The Patriots certainly made news on Day 1 of the 2009 NFL Draft. But in a way that perhaps took many by surprise. For just the fourth time in team history, New England did not make a first-round pick. The Pats did, however, make four selections, equaling the number of picks they owned at the outset.
Earlier in the day, rumors swirled that New England was interested in moving up into the top 10. However, in a quick-moving first round, the Patriots found themselves on the clock with the 23rd overall pick by early Saturday evening. Head coach Bill Belichickand the front office decided the value wasn't right for a selection at that point and traded the pick to Baltimore, picking up the Ravens first-rounder (26th overall) and a fifth-round pick in the process.
They didn't own either for long, though, as the Pats traded out of the first round, sending those two picks to Green Bay in exchange for the Pack's second-rounder (41) and two thirds (73 and 83 overall).
Finally in the second round, with the 34th overall pick, Belichick settled on a player he liked: Oregon safety Patrick Chung. At a press conference following the second round, Belichick extolled Chung's versatility in explaining why he picked him.
"You could really see him do just about everything that you'd want to see. He played close to the line of scrimmage, other times he covered tight ends … played the deep part of the field, played the middle, support the run. Free safety, strong safety, nickel back. We certainly had the opportunity to see him do a lot of things at Oregon."
Chung, in a conference call with reporters shortly after his selection, admitted that the Pats had shown considerable interest in him during the pre-draft process, but that he was still in shock when he received the official word from Belichick.
"The interviews were great. I loved the facilities when I was out there. I loved the coaches. I like to mood; it's about work. It's about business and getting down to business and making sure everything is right and I'm just happy to be here."
As their 41st pick approached, the Patriots felt they needed to make another move, this time in the opposite direction. New England offered the Oakland Raiders the 47th, 124th and 199th picks to acquire the Raiders' pick at 40. With back-to-back selections, the Patriots took two players with New England ties: Boston College defensive tackle Ron Braceand UConn cornerback Darius Butler.
Brace, a native of Springfield, Mass., was at home with his family when the call from Belichick and owner Robert Kraftcame.
"I didn't really know who I could end up with. I was talking with my agent the other day and he said that I could possibly end up with any of the 32 teams," Brace told reporters in his conference call. "The fact that it ended up being the Patriots was just crazy because I remember watching them when I was younger, too. It's just crazy. I never thought I'd end up playing for the team I watched when I was younger."
Prior to today, numerous mock drafts were predicting that New England would select Butler with the 23rd pick, particularly because Belichick and a half-dozen other Pats scouts visited the Connecticut campus to work out Butler and several other Husky players.
"The Patriots actually ran my workouts, pretty much. They ran the drills that I did," said Butler via conference call from his home state of Florida, adding that Belichick was the only NFL head coach at those workouts last month.
When asked to describe an NFL player to whom he could compare his own style of play, Butler mentioned a familiar one to Pats fans.
"Actually, I model myself after Asante Samuel. He [was] obviously a great Patriot and I model myself after him. I've been compared to him by a lot of DB coaches going around on my visits and workouts in the league, and hopefully I can have the same kind of success he had early in his career, the last couple years when he was a Patriot."
With their assigned second-round pick, 58th overall, New England chose University of Houston offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer(6-8, 315), a native of Germany. Many draft guides had Vollmer penciled in as a potential late-round pick or even a rookie free agent, but apparently, Belichick and Co. liked what him enough to invest a Day 1-pick with him.
"All those guys are mature guys, guys that have had full careers, played in all-star games, have a good track record," Belichick said of his four new players.
With all the action on the first day, Belichick suggested that there could still be more moves on Day 2, especially since the Pats have four more picks in the third round alone.
"I think there was good depth in this draft," he concluded. "There still is, heading into [Sunday]. For a while. It's not going to last for seven rounds … we'll see how the day goes. I wouldn't rule out any movement."