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Patriots get three extra picks

New England received three compensatory picks for the 2001 NFL Draft, the league announced Monday. The Patriots picked up one pick in the fifth (163rd overall), sixth (200th) and seventh (239th) rounds.

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            With the three new picks, the Patriots now have nine selections for the draft, which will be held in New York City on April 21-22. New England now has one pick in the first, second and third rounds, three in the fifth round, two in the sixth round and one in the seventh.  

New England does not have a fourth round pick or their own seventh round pick as a result of the deal with New York that allowed Bill Belichick to become the new head coach. The same deal gave the Jets' fifth round pick to the Patriots.

The Patriots also don't have their own sixth round pick because of a deal with St. Louis that brought wide receiver Dane Looker on board. However, a trade on draft day last year gave New England the 49ers' sixth round pick this year in exchange for a seventh rounder from the 1999 draft.

The league awarded a total of 31 compensatory choices to 16 teams. Under terms of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in a year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.

The number of picks a team receives equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. Compensatory free agents are determined by a formula based on salary, playing time and postseason honors, though not every free agent lost or signed by a team is covered by the formula, which was developed by the NFL Management Council.

Using the formula, the Patriots lost five players prior to the 2000 season (G Heath Irwin, CB Steve Israel, WR Shawn Jefferson, LB Marty Moore and DT Chris Sullivan). The only players signed were tight end Eric Bjornson and tackle Grant Williams.

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            Jefferson was the most significant player the Patriots lost. Signed as a free agent in 1996, he started 61 of 63 games, caught 178 passes and scored 14 touchdowns in four seasons with New England. Last year he started 14 games for Atlanta and posted 60 catches for 822 yards and two touchdowns.  

Israel, who signed with the Patriots as a free agent in 1997, was expected to start for New Orleans in 2000, but a broken leg sidelined him for the season. Entering his ninth season, Israel started 20 of the 29 games he played for New England.

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            Moore was another significant loss. The last overall pick in the 1994 draft, he played 93 games over six seasons with the Patriots. He was the first player ever to start his in NFL debut after being selected last in the draft, and he was a key backup and special teams player for New England. In his first season with Cleveland he played every game, including nine starts, and posted 90 tackles.  

Sullivan played 15 games for Pittsburgh last season, mostly as a reserve. Irwin, who started 13 games for the Patriots in 2000, played 13 games as a backup for Miami in 2000.

The two players affecting the formula results that New England signed for the 2000 season were not as productive as hoped. Bjornson started the first six games of the season at tight end, but he was released on Nov. 15 after grabbing 20 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Williams played in 15 games with eight starts, but a leg injury slowed him late in the season and rookie Greg Robinson-Randall eventually passed him on the depth chart at right tackle.

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            New England has received five compensatory picks in the last two years. In 2000, the team picked up Robinson-Randall (4th round), quarterback Tom Brady (6th), defensive tackle David Nugent (6th) and running back Patrick Pass (7th). The four picks came because the team had lost linebacker Todd Collins, punter Tom Tupa, defensive lineman Mark Wheeler and center Dave Wohlabaugh.  

The previous year the Patriots got wide receiver/cornerback Sean Morey in the seventh round as compensation for losing fullbacks Sam Gash and Keith Byars.

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