Thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft, Cam Newton becoming a Patriot, tattoo-gate and unsung James Develin

Thoughts on the 2020 NFL Draft, Cam Newton becoming a Patriot, tattoo-gate and unsung James Develin

Do I have any complaints about the Patriots’ draft? How could I?

They followed my advice every step of the way.

I basically took them by the hand and led them through the minefield of bringing in new talent. I doled out sound advice for the donut. They took it. And I didn’t even have to go to Mobile for the Senior Bowl.

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Stay away from Tua, I said. Far away. In fact, don’t draft any quarterbacks. You got a guy in house who’d be the second-best prospect on the board already. Leave. Jarrett. Stidham. Alone. For 2020. Go where the needs are. Done.

Second round defensive backs? A couple weeks before the draft I nudged Bill Belichick to reconsider his approach (last two questions on ye olde transcripte). He clearly warmed to the suggestion and — instead of taking a big-program guy from a power conference — he chased elite athleticism from a small school. Good tweak. I like it.

Thursday night, I let Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio know it was time to stop ignoring tight ends (last two questions on ye olde transcripte).

Friday? BAM! Not just one tight end drafted before the fifth round (something the team hadn’t done since 2010) but two! A deuce! A double! Not one, not three, A PAIR OF TIGHT ENDS!

You can see by the transcripts that neither Bill nor Nick wanted to say openly how much they appreciated the advice. Understandable. You have an oracle like me, you keep it under wraps. 

Truth be told, I need no thanks. It’s a public service.

And in that spirit, I will now tell you include a few insightful notes and bold predictions for your post-draft perusal. Because, once the dust settles from the draft, it’s just you, me, Phil, Bo and backyard chipping contests on Zoom to look forward to.

Enough with the Cam Newton chatter already

Cam Newton isn’t in the Patriots plans. Wasn’t before the draft. Isn’t going to be after the draft. Have I checked to make sure? Yes I have. Besides, they have like 14 bucks of cap space left (actually, $1.077M, which is 31st in the NFL).

You think Cam is going to come in and play for free? Or for less than Marcus Mariota agreed to with the Raiders as Derek Carr’s backup ($7.5M this year)? No. No he’s not.

Was he a brilliant player in 2015 and before? Yes. But he’s 23-23 as a starter since, his arm’s turned to junk and he’s never been a terribly accurate or careful thrower.

Just because someone sitting at a desk near a New Jersey horse track says, “Hey, the Patriots don’t have an established starter, let’s see if we can get people to part with their money on odds Cam goes there?”, logic doesn’t have to take a holiday.  

James Develin: The ultimate unsung hero

As passionate football observers, we all get a little over-the-top at times with our proclamations when we strongly believe things. In a related story, it seems that people are convinced that adding the phrase, “And it’s not even close …” is supposed to end all debate. (Here are your Twitter search results for “its not even close”, Moss). Well, usually it is close.

Anyway, I feel very strongly that, if James Develin wasn’t part of the Patriots in 2018, they wouldn’t have won a sixth Super Bowl title.

Develin was on the field for every one of the Patriots nine rushing touchdowns in the 2018 postseason.

Here’s what the final one — the Sony Michel plunge that broke a 3-3 tie — looked like. Develin is just crushing former first-round pick Mark Barron in the hole. Put that picture up in the Patriots Hall of Fame somewhere. Here’s the video of that one.

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Here’s Develin in the AFC Divisional Playoff bludgeoning of the Chargers as a human battering ram making room for Michel to score three touchdowns. Here he is in the AFCCG against the Chiefs on fourth-and-inches clearing the way for Michel to go untouched. Here he is in overtime in front of Rex Burkhead.

When the Patriots came off their loss at Pittsburgh in Week 14 that dropped them to 9-5 and had their “Come to Jesus” week, they come out of it as an offense committed to brutalizing teams on the ground.

In the playoffs, they ran it 34, 48 and 32 times. They ran it 47 and 30 in the final two regular-season games against the Bills and Jets. They ran it for 273 yards. They never could have committed to the running game as they did if Develin wasn’t there.  

“What he’s done this year, the number of reps he’s had, plays he’s had, the pounding he’s taken, that doesn’t wear well with a lot of backs,” running backs coach Ivan Fears said to NESN’s Zack Cox that week. “How many guys are out there that you think can do this? There’s not that many. That’s why (fullbacks) fell out of favor in the first place. … I think James is really special.”

I reached out to Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady about Develin on Tuesday. He had this to say about Develin: “Jimmy was an incredible teammate and champion who played the (game the) way I wish it was always played — with toughness, commitment, discipline and determination! He had mental and physical toughness in every ounce of his body and I loved being his teammate and friend!!”

The Patriots aren’t abandoning the fullback position. They’ve got Danny Vitale, former Packer, in the program to take over for Develin. Given the state of the offensive personnel, Vitale is probably going to get a lot of work.  

The meaning of tattoos strikes Foxboro (again)

Now on to young Justin Rohrwasser, the fifth-round selection out of Marshall, a kicker with a consternation-causing tattoo.

