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Grading out the draft

One day later, the reaction to New England's showing at the NFL draft is encouraging. A sample of the football experts out there indicates the Patriots did well, but not spectacular.

The move of trading up to get Colorado tight end Daniel Graham is widely praised, but the second round pick of Louisville Deion Branch generally is viewed as a reach. Here is a look at what four national writer's have to say about the Patriots draft.

Mel Kiper, Jr., ESPN.com

"When they saw Seattle move down, the Patriots knew they had to trade up to grab tight end Daniel Graham. He will be a key component in their offense, which got no production at tight end last year. In fact, the Patriots have received little tight end production since Ben Coates was in his prime. Graham is an outstanding player and another weapon for Tom Brady.

"Wide receiver Deion Branch was a bit of a reach, but he was productive at Louisville and has ability as a kick and punt returner. Quarterback Rohan Davey went where he was projected. If they can tweak his mechanics and develop him, the Patriots might have something. Defensive end Jarvis Green is okay as a fourth-rounder who can pass rush off the edge.

"I love running back Antwoine Womack in the seventh; when he was healthy in 2000, he led the ACC in rushing. He had a high ankle sprain that hampered him a year ago. He runs hard, through the defense rather than around it. And he's an adequate pass receiver. Womack could be a good backup to Antowain Smith. Wide receiver David Givens didn't produce enough game-changing plays, but he has good size and is an excellent athlete. He needs to be more precise on his routes."

Note - The only AFC team to receive a grade higher than B from Kiper was Oakland, which got an A-. In the AFC East, only the Jets, with a C, did not get a B.

Dan Pompei, The Sporting News

"Tight end Daniel Graham is a can't-miss pick because he doesn't have many holes. Nice fourth round with the selection of quarterback Rohan Davey and defensive end Jarvis Green. The Pats had to surrender a third-round pick to move up for Graham. They chose wide receiver Deion Branch in the second round, which was too high. The Patriots picked players who have the capabilities to be productive cogs in their schemes. Grade: B."

Note - Before the Patriots start feeling proud about a B from Pompei, it's important to say New England was low on the Pompei scale. Buffalo was tops with an A , followed by six teams with an A, two with an A- and four with a B . On top of that, eight other teams also got a B, meaning the Patriots graded higher than only 14 teams in the league.

Peter King, CNNSI.com

"While the Patriots took care of 2002 on draft weekend, they also finished the process that could make them the biggest power brokers in the 2003 draft. They got Buffalo's No. 1 pick next year for Drew Bledsoe, which was a fair trade for both sides. And remember, New England will have a high pick from Green Bay if the recently-swapped Terry Glenn can walk and chew gum at the same time for the Pack this fall. If Glenn catches 75 balls, for instance, the Patriots will get Green Bay's second-rounder in 2003. The upshot is, with any luck at all, New England will have two 1's and two 2's next year. For a defending Super Bowl champion to have such power in a future draft is well-nigh unprecedented.

"The Patriots' biggest-need position entering the offseason was tight end. They signed a couple of quasi-broken ones in free agency, Christian Fauria (who has a real chance to be good this year) and Cam Cleeland (who probably doesn't). There were two clean-character, Pro Bowl-caliber tight ends in this draft, and four or five teams who badly wanted one of them. The Giants plucked Miami's Jeremy Shockey with the 14th pick. The Patriots knew Seattle was dying for Colorado's Daniel Graham, who'd be a better fit for their offense than Shockey because he's a better blocker. So New England traded up 11 spots -- while keeping its second-round pick -- with Washington to get Graham.

"Excellent decision. Excellent value. Wideout Deion Branch, who came in the second round, is a speedy slot receiver who will complement Troy Brown and Donald Hayes well. I get the feeling the Patriots are going to be good for a long time."

Note- King did not give out grades, but had the Patriots rated in his highest category, titled "I really liked what they did." New England was the first of 10 teams to land in this ranking.

Len Pasquarelli, ESPN.com
"The defending Super Bowl champions didn't go into the draft with many holes, but tight end was one of them, and they spackled it up nicely by getting Daniel Graham. The Pats cleverly moved up in the round to snatch Graham away from the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, after that, the Pats didn't do much.

"Perhaps they were preoccupied by the Drew Bledsoe trade to make many waves. The choice of quarterback Rohan Davey (No. 4) could pay dividends down the line. Grade: C-minus."

Note - Pasquarelli was not overly impressed with the AFC East in general. New England, the Jets and Miami all got a C-, as did former division rival Indianapolis and perennial loser Cincinnati. Buffalo scored highest with a B .

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