- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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INDIANAPOLIS -- One aspect that has stood out from the first two days of the NFL combine is that the strength of this draft is along the line of scrimmage and at the safety position.
This notion was reinforced by several general managers, with Miami's Jeff Ireland sharing one of the strongest opinions. Ireland was asked about the perception that there aren't a lot of difference-makers in this draft.
"I think there are some difference-makers," he responded. "In difference-makers, I'm sure you're referring to some skill-position players. I look at it a little bit differently. I look at difference-makers in the offensive line, defensive line [and] maybe there's a safety you [like] there."
Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff echoed that point, saying: "There is a nice group of players along both fronts [and] I think there's a nice safety group out there. I believe there is some very solid talent all the way to [pick] 32."
From a Patriots perspective, this seems to play into their strengths as evaluators when it comes to offensive and defensive linemen. Some of the best picks of the Bill Belichick era have come at the line of scrimmage -- defensive lineman Richard Seymour and left tackle Matt Light in 2001; defensive lineman Ty Warren in 2003; defensive lineman Vince Wilfork in 2004; left guard Logan Mankins in 2005; right tackle Sebastian Vollmer in 2009; left tackle Nate Solder in 2011; and defensive end Chandler Jones in 2012.
Yes, there were a few misses in there (Ron Brace, 2009 second round is one that comes to mind), but Belichick hasn't swung and missed too often when it comes to linemen in the first two rounds of the draft.
We can't say the same about the safety position, where Brandon Meriweather (first round, 2007) and Patrick Chung (second round, 2009) haven't panned out as desired. The Patriots hope Tavon Wilson (second round, 2012) doesn't fall into that category in the future. Devin McCourty (first round, 2011) looks like he has a bright future at the position, but he was actually drafted as a cornerback.
This was the biggest takeaway from a Patriots perspective on Friday -- how the quality of offensive linemen and defensive linemen seem to fall right into their wheelhouse.
The 2013 draft also could represent a chance to reverse some disappointing recent history at the safety spot.