The trading frenzy continued here at Gillette on draft weekend. Day 2 was creeping along until the Patriots, after making a pair of pick-for-pick trades, pulled off a somewhat surprising deal – sending cornerback Ellis Hobbsto the Philadelphia Eagles for two fifth-round picks (137 and 141 overall).
New England promptly turned around and sent those two picks to Baltimore for the Ravens' fourth-rounder (123) and sixth-round choice (198).
Hobbs was already facing an uphill battle to earn a job with New England this year, after the Patriots acquired free agentsLeigh Boddenand Shawn Springsthis offseason. With the selection of UConn corner Darius Butleron Saturday, not to mention the continued development of last year's rookie crop at the position, a crowded field apparently left no room for the veteran Hobbs.
"The Ellis Hobbs trade was not really something we anticipated," head coach Bill Belichicktold reporters after the draft concluded. "Just one of those things that, based on the way things went … we felt it was the best thing to do for our team. There were a lot of forces at work there. It was a combination of a lot of things. Philadelphia was a partner on that."
Hobbs expressed surprise, but said he felt no ill will toward the Patriots about the move.
"Personally, I think it's shocking because you've been playing so many years for an organization," Hobbs told Philadelphia reporters during his introductory conference call in his new city.
"But on the other side it's a business. I had been telling my family members for a while – I just had a feeling. Then you kind of feel things out, you see how the organization is making moves throughout the offseason. You figure that something is going to shake, you just never know when, but when I got the call … no bad blood, no hard feelings. It is what it is and I'm excited to be playing for the Eagles now."
Earlier in the draft, which started at 10 a.m. on Sunday, the Patriots sent their first pick in the third round (73) to Jacksonville for a Jags second-rounder in 2010 and seventh-round pick (232) this year.
With what turned out to be their first pick of the third round (83), New England selected a player they had hosted on a pre-draft visit: North Carolina WR Brandon Tate. A big of a risky, though talented, player, Tate is rehabbing from a serious knee injury and is questionable to play in 2009. He also reportedly failed a drug test during the Scouting Combine this past February, a subject he acknowledged during a conference call Sunday afternoon.
"I know I had made a mistake, and now that's behind me," Tate told New England reporters. "I'm just moving forward, getting ready to go to the NFL and play for the Patriots."
Some observers felt Tate was performing well enough to warrant first-round consideration before he blew out his knee versus Notre Dame this past season. That, coupled with his recent drug questions, led Tate to admit that his draft stock may have suffered as a result, but that he's determined to prove that he was worth the Pats' investment.
"I knew it probably would, but I was still waiting on that call because I knew somebody would give me a chance. I thank the Patriots for that, so I'm going to come in and I'm willing to work for them."
The Pats then continued to load up on second-round picks in next years draft. They sent their third third-rounder (89) to Tennessee for a Titans second-round selection in 2010.
When not trading their draft picks, the Patriots did make some selections, most of which were players who had pre-draft visits with the team. New England took an inside linebacker, South Florida's Tyrone McKenzie, with their other third-round pick. The following two rounds saw New England select a pair of offensive linemen: guard Richard Ohrnbergerof Penn State and George Bussey, a tackle from Louisville.
"When I was up there, me and Coach Belichick had sat down and talked. I also sat down and talked to the linebackers coach [Matt Patricia] and everybody in the office," said McKenzie. "I had a great time up there and Boston is a great city."
"I had a solid connection with the Patriots throughout the getting-to-know-you process that goes on following the Pro Day that I participated in at Penn State," echoed Ohrnberger.
"I had visited Boston and was at Gillette Stadium and met with [O-line coach Dante] Scarnecchia, Coach Belichick and a few of the other people there. It was great getting to know those people. The coaches – I enjoyed sitting down and talking [to them]. I never got a chance to work out with Coach Scarnecchia, but we did get a chance to do some work on the board and go over some of their offense stuff."
After the multiple trades, New England wound up with four picks in the final two rounds. With their first in the sixth round, the Pats took a long snapper from Hawaii, Jake Ingram. Later in the sixth, they snagged Kentucky defensive lineman Myron Pryor. The seventh round saw the Pats take a wide receiver, Julian Edelmanfrom Kent (who played QB for the Golden Flashes), and Darryl Richard, a defensive tackle from Georgia Tech.
In all, the Patriots finished draft weekend with 12 selections, after starting off with 11. There's a chance the team will also sign some rookie free agents this week in advance of Patriots rookie mini-camp, which gets underway Thursday here at Gillette Stadium.