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Patriots.com News Blitz - 5/1/2006

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal writes that offensively and on special teams the Patriots are significantly deeper. If ever there was a draft that proved the Patriots philosophy of taking the best player on their board, it was this one. With people seeing holes at linebacker and uncertainty in the secondary entering the draft, it was reasonably figured those would be the areas New England targeted. And then they went out and drafted ball-handlers with their first four picks, a kicker with their fifth, and an offensive lineman with their sixth. They got around to defense in the sixth round by taking defensive end/outside linebacker Jeremy Mincey from Florida and then they took a nose tackle (Le Kevin Smith from Nebraska) and a safety (Willie Andrews) as the draft wound on. But the offensive bent was obvious. "If you take a running back in the first round and then trade up to take a receiver in the second round, it's going to be hard to have a defensive draft," Belichick explained. "We all saw how quickly the defensive players go at the same time. I think that there was some value in the picks that we made regardless of who they were or which side of the ball they were on. So that's why we picked the players that we did. Rather than trying to force picks into certain positions, we just had the philosophy of trying to take the players that we feel like are the best players and that's what we've done and that's what we'll continue to do and that's what we did today and yesterday."

Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe, John Tomase of the Boston Herald and Tom Curran of the Providence Journal write that Stephen Gostkowski doesn't want to be known as Adam Vinatieri's replacement, but should the rookie from Memphis earn the job as the Patriots' kicker, that'll be his official designation. That's the way it is when you follow a probable Hall of Famer. For now, Gostkowski is just happy he'll get the opportunity. New England drafted the 22-year-old with the 21st pick of the fourth round (118th overall) yesterday, dropping the flag on the start of the competition to take the job Vinatieri held for the previous 10 years. The Patriots signed NFL veteran Martin Gramatica April 6. "It's just exciting to think that I might be able to start in the NFL anywhere, and then to be able to replace a guy like Adam Vinatieri -- he's the most respected guy in the NFL -- you can't go in there expecting to do something somebody else did," Gostkowski said. "You just have to go in there and bring what you can bring to the table and, hopefully, you can win over the fans and win over your coaches and teammates by making a big kick."

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that with the Patriots final pick in yesterday's draft, the Patriots selected safety Willie Andrews, an overachiever who spent time in jail as a high schooler but straightened his life out to star at Baylor. The 5-foot-9, 193-pounder was a hard-hitting safety and skilled special teamer for the Bears, helping turn the program from a 3-9 laughingstock when he arrived in 2002 to one that beat Iowa State and Oklahoma State last year and was in bowl contention until finishing 5-6. "I've been facing these challenges my whole life," Andrews said last night. "I went to Baylor. I'm not that tall. I'm too small to play safety. I love it. It just puts more weight on my back to make my performance that much better."

Michael Felger of the Boston Herald writes that overall, the balance of power in the AFC East certainly didn't shift with this draft. The Pats are still the class of the division, and their offense no doubt got younger and (presumably) more talented with the selections of running back Laurence Maroney and receiver Chad Jackson. But the question marks at linebacker and defensive back remain, and the need to draft a kicker (Memphis' Stephen Gostkowski) with a fourth-round pick was an unpleasant reminder of Adam Vinatieri's departure to the Indianapolis Colts. Many think Mangini and Tannenbaum, the Jets' first-year general manager, are overmatched. However, the initial impression of this weekend was that the Jets did well. It was obvious Mangini and Tannenbaum were more concerned with football than headlines when they bypassed quarterback Matt Leinart in favor of Ferguson at No. 4, and then followed that by drafting a center. You have to think Bill Belichick would have done the same thing.

Lenny Megliola of the MetroWest Daily News writes that Patriots QB Doug Flutie is reportedly set to retire. Flutie's exit from the game, widely expected and reported on Channel 4 last night, ends one storybook career for the Natick resident. He most likely will embark on a sports broadcastng career.

