Patriots

Pats' first four picks: Perry's predictions, Giardi's reactions

Pats' first four picks: Perry's predictions, Giardi's reactions

The Patriots have four picks in the first and second rounds of the NFL Draft, and there's all sorts of speculation as to who they'll take. Phil Perry takes a shot at choosing who they'll take, and Mike Giardi reacts to Phil's selections.

TURNING THE TABLESGiardi selects, Perry reacts

FIRST ROUND, 23RD OVERALL SELECTION

PHIL SAYS PATS WILL PICK: Leighton Vander Esch, LB, Boise State. At 6-4, 256 pounds with 34-inch arms, Vander Esch has all the size he needs to play at the next level, and he tested extremely well (4.65-second 40, 39.5-inch vertical, 10-4 broad jump, 6.88 three-cone). After just one year as a starter at Boise, he should be an ascending player.

WHAT MIKE THINKS ABOUT THE PICK: I don’t hate this pick, Phil. The Pats have a need for an off-the-ball linebacker and Vander Esch certainly has the athleticism to make you think he’d be a good fit. He was a pretty good high school basketball player and you can see some of that pay dividends with the way Vander Esch moves on the football field, a certain fluidity and an ability to sink the hips, turn and run. However, the more I watch him the more I wonder about his playing strength and his overall football IQ. He started just one year at Boise and his high school background involved 8-man football. Yes, that is a thing and no, I don’t think it’s a plus. There’s also medical concerns with his neck (he wears the collar for a reason).

FIRST ROUND, 31ST OVERALL SELECTION

PHIL SAYS PATS WILL PICK: Connor Williams, OL, Texas. Notice that's an "OL" next to Williams' name, not an "OT." He can play tackle. And I think after Mike McGlinchey, he might be the most NFL-ready tackle in the class. Maybe he helps the Patriots there as a rookie. Williams could also play guard, which would be useful if Shaq Mason (who's in a contract year) ends up elsewhere for 2019.

WHAT MIKE THINKS ABOUT THE PICK: I seem to recall Phil yelling at me when I suggested Williams may be the best direction for the Pats to go. “He’s not a tackle,” Phil said. Hmmm. What changed? I think Williams could still be a tackle despite his shorter arms. Two years ago at Texas, he was arguably the best tackle in college football. Injuries cost him in his junior season but you at least know the foundation is there. Williams is a sound technician, has good feet and can play with an edge. I like that. My concern here is are you projecting him as a left tackle or to be a guard. Because if it’s the latter, I’m not pulling the trigger with a first-round pick. I’ll wait until one of my seconds to possibly tab a player who can play inside and maybe end up as the eventual successor to Shaq Mason (should his salary demands skyrocket based on the recent market for guards).

SECOND ROUND, 43RD OVERALL SELECTION

PHIL SAYS PATS WILL PICK: D.J. Moore, WR, Maryland. Receiver is one of those sneaky Patriots needs. Not because they require a playmaker in 2018, but because it looks like there's a need coming in 2019. Moore is dynamic with the football in his hands, he's one of the best athletes in the class, and he provides some punt-return ability to boot.

WHAT MIKE THINKS ABOUT THE PICK: If Moore were to fall to this spot, it would be a hell of a pick for the Pats. Moore is one of my favorite playmakers in the draft. A terrific run-after-catch guy who can line up both inside and outside. When you look at the age of the Pats' wide receiving group, he’d be an excellent infusion of both youth and talent for a group that needs it. Here’s the problem: Moore won’t be there, Phil. He’s getting first-round buzz and there’s always going to be a couple teams that just want a shiny new object. Moore will be that and get overdrafted.

SECOND ROUND, 63RD OVERALL SELECTION

PHIL SAYS PATS WILL PICK: Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond. Lauletta meets all the physical measurements the Patriots have drafted in the past under Belichick, he's one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the short-to-intermediate range in this class, and he's a true student of the game with solid intangibles. If he's available late in the second round, he's worth the pick.

