Dangling questions for Draft Day

Dangling questions for Draft Day
April 25, 2013, 2:15 am
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The Ryan Mallett Dilemma

The ’83 quarterback class, this ain’t. Geno Smith, Ryan Nassib, E.J. Manuel and Matt Barkley are the top prospects, but there are warts aplenty on them and any GM that selects one of them does so with his breath held and fingers crossed. Nobody was willing to take a risk on Ryan Mallett two years ago and he dropped to the third round because of off-field concerns. Now, two years later, does a quarterback-hungry team lying in the weeds make a weekend run at Mallett with a trade proposition? There’s not a quarterback on the board more NFL ready than Mallett mainly because he’s been in the NFL – though gathering dust – for two years. And he’s got two more seasons of dust collection to go. The Browns are the only team that’s been prominently mentioned as being a Mallett suitor in this offseason. If they don’t dice-roll at No. 6 with Smith, Mallett could still be enticing. Cleveland’s next picks after No. 6 are 68 and 104.

Taking a Chance on Character

In January 2012, Tyrann Mathieu was the most electrifying defender in college football. Not only was he a tenacious defender who created turnovers and was an electric punt returner, he had versatility and competitiveness. It all went up in a puff of smoke -- several hundred puffs of smoke, actually -- at LSU and he didn’t play college football last season. The Patriots were said to have been the team that grilled Mathieu hardest at the NFL Combine about his marijuana use and they had him in Foxboro for more tire-kicking. Last season, Janoris Jenkins was a corner with baggage. The Rams took him and Jenkins had a terrific rookie season. The Patriots have made “value” picks on guys with baggage before -- Mallett being one of them. Whether it’s Mathieu or another player with background issues, will the Patriots bend for a player if he sits on the shelf long enough?

Breaking Trend At Wideout

Since 2000, the Patriots have used just 10 draft picks on wide receivers. Three times they’ve used second-round picks on wideouts. Those picks were Deion Branch, Chad Jackson and Bethel Johnson. One of them worked out well. This season, the Patriots enter the draft without a true outside or “X” receiver with demonstrable season-long ability. Donald Jones, kinda sorta, but . . . well . . . the Bills didn’t even want to bet on him long term. I’ve been told the wideouts the Patriots are high on are Justin Hunter and Robert Woods. Hunter is a first-round prospect and won’t be there when the Patriots make their choice in the second round. We’ll see if they take that leap.

Trading Down . . . Again?

The Patriots went against form in 2012 by moving up in the first round to get Chandler Jones. They followed up that pick with Dont’a Hightower. But the Patriots tendency is more often to move down in the first round when they believe players they covet will be on the board later than when the team’s number comes up. With a fairly deep draft but one which has no “must-have” players, it seems, the Patriots could be in the market to move out of the first by taking advantage of a trigger-happy team and adding picks in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, where they are pickless.

Who The %$&& Is That?!

Tavon Wilson. Nate Ebner. Ras-I Dowling. Devin McCourty. Sebastian Vollmer. Every season -- most often in the second round -- the name of some Patriots draftee is announced and then there’s an awkward silence as draft experts rustle their papers to try and figure out who the hell the guy is. And then follows a collection of analysis that amounts to, “Well, he looked like a priority free agent to me, but Bill Belichick’s been doing this a long time and he’s one of the best, so . . . ” It will likely happen this year as well. Who will it be? I mean, that’s the point . . . who knows?