Curran: A series of lost gambles for Patriots

276633.jpg

Curran: A series of lost gambles for Patriots

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
The New England Patriots had a weekend filled with calculated risks gone bad. Not crushers. Not anything they can't dust off their shoulders. But setbacks just the same. There's risk in every decision made. Walking out the door in the morning, buying a vacuum cleaner, or drafting a free safety who seems smart and talented but needs to grow up. The Patriots did the latter with Brandon Meriweather and the clock struck midnight for their patience with him on Saturday. The Patriots got some good performances from Meriweather. But in the end, the total package of on-field inconsistency and off-field refusal to be the professional they wanted caused them to pull the plug on the former first-rounder. They took a risk and - overall - it didn't work out. You want more than four middling seasons from a first-rounder. That's all they got. Everybody has their own treasured Meriweather moment from the past four seasons. The forehead slapper that I'll never forget was in Super Bowl 42. It was a stealth reason they lost the freakin' game. On third-and-11 from the Patriots 25 with 45 seconds left in the game, Meriweather chose to jam a Giants receiver who was already covered by Asante Samuel. Steve Smith crossed from the inside to the flat where Meriweather should have been and turned a 5-yard reception into a 12-yard gain to set up the Giants' game-winning touchdown. Oop. Another risk gone bad for the Patriots? Spending a third-round pick on Brandon Tate in the 2009 draft. After missing the final seven games of his senior season at North Carolina with a blown knee, the Patriots bought low on the still-rehabbing Tate. He played in two games in 2009 before blowing his other knee. He played all 16 games in 2010 and had modest success as a receiver and kick returner. Didn't fit. Next? The Patriots did well last spring and late this summer to find two big, strapping tight ends in Will Yeatman and Lee Smith, both of whom could block, run and catch. On Saturday, they released the undrafted Yeatman and the fifth-rounder Smith. Both were claimed by AFC East foes and added to rosters. Yeatman by the Dolphins; Smith by the Jets. Finally, the long-snapper situation continues to be a low-level concern going into this season. The Patriots signed undrafted rookie Danny Aiken out of Virginia on Sunday. He's the third guy this season to hold the job, replacing James Dearth who briefly replaced Matt Katula. Katula replaced Jake Ingram last year. All have been replacements for Lonie Paxton, whom the Patriots opted to allow to go to Denver when Josh McDaniels made Paxton a Godfather offer. Hard to blame the Patriots for not giving the moon to a long snapper. That's why this is the final "risk gone bad" I'll mention. Still, this weekend was a reminder that - even though there's been no team in recent memory that's done better with personnel dice rolls - sometimes they can come up snake eyes too.

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

Report: Patriots sign nine undrafted free agents

foster-arizona-s.jpg

Report: Patriots sign nine undrafted free agents

The Patriots have reportedly added nine undrafted free agents after selecting nine players in the 2016 NFL Draft.

DJ Foster, RB/WR, Arizona State
Shaquille Powell, RB, Duke
De’Runnya Wilson, TE/WR, Miss State
Steven Scheu, TE, Vanderbilt
Woodrow Hamilton, DT, Mississippi State
CJ Johnson, LB, Mississippi State
V’Angelo Bentley, CB, Illinois
Jonathan Jones, CB, Auburn
Cre’Von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic

Foster is arguably the highest profile player the Patriots signed and was filmed celebrating the moment.

Foster has the versatility the Patriots looks for. He played running back over his first three collegiate seasons before shifting to wide receiver. He finished his career at Arizona State with 666 total touches for 4,813 yards and 32 touchdowns.

Stay tuned for more…

'Football makeup' central to Pats draft picks

belichicksound_0430161462062176493_3450k_1280x720_677108803876.jpg

'Football makeup' central to Pats draft picks

FOXBORO – The Patriots added nine players through the draft this weekend.

And when you looked at their resumes and backstories, almost all of them had one of those “Patriot markers” on them. Some had a character trait. Some were from a program that the Patriots particularly trust. Some showed the ability to overcome adversity or be adaptable. And there weren’t any guys that seem to present off-field risks.

None of these markers, of course, are guarantees of anything. They’re all in their early 20s, still in their formative years. There’s no way to project how money, geography, opportunity and competing at this level will change them.

