A long day of picks came to an end around 5:30 Sunday afternoon with the Patriots making all seven of their Day 2 selections. While that fact alone was somewhat surprising given Bill Belichick's penchant for moving around the board, the fact that just one of the first seven picks was used on defense had to be the most interesting aspect of the weekend.
After focusing on skill position players on Day 1, Belichick kept an eye on offense while adding what could be a very key piece to the puzzle in the future. Tulsa tight end/fullback Garrett Mills was the first to hear the Patriots call his name on Sunday, but kicker Stephen Gostkowski of Memphis soon joined him later in the fourth round.
From there, the Patriots took California tackle Ryan O'Callaghan in the fifth, Florida defensive end Jeremy Mincey, Notre Dame guard Dan Stevenson and Nebraska defensive tackle Le Kevin Smith in the sixth and Baylor defensive back Willie Andrews in the seventh.
"I thought we added some speed and added some competition on both sides of the ball," Belichick said. "We still have some work in free agency to fill out the roster so we can have as strong a team as we can heading into training camp."
The Gostkowski pick may have been the most intriguing of the day. With an obvious hole to fill after the departure of Adam Vinatieri, Belichick tabbed Gostkowski perhaps a little earlier than most expected. The Patriots used the second of their two fourth-round picks at No. 118 overall, which was a round or two before some draft experts originally targeted.
But Gostkowski is a solid prospect with a big leg and Belichick may have felt it wasn't worth gambling if he would be around later. Gostkowski made 70-of-92 career attempts including 22-of-25 as a senior in 2005. The 6-1, 212-pounder finished his career with 369 points in 49 games. Still, even he was taken aback by getting such an early call.
"Definitely. Going to bed last night I had no idea what to expect," Gostkowski said when asked if he was surprised. "I was excited about the opportunity and I was just glad to get a shot somewhere. When I got that call from the Patriots I was ecstatic; it's a team that everybody's been following for the past couple of years."
Mills was a bit of a curious pick considering his similarities to third-round choice David Thomas. Thomas has excellent hands and was very productive at Texas. Mills, who was tabbed with the 106th overall pick early in the fourth round, has a similar resume. The former Tulsa standout grabbed 87 passes for 1,235 yards and nine touchdowns last season. The 6-1, 232-pound native of Oklahoma finished his four-year career with 201 receptions for 2,389 yards and 23 touchdowns – numbers that evidently were too much for Belichick to pass up.
"We felt he was a versatile, athletic, smart guy," Belichick said. "He was very productive pass receiver in college and even showed the versatility to play in the kicking game. We hope he'll be able to improve our football team."
Some of the draft publications list Mills as a fullback, which makes sense considering his size and the versatility he showed at Tulsa. At various times he lined up as a tight end, H-back, fullback and was used in motion quite frequently. He could be asked to do a lot of those things as a Patriot, which could eliminate the need for players like Dan Klecko and Richard Seymour to be used in that capacity going forward.
"That's a good question," Mills said when asked if he was a tight end or fullback. "I'm going to come into this organization and do whatever is asked of me. If Coach Belichick asks me to do a little tight end, I will do that. If it's fullback, I will do that. If it is a little bit of both, even better. I'm just excited to get down there and start learning the offense and see how they are going to utilize me."
O'Callaghan is a mountain of a man at 6-6, 344 pounds. Some of the draft guides project him at guard, but at that size that would be hard to believe. Like Mills, position matter little to O'Callaghan.
"I have to speak with the coach and fill a need," he said. "They drafted me for a reason and I'm going to be ready to play wherever they want me to play. I've played every position but center so I'm not going to say exactly [where I will play]."
The Patriots had three sixth-round picks and they came in quick succession at Nos. 191, 205 and 206. Mincey appears to be another man without a position. At 6-3, 263 pounds he lacks the size to be an ideal fit up front in the Patriots 3-4.
But he may possess enough athleticism to move to linebacker (Belichick projects him as an outside linebacker), and he was productive during his two years with the Gators after transferring from Butler County Community College in 2004. Mincey started all 24 games at Florida and made 123 tackles and 5.5 sacks.
Former Patriots offensive coordinator and current Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis compared Stevenson favorably to Joe Andruzzi. Andruzzi endeared himself to the coaching staff with his blue-collar work ethic and professionalism during his five years as a starter in New England before moving on to Cleveland as a free agent last season, so that's pretty high praise for Stevenson.
Smith, a 6-1, 307-pounder, played all three defensive line positions with the Cornhuskers but was considered more of a penetrating, one-gap player by some draft prognosticators. He'll be in a battle with former second-round pick Marquise Hill, second-year player Mike Wright, Dan Klecko and practice squad grad Santonio Holmes for a roster spot this summer.
Andrews also faces long odds to win a job in a crowded secondary. The 5-9, 182-pound speedster is trying to make the transition to corner and also has some return experience, which could make him worthy of an extra look given Belichick's desire for versatility.