BOSTON (CBS) – The National Football League is not what it once was, and you hear and see it all the time.
Conventional wisdom says:
“The NFL is a passing league now.”
“Once your team has a quarterback you’re in business.”
“Having that great running back is not important.”
However just because the game has changed doesn’t mean it’s a different sport entirely. Greg Cosell of NFL Films appeared on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s NFL Draft Preview Show Sunday and made the case to Bob Socci why conventional wisdom in the modern NFL is being challenged.
The conversation started around the Patriots and how Denver exposed virtually all of their vulnerabilities in the AFC Championship game.
At the end of the day the numbers looked good for Tom Brady in that game (24 for 38 with 277 yards and 1 TD), but the future Hall of Famer missed wide open throws and wasn’t at his best, which has been the story for the Patriots in recent postseasons: if Brady doesn’t play well the team loses.
Teams with great quarterbacks like Denver, New England and Green Bay are too reliant on that one singular player and Cosell believes everything we’ve been hearing the past decade about the NFL is being proved wrong by teams like Seattle and San Francisco.
“If you build your team around one player, a great quarterback, they’re very much built on the quarterback playing well in important games. If that doesn’t happen, for whatever reason, they can lose.
“It makes you think, ‘Will organizations look at the Seattle model, the San Francisco model as we go forward? It’s wonderful to have a great quarterback, but let’s build a team.’ Colin Kaepernick didn’t even throw for 200 yards passing in 12 of his 18 games this year, and they were still arguably the second best team in the NFL. It’s just an interesting thought about building a team as opposed to what we’ve been told over the years that you have to get that one guy in order to compete.”
It’s certainly an intriguing question as day one of the NFL Draft nears and teams try to copy the successes of other franchises.
But as it relates to the Patriots, much of their draft capital in years past has gone to the defensive side of the ball. In free agency they signed Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner, who in theory will shore up most, if not all the woes in the secondary. Despite the attention paid to defense, Cosell envisions another defensive-heavy draft.
“Chandler Jones and Jamie Collins are very, very good prospects. Jones is going into his third year and Collins is going into his second. Collins fits what you’re looking for as a multi-dimensional, versatile linebacker with his size and movement. They haven’t had one of those guys in recent years. They have good players on defense but they could certainly continue to move in that direction.
“I’d think they’d probably continue to look at the safety position [in the draft]. I’m not sure what Bill Belichick feels about Dont’a Hightower — he’s more of a complimentary piece, not an impact player based on my film study. So they might feel they need another impact linebacker. I could easily see them staying on the defensive side of the ball in the draft,” said Cosell.
Mock drafts are simply glorified wild guesses, but if mock drafts were real then the Patriots would be picking Minnesota defensive tackle Ra’Shede Hageman with the 29th pick — it’s a name you’re seeing constantly in web searches.
Cosell called Hageman a “very polarizing” prospect for scouts because of the wide discrepancy between his athleticism and strength and his performance.
“His combination of size and athleticism makes him the most physically gifted tackle in this draft. The problem is he doesn’t play like that all the time,” said Cosell.
Another defensive tackle that Cosell discussed was Stephon Tuitt of Notre Dame, whose “size, strength, long arms, plus-athleticism and position versatility” reminds him of a Richard Seymour.
Washington State safety Deone Bucannon is another fascinating prospect if you’re a Patriots fan. He’s on the bigger side, viewed more as a “Bernard Pollard/Adrian Wilson-type” that can be a tone setter in the back end.
Lastly, the subject of tight end was broached.
Earlier on the show, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald told Bob Socci that the Patriots need insurance for Rob Gronkowski because of his lengthy injury history.
After Eric Ebron (North Carolina), who will be long gone by the time the Patriots are picking at no. 29, experts can’t come to a consensus about Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Troy Niklas and others.
Cosell really likes Iowa’s C.J. Fiedorowicz, who he felt was under-utilized in the passing game at Iowa.
“With development, he strikes me as a guy that could become a similar kind of player to Gronkowski. I don’t wanna say he’s Rob Gronkowski, because Gronkowski is a little freakish, but as he develops, as he grows, I see him as a kid that can become that kind of player.”
Listen below for the full discussion: