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Patriots Draft Recap, Day 1: Meriweather the one...and only

One really is the loneliest number.

On Day 1 of the NFL Draft, the New England Patriots made exactly one pick.

After selecting Miami Hurricane safety Brandon Meriweather with the 24th overall pick, New England traded its next first-rounder (No. 28) to San Francisco. In the third round, the team traded away its only other pick of the day (No. 91) to the Oakland Raiders.

In Meriweather, the Patriots have a versatile defensive back. During his four years at the University of Miami, Meriweather played both free and strong safety, left and right corner, and nickel back.

This flexibility to play anywhere in the Patriots defensive backfield is one of the qualities that impressed head coach Bill Belichick.

"He does a lot of things well. That's one of his strengths. He's shown he can do multiple things," Belichick observed after making the pick. "I think he's a real intelligent football player."

At 5-11, 195 pounds, Meriweather's relatively compact size belies his ferocious tackling ability. He also brings good wrap-up technique and exceptional speed to New England's secondary. And according to Belichick, he has a nose for the football.

"He's got a physical element to his play. For his size, he's certainly not afraid to get up in there and tackle, support the run on the line of scrimmage. He's around the ball. I think he's a very instinctive player that shows up around the ball, and he gets his hands on a number of balls, too."

Meriweather told reporters that after talking with Belichick several times before the Draft, he's happy to be a Patriot and can't wait to start his professional career here.

"It means the world to me…I understand that he's a bottom-line type of guy, and he's a guy that loves to win. I think I'm a guy that loves to win, too."

"To be honest with you," he continued, "I'm just thinking about getting in there and focusing on the playbook."

Exactly where Meriweather fits into the Pats secondary remains to be seen.

"We'll see how it works out," said Belichick. "That will all be decided on the field."

Belichick was also asked about Meriweather's role in the now-infamous brawl between Miami and Florida International, during which Meriweather was seen kicking an opponent.

"I don't think that's who he is. I mean, I've spent time with him. Football's important to him, he works hard at it, and he's a good player…I think that's more representative of him than that incident."

In a conference call with reporters, Meriweather said his emotions got the best of him and that it "won't ever happen again."

There was also an incident last summer involving a gun. One of Meriweather's Hurricane teammates was shot and Meriweather fired back at the assailant. But after an investigation, police did not charge Meriweather, who they say acted in self-defense.

Meriweather admitted that he "should have known better" and that he doesn't even own a gun now.

Once he gets to New England, Meriweather will be reunited with former Hurricane teammates Vince Wilfork and Santonio Thomas.

"They're two good friends of mine," said Meriweather. "I can't wait to be there and have a blast with them."

When New England's second first-round selection came on the clock, Belichick acknowledged that the Patriots evaluated several players at that spot while entertaining offers from other teams. Ultimately, they settled on a trade with the San Francisco 49ers.

In addition to one of the Niners' fourth-round picks (No. 110), the Pats will also get San Francisco's first-rounder in next year's Draft.

"There were a number of good players on the board, but in the end, we just felt there was more value in that trade," Belichick explained.

Shortly before 11 p.m. Eastern Saturday, New England swung another deal, this time with the Oakland Raiders. They'll receive a seventh-round choice this year, plus Oakland's third-rounder in 2008.

One final note about Day 1 here at Gillette. When the Draft began at noontime, there were rumblings that the Pats were interested in trading for Raiders wide receiver Randy Moss. When asked about that rumor, Belichick would not comment.

So, just one pick and two trades for the Patriots on Saturday. But Sunday is another story. With nine selections left, New England is just getting started.

Should be interesting.

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