Fast Friday 5: Andy Dalton a no-win option for Patriots

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By WEEI 93.7
Five fun Friday mini-columns from the world of (mostly) Boston sports for the price of one free click!

Earlier this week there was a column right here on WEEI.com explaining the no-lose situation that Bill Belichick and the Patriots are in when it comes to putting all their quarterback eggs in Jarrett Stidham’s basket for 2020.

Other than Belichick looking a bit hypocritical after calling the Colts’ days of “Suck for Luck” yesteryear “irresponsible” in terms of having such a lack of a Payton Manning-less plan at the quarterback position outside of unproven former sixth-round pick Curtis Painter, New England’s 2020 season does appear to be all about Stidham, a fourth-round pick a year ago who some seem to think has theoretical first-round talent.

If Stidham is successful, then the questions at quarterback in the immediate post-Tom Brady era are indeed answered.

If Stidham stinks, then the Patriots should be in position to at least have a shot at a potential franchise quarterback in next spring’s draft – something the team passed on at the No. 23 overall spot this April when it traded out of the first round and left Jordan Love to become the heir to Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.

But if playing Stidham is a no-lose situation for the Patriots, then signing recently-released Bengals veteran passer Andy Dalton would be the exact opposite – a no-win proposition for New England.

While many media analysts, fans and even unnamed league sources have spouted the idea that Dalton might make sense in Foxborough, that logic seems faulty at best.

Even though he’s only played for one team, Dalton is a journeyman in terms of his skills. He’s just good enough to start and put up stats when surrounded by elite talent like A.J. Green. He can even occasionally guide a team to the postseason. But he’s never won a playoff game. Turns the ball over under pressure and has never proven he can carry less-capable talent to the next level of production. He’s not only 0-4 in the postseason but has one touchdown compared to six interceptions in the playoffs. His postseason passer rating is a combined 57.8, slightly better than his completion percentage of 55.7.

As NESN Red Sox analyst and Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley would say, “Yuck.”

There are no Greens, Tyler Eiferts or Joe Mixons on the Patriots roster. There is an aging Julian Edelman, overburdened James White and not much else.

Dalton is a middling passer at best. Put him on a Patriots team with a retooling roster mixed with fading talent and he might be good enough – might, he was after all benched last fall for fourth-round rookie Ryan Finley – to lead New England to a middling record with Belichick’s coaching. Maybe the No. 7 seed and a Wild Card Weekend loss in the first round of the newly-expanded playoffs.

And what will that get Robert Kraft’s team at the massive fork in the dynasty road? Another middling draft pick, no more answers for the long term solution at the quarterback position and no better capital to go find a franchise quarterback to build around.

Dalton is not the answer. He’s not even fool’s gold.

He’s a red (headed) herring.

Dalton represents a no-win situation for the Patriots in which he either takes snaps away from the potential-filled Stidham or wins just enough to keep New England mired in rudderless mediocrity.

No thanks.

 

James Develin deserves future Patriots Hall call

Pro Bowl fullback and three-time Super Bowl champion James Develin’s Patriots career came to an end this week when the 31-year-old veteran announced his retirement after seven seasons in New England.

Develin landed on injured reserve last September with a neck injury, a situation that led him to this week’s decision with his and his family’s best interests in mind.

Develin’s story is one for the movies. A defensive lineman out of Brown University, he converted to fullback in the pro ranks which included stops in the United Football League and Arena Football League before becoming a practice squader with the Bengals and Patriots. Eventually he not only worked his way up to the active roster, but carved out a role for himself on special teams and offense that had the likes of Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, Josh McDaniels and others lauding what the hardnosed, lunch-pail legend brought to the team.

Develin’s greatest contributions may have come during the 2018 postseason when rookie running back Sony Michel essentially followed his fullback’s No. 46 jersey to a three-game run to a Super Bowl ring that included 336 yards rushing and six ground scores to lead the New England offense. One might argue that while the 1985 Bears rode a 46 defense to Super Bowl glory, the 2018 Patriots brought home their latest Lombardi Trophy with their 46 offense.

Maybe the greatest praise paid to Develin this week was when Belichick directly tied the fullback’s contributions to his team winning Super Bowls.

