Posted by: Staff | 05.23.2009

On It With Offit: Draft Edition

ADAM OFFIT ’09

On It With Offit: Draft Edition

This years first overall draft pick was University of Georgia Quarterback Matthew Stafford. Stafford went to the Detroit Lions to help steer them in the right direction after an 0-16 2008 season.

As if the Patriots haven’t made the headlines enough in the past few years, they surprised fans everywhere this year by collecting 12 draft picks, tied for most with the Dallas Cowboys. The Patriots entered the draft with 11, but through several trades and draft swaps they left with more than they were given, as always. The Patriots were also prearranged with the 23rd overall pick, their only one in the first round, but they traded that away for the 27th pick and then traded it again to move out of the first round. The most shocking move done by the Pats was in the second day of the draft when they traded away their starting CB Ellis Hobbs, the fourth year player from Iowa State, for two late round draft picks. I always trust that everything that Patriots’ management does is for the better, but this move really shook me. Nonetheless, the Patriots had the opportunity to draft 12 bright and athletically gifted young men and give them the opportunity of a life time: to play football in the NFL.

On April 28th, the Tuesday after the draft, I was fortunate enough to attend a lecture by Nick Caserio at Gillete Stadium. Caserio is the new patriot’s vice president of player and personnel (replacing Scott Pioli who recently left the Patriots to be the General Manager of the Chiefs.) Caserio gets involved with any matter regarding the signing, release, contract negotiation, or any other team involvement with any player on or off the roster. The NFL Draft is a huge part of Nick’s job, and he spends all year working hard to figure out which players to pick and what to do with the given draft choices. Before my evaluation of each player, I will briefly describe what Caserio told the audience about how to prepare for the draft. Also, after each of my synopsis’ I will give some insight as to what Caserio thought about the player as well.

The overall strategy for this years draft was to get faster and younger on defense. The patriots helped make this goal possible with their 12 draft picks, the most picks by any team ever coached by Bill Belichick. The patriots are also looking at a possible 10-14 picks in 2010 as well. The draft preparations start as soon as the previous one ends. In fact, the scouts are already preparing for the 2010 draft as we speak!

At the beginning of the draft process the country is divided up into 6 sections: northeast, mid-Atlantic, southeast, midwest, southwest, and west. Each section is given to an area scout. The country is then split down the middle forming an east and west side. These territories are covered by the regional scouts. Finally, the head scout, oversees the entire operation.

The first part of recruiting a player is visiting the school. NFL scouts are not allowed to talk to college athletes until after the season is over, but they can still talk to coaches, equipment managers, secretaries, principles, or even janitors. Dedicated scouts will talk to anyone who can (legally) tell them more about their prospect in order to paint a picture about this person’s life and personality. Additionally, visiting a school is a great way to watch and/or pick up game tape so film can be watched to further study a potential player. If the scout is really interested in a player, they will stay and watch one of their games. There are 12 games in the college season, and an area scout may have 40-50 schools to watch over, so they have to choose very carefully about which games they want to see.

In December, the draft process intensifies with a meeting of all the draft personnel. The area scouts present to the organization what players they should aggressively pursue and which ones to be more relaxed about. In the first week of January, there are many “All-Star” type games along with the Under Armour Senior Bowl. This is the first time team representatives are allowed to talk to college prospects and interview them one on one. During the middle of February, there is the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. There, 300 potential draftees are stripped to their “skinnies” and measured like cattle. Every single aspect of their intelligence, physical appearance, and skills are put to the ultimate test. Although the Combine can usually bring unheard of players into the light, scouts can’t forget that their football playing days is what really matters in a player.

Following the combine there are college pro-days and individual workouts. Each NFL team is allowed to have no more than 30 players visit their stadium for a team workout. Many potential players will also have personal interviews. These interviews are very intense, player specific grilling sessions. Team officials will ask about family situations, personal background, and school records. If you threw a water balloon at a window in high school, of if you got caught trying to drive off campus, they want to know about it and they want you to explain yourself. The scouts then grille the player on his football knowledge: “What’s the formation on this play? If its 3rd down what do you call? If A does X and B does Y, what do you do? How many different plays do you perform Z of X? Z of Y?” etc. The interview will end with questions about what the young man plans to do after his football career (some know exactly what they want to do while others have no idea.)

