I cant believe its not even November yet and we're talking about the draft. But its got me thinking alot now too. A popular topic has been the choice between drafting Berry or Mays if possible, or drafting OL.
OL is THE MOST IMPORTANT position on the ENTIRE football team.
But playmakers are important on defense as well. So this is my arguement, for both sides.
OL affects EVERYTHING. Having a strong OL can make any RB a good rusher. Denver has proven that. They had how many 1,000 yard rushers? How many of those rushers left and never had the same success? Theres a few. OL also gives a QB more time to throw the ball. The longer a QB has to throw the ball, the longer WR's have to get open. This is all because of the OL's protection. The OL literally affects EVERY other position on Offense. Even TE and FB..if the OL is occupying the entire DL, the TE's and FB's get to the second level to block LB's. I cant help but get flashbacks of Roaf, Waters, Weigman, Shields and Tate paving the way while Richardson is plowing through some linebacker and Priest is off to the races.
The longer the offense is on the field, the more time our defense can rest. Owning TOP is a major advantage. If you have an OL, you have more opportunities to score, while letting your defense get some rest. The more the defense is on the sideline, the better, and that starts with the offense. And the offense, of course, starts at the OL.
The only position on the OL that is worth taking with a top 5 is LT. Branden Albert was pick #16. We dont have a shit ton of money invested in him. Taking a top of the line LT, and putting Albert back in his college position isnt out of the question. If we keep Brian Waters, we can try him out at C or RG, idk which he'd be better at. It seems like Ryan O'Callaghan is holding down RT fairly well so we'd only need 1 other player on the OL..depending which Waters takes. FA is a possibility for a C or G too. If Waters doesnt stay, I say we atleast draft 2 OL in the top 3 rounds. Id draft LT with our 1st pick, and use 1 of the 2nd rounders on RG. As far as the other needs, I think we need to go after LB's. Honestly, I wouldnt be mad if we spent our top 4 picks on OL and LB exclusively. Maybe a NT or something.
But you know what? Taking a safety DOES make sense to me IF I think about what has happened and trying to think like Pioli. Last year, he went mostly defense in the draft. So maybe hes focused on building a strong defense first. He was willing to throw out the young, former 2nd round pick Bernard Pollard, to pick up an injury prone, but talented when healthy, Mike Brown. Brown has played good at times, but hes not what he once was when he was on the field.
Its a very strong possibility that Scott Pioli was scouting next years draft, before last years draft. Maybe thats why we didnt upgrade the OL as much as some of us expected. Maybe this was a plan to get some high round, playmaking defenders to build the D, and put together the OL later. Knowing the lack of an OL would possibly land us in the top 10 again, with 2 high prospect safties, its not out of the question to think Pioli may have considered that. In a way, theres even a small advantage of Cassel getting smacked around this year. He has problems getting rid of the ball. He showed that last year, and at times, (yes, he has actually had time to throw sometimes..and holds the ball too long) this year. Theres a major risk that he gets hurt, but when we do upgrade the OL and he DOES have time, he's still going to have the mentality that hes got to get rid of the ball. But since he wont be running to save his life, he'll be able to make his reads and deliver the pass. Now, Im not saying that was done intentionally. I dont think anybody would intentionally risk injuring a 28 possibly 63 million dollar QB. But IF he survives, and IF we begin to upgrade the OL, we may be in for a nice surprise.
Now, back to trying to think like Pioli. In NE, Pioli started with building a defense. NE won so many games, by last second FG's, because NE's defense was stingy. NE's offense was NOT impressive at all, yet they were good enough to stay in games because the defense didnt allow alot of points. Getting good field position, along with 1 of the best kickers in the NFL (probably the best at the time) they got several last minute wins. THEN, after the defense was built, they started putting the offense together. Along the way of building the defense, they also had a core of OL. They solidified it, and Brady began his ascent to the top. THEN they go out and get a playmaking WR..AFTER the offense is established, and they completely dominated.
Pioli's first year in NE they only went 5-11 in 2000. *'s mean they player has been to the probowl
In the 2001 draft, they drafted Richard Seymour*, Matt Light*, and also found a solid G in Stephen Neal who was undrafted. That gave them 3 solid OL starters. Tom Brady stepped into the starters role and they go 11-5.
In the 2002 draft, they grabbed a TE Daniel Graham who started out shaky but eventually turned into a receiving threat for Brady. They also got Deion Branch. They went 9-7
In the 2004 draft, they took Vince Wilfork to take over the middle of the DL. Thats 3 1st round DL's in 4 years. I wouldnt be surprised if we drafted Suh. He's 6'4 but only 305lbs. If they can bulk him up to about 315, I'd say he could play NT but I dont know. Maybe not. Pioli would know better than I would so I guess we'll see what he does. They also picked up Ben Watson, and Randall Gay who was undrafted. They repeated 14-2.
The Patriots were 11-5, 10-6, 9-7, and 8-8 leading up to 2000 when they went 5-11. They had a blown draft in 2000, Pioli's first year (he was only an assistant at the time) that likely contributed to the 5-11 season. In 1999, they drafted Pro Bowler, Damien Woody, but other than him, nobody from the 97 draft to 2001 that was drafted by the Pats went to the pro bowl. There was a guy who was drafted by them, released, and years later he made the pro bowl as a special teamer for the Cardinals so I didnt include him.
The reason why they were able to go from 5-11 to 11-5 is because the Patriots had more players in place. I didnt include what they did in Free Agency but they made some good moves. I expect next year to be different for us. I think if the OL is upgraded, the team is easily better than the last 3 seasons. I think OL is the only portion of offense that we should focus on right now as far as the draft is concerned. I think we need to use the draft for the OL and some defenders. TE, WR, RB, are things that can be handled either in the later rounds, or FA. I think we need to get some LB's in as well. Considering that I have not seen the upcoming FA's, I cant be sure what I think we should draft other than 1 thing and that is the OL.
I dont know what Pioli is going to do. I think alot of it depends on where we're at in the draft, if we try/succeed in trading down, who the top players are going to be. But I strongly believe that we're going to have an active offseason, we're going to build on the positives and we're going to be a competitive team next year. I'm not going to try to predict wins for next season because thats ridiculous, but I do think we'll be competitive.
Anyways. This started as a comment on another post, but the more I dug into it, the more obsessive I got so hear it is. Let me know what you think in the comments! OL, or playmaker on D?