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Patriots Get a Non-Lefty Punter, Why Gettleman Couldn’t Wait on Daniel Jones, More NFL Draft Notes

Also, Christion Abercrombie’s connection with D’Andre Walker, the Ravens’ plans for QB Trace McSorley and how we know what Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock were doing on Jan. 7, 2019.

NASHVILLE — Before moving on to the 2020 mock draft (trust us, we’ve got one of those coming for ya), here are 10 takeaways after Day 3 of the 2019 draft. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed the Jeni’s ice cream truck parked next to the draft stage all weekend.

1. Let’s start with one of the more intriguing moves (IMO) in the entire draft. The Patriots traded up in the fifth round to draft a punter, Stanford’s Jake Bailey. That is not especially notable in itself; however, what is notable is that he is not left-footed! We know that Bill Belichick has exclusively utilized left-footed punters during his 19-year tenure in Foxborough, with the exception of a handful of fill-in games by righties, so we must now consider all theories for what this move means.

New England re-signed lefty Ryan Allen to a one-year deal in March, but drafting Bailey indicates he will be competition for Allen. The Boston Globe’s Nora Princiotti, engaging in true service journalism, asked Bailey if he is a secret lefty. He replied, “I am not, unfortunately.” Bailey did, however, bring up that he can do kickoffs, which may be our most telling clue. Stephen Gostkowski is 35, the age when Adam Vinatieri stopped kicking off, and the Patriots ranked 25th in the league with a 53.8 touchback percentage on kickoffs last season. “It's something I would like to continue,” Bailey said of doing kickoffs. “A lot of NFL teams really value a punter that can also kickoff because it kind of helps out the kicker if he's getting old or something or doesn't have a strong kickoff leg.”

It seems as though we have our answer. But just in case, I’d also like to submit an alternate theory: Global warming has altered the wind patterns around Gillette Stadium that former Patriot Zoltan Mesko told us were advantageous for lefties. We will continue to follow this developing story.

2. Giants GM Dave Gettleman said at the conclusion of the draft on Saturday evening that he knew for a fact that there were two other teams who would have drafted former Duke QB Daniel Jones before his team’s second first-round pick at No. 17. Gettleman has not done a good job of explaining the pick publicly (stating that you fell in love with Jones over three drives in the Senior Bowl only serves to further the narrative that the Giants wanted Jones because of his ties to the Mannings), but this reasoning makes sense and is true.

As I tweeted Thursday night—much to the ire of Giants fans who then decided it was a good use of their time to send me invective-filled private messages—if you love the guy, get him at No. 6. I’m not saying I personally love the guy or that I believe he will be successful. Truthfully, I don’t know. I’m simply reporting what I have heard: some evaluators I spoke to, who do not work for the Giants, liked Jones more than Dwayne Haskins, the No. 15 overall pick by Washington. Jones might not have top-tier arm talent, but they liked his short-range accuracy and that he exhibited toughness, not flinching despite getting hit a lot at Duke. His stats weren’t eye-popping, but some evaluators pointed out that other quarterbacks’ numbers were inflated by the systems in which they played. And yes, there were other evaluators who didn’t give Jones a first-round grade. Like every QB in this class, there was no consensus, but that’s not what matters in the draft. What matters is where you can get the guy you like, and the Giants believed they had to get Jones at No. 6.

As an addendum, the vitriol in my mentions was just a window into the nastiness being thrown at Jones by some frustrated fans who almost certainly don’t have enough information to form an opinion. You can disagree with a pick without attacking a player who has no control over where he gets drafted.

3. Earlier this week, I wrote about the friendship that Titans head coach Mike Vrabel had developed with Christion Abercrombie after the Tennessee State linebacker collapsed in a game last September after suffering a subdural hematoma. Vrabel visited Abercrombie in the hospital and kept in touch with him as he made a remarkable recovery over the past seven months to walk, talk and even enroll again in college, starting with an online class this summer. With the draft in Nashville, Vrabel made the suggestion that Abercrombie announce the Titans’ fifth-round pick from the main stage on First and Broadway.

