Patterns emerge in Pats' draft-day trade plans

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Patterns emerge in Pats' draft-day trade plans

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

Ty Warren. OK? I got Ty Warren right in 2003. And I also had a verr-rry strong hunch about Daniel Graham and I mentioned likely interest in Logan Mankins. So when people say, "Nobody knows what the Patriots are going to do on draft day," that's not exactly right. Because this guy (me), eight years ago? I knew. Enough of that, though. As much as I'm convinced Cam Jordan is a wonderful fit for the Patriots, I'd have to look at my track record and say I'm usually wrong. But what I do know is the Patriots will trade, trade, trade their fool faces off Thursday, Friday and Saturday during the NFL Draft. Look at last year's draft day summary. They took one player with an assigned pick (Jermaine Cunningham, 53rd overall). It's fascinating to look at the Patriots' history of draft trades and see the patterns that have developed. Let's stick with the first two rounds in this investigation. TRADING UPNew Englandhasn't traded up in the first round since 2003 when they moved from 14 to 13 in a deal with Chicago so they could take Warren. The Patriots also had to throw in a sixth-rounder to get that done. Why would they trade up one spot? Because other teams were trying to jump ahead of New England and the presumed target of those teams was Warren. They also traded up in 2002, going from 32 to 21 to get Graham. In that deal with Washington, they had to give up 32, a third-rounder and a sixth-rounder. The Patriots frequently trade up in the second round, though, when the pickings on the shelves are getting thinner. In 2010, they figured Rob Gronkowski had been on the board past his value even though he missed his final year at Arizona and moved up two spots to get him at 42. They sentOakland 44 and a sixth-rounder.In 2009, they really wanted Ron Brace. So they dealt with Oakland to get the 40th pick and sent the Raiders 47, a fourth-rounder and a sixth-rounder. In 2006, they moved up 16 spots to get Chad Jackson at 36. They sent Green Bay the 52nd pick and a third-rounder. And 52 became standout receiver Greg Jennings. In 2003, the Patriots made a nice move in the second, going from 41 to 36 to get Eugene Wilson. They swapped fourth-rounders with Houston to sweeten that deal. Also in 2003, they dealt with the Texans again, going from 50 to 45 to get Bethel Johnson and sending along a fourth-rounder for Houston's trouble. What's the pattern reveal? That when the Patriots covet a player, they will be aggressivein trying to move up. That they really seem to value the players in the top-40 or so. And that their second-round trade-ups have beenOK but not great(and Gronkowski helped move that grade higher). TRADE DOWNSThis, of course, is where the Patriots really play the league like a violin. They capitalize on the desperation of other clubs to stock up for future years and still get the players they love who are - quite often - not as high on anyone else's draft board. And 2010 may have been their best draft in this regard. They traded out from 22 with Denver and took the Broncos 24th and 113th picks (113 became Aaron Hernandez). Then they took 24 and traded it to Dallas for 27 overall (Devin McCourty) and also took a third-rounder from Dallas in exchange for 119 overall (119 was kind of obsolete after they got 113). And 119 became Taylor Price (the jury remains out). So they turned the 22nd pick into three different players (McCourty, Hernandez and Price) and only moved down five spots. That was cleaning up on Denver's desire for wide receiver Demaryius Thomas and Dallas' desire for Dez Bryant. The second round was even more amazing. First, they took their 47th pick and sent it to Arizona for picks 58 and 89.They then traded out at 58 in exchange for 62 and 150. The Patriots then took Brandon Spikes at 62 and Zoltan Mesko at 150. And the 89th pick? They capitalized on Carolina's desire to get QBWR Armanti Edwards at that spot and exchanged 89 for a second-round pick in the 2011 draft which wound up being the 33rd overall. Good as last year was, 2009 seemed like the Patriotsspun their wheels with trades down. They went from 23 to 26 in a deal with the Ravens. The Pats also added 162. The Ravens took Michael Oher at 23The Pats then traded out of the first round with Green Bay, sending 26 and 162 to the Packers (Green Bay took Clay Matthews) and gaining a second-rounder and two third-rounders. They turned the second rounder into Darius Butler (41 overall) and used one of the thirds on Brandon Tate. In 2008, the Patriots made a nice move going from No. 7 overall (fleeced from the 49ers in 2007) to No. 10, taking Jerod Mayo at 10 and and also turning a fifth-rounder into a third-rounder (Shawn Crable) in the same deal as a pot-sweetener from New Orleans. From this we can gather two things. The Patriots can either feast on the anxiety of other teams or capitalize on their own disinterest in spending a pick at the spot they're in. TRADE OUTSThis is where the Patriots stock up for the future. We already mentioned the trade out in the third round last year that got them the 33rd pick this year. There were two third-round trade outs in 2009 that got them second-rounders in 2010 (which got flipped in amid other deals that are too hard to rehash). The best trade outs the Patriots executed in which they turned the exchanged pickdirectly into players and not bargaining chips were 2007 and 2003. In 2007, they sent their 28th pick (!) to the Niners in exchange for the Niners 2008 first-rounder ANDa 2007 fourth-rounder. The Niners pick turned into Mayo. In 2003, the Ravens wanted Kyle Boller. So they made a reasonable deal, handing the Pats No. 41 to take the Pats first-rounder at 19. Baltimore also threw in their 2004 first rounder and that turned out to be Vince Wilfork in 2004. When you think about it, trade outs can only by made by coaches and personnel people who are supremely confident and secure. What coach wants to stock a team with future picks if he's worried about job security? Bill Belichick hasn't had to worry about that for a while. And, as a result, he can deal with confidence not worrying about what the owner, the fans or the media have to say. Because in the end, Belichick and the Patriots win a lot more often than they lose at the end of April.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

Brady-Ryan marks rare case of NFL's top two quarterbacks meeting in Super Bowl

For all the flack that Matt Ryan got heading into this season, he’s been a damn good quarterback. Is his career on the same level as Tom Brady’s? Of course not, but this regular season saw him stand as Brady’s peer, making him an MVP favorite.

