With the critical 2006 draft six days away, Tom Curran of the Providence Journal takes a look back with the benefit of hindsight at the past 10 drafts of the New England Patriots. From J.R. Conrad (seventh-round guard taken out of Oklahoma in 1996) to Logan Mankins (first-round guard taken out of Fresno State in 2005) he perused all 92 picks New England has made and came up with a best and worst draft picks list.
John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots enter the draft with wide receiver among their biggest needs. While they probably won't spend a first-rounder on Ohio State's Santonio Holmes or Florida's Chad Jackson, the consensus top wideouts, odds are good they'll spend a first-day pick on the position. "The last couple of years we've had a lot of guys go in the first round at receiver, mostly bigger receivers, and there's been a stampede to get those kind of guys," Belichick said. "It seems like there are fewer of those guys this year. There's not as much of a league frenzy to get to those guys."
John Tomase of the Boston Herald also writes that during a 35-minute predraft press conference last week, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick answered exactly zero questions about his offensive line. The Pats have not shied away from offensive linemen in recent drafts, using high picks to snag starters Dan Koppen, Logan Mankins and Nick Kaczur. In fact, they've built enough depth on the line to push it down on the priority list for Saturday's draft, unless they decide starters Koppen (shoulder) and Matt Light (leg) have not sufficiently healed from last season's injuries. With needs at running back, linebacker, wide receiver and in the secondary, it wouldn't be surprising if the Patriots add an offensive linemen in the later rounds or as an undrafted free agent. Otherwise, they appear set with Light, Mankins, Kaczur, Stephen Neal and Brandon Gorin signed beyond this season, and Koppen and Russ Hochstein signed through this season.
Tom Curran of the Providence Journal profiles Oklahoma offesnive lineman David Joseph. Leading up to the draft, Curran will profile a player at a "need" position for the Patriots each day. New England has 11 picks in the draft, six in the first four rounds. The Pats' first-round pick is the 21st overall.
Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that over the last five years there have been only eight linebackers drafted in the first round. That's because many aren't big enough or fast enough to fit what NFL scouts are looking for in a first-round pick. The smaller, quicker college defensive ends are sometimes converted to outside linebacker in the NFL, especially by teams that use a 3-4 defense in which the linemen are primarily run-stoppers and the outside linebackers are the edge rushers. That said, scouts say this draft has a strong crop of outside linebackers, and several could be selected in the first round. The inside linebackers, who usually aren't as athletic as the outside guys, are not as highly rated but several could be chosen in the second round.
Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe takes a look at top offensive tackle prospect, D'Brickashaw Ferguson.
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.