Inside The Patriots Draft With Tom Marino

Patriots Insider Jon Scott caught up with former NFL scout Tom Marino to get his opinion on a variety of topics, from the Draft, to the salary cap and the current roster. Marino discusses the team's secondary, an unknown linebacker, the 2008 Draft and more...

Tom a number of questions have been raised by fans looking for some sense of hope for next seasons' Patriots after having the door shut on their 2008 season. Here are some questions fans have asked recently. We'd like you opinion.

1) The Patriots are currently slotted 24th in the 2009 Draft. What type of player do you see them going after in that spot that might have an impact on defense at their positions of need: LB, CB, SS?

Tom Marino: It’s really hard to say at this stage. Juniors have till Jan. 15th to declare for the draft. Also post season all star games, the combine, and school workout must be factored into the equation.

2) Patriots safety Rodney Harrison looks like he may be all done because of injuries. If he decides he can't play anymore what should the Patriots do, Draft a replacement or look for a solution via free agency?

TM: I would have to say, having been injured in each of the past three seasons, Harrison’s career appears to be over. It really doesn’t make a difference what he thinks, the decision will be made entirely by management. The Patriots staff and probably no one else knows what direction they are heading in regard to the draft, free agency or replacing him with a player already on the roster.

3) What's your opinion of the safeties on the Patriots roster now: James Sanders (Fresno St), Brandon Meriweather (Miami).

TM: I liked Sanders as a college player. I believe he has played both strong and free safety during his career (FS in the games viewed in 2008). He’s more of a down hill guy then a zone or man cover guy. He also was a decent special team’s player early in his career. A steady player but a guy with no special skills. I thought Meriweather was a real reach and one of the few early round mistakes the Patriots have made in recent years. He doesn’t have the juice nor was he a quick twitch athlete as a corner and I don’t think he is physical enough to be anything better than a journeymen safety.

4) Tedy Bruschi has played fewer snaps at inside linebacker the past two seasons as the Patriots try to build team speed in the middle. Even if the Patriots have Bruschi back in 2009, what do you think they will do to address the issue?

TM: “Father Time” appears to have caught up with Bruschi. I’m certain he’s still very good mentally but he doesn’t cover ground and is no longer a consistent play maker. He has one year left on his contract, and will probably be back in a limited role for at least another year. The Patriots hit big on Jerod Mayo and would certainly like to find a developing player via free agency or the draft, but ILB is not their biggest priority.

5) The Patriots have been scouting at some college programs sporting some top talent at the linebacker and safety. Do you see New England spending some of their 2009 draft picks on immediate starters, or guys they can groom into the system?

TM: I’m certain the Patriots’ scouts made multiple visits to virtually every major university in the country this season, and would love to find as many immediate starters as possible in the draft, but realistically finding more than one or two contributors a year via the draft is highly unlikely. The Patriots are old at the linebacker position and could really use a play making safety, but they don’t grow on trees. Grooming (coaching up young players) are what this staff does best.

6) Prior to last year's Draft, you mentioned Vince Redd as a linebacker you liked a lot who had a big upside. The Patriots ended up signing him after the Draft. He played sparingly on special teams and defense (due to injuries to others). Do you still see him developing into as replacement for Roosevelt Colvin on the outside?

TM: Yes absolutely. I don’t know how he played this season, but he has all of the essential physical qualities you look for in a 3-4 outside backer (pass rusher). If he’s smart enough, the Patriots may have struck gold with this player.

7) What college programs run a pro style defense that would help prepare their players for a spot in a 3-4 defense or one similar to what the Patriots run?

TM: A lot of college programs run hybrid defenses that are similar to professional defenses. Many 50 front college defense are similar to the standard 3-4 pro defenses which the Patriots employ.

8) Are the Patriots corners, Terrence Wheatley (Colorado) and Jonathan Wilhite (Auburn), two players who can become full-time starters, or do the Patriots need to draft another cornerback this year?

TM: They both have a great deal of physical talent. I particularly like Wheatley; he has excellent feet and is very physical. You might want one a tad taller, but they are both solid prospects in my opinion.

9) With the 2010 season, the NFL will be without a salary cap unless the collective bargaining agreement is extended. How do you see that affecting this year's draft class?

TM: An absolutely great question! I believe if there is in fact a lockout after next after the collective bargaining agreement expires next season, the NFL management council will on behalf of the owners institute an entry level wage scale which will greatly alter what the league will pay future drafted players, thus expect virtually a record number of top underclassmen (and players who think they are top players) to declare this season under the rookie friendly current system.

Thank You Tom.

Great questions… I hope I was able to help.

Happy New Year to all of the fans in my former Massachusetts home!!!

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