After all the workout, interviews, and analyzing opportunities are over, it is time to grade the player as he is. Each player is given a common evaluation (regarding personal behavior, athleticism, competitiveness, toughness, mental/ learning abilities, durability/prone to injury) and a grading sheet based on their position (for instance a quarterback may be graded on throwing accuracy, throwing mechanics, athleticism/agility, vision, instincts, leader).

Hopefully, this inside information on draft preparation was as helpful and insightful to you as it was to me.

Player: Patrick Chung

Position: Strong Safety

College: Oregon

Senior Year Stats: 92 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 recovered fumbles, 1 interception

When/ How Acquired: Round 2, pick 2 , 34th overall (From Kansas City Chiefs)

Measurements: 5 feet 11 inches, 212 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Rodney Harrison, a hard hitting player with good tackling skills that has potential to be a great leader.

What he had to say: When asked about how he felt about being drafted by the Patriots he responded, “They are a great team. They develop great players and they win games. I’d love to be a part of that program and now I am, so I’m going to take full advantage.”

Offit’s synopsis: When he was first drafted, I had never heard of him before. However, the more I read and watch about him the more I love him. As a captain at Oregon, Chung can vocally lead his teammates but is also very eager to learn about what it means to play at the NFL level of football. His measurements indicate that he is short, but packs a mean punch. He should definitely get some playing time this season; I look forward to seeing him back there.

Caserio says: Chung is one of eight children, which means he knows how to share and is a team player for life. He may not see immediate time at safety, but his impact on special teams should be felt right away. Caserio was very impressive with Chungs personal interview. He was polite and personable but also expressed his passion for the game and competitiveness. The patriots had rated him as the highest rated safety in the draft. When they saw he was available at the 34th overall pick they “could not get the [pick] in fast enough.”

Player: Ron Brace

Position: Defensive Tackle

College: Boston College

Senior Year Stats: 18 tackles 2 sacks

When/How Acquired: Round 2, pick 8, 40th overall (From Oakland Raiders)

Measurements: 6 foot 3 inches, 330 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Jarvis Green; I don’t see him (yet) being very similar to the elite Vince Wilfork. Brace has the abilities to be a run stuffer and make plays but he has a lot of work to do if he wants to be a game-changer.

What he had to say: When asked about how he felt to be picked by the Patriot’s, he replied, “It’s really a great honor. I’m so gracious because going from [Boston College] to the NFL as a Patriot is a big dream of mine. I just can’t wait to get to work and start learning the system.”

Offit’s synopsis: The Patriots’ have one of the, if not the, best defensive line in the NFL. Vince Wilfork, Ty Warren, and Richard Seymour have been giving opposing QB nightmares for almost 4 years. Right now, I see Brace as being strictly a depth player; going in a few plays a game to give the starters some rest. He will most likely be given special teams playing time, which will be a great opportunity for him to prove to the coaches that he’s ready.

Caserio Says: Brace is a native from Springfield, MA. His strength is-well, his strength. He gives a good push to the interior defensive line position. One of the things the patriots do in addition to evaluating their needs is evaluating the needs of other teams. Through this, the Patriots figured out that the teams ahead of them needed a DT, which is why they jumped on Brace.

Player: Darius Butler

Position: Cornerback

College: Connecticut

Senior Year Stats: 28 tackles

When/How Acquired: Round 2, pick 9, 41st overall (From Green Bay Packers)

Measurements: 5 feet, 11 inches, 183 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Asante Samuel; a true speed demon that has a nag for making plays.

What he had to say: When asked how his college team (the Connecticut Huskies) compares to the Patriots, he responded, “They have the same standards as I had in college. [They’re] really disciplined. It’s about hard work and doing your role for the greater [good] of the team. That’s what the Patriots are about and they’re about winning championships and that’s what I’m about. Like I said, I look forward to the opportunity to go up there and help the team.”

