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PFN’s Mid-Week Mailbag: NFL Trade Deadline and NFL Draft

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Notre Dame offensive tackle Joe Alt

New England Patriots fans have questions and Patriots Football Now will do our best to provide the answers. This week, in another installment of PFN’s Mid-Week Mailbag the topics include: picking a lane at the NFL Trade Deadline; to tank or not to tank; and what the Patriots should do with their 2024 NFL Draft pick.

With the trade deadline passed, did the Patriots fail to pick a lane between competing now and planning for the future?
– Adam Davis, MD (@arahnd)

Adam, the lanes available to the Patriots at the NFL Trade Deadline did not include competing now. No potential trades that were going to make the New England Patriots Super Bowl contenders in 2023. So, the real question is whether doing nothing (which is what they ultimately did) negatively affected their future plans.

Prior to Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins, I laid out 10 trade options for New England, as buyers or sellers. Even before that loss, there was no logical path to making a “compete now” trade. After losing to Miami, with their record at 2-6, the options narrowed even further. On deadline day, I floated four possible Patriots trades, but obviously none of those were made.

In the end, their most tradable pieces were all pending free agents. What kind of offers were they going to get for somebody to play half a season? After Kendrick Bourne was injured, the options became Trent Brown, Mike Onwenu, Josh Uche, Kyle Dugger, and Ezekiel Elliott. Personally, I thought Elliott was the most likely player to be traded. Keeping them on the team is still helpful in there ways:

  1. The Patriots are able to still compete this season
  2. New England will have a better chance to keep these players in free agency
  3. There will be potential draft compensation if they leave in free agency

Standing pat is not what most Patriots fans were hoping for. The NFL Trade Deadline became another dull day in a losing season. But ultimately the decision was made that this is actually the way to balance what is best now and in the future.

Are you for or against tanking? And if you’re against it, I want a good reason why!
– Ohad Cohen (@ocohen44)

Ohad, I am against tanking. Specifically, I am against tanking in the New England Patriots current situation. I have already outlined a number of reasons why the Patriots won’t tank, but that didn’t touch on my personal feelings. A huge factor is because there is no guarantee that comes with tanking. In the past 25 NFL Drafts, there have been 36 quarterbacks selected with a top five pick. Zero of those players won a Super Bowl with the team that drafted them. Only two (Eli Manning, Drew Stafford) won one elsewhere.

I also think not trying to win games is a bad habit for coaches and players alike. If the Patriots were tanking with a plan to clear house and start over that feels different perhaps. But having a franchise where losing is not only accepted but embraced does not feel like a formula toward winning. Not to mention players like Matthew Slater don’t deserve to finish careers by not trying to win games. If the Patriots turn this ship around, some players currently on the roster will be part of that turnaround. Those players need to be competitors.

With that said, I’m very much in favor of giving more players opportunities to show what they can do. Begin the evaluation for the 2024 roster. Give the young wide receivers some consistent opportunities. Which free agents will New England want to retain and which ones should be allowed to leave? Maybe in the process they’ll find valuable players to lock up, and other teams will see value in Patriots players to trade for. And if the end result is a lousy record and high draft pick, no problem. Tanking shouldn’t be the priority. Building back up a competitive culture and starting to establish who will be part of the team’s future should be.

When you pop in the (Notre Dame OT) Joe Alt film, what do you see?
– Larry Reus (@BE11EVE)

Larry, as my wife can attest I have watched way too much film of college offensive linemen this year. With the New England Patriots starting offensive tackles, Trent Brown and Mike Onwenu, both set to become unrestricted free agents after the season, it’s a position they may need to address in the 2024 NFL Draft. I like Joe Alt a lot. When I did my initial offensive tackle rankings, he was second behind only Penn State’s Olu Fashanu. Former Patriots OT Nate Solder was my NFL comp for Alt.

At 6-foot-8 and 317 pounds, he has excellent size and an enormous wingspan. He comes from an NFL pedigree; his father John Alt was a Pro Bowl tackle for the Kansas City Chiefs. Much like Solder, Alt should step in and start from his first NFL game. He is good enough that a team with an established left tackle might start him on the right side to begin. He is very calm against pressure and never looks lost. Even more impressed by his 2023 film, so still a chance for Alt to be the top tackle off the board on draft day.

If the NFL and NCAA season ended today, who are you drafting with the Patriots projected first rounder if you were the GM?
– CJ Golson (@CJGolson)

CJ, if the 2024 NFL Draft were held today, the New England Patriots would draft at five overall. Three players I assume would already be off the board: QB Caleb Williams (USC), QB Drake Maye (UNC) and WR Marvin Harrison, Jr. (Ohio State). That means there is one more player taken before I select at five, so I’ll give you two. As much as I like going “best player available” there is no question that the Patriots biggest needs are on the offensive side of the ball. That is the case in 2023, before Trent Brown, Mike Onwenu, and all their tight ends hit free agency. So I’d be drafting an offensive player. As of now, I think Penn State OT Olu Fashanu and Georgia TE Brock Bowers would be the top two on my board (though, at the risk of being unpopular, I’d certainly entertain trading down).

The only week our offense looked like an NFL offense this season, Dante Scarnecchia was in the stands. Doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me. Is this just more proof that Ernie Adams, Tom Brady, and Dante Scarnecchia are the real reasons behind the Patriots dynasty?
– BK (@bkhockey3)

BK, having Dante Scarnecchia back in Foxboro was awesome. I do think that moving Mike Onwenu over to right tackle might have been the biggest difference that week (still unclear why it took them so long to do it). But by including both Scarnecchia and Ernie Adams in your questions, you helped answer it. Everybody wants to divide some invisible credit pie into “Belichick vs. Brady” but there are so many others who made significant contributions. No franchise enjoys a run like the Patriots just had strictly because of Tom Brady (the greatest football player who ever lived). The Kraft family, front office talent, great coaches, and many incredible players all contributed. Bill Belichick never deserved all of the credit and he doesn’t deserve all the blame now. Even the greatest coach of all-time needs help to have his best laid plans come to fruition.

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