Amy Adams Strunk, the Titans owner, greeted Abercrombie in the green room on Saturday afternoon and said the team was praying for him as he continues his recovery. Around 2 p.m. local time, Abercrombie stood in the wings, wearing a light blue suit and a Titans T-shirt, waiting to receive the card with the name he would announce at pick No. 168. When he read it—Georgia linebacker D’Andre Walker—he started jumping up and down. As fate would have it, Walker is a childhood friend—they played little league football together in their teens, and then played against each other at their high schools in the Atlanta area. “That is crazy,” he kept saying over and over again, in disbelief. “What?!” Abercrombie had visited Vrabel at the Titans’ facility Friday, but had no idea he was considering drafting his old teammate.

“It almost brought tears to my eyes,” Abercrombie said. “I grew up with him. He’s a great person; he’s a great athlete.”

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4. This is a smart idea by Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, in the wake of the Tyreek Hill news, suggesting that the NFL increase the risk for teams who take on players with violent histories by taking away future draft picks if a player commits a serious off-field offense. The logistics would need to be worked out, but the idea would be to discourage teams from simply taking a flier on a player with a serious off-field offense and paying only lip service to them earning a second chance, and encourage them to take an active role in making sure the player receives counseling or treatment to help him rehabilitate his behaviors.

5. After the Ravens drafted Trace McSorley with the 197th pick, NFL Network host Rich Eisen asked coach John Harbaugh if he envisioned the former Penn State QB in a role similar to Taysom Hill’s with the Saints. “That’s exactly right,” Harbaugh said. He continued, saying that McSorley would be a QB for them first, but could be put on the field in different spots on both offense and special teams, as Hill is for the Saints. “I guess we could put three quarterbacks on the field at one time if we wanted to,” Harbaugh said. With Lamar Jackson as the starter and RG3 as his backup, if the Ravens were going to keep a third QB on their roster, they’d want him to be able to contribute in other ways. McSorley was a dual-threat QB for Penn State in his three seasons as a starter, and his speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.57 seconds at the combine) suits him well to contribute in other ways.

6. The Patriots again waited to draft a quarterback until Day 3, this time tabbing Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham with pick No. 133. NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah had Stidham pegged as perhaps the best pure thrower in this year’s class, which wasn’t always on display in a college offense that was not the best fit for his skillset. This a good example of how the Patriots work, taking advantage of a possible inefficiency in the market by valuing a player’s talent level over his production in a specific college offense.

7. We know what Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock were doing the night of Jan. 7, 2019: Watching the NCAA national championship game between Alabama and Clemson. The Raiders’ brain trust drafted four players who played in that game: Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell (4), Trayvon Mullen (40) and Hunter Renfrow (149) and Alabama’s Josh Jacobs (24). With their final pick, they stumped Mayock’s old colleagues at NFL Network, selecting Prairie View A&M edge rusher Quinton Bell. Ferrell was a surprise at No. 4, but there was no jaw-dropping move, such as selecting a QB.

8. We’ve already talked a lot about the Patriots draft picks, but can we discuss the fact that Hjalte Froholdt, the offensive lineman they drafted in the fourth round, apparently wanted to be an “art thief” as a child? Froholdt already had an unconventional background for NFL draft picks, having grown up in Denmark and spent a year as an exchange student at a high school in Ohio before playing for Arkansas, but nothing tops this nugget of information. The exchange, per the Patriots transcript.

Reporter: I read that you wanted to be an art thief when you were little. Is that still in the cards?

Froholdt: I don't know why, but me and my childhood friend, Carl, we wanted to be burglars in France, and you know you grow up and figure out that's kind of frowned upon. Obviously, the dream changed. I think my mom still has the paintings of me [drawing] stick figures stealing diamonds in France.

9. Kalyn Kahler reports that Prospect X, a deep sleeper in this year’s draft class who was the subject of an MMQB feature, did indeed hear his name called as one of the 254 players to get drafted this year. Check back on Tuesday for his identity to be revealed.

10. The draft in Nashville was the best-attended one yet, with more than a half-million fans congregating in front of the honky-tonk bars up and down Broadway over the three-day event. The NFL got lucky in that there were no thunderstorms on Thursday night, which would have been a logistical headache requiring clearing the main stage and busing the players to the indoor Symphony Hall. The league shouldn’t have to worry about rain next year, however, since the draft will be held in Las Vegas. Expect another outdoor venue, right on the Strip.

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