we can get them here. That's what we try to do."

Prior to 2017, the Pats’ smallest draft class was in 2002, when the team made six selections. That class also featured higher picks, however, as the team picked in the first round (Daniel Graham) and second (Deion Branch). Rivers’ selection at No. 83 made him the latest into a draft that the Pats had made their first selection. 

Could Tom Brady miss first Pro Bowl since 2008? Where QB ranks in voting

Could Tom Brady miss first Pro Bowl since 2008? Where QB ranks in voting

Tom Brady has piloted the New England Patriots to the NFL's best record through 10 games.

He hasn't been the same Tom Brady, though, and we have another data point to prove it.

The New England Patriots quarterback currently ranks ninth among NFL QBs in fan voting for the 2020 Pro Bowl, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport, with Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes among those ahead of him.

Here's some context to that ranking: The AFC and NFC both carry between four and six quarterbacks each on their Pro Bowl rosters, for a total of between eight and 12.

So, if voting ended today and Brady was the ninth-ranked quarterback with four AFC signal-callers ahead of him, he wouldn't make the cut.

That'd be quite the upset, considering the 41-year-old has been named to 14 Pro Bowls -- tied for the NFL record -- in 19 seasons and hasn't been left off the Pro Bowl roster since 2008, when he tore his ACL in Week 1.

(A necessary caveat: You can be named to the Pro Bowl and not play in the game. Brady actually has attended just two Pro Bowls in his career.)

Fan voting is open until Dec. 12, so there's still plenty of time for Brady to move up the board. Fans' votes also account for just one third of the total Pro Bowl vote -- NFL coaches and players get one-third each -- so Brady's contemporaries also could help get him in.

Brady's stats haven't exactly been Pro Bowl-esque this season, though: The Patriots QB ranks 20th in the NFL in passer rating (90.1), 17th in touchdown passes (14), 19th in completion percentage (63.7) and seventh in total yards (2,752).

Not that Brady will care if he gets left off the Pro Bowl and his Patriots are playing in Super Bowl LIV. Just ask Brandon Spikes, who said back in January that Brady once told him, "You think I play this s--- to go to Pro Bowls?"

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Matt Cassel: What Tom Brady is really like when Patriots' offense is struggling

Matt Cassel: What Tom Brady is really like when Patriots' offense is struggling

People sometimes don’t take into account is how ultra-competitive Tom Brady is.

He and Josh McDaniels have a level of expectation for the New England Patriots' offense and how they’ve built it up over the last 20 years to where it really should be like a machine. 

And when it’s not operating on all cylinders for a multitude of different reasons, there’s a level of frustration. 

It’s not the fact that they’re not winning. I guarantee he’s happy that they’re winning. It’s just that the expectation he has for himself and the offense is always at the highest level.

He’s pretty consistent around the guys in the locker room. During the week, he just puts his head down and gets to work to do whatever he can to help the offense, like he’s done for his entire career.

A lot of times you’ll watch film with the skill players: the wide receivers, running backs, tight ends and quarterbacks all in the same room.

And Tom has been like this since when I first came into the league: He’s like another coach in the film room.

The receivers sit behind him, and he’ll be like, “Hey, on this next route, you’re going to see it: You faded a little bit on the stop route. I need you come downhill, because this guy is going to be on top of you.” 

When Tom speaks, whether it’s a veteran or a rookie, he speaks directly to you. He’ll turn around and look you in the eyes and say, “Hey, I need you to do this because this is what I’m expecting.” 

He's constantly coaching. Ben Watson would run a seam route, for example, and he’d be like, “Hey, I really need you to give me that stick and give me that indicator step so I know when you’re breaking, and then you can come flatter on it.”

In a lot of organizations, the coach just speaks for the players. But Tom is a coach inside that room, especially in the offensive meetings after practice, and is trying to make sure everybody is on the same page.

Here's the other thing about Tom: He doesn’t talk just to talk. He talks with a purpose. 

When he's talking in those meetings, it’s not like he’s yelling at somebody or coming down hard on them or anything like that. What he’s doing is addressing a specific route and how he expects it to be run. 

And when he speaks, whether it’s a veteran or a rookie, he speaks directly to you. He’ll turn around and look you in the eyes and say, “Hey, I need you to do this because this is what I’m expecting.” 

He's not yelling at the receivers saying, “This is dogs---! You’ve got to do better!” It's more from a coaching perspective of, “Hey, I’m speaking directly to you because I think this will help us on Sunday.” 

I think everybody appreciates that, because they know Tom doesn’t just talk to hear himself talk like some people do. 

So, people shut up and listen when he's talking directly to them, because they know that if they want to get the ball on Sundays, then they should listen to his advice.

After Eagles game, I think Tom was just speaking honestly and candidly.

I think everybody on that offensive unit -- including Josh McDaniels and the entire coaching staff -- would probably tell you their expectation level is higher than what they’ve been playing at. 

And I think some of the struggles they’ve had, whether it’s in the running game or red zone offense, are things they want to address and are a little bit frustrated about. 

So, I think he’s just being honest with the questions and how he feels the offense can improve from where it's at.

Editor's note: Matt Cassel had a 14-year NFL career that included four seasons with the New England Patriots (2005-2008). He's joining the NBC Sports Boston team for this season. You can find him on game days as part of our Pregame Live and Postgame Live coverage, as well as every week on Tom E. Curran’s Patriots Talk podcast and NBCSportsBoston.com.

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