Patriots Draft: What's Not To Like In Staley?

Central Michigan's Joe Staley isn't the only tackle in the Draft, but he's the only tackle with a first round grade that the Patriots have a shot at selecting. Don't be surprised if the Patriots add this former college champion to their roster. Q & A, with insider analysis and comments from an NFL scout.

Staley visited with the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams and had private workouts with the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and New York Jets.

Denis Savage: This three-month stretch after your collegiate career is almost as important as your collegiate career. Did you get that sense?

Joe Staley: Yes. One of the things I noticed during this whole process is how your stock can rise and fall when you are not even playing football. I haven't played football since the end of December and all of a sudden I have gone from second round prospect to a first round prospect and I haven¹t even stepped on a football field.

DS: Do you pay attention to stuff like that ­ your draft stock ­ because in the end you figure you will go when you go.

Joe Staley: I have my cousin, my uncle, and my dad who all will keep up with that stuff. They call me everyday to tell me they read a new article about me. I try not to get wrapped up in all that because ultimately you will go where you go and we can go play some football.

DS: As an offensive lineman, you are five players working towards a common goal. When one fails, they all fail. We know the center has to know all the responsibilities along the line, but do you feel it is necessary to know the responsibilities of the other positions?

Joe Staley: When I was in college I did just because I like to know where everyone else is going to be or where they should be. I also worked with the younger kids ­ I had a first year offensive guard that I would tell his responsibilities. You are a close-knit group, and when you are playing together on the field, I think everyone on the line needs to know what everyone is doing and what their responsibilities are.

DS: Do you believe you have any area of your game that you need to improve upon?

Joe Staley: I think I need to improve in every area. I don¹t think there is anything I have that doesn¹t need improving. That is the thing at the next level ­ you have to be able to work hard and improve day in and day out to be content and always try and strive to be better. I think every area definitely needs some work.

DS: You took over a leadership role at Central Michigan, particularly when Eric Ghiaciuc left ­ going into the NFL as a rookie, how do you see yourself fitting in?

Joe Staley: You have to look at the veterans and see how they approach the game. You try and win people over by working hard and showing them that you want to succeed in the NFL and help the team win. All the players should respond to that if you come in and work hard and are not lazy. Stay disciplined ­ I am going to go in there with a mindset that I am going to bust my butt and show them I am real serious about this and step back and watch the veterans.

DS: Are you also hoping they might split you out wide and make you an eligible receiver as a former tight end?

Joe Staley: I have no aspirations to do that anymore.

DS: How far have you come since coming into college as a quasi-tight end at 220-pounds?

Joe Staley: I never pictured my career going this way when I went to Central. At the time, I was just excited to play college football. When I got there, I didn't even have any goals on hoping to play. I thought I would be red-shirted but I came in there and worked hard, put some weight on, and it has been quite a ride.

DS: The rollercoaster comes to a halt this weekend ­ or it is beginning again.

Joe Staley: I think it is beginning again. I am graduating from the junior rollercoasters and going up to the big guys.

DS: You had a chance to visit with a the Saints and Rams. Talk about what the experience has been like at these facilities.

Joe Staley: They are really casual, surprisingly. I thought they would be more football-oriented. I got the feeling that they really just wanted to see you interact with different players and the coaches in a casual setting to almost see if you are able to hold a conversation and not be intimidated or shy. It was a chance for the coaches to sit down and talk to you and see what you are all about.

It wasn't intimidating. It was a bunch of football guys hanging out. I don¹t get real uncomfortable in social settings.

DS: How did the private workouts with the Jets, Patriots and Chiefs differ from the visits you went on to the team facilities?

Joe Staley: The private workouts were a lot more football-oriented. They put you through a workout for about an hour and a half and after the workout we go up into the film room and watch and dissect film ­ one lasted two and a half hours. Then you get on the dry erase board and they run you through plays to see if you are an intelligent kid.

The visits was coming down and meeting with the coaches. It was casual in a 'What do you like doing' and see what you are all about way. Then we would go out to dinner and meet the personnel and front office people, the GM and after that you were done ­ touring the facility.

DS: After going through all this, do you get the sense that anyone actually likes you?

Joe Staley: You go through the whole thing and you think everybody likes you. They all tell you the same things. Every team says, 'We really like you. You are really high on our board. If you are there we are really going to think about drafting you.' Then you realize they all say it and you can¹t think too much about what they say.

I try not to project where I am going to go or who likes me the most because that will just stress me out on Draft Day. I am going to hang out with my family and friends and have some food and watch the draft.

DS: What do you look forward to the most when you get into the NFL?

Joe Staley: Playing football again. It has been the longest time ­ I haven¹t really played football since December. I don¹t know what to do with myself. I am so used to having football practice. I am looking forward to putting the pads on again and going out there to play football again ­ and being around teammates again.

DS: What is an NFL team getting when they select Joe Staley?

Joe Staley: I think they are getting somebody who is not only a good football player but is a good person. I am the type of person that is going to continue to develop. I am a really hard worker. I love the game. I think that is another quality teams look for; someone who really enjoys the game of football because you are going to be around it for the next ten years of your life, hopefully. You have to truly love to play football ­ I feel like that is me. Also, the things I can do athletically ­ I think I am known for my athleticism.

Patriots Insider Take: The buzz surrounding Staley is that he was thought of as a smaller school prospect who might have trouble competing against some of players who come from bigger programs. He was considered a second or third round prospect initially with Joe Thomas and Levi Brown the top rated tackles in the Draft.

Staley answered his critics by turning in a solid combine and pro day. He has moved up teams' draft boards after they saw him in person. Once considered just a raw talent, Staley has a number of pro personnel evaluators thinking that he can be a bookend tackle for the next ten years if he stays healthy.

Franchise left tackles are rare in the NFL, which is why New England had to take a closer look at Staley. Although Matt light is signed through 2010 from a contract extension he received in 2004, the team may still draft a tackle. One NFL scout told that even with a tackle on the roster, New England would probably still take Staley at the bottom of the first round if he was available. "He has too much potential to pass on."

The increased interest in Staley - whom some feel is better than Levi Brown - lessens the likelihood that the Patriots will even have a chance to Draft him at No. 24 (their first 1st-round pick). Some Draft experts predict Staley could go as high as the middle of the first round.

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