Clint's Corner Archive

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The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 5/5/2003

Crap Shoot...

The last time I wrote a post-draft column was in April of 2000, and there's a reason for that - I don't know any more about these players than you do. Sure I order a few draft publications and do some reading, but I'm far from a draft-nick. Will that stop me from throwing in my two cents? Of course not.

Heading into draft day only the Iraqi Information Minister would have gone public in stating the Pats would not take a Defensive Tackle in round 1. The only suspense was which one and at what price. Would the Pats package two first round picks and move up to land Dewayne Robertson or Jimmy Kennedy? Would they perhaps package just their #14 pick along with a 2nd rounder to ensure they'd land Georgia's Sullivan or Oklahoma State's Williams? How good were these guys? How much better was one than the other? Would any of them be available at #14? Other Patriot needs such as Corner, Wide Receiver, Linebacker and Offensive Line would have to wait.

Just prior to draft day, the Jets showed they coveted Robertson more than the Pats, Saints, or even Bears, dealing both of their #1 picks (13th and 22nd) to Chicago in order to select the Kentucky behemoth 4th overall. That move was a big surprise to me - but more on that later. The real shakeup came when the Saints packaged the 17th and 18th picks to move up to #6 for Georgia's Sullivan. Sullivan was whom I was hoping the Pats would land, but I had him falling to #14 or perhaps going a bit sooner with the Pats moving up just a few spots while still holding onto their 19th pick. Kennedy, long rumored to be the 1st DT taken, fell all the way to the Rams at #12 and was the 4th DT taken following Williams going to Minnesota at #9, or was that #7? We'll let his agent fight that battle.

The Pats did end up moving up just one spot to get their man at #13, but at the expense of just a 6th round pick. Gone were the more highly rated Robertson, Kennedy, Sullivan, and Kevin Williams, but Ty Warren can hardly be considered a consolation prize.

At 6'4"and 305 lbs., the very aggressive and agile Warren will very likely be the Patriots 2nd best down lineman behind Seymour before the ink even dries on his contract. Before some nagging injuries slowed him down after the 7th game of the season, Warren was projecting out in many corners as a top-10 pick. Not having seen Warren play a down aside from the draft day clips, it's tough to really weigh in with my own thoughts here. One question I do have is whether or not he's suited to play over the center in a 3-4 any more so than Seymour. He's likely the Patriots opening day NT, but that may be more a factor of the team's need rather than him being a better fit at that position than end.

If the Patriots had (or could find) a true NT, Warren appears better suited to play end in that alignment. He'd make a great 4-3 tackle, but none of the publications I've read really pump him up as a run stuffer capable of clogging up the middle in a 3-4. That's where Robertson, Kennedy, or Sullivan, at least on paper, would appear to have been better selections. I doubt very strongly that Ty Warren would be a Patriot today if the Patriots had picked 4th rather than the Jets.

At #13, the Patriots did add a player deserving of such a high selection even if he was the 5th DT drafted. At worst case, the Patriots have significantly upped their talent along the line, even if Warren is forced to play in the middle for a season or two. In the Belichick/Crennel system, it's unlikely the Patriots will deploy a "true" base 3-4 for an entire game anyways. Look for the Pats to mix up their front 7 just as much as last season, and for Warren to be placed in a position to make plays, wherever that may be along the line.

Am I upset that the Pats didn't land Robertson, Kennedy, or Sullivan? Not if it meant dealing away 2 #1's to get them. How can the Jets or Saints be so sure their picks are that much better than what was left on the board? Who's to say Warren or Miami's Joseph (25th) won't be the better players come the 2004 season? The Jets in particular are taking a huge gamble here. Had they stayed at 13 and 22, the Jets could likely have landed a solid DT in either Warren or Joseph and as well nabbed Florida's Taylor Jacobs in an effort to replace the departed Coles. Robertson sure looks like he's got the ingredients to be an opening day impact player, but failing to address the WR spot early in the draft is sure pinning a lot of hopes on free agent Curtis Conway.

If you look back at Kiper's 2001 draft guide, the #1 rated DT, and in fact the #1 defensive player period, was Florida's Gerard Warren, taken by the Browns with the 3rd overall pick. How does his career to date stack up to the then 5th rated Stroud (Jaguars - 13th) or 8th rated Hampton (Steelers - 19th)? One could argue that Warren is the 3rd best among these three, and none of those men have gone to a Pro Bowl or a Super Bowl like the 6th selection in that draft - the then 2nd rated DT Richard Seymour.

