With free agency set to begin Tuesday, SI.com NFL experts Peter King, Chris Burke, Andrew Perloff and Tom Mantzouranis sat down with one mission: to draft teams out of the available free agents.
The rules were simple: it was a snake draft format, every starting position had to be filled, and restricted free agents were off limits. Each expert had to choose whether his team would play a 4-3 or 3-4 defense, and whether they were going to play three receivers or two with a fullback. Everything else was open to how each person wanted to build his team.
Below, Andrew Perloff offers an inside take on his team.
My philosophy was simple ... be like Bill. My Belichick-inspired team is constituted mostly of players that were once Patriots, could be Patriots in the near future, or simply fit the Patriot mold. Like New England, I was looking for players others were overlooking for the wrong reasons.
? My first pick, Mike Wallace, will be overpaid in free agency and did not perform well last season for the Steelers. But there's a reason Wallace could be the highest-paid free agent in this class. He's the only receiver out there with the speed to stretch the defense. His ability to push the safety back will make life easier for Wes Welker and everyone else on the offense.
I also strongly considered Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith, but thought there was plenty of OT depth. And I considered Dolphins cornerback Sean Smith, since he's the kind of tall cornerback (6-foot-3) every team is looking for now because of Seattle's success in the secondary. But Smith was inconsistent last season, and I figured he'd be there at No. 8, which he was.
? When Peter King took Matt Moore in the fourth round, I decided I'd wait until the late rounds to take Saints backup quarterback Chase Daniel. The fifth-year veteran completed 71.9 percent of his passes for 538 yards in the preseason. He has played well enough in exhibition games to enter the rumor mill as a free agent who could compete for a starting job. Daniel has only nine attempts in his four-year career, but the unknown could be a plus. We know the upside for Moore, Jason Campbell and David Garrard. The biggest knock on Daniel is high height (6-0), but Russell Wilson knocked down doors for shorter QBs.
? There was a front-office coup halfway through the draft about whether we were going to run a 4-3 or a 3-4. Then we calmed down and decided to be like Bill, who has switched back and forth. So the goal of the draft was to collect talent that was flexible enough to fill the requirements of the free agent draft ... and then let the defensive coordinator figure everything else out. I tried to take players with experience in both systems -- Richard Seymour and Chris Canty have played 3-4 DE and 4-3 DT. If the new defensive coordinator has a 3-4 background, we can always pick up 49ers">49ers nose tackle Ricky Jean-Francois in the expansion draft (does that exist?).
You may notice how old most of my players are, but that's consistent with the Patriots strategy. Brian Urlacher's fit is a concern, and he certainly isn't going to want to learn a new defense at this point of his career, but mentality-wise he'd be a natural in Foxboro -- like Junior Seau at the end of his career. And I believe a healthy Urlacher is going to have a surprisingly effective season, even at 35.
Meanwhile, you have to believe the Patriots have considered Reed, Woodson and Freeney and will sign one or two of those players. New England may also look at Connor Barwin, who had 11.5 sacks in 2011. Shaun Phillips was probably the worst pick of my draft fit-wise, but he did have 9.5 sacks last season. You can run on my defense right now, but you better not get in 3rd-and-long because we're gonna chase the quarterback.
? I stocked my offensive line with as many Patriots as I could -- Vollmer, Thomas and longtime New England center Koppen. I took a risk by adding McKinnie as my second tackle -- if he plays like he did the second half of last season, my offense will be humming. Then I completed the line with Schwartz, a part-time player in Minnesota who allowed just four pressures in 84 pass protections according to Pro Football Focus. I took an even bigger risk at tight end with Fred Davis, who is the best player at his position in this class, but recovering from an Achilles' injury. Admittedly, Davis was a pick based on emotion and not logic. Jets fans are going to think I'm crazy for picking Greene, but I thought he could take more punishment as a primary back then the more exciting Danny Woodhead. I took the receiver Simpson with my last pick instead of a fullback. I was eyeing Texans FB James Casey, because he could fill in at TE for Davis if the Achilles acted up (King took Casey in the next round). Simpson is dangerous enough downfield to keep the defense from focusing too much of its coverage on Wallace and Welker. He may be a bit of a character risk, but the veterans on this squad control the locker room.
? All four of us probably learned a valuable lesson in this draft -- there's a reason teams let certain players get to free agency. Almost everyone on this list has an easily identifiable flaw. They're too old, too injured, want too much money or just plain not good enough. None of the teams we selected here are perfect. But I'm thrilled about some of the gems that fell to me throughout the draft.
INSIDE EACH TEAM: King | Burke | Perloff | Mantzouranis | Full results
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