Offit’s synopsis: The only negative thing I have to say about Butler is that his senior year’s stats were slowed by a knee injury that kept out of three games. However, Butler made a miraculous recovery just in time to play in Music City Bowl. Butlers speed and game play really excites me. There is a very good chance that he could be a starting CB by the time next season starts. Like Ellis Hobbs, who was recently traded to the Eagles, Butler shows exceptional agility and vision, which could mean time returning kicks, and punts as well. Butler was a projected first round pick, but I’m glad he lasted this far for us to pick him.

Caserio Says: Like Patrick Chung, Butler is also one of eight kids, making him a team player for life. Butler is a “late bloomer”; most draftees began playing football in Pop-Warner when they were 6 years old, but Butler didn’t start playing football until his junior year of high school. He was a two time captain at Conn. Bill Belichick attended Butler’s pro day work out and immediately fell in love with his athleticism and tackling abilities. Patriot’s personnel were shocked that Butler was still around in the third round; they had him ranked as a top 3 cornerback.

Player: Sebastian Vollmer

Position: Offensive Tackle

College: Houston

When/How Acquired: Round 2, pick 26, 58th overall

Measurements: 6 feet, 7 inches, 312 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Logan Mankins: Vollmer will be a slow tackle, but his height and long arms will protect QB Tom Brady.

What he had to say: Vollmer grew up in Germany and didn’t speak a word of English until he went to college in Houston. When asked how he learned the basics of football, Vollmer answered, “I thought I got a pretty good basic education when I was playing ball in Germany. I learned to play [Madden] when I got to Houston. I watched a lot of film of practices or of a game, so that’s how I was taught. I taught myself.”

Offit’s synopsis: Vollmer’s size and work ethic shows that the money and fame is there for him if he works for it. Vollmer will have the chance to work for one of the best offenses in the league next year. I think this year will be a building year for him. Next year, however, I can see him making an impact.

Caserio Says: Caserio started his talk on Vollmer by stating its “hard to find players like this.” Offensive tackles go fast, so someone of Vollmer’s size and agility go even faster. He already has a degree in communication and is working on a second degree in economics, which shows he is an extremely bright young man. Patriot’s offensive line coach, Dante Scarnecchia, was “blown away” at Vollmer’s individual workout.

Player: Brandon Tate

Position: Wide Receiver

College: North Carolina

Senior Year Stats: 16 catches, 376 yards, 3 TDs; 11 carries, 143 yards, 1 TD; 7 punt returns, 182 yards, 1 TD; 11 kick returns, 305 yards

When/How Acquired: Round 3, pick 19, 83rd overall (From New York Jets through Green Bay Packers)

Measurements: 6 feet, 183 pounds

Player Comparison: Kevin Faulk; catch, run, return, this guy can and will do it all

What he had to say: When asked about what it will be like to work with Randy Moss and Wes Welker, Tate said, “Yeah. Like I said, ‘I’m [excited] to come here.’ I know one of them is going to take me under their wing, and whatever they tell me, it’s got to be the right thing because they’re [each] one of the best. … I just want to learn to get better.”

Offit’s synopsis: To me, injury is a serious concern for this young man. Yes, his stats are impressive but he missed the final 6 games of the season (7 if you count the Meinekie Car Care bowl) with a town ACL in his right knee. ACL injuries have been known to take great athletes and ruin their careers. If he succeeds through rehab, he can do wonders for the Patriots. For anybody who’s been watching the patriots play in the 21st century, Bill Belichick loves to use players in different positions; on offense and defense. I’m sure Belichick was salivating on his clipboard when he saw that his team had the opportunity to draft Tate.

Caserio says: Caserio came right our saying that Tate is “a big play waiting to happen.” Tate was the NCAA leader in combined [punt and kick] return yards, and led the ACC in return yards. In addition to tearing his ACL (currently 5 months along in the healing process which usually takes 9-12 months), Tate tested positive for marijuana. These indicate that his upside most be off the chart in order to look past these two unattractive characteristics. Tate, like Patrick Chung, will likely see playing time on special teams early and often.

