2014 NFL Draft Targets: DT Aaron Donald, Pitt

Aaron-DonaldAlthough he is undersized (only 6’0”, 285lbs), Donald had a very productive career at Pitt. He totaled 47 tackles, 16.0 TFL and 11.0 sacks in 2011, 64 tackles, 18.5 TFL and 5.5 sacks in 2012, and 59 tackles, 28.5 TFL and 11.0 sacks in 2013. His first step is good, and he creates consistent pressure in the pocket by utilizing an extremely powerful bull rush. Donald can use his hands very effectively to knock an O-lineman of balance, and occasionally displays good swim and spin moves when he chooses to use them (not often enough). The biggest knock on Donald is his size; because he is smaller he isn’t able to wrap up running backs and quarterbacks like a taller DT could. This results in the occasional missed tackle, as is evident in the FSU game. Donald put together an excellent combine performance, running a 4.68 40 yard dash and benching 35 reps of 225 pounds. He was also one of the top performers for his position in the 3 Cone Drill (7.11 seconds), which is a drill the Patriots value highly. His outstanding workout, however, may have pushed him out of the Patriots range. But, if he falls, which is possible, expect the Patriots to jump on the opportunity to pair Vince Wilfork with a pass rushing DT.

Pro Comparison: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati Bengals

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The New England Review

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I am going to be reviewing the five best Patriots players to play since 2000. This is in honor of the Patriots playing in the Super Bowl this weekend. I chose after the year 2000 for one reason, and that is because that is when the Patriots starting winning Super Bowls. To assess how good the players are, I came up with a rating system. The qualities that I look for in a player are skill, athleticism, clutch play, football smarts, attitude, and most of all, leadership. I took all of these aspects and set a maximum amount of points for each, depending on how important I think each quality is. The maximum skill is 15, athleticism is 12, clutch play is 15, football smarts are 10, attitude is 20, and leadership is 20. Primarily, the reason that attitude and leadership are so high is because to play for the Patriots, you have to play the “Patriots way”, and those are the most important things in embodying the “Patriot way”. To decide whom the five players would be, I chose six players who I thought would make the cut. Those players were Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Troy Brown, Teddy Bruschi, Vince Wilfork, and Rob Gronkowski. Only five of them can be the best Patriots players to play since 2000, but I was surprised to see who didn’t make it.

First off, the fifth best player on the Patriots since 2000 is Troy Brown. He was an excellent athlete, and had an excellent attitude on and off the field. Also, Brown was an excellent leader, and he was selected to be an honorary captain for the Patriots this postseason. Brown’s incredible athleticism allowed him to play both offense and defense in the same game. He was extremely versatile. Brown received an 11/15 in skill, 12/12 in athleticism, 12/15 in clutch play, 8/10 in football smarts, 17/20 in attitude, and 16/20 in leadership for a total of 76/92. It was always a pleasure to watch Troy Brown with his incredible speed that gave him a tendency to break of for big plays. He was one of the most versatile Patriots ever.

Next, the fourth best player on the Patriot since 2000 is Rob Gronkowski. Gronk, as fans like to call him, is a second year tight end for the Patriots. Both of his first two seasons have been memorable, tying the record for touchdowns by a tight end in his rookie season, and setting the records for both touchdowns and yards for a tight end in a season this year. Gronkowski’s combination of size and speed give him a huge advantage over smaller defensive backs. Quite suddenly, Gronkowski has developed into one of the best tight ends ever. Gronkowski got 14/15 in skill, 11/12 in athleticism, 12/15 in clutch play, 8/10 in football smarts, 17/20 in attitude, and 15/20 in leadership for a total of 77/92. In the future, Gronkowski’s score could be even higher, but he is so young that nobody knows what he is fully capable of, as well as how good of a leader he is.

Next, the third best Patriots player since 2000 is Vince Wilfork. “Big Vince” is a legitimate force of nature. He weighs in excess of 300 pounds, but still runs a 5.08 40-yard dash, according to 40-yard-dash-times.com. He is one of the best run stuffers in the league because he clogs up the middle with his size. Wilfork is also an excellent leader. He has grown well into the leadership position given to him. Wilfork has led the maligned Patriots defense through this season with a little dignity. He is a great example of the “Patriot way”. Wilfork got a 13/15 in skill, 10/12 in athleticism, 12/15 in clutch play, 8/10 in smart, 18/20 in attitude, and 19/20 in leadership for a total of 80/92. Wilfork got a high amount of points in every area because he is great at everything he does in football.

