by Bruce Allen, Greg Doyle, Scott Benson, Kevin Thomas and Dan Snapp

The NFL Draft is just one day away, so we sent the fabled Roundtable Signal across the skies of Gotham, and once again the valiant Row of Chairs has responded. Though they may be dark and troubled, they make the streets of our fair football town safe for everyone.

In today’s edition, the boys wonder if the Patriots will trade at least one of their first round picks.

Filling in for Bill Barnwell and Tim Jordan, who are both away on assignment (I always wanted to say that), is the newest addition to the Game Day staff, our Youthful Ward Dan Snapp. Dan will be writing a regular column for us this fall, and he’ll start with some post-draft thoughts next week. We look forward to it.

Hit it, boys.

As they do every year, draftniks are saying that there are but a handful of true first first round prospects available this weekend. The Patriots, though slotted late in the round with picks 24 & 28, are the only team with two selections in the first round. Will they actually make two picks in the first round, or will they trade one of the picks and try to get either a future pick or a couple of first day picks this year?

Bruce: I can see either, but I’m leaning towards them making both first round selections. The Logan Mankins selection proved that they’re not afraid to take a guy in the first round if they think he will be a good fit for their system, even if the “experts” have him projected lower. There seem to be a few good fits out there for the Patriots, and I can see them grabbing two guys in the first round.

Greg: I actually think they’ll trade down with the 28th pick and get back to somewhere around 40 and pick up an extra pick for next year. One thing they always like to do around draft time is try to stock up the following year’s draft, if possible. They really haven’t done that yet this year and the trade down of 28 seems the most likely scenario to do so.

Scott: That’s been my feeling all along too; they have two picks in quick succession (more or less), then nothing until pick 91. I hoped they would be able to trade down, still get the guy(s) they wanted, and end up with an additional pick in that area. But the Pro Football Talk rumor on Monday (that they would pick Michigan LB David Harris at 28) reminds me a bit of the Mankins situation. They didn’t trade back there and try to get Mankins at a better ‘value’ – their value mattered more, draftniks be damned. So I don’t think its a slam dunk that they make a move there. Maybe they make their two picks there and reach for the dreadlock wig and Hawaiian shirt. Somebody’s got to stay sober though. Sometime after 9 PM they’ll need to make another pick.

Greg: I agree with that, they could just take a guy they like at 28….like Harris or Josh Wilson even if its a slight “reach” (according to so-called experts). Say they have a guy rated around 34 overall, but they like him, can’t find a good “value” move to get down to around 34….so the smart thing to do is just take the guy you like at 28 and the guy you need. I don’t know why, but I am thinking the two guys they want after they pick 24 are Harris or Wilson. Realistically, those two guys fall somewhere between 28 and 91. So they could move back to somewhere between those numbers and get one of the two and pick up a pick for next year. However, if they don’t get the deal they want and there isn’t a guarantee they’ll get one of the two at the spot they drop to, they could just take one at 28. But then again, its the Patriots. Who the heck knows. After I say all this, they’ll probably just take a tight end at 28.

Scott: Right now Harris comes up on the trusty BSMW Mock Masher as the 44th ranked player, and at the end of the day, what’s fifteen or twenty slots in the context of a guy’s career? It’s the kind of thing that makes the draft experts raise their eyebrow, (“he’s not supposed to go there – he’s supposed to go there!”) but in the grand scheme, its twenty freaking picks. Unless Jerry Rice is one of those picks, big deal.

Bruce: There seems to be a fair amount of buzz in recent days that everyone is trying to trade out of the bottom of the first round, meaning that it will be very difficult to do so. The rationale seems to be that there are only 15-18 real first round prospects in the draft, and that if you use a first rounder on anyone, you’re going to be over paying. I really don’t know enough about the prospects to know if this is true or not, but more than a few of the voices out there are spouting this theory.