Player: Tyrone McKenzie

Position: Outside Linebacker

College: South Florida

Senior Year Stats: 69 tackles, 1 sack, 1 interception

When/How Acquired: Round 3, pick 3, 97th overall

Measurements: Six feet, two inches, 243 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Tedy Bruschi; Not a speed guy, used mostly to stop the run.

What he had to say: When asked about how football knowledge and the study of game-film are important to playing well, he responded, “If you know what you’re going to do before your opponent does, that’s huge. A couple of my tackles last season were just knowing what’s going to happen before it happens.”

Offit’s synopsis: In my player comparison I said he’s most like Bruschi. Every Bostonian who knows a little about sports loves Bruschi. He’s been here for all three super bowl wins and has been the heart of the team for more than a decade. But Brushi has lost a step and it’s only a matter of time before someone takes down the big dog. The Patriot’s acquired Adalius Thomas and Jerod Mayo last year, who are two linebackers that are very quick and help in the passing game. If he makes the team, McKenzie can be that big body in the middle that we need to help stop the run. Last year the patriots were 15th against the run in the NFL. Be it McKenzie or someone else, we need a wall to clog up the running lanes.

Caserio Says: McKenzie had one of the toughest life stories of anyone Caseio has ever met. McKenzie’s father died when he was nine, leaving him with his mother and three older sisters. In college, McKenzie played for Michigan, but left school to tend to his mother back home whose business burned down and needed help getting back on her feet. To help her, McKenzie got a job at a fast food restaurant for several months. After financially revitalizing his mother, McKenzie returned to play football at Iowa. Unfortunately, a few months into the football season, his mother was injured in an automobile accident and needed her sons help to perform common functions around the house. McKenzie then enlisted to South Florida College, which was where he stayed until he was drafted. The patriots decided to wait on McKenzie instead of drafting USC stud linebacker Rey Maualuga because they felt Maualuga was only a 2-down player. (think about it, many of the patriots draftees play offense/defense and special teams, 4 plays, while Maualuga can only do two.)McKenzie is a smart, humble, competitive, and mentally tough individual who would make a great addition on anyone’s roster.

Player: Rich Ohrnberger

Position: Offensive Guard

College: Penn State

When/How Acquired: Round 4, Pick 23 (From Baltimore Ravens)

Measurements: 6 feet two inches 397 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Stephen Neal; big, nasty, physical football player who gets the job done.

What he had to say: When asked about what it was like to play at Penn State under legendary coach Joe Paterno, he replied, “As a player at Penn State, he emphasizes character in his players and he wants not only to make great football players, but to build fine young men. Being a part of that program and being a student under him, as a player, I feel like I became a better man as a result”

Offit’s Synopsis: Ohrnberger is a perfect example of the kind of player the patriots love. He is a hard-hitting guy who wants to punish his opponents and drive them into the dirt, but he is smart, has a passion for the game, doesn’t commit stupid penalties, and is a gentleman off the field. A little short, I can See Ohrnberger playing center instead of guard. Ohrnberger will join one of the top offensive lines in the NFL. He has a long way to go if he plans to make an impact for the Patriots in the 2009 season.

Caserio Says: Ohrnberger shows both sides of his life as a football player and a good citizen. As a football player, Ohrnberger is a “tough, nasty bulldog.” He was one of the top offensive linesmen in the draft and is “as tough as they come.” On the other end of the spectrum, he has a degree in Human Development and is very active in his local community. Ohrnberger is a solid football player, but more importantly, a very well rounded individual.

Player: George Bussey

Position: Offensive Tackle

College: Louisville

When/How Acquired: Round 5, Pick 34, 170th overall

Measurements: Six foot, 3 inches, 306 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Matt Light; Bussey is a short guy but his quickness and upper body strength makes ups for it.