The football, said Nick Caserio, obviously comes first. But who a young player is has to be a big part of the equation.

“It’s everything,” said the Patriots Director of Player Personnel. “I mean, it really is. We try to look each position on the board, each position they have their own particular factors and position skill set that we evaluate and we go through and we assign a grade …There’s certain things that a corner’s going to have to be able to do. There are certain things that a tight end’s going to have to be able to do. Everyone has their own particular skills that they’re going to have to do. Will he check every box? Well maybe not but does he check enough?

“The most important thing is to take the strengths of a player and try to put him into position to where he can utilize those strengths. Not ‘well he doesn’t do this’. Then we won’t put him in that position hopefully. So [we] try to identify what the skill is, how well they do it, and then put them in a position where they can actually see it. So there’s the physical component.”

Then, Caserio said, there’s the projection of how the person will perform.

“Call it ‘football makeup’ component is a central part of it as well,” he said. “Look, we’re not perfect. Some players work the way we think (others don’t). It comes with the territory. But you’re trying to create a profile of the player within our building and then how he’s going to handle everything that comes along with being a New England Patriot. Being in the program, the demands that we place on those players, so you factor everything in. Some players, they may check every single place both from a physical standpoint and from a football-makeup standpoint and you have others that maybe they check enough of them and then you feel comfortable about that level.”

Rolling through the players they took, it’s interesting to try and see what may have been a “football makeup” draw with each. Second-round corner Cyrus Jones played for Nick Saban at Alabama. He’s played in the biggest games and shown well in them. He’s a film junkie. He tackles well. He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He’s not the biggest corner. But he’s got an edge and he excels on special teams.

Third-rounder Joe Thuney is “very productive, very durable, very bright; probably as intelligent as anybody at that position,” said Caserio. He also can play anywhere on the line. Smarts and versatility are highly valued by the Patriots.

Third-round quarterback Jacoby Brissett is a gifted, charismatic leader who’s had a relationship with Bill Parcells since Brissett was in high school. “I can't even describe what type of person he is and what he's meant to my life,” said Brissett. “Just him grooming me as a man and preparing me for tough times, hard times, good times. He's been so helpful to me throughout this process and just keeping my steady and keeping a good head on my shoulders and you know I just can't thank him enough.”

Third-rounder Vincent Valentine from Nebraska? Versatile big man who can play all over the defensive line.

Malcolm Mitchell, the Georgia wide receiver? You couldn’t find a more likable and genuine kid, it seems. And the scouting report offered by longtime draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki? “A tough, passionate, crafty slot receiver who can be trusted to move the sticks in critical situations … Brings similar energy, toughness and attitude as Steelers 1998 third-round pick Hines Ward. Smart and versatile enough to contribute in multiple roles perhaps even at cornerback where he began his Georgia career and could be most attractive to a veteran coaching staff such as the Patriots or Steelers.”

Kamu Grugier-Hill? A safety who can play at the linebacker level and has huge special teams upside that comes with a recommendation from Eastern Illinois college teammate Jimmy Garoppolo. Another sixth-rounder, Elandon Roberts? Big-time character guy who doesn’t have great measurables but had great production. Seventh-rounder Ted Karras? A four-year starter at guard in the Big Ten with Illinois. Seventh-round wideout Devin Lucien? Dedicated student who was able to switch from UCLA to Arizona State as a graduate transfer and still go out and be very productive with the Sun Devils in his final collegiate season.

There aren’t any real injury dice rolls.

There any character dice rolls.

The “football makeup” seems to be there.

Now?

“They have no idea what they’re getting into,” said Bill Belichick on Saturday night. “It’s not their fault. We all had to go through it at some point or another. They’re going to get a big dose of what they probably haven’t had a whole lot of, certainly any time recently. It’s a big load. The competition level is going to step up. The volume is going to step up. It’s not a scholarship. In college they can’t take them away from you. In the NFL you’re fighting for a job so it’s a whole new ball game.”

In the end, football ability will be the main determinant as to whether they stay or go. But the Patriots made sure that – at least on the surface – they all appear to have the ability to withstand what’s going to be coming at them.