The Jets and Saints can take the quality over quantity stance all they want - the bottom line is we won't know if in fact they did that for at least two full seasons. Those teams may have "their man", but starting out the day with essentially identical ammunition, the Pats ended up with Ty Warren, a high 2nd round selection ultimately parlayed into a solid CB, and Baltimore's 1st round selection in the 2004 draft.

Perhaps out of the gate Warren does not rate as highly as some of the other DT's taken ahead of him, but you'll have a tough time convincing me the Jets and Saint got more value for their two #1 picks than did the Patriots, especially considering how likely the Ravens are to finish below .500 in 2003.

Moving on down...

Early in the 2nd round the Patriots selected Illinois CB Eugene Wilson (36th) and Texas A&M WR Bethel Johnson (45th). The selection of Wilson is receiving unanimous applause around the league, but the Johnson pick appears to be as debatable as a United Nations resolution. The G.W. Bush's of the world will tell you that Bethel Johnson is a bigger, faster, and more disciplined Terry Glenn who will emerge as the consistent deep threat the Patriots desperately need. The Jacques Chirac's, on the other hand, will tell you that the Patriots drafted a 5th round talent at best in the 2nd round, and even worse, moved up in round 2 at the expense of a 3rd round selection to land him.

So who's right on this one? I for one find it hard to believe the third leading receiver on the Aggies roster, and Kiper's 12th rated player at that position, is one the best 45 players in the country. When I hear about how fast he is (the fastest player in the draft as a matter of fact) all I can think of Tony Simmons. Simmons was a 2nd round receiver who had plenty of speed, but as it turned out little else. After a few lackluster seasons with the Pats and a stint in NFL Europe, Simmons was let go and has since bounced obscurely around the league. To add insult to injury, the Simmons selection was obtained from the Jets as part of the Tuna-gate compensation package.

To put Johnson's value at 45 into context, the 44th selection in the draft was Florida WR Taylor Jacobs. There are those who argue that Gator WR's are a product of the system, but at 6'1", 205 lbs. and eye popping numbers, Jacobs appears to be far more deserving of going that early in the 2nd round. Jacobs was Mel Kiper's 3rd rated WR behind Charles Rogers and Andre Johnson. Did the Pats move up to grab Jacobs only to see him stolen at the last minute by the Redskins? We'll never know the truth on that one. Again, I've never seen the guy play and I don't pretend to know more than the Patriots scouting department here, but this pick is very puzzling to yours truly.

Wilson, on the other hand, appears to be a solid pick in a big area of need. It would not at all surprise to see Wilson emerge as the starting corner opposite Law come the 2004 season. At 5'11'' and 190 lbs., he's a Ty Law clone and in fact those comparisons have already started popping up now that the rookie mini camp has concluded. Free agent signee Tyrone Pool may keep the position warm in 2003, but look out. As for Otis Smith, I'm looking for him to play a different role in the secondary now that the Patriots do not employ a bona-fide free safety with Tebucky Jones moving on to New Orleans.

Middle Tier...

The guy who will have everyone talking in training camp and in the preseason is bound to be 4th round selection Dan Klecko, son of the ex-Jet great. Unlike Ty Warren who the Patriots hope to make a NT, Dan Klecko IS a Nose Tackle. Built like a fire hydrant at 6-0 and 280 lbs., Klecko is a tenacious interior lineman with a non-stop motor. Klecko was the Big East defensive player of year despite being part of a weak Temple front seven facing the likes of Miami, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse.

When facing the Owls, Klecko was the only player opposing offenses had to worry about. He was consistently double teamed, yet still made all the plays. I've read in more than a few spots how he'd never stop coming, even though the Owls frequently trailed by double digits in nearly all of their games. One thing I can say about this selection that I can't say about the others is that I have seen this guy play. When I do watch college football it's usually the BC Eagles, and I do recall Klecko being in the BC backfield quite a bit that day.

Klecko is about 2-4" too short and at least 30 lbs. on the light side of what scouts like to see when they're looking for NFL interior lineman. Because and only because of his stature was Klecko a 4th round rather than a 1st round selection. I'm not saying the Pats got a steal in round 4, as that's where many publications had him going, but this guy has sleeper written all over him.