Offit’s Synopsis: Bussey is the third and final offensive linesman took in the draft. As the last one selected he will have the hardest time making the roster. Bussey is pretty small for a tackle, so if he doesn’t switch to guard he will have a tough time making the roster. I thinks it is possible for Bussey to get some playing time on special teams with lots of hard work and a little bit of luck.

Caserio Says: Bussey was the first example of a pick that was not a necessity. Should add some depth to the offensive line.

Player: Jake Ingram

Position: Long Snapper

College: Hawaii

When/How Acquired: Round 6, Pick 25, 198th overall (from Baltimore Ravens)

Measurements: 6 feet, 3 inches, 232 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Lonnie Paxton; the long snapper

Offit’s Synopsis: Our old long snapper, Lonnie Paxton, was traded away to the Denver Broncos leaving a considerable void in the depth chart. Ingram’s snaps have exceptional velocity and a smooth spin. The ball time from Ingram to the punter is .7 seconds. His tackling skills need work, but it is a small price to pay for a long snapper. An excellent pick for the Pats.

Caserio Says: Caserio left nothing up for interpretation as he called Ingram the best long snapper in the entire draft. The Patriots’ also acquired a long snapper through free agency and the two will compete for the starting job. Ingram also has a degree in economics.

Player: Myron Pryor

Position: Defensive Tackle

College: Kentucky

When/How Acquired: Round 6, Pick 34, 207th overall

Measurements: 6 feet, three inches, 319 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Titus Adams; undersized, minimal impact

Offit’s Synopsis: Round 6, being the second to last round, is when we begin to see players taken who have a minimal chance of making an actual NFL roster. Pryor is short, and packs a powerful punch, but will really have to push it if he wants to make the roster. I say it’s a long shot, but then again I’m not the guy making the picks…

Caserio Says: Pryor competed in one of the most competitive conference in college football, the SEC. This means that Pryor went up against the best of the best. Caserio also noted that Pryors best game was against Louisville, who had one of the best centers in the draft. Like many of the Patriots draftees, Pryor is big, but also very athletic.

Player: Julian Edelman

Position: Quarterback

College: Kent Sate

Senior Year Stats: 153/275 for 1820 yards 13 TDs and 11 INTs. 215 carries for 1370 yards and 13 TDs.

When/How Acquired: Round 7, Pick 23, 232nd overall (From Miami Dolphins through Jacksonville Jaguars)

Measurements: 5 feet, 11 inches, 195 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Matt Cassel; Good quarterback, great athlete

Offit’s Synopsis: Last year, early in the season, we all saw the Dolphins humiliate the Patriot’s with a newly invented “wildcat offense.” Ever since that day, NFL teams have been on the hunt for agile and athletic players to play QB on those plays. Tom Brady is the unquestioned starter for this team, but I will be looking forward to see how they use Edelman.

Caserios Says: Edelman is an exciting player to watch whenever he has the ball in his hands. He has a rocket arm along with legs that can guide him around tacklers, making him one of the tip dual threats in the entire draft. He is a smart, tough kid who loves the game of football. Caserio said that he will probably be moved to wide receiver.

Player: Darryl Richard

Position: Defensive Tackle

College: Georgia Tech

Senior Year Stats: 34 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss, 1 fumble recovered.

When/How Acquired: Round 7, Pick 25, 234th overall

Measurements: 6 feet, 3 inches, 303 pounds

Patriots Player Comparison: Ty Warren; brains over braun

Offit’s Synopsis: Richard, being the Patriots last pick in the draft, has the smallest chance of all the draftees to make the final roster. With his physicality alone, Richard does not have what it take to make an NFL team. Richard however is a very smart linesman that can read the play and move up and down the line based on where the ball is going. He was a leader at Georgia Tech, but it’s a long shot for him to be in a Patriot uniform come week 1.

Caserio Says: Richard’s intelligence is what stood out the most to the Patriots. In high school, he was the class valedictorian. He scored the highest on the wonderlic test, on the student advisory board in college, a recipient of the Tatum award for the top student athletes, and plays the piano. He is a very wholesome player whose brains just may land him a spot on the 2009 roster.

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