Kevin: The concern that some GMs apparently have (a major concern, if Peter King is to be believed) is that the talent available in the first round this year will not justify the large contracts these players will receive by virtue of their draft positions. This may in fact be true, and Jonathan Kraft even spoke to this issue recently, commenting that the true value in the draft can be found in the latter half of the first round, where the Patriots have two picks. Of course, one difference between the first half and the second half of the first round is that, under the new CBA, only the top 16 picks can receive 6 year rookie contracts. Historically, the Patriots have shown a preference for 6 year rookie contracts, which allow the team to stretch the player’s signing bonus out longer, and reduce the yearly salary cap figure over the life of the contract. I think the Patriots may try to move up into the top half of the first round, where they can maybe get a player they really like who won’t be available at #24 (Leon Hall? Patrick Willis?), and then lock up the player for the next six years. Because of the apparent fear of some teams that this is a weak draft, this could be a very good year for the Patriots to try and move up.

Dan: I didn’t know this. What an important factor this becomes, and how ironic that in a draft that supposedly only has about 16 first round quality players, those 16 are the only guys that can be locked up for six years. So there are several different elements going back and forth in the determination of whether you want a high pick. On the plus side, you’re getting a legitimate first rounder you can sign for six years. On the minus side, the huge contracts mean more risk vs. reward the higher the pick. So realistically, the ideal pick in the first round is No. 16. You’re still getting one of the draft’s blue-chippers, you can lock him for six years, and the slotted contract at no. 16 means the risk/reward ratio is more favorable. Conversely, it stinks to have No. 17, as losing that sixth year is huge.

Are there any positions that the Pats must address in this draft?

Kevin: I really can’t remember a time since Belichick’s been here where they’ve been in a position where they’ve absolutely had to draft someone at a particular position. You could make a case last year that they needed to draft a placekicker, but realistically, they probably could have found an acceptable kicker outside of the draft. I think it’s pretty much the same thing this year–they can survive and probably do very well this season even if none of their draftees contribute in a meaningful way. Overall, however, they do need to get younger–particularly on defense–and they need to accomplish this primarily through the draft. Long term, I think it is virtually imperative that they get at least one, possibly two players out of this draft who will emerge as starters on the defense within the next two seasons. Inside linebackers, safeties and corners preferred.

The Patriots are reaching another important decision point with disgruntled CB Asante Samuel. If the Patriots have any thoughts of trading Samuel for help in the upcoming 2007 campaign, the most likely scenario would be to deal him for draft picks in this weekend’s draft. After this weekend, any trade scenario would likely involve draft picks in future drafts, which won’t help this year’s team. If you were Belichick/Pioli, would you consider trading Asante for draft picks now? And if so, what do you think he is worth?

Scott: I’m a little surprised that there hasn’t been any buzz on this in the last couple of weeks, given the way the Branch situation turned out last fall. It would be maddening to see the same thing happen again, so I guess what I’m saying is that I can’t believe the Boston sports media isn’t exploiting this situation. I understand that Samuel will quadruple his salary by signing the tender and the Pats are supposed to have all the leverage on this one. This guy went through the trouble of having “Get Paid” tattooed on himself. He figures, like so many before him, that there’s more money…out there. And we’re talking about nine game checks here. That’s what he loses. He’ll eat those nine game checks, even if they’re the biggest of his life, in a heartbeat. I can’t imagine his agent is throwing up red flags on the game checks. A good agent convinces him in pretty short order that he’ll make that money back. I don’t buy the theory that the price on Samuel goes down if he sits. Even if he does, he’s still got six-plus high profile games ahead of him, and you know as well as I that there’s always somebody willing to pay. By September, if this remains unresolved, it won’t be about anything but ‘respect’ for Asante Samuel, and you know what that means. So I’m not counting on this ‘leverage’ all that much. As for the Patriots, either they: 1) think he’ll play, or; 2) think they’ll be covered if he doesn’t. Damn them if they’re not sure about either one, after last year. I’d agree they have to consider a preemptive trade this weekend, but there seems to be question as to whether they even want the picks they have now. You’d have to think in this draft, a down one for impact corners, Samuel is worth a first round pick. Isn’t that what he’d fetch as a franchise player?

BSMW Draft Week Coverage
Sunday, April 22nd – Second Day Offensive Prospects
Monday, April 23rd – Second Day Defensive Prospects
Tuesday, April 24th – Ultimate Draft Profiles Database
Wednesday, April 25th – Final Rumor Inventory
Thursday, April 26th – Final Mock Board
Friday April 27th – Roundtable
Saturday April 28th & Sunday April 29th – Draft Blog