Day two of the 2010 NFL Draft promised to be a busier one than the day before for head coach Bill Belichickand his New England Patriots, who entered the evening with four picks at their disposal.
New England's night got off to an active, dramatic start when Belichick and frequent trading partner Al Davisof the Oakland Raiders pulled the trigger on a deal that allowed the Patriots to move up two spots from 44 to 42. The two teams swapped picks, with New England also throwing in the first of their sixth-round selections (190 overall).
There appeared to be some confusion on the dais at Radio City Music Hall in New York, as the television broadcasts seemed to indicate that the Baltimore Ravens, who were next in line after the Patriots at 43, were attempting to submit their card to Commissioner Roger Goodellbefore the Patriots' selection was announced.
It looked like Goodell intervened to help sort out the situation. Once that was settled, Belichick selected a "need" player that numerous mock drafts had predicted he would take – Arizona tight end Rob Gronkowski(6-6, 264), a junior who didn't play at all in 2009 due to a back injury. In his introductory conference call with the local media, Gronkowski insisted that his back troubles are behind him and that he's "very happy" to be a Patriot.
"I knew one of their needs was tight end and I just believe it's a great fit, a great team. I believe I fit well in the organization ... I met with New England beforehand – a few weeks ago. It went well. I met with all the coaches and it was a great opportunity [to] just go over their offense, go over some game film."
Gronkowski addressed the apparent controversy over his selection, as it seemed like the Ravens were angling to take him at the same time.
"I saw that New England was right behind Baltimore, so I just thought that I had a pretty good chance of going right in that row – to Baltimore or New England – and I'm happy that New England traded up right in front of Baltimore and took me. I think it was an excellent choice. I think it's going to be great to be part of such a great organization and a great team."
With their next scheduled pick at 47 overall, the Patriots decided to trade down and acquire another pick in the process. The Arizona Cardinals gave New England their second round choice at 58, as well as their third-round pick at 89 overall. That positioned the Patriots with back-to-back third-rounders, 89 and 90.
In the meantime, Belichick and the front office had another pick at 53, which they used to select Florida DE/OLB Jermaine Cunningham(6-3, 266). There was another, more high-profile Florida player, Carlos Dunlap, at Cunningham's position whom the Patriots could have taken (he went the very next pick to Cincinnati), but Belichick felt that the versatile Cunningham was the better fit for the Patriots scheme.
"[Florida] used him in coverage some last year. He's a pretty athletic kid," the head coach explained when addressing the media following round three.
"He was an end for them, but he did do some outside linebacker –type duties. So, we'll see how that goes, but I think he's an end-of-the-line player, whether that's up or down."
When they went back on the clock at 58, Belichick and his personnel staff decided to move down even further, this time trading with Houston. The Texans packaged their second-round pick (62 overall) and a fifth (150). At 62, the Patriots took their second Gator of the evening, inside linebacker Brandon Spikes(6-3, 250).
Speaking via conference call with reporters Friday evening, Spikes cited his familiarity with Belichick and the Patriots philosophy as reasons why he will adjust quickly to the NFL.
"Throughout college, I've seen him a few times around the facility. I know he and Coach [Urban] Meyerhave a great relationship. I know pretty that he knows pretty much everything about me. So I know what he's about and I'm pretty sure he knows what I'm about. I have a great deal of respect for Coach Belichick and his staff. I know a lot of the times we did things the way they do in New England; we did things like that in Florida."
New England's dealing streak continued in the third round, when they sent the 89 pick to Carolina for the Panthers' 2011 second-round pick. The Patriots had the very next pick at 90, which they used on Ohio WR Taylor Price(6-0, 204).
The draft concludes with rounds four through seven starting on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. New England currently has one pick in the fourth, one in the fifth, and one in the sixth, as well as five seventh-round selections.