Covering the NFL for almost 20 years allows you to make relationships with a bunch of people. So I thought I'd tap into some of those people as we gear up for New England Patriots training camp for a series of pieces about topics we've been kicking around.
- Who are the most underrated Patriots?
- Why is Jimmy Garoppolo still here?
- The amazing career of Tom Brady
- Which player (besides Brady) can Pats least afford to lose?
The panel consists of one former Pats player still in the game, two scouts of AFC teams, one front-office member in the AFC, and one NFC scout. They all requested anonymity for obvious reasons (as the player said, "hey, I might want to end up back there!") I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I had talking to these guys.
Today's topic: Who's the most overrated Patriot?
Scout 1: It’s Malcolm Butler. If you’re an elite corner in this league, you have to be able to cover all kinds of receivers. He can’t. You don’t put him on Julio Jones in the Super Bowl. He doesn’t draw AJ Green. Sure, he has the quicks to step inside and deal with Antonio Brown, but there’s no size disadvantage. To me, that’s why you don’t pay him the money [Stephon] Gilmore got. To me, that’s why Gilmore is here. Listen, it’ll work this year because now you have the big guy and an excellent number two. But if Butler thinks he’s going to make the same time of cash Gilmore did, he’s either a) getting bad advice or b) about to prey on some sucker in free agency. Would you want $7 million a year to win? Or $10-plus to be on a shitty team?
Scout 2: Mike Gilislee. What they ponied up for him doesn’t amount to a whole lot, but if you think he’s going to be an upgrade from what you had (LeGarrette Blount) or what you have (Dion Lewis and James White), then I think someone is fooling themselves. How important is durability? It may not mean everything, but it means a hell of a lot more than Gilislee can provide. He’s always dealing with something. He may be able to go laterally in a way Blount couldn’t or can’t, but will that matter when he’s inactive for six to eight weeks?
Scout 3: David Harris used to be that player you put in the lineup and never had to worry, but his ability has waned some and at this point, I think he’s a two-down linebacker and even that I’m not totally sold on. I don’t think he runs well. I know he doesn’t cover well. If I saw him out there and trusted my quarterback, I’d have him spread it out and isolate Harris. Guaranteed to scheme him right off the field. We’ve been able to do that in previous meetings. I can’t imagine it will get any better. I would have just stuck with [Shea] McClellin and [Kyle] Van Noy. Not as stout but more versatile, and isn’t that what a coach wants?
Ex-Patriot/Current Player: I’m always amused when I hear how much the game planning or scheme or coaching adjustments is always a “thing” week after week with you guys (read: media). How about the players? We’re the ones who have to process the info, then do it on the field. Sometimes we get asked to do something in a game that we never practice. Or haven’t in years. That speaks to the intelligence of the guys I played with and the talent too.
Exec: It’s all about what you value. I may look at a player who two gaps and say, ‘I have no use for that.’ But they may look at that same player and say ‘we have to have him.’ Part of my job, part of our scouts job, is to identify who works for what we do, who else values that and who won’t get anywhere near the player. Truly, I don’t even like that word, overrated. (Okay then, what player on that roster wouldn’t you have any interest in?) Kony Ealy, but not because of a scheme fit.. He didn’t get it coming out of Missouri. Then Carolina gives up on him. Why would I trust him now?