By: Steve Balestrieri
On Thursday evening, Gillette Stadium was the setting for the ESPN 2012 Draft Preview Party brought by ESPNBoston.com. It was a typical affair that is hosted in the house that Kraft built, first class all the way.
From the time you entered and were checked off the guest list, (I wasn’t, but was put on fellow Pats Fans blogger Russ Goldman’s invite. Thanks to Stefanie for giving me her ticket.) and handed all of the paraphernalia, there was plenty of good food spaced out all across the Putnam Club in the facility, a lot of bars were open on the floor so there was no waiting, always a plus. There were also current players Pat Chung and Rob Ninkovich and Pats Alumni members Steve Grogan and Patrick Pass as well as Pat the Patriot and a couple of the lovely Patriots cheerleaders.
But the real reason we were there was for the draft talk and they didn’t disappoint. ESPN put together a great panel of football minds on the stage to talk and interact with the fans. Mike Reiss from ESPN Boston (formerly the Boston Globe), Adam Jones (ESPN Boston radio), Adam Schefter (NFL Network) and Patriots legend Tedy Bruschi who now works as an analyst for ESPN.
The discussion was emceed by ESPN anchor Trey Wingo who kept everything moving quickly, injecting a lot of humor in the proceedings. So what was the general consensus of the draft talk?
First- All of the members believe that the Patriots will try to shore up the defense first in the draft. They seem to have retooled the offense a bit in free agency, sans adding a veteran running back, but Schefter added that there was still plenty of time to do that between now and the start of training camp.
When asked whether the Patriots should once again add help in the secondary first or draft a pass rusher, it was Bruschi who said they needed to address the pass rusher position first and that they need to get impact players on defense.
Mike Reiss mentioned that the Patriots had in Michael Brockers the defensive tackle from LSU on Thursday for a pre-draft visit and that may signify the Patriots interest in moving up in the draft to possibly get that impact player. Brockers is rated the 2nd DT in the draft by ESPN and the 14th ranked player over all.
Kraft speaks- Patriots President Jonathan Kraft spoke as the proceedings got underway and he signified that the Patriots plan on making use of all of their draft picks this year. Whether that means using them in the position they are currently slotted or trading up or down remains to be seen.
Right now the Patriots own two 1st round draft picks, two 2nd round picks and one pick each in the 3rd and 4th round. Currently the team owns no picks in the 5th – 7th round. Another consensus of the panel was that the Patriots will be picking in the 5th, 6th and 7th rounds, so read into that what you will.
A final note on Kraft, he speaks off the cuff with his remarks as well as any politician should speak. His talk was as if he had a teleprompter in front of him, maybe he has a photographic memory and has a speech already prepared. Either way ….very impressive.
Speaking about subterfuge and draft day “smokescreens” Mike Reiss had an interesting comment, he said “we all remember Bill Belichick and the very public pre-draft dinner he had with Tim Tebow at Tresca in the North End. A lot of people were putting down the Patriots to landing Tebow, which they passed on.”
“Now contrast this with Nate Solder’s pre-draft visit last year” Reiss said. “The Patriots scheduled this workout with Solder and at the last minute cancelled it. Many people thought that signified that they had lost interest. Come draft day, the Patriots draft Solder with their #1 pick, you can never count out a bit smoke-screening.”
On the same note, Adam Schefter said, “I never ask the Patriots what their plan is, but I will ask them what they feel other teams are going to do. They have a real good feel for that and that will affect how they will proceed when their time is on the clock.”
Schefter added “It truly is nearly impossible to say how a team is going to address the draft because it will all depend on how the board plays out in front of them. Only then will they know in which direction they’re going to go.”
There was a great question and answer session where audience members got to ask the panel or an individual a question on the draft or the Patriots in general and it flowed very nicely. Each of the panelists gave some great, clear, concise answers. The discussion flowed and the pace kept everyone involved. Thanks to Gillette, and ESPN for a fun filled football evening.