By Tom E. Curran
Heading into the NFL draft, Tom E. Curran plans a series oflooks at potential Patriots draftees. Today's player: Danny Watkins.
Danny Watkins, 6-3, 310
OG, OL, C, Baylor
The Skinny:One of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, the 26-year-old (he'll turn 27 during his rookie year) didn't play football until junior college when he was enrolled in firefighting school at Butte (Calif.) College. Went on to start 25 games after he got to Baylor and impressed as a strong, nasty, humble, mature mauler. Stephen Neal's gone? Really, who better to pick up where he left off? And the nice thing? He's played two years at left tackle but can also play either guard spot or center.
Gotta Have Him:Draft analyst Wes Bunting at the National Football Posthas had Watkins ticketed for the Patriots with the 28th pick for much of predraft season (he's got quarterback Jake Locker ?!? there now)."With this guy, from Day One, you have a good starting player on your offensive line," said Bunting of Watkins. "I would give him plus-grades in both run-blocking and pass protection. He can bend, he can create leverage for himself and he's got a strong lower half when asked to anchor or drive people off the football. When I watched him on tape, he was one of, if not the, best college left tackles I saw all year. I really like Watkins." Most impressive is the factthat while he's spent all that time at left tackle,he'sreally well suited to play guard. And with Neal leaving, there'a a hole there. Additionally, if the Patriots want Nick Kaczur to playright guard and want to replace Matt Light at left tackle with current RT SebastianVollmer, Watkins can head out to RT. Ver. Sa. Tie-yull.
Don't Need Him:I'm not sure I can cobble together a bunch of suitable reasons why Watkins wouldn't work. Maybe the age thing if you figure he'll be 32 when his rookie contract expires. But even that isn't bad for a club, since it guards them from having to pay fat to a 26-year-old whose contract just expired and his best years are ahead of him.
Forecast: If the Patriots keep all three of their early picks - 17, 28 and 33 - you'd have to anticipate them taking a lineman. And there is no more versatile guy - at least in the eyes of analysts - than Watkins. He seems a terrific fit at 28 and could well be gone to a team like Pittsburgh if the Pats try to wait until 33.
Patriots Draftability: 10
Tom E. Curran can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe.
The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.
“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”
Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.
Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.
“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”
Tom Brady delivered a video message last week at the funeral of Navy SEAL Kyle Milliken, a Maine native and former UConn track athlete killed in Somalia on May 5.
Bill Speros of The Boston Herald, in a column this Memorial Day weekend, wrote about Milliken and Brady's message.
Milliken ran track at Cheverus High School in Falmouth, Maine, and at UConn, where he graduated in 2001. Milliken lived in Virginia Beach, Va., with his wife, Erin, and two children. He other Navy SEALs participated in a training exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011 where he met and posed for pictures with Brady.
Speros wrote that at Milliken’s funeral in Virginia Beach, Va., Brady's video offered condolences and thanked Milliken’s family for its sacrifice and spoke of how Milliken was considered a “glue guy” by UConn track coach Greg Roy.
Milliken had served in Iraq and Afghanistan, earning four Bronze Star Medals and was based in Virginia since 2004. He was killed in a nighttime firefight with Al-Shabaab militants near Barij, about 40 miles from the Somali capital of Mogadishu. He was 38.
The Pentagon said Milliken was the first American serviceman killed in combat in Somalia since the "Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 Americans in 1993.
In a statement to the Herald, Patriots owner Robert Kraft said: “It was an honor to host Kyle and his team for an exercise at Gillette Stadium in 2011. It gave new meaning to the stadium being known as home of the Patriots. We were deeply saddened to hear of Kyle’s death earlier this month.
“As Memorial Day weekend approaches, we are reminded of the sacrifices made by patriots like Kyle and so many others who have made the ultimate sacrifice to defend and protect our rights as Americans. Our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt appreciation are extended to the Milliken family and the many families who will be remembering lives lost this Memorial Day weekend.”