WHAT MIKE THINKS ABOUT THE PICK: Really going out on a limb here, huh? Lauletta has been linked to the Pats for months, at least by us media types. There’s no question he’s smart -- he's played for four offensive coordinators in four years -- and his work at the Senior Bowl drew praise from his coach down there, former Pats OC and current Texans head Bill O’Brien. Lauletta has good feet and spins it pretty well. I like his work on the short to intermediate stuff but that arm doesn’t allow him to push the ball down the seams like I’d like. I also think those feet are sometimes a detriment because there’s plenty of examples on tape where Lauletta has his eyes squarely on the rush and will duck out of the pocket at the first hint of trouble. To me, if this was pick 95, I’d feel a lot better about the selection.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

 

Jarrett Stidham focused on improving during 2020 offseason, not Tom Brady's free agency

Jarrett Stidham focused on improving during 2020 offseason, not Tom Brady's free agency

Tom Brady is set to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his 20-year NFL career. While the legendary quarterback could return to the New England Patriots in 2020, there's no guarantee that he will.

If Brady doesn't return, the Patriots will have a number of ways to address the quarterback position. They could target a free agent passer in one of the strongest free agent quarterback classes ever. They could spend a draft pick on one in a strong 2020 quarterback draft class.

Or they could roll with the only other quarterback option they currently have on their roster, 2019 fourth-round pick Jarrett Stidham.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App.

Stidham spent his rookie season backing up Brady and played a grand total of 15 snaps for the squad. He completed 2-of-4 passes for 14 yards and threw an interception in that action.

Despite his relative inexperience, Stidham would theoretically be the next man up at quarterback if Brady leaves. But moving forward, he isn't thinking a lot about Brady's impending free agency. He's more focused on what he can do to improve heading into his second year.

"Right now, I can't really think too much about [Brady's free agency]. I have to worry about what I need to do to prepare to enhance my game, to learn as much as I possibly can," Stidham said per ESPN's Mike Reiss. "That's the biggest thing I've focused on, making a big stride from Year 1 to Year 2."

That said, Stidham did call his time learning as Brady's backup "priceless" and said that Brady is "phenomenal" in all facets of the game.

"He's a phenomenal teammate, a phenomenal person, obviously a phenomenal player," Stidham said per Reiss. "There was just so much that I got to learn from him. He was obviously very open to me about stuff that he's thought about the game of football, and stuff like that. It was great. I can't speak highly enough of that guy."

Perhaps Stidham's time learning from Brady has served him well. After all, Patriots fans haven't seen him in action since Week 7 and Phil Perry reported that Stidham was impressing his teammates and coaches alike in late-December.

But is he ready to be a starter? The Patriots moves this offseason will surely tell us more about their thoughts on that.

The Patriots won't definitively know what Brady's plans are for 2020 until he puts pen to paper somewhere. In the interim, it's at least encouraging that Stidham is putting in the effort behind the scenes to improve after spending a year learning from Brady. 

Eminem name-drops Tom Brady on his just-released album

Eminem name-drops Tom Brady on his just-released album

Tom Brady appears to have a kindred spirit as his career continues into his 40s.

Eminem name-drops TB12 on the track "Premonition" off the album "Music To Be Murdered By" which he released on Friday.

LIVE stream the Celtics all season and get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App. 

The song takes on the critics of the 47-year-old rapper from Detroit and compares the critiques he gets to ones leveled at LeBron James, 35, and the Patriots quarterback, who'll turn 43 in August. 

Here's part of the song:

“Revival flopped, came back and I scared the crap out ‘em

But Rolling Stone stars, I get two and a half outta

Five, and I’ll laugh out loud

‘Cause that’s what they gave BAD back in the day

Which actually made me not feel as bad now, ‘cause

If it happened to James

It can happen to Shady

They do the same [expletive] to Brady

More people hate me than love me

This game will make you go crazy.”

It's not Eminem's first reference to Brady in one of his songs. In 2013's "Baby", he raps, "I'm what Tom Brady is to the Patriots of rap. Not a man, a weapon."

And it's just the latest Brady reference that has dotted hip-hop and rap since the mid-2000s when the QB led the Pats to the second and third of the six Super Bowl titles they've won. Other artists such as Drake, Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane and Kanye West have referenced him as a symbol of excellence. 

Brady told the Boston Globe last year before the Super Bowl he appreciates it.

 “That’s always really cool,” Brady said. “I’m a big fan of so many of those guys. I have a lot of friends [in music] that I’ve met over the years that are fans of what we do, too...I think that mutual appreciation or admiration is really flattering.”