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The Patriots are amazing

Join senior editor Vic Ketchman as he tackles the fans' tough questions.

Jeffery from Jacksonville:
In some weird way or another, Tom Brady has changed the game of football; first the tuck rule and now the lunging rule. This whole protect-the-quarterback thing is really starting to get out of hand. What is your take on this?

Vic: Starting to get out of hand? This is old stuff. This actually started with the "in the grasp" rule a long time ago. That's why I don't see this as a big deal. I expected more measures to protect the quarterback. I expected the "Hines Ward rule" on blocking too hard. This is the direction of football; softly toward safety. As I wrote last summer, you can't go to 18 regular-season games without lessening the contact. If I were a head coach, I would think long and hard about how to take advantage of the direction the game is going. Instead of resisting change, accept it and find a way to benefit from it.

Trevor from Knowlton, Quebec:
It seemed up until recently it was almost unanimously thought the Jags would select a left tackle in the first round, but given the BAP philosophy, is there a realistic chance of getting a quality left tackle later in the draft.

Vic: History would say the odds are against you. When you look at the left tackles in this league, they are predominantly high picks. That doesn't mean you can't find one late in the draft, but it would suggest that your chances of finding a starting left tackle late in the draft are greatly reduced. Sometimes you just have to make do until you can get that long-term guy.

Liam from Cardiff, Wales:
Which positions typically have the easiest and hardest transitions into the NFL?

Vic: Defensive end and running back are generally considered to be positions at which a rookie can excel, largely because rushing the passer and running with the football seem to be inherent skills. Quarterback offers the greatest challenge and left tackle also requires refinement. The one position at which you'd think a rookie would be likely to excel is wide receiver, but it hasn't been that way in recent history.

James from Middleburg, FL:
I hate to think about the end of the newspaper as we know it. For somebody with very few routines, one of my favorites still is rising early, walking half naked down the driveway and grabbing the newspaper to read with my coffee. Every morning begins the same. I'll miss it.

Vic: The newspaper industry has been very good for America for a long time. It was the identity of a lot of small towns. It was their watchdog and it was a major employer. When I was a kid, everybody wanted a paper route. We competed for them. I got mine at a young age and held it for a long time. I had 86 papers to deliver every day and I made $8.60 a week doing it. I'd go to the corner store, where the bundles were delivered for all of the paperboys in my neighborhood. I'd load half the bundle into my shoulder sack and start rolling, walking and throwing. It was a neighborhood of concentrated housing so I had to roll quick and I didn't have to leave the sidewalk to pitch the paper up onto the porch. I planned the route so I would return to the corner store at the halfway point, where I'd load the remaining half bundle into my sack and head off for the lower half of my route. Every other Wednesday was mill payday, which meant I had to collect within the next couple of days or I could forget the Christmas tip. Two weeks of the paper cost a customer 84 cents. I held that route until I got into high school and money I saved from that route bought me one of the most prized possessions of my life: a Wilson A2000 ballglove, the Cadillac of all gloves. It was the last glove I ever used. Delivering newspapers taught me work ethic, responsibility, how to communicate with people, how to manage money and what not to do when you find the windshield of a car in a snow-covered yard. I am very proud to be an ink-stained wretch.

Benjamin from Jacksonville:
I know teams offer a lot of different looks defensively, but do you think it's possible for a team to accumulate the right talent to play both a 4-3 and a 3-4 equally well?

Vic: The thing that makes this question impossible to answer is that most fans don't understand what defines a 3-4 defense. It's not how many guys are standing and how many guys have a hand on the ground. What defines the 3-4 is two-gapping. If you're not two-gapping, you're not playing the 3-4. You can have three linemen down and have one end standing up, which makes it appear you're playing a 3-4, but if your down linemen aren't two-gapping, then you're just playing a 4-3 gap defense with a standup end. To answer your question, no, I don't think you can play a true 4-3 and a true 3-4 equally well without significantly increasing the number of defensive linemen and linebackers on your roster.

Sid from Pittsburgh, PA:
If there is no cap, does the minimum salary also go away?

Vic: If there's no cap, then it's unlikely there will be a minimum cap, but a minimum cap is not the same as minimum salary. A minimum cap refers to how much a team must spend in player costs per year under the salary cap system provided in the current CBA. Minimum salary refers to the money that must be paid to each player at his various levels of experience. Minimum salary levels are also provided by the CBA. I think it's likely we will one day have a CBA that doesn't include a salary cap or minimum cap, but it's highly unlikely the players would ever agree to a CBA that doesn't include minimum wage standards.

Josh from Fort Collins, CO:
Where was Harvey on your value board last year?

Vic: I had him at number 10.

Shane from Macy, IN:
To go along with the playoff seeding question, wouldn't seeding based on record instead of division winners favor a team with an easier schedule?

