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Graham the right move

It doesn't matter how many tight ends the Patriots have on the roster. It doesn't matter that Bill Belichick drafted Dave Stachelski in the fifth round in 2000. It doesn't matter that he selected Jabari Holloway and Arther Love with fourth- and sixth-rounders in 2001 or signed free agents Eric Bjornson, Johnny McWilliams, Chris Fontenot, Christian Fauria, Cam Cleeland, Chris Eitzmann and Jermaine Wiggins during his two-plus years in New England.

None of that matters. This draft, like every other, is about getting good football players and good value now. Belichick and Scott Pioli did that Saturday with the selection of Colorado tight end Daniel Graham. If none of those other guys are the right guy, then you get the right guy when you get the chance. That's a no-brainer.

The duo in charge of personnel has searched for a tight end since cutting Ben Coates in February of 2000.

The search is over.

Graham has size, speed and ability. He is a tough blocker and is productive in the passing game. He is an athlete that can stretch a defense down the middle of the field while also being stout enough at 6-3, 248 for in-line blocking.

With the chance to get Graham, the Patriots pulled the trigger on a terrific trade, giving up their first (32), third (96) and one of their seventh rounders (244) to Washington to move up 11 spots.

Criticize Belichick's past moves at tight end if you choose, but good, healthy, young, productive players at that position never make it to unrestricted free agency.

Well-rounded tight ends like Graham are becoming much harder to find at the college level, making the move up to get the former Colorado Buffalo the right move.

In the past, the Patriots have fumbled in the draft by trying to accent a solid team with depth-type picks. Graham will start by midseason and be a major impact player by his second season.

In four seasons at Colorado, Graham caught 106 passes for 1,543 yards with 11 touchdowns and a long reception of 57 yards. He was the focal point of the Buffaloes passing attack in 2001 and helped his team contend for a national title with 51 receptions for 753 yards and six touchdowns.

"It is hard to find tight ends," Belichick admitted after the pick. "It is particularly tough to find them in the passing game [and find one] that can go deep and still have enough quickness to block and do the things on the line of scrimmage and that aren't wide receiver types playing tight end. Hopefully we have found a guy who can do a little of both."

Graham was the second tight end taken behind Miami's Jeremy Shockey. Many draft prognosticators had Graham going to Seattle at 20, but the Seahawks moved down to 28 and probably gambled that Graham would make it down to them.

The Patriots then swooped in and scooped up the Torrance, Calif., native. Seattle then took Washington tight end Jerramy Stevens with the 28th pick.

The competition at tight end will be fierce. Wiggins isn't about to go away without a fight. Fauria and Cleeland have much to prove for a new team looking to defend its Super Bowl title. Holloway and Love remain unknowns after spending their rookie season injured.

The Patriots have now added two new elements to their passing game with a big wide receiver in Donald Hayes and an excellent tight end prospect in Graham.

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