The tattoo, as you by now know, is the symbol of the “Three-Percenters.” You probably never heard of them until Saturday. Me neither.

But they are, apparently, a libertarian group that’s committed to protecting the Second Amendment and bemoaning government overreach.

This message has seemingly been a siren call to anti-government, pro-gun extremists who are down with that overall message and — predictably — some of them aren’t that down with diversity.

Twice, Rohrwasser has disavowed knowing the ink on his forearm was seen as sinister.

We can discuss whether or not the Patriots knew he had it (and given past revelations with Aaron Hernandez' tattoos, whether they should be paying closer attention).
We can debate whether having a tattoo aligning oneself with an organization purportedly founded on one set of values (apparently, extreme libertarian, second-amendment, anti-government) that's later appropriated by racists and anarchists (by chance or design) means everyone that has the tattoo is as bad as the worst person who also aligns himself with the organization.
We can wonder if the Patriots coached him up on his answers or why he didn't get it covered up or blasted off prior. I mean, nobody who either hates or loves the three-percenters ever mentioned there are some whack jobs in their ranks?
We can wonder if we will now be logging serious hours spelunking to find the meaning of these kids’  tattoos moving forward, many gotten when they were in high school or college.
We can wonder if we now should do a retroactive deep dive on the scarring tattoo former Celtic Marquis Daniels had on his forearm — a guy blowing off his head with a shotgun — and wonder if we missed a chance to go off on that when he played 138 games for the team. 

We can give traction to the absurd, reductive "look at me!" social media musings that the Patriots must be quite comfortable employing white supremacists.

Or we can keep in mind what Tommy Jefferson said: "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend," and take the kid at his word.

Fromm could supplant Allen in Buffalo ... quickly

Rock-kicking over the Patriots not taking a quarterback over the weekend continues at a decent clip.

There are plenty who hoped the Patriots took Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm. I predict it won’t be long before Buffalo quarterback Josh Allen is one of them. The Bills did take Fromm with the 167th pick and his efficient, composed, accurate, turnover-averse style is going to be a stark contrast to Allen’s seat-of-his pants approach.

You can’t argue with Allen’s arm strength, mobility, power as a runner, etc. But watching him self-sabotage in the Bills’ playoff loss at Houston was a red flag. He was at the end of his second year in the league, he had his team in the playoffs in a position to win on the road and he’s treating the football like a losing lottery ticket?

Fromm is going to stand out not for what he does but for what he doesn’t do — namely, dumb things.

Upon further review: I'm now a Dugger guy

The Patriots got a supremely talented athlete in Kyle Dugger. The Senator is going to have an interesting story on that this week. But one thing I wanted to highlight about Dugger as compared to Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung? THEY are supremely talented athletes.

Look at the scouting report on Chung when he was coming out in 2009. He ran a 4.5, benched 225 pounds 25 times and had a 34-inch vertical. Additionally, he had a recklessness and toughness that can’t be taught.

Positives: Well-built, versatile athlete who has seen time at cornerback and as a returner. ... Flashes explosive hitting ability. ... Reads the action quickly and is seemingly always around the ball. ... Good lateral quickness, acceleration and smooth change-of-direction agility while in zone coverage. ... Attacks underneath routes and rarely allows the receiver to cross with the ball unscathed. ... Closes quickly on the ballcarrier. ... Receivers are cognizant of him when going over the middle. ... Quick enough to hang with receivers for a few seconds in the deep half. ... Among the more reliable open-field tacklers in the country and should be an excellent last line of defense at the NFL level. ... Accomplished blitzer. ... Few have Chung's ability to explode into ballcarriers while wrapping their arms securely. ... Whether deep in coverage or attacking the line of scrimmage, he limits the yards gained at the point he meets the ballcarrier. ... Consistently swarms to the ball. ... Durable, consistent performer. ... Instinctive defender. ... Should be a leader on defense and special teams.

Negatives: Questionable deep speed and is a bit shorter than scouts prefer because of their coverage duties against tight ends. ... Physical player who can get a bit grabby while in coverage, leading to some holding calls. ... Attacks the line or underneath routes too quickly, leaving room for the deep ball behind him. ... At his best facing the quarterback and running downhill toward the ball.

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As for McCourty? The Patriots took him at 27th overall in 2010. Plenty felt that was too soon and that the Patriots could have gotten him later.

Look at the skinny on him. It’s telling because every weakness mentioned was one that could be improved upon and he absolutely did to become one of the best safeties in the NFL.

McCourty is an average sized cornerback with good athleticism. He runs well but doesn’t have premier speed out on an island. McCourty is a tough, competitive player that understands angles and route progressions. He is an active secondary defender that gets his hands on lots of balls but doesn’t always make the interception. McCourty has great hips, agility and balance to turn and stay in the receiver’s hip pocket. He does get overpowered at times versus larger receivers in block protection and on jump ball situations but he appears to know his limitations and is a defender. McCourty is a good football player that will likely contribute quickly at nickel back and special teams (returns as well as coverage units) in his rookie season.