If, and it's a big if, Klecko can continue to prove the critics wrong and play at a high level in the NFL, he's the Patriots new nose tackle, and more importantly, Ty Warren moves out to end where he could really wreak havoc. Reality, however, says that this guy is a 4th round pick and at the very least will provide some solid depth. His non-stop motor will be a welcome addition to the rotation and specialty situation schemes that Crennel and Belichick deploy.

Just a few picks later the Patriots picked up another young corner in Central Florida's Asante Samuel. Possessing similar size and speed as Wilson taken early in the 2nd round, Samuel does not come from a big time college program and is considered as somewhat of a sleeper. To quote the Kiper guide, Samuel is a "…major college sleeper who could surprise in the right situation." Isn't that what you look for in round 4? With nothing to lose, the Patriots can't be criticized for this pick when you once again consider that their secondary, overall, is arguably the team's single greatest area of need.

...and the rest

As if analysis of rounds 1 through 4 weren't guesswork enough, along come 5 more Patriot selections in rounds 5, 6 and 7. Boston College Center Dan Koppen, Texas Tech QB Kliff Kingsbury, BYU TE Spencer Nead, Cal DE Tully Banta-Cain, and Baylor NT Ethan Kelley round out the rookie draft class.

Of these 5, Koppen appears to be the only lock to make the roster. With the departure of versatile backup C/G Greg Ruegamer, the uncertain health of Mike Andruzzi, and 2000 2nd round selection Adrian Klemm yet to make his mark, Koppen would have to be a complete bust not to make this team. He's not likely to win a starting spot, but given the injuries the line has seen the past two seasons, the rookie may get in his fair share of snaps in 2003 at either center or guard.

Kingsbury put up gaudy numbers at Texas Tech, but all I can figure is that this guy was brought in to run the offense in the mini camps and along with Rohan Davey, help take some snaps away from Brady and Huard in the summer camp and preseason. Granted Belichick held onto 4 quarterbacks in 2000, but with Huard and Brady both a lock, he won't this time around unless Brady's shoulder is more a question mark than we've been led to believe. Perhaps Rohan Davey didn't develop the way the brass had planned last season as the #3 guy and Kingsbury has a shot. Who knows, but with Brady the #1 and 3rd string QB's rarely seeing the field in this league, this pick hardly warrants further analysis. If you have a chance, take a peek back in the archives at my April 2000 column, where I also shared some thoughts on a puzzling 6th round quarterback selection.

Despite an under-whelming roster of TE's behind Fauria and Graham, I'd be surprised if Nead makes the team. This pick seems puzzling one year after cutting Notre Dame TE Jabari Holloway, who never saw the field due mostly to injury. Could Holloway have been that bad that you'd cut him lose and go with a BYU TE in the 7th round the following year? Moving on...

Banta-Cain is bound to be a fan favorite, as he'll rack up some sacks and QB pressures in the 3rd and 4th quarter of preseason games, but beyond that I don't see him making much of an impression. Even if he does make the team, he'll probably be one of the weekly inactives. At 6'2 300lbs, Kelly has a similar outlook. His size gives him an outside shot at landing a backup DT spot, but he's not going to be a factor when the games count.

The grade...

Far be it from me to disagree with SI's Dr. Z, ESPN's Chris Mortensen or Mel Kiper, but I simply can't see this draft as being an "A". While the Patriots earn points in my book for being patient in round 1 and grabbing Warren and a 2004 1st rounder rather than overpaying for a Robertson or Sullivan, I am too skeptical of Bethal Johnson with the 45th pick to give any more than a "B". I do like the Wilson and Klecko picks, and I think the trade with the Ravens at 19 was a very smart move. If Wilson develops and the Pats end up with a top 15 pick in 2004, the trade will go down as pure genius.

Had the Pats tabbed Jacobs at 45 rather than Johnson, or perhaps landed Johnson late in round 2 or early in round 3, I could see the grade of "A" that the draft big boys are handing out to Pioli and BB. To trade up in round 2, however, at the expense of a third round pick to me is a reach given the lack of consensus around the league and within the draft guides regarding Mr. Johnson.

The big question is are the Patriots a better team today than the one that left the Gillette Stadium turf in joyous (although short lived) celebration after beating the Dolphins in overtime to end their season? With a few solid picks and a strong free agency period, this long time season ticket holder says yes.

We'll see you again once the summer training camp gets underway. Thanks for visiting!