“A tribute to the impact James had on our success, of the five seasons in which he appeared in every game, we won three championships,” Belichick said. “Any team would be fortunate to have a James Devlin-‘type’ on its roster but the reality is he is a rarity and we are very fortunate he was a Patriot.”

There is one more tribute Develin is worthy of down the road – induction in the Patriots Hall of Fame.

Sure his career was relatively short. He doesn’t have the type of Pro Football Hall of Fame resume that some of his flashier teammates own.

But a fullback, leader and winner like James Develin is the exact kind of guy that team Halls of Fame are built for.

 

NFL dreams came true

The NFL released some interesting high school background info for the 255 players selected in last weekend’s 2020 Draft.

How much of a longshot is it for a young football player to be drafted? Based on the 2010 census one player is drafted in the U.S. for 1,220,338 people!

Of course chances rise a bit if you go to high school in the state of Texas, which was the home of a Draft-high 33 prospects, followed by California (22), Florida (22), Georgia (21) and Louisiana (12). Texas actually had seven first-round selections. All told, 38 states and the District of Columbia had at least one player drafted.

While 234 different high schools had at least one player selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, 18 high schools actually had multiple players drafted, including IMG Academy (Fla.) leading the way with four. Interestingly, the Patriots picked four different players who had high school teammates drafted. Sixth-round Wake Forest OL Justin Herron went to Bullis (Potomic, Maryland) High School with Giants pick Cam Brown. Sixth-round Michigan OL Michael Onwenu attended Cass Technical (Detroit, Michigan) with Cleveland pick and Michigan teammate Donovan Peoples-Jones. Third-round tight end Devin Asiasi played at De La Salle (Warren, Michigan) with Chiefs pick Michael Danna. Second-round linebacker Josh Uche attended Christopher Columbus (Miami, Florida) High with Jacksonville first-round pick C.J. Henderson.

And keep dreaming big New England high school football players, as two players each were drafted from Massachusetts and Connecticut.

 

2021 Patriots draft capital

According the NFL.com, the Patriots project to get three compensatory picks in next April’s 2021 NFL Draft.

While some draftniks and fans will rejoice at the selections – one scheduled to come after the third round, the other two sandwiched between the fourth and fifth rounds – I’m not the biggest fans of such selections.

First, the best a compensatory pick can be is 97th overall, which is really the first pick of the fourth-round of selections in a 32-team league. Not exactly, to steal a term from NFL Network, a “premium” pick.

Second, and more importantly, compensatory picks come via a formula of net free agent losses – subtracting free agent losses from free agent gains. In other words, teams get more and better comp picks because they lost better, high-priced free agents and didn’t really replace that talent.

So, the Patriots lost Tom Brady, Kyle Van Noy and Jamie Collins in free agency. One is a GOAT. One was a Pro Bowl-caliber, versatile linebacker. One was a former Pro Bowl linebacker and early-season Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

That’s a lot of talent out the door and three mid-round draft picks a year-removed isn’t exactly going to get my team-building, title-chasing juices flowing.

I know some of the best, most consistent teams in football have been some of the more active teams in compensatory picks over the years. I know it’s part of the process, especially now that those picks can be traded.

I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t get excited about a fourth-round pick in exchange for Brady. Sorry. Can’t do it. Won’t do it.

 

A return to sports?

Slowly but slowly, there seems to be some minimal momentum toward a return of sports.

UFC, which stopped performing under pressure from ESPN/Disney, is set to return to action May 9. NASCAR is speeding back into action with races scheduled to return May 17th, jumpstarting seven events in 11 days.

There is talk of summer baseball, even if it may begin in Arizona, Florida and Texas.

Basketball is trying reopen its practice facilities as soon as next week.

While it feels like we’ve all been living in this coronavirus controlled hamster wheel forever, a return to some sort of normal is tip-toeing its way back into our lives.

It may not be perfect. May not be exactly what we want. Watching on TV may be all we have. Neutral-site action might be an appetizer to the full return.

But, it’s progress. It’s hope. It’s what those of us who live, breath, miss and work in sports all need these days.

Now, if we can just find a way to get our kids back on the court, ice or field it might really start to seem like we’re heading back to the pre-March, pre-coronavirus world we took for granted.

Let’s stay healthy. Let’s do things in the proper time frame. But, let the games begin!