FOXBORO – The Patriots used the 96th overall pick – a compensatory pick that came to the Patriots after losing Darrelle Revis – on a very large man. Vincent Valentine, a 6-3, 329-pound defensive tackle from Nebraska who is more space-eater than penetrator.
Though Director of Player Personnel Nick Caserio said Valentine has played all over the defensive line including 5-technique (outside shoulder of the tackle), he’ll likely be an early-down, middle of the defensive line player for the Patriots at the outset. How does the team go about getting him on the field?
Currently, they are pretty well-stocked with big bodies. Last year’s first rounder, Malcom Brown, is going to play a lot for a long time. Terrance Knighton, added as a free agent, figures to be a major component of the defensive line. And aging Alan Branch showed in 2015 that he’s still got plenty of plays left in him.
The other 300-plus pound linemen in the mix are Marcus Kuhn, a free agent brought over from the Giants, and Joe Vellano, who’s been with the team for four seasons as an end of the roster player.
Valentine had an injury-plagued final season with the Cornhuskers and will need to tune up his body and conditioning for the NFL. He’s not a project but neither is he a plug-and-play type who can be expected to walk in and make immediate contributions. With the 31-year-old Branch nearing the end, it’s reasonable to expect Valentine to be the successor to him in the Patriots interior rotation when they go heavy on early downs and in short-yardage and goal-line.
Tom Brady needs a Hail Mary at this point to get himself on the field for the first four games of 2016. The Patriots are more aware of that than anyone, so Friday night they grabbed a little security, using a third-round pick on North Carolina State quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
The 6-4, 235-pound Brissett was a two-year starter for the Wolfpack and had 23 touchdowns and five picks in his senior season. He’s lauded for his leadership, has outstanding physical skills and is a tireless worker.
All that said, he’s not going to beat out Jimmy Garoppolo. Brissett isn’t in Foxboro to be the long-term No. 2 in 2016. But if he shows a high level of competency between now and the end of August, the Patriots will likely go into the four-game Brady-less stretch with Garoppolo as the temp starter and Brissett as the temp backup.
When Brady returns, everybody moves back down the ladder again.
But a look at the contracts of Garoppolo and Brady shows that, after 2016, Garoppolo may become expendable. Brady is signed through 2019 and isn’t going anywhere. Garoppolo is up after 2017 and will be a free agent. If Garoppolo plays well enough to impress the rest of the league in his four-game audition, the Patriots could look to deal him prior to the 2017 season.
The return on the former second-rounder isn’t relevant right now. What is relevant is that the Patriots are going to have to carry three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster in 2016: Brady, Garoppolo and Brissett. For a team that’s always churning the end of its roster to get the best players ready for every week’s matchup, the team will have one less roster spot to deal with than it’s had in past seasons.
The only way around carrying Brissett all year on the 53 would be to release him, hope he passes unclaimed through waivers and then sign him to the practice squad. It’s likely someone would claim him. So the Patriots will be working with three quarterbacks on their 53 for 2016. Forecasting, it’s not likely they’d do that two years in a row.
The addition of Brissett is a signal that the team isn’t preparing for life after Brady, but life after Jimmy G.
FOXBORO -- For a moment, retired Patriots running back Kevin Faulk stole the show as he announced one of New England's third-round picks.
Given an opportunity at the spotlight, even just for an instant, Faulk opted to make a statement in support of his former quarterback, proudly wearing Tom Brady's No. 12 jersey under his suit jacket.
"The New England Patriots and Tom Brady," Faulk said, "select Joe Thuney!"
While the news that the Patriots had drafted an athletic and versatile offensive lineman from North Carolina State was certainly noteworthy for fans, the enthusiasm with which Faulk delivered his message resonated with folks all the way back at One Patriot Place.
Patriots director of player personnel Nick Caserio smiled at his press conference Friday when he was asked what he thought of Faulk's gesture.
"That's why Kevin Faulk is a potential member of the Patriots Hall of Fame," Caserio said. "We all love Kevin Faulk. One of the best Patriots on a multitude of levels and I'd say he certainly showed that tonight."
Before the pick was made, Faulk was introduced to the crowd attending Day 2 of the NFL Draft by NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent. For Patriots fans, Vincent's name is a familiar one because he played a primary role in doling out Brady's punishment as a result of Deflategate.
Faulk was named one of three finalists for the Patriots Hall of Fame earlier this month along with corner Raymond Clayborn and linebacker Mike Vrabel. Fans can vote for the winner online here.