Vic: It absolutely would but, of course, that's the way it is with most of the ordering in the NFL. The current system doesn't reward strength of schedule. It penalizes strength of schedule in the draft order, waiver wire order, etc., but the system rarely rewards it and I've always considered that to be unfair.

Etin from Jacksonville:
Willis McGahee was drafted while injured. I don't remember what round it was. I remember the hit that sent his knee backwards and inside out.

Vic: It was the bottom part of round one and the Bills were savaged by the media for making the pick because McGahee would not be able to play in his rookie season. I think the knee injury robbed him of some explosiveness, but he's topped 1,000 yards rushing three times in his career and has never played fewer than 13 games in a season, after sitting out his rookie year. Michael Crabtree, however, should not be compared to McGahee. Crabtree's foot and McGahee's knee are completely different injuries. Crabtree should make a much quicker recovery.

Mike from Jacksonville:
You seem to really have a good feeling about Percy Harvin? Do you really think he is that dynamic of a player? I am just worried he is going to be a bust like most of the other Florida Gator WR stars we have seen in the past.

Vic: I think he's fantastic. I think his ability is off the charts, but I don't see him as a top 10 pick because there's too much risk attached to him. He's not a pads-down guy. He runs upright and those kinds of guys have difficulty protecting their legs. That would be my number one concern. I also have to wonder how he'll react when he realizes he's not in an offense that is designed just for him. It's not going to be as it was at Florida, where the movement of his offensive mates was intended to create room for him. He's going to have to get into the wide receiver line at practice and compete for playing time. He'll be judged by his ability to run routes and develop his craft. He hasn't had to do a lot of that. Yeah, he'll be the object of a lot of creativity, but you're not going to fool NFL defenses with cheesy slip screens, clear-outs and drag routes over the middle. He'll have to win the one-on-one battles and that means applying himself to the fine details of being a receiver.

Matt from Baldwin, MD:
The New England Patriots acquired the 34th overall pick in the Cassel trade and Monday they were awarded three compensatory selections, including the top one at 96. The Patriots have already had a good offseason in free agency and now they own six picks in the draft's top 96. They have 12 selections overall. What a demonstration of aggression in signing and getting value for veteran players while being in a position to draft and groom their replacements.

Vic: Magnificent management; I am in awe. They do it all. They sign free agents and patch holes, lose free agents and acquire compensatory picks, trade picks for players, trade players for picks, draft and develop, and they position themselves beautifully to manage their long-term spending. The Patriots are the model franchise.

Jimmy from Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA:
Do you think the league will continue the same format for schedule rotation in the future?

Vic: Yeah, I think it'll continue. I think it's a good formula. At least it has standardized schedules within divisions, which I consider to be most important, as long as division titles are weighted the way they are. I don't think scheduling will become an issue until the league makes a move – if it makes a move – to an 18-game schedule. At that point, the system would have to undergo change.

Bob from Jacksonville:
I agree that the newspaper business can survive on the Internet. There's an obvious way for that to happen: Adapt the paradigm that has long been in use by the cell phone business. That is, establish clearinghouse companies that sell connections to participating pay sites. Thus, I could buy 100 connections per month and distribute my viewing among various newspapers. Why do you suppose no one is doing that?

Vic: Probably because it would cost money to do it.

Sascha from Cologne, Germany:
You said there is nobody in this year's draft who is worthy of first-pick money, but was there any player in last year's draft who was worth that money in your eyes?

Vic: Had Matt Ryan been drafted number one overall, he would've become the most worth-the-money first overall pick since Peyton Manning; maybe even earlier than that. If you get a chance, take a look at the first overall picks over the last several years and tell me what you think the success rate is. If I can't trade it, I don't want it.

Klee from Savannah, GA:
I was watching ESPN today, as usual, and I saw that Kiper picked us to draft Mark Sanchez and McShay picked Michael Crabtree. What are your thoughts on this and do you think we should draft Crabtree or even Sanchez.

Vic: I have Mark Sanchez higher on my board than Michael Crabtree, so, if Sanchez was the highest-rated player available, he'd be my pick. That's if the draft was today.

Ryan from Charlotte, NC:
What are your thoughts on Matt Stafford scoring a 38 on the Wonderlic test and Sanchez scoring a 28? Do you put much weight into this exam?

Vic: Smart is good and both of those guys are smart enough. That's all I would need to know. I don't think smarter means better. All you need your quarterback to be is smart enough.

Nelson from Tallahassee, FL:
Who was the best football player you've ever seen coming out of college, regardless of the outcome of their pro careers?

Vic: There are a lot of candidates but I'm inclined to say Roger Staubach. He was way ahead of his time. In today's game, college or pro, he would be an even greater player than he was at Navy or with the Cowboys.

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