At last, the second best player on the Patriots since 2000 is Teddy Bruschi. Bruschi is one of the best linebackers of all time. He was highly aggressive, but also extremely smart. He is probably the best enforcer for making his team play the “Patriot way”. Bruschi did not become famous right away, but slowly climbed up to the top.  Also, he helped lead the outstanding defense of the 2001 season, when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl. Bruschi got a 13/15 in skill, 10/12 in athleticism, 14/15 in clutch play, 10/10 in football smarts, 20/20 in attitude, and 20/20 in leadership for a total of 87/92. Bruschi is legend in the minds of Patriots fans. The fan favorite was one of the biggest pieces to the three Super Bowl titles in 2001, 2003, and 2004. The only bigger piece is the next player I am going to talk about.

Finally, the number one player to play for the Patriots since 2000 is Tom Brady. Brady is almost a surefire future hall of famer, even though he was drafted 199th in the NFL draft. Peyton Manning was drafted 1st. Brady began his career as a third string quarterback for the Patriots, and slowly climbed his way up to back up. When Drew Bledsoe went down in 2001, Brady made the most of his opportunity and led the Patriots to their first Super Bowl victory. Tom Brady surpassed all odds and became one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history because he is so competitive. Also, Tom Brady is aware that if a better quarterback shows up in New England, he will lose his job. This makes him play and practice harder. Tom Brady received a 15/15 in skill, 9/12 in athleticism, 15/15 in clutch, 10/10 in football smarts, 20/20 in attitude, and 20/20 in leadership for a total of 89/92. Tom Brady would have a perfect score if he was a little more athletic, but he makes up for that with his quick decision-making, and excellent pocket awareness. Tom Brady is one of the best football players ever.

Each one of these players is very deserving to be considered the best Patriots players since 2000. All of them are excellent at what they do. It is surprising not to see Randy Moss on this list, given that he is one of the most talented players ever to put on a Patriot uniform. Unfortunately, his attitude and leadership were abysmal, especially his attitude, so he didn’t make the list. All of these other players made the list because they are, or were, extremely talented football players, and embody the “Patriot way”.

The Patriots Are Going to the Super Bowl!

ImageWow. The New England Patriots are headed to Indianapolis to play in the Super Bowl. It was most definitely not a pretty game. Tom Brady was not playing at his best, throwing two picks. This was a defensive game, and all though the Patriots defense gave up a lot of big plays, they came through with a few clutch plays at the end. I feel badly for the Ravens  kicker, Billy Cundiff, who missed the game tying field goal with 11 seconds left, but, it happens to all of us, and it sealed the Patriots victory. I can’t describe how happy I am right now. Tom Brady was right in his speech, he “sucked pretty bad”, but we still came out with the win.  I am confident that he will perform well in the Super Bowl. Like I said in my keys to the game, Vince Wilfork had a great game with six tackles and one sack. The most important play of the game was when Lee Evans caught a pass from Joe Flacco in the end zone, but Sterling Moore stripped him. Also Sterling more made a nice pass block a moment later. I am excited to see who the Patriots are playing next after the 49er’s-Giants game.

*Picture from http://www.espn.go.com/nfl*

Patriots Keys for Tomorrows Game vs. Ravens

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The New England Patriots are set to play the Baltimore Ravens tomorrow at 3pm ET. This is going to be an exciting matchup between the Patriots Record setting offense and the Ravens amazing defense. The last time these two teams matched up in the playoffs was in the wildcard round of the playoffs in 2009, when the Ravens stampeded the Patriots 33-14. Ray Rice was a huge difference maker in that matchup, and I expect him to be the Ravens key player on offense in Sunday. The Ravens key player on defense is predictably going to be Ed Reed. Reed hurt his ankle in last Sundays game against the Houston Texans, but he is expected to play tomorrow. He is one of the best safeties ever and if they Ravens won’t to try and stop Tom Brady, Ed Reed will be the key.

Now to the Patriots. Something important to watch will be the two tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, matched up against the Ravens physical line backers. Gronkowski and Hernandez are a nightmare to cover, given their sizeand speed, so we may even see Ed Reed covering them. I think the key to the Patriots offense will be Deion Branch. He quietly caush a 61 yard touchdown pass in last weeks game against the Denver Broncos. While the Ravens will be trying to cover tightly Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez, this may leave Deion Branch open make game changing plays. Although he has lost some speed with age, he is still capable of breaking off and making big plays with his feet. On defense I think the key will be Vince Wilfork. He didn’t have the best regular season of his career, but I think he can, and will, step up this post season. He will be vital to stopping the Ravens running attack, led by pro bowl running back Ray Rice. In the first play from scrimmage of the matchup against the Ravens in 2009, Ray Rice exploded for an 83 yard touchdown. We cannot afford to let up any big plays in this game. Wilfork will have to clog up the wholes and stop Ray Rice if the Patriots want to win on defense. This is going to be an exciting game and the winner will get to play in the biggest sporting event of the year. The Super Bowl.