McCourty is a durable corner. He possesses great athletic ability combined with impressive instincts. Is an experienced prospect. Has the work ethic necessary to maximize his skill-set at the next level. Is a highly competitive defender. Has been productive during his career. Special teams standout as both a returner and on coverage units.

McCourty has somewhat of a slight build and can be taken advantage of by taller, more physical receivers. Must improve his block protection in order to be more productive in run support. Only possesses average ball skills, will drop some catchable balls and won’t make many circus plays.

So, despite my initial “WTF?! A safety from D-II Lenoir-Rhyne? I thought big program performance was a big deal” reaction, I’m standing down on that. I’m a Dugger guy.

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

NFL Rumors: Patriots re-sign undrafted rookie WR Isaiah Zuber

The New England Patriots brought one of their undrafted rookies back into the fold on Wednesday.

Isaiah Zuber, a wide receiver out of Mississippi State, reportedly has been re-signed after being cut by the team a week ago.

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Zuber played three seasons at Kansas State before transferring to Mississippi State for his senior season, in which he tallied 14 receptions for 211 yards and two touchdowns. The 23-year-old's best college season came during his junior year, when he had 52 catches for 619 yards and five touchdowns.

The Patriots have had eight players opt out of the 2020 NFL season so far -- including WR Marqise Lee -- thus opening up roster spots for the undrafted free agents who initially were cut. Fellow UDFA receiver Will Hastings also was re-signed by the team shortly after being released.

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL opt-outs: Complete list of players who won't play in 2020 season

NFL training camps officially began Tuesday, but there were some notable absences.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Laurent Duvernay-Tardif became the first NFL player to opt out of the 2020 season last Friday, citing health concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, multiple players have followed suit, continuing a trend across all major North American professional sports of players declining to participate in their seasons as COVID-19 persists in the United States.

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The Patriots especially have felt the impact of this trend: Eight New England players -- including star linebacker Dont'a Hightower -- already have opted out, the most of any NFL team.

Below is a running list of the players who have opted out of the 2020 NFL season, according to reports or team/player confirmations. The list is sorted alphabetically after the Patriots, with the date of the players' opt-outs in parentheses.

New England Patriots

RB Brandon Bolden (July 28)
OT Marcus Cannon (July 28)
S Patrick Chung (July 28)
LB Dont'a Hightower (July 28)
WR Marqise Lee (August 1)
OG Najee Toran (July 27)
FB Danny Vitale (July 27)
TE Matt LaCosse (August 2)

Arizona Cardinals

OT Marcus Gilbert (August 4)

Baltimore Ravens

OT Andre Smith (July 28)
WR/KR De'Anthony Thomas (July 27)

Buffalo Bills

CB E.J. Gaines (August 2)
DT Star Lotulelei (July 28)

Carolina Panthers

LB Jordan Mack (July 28)
LB Christian Miller (August 3)

Chicago Bears

DT Eddie Goldman (July 28)
S Jordan Lucas (August 3)

Cincinnati Bengals

OT Isaiah Prince (July 31)
DT Josh Tupou (July 31)

Cleveland Browns

DT Andrew Billings (August 4)
OL Drake Dorbeck (July 29)
OL Drew Forbes (July 29)
OL Colby Gossett (August 4)

Dallas Cowboys

CB Maurice Canady (July 27)
WR Stephen Guidry (July 28)
FB Jamize Olawale (August 2)

Denver Broncos

OT JaWuan James (August 3)
DT Kyle Peko (July 28)

Detroit Lions

DT John Atkins (July 29)
WR Geronimo Allison (August 2)
C Russell Bodine (August 5)

Green Bay Packers

WR Devin Funchess (July 28)

Houston Texans

DT Eddie Vanderdoes (July 28)

Indianapolis Colts

DB Rolan Milligan (August 5) 
LB Skai Moore (August 4)
DB Marvell Tell (August 5)

Jacksonville Jaguars

EDGE Larentee McCray (August 1)
DL Al Woods (July 31)

Kansas City Chiefs

OG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (July 24)
RB Damien Williams (July 29)

Las Vegas Raiders

LB Ukeme Eligwe (August 4)
CB D.J. Killings (August 3)
DE Jeremiah Valoaga (August 3)

Los Angeles Rams

OT Chandler Brewer (July 31)

Miami Dolphins

WR Allen Hurns (August 4)
WR Albert Wilson (August 5)

Minnesota Vikings

NT Michael Pierce (July 28)

New Orleans Saints

TE Jason Vander Laan (July 28)
TE Cole Wick (July 28)

New York Giants

CB Sam Beal (August 5)
WR Da'Mari Scott (August 2)
LT Nate Solder (July 29)

New York Jets

OL Leo Koloamatangi (July 28)
LB C.J. Mosley (August 1)

Philadelphia Eagles

WR Marquise Goodwin (July 28)

San Francisco 49ers

WR Travis Benjamin (August 4)

Seattle Seahawks

OG Chance Warmack (July 27)

Tennessee Titans

OL Anthony McKinney (July 28)

Washington Football Team

DT Caleb Brantley (July 27)
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons (August 3)

Free Agents

G Larry Warford (July 28)