Ron Borges of the Boston Globe writes that Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells taught their students well. Perhaps too well for their own long-term good. Eric Mangini, the Belichick acolyte now running the New York Jets, and Mike Tannenbaum, who learned the personnel and contract end of the game under Parcells before taking over the Jets' front office this year, appeared upon first blush to win this weekend's high-stakes gamble known as the NFL draft by using the formula Parcells and Belichick followed to success with the New York Giants, New York Jets, Dallas Cowboys, and New England Patriots: Build from the inside out and build big. Meanwhile, the Patriots drafted for obvious needs at running back and wide receiver early and got the second-rated player at each position, which, when you're picking 21st, is saying something for Belichick and his loyal aide, Scott Pioli.

John Tomase of the Boston Herald writes that the Patriots don't typically play the comparison game, but for fourth-round pick Garrett Mills, they made an exception. One of the most prolific tight ends in college football history, Mills more likely will play fullback with the Pats. The official bio released by the team noted he has a chance to duplicate the success of Larry Centers, who caught 827 passes during a 13-year career. "As far as my receiving skills, I was a pretty good receiving tight end at the Division 1 level," Mills said. "Obviously, there are things I can work on because the pro game is a different game. I'm just going to come in there and do what I'm told." Mills' selection initially was a head-scratcher, given the presence of tight ends Daniel Graham and Benjamin Watson on the roster, as well as this year's third-round pick David Thomas out of Texas. But Mills played H-back, fullback and tight end at Tulsa and could do the same in the NFL. He's considered undersized at 6-foot-1 and 232 pounds.

Tom Curran of the Providence Journal also writes that extra time spent with Florida receiver Chad Jackson helped convince the Patriots he was a legit first-round value. Good fortune allowed the team to get him in the second round Saturday. "[Chad] Jackson was a guy that we were considering in the first round and obviously we went with [Laurence ] Maroney ," Bill Belichick said late Saturday night. "As we got into the second round we were able to move up with the trade to Green Bay (from 52 to 36) and take Chad. We spent a lot of time with him in Florida. He came up here and different coaches saw him and so forth. I think that he has some good skills that we're looking forward to working with. He comes from a good passing system that Coach [Urban ] Meyer has down there at Florida and we are familiar with that. I think he has some good things to work with." The deal with the Packers in which the Pats sent their second rounder and one of their two third rounders to cheese country was orchestrated by vice president of player personnel Scott Pioli.

Alan Greenberg of the Hartford Courant writes that it turns out that Bill Belichick didn't believe that the Patriots' needs at linebacker and defensive back were nearly as pressing as many thought. How else to explain why the Patriots, who until December had one of the worst defenses ever displayed by a division leader, defied the consensus and drafted six consecutive offensive players before finally choosing a defensive player - Florida linebacker Jeremy Mincey (sixth round, 191st overall) - in the draft? Yes, maybe Minnesota tailback Laurence Maroney and Florida receiver Chad Jackson, the Patriots' first two picks, may turn out great and supply Tom Brady with two more offensive weapons, something they clearly need with Corey Dillon turning 32 in October and No. 2 receiver David Givens having bolted to the Titans. But what about the defense, which lost outside linebacker Willie McGinest to the Browns in free agency and had a sorry secondary once Rodney Harrison was hurt, yet has not added a single significant player this offseason? Does the Patriots' offense-dominated draft suggest that Belichick isn't concerned? "I don't think it says anything about that," he said. "When you take a running back in the first round and you trade up 16 places in the second to take a receiver, it's going to be hard to have a defense draft."

Dan Pires of The Standard-Times writes that from at least the preliminary indications the Patriots came away from this weekend's draft with players who not only have plenty of substance but also style. More importantly, many of the them have produced under the hot glare of the spotlight and fan expectations. According to the head coach, the emphasis was on "value" in this draft. "The only expectation that we have is to try and take advantage of every opportunity we have, and going into draft day you never know what those are going to be," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick shortly after 6 last evening."

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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