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Patriots.com News Blitz - 4/20/06

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe writes that during his pre-draft press conference yesterday at Gillette Stadium, Belichick said what has happened to the team in free agency will have little bearing on how he approaches next weekend's draft. The "best player available/player that can most help the team" philosophy will stand. "You can't create players," Belichick said. "You've got to draft the board based on what your options are. As soon as you start taking players truly based on need, if they can't fill that need, then you have to come back the next year or the next pick and you're drafting again for the same spot. "You really don't have anything if the player can't fulfill that expectation or that role that you think you drafted him for." Translation: Just because the Patriots lost starters in McGinest and Givens, it doesn't mean they will draft a linebacker or receiver with the 21st pick of the first round.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the day Adam Vinatieri joined the Colts, he deflected questions about leaving the Patriots by saying he'd rather look through the windshield than in the rearview mirror. Driving in the opposite direction, Patriots coach Bill Belichick is doing the same thing. Addressing Vinatieri's departure directly yesterday for the first time, Belichick said he's focused on improving the Patriots and not bemoaning the departed. "We've had players come. We've had players go," Belichick said when questioned about Vinatieri during his annual predraft press conference. "That's the way it is. In terms of individual negotiations and all of that, I think it's a lot longer story. Is it worth telling? It doesn't make any difference. He's not here."

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots need to get younger at linebacker, and this is as good a draft as any to solve that problem. "I would say there are more guys this year at the linebacker position," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said yesterday at his annual predraft press conference. "For us, there's probably more (suitable) linebackers than we've had the last couple of years. I would say there's more depth in that group than we've seen the last few years." Belichick touched on a number of draft-related topics, including the team's willingness to trade picks to move up from No. 21 in the first round, but spent the majority of his time discussing linebackers. It's not a position Belichick and player personnel chief Scott Pioli have filled at the top of the draft. The highest pick they've spent on a linebacker in their six Patriots drafts is the fifth-rounder they used last year on UNLV's Ryan Claridge. That could change this year.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots have 11 picks in the April 29-30 NFL draft. They added three in trades and another two as compensation for losing free agents Joe Andruzzi, Adrian Klemm and David Patten (the compensatory picks cannot be traded). With such a bounty of selections, the Patriots seem prime candidates to swing a deal that could land them in the top 15. Tomase takes a look at their picks, as well as a trio of players they could target if they move up.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that one key morsel of information about a lot of players near the top of the 2006 NFL Draft class remains elusive: Who plays football consistently well? During a predraft press conference yesterday, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made early mention of this uncertainty. "There are . . . more players . . . in the developmental stage for one reason or another," he said. "Either they didn't play a lot last year or they're fairly young in their career, and there just isn't as much exposure on them as maybe what we've had in the past."In terms of from a broad picture, there are always juniors entering, there are always guys that haven't played a lot of football that are circumstantially behind. Not that they aren't good players; there just isn't enough exposure on them. It seems like there are more of them this year -- one-year starters, half-year starters, guys coming out early, guys who were hurt, stuff like that. . . . You want to go back and see, 'Well, how did the guy match up against this type of player in this situation,' and it's just not there." Holding the 21st overall pick and 10 more selections after that in the April 29-30 NFL Draft, New England will be forced to choose early on between players who have shown production and players who have shown potential.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal profiles Tennessee free safety/cornerback Jason Allen.

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that Bill Belichick conducted his annual pre-draft press conference Wednesday. As is typical, the Patriots coach declined to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of college players or hint at who the Patriots might be interested in selecting. While the loss of Willie McGinest (Browns) and the aging of his linebacking corps would seem to make selecting a young linebacker a priority in the April 29-30 draft, Belichick reiterated his belief that drafting purely to fill a need at a certain position is rarely the best strategy. "I don't think you can do it that way," Belichick said. "You can't create players. You have to draft based on what your options are. As soon as you start taking players truly based on [position] need, if they can't fill that need, then you have to come back the next year or the next pick and you're drafting again for the same spot and you haven't filled anything other than putting a name on a piece of cardboard and putting it up on the depth chart."

Mike Reiss of the Boston Globe offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes. Reiss also offers his latest Patriots mailbag.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.

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