One of Ryan’s biggest challengers for that hardware is the same man who stands in the way of him winning his first Super Bowl. Though he missed the first four games of the season due to suspension, Brady finished second in the league in passing yards per game and threw just two picks in 12 games while tossing 28 touchdowns.  

So Super Bowl LI will pin the quarterback with the best numbers overall (Ryan finished two touchdowns behind Aaron Rodgers for the league lead but threw for 516 more yards and had a higher completion percentage) against the quarterback with the best touchdown/interception ratio ever for a single season. 

In other words, this is a Super Bowl that puts what one could argue are the season’s two best quarterbacks each other. That’s pretty rare. 

Going back the last 25 years, there are four candidates for such meetings: Manning vs. Brees in Super Bowl XLIV, Favre and Elway in Super Bowl XXXII (this one is a stretch), Favre and Bledsoe in Super Bowl XXXI and Kelly and Rypien in Super Bowl XXVI.. 

Why haven’t the two best quarterbacks squared off in the Super Bowl more often? Because Brady and Peyton Manning played their entire careers in the same conference, silly. It’s taken other players entering their echelon to even set up such a scenario, and that’s why Brees’ Saints beating Manning’s Colts serves as the only example during Manning or Brady’s career. 

The strong performances of those who dominated the regular season have often carried over into their Super Bowl meetings, but not always. Drew Bledsoe and Jim Kelly (both throwing two touchdowns and four picks in Super Bowl losses) are examples of the wheels falling off in the final game. 

Here’s a breakdown of past occurrences. Note that all four of them saw the winning team score at least 30 points, something the Pats have done just once in Brady's four Super Bowl wins: 

Super Bowl XLIV: Brees vs. Manning

Brees led NFL with 34 touchdowns in regular season; Manning finished tied for second with 33

Final score: Saints 31, Colts 17

Brees: 32/39, 288 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Manning: 31/45, 333 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Brees completed a postseason in which he had no turnovers and did so in a nearly exactly average game for him that season, as e averaged 292.5 yards, 2.26 touchdowns and less than one interception per game in the regular season. The two quarterbacks also combined for just one sack. 
 
Super Bowl XXXII: Favre vs. Elway

Favre led NFL with 35 TDs in regular season, Elway finished second in TD/interception ratio

Final score: Broncos 31, Packers 24

Favre: 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT, fumble lost 
Elway: 12/22, 123 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT

Again, this is the forced one because Jeff George (3,917 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, nine interceptions) had the better regular season than Elway (3,635 passing yards, 27 touchdowns, 11 picks). Elway may have been the winning quarterback, but he didn’t have anything to do with the win. Terrell Davis carried the Broncos, playing through a migraine and rushing for 157 yards with three touchdowns en route to Super Bowl MVP honors. 

Super Bowl XXXI: Favre vs. Bledsoe

Favre led NFL with 39 TDs, Bledsoe third with 27

Final Score: Packers 35, Patriots 21

Favre: 14/27, 246 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT
Bledsoe: 25/48, 253 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT

Both quarterbacks took five sacks in this game. For Bledsoe, it was the most he took all season. The game was the third four-pick performance of his NFL career. 

Super Bowl XXVI: Kelly vs. Rypien

Kelly led NFL with 33 TDs, Rypien second with 28

Final score: Redskins 37, Bills 24

Rypien: 18/33, 292 yards, 2 TD, INT
Kelly: 28/58, 275 yards, 2 TD, 4 INT, fumble lost

Turns out five turnovers (and being sacked four times) is not a recipe for winning the Super Bowl. Kelly’s 58 passes thrown set a Super Bowl record.
 

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Dimitroff, Pioli the first Belichick defectors to lead new team to Super Bowl

Working for the Patriots makes you attractive to other teams. Many have left, but Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli are finally showing that major success can be attained in the process. 

Dimitroff and Pioli have built a team in Atlanta that will play for the franchise’s first Super Bowl title on Feb. 5. While many have been hired away from Bill Belichick's Patriots to lead other organizations, Dimitroff is the first of the defectors to get to the Super Bowl on his own. Adding an old friend in Pioli has played a part in that. 

Dimitroff served as New England’s director of college scouting from 2003 through 2007 before becoming Atlanta’s general manager in 2008. He hired Pioli in 2014 as an assistant GM after the longtime Patriots director and vice president of player personnel had a messy stint as the Chiefs’ GM. 

Executives and coaches (even Field Yates; yes, the fair-haired boy from the television) leaving the Patriots for better positions with other organizations has been common, but with the new positions have often come diminished success compared to New England. 

Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Bill O’Brien, Charlie Weis (in his brief return to the NFL in 2010) and Josh McDaniels make up the list of coordinators who have left winning with the Patriots to experience a dropoff without Brady and Belichick. John Robinson (Titans), Jason Licht (Buccaneers) and Bob Quinn (Lions) currently serve as GMs elsewhere, while former Pats secondary coach Joe Collier works with Dimitroff and Pioli as the Falcons’ director of pro personnel. 

It’s only fitting that Dimitroff and Pioli will have to go through Belichick in order to secure a title on their own. Winning without Belichick has proven hard enough for his former colleagues; winning against him will be even harder.