Eric McHugh of the Patriot Ledger writes that In Belichick's six drafts with the Patriots, he has picked only four linebackers - three in the seventh round and one (Ryan Claridge last year) in the fifth. Belichick says we shouldn't read into that, but how can you not? The Patriots ask so much of their linebackers - veterans Chad Brown and Monty Beisel proved that last season with their struggles - that obviously it has been hard to find college kids whom Belichick and Scott Pioli, the team's vice president of player personnel, feel they can trust. This year might be different because Belichick said there is "more depth" at the position, particularly with players who have extensive playing experience as well as position flexibility. That's good timing since the Patriots bid farewell to veteran Willie McGinest in free agency and are facing the prospect of starting either Tully Banta-Cain (a seventh-rounder from 2003) or Beisel, depending on whether Mike Vrabel plays inside or outside.
Glen Farley of The Enterprise writes that having failed to win a Super Bowl ring, for the first time in three years the Patriots won't be selecting at the tail end of the first round. Their first choice is No. 21 overall, the same spot that rendered defensive tackle Vince Wilfork in 2004 when the Pats owned two selections in the opening round. If you're at 10 you'd rather be at five. If you're at 20, you'd rather be at 10. If you're at 30, you'd rather be at 20. It doesn't really matter where you are," said Belichick. "We're at 21. If we look up there, we could probably find another place we'd rather be, but if we were there we'd want to be somewhere else. It's one of those mind games that you play going into the draft and in the end it comes back to being prepared, doing your homework and trying to understand where the players fit in your system when it's your turn to either pick or trade." Given their current team makeup, many draft pundits believe a linebacker could provide a good fit for New England at 21.
Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that the top of the Patriots' quarterback depth chart may be as solid as a rock, but that hasn't stopped Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli from devoting three draft picks to the position since the Drew Bledsoe trade in 2002. And no one should be surprised if they do it again this year, although there's one caveat: It appears they already have their backup QB of the future. Unless first impressions are deceiving, 2005 seventh-round draft pick Matt Cassel looks like a legitimate NFL quarterback. Time will tell whether he's starting quality, but the snapshot Cassel provided last preseason and in the regular-season finale against Miami was promising.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal profiles Ohio State safety Donte Whitner. Leading up to the NFL Draft, Curran will profile a player at a "need" position for the Patriots each day. New England has a total of 11 picks in the draft, six in the first four rounds. The Pats' first-round pick is the 21st overall.
Mark Farinella of the Sun Chronicle writes that year after year, the big buzz surrounding the NFL Draft involves which of the "big name" collegiate quarterbacks will end up with one of the teams that have proven to be a quarterback's graveyard. Sometimes it works out, as Drew Bledsoe did for the Patriots with the No. 1 pick in 1993, and sometimes it doesn't, as the Bengals found out with David Klingler in 1992. It almost makes one wish that the teams would get all of the quarterback foolishness out of the way quickly and let everyone else get to the serious business of restocking their teams at other positions. After all, the Patriots won three Super Bowls with a quarterback who was selected with a compensatory pick in the sixth round of the 2000 draft, so what's the fuss? With Tom Brady still in place, the Patriots have no need to project themselves into the race for one of the top quarterbacks in this year's draft, which begins a week from Saturday. It appears that maybe three or four quarterbacks will go in the first round, but that there are few others worth drafting at all -- and this year, the first quarterback may not be selected until almost 45 minutes into the festivities.
Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe writes that For the first time, owners of Mobile ESPN's new phone (the Sanyo MVP was released in February) can follow the draft wherever they go. No more sitting in front of the television or computer to see who will be selected No. 1 or which picks the Patriots will trade. Instead, users can customize their phones to provide team-specific alerts -- a Boston College follower can be signaled when Mathias Kiwanuka is drafted, or a New England fan can find out which collegian Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli tab in the first round -- in a showcase of the latest movement media companies are embracing: customization.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal offers his daily sports blog with Patriots notes and commentary.