New England Patriots Draft play: replacing Wilfork, wide receivers

The New England Patriots are the defending Super Bowl champions, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have holes to fill in the NFL Draft in order to bolster their chances of repeating. The Pats got by last season with a wide receiver corps which was arguably subpar but was ultimately lifted by the late season heroics of quarterback Tom Brady. And stalwart Vince Wilfork has left the building, signing elsewhere and forcing New England to reevaluate its defensive line strategy heading into the draft.

One key for the New England Patriots heading into the draft is whether the NFL will penalize the team by taking away any of its 2015 draft picks as punishment for the “DeflateGate” controversy in which the team allegedly deflated footballs in the AFC Championship in the hopes of gaining a competitive advantage. But the league should either punish or exonerate the Patriots before the draft, meaning they’ll know heading into the weekend what they have to work with.

So will the New England Patriots opt to bolster their defensive front seven and try to repeat as Super Bowl champions the old fashioned way, or will they upgrade Tom Brady’s weapons at either wide receiver or running back in the upper rounds of the NFL Draft? That much will be answered soon enough.

Seattle Seahawks Draft play: Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham create options

The Seattle Seahawks enter the 2015 NFL Draft with a couple of key positions already sewn up. Star running back Marshawn Lynch has re-upped his contract, meaning the team doesn’t have to take a back in the early rounds, as had been feared when Lynch was hinting at retirement. And the Seahawks pedestrian receiving corps has been bolstered by the arrival of tight end Jimmy Graham. And that’s good news for their hopes of NFC title defense, even as they prepare to work around an odd in-house draft board.

The arrival of Jimmy Graham means that the Seattle Seahawks no longer have a first round draft pick. But a series of other moves mean that the team does have eleven total draft picks in 2015 from late in the second round onward. Even with the tight end position now squared away, the team could still benefit from the addition of one or more wideouts. And that’s before getting to the dropoff at the defensive back position which was exposed after Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas were injured during last season’s playoff run. There’s also the quarterback conundrum.

The Seattle Seahawks want to sign Russell Wilson to a long term contract, but have acknowledged the salary cap crunch which that could place the team under. That means the team has to at least consider drafting a quarterback in the middle rounds to act as a backup now and a developmental potential starter down the road in case the contract negotiations with Wilson somehow don’t work out. But with the arrival of Jimmy Graham and the return of Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks have to be feeling confident entering the draft one way or the other.

Miami Dolphins ink Greg Jennings for Joe Philbin’s last stand in 2015

The Miami Dolphins have signed wide receiver Greg Jennings, giving them the veteran presence they need to bolster a young crop of wideouts centered around rising star Jarvis Landry and new arrival Kenny Stills. The move frees up the team to pursue a running back or other position in the draft instead of having to use its first round pick on a receiver. But while the signing may indeed be an ideal move for the Dolphins, it also represents head coach Joe Philbin’s last stand on his way out the door.

Failing leaders, whether they be politicians who have lost public support or NFL head coaches who have lost too many games, inevitably bring in someone they feel they can trust from their own past. It’s not always about turning things around so much as having someone on board who will be personally loyal even if others in the organization begin to turn against the leader. Greg Jennings spent years playing for Joe Philbin when they were both with the Green Bay Packers. And so now it’s no surprise that, with Philbin one more non-winning season away from being fired, is turning to Jennings. But there may be more to it.

As much as Joe Philbin ostensibly wanted Greg Jennings on his team from a personal loyalty standpoint, he’s no longer the one with the most personnel influence in the Miami Dolphins organization. GM Dennis Hickey, offensive coordinator Bill Lazor and boss Mike Tannenbaum must have all signed off on this move. It shows just how little power Philbin has left in Miami, and how almost certain his firing is at the end of the 2015 season. But for Dolphins fans, it’s also a positive sign that those who haven’t previously worked with Jennings also signed off on his signing, which means they see